Christmas = The gift of Redemption

In one week we will celebrate Christmas, the greatest gift of love a parent could ever offer a child, redemption. Redemption doesn’t seem like much if you don’t feel the weight of the need. But there are moments, when we know we’ve screwed up and we wish we could go back and change the past…in those moments redemption is all we can hope for.

Stripped of our bravado, our private choices revealed and highlighted, our secrets being exposed to the light…

in those moments, REDEMPTION is the most beautiful gift of all.

It is a gift that is undeserved.

It is a gift that is wanted but unexpected.

It is a gift full of love…a love that surrounds you and accepts you and won’t shun you or turn you away. It is a gift that assures that you will never be alone, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

re·demp·tion

noun
  1.   The action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil.
             “God’s plans for his redemption of the world.”
saving, freeing from sin, absolution
             2. The action of gaining or regaining something in exchange   for payment or clearing a debt.
It is the gift of Christmas. God loving us so much that he came down from heaven in the form of a child. Leaving all of His glory and the perfection of heaven to save us from the mess we had created here on earth. He knew everything we had done, he had heard every hateful speech we had uttered, he saw every shameful act we had participated in and yet he loved us. He saw us for what we were and still his heart was full of forgiveness because we were His and he longed to redeem us and pick us up and save us. He couldn’t turn his back on us and give us what we deserved…he was our Father.
Today my bedroom looks like an Amazon warehouse. I still have shopping to do and none of my wrapping is done. It is so easy for me to get so distracted by the “things” of Christmas. To overlook and ignore the “why” of what we are celebrating.
Today I feel my Savior, my Father, lifting my head from sin and shame. He whispers, “I love you and nothing will ever change that.
And I believe Him.

Does this hurt? Being real with God.

My son Wesley plays Jr. league tackle football. This year he moved up to the Varsity level and is playing with the big boys. He has always been the largest kid on any sports team he has ever played on until now.

Puberty has a way of leveling the playing field when boys turn 13.

After his first game he came home with more bruises and scratches than I’ve ever observed before. On his shoulders, shins, elbows and hands.

There is something about big bruises that tempts others to poke at them and ask, “Does this hurt?”

Why is that?

It’s a fun game if you are the poker…if you are the one being poked…it just hurts.

Lately, it feels like life frequently pushes on the bruises of my heart and asks,

“Does this hurt? Here? Here? How about here?”

My answer, “Yes, it hurts! Stop! Please?!”

I assure you that my life is NOT in a full fledged fall out right now. I have been in much tougher places, facing much more dire circumstances…

In fact, the truth is my life is amazing. New and exciting challenges are popping up everywhere.

The blessings are numerous.

And yet, the losses are too. New challenges don’t erase old hurts no matter how much we want them to.

I have a way of minimizing hurt and trying to pack it into a box and put it on a shelf labeled LOSS.

I don’t readily embrace loss. Who does?

Sometimes that works…

Sometimes I can just move on and pick myself up and dust myself off.

But often, that strategy fails. And I have to stop. I’m forced to grieve which I don’t like.

I have to…feel and pray.

And be angry.

And ask, “Why?”

I’m reading a book written by Lois Tverberg entitled, “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus.” She talks about the “Jewish tradition of boldness toward God.”

She observes that “difficult questions for God may show a stronger faith than our own pious attempts to suppress all doubt.” This quote has rattled around in my brain lately.

I think many times I do bend over backwards to make “pious attempts to suppress all doubt.” I suppress and suppress but eventually the doubt leaks out. The problem with leaking doubt is that it will slowly fill my heart and thoughts without my realizing what is happening. Leaky doubt turns to bitterness.

Bitterness smells, it on you and you can’t get away…the smell fills up a room till you can’t help but breathe it in…it must be washed off.

I’ve been wondering about the boldness Tverberg speaks of and if it is a healthier way to conduct oneself?

See, assess, be real with God.

How would my prayer life change if instead of telling God the reasons why he must be allowing something I don’t like, I choose to talk to him about the struggle of my heart. Instead of hiding my feelings from him and myself, I choose to face them with his strength?

“It takes more faith to ask than it takes to fear the asking… Many of us Christians are so used to pious, solemn reverence toward God that we blush to hear someone addressing him…and yet behind this habit is the assumption that God is our loving Father, whom we can approach without trepidation or timidity.” Tverberg says on pages 123-124.

Do I approach the Father with such assurance?

Have I approached the Father with my hurt?

