On a rainy day in December, the wren sings defiant at the dawning of day. I hear him and am glad for his song.
The holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas bring all the emotions. Sweet memories of days gone by brighten the corner where I am. Anniversaries and rembrances of other days can bring a tear. I feel things deeply. I carry burdens of friends and family along with my personal baggage. Sometimes it gets too heavy, and I remind myself that Jesus is the one who bears the weight of the world, not I.
I look for joy, peace, hope. I cling to the promises and hold them close to my heart. Are they not the gifts of this season? Are they not given to us by the Father of lights, who lavishes His grace on us without measure?
There have been days I fought for joy. Because joy is worth the struggle. I counted gifts with determination, sometimes writing the word, “I’m breathing in and breathing out.” It was all I could write. I set JOY before my eyes, hanging from window latches, resting on tables, reminders to battle on.
Christmas is joy, and cards in the mail reiterate the songs, their sparkly designs a visual rejoicing. I receive them and I mail them, thankful for people we call friends. They are gifts from the Living Lord.
And I know joy and sorrow are parallel tracks of a train.
There are lonely souls in crowds and broken bodies in hospital beds bearing the weight of heartache even while the world hangs ornaments and lights on a tree. The homeless in my home town shuffle toward a back alley on the cold night. People suffer while the music blasts “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”
As I read the Advent scriptures, I am confronted with truth. Jesus came in the harsh reality of a people sad, sick, and scratching out a living. They were looking for consolation, the hope of Israel, a redeemer and savior to take away all the suffering and oppression.
Mary and Joseph felt the heaviness too. The babe bearing down in Mary’s womb. The responsibility bearing down on Joseph’s shoulders. Hurrying to Bethlehem, they hoped for a warm room with a bit privacy for the coming of a child.
Instead, there was a crowded city, houses full with no room for a pregnant woman needing a birthing place and a midwife. Maybe they wondered if they’d taken a wrong turn, wondered if they’d understood the angel’s message, wondered what in the world God was doing?
I have wondered the same.
In a night of deep slumber, I awaken to words spoken to my spirit, “Hope in God.” Through my sleepiness, I recall the verse and in the morning I turn to Psalm 42 and 43 where the composer repeats this: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”
The Word is familiar, words I learned as a child, rehearsed in my growing, and cling to now. I encourage myself in the Lord like David, the sweet singer of Israel.
At the little thrift store I frequent, there on the top shelf, is the sign for sale in large letters, “HOPE.” I pick it up, hold it to me, purchase it, and set it before me as a reminder. It is an Ebenezer stone.
The hope written in the book of Hebrews is not a penny thrown in the wishing well. It is an anchor for my soul, a sure proclamation cast into the Holy of holies where Jesus, my High Priest, intercedes for me.
” . . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever . . . ” Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV
Hope is my memorial stone in this season. I set it and mark it and repeat it to myself. I cling to its message. Hope in God.
Luke tells us of an old man named Simeon, who went to the temple as was his custom, and he saw the common young couple with the newborn baby. He knew, felt the quickening of his spirit – this child was the promise, the Consolation of Israel. He took the infant Jesus in his arms and blessed the God who is our hope, whose promises are true and will come to us. He has come to us, He is with us – Immanuel
Though the night lengthens, though the heart is heavy, though the body weakens and trembles, though our prayers appear unanswered, there is a hope, an anchor. There is a Savior who came to us. He came for us.
Jesus, the Hope of the world. He is my hope, my anchor and my sure foundation. I will stand on this.
Recently, I spoke at a women’s event, and my words come back and preach to me. Receive Christmas instead of Do Christmas. With Thanksgiving barely a memory, I feel the approach of the next season rushing like a fast moving locomotive.
The holidays are a season of fullness: schedules, parties, shopping, decorating, food and on and on. Looking at my planner and my list, I feel overwhelmed with too much. Likewise, the holidays can be filled with heartache, grief and uncertainty. The turning of the calendar page does not turn aside the burdens we carry with us.
With all the fullness of the days ahead, how do I make room for Christ? How do I make sure all the things, the good and the hard, don’t crowd out the Savior who came to fill me with Himself and give me the abundant life?
Here are some ideas I am speaking to myself.
Spend time in His presence daily. How can I reflect Jesus if I don’t talk to Him and don’t listen to His Words of Scripture? There might be something I desperately need to hear before the rush of the day begins, and I really must cast my cares on the One who cares for me.
