The Star Still Beckons

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I have a star on the very tip-top of my Christmas tree. I had an angel for many years, but for as long as I can remember I always wanted a star. One year I found one I loved. Maybe I’m partial to a star because I love that God used one to guide the Wise Men on their long journey to see the Christ-child. I love it when God meets us where we are. Only God knew how to draw the Wise Men to Him. He knew the Wise Men were looking up. So…He used a great light.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Blessed Light. 

The prophet Isaiah foretold of a Light that would dawn on the darkened hearts of men.

Don’t you ever wonder why God uses light in Scripture to symbolize His presence? Darkness can be oppressive. Depressing. Blinding. Frightening. God is none of those things.

I guess one of my most favorite names for Jesus is the “Bright Morning Star.”

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

What a beautiful picture He gives us of Himself. How lovely. It’s the bright, morning star that heralds a new day. As the sun rises, I’m reminded that no matter how bad my day may be, I can start fresh every morning. There’s always the hope of a better tomorrow. The Morning Star that rises in my heart is Jesus. He’s my hope in a world still filled with much darkness.

It’s no wonder that when Jesus was born God chose to do something remarkable to herald His birth. He brought forth a supernatural, cosmic miracle in the heavens. Something rare. Something that would make the Wise Men stand up and take notice. God put a special star in the nighttime sky. And, behold, those men would never be the same.

Matthew 2:1-12 records for us the journey of the Magi. Wise Men from the East, possibly Persia, who dedicated their lives to educating themselves, to learning, to studying the ancient texts and Holy Scriptures. They studied prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. They read about the coming Messiah and they read that He would be born in Bethlehem-Judah. They also read about a star in Numbers 24,

“I shall see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob…” 

I just love that the Wise Men believed what they read.

What was it about this star that caused these men to seek, to follow, to want to behold the promised Messiah? What was it about this baby? A baby born in a small, insignificant village…in a tiny, smelly stable…with dirty, stinky animals…lying in a hard, crude feeding trough…to a young, peasant girl who had journeyed far on the back of a donkey…who probably hadn’t bathed or changed her clothes in weeks. Why would anyone want to travel thousands of miles to a place like that?

Because darkness is oppressive. Depressing. Blinding. Frightening. But put Jesus in the hearts of men and everything changes. Moods. Sights. Fears. This once-in-a-lifetime heavenly phenomenon that lit up the nighttime sky shone on the One True Light and this world would never be the same.

To think…the Star shone on this dark, stinky, hard, dirty place. But isn’t that how Jesus still shines on us today? I don’t know about anyone else, but I know that Jesus came to me in a place like this. Just as He met the Wise Men of old, He met me where I was…in a smelly stable. A young girl who had journeyed far from home. It was this bright Morning Star that beckoned me. The Light of the World that called to me. And I followed, never to be the same again.

It scares me to think of what I would be like without Jesus. It scares me to think of the dark places without the Light that shines in the darkness. It scares me to think of how hard my heart would be, how dirty my soul. Now that I’ve seen this great Light I know why the Wise Men traveled so far. Sometimes you just have to see Jesus for yourself. Sometimes you just have to seek Him for yourself. Sometimes you just have to follow for yourself. There’s an urgency. A need that only Jesus can meet. Sometimes it’s in the darkness that His light shines the brightest. Sometimes…

I believe some of the greatest miracles God still performs today are the miracles of changed hearts. When hearts are softened by the power of His mighty love, when lives are washed clean by His saving grace, when stables become palaces and stars become beacons of hope.

This is the Jesus that still saves. This is the Messiah that still comes in darkness. This is the Star that still beckons the hearts of men today.

And me…I am a woman who still seeks. Looking up. Like the Wise Men I am captivated by the Light of the World. I may not be where I want to be yet, but that’s okay. I still follow because I know any other light will lead me astray. He is my bright Morning Star. Beautiful and lovely. I believe…I behold…

my Blessed Light. 

His Name Is Wonderful…

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The season of the year when Christians everywhere celebrate the birth of Christ is upon us. For the past two days I’ve been thinking a lot about the prophet Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah,

“For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder,

And His name will be called Wonderful,

Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

I memorized this verse in Sunday School when I was a child. I can remember reciting it exactly as it is written, with a pause after Wonderful because there’s a comma there. Modern translations of the Bible omit this comma and use one title, Wonderful Counselor. For some reason, though, I still want to separate the two because…well…I just can’t help it…I like to think of Jesus as just plain Wonderful.

I looked this word up in the Blue Letter Bible to get the exact Hebrew definition and it means simply this: extraordinary, hard to understand; or something admirable, a miracle of God. Another source claimed a deeper meaning: incomprehensible!

To compare this definition I checked my online dictionary and found the word to mean: inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good, marvelous.