One more quote from Tverberg,

“The issue of prayer is not prayer. The issue of prayer is God. How you pray reveals what you believe about God.” page 125

I don’t think we are ever too old to out grown our need to preform a health check on our faith and examine if our current thoughts and beliefs are in line with what is Truth. The devil whispers so many lies in my ears and so many times I think I unconsciously agree with the lies…eventually those lies grow and bore tiny holes into my shield of faith and leave me vulnerable to attack.

Jeremiah 2:11-12 My people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror. My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

In the midst of the hurt I have been experiencing,

Have I exchanged Glory for a broken cistern that cannot hold water?

Jeremiah 6:16 Stand in the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and your will find rest for your souls.

 

Most days I wake up in the morning with a song in my mind, a lyric on repeat that plays until I’ve learned what the Father is trying to teach me. This song by Tauren Wells called “Hills and Valleys” is playing this morning. “The Father who gives and takes away, every joy and every pain…through it all He will remain over it all. In the valley I only will lift my eyes.”

God is good, that is Truth.

Nothing can or will change that…forever and ever Amen.

“Walking in the Dust of Rabbi” Jesus by Lois Tverberg published by Zondervan Copyright 2012  is available on Amazon. Use this link to order a copy for yourself.

https://tinyurl.com/yavjba4q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasuring up and pondering…it’s a mom thing

The moment I found out I was pregnant, everything changed. Every thought, every plan, every idea of the future instantly became something new. I’ve experienced that 5 times in my life. A piece of my heart suddenly belonged to someone I’d never met and that fact that we’d never met meant absolutely nothing…we were connected. I was 23 years old the first time, just a baby myself really. I never got to meet that child, he only survived for 10 weeks but his short lifespan changed my heart the very second I knew he existed.

I was a mother.

I’ve been told the same happens when you adopt. The very moment you find out you have been placed with a child he/she becomes yours instantly. They have your heart.

You are a mother.

My Facebook feed is filled with “First day of school” pictures…

It’s an interesting social media phenomena. We all share in the triumphs and challenges of theses firsts…a shared mom community experience…taking pictures, posting pictures, bragging or bemoaning whatever transitions are taking place in our lives. None of us able to believe how fast time flies by…how quickly our babies become kindergartners, 8th graders, college students. Older moms always warned me that time was short but I couldn’t hear them, I didn’t understand them, I was just so tired and weary. And then suddenly…

Today my phone lit up with a picture of a soldier in training, my girlfriend’s son. I remember when this kid was born. Her heart is straining to stay together as she waits for a phone call from him, it’s been weeks. Another girlfriend is messaging me about her daughter who is grown, lives in another state, has a job, and yet her heart is wrenching because of the distance between them.

 

 

A first step, a first tooth, a first concussion, a first dorm, a last kiss, a hug good-bye.

 

 

 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

As a child, I knew that verse was the end of the Christmas story. As a mom, I know that’s just the beginning. It’s the one verse in the Bible that completely summarizes motherhood. I am amazed that at such a young age Mary knew how to treasure up and ponder, it took me a lot longer to know I had to hold on to moments. I was often too exhausted, frazzled, too busy.

I just read a passage from “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. “Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into my protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.”

The irony is that no matter if we do or don’t entrust our babies or grown children to Him, he still watches over them. However, if we do trust God enough to open our hands, there is freedom. Room to breathe. Space to feel, to rejoice and mourn all at the same time. A chance to be in awe of His plan and to thank Him for his care.

This morning these words came to mind. This is the God we serve.

 

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Take a moment to inhale His love. Allow His presence to surround you. Sink into His embrace. Lift up your head and feel the warmth of the sunshine He has provided.

Trust Him, dear mom.

Trust him with your heart. The one you feel beating inside your chest…

and the ones that beat outside of your body.

 

 

 

Everything is changing

 In 46 days we will move my daughter into a dorm room 6 hours away at the University of Missouri and then get in our car and drive home without her. None of the parenting books, MOPS meetings, Facebook posts or blog articles I’ve read have prepared my heart for what it is feeling right now.

I have never subscribed to “helicopter” parenting and have often been known to freely spout the wisdom that “our job as parents is to help them grow up to be contributing members of society, to leave the nest and become full fledged adults, blah, blah blah.” That advice always seemed relevant and wise when the next step was walking into a 3 year old classroom for 2 hours or hopping on a bus to join the ranks of full day school children. I relished the increased freedom I had when my children were finally old enough to leave me for a few hours each day. I had finally found time to take a shower or read a book or plan a meal in peace.