Tap into the Holy Spirit’s power by reflecting that He is ever with me, guiding and teaching and showing me the way.
Sing and make melody in my heart. Tuning into the old carols of Christmas brings forth a song. I know those words, and they draw me in to the message of hope. Newer songs are just as joyful. Music has the power to turn my thoughts heavenward.
Determine to overlook potential offences. They are inevitable as people rush about, overworked, tired and frustrated. Scripture says, Love hardly notices when others do it wrong. Respond with patience instead of reacting with irritation.
Remember to be grateful. Giving thanks is not just for November. It’s a daily practice, reminding me how blessed I am.
Be generous with love and patience and kindness and gentleness, the delicious fruit of the Spirit that feeds any hungry heart.
I want the peace of Jesus Christ to fill my soul and be reflected in my countenance. I want His joy overflowing in my heart as I move through my days. I want to experience the wonder of God coming to us, to be like us, and to walk with us in all the places.
This will not happen by accident. I must decide to seek Him for the desires of my heart. If the people I interact with each day are to see Jesus in me – whether they be the shopkeepers, the drivers on the road, the teen at McDonald’s drive-through, my neighbors and family, and my own Sweet William – I must give Christ place in me. Daily. On purpose. I make this a prayer.
As the To-Do’s swirl in my head and are reviewed in my bullet journal, I add to and I check off. This is my week to make Thanksgiving happen at the Wright House.
I can set the tables, bring out extra chairs, cook food and light candles, but can I make thanksgiving happen in a heart?
Only in mine.
I take paper and pen and begin to count my blessings, one by one. They are many, because God has been especially good to me. Yet, the memories linger of last year when sickness grabbed Sweet William and me, and we missed my favorite family meal. Covid spread from one to another, until one of us was taken from this earth, and we were left wanting and wondering what in the world had happened. Grief settled on us like a thundercloud.
I think of it all this early morning, as I sit in my rocker and make my list.
I think of others in my circle of people, missing one at the table of grace this year. Somehow, we will muster the determination to make the special recipes and bring ourselves, with a heart of thanks that we can be together once more, while remembering there is one less plate to set. And I feel the longing deep inside me.
It will be different this year at our house and at houses of friends and family, here and across the miles.
I needed a Psalm of Thanksgiving, and I turn to chapter 34. I begins with “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” It is less of a command and more an encouragement from a fellow sojourner who knew his own share of heartache.
As I read the highlighted and marked verses, they are anciently familiar and like fresh warm bread at the same time. “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” I am not alone.
“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.” This promise – that the Lord hears me – I cling to it as a life preserver. I am heard, I am known, I am loved. I am part of His plan.
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” Tiny bottles grace the window sills of the upstairs dormer windows, sparkling in the sunlight, a reminder that my tears are noticed by the Living God. How is it that I am important to the Almighty? I don’t understand it, but I believe.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I’ve turned to this verse often through the years. It is my own comfort and comfort to share with others needing an assurance of Immanuel – God with us.
I pray for my people, the ones on a list and the ones who come to mind throughout the day. They are many. I know the Heavenly Father is aware of each need and how He plans to use it to grow us into who we are meant to be, how it will bring Him glory, how we will eventually see beauty rise from the ashes, how we will share the testimony of God’s grace and goodness.
My circumstances might not change, though I want them to or I pray for something else. But trusting in a good God is the beginning of turning my heart from questions and despair to joy and thanksgiving. His thoughts are higher than mine. I cannot comprehend the greater purpose in what He does. But I can run into the Father’s arms, let Him catch my tears, and hear His words of assurance, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.”
We approach the season of Advent, looking forward with anticipation to the Nativity of Christ at Christmas time. He came as the Light of the world. He came to dispel the shadows and walk with us into the unknown and the unanswered.
“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told His friends, “but take heart. I have overcome the world.”
Jesus is the Overcoming One and Only, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. I desperately need the never-ending wellspring of His mercy and grace. His indwelling Holy Spirit helps me walk with courage in this world. His presence is promised to me. That is what I need most.
There is hope in a shadowed world. He is the Light at the end of my tunnel. I will give thanks to the Lord. He has been especially good to me.
As the temperatures suddenly turn from unusually warm autumn days to our first light snow, I sense the coming holiday season. If I am not careful, anxiety can blow in like a cold wind.
We are hosting Thanksgiving at the Wright House this year, Sweet William and I. It’s my very first year. Expectations of perfection can kill the joy of anticipation.