I’ll be the first to admit, I throw this word around a lot. I’m just expressive that way. Most of my friends have heard me say at one time or another, “Oh my goodness, it was just wo-o-O-o-nderful!” But, truthfully, I can’t remember the last time I told someone, “I think Jesus is just W-o-O-o-NDERFUL!” I think it. I feel it in my heart, but I don’t proclaim it like I should. I’m going to change that. (I think I feel a bit of drama coming on…)

How does the song go? “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” I think Andy Williams made it popular back in the sixties, but I don’t think the song speaks at all of the birth of our Savior. It speaks of the merriment that accompanies the Christmas season, the parties, the food, friends and family. All these things are wonderful, yes, but somehow I think this word has been greatly downgraded in comparison with Isaiah’s description of Jesus.

Jesus is extraordinary. His heart is sometimes difficult to imitate. He’s a marvel of God. I wonder at His radical teaching and His remarkable testimony. I am blown away by His marvelous mercy and His matchless grace. I celebrate His abundant goodness and His abounding love. I am delighted in His exceptional forgiveness and His excellent kindness.

Jesus is incomprehensible. His ways are sometimes hard to understand. He’s a miracle of God. I wonder at His holy conception and His humble birth. I am blown away by His compassionate healing and His sympathetic helping. I celebrate His triumphant resurrection and His jubilant ascension. I am delighted in His powerful presence and His perfect guidance.

This is the Jesus I call Wonderful and I want to remember the wonder of Him in all that I do this Christmas season. 

 

For every party I may attend I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about celebration.

For every person I may entertain I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about relationship.

For every patch I may decorate in my home I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about beauty.

For every place I may shop I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about giving good gifts.

For every pie I may bake I’ll remember Jesus because He’s all about feeding the hungry.

 

And then I’ll remember that there’s a pause after Wonderful because the name of Jesus is the name above all names and wonderful isn’t just a word, it’s who He is and that’s something to celebrate.

Being Thankful For The Little Things In Life

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It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Some may call it Black Friday. Not me. I’m so glad to be in the comfort of my home, sipping my Maxwell House Master Blend coffee with International Delight Coldstone flavored creamer, relaxing beside my black iron boxwood stove generating that blessed heat, and listening to the soothing sounds coming from the cage in front of my kitchen window. Muffin, my zebra finch, is serenading the rising of the sun. While the rest of my tiny part of the world is in a shopping frenzy, I am completely lost in the little things. The simple pleasures. Yes, today I’m thankful for the little things in life.

Because today is another day. A new day.

Truthfully, I am very tired.

I got a flu shot Monday. On Tuesday I got the flu. This has never happened to me before. My common sense tells me I’ll never get another flu shot again. I keep asking myself, “How could this possibly be a good thing?” I’ve been keeping myself medicated with over-the-counter flu medications because I was not about to cancel Thanksgiving dinner with my family. No way. If you read my last post, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I may not have felt my best, but I determined in my heart to live in the moment.

This hasn’t just been a physically draining week, though. It’s also been emotionally challenging. Some things have happened to cause great sadness in my spirit. Big things. Difficult things. Hard things. Messy things. Things that affect the quality of life. Not mine personally, but people I care about. Disease. Death. Damage. What do you do when your heart is broken for the Broken? What do you do when your soul is downcast for the Downcast? What do you do when your spirit is crushed for the Crushed?

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3

When how could this be a good thing? rings in my ears I am comforted by these words from the prophet Isaiah. They proclaimed the role and purpose of the coming Messiah. During Christ’s ministry on earth, He opened the scrolls and read these words in the synagogue, fulfilling this prophecy.  Now that He’s in heaven sitting at the right hand of the Father and His Spirit lives and breathes in me, I can now minister in His name and in His power just like this. To the broken. To the downcast. To the crushed. In the darkness. In the prisons. In the ashes.

That’s how I do it.

When the ugly things rear their nasty heads, I tend to appreciate the little things all the more. The simple pleasures. I refocus because I don’t want to miss what’s right with the world. I don’t want to miss what’s good. I don’t want to miss the faithfulness of my God in the ugliness of life. I don’t want to miss the Spirit of Christ in this coming season. I want to keep my eyes on Him.

“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. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.” Lamentations 3:22-27

I may not be so young anymore. I turned 57 on Sunday, but I had a few difficulties of my own as a child. As an adult, I can now see the good that has come from bearing the yoke when I was young. In the midst of the ugly, I still see the beauty of Christ and that is such a good thing. I can recall to mind so many wonderful, beautiful things that have happened and they greatly outshine all the ugly. God is so good like that. Full of compassion. Full of mercy. Full of grace. It’s not suppose to be a hard thing to grasp for the heart that truly seeks. I don’t think it’s meant to be difficult. I think Jesus wants it to be simple.

Yes, I’m tired, but honest-to-goodness, I’m oh-s0-thankful for the little things.

And maybe, just maybe, I can learn to be thankful for flu shots again because they really are a good thing. As many times as I’ve had one, I’ve never gotten the flu before…until now.

As Muffin continues to fill my kitchen with her song, I’ll determine to live in this moment and give thanks for God’s simple pleasures…drinking from the cup of His blessings, warming myself in the Light of His presence, and listening to the soothing sound of His voice.

It’s another day. A new day.