But this, this is very different. Our home will no longer be her “home base” and I am NOT cool with that. Oh, believe me, I’m trying to “suck it up” and make nice with this idea but honestly, it isn’t working.

Everything is changing so quickly around me this summer. One girlfriend is preparing to send her baby boy off to the military, and another just moved her mother into her home and is watching her slowly slip away to the ravages of dementia. We had to put our dog down after 16 years…so much change.

I remember when it seemed as if nothing was changing. One summer felt the same as the last. I was harried, tired, stressed out and begging for quiet. The kids woke up too early, made too much noise, fought too much, were bored way too often. Back then my girlfriends and I would spend each Wednesday watching the kids play in the pool, drinking margaritas, order fast food for dinner and play till the sun went down. We counted down the days till they all went back to school.

I guess I’m still counting down the days…

Today I was reading about God as ELOHIM, which means mighty creator, the one who was at the beginning of it all. The most ancient of all.

I’ve often thought about the Creator as the one who made everything I can see…mountains, trees, animals, the sun and the sky, the moon and the stars. But this summer, my eyes see the Creator as the one who created the texture of life. Happiness, sadness, love that makes the heart ache, the joy of memory, the pain of loss, the music of a baby’s cry, the warmth of a child’s unrestrained giggle. There is so much more of the Creator surrounding us than we will ever realize. Maybe it’s summers like this one when my heart is feeling more than my eyes are seeing that help me glimpse the Creator more fully.

The Bible says God created us in his own image. It’s possible that our physical image is a reflection of him but even more so I believe we reflect him in our unending capacity to feel and experience life, relationships, friendship and love. And I’m awestruck that all the emotions my heart can hold are only a glimpse of the ELOHIM who created me.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…

Soaking up summer has a different meaning to me than it ever has before. We are soaking up our time together, we are soaking up our love for each other, we are soaking up memories and kisses and hugs. I’m grateful that I’ve been created to experience all of these things even when they are painful because it all is a reflection of the God who created us.

There is a line in a song that says, “When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.” Sometimes this summer, I feel like this. But the next line says, “You are good.” This is the refrain of my heart. . . You are good.

ELOMHIM YOU ARE GOOD.

 

Tell me when…

Doug and I went to out for dinner this past weekend to celebrate his birthday. I spent some time alone at our table and rather than whip out my phone and check Facebook or my email, I took those few moments to look around and observe the people sitting near me.

I watched two interactions that looked similar. A lady at the table to my right had ordered a salad and the waiter had come over to offer her fresh ground pepper. I watched as he slowly sprinkled the spice over her plate and quite quickly saw her hold up her hand and smile saying, “Thank you, that’s enough.”

Almost at the same time, a gentleman just beyond her was having parmesan cheese freshly grated over his pasta. He too was allowed to tell the waitress when she had given him “enough.” He smiled and watched her turn and turn and turn the crank on the cheese grater and laughed with the whole table when he finally held up his and and said, “thats enough.” His dinner guests were commenting loudly how they were afraid he was never going to stop, that he may have taken all of the cheese.

Both of these interactions were almost the same, and yet they weren’t at all. I’m curious why pepper and cheese get special treatment at restaurants, why are those the two items that are important enough for personal service? A little or a lot? It sort of depends on what is in the grater.

Have you ever felt like you were looking up at God saying, “That’s enough, thank you?” The pepper of life falling down on you and you are quick to say, “no more.” Or, have you ever looked at your life and had it feel like God was grating Parm all over your days and you didn’t want to ever say, “Stop.”

I’m not sure where this analogy goes but it makes me chuckle. Doug and I discussed at dinner how blessed we were, “beyond measure” is how the Bible puts it. I could sit here and list all the amazing blessings I have been gifted with; a complete A-Z list with footnotes included. I’m overwhelmed when I drink in all that God has given me. The “cheese” of life is gooey and melted and makes me feel a little guilty because He has given me so much.

And yet, at the same table where Doug and I discussed how richly blessed we are, we shed tears. It’s was such a strange juxtaposition. We miss Dad, we know Emily is going away to college soon, there are prayers we’ve prayed for years that still feel unanswered. It’s the pepper of life.

King David wrote about pepper and cheese, maybe he didn’t know it but he did. Not every psalm but many start with praise and adoration. He gives voice to the many blessings of God. Then for some reason David also includes what he is struggling with and talks about the people or circumstances that plague him and cause his heart to ache. He then ends with an affirmation of who God is and testifies that God will never change.