As an only child, I am continually thankful for my cousins and extended family. When I was a child, we went to my aunt and uncle’s house because they had more room for us to spread out. As life changed, the way it always does, we moved our Thanksgiving dinner to my cousin’s house, where it became a two-day event. She and her husband loved having people gather in their home, and they were such welcoming hosts. Their house became party central through the years, with any event an opportunity for food, family, friends, and good times.
Our family struggled to make a decision about our November gathering this year. Then a couple of weeks ago, Sweet William and I were suddenly on the same wave length, and the decision was made. Now lists run through my head, are spoken into my Notes app on my cell, and eventually land in my bullet journal. My head swirls.
There is much to do before I begin to even think about grocery shopping or preparing food. While we often have people around our table for food and conversation, a group the size of my family and the menu items we prepare take additional planning.
Recently I visited in a beautifully decorated home with wide open spaces, a coffee bar and room to spread out. I enjoyed the lovely atmosphere and hospitable ambiance. When I came back to our humble abode and began to look around at all the old things clustered in its rooms, I began to compare. Dissatisfaction started to sneak into my heart.
During fifty years of marriage, we have gathered things and been happy to live among them. But we don’t have a newly remodeled kitchen, an open concept floor plan or the latest trending decor minimally sitting on a few surfaces.
Comparison kills joy. I once heard someone say, you can compare or you can connect, but you cannot do both.
There’s truth in that statement. When I compare with another’s home, clothes, ministry, or gifts, it begins to divides us. We cannot connect as friends. When I look with eyes of envy, I miss the blessings of my own life. How can I cheer and encourage you when I’m secretly measuring myself as if it is a competition?
As I sat in my quiet place this early morning, praying and thinking of what lies ahead of me in the coming weeks, a thought emerged. What I want for this home is the presence and peace that come from Jesus Christ. And that will only be available if His presence and peace reside in me. A house is just brick and mortar, wood and shingles. People who abide in them create the atmosphere of love, acceptance, and welcome. And that is what I want to give my family as they open the door and say, “We’re here.”
This week, I will be making my annual Thanksgiving List, a ritual that has become important and necessary for me. I need to remember all the good in my life, the multiplied blessings coming from the Heavenly Father’s gracious hand, because I can be forgetful. I will be thankful for this sturdy house, for chairs and tables where my loved ones can sit and eat and laugh and love. We will be warm and well fed. And we will be together.
I am blessed beyond measure. I will give thanks in all things.
I am blessed to call you Father, to be welcomed into Your presence, the holy place of Your essence. You called my name and claimed me for your very own child. I am loved. This is a high privilege and I give You thanks.
I thank you for the men who influenced my life and showed me what You are like, especially my grandfather and my dear dad. I am grateful for patriarchs of my family and for men in my life who walked in the faith, were strong and gentle, treated me with respect and honor, protected and provided for me, bent low to serve and held me up with their prayers. I am blessed to know Your sons. I married one of them, and he is my life’s companion.
I pray for the fathers of this generation. How we need them to be steadfast and sure, standing true in the battle for souls, leading with firm resolve and gentle grace. They need guidance from the Holy Spirit and the power of love. Clothe them in Your righteousness and Your holy armor, for the battle is hard. Infuse Your Word into their minds to remind them what is at stake. Speak to them as You did to the warriors of old, “Be strong and very courageous.” Remind them this is Your battle and You are always with them.
I ask that You purify their hearts. Turn them from evil, the deceitfulness of riches, and the cares of life. Give them eyes to see the beauty of a precious child, the tenderness of a woman’s heart, the reward of being a servant to those in their keeping. Remind them that words can wound or words can heal and build up. Help them choose their words wisely.
Abba Father, I ask that they look to You as their only source, that the unwavering Truth is etched into their minds, that they seek to be more like Jesus every day, that they live to please You above all and be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. May You shine in them and through them as Image Bearers of God the Father.
I ask these things in the name of Your Son and my Savior Jesus Christ.
The moon tonight will be at her full. I’ve been watching it for days, early mornings as it illuminates still darkened rooms, anticipating. Recently I heard someone say he did not rise until the sun was up. I thought, “Oh, you don’t know what you are missing.” The pre-dawn is my favorite time of day. Perhaps it is my introverted self who enjoys the stillness, with only the flicker of gas logs and perking coffee while all else is quiet. My mind is at rest before an active day begins.