And I am still very thankful.

 

Thanksgiving, My Happy Place

 

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November is my favorite month of the year. It’s the month my mother gave birth to me, the day God chose to bring me into this world. Sometimes my birthday even falls on Thanksgiving Day. But, that’s not the real reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have fond memories of spending the holiday with my paternal grandparents and my father’s family. It didn’t matter whether my birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day or not, my grandmother always had a birthday cake for me. I learned early in life that Thanksgiving was all about giving thanks and treasuring family. This was a happy place for me.

Twelve years ago, something memorable happened to me in the month of November. I had brain surgery nine days before my birthday. Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning for me that year. I may not have been able to spend any time at all on preparations, but I never felt so loved, so grateful, so safe. Surrounded by my family, I knew in my heart that I had been given a great gift…life. God had preserved my life.

One year later I would come to understand that not only is life a gift, life is hope.

And hope does not disappoint.

“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Hope, the joyful and confident expectation for a certain thing to happen, like eternal life. The indescribable gift of life forever with my God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift…with Jesus, the Keeper and Sustainer of my heart.

One year after brain surgery…in this beautiful, wonderful month of thankfulness that I love…the day before I would celebrate my 46th birthday…my friend, Leslie, passed from this earth and entered into her heavenly home. Her brain surgery had been one month before mine. She spent a month in the hospital. I spent four days. Her tumor was malignant. Mine was benign. She grew weaker. I grew stronger. She endured radiation and chemotherapy and then, sadly, hospice came.

I went to visit Leslie four days before she passed away. Her husband had warned me not to be disappointed if she didn’t respond to me. The pain medications were keeping her sedated, but God in His infinite grace and lovingkindness gave me the most precious gift. Leslie lit up and responded to my presence. I told her stories. She listened. I laughed. She giggled. I held her hand. She held mine back. I prayed for her and watched tiny little tears fall from the corners of her eyes, trickling down behind her ears as she lay back on her pillow. I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her. Then, I said good-bye.

Her mother-in-law walked me to the porch and told me that Leslie had come “alive” for me more than most people who visited her in those last days. I think I know why. We shared a common bond. Brain tumor. Brain surgery. Though we suffered afflictions–Leslie’s were oh-so-much-more than mine–we knew the process of enduring, of proving our character, of producing hope. I still witness the reaction of others when I tell them I had brain surgery–jaws drop open. Hearts race. Fears rise.

I had once asked Leslie in the midst of her chemotherapy treatments and radiation, “What is the one thing you fear more than anything?” She didn’t hesitate. There was no fear for herself, only for her sons. I got that. Before my surgery, I had pondered similar fears. Oh, the depths of a mother’s love.

Sometimes life is so very sad, but in the sadness we come to experience new ways of relating to our heavenly Father. I came to understand hope in a way I never had before. For several years after Leslie’s death, every November I became melancholy. Maybe not so much in sadness as in deep reflection. Why does God increase the days of one life and not another? I’m convinced God wanted Leslie in heaven with Him. She was ready to meet her Maker. There’s no fear in that. Only hope. The best way I can honor Leslie’s life is to live mine well.

I’m learning that a heart of thankfulness doesn’t mean I thank God for hardship or heartache or handicaps. I don’t thank Him for cancer or disease or tumors…I thank God for what these things produce in me. I thank Him for the endurance to persevere under afflictions. I thank Him for the fruit of Christ’s character produced from the roots growing strong in the soil of my heart. I thank Him for the hope of heaven…

…where there will be no tears. No pain. No sadness. No sickness. No death. No more good-byes.

Only life.

I thank God for Novembers. It’s still my favorite month. I thank God for Thanksgivings. It’s still my favorite holiday. I thank God for birthdays. It’s still a day to celebrate. I want to live my life in a way that honors the Life-Giver because one day God will want me in heaven with Him. I’ll be ready to meet my Maker and I will not be disappointed. This is my happy place, even in sadness. And in my melancholy of deep reflection I picture Leslie’s reunion with her family in heaven one day…together again. And there I’ll be, watching and waiting my turn to greet her because she and I still share a common bond…

Life Eternal.

 

 

 

My Quiet Place

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There’s this sweet little bench in the woods across the street from my parents’ house. It sits on a little hillside overlooking a creek bed. The skunk cabbage grows in abundance along the marshy stream and the ground beneath my feet is rich and soft. It takes some meandering around brush and fallen tree logs to get to this bench, but I’ve always been very fond of a walk through the woods. This is one of my favorite quiet places in my little part of the world.

I guess what I find so welcoming about this place is that it’s not frequented by the rest of the world. I don’t know that anyone else ever visits. I don’t know that anyone else really cares it’s there. I don’t know that anyone else sees it for the treasure that it is. It’s just an old bench sitting on a hillside in the woods. Left to decay. Forgotten. Forsaken.

But not by me.

I’ve known of this bench for many years. It was built by a loving father who spent many days and many hours working the land where one day a house would be constructed by his daughter and her family. The father passed away and the land was no longer tended. Just a few years ago the daughter passed away, too. I don’t know that a house will ever be built there. The sadness is too great for the family and what was once a great dream may now be just a memory.