Our lives can overflow with blessings and our hearts can ache all at the same time. Laughing through tears isn’t abnormal, in fact, it’s the most real any of us can be.

I encourage you to open up the Psalms today and see for yourself what King David has written. You may find a voice for the unspoken words of your heart. Laugh with Jesus about the blessings he has given you but also let him see your tears and allow him to speak to your pain, to your fear, to your longings.

Pepper and cheese may not be the deepest thing I’ve ever written about but I hope it does make you think…and maybe laugh a bit too.

PS. Happy Birthday Doug!

 

 

 

Time Out

When my kids were toddlers they spent a fair amount of daylight in a time out chair. Some of them were more familiar with the phrase, “Ok, time out!” than others, believe me.

Using “time outs” was a great tool for me to establish order to my home, give each of us a quiet minute to collect our sanity and distract my child from whatever it was that warranted the consequence in the first place.

Sometimes, I would put them in time out and when I came back to “free” them, they had fallen asleep. Most of the time, I knew that what they really needed was a nap but they would have never believed me. They were tired, they were worn out and sometimes I think it was when they were learning new skills that they needed more sleep than what they could gain from a normal routine.

The image of a “time out chair” hit me as I looked at the last date of my last blog post, December 28. It’s been a long time. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, I really have. It’s not even that I had nothing to say even, its just that I wasn’t able to write or speak or pray. I’ve been in “time out” and I believe God placed me there.

Why? 

As I look back, I see so many reasons.

This past year has been filled with so much. Much to be thankful for, much to mourn, much to be exhausted by, much waiting, much processing, much longing…much.

My relationship with my children never changed when I put them in time out. Although they might have been spitting mad at me, I always knew they still loved me and I always still loved them. As they grew older they adopted the silent treatment as a way to communicate their displeasure with my parenting…even through that, my love was never questioned.

I’m so relieved that I can say the same of God and so much more. Even though I’ve chosen silence, He has chosen relationship. Even though I’ve chosen anger, He has offered joy. Even when I’ve chosen to be ungrateful, He has continued to give me more than I need. And when I’ve cried, even if I didn’t invite Him in to comfort me, I know that He never left.

Time outs kind of suck if I’m honest. I wrote that sentence many times but couldn’t find a more eloquent way of saying it, sorry. But I needed this time out, I’m at least mature enough to see that ….it took me 6 months so don’t even bother being impressed. I’m not even sure this time out is done yet?

Maybe this is my time to “think about why I’m here?” I used to use that line on my kids too.

I think I may be ready to come back? I think.

I woke up this morning with this line on repeat in my heart, “The evidence is all around, that the Spirit of the Lord is here.”  repeat, repeat, repeat.

He will lift up my head. That is a promise.

Psalm 3

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

 It’s with tears falling down my cheeks that I share this song with you. My heart is so full and so raw. This song seems to speak truth more than my words right now.
https://youtu.be/IR-7O57IQUA Elevation Worship, “Here as in Heaven”

Book Review: Waiting for Wonder

Waiting & patience have never been two of my strongest character traits. I’ve spent so many hours on my knees begging God to move things along and telling him exactly how He should and could as if he needed help.

This past month has a been an extreme test in patience as I watched my oldest endure some of the most intensive pain and suffering with complete TMJ replacement surgery. God and I have had countless conversations about why he was requiring my son to put his schooling and career on hold, why God would give such an amazing musical gift and then seem to take it away with a defective jaw, why it seemed that God is playing a cat and mouse game with my son? Giving him a passion for saxophone and music only to then yank it away as soon as that passion was realized seems like a cruel joke and a terrible plan.

If it was left up to me…and then I fill in the blanks with unrelenting speed and accuracy.

Waiting for Wonder Book Review

I volunteered to be a part of a book review this month, something I haven’t done in over a year. The book is called, Waiting for Wonder by Marlo Schalesky. The subtitle is: “Learning to live on God’s timeline.” Who says the Creator of the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor?

This book is a fascinating study of the life of Abraham and Sarah. The author combines a historically accurate yet fictional account of Sarah’s waiting for the promise of a child along with actual accounts from the author’s own life. I’ve never read a book in this form before and honestly I have never studied the details of Sarah’s story either. I learned so much from walking along side this hero of the faith as she waited and waited for God to fulfill the promise he had given her.

I have so many quotes from this book highlighted and underlined, I wish I could share them all with you. There are gems in this book when the author names truth so honestly it takes your breath away. She carefully reveals God’s loving nature in a way that shows a deep and profound understanding of Him. This is not a one note book but a symphony of love and patience and acceptance. Revealing a God who is bigger than most of us ever can believe. She also puts her finger on the painful truths that most of us privately harbor in our hearts and by naming them allows the reader to examine the holes in such beliefs.