I notice the moon before I’m out of bed, shining through the blinds. It is a sign, a sign of the coming Passover celebration, only a month away. Because Passover always begins on a full-moon evening.
Passover tells the story of the nation of Israel being released from the bondage of Egypt. The traditional meal will be eaten as the events of the exodus are recounted in detail. It is a time of teaching the young, a time to remember past slavery, a time to give thanks for God’s deliverance, and a time to celebrate redemption with family and friends.
I love to think of and celebrate Passover for it has deep significance for me as a Christ follower. Jesus’ last meal with his friends in an upper room was the event of Passover. It was the occasion of Him giving them His last words of encouragement and instruction. It was there He told them to love one another just like He had loved them. That last dinner was a tender time of communion with those who had been with Him through victories and miracles and hopes for the coming kingdom of God.
During Passover, Jesus washed the dirty feet of a dozen men, took a towel and served them on His knees to their astonishment and protests. He was Lord and Master. How could He be doing this lowly, slave-like task? They could not grasp it as He told them they would be blessed if they did the same.
At the Passover table Jesus revealed that one would betray Him, stirring up confusion, suspicion, and self-doubt. Who could possibly do such a thing? And for what reason? Besides, these were able-bodied, strong men who would surround and protect their Teacher? No, that could not happen.
Jesus implored His friends to abide in Him, to dwell in, find their home and comfort in His presence and love like a branch receives life from the vine. Little did they realize that He would soon be taken forcefully from them, with the worst days of their lives on the heels of Jesus’ arrest. They would need a place to go, a shelter under the shadow of the Almighty, as their world reeled and shook with the events during a Passover weekend.
They did not understand, those faithful followers, men and women alike, what Jesus was about to accomplish. Though He tried to tell them on other occasions, they were dull of hearing, listening to their own thoughts of triumphing over their enemies, of securing an earthly kingdom where they would sit at Jesus’ left and right, ruling and reigning with Him. Victory and conquest, that is what they were expecting.
Instead, there would be soldiers, an arrest, a fleeing for their very lives. Denial and forsaking their Master. Darkness and chaos. A mock trial with rabble rousers calling for the release of a criminal instead of the innocent Lamb of God. They could not see Redemption sitting at the Passover table with them, truth unfolding before their eyes.
Before they left the upper room of this Passover finale, Jesus gave them unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, and He called it His body and His blood. He told them to eat and drink it. As they remembered their slavery and emancipation from Egypt, they were now to remember Him. They did not comprehend then, but later they would, and thereafter they would think of Jesus life and death, the salvation He provided, each time they ate and drink in His name.
It happened on a Passover. The Lamb of God slain for the sake of the world. His death would mean deliverance and freedom, the like they had never known.
It is time to remember and prepare for the celebration.
I wander through the house, wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. It feels like slow motion. I lose focus quickly, moving on without completing the current task. My planner has “to do’s” but I don’t always get them done. And it doesn’t seem to matter.
Life has changed forever with the death of one so dear. It’s not the first time I experienced this lostness, this drifting, this weeping, and it will not be the last. But in this moment of time, with my heart and mind fragmented, God speaks to the woundedness of my soul.
I don’t consider prerusing stores for gifts. I look to Amazon for help or the gift box upstairs that holds previous purchases with friends and family in mind. I hope my people will not be disappointed. I hope they will understand and say “It’s OK.”
Still, I call to mind that this season in December is for celebrating the Living God coming to a broken world to heal and make whole. I lean into His declaration that He Is With Me Always. Sweet relief. Indescribable comfort. I will turn my thoughts to this truth again and again in the days ahead.
On the Sunday before Christmas Day, I retrieve and repeat another year’s post that shouts the unchanging message: Jesus is Emmanuel.
December 2017 I’ve written it in notes and Christmas cards this December, these words I am holding close this season.
Emmanuel – God with us.
The hurry and flurry of the holidays keeps us hopping. Our homes are decorated with reds and greens, the twinkling lights gracing shrubbery, windows and trees in our living rooms. Packages appear in brightly wrapped paper and gift bags. We wear our Christmas sweaters with pride.
Friends and family fill the spaces. We drink eggnog and eat too many Christmas cookies. Laughter rings through the house, and we are thankful for these people who gather at the table.
Yet, there are grieving hearts, longing souls, functions that are a little dysfunctional because we all have our own problems to deal with. Sometimes we put on a happy face so no one sees the pain, so we don’t rain on the parade as it marches down the street.