I’ll never forget the first time I ventured to my bench. I was heavy in heart. I needed a quiet place. I was visiting my parents and I remembered how I used to love a walk through the woods as a child. How often did I escape to the forest and lose myself in its solitude, sitting on a mossy bank or perching myself on a fallen log? I don’t know, it just gave me peace. What can I say? We all need a quiet place and in this crazy-mixed-up world, we don’t always know where to find it.

So, I made my way to the bench in the woods that day and I sat. I talked to God. No distractions. No interruptions. No one to hear, no one to see. Just me and God. All alone in the woods. And before I knew it I was weeping. I knelt in the rich, soft earth beside that bench and I cried my little heart out. I didn’t care, but I knew in that place that God did.

What’s a quiet place if God isn’t in it? I think sometimes we’re afraid of the quiet places. We’re afraid of solitude. Instead of embracing it, we flee. We keep ourselves so occupied, so busy, so distracted that the silence becomes elusive. I think I learned early in life, though, that silence really is golden. In some ways, my hearing disability is a blessing. Maybe that’s why I loved a solitary trek through the woods even as a young girl. Maybe that’s why I love my bench. I’m not afraid of the silence. I want it. No…I need it. Because it’s there in the silence that I find my confidence.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15

…But you would have none of it…

Oh, Sweet Jesus…I don’t want to “have none of it.”

I want to experience the peace that comes in waiting on the Lord. I want to be confident in my waiting seasons. I want to experience the blessed truth that God will never leave me to decay. I am never forgotten by the One who treasures me. I will never be forsaken by the One who promises to be with me wherever I go. There is such a connection between faith and quietness. There is such beauty in learning how to trust that even in the silence God is present.

Sometimes when I walk in the door of my parents’ house, pass out the hugs and plant a few kisses I can hardly wait to head back out the door, cross the street, enter the woods, meander around brush and fallen tree logs to my bench. To others it may look like a lonely place, but I know it’s way more than that…

…it’s my quiet place. It’s where I know I’m not alone even in the desolate places. To the rest of the world it may be a place of decay. Forgotten. Forsaken.

But not by God.

Sometimes, silence isn’t just golden. It’s God.

One Lovely Blog Award

Blog Award

 

This blog post has been in my draft queue for weeks. To be honest, I’ve not really known how to write it. I’ve done a bit of digging into the purpose of the One Lovely Blog Award and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was created to give bloggers encouragement and support in the world of blogging. Heaven knows we all need encouragement, especially in a “world” where it’s easy to get lost in an ocean of faces, where diversity is as wide as the ocean is long, and hope for acceptance as fierce as its rolling waves. This award is a “pay-it-forward-kind-of-award.” I was nominated by another blogger and I, in return, will nominate 7 more and I’ll share 7 things about myself that you may not know.

To be honest, I started my blog a year ago completely ignorant to the ways of the blogging world. I just wanted an outlet for my thoughts, but because I love to write (and read) it would be so easy to just sit at my computer reading blogs all day long. I could lose myself in other people’s stories and writing styles. There are some amazingly gifted and talented writers out there with some very inspiring stories to tell, but I believe that most bloggers just blog for the love of writing. They have all this passion bottled up inside of them and blogging is the way they unleash their knowledge and insight. I’m just one of the thousands.

To be nominated by another blogger is huge for me. Her name is Karen. Karen Taylor. She’s the first blogger I connected with when I began my blog in the fall of 2013. She, with her “Rosegardens and Thorns” and me, with “my thorn…God’s glory.”  No, I’ve never met her face to face, but I feel like I know her. Karen is Jamaican. How cool is that? To connect with someone across the vast ocean that separates us is one of the coolest things ever.

You’ll find Karen at http://taylorkaren.wordpress.com. Her blog is titled, Rosegardens and Thorns. She writes honestly, openly, and sometimes heartbreakingly about her life experiences and struggles. She covers a wide-range of topics. She researches. She journals. She pours it all out. She lives and breathes in the God of second-chances. One of the things I love about her is that she’s an honest-to-goodness-natural-born-encourager. Even though my blog has very few followers, receives very few comments, and has few readers per blog post, Karen continues to lift me up and encourage me to press on. She believes in me.

Wow. You have no idea how much this means to me, Ms. Karen. Thank you for nominating me.

 

S-o-o-O-o-o-o…here are the 7 random facts about myself…

1. I try to eat healthy. I don’t consider myself a true vegetarian because I do eat fish. I eat little dairy and go light on the bread. I struggle with a sugar addiction.

2. My father took my family to the Holy Land with a side trip to Greece when I was 20 years old. I had my most spiritual moment of worship ever on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.

3. The first time I ever learned to fish as a child I caught an eel. I’ve never cared for fishing since.

4. In the 90s (1990’s, that is) I was a self-employed decorative artist. Long before this present craze for chalk paint furniture, I painted furniture the hard way…with proper sanding, primer, 2 coats of paint, hand painted flowers, vines or whatever I was commissioned to do, and 2 coats of sealer. I don’t paint much any more, but at the time I had a lucrative business.