“For a moment, I see God’s truth so clearly: he is the God who calls us at the very place of our deepest shame, our deepest pain, and transforms that place into something with breathtaking beauty. No one but God-no one but Elohim-would dare do such a thing.”

 

“God does not forget. He does however, sometimes let us wait. And in that interval between promise and fulfillment, in the “not yets” of life, we typically do not lose faith in God’s omnipotence; rather we lose sight of his love.”

Waiting for Wonder has been a balm for my weary soul. It has challenged and uncovered so many questions I have for God and it also has given me hope as I see how God fulfilled his promise to Sarah.

As we head into a new year, add this book to your reading list and allow the God to speak truth and hope to your soul.

“God sees us in the shadows of our tents, in the places we hide because we are afraid to hope anymore. He sees us and he speaks.”

Click this link to order your copy from Amazon.

 

Lessons from the edge of the ocean

I spent the first two weeks of December on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico’s beautiful water. Each night I watched the sun change the colors of the sky into something unique and different every night at 5:45pm as it melted into the horizon. If you’ve seen it once, you’ll never want to miss seeing it again. There was never a repeat of the same colors or the same sounds, each day was completely different from the day before. The condo we stayed in was only hundreds of feet away from the the water’s edge, the only thing separating my bedroom from the ocean was fine, soft, powdery white sand.

The noise of the ocean is a constant. There were days when the surf was minimal and the waters were calm but the sound was still persistent. The days when the waves were tall and angry the volume would be turned up 10x! The ceaselessness of the ocean’s call amazed me, it just never stopped. That may seem like a ridiculous statement but for a girl who grew up in the midwest, I kept waiting for the ocean to “turn off.”

The first few days we were there the sky was clear, the sun was warm and the breezes were gentle. The water looked like a lake, calm, clear and soft. After 5 days of the same, suddenly the ocean turned into an angry companion.

The skies turned gray, the waves roared and stood up 6 feet in the air. It looked and felt like a completely different body of water. It was hard and frothy and filled with energy and warning. I’d sit for hours looking at the different colors and wondering about how so much change could occur seemingly overnight. My position hadn’t changed and yet my view was 100% altered.

And then, the fog rolled in. Thicker than any autumn midwest fog I had ever seen, this fog appeared out of nowhere and completely clouded my vision. It was even hard to breathe the air, it was so thick. From my position on the balcony where I just moments ago had been able to see where the water met the horizon, I suddenly couldn’t even see where the water met the sand. I was surrounded on all sides and felt like I was blind.

The one constant was the rhythm of the ocean, a pounding that never ceased. Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was there just beyond my sight. A sustained and staccato crash that assured me it was still there.

As I sat and pondered the mystery of the ocean, I heard God’s voice of compassion and reassurance. “I am like the ocean,” he spoke to my soul. I am constant, I am continual, I am powerful, I am beautiful.

I Am.

Nothing will separate my love from your soul. Nothing. You may choose to leave but when you return I will still be here. You can not predict what I will look like, sound like, feel like or how I will behave but you can be certain that I am fixed, I am eternal.

I Am.

 

I could tell you so much more about the ocean. I could write about the multitude of colors I saw, more than I’ve ever experienced in my life. I could go on and on about the diversity and life that I experienced just along the shoreline and how my imagination ran wild as I contemplated what was under the dark waters. I could describe the endless mixture of birds I observed and their unique personalities.

Or the mixture of shells and sea sponges, rocks and sea grass that collected on the shoreline. The creativity that surrounded me on my little patch of sand was endless and overwhelming and humbling.

And I found myself asking,

 

Who is this King of Glory? 

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

I am small.

That is ok.

The Lord Almighty-he is the King of glory. He is the creator.

And He calls to us just like the ocean.

I Am.

The Empty Chair

the_empty_chair_91605860_2-2The empty chair has always been a “concept” for someone else… until this year.

Since June 6, when dad left us so suddenly, we have had an empty chair.

The first place I noticed it was walking into his house and seeing the place on the couch where he sat all the time. The blanket I made him last Christmas, draped over the back with no one to warm. It was startling and it took my breath away…and I turned my face so that I wouldn’t have to acknowledge the pain.

A few days later he wasn’t sitting next to my mother-in-law in church. She was there but he wasn’t. I pushed through the emptiness to encourage and lift her up and I turned off the pain so that I could be strong for those around me.