We get irritated with crazy drivers and clogged traffic, long shopping lines and the out-of-stock item we wanted under the tree. Checking accounts are running a little low, and there’s still a week of bills to pay. Our patience is in short supply when demands are made on us that feel more like obligations than celebration. We wonder if our Christmas spirit has gone into hiding.
December is much like every other month on the calendar, fraught with challenges and opportunities. We have a choice on where we will focus.
Emmanuel – In Hebrew: With us is God.
It was the prophecy of Messiah from the pen of Isaiah, re-written in Matthew as a reminder of its fulfilling.
These words, spoken to us by God over and over through our history, as if we are hard of hearing.
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. — Genesis 28:15
And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” — Exodus 33:14
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. — Psalm 46:7
Once more with a pronouncement from the angel Gabriel, God came to us wrapped in humanity, He whose name is Emmanuel.
Very God grew and experienced life as I do, with all of its ups and downs, with vigor and weariness, with smiles and tears, with joyful celebrations and heartbreak of separation. He came as the “with us God” and demonstrated to us that we are not alone.
As He left this earth in a burst of clouded glory, He gave one final reminder to those who believed:
“. . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20
Then sending the promised Holy Spirit, He remains with us in a way we could not have imagined.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
Do not fret or be afraid. Walk in the power of His presence. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.
I remember the day she was born. I was seven years old, sitting on a bed in an upstairs room of my Gramps Lockard’s house, with my cousin Vicki who was five. Someone brought a phone to our ears and we heard Vicki’s mother say, “It’s a girl” from her hospital room somewhere in Louisville. Vicki and I were excited to have another girl in our close-knit family. Her brother Danny, at nine years old, would be the only boy in our band of four.
Somehow, we kids got to help pick the baby’s name, Candi Hope. What kind of parents do that? We were a different family people told us. We only realized it years later. Our mothers were sisters and our fathers brothers, making us double first cousins. As a child, it was hard to understand or explain, but the bond I had with these cousins was strong. Being an only child, they were my substitute siblings, my pals and playmates, my confidantes and comrades. For most of our growing up years, our houses were next door to each other. We kept a path busy between us. We grew up together, went to church together, took family vacations together, spent our holidays together. We became adults, and we built our own houses on the family road.
When my aunt brought Candi came home from the hospital, I thought she was my baby. I wanted to take care of her, and when she was old enough to sit on my hip, I took every opportunity to keep her close. She was adorable, round-faced and happy, eye lashes that would rival a movie star’s fake ones.
As the baby of the family, Candi bore the title well. She was outgoing and fun, almost always smiling, her laughter coming easy. She made friends quickly and kept them for a lifetime. She was popular at school, a cheerleader, member of the choir and debate teams. She peppered her mother with questions and was told she should become a lawyer because she could relentlessly argue her point.
She had style early on. I sewed clothes for her when she was growing up, and she picked patterns with specifics. She asked me to make her wedding dress because she found two dresses and wanted their features combined. I labored long and prayed to get it just right for her. On the night I finished the dress, I cried from relief. And she looked beautiful on her wedding day.
Sweet William and I gave up our apartment to her and her new husband, Flavius. We moved in with my parents until our under-construction house was livable. I thought on that recently, wondering why I would do that. The only answer could be that she was like my baby sister, and I was willing if I could make her happy.
She was a fashion icon, with a special storage place, build by her Flay, for all her shoes. So many shoes. Her outfits coordinated from the dangling earrings to the bows on her stilettos. Her best feature, when she dressed for success, was her smile, the kind that makes every picture taken of her a keeper.
As adults, we worked together in church, on children’s programs, youth drama groups, Christmas and Easter musicals and plays. We were both planners and into the details. For a couple of amateurs, we coordinated some major productions and high-fived every time it was over.
She loved to sing and became a soloist as a teenager in our church youth choir. The song I remember best is My Tribute. “To God be the glory, for the things He has done.” A song she learned in children’s church became her theme and motto: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” She turned to this truth many times when life didn’t make sense, when sorrow threatened to overwhelm, when God’s ways were hard to accept.
As a young wife and mother, she gathered children around her, teaching them the Word through song and joining her husband in directing children’s church. Many of those children grew to be adults and became her friends.