5. I love junkin’…thrift shops, flea markets, antique shops, and the occasional yard sale. I need a bumper sticker that reads, Caution: I Brake For Goodwill. 

6. My favorite food is Italian. I would eat pasta or pizza every day if I could, but I don’t. Too much cholesterol and too much “sugar.” My body can’t take it anymore.

7. I ran track in high school. As the second leg of the 880 relay team, we were 2nd in district, 2nd in regionals, and proud to represent our district at the state track meet in 1975. As an adult, I never took up running, though. Walking is my #1 form of exercise.

 

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Now…aside from Rosegardens and Thorns, here are 7 blogs that I follow. I occasionally read more than these, but these 7 I read on a regular basis. Most of them have already received the One Lovely Blog Award and most of them already have hundreds of followers, but I read them because they inspire me and speak to where I am in this season of life…

1. Michele Cushatt at michelecushatt.com. She’s a writer, speaker, author, and storyteller, a wife and mother of 6 children. She’s gracefully transparent and, wow, her life is an amazing testimony to the beauty of God’s grace.

2. Lara Williams at tooverflowing.com. She’s a writer, speaker, and author, a wife and mother of 3 children who tells-it-like-it-is. She shares her heart openly and honestly about her life’s struggles.

3. Sherry French at thesplendiferouslife.com. Isn’t that the coolest heading for a blog? The Splendiferous Life! Love it. And it suits Sherry. She’s one of the most creative women I’ve ever met, a beautifully talented and creative artist, wife and mother of 9 children, both biological and adopted. Her heart is for the orphan and Ugandan missions.

4. Renee Bullock at therefinedrelic.com. Renee believes that “every home should have a story” and filled with cherished reminders of the past and present. She and her husband have a passion and interest for historical homes, antiques, and vintage furniture and accessories. She weaves Grace and Truth, Faith and Family into her love of all things “home.”

5. Debbie Wilson at lighthouseministriesnc.org. Debbie and her husband started Lighthouse Ministries to be a “beacon of hope, providing biblical help through counseling, coaching, small groups and weekly articles.” Their passion is to “help people thrive in faith and life.”

6. Edward Roads at mytwosentences.com. Edward’s posts consists of 2 sentences each. Yes, it’s true. It’s amazing to read what he packs into just 2 sentences full of creative, descriptive words that paint beautiful pictures in the mind’s eye…and, yes, there are even amazing photographs that accompany each post.

7. DevotionalDiva.com. This blog was started in 2008 by a published author who recently passed the editor’s baton to Maggie Winterton, another editor, writer, military wife and mom of 2 children. She helps and guides others in sharing their stories on Devotional Diva. I love this site because of the many guest posts.  You never know who’ll be writing, what they’ll be sharing, and how they’ll touch your heart.

 

I guess that wraps it up for my One Lovely Blog Award post. Thank you again, Karen Taylor, for considering my blog “lovely.”

Sweet Blessings to you all today…Nina

 

When Written Words Are Not Enough

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I’m a writer. I love to write, but writing has its flaws. Every word, every phrase, every sentence that flows from my heart to my keyboard isn’t always interpreted in the way I mean it. The hardest thing about writing is knowing that, sometime…somehow…somewhere…someone may get hurt.

And I hate that.

I remember how much I enjoyed writing creative stories for my high school English classes. I didn’t always write well, though. Sometimes my teachers rewarded me with A‘s, but sometimes there were so many red marks all over the pages of all my hard work and there in the top right-hand corner for all the world to see would be a big-fat C. Instead of looking at the creative content, they looked at all the misplaced commas, misused adjectives, and misconstructed phrases. I was always deeply wounded by those C‘s, but I knew it was part of the learning process.

I’ve since learned that writers each have their individual styles. I can’t say I use every bit of information I’ve ever learned about proper grammar and the right way to construct sentences. I have my own style. My sentences are fragmented and when I want to convey certain tones of my voice or certain emotions of my heart, I do all kinds of unconventional things. Like this. (I don’t think that’s really a sentence.) And this. (I don’t think I’m suppose to start a sentence with a capital And.) And this….(I don’t think leaving my thoughts hanging with a bunch of dots is proper.)

Anyways, something happened to me yesterday that has caused me to sorrow in the written word. I sent an email to a friend and it hurt her feelings.

I didn’t mean for it to hurt. But, it did.

If you’ve been keeping up with me through my blog you know I’m hearing impaired. Severely hearing impaired. Hearing aids are my constant companions and they don’t work well with my cell phone or any phone at all, for that matter. I depend greatly on the written word…email, text, Facebook, and YES! Gasp. Seriously?! I still write notes the old-fashioned way…with ink on pretty notecards. But when I want to convey serious matters or things that are very important to me, I want to talk with someone. Face-To-Face. Because I don’t believe that an email or a letter or a Facebook message can truly convey what’s in my heart.