He wasn’t in the driver’s seat of his new car, a car that he never got to drive. I remember him in his old car, teaching my daughter how to drive. I see him in his van hurling down I65 as the rest of us hold our breath in fear. I see him in the ugly brown Pinto he used to drive. But not anymore.

He is not in my kitchen, he isn’t sitting on my couch, I can’t see him on my patio or in my pool or at any birthday celebration we’ve had since June; not at Emily’s or mine or Wesley’s or even his own. He wasn’t there. But I turned away and felt all the business of life and the attended to all the stresses on my plate because that was safer.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m afraid that I can’t turn away anymore.

There is an empty chair and it is his.

My tears fall with no end.

My tears fall for all the little things that won’t. Seeing him carry in a crazy amount of boxes filled with goodies, taking his coat, giving him a long hug, hearing him say “Happy Thanksgiving.” My tears fall because no one will be crowding me at the stove or asking “am I in your way?” or giving my dad that look that says, “I got her!”

Every day since June 6 has been a first. The first June 7 without him, the first June 8, the first June 9…etc… Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving.

Not once through his battle did he ever curse God. He wouldn’t even allow me to complain or express my feelings that God was being unfair without reminding me that God was good.

My reading today was from

Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

These words describe dad’s outlook and his countenance. He would always tell me that I shouldn’t be consumed with the current circumstances but to rejoice in God’s faithfulness.

It’s not going to be easy this year.

I can’t turn away from this emptiness any longer. It will be impossible to not see his empty chair. It’s real. We are here, he is not.

Fighting against being consumed sounds almost too hard.

It is ok to let the tears fall, they must, right?

I will walk through tomorrow with my heart aching because I miss dad. I’m praying my eyes will be open though as well. Open to God’s great love and compassion. Open to the people who are still coming and praying they will crowd me in my kitchen, for dad’s sake.

The empty chair is no longer just an analogy, it is very real. It hurts.

Dad would tell me, “Life is hard…but God is good.”

Sometimes, that’s all you have.

 

Peace vs Frantic this Holiday Season

Phill4My turkey is already thawing in my fridge, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Ready or not, the holiday season is coming and with it comes all the expectations, traditions, and general busyness that is wrapped up in the season.  The music, the food, the togetherness, the shopping, the concerts, Elf on a shelf insanity, Santa, etc…

Do these things come as welcome interruptions to our normal lives or as intrusions? Or do they fall somewhere in between?

I am generally a calm and peace loving person by nature, that is my role: the peacemaker. I go out of my way to avoid conflict when it is at all possible: it’s a sickness.

However, there is something about the holidays that brings out a side in me that is not something you would brag about in a Christmas letter. I have a lot of expectations for the holidays, they need to be special and inviting, include the many traditions that are important to me, include the foods that I have deemed “right,” include fast moving compitent cashiers and free delivery. I know that the song says “the streetlights blink bright red and green,” however, I’m really only interested in the green ones, the red ones are for the rest of you.

I become incredibly opinionated during this “most wonderful time of the year.” I’m easily offended. I tend to sped my precious girlfriend time to sit and chat about how disappointed I was or outraged I had become or shocked I am…

The complaining can go on and on and it doesn’t stop when I’m alone. Sometimes the most avid listener to my complaining is myself. I can reck havoc on someone’s character and worth inside my own mind for the benefit of making myself feel better or simply enjoying a good rant.

I think it has to do with the fact that I fear disappointment during this season. I want the magic and the mystery and the “Ah-ha” factor. I work so hard at engineering the holidays that when someone disagrees with me or simply has another opinion or heaven forbid slows me down in this quest, watch out!

I’ve discovered that becoming offended, angry or frantic during the holidays and just in general, is a choice. Crazy is not inevitable. It may feel like the season is out of control but I certainly don’t have to be.

This year, I’m choosing not to be offended, not to get angry, not to be frantic. I’m choosing to put others needs in front of my own. I am choosing to refocus how I view stress, people, and expectations. Why? Because that is where peace hides and I want peace in my life. I don’t just want to talk about how I want a more peaceful life, I’m going to choose to be intentional about it.

Philippians 4:5-7 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I need God to guard my heart and my mind this season. Friends, don’t lose sight of the fact that God will help you through this season. He can teach you gentleness. He will bring you joy. He will give you peace that transcends all understanding but you need to ask him.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” This Christmas song is a beautiful reminder of how we can effect the world around us, God helping us.

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