She welcomed her son’s friends with open heart and open home, providing loads of snacks and a place to spread out and be kids. I remember one video recording made at her house when one of the boys said, “Do not try this in your own home.” Candi and Flavius were gracious with the antics of teenagers, while looking out for their safety and not missing a chance to point them to Jesus.
Candi’s house was party central for family and friends. Any excuse for a gathering was joy to her, never happier than when surrounded by a crowd. She loved it when people filled her home, she and Flavius working side by side to prepare food and make sure everyone had a place at the table. It didn’t matter the mess that was made or the clean-up required later, her door was open.
She became a mother-in-law and welcomed a daughter into her arms. When she became a grandmother, she delighted in having Mamaw day once a week, cherishing special time with her grandboys. She invited their cousins to her house, the third generation of our interconnected families, where they swam in the pool, jumped on the trampoline, created videos, explored the bank to the river, and enjoyed being children under her watchful eye.
She trusted Christ as a child and lived her faith. She testified to her friends who were atheist and non-believers, asking questions, listening and respectfully presenting her argument for Jesus being the only way. After her beloved husband died, she dug into Scripture and studied Heaven, wondering what Flay was doing there, wanting to know the intricacies of the Home the Father has prepared for us. She led our family Bible study for a year, digging into the Word, wanting to know what it truly says, and presenting it to us while giving us room to discuss and think deeply.
In the year leading up to her husband’s death, she and I spent more time together. We were the only ones left on what had been our family lane. I walked to her house many days for what we called “porch chats.” Sitting on her front porch in the early morning, we talked. Mostly I listened as she processed Flavius’ declining health and then his death. Sometimes tears came, and it was OK. We wondered at the ways of God, the hard places of life, what it looks like to trust Him in the dark. In the two years after Flay’s death, our topics spread to politics, theology, business, family, Bible interpretation, the mysteries of life. Nothing was off limits. Mostly we concluded that we just didn’t know all the answers.
On Tuesday, she died too soon for me and our family, and I cannot imagine what the days ahead will be like without her. She was full of fun and laughter and lived life well, even in her widowhood. Her grief did not keep her from participating in the living world around her, in loving and being with people. I cannot imagine another Thanksgiving, Hot Brown Friday, or Christmas morning breakfast. I cannot imagine still being here on this lane and her not being at her house when I walk there. I cannot imagine not ever getting her text again asking, “Do you have time for a chat?” I look at her beautiful home and can’t imagine not ever gathering there with family, with friends, her lighting up the atmosphere with her welcome and smile. I looked at her jewelry collection and can’t imagine not seeing her fashion glam when she dressed up. I cannot imagine not seeing her on the stage of church, leading in worship with the team. I can’t imagine not hearing her voice again sing praises to God.
It’s December and Christmas is near. It will be different this year. I just can’t muster the strength for the holiday flurry. I’ve managed a few decorations for the house, the small fiber optic tree that Sweet WIlliam loves so much, a nativity set and some angels. Somehow I find comfort in the Christmas songs on the radio and I sing along. “Joy to the world the Lord has come” holds me together when I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams. I know there is Truth in the message of Christ’s birth when there are no answers to life’s hard questions. He is Immanuel, the with us God, who gives us the gift of His presence in our deepest despair.
I believe Candi knew something we didn’t. When she got sick, she seemed to settle the life and death issue quickly, while the rest of us wrestled with it and prayed for healing and relief. Just a few days before she died, she texted me her funeral requests, songs she wanted, verses of Scripture that were important to her, especially Psalm 139:18.
. . . all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be.
She was at peace with God being in charge of her death, the way He appointed her birth and guided her life. I was amazed at her quiet confidence in the One who saved her and the One she followed in simple faith all her years.
We are left with a gaping hole in our hearts. People loved her, cherished her as a friend and mentor. She probably didn’t realize the impact she had on so many. It is the way of a child of God who simply serves and loves and lives to the praise of His glory.
She knows what Heaven is like now. It is wonderful, beyond description. All light, no darkness or pain or tears or separation. Better than any travel destination. Yes. The mortal has been replaced with immortality, and life has never been as real, as wonderful and fair.
She called me “Cuz,” and that cousin relationship will always be our bond. But she was like my baby sister. Until we meet again in our Heavenly home, I’ll miss her always. Yet I grieve with the hope of another Time and another Place. Life without end. Seeing Jesus my Savior. Rejoicing with family and friends who will welcome me. Never separated again. Joy evermore. A continual Christmas celebration. All will be glory and praise to the One who made it possible.