Alas. It grieves me that it can’t always be so. Busyness gets in the way. It’s not anyone’s fault that I’m hearing impaired. This is my life. I do as much as I can to keep myself out there…to make myself sociable…to get out of the house…to get involved in people’s lives…but I’ve learned that my hearing impairment leaves me at a disadvantage when it comes to matters of the heart. I try to be as patient as I can and as understanding as I can when it comes to busyness. If email is the only way someone can communicate when busyness intervenes then, believe me, I try very hard to place my commas and use my adjectives and construct my sentences in a way that others will truly hear my heart.

And yet….sometimes…no matter how hard I try or how much I pray or how long I think before I write, I am still misunderstood.

When it comes right down to it, as beautiful and timely as written words can be, sometimes the written word just isn’t enough. Nothing can take the place of sitting beside a friend and sharing the spoken word face to face.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11

The written word doesn’t allow someone to hear the tone in my voice, or see the compassion in my face or desperation in my eyes. I don’t care how busy I am these days, I’m still a meet-me-for-coffee-kinda-girl. Maybe it’s because I’m hearing impaired, but I still believe God wants us to be face-to-face-kinda-people ’cause He’s a face-to-face-kinda-Friend.

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 33:11. 

There are just some things that need to be said, talked about, and shared face to face. They were never meant to be put to paper or typed on a keyboard. Some things are just too important. Like this. And this. And especially this…friendship. Because even though I didn’t intentionally hurt my friend with my words…heaven knows I thought too long and hard about what I wrote to even consider it!…my written words were still misunderstood. I knew in my heart I needed a face to face but busyness got in the way and I felt backed into a corner.

I’m so glad my Faithful Friend in heaven, who knows me so well, can interpret my heart when my friends on earth misinterpret my words.

If I’m completely honest, when I unintentionally hurt someone with written words, I consider giving up writing. Just canceling my WordPress account, deleting my Facebook, ignoring my email for the rest of my life, refusing to ever send another text, but I know I can’t. This is my lifeline. This, too, is my life. Without social media I would shrivel up and die. The truth is, I need the written word to survive because hearing impaired people risk shutting themselves off every day of their lives. Hiding themselves away. Becoming hermits. Losing themselves in a very lonely place. And now, as I write this, I find the tears just flowing down my cheeks and I can’t seem to stop them.

Because I hurt someone with my words in this very lonely place.

And I hate that.

And sometimes saying I’m sorry, please forgive me needs to be done in person but busyness gets in the way of that, too. So, I’ll say it here for now and pray for the day when my friend and I can meet face to face.

Yes, I’m a writer. I may get discouraged sometimes, but I was born to write. Even as I pour out my heart writing this post I’m experiencing the healing that can only come from The One who heals. God is my Teacher. He’s forever instructing me. My Faithful Friend. For every C I find in the top right-hand corner of my paper, there are a dozen A‘s waiting around the corner, given to me by the One who upholds me by His righteous right hand.

And I love that.

“A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am that God will always be the Holder Of My Hand and when He speaks to me, His words will always be enough.

The Hope Of The Harvest

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I’ve learned something over the years about ministry: It comes with a price…it just might cost me something.

True ministry isn’t really an easy thing. It can certainly be fun, but it isn’t always. It isn’t glamorous. It’s not about fame. Or fortune. It’s not about advancing a career. It takes work, patience, and determination. I’ll get out of it what I put into it. The blessings are spiritual and the rewards eternal because true ministry is really a labor of love.

The word ministry is actually derived from a Greek word meaning, “a person who serves.” We get our English word “deacon” from it. It’s a service role, but we’re all called to be servants, to be involved in the lives of people…meeting needs, showing kindness……..and loving well. Ministry isn’t just for pastors. We’re all called to be ‘ministers’ right where God places us.

I was watching the farmer plow his tobacco field the other morning across the street from my house. The last of the tobacco leaves were picked last weekend. The sun was rising brightly above the tree line, shooting rays of light across the clay dirt. I heard in my spirit, “the hope of the harvest,” and thought to myself, “What a beautiful picture of ministry!”

The farmer plants thousands of seeds, but he doesn’t get a plant off of every single seed. Still he labors on. He lives off hope. He knows it takes many seeds to produce a harvest. He doesn’t cut corners. He doesn’t count costs. He was born to work the fields. It’s in his blood. He loves it. He can’t imagine doing anything else.

Year after year the farmer plows his fields, preps his soil, plants his seeds, fertilizes and then he waits. He prays to God for rain to water his fields. Sometimes God answers yes. Sometimes, no. Sometimes God says not now because not every year is a profitable year. Yet, the farmer can’t imagine doing anything else. Even after a bad year, he’ll do it all over again the next season. He does it over and over again for the thrill of working the land. 

And…because he has hope…because sometimes the harvest is plentiful and when it is, it’s worth all the hard work, all the disappointments, all the heartache.

Ministry is like that. If I minister to others for any other reason than to see God bring forth a harvest of people who love Him and bring Him glory, then maybe I’m not serving for the right reason. I’ve gotta love it, but I’ve gotta love God more because He’s the One for whom I labor. He’s the One who brings forth the harvest. I’m just the farmer, the vessel, and I have to be empty of all self-promotion, personal agendas, and self-gratification.

Yes, sometimes, I’m going to work hard, but I remember my labor isn’t in vain. Sometimes I might be disappointed, but I remember that God is never disappointed in me when I give Him my very best. Sometimes I might have heartache, but I remember that God brings joy out of sorrow. Sometimes I might grow impatient and wonder if I’ll ever see the fruit of my labor, but I remember that God isn’t on my time table. He’ll water what I plant in time. There’s only One Water of Life.

Have you ever seen a farmer come in out of the fields clean and spotless? He’s most likely covered in dirt and sweat. Sometimes ministry means I’m going to  get my hands dirty. I might have to dig a little deeper, plow a little farther, and stay on my knees a little longer. I think the most valuable sacrifice made in ministry is time–and prayer. As busy as everyone seems to be these days, time is the thing we all seem to hoard, but it’s what we most need to give away.

Because I’m hearing impaired, I enjoy mentoring, discipling, and teaching Bible study. I haven’t always done it well. I haven’t always had a lot of time to give. I haven’t always been faithful, but I’ve found that I most enjoy spending time with other women one-on-one, whether in my home, over a restaurant table, at the Pregnancy Care Center or on a park bench, pouring over Scripture, holding hands in prayer, sharing a listening ear and most likely a few tears. Time just seems to stand still and I always feel so blessed. It’s true…true ministry isn’t just for the one I’m pouring into. God is pouring into us both. We bless each other.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galations 6:7-10

Jesus’ whole ministry on this earth was a sacrifice. He gave up all the glory of heaven to live, breathe and walk among us. He labored among us, He taught us, listened to us, prayed with us, ate with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and, above all….He truly loved us. Because He loved His Father.

I’m coming to understand that our lives are meant to be lived as a beautiful offering. There are people in my little part of the world that need to know God cares, God forgives, God heals, God comforts, God gives joy, and best of all…God loves them madly. I can minister in Jesus’ name right where I am. One person at a time. One day at a time. One season at a time.

For the glory of God and…

for the hope of the harvest.

When I Can’t Be Liked By Everyone

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I wish I could be liked by everyone I meet. I know there are some genuine, warm-hearted, sincerely lovable people out there who don’t seem to have an enemy in all the world, but I’m old enough and mature enough now to admit…I’m not one of them.

Sigh.

I remember the first time a best friend got mad at me. Really mad. Mad enough to decide she didn’t like me anymore.

I was in the fourth grade. Still too young to understand all the insecurities I battled being visually and hearing impaired in a hearing-seeing world. Our teacher was marching us single file from the classroom to the playground for Recess. (A school child’s favorite time of the day!) My best friend at the time was  behind me in the line-up where I couldn’t see her face. When we got outside she was angry with me. She said she had called my name several times in the hallway, never mind the rule of no talking in the hall, but I didn’t answer her. When I told her I hadn’t heard her she insisted that I did and she was never my friend again.

I never really enjoyed Recess after that. In fact, I recall being so upset that day I made myself sick. I couldn’t even go to school the next day. Thank goodness graduating to the fifth grade meant we were too old to play on the playground. Drama. Sometimes we girls are all about drama.

I learned early how to build walls around my heart. When someone got too close I backed off, not wanting to put myself at risk of another betrayal. I certainly didn’t want to get too close to someone who might ask me questions about my eye. Heaven forbid. The few brave enough to ask were usually met with a stunned silence. I was sure they could see the rising heat in my face, flushed with humiliation, and hear the pounding of my beating heart, rushed with fear. It was all I could do to keep from turning on my heels and high-tailing it home where I could hide under the watch care of my family who loved me and kept me safe.

I once had a woman in my adult life tell me that when she first met me she had tried to talk to me, either behind me where I couldn’t hear her or beside me where I couldn’t see her, and I never talked back so she thought I was a snob. A snob!! But it made me think…is that what people have thought of me all along? Maybe if I’d learned in my early years to be honest with my friends about my disabilities they would’ve been able to understand me a little better. It’s hard enough being a teenager with up-and-down hormones and emotions out-of-control without adding a prosthetic eye and hearing loss to the package. I guess I just did the best that I could with what I had, but I still made some people not like me.

That sounds like such a silly thing to say, but that’s how little girls talk. How do you make people like you? The truth is, sometimes I feel like I’m still in my little-girl-skin, the tendency to build walls around my heart still surfacing from time-to-time. I want to protect myself from those who don’t seem to like me, but one of the things I’ve learned over the years is this: If I’ve done everything I know to do to treat others with kindness, respect and compassion–something I didn’t always do as a teenager–and I still can’t make a friend out of someone, then maybe the problem isn’t with me.

One of the things that aging and grace have given me is a better understanding of insecurities in others. There are plenty of us who have struggled or continue to struggle with lack of self-worth and self-confidence, who build walls around our hearts and shut ourselves off, who feel the pain of betrayal and the sorrow of rejection, whose faces flush with humiliation and whose hearts beat with fear.

The sad truth is, I won’t be liked by everyone on this earth, but maybe it’s not because I’m not likable. Maybe it’s just because some people are a little like me with the same hurts, same battles, same stuff of life. I need to remember that God in His infinite wisdom is able to give me the ability to see some of what He sees and heart some of what He hearts. No that’s not a typo…I meant heart, with a ‘t’. It’s only with the tearing down of walls around my heart that I can “live at peace with everyone.” I don’t necessarily have to like someone to love them as Christ does and that’s such a hard truth to grasp.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:14-18

What a mouthful. Lord, fill me.

These days, I’m working to build a life that reflects peace in my relationships. I’m working on building harmony, not conflict…self-worth, not self-deprecation…self-confidence, not self-diffidence. How’s that for another mouthful? Because, truthfully, peace in my inner self will affect how I see others, how I treat them, how I bless them, how I pray for them…AND…it just might affect how others see me, too. Maybe. You never know.

I may wish I could be liked by everyone I meet, but I know it’s not likely to happen on this earth. Instead, I’ll just wish for this peace that reflects a heart without walls. I’ll try my best to do my part, as much as depends upon me, and then I think I’ll just let God be God and take care of the rest…

The Lone Red Leaf

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I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the crisp night air and the chilly mornings. I can hardly wait to get the wood stove cranked up and sit in my comfy chair with a blanket and a hot cup of favorite tea or coffee. I love hot soup, brunswick stew, and mugs of cider with a touch of brown sugar. I love the smell of orange rinds, cinnamon, and cloves simmering on the stove. I love pumpkins, apples, and butternut squash. I love sweaters, warm socks, and boots. I love a scarf around my neck and a hat on my head. I love the sound of tractors harvesting the fields, dried cornstalks, and bales of hay. I love the sound of leaves crunching under my feet as I walk through the streets of my little town. I love jars of acorns and wreathes of pinecones, but I especially love the mountains in the fall.

I just love fall. What’s not to love?

A few days ago, I was walking down the wooded, tree-lined street in the neighborhood where my parents’ live. I had hoped to see more of nature’s fall colors on this visit, but I confess my disappointment. It’s not peak season, yet, but I’m still disappointed. There are usually early signs of season change that spark excitement and anticipation, but the oak leaves just seem to have gone right to a dull brown, abandoning themselves to an early demise. The sycamores are a mass of mottled, diseased spots on slabs of yellow, not at all pretty and pleasing to the eye. I’m hoping the maples will soon burst on the scene with their usual glorious display of yellows, oranges, and reds to redeem what the oaks and the sycamores have lost. Even the dogwoods are lacking in their vivid red and green splendor this season. Fall seems to have fallen short.

As I was walking around a bend on the country road that graces my parents’ neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice the lone red leaf peering out of a sea of green on a small maple as I walked up the hill. Slightly blowing in the breeze it caught my attention and I stopped to take a look. It was already at its peak color, far ahead of the others. Vibrant with color. Set apart. Standing alone. Even though the green leaves of this tree were mottled with ugly brown spots just like the sycamores, diseased and sickly-looking, this lone red leaf was beautiful, the deep red completely covering the ugly spots and drawing my eye, beckoning me to wonder. I couldn’t help but smile.

Sometimes I’m a lot like that lone red leaf, all my ugly brown spots camouflaged by the Keeper and Sustainer of my heart, washed in the power of His cleansing blood. My heart beating in time with His, no matter the season. Without Jesus I would be abandoned to a life without much color. Dull. Mottled with brown spots of decay marring any real beauty. Following Jesus means that sometimes I may have to stand alone, but that’s not a bad thing. Because in a sea of green where others may want to look alike, act alike, and talk alike…I want to be uniquely different the way God created me to be.

I’m not created to look like everyone else or be like anyone else, aside from Christ. I just love how He warms the crisp night air and blankets my chilly mornings. I love how He brings flavor to my food and salt to my earth. I love how He brings a sweet aroma to my home and embraces me with His comforting Presence. I love how He covers me with His wings and gives me shelter in His shadow. I love how He showers me with a harvest of blessings and speaks truth over me as I walk through the trouble-laden streets of life. I love how He puts a garland of grace around my neck and crowns me with splendor. I love how He waits for me on the mountaintop because I especially love meeting Him there, high upon the Rock.

Yes, life without Jesus would be dull. He alone completes me and makes me whole. Life is full of seasons, but Jesus is present in every single one. I just happen to like fall the best. He’s the real Lone Leaf. I see Him down every street. In every tree. Around every bend. Vibrant. Set apart. Standing alone. Perfect in beauty. Unequaled in splendor. Always at His peak color. Drawing my eye, beckoning me to wonder. I can’t help but smile.

I want to be like Him. I do. I may fall short. But I’ll never give up trying.

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4 & 5

I just love Jesus.

What’s not to love?