Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year!

God is good, all the time! Life takes many unexpected turns. And we can choose how we respond.

IMG_4745

I found Santa & Mrs. Clause in Florida last weekend!

I am entering a new phase of Life. My former “normal” has been forever changed. I am blessed with the opportunity to follow God’s leading to fulfill my destiny. We all face a New Year with new challenges and opportunities.

I pray for you! I pray that God will bless you beyond ALL you can ask or even imagine, and Ephesians 1:15 “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,”

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your reading what I put her each week. I do not take for granted that you have a LOT of other places to spend your time.

Thank you for helping to make 2014 a wonderful year.

*From: Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love, by Raymond Mitsch & Lynn Brookside

Christmas, Love and Grief

“See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”*

The love of God was born with grief as the passage to fulfillment.

The love of God was born knowing grief is the passage to fulfillment.

“Every body else” is celebrating Christmas, but this year more than most, there will be an emptiness present at our table. My dad passed 10 years ago, but he was a stroke victim the last 20 years of his life, so I had time to become accustomed to his absence before it was complete. My older Brother Charlie passed seven years ago in December. We were not super close, but his death hit me the hardest. It was more sudden than my mom’s last month.

I had the privilege of being with my mom for months before, and when she passed. So her going is good in my heart and spirit. But it is the every day ways that we used to relate that are the holes in my life now. And when my grown children and brother join me at my mom’s for Christmas, we will feel the collective absence.

It is bittersweet this year for many reasons. This will also be the last Christmas in mom’s home. Already we are thinking of ways to for us to stay well-connected without her as the central figure uniting us. We will be planning memorial services as well celebrating the coming of our savior. We are saying good-bye to a way of life and venturing into the new and uncharted.

But Jesus knows about it. We are not alone. He came as a baby and lived a human life, full of love, joy, pain and sorrow. He laughed and cried just like us. Then He died a excruciatingly painful and gruesome death. And in His resurrection He opened a way for us to experience life with God every day…even now.

God is actually inviting us to allow Him to fill that vacuum mom and other loses have left in our lives. Those places we are tempted to fill by self-medicating with noise or drink or over-activity or anything to dull the pain.

If only I can look to Jesus, the author and protector of my faith…. When I do that, I do not receive condemnation, I receive His tears of understanding and comfort. If only I can allow Him to touch my broken and empty places…. It can feel like a risky business trying. It goes directly against our human nature to self protect.

But oh the relief when I look up and let Him in to my pain filled places!

When I do, I find myself able to lay down the weight of the pain. I do not let go of the memories, unless He asks me to for my own good. For instance, He as graciously taken the trauma of actual death away from me, but the memories remain without the triggers. This allows me to comfort others as He has comforted me.

In many ways I am looking forward to tears and laughter as we enjoy a Christmas banquet without mom’s physical presence. (It helps knowing she heartily approves!)

Some of us have many, or very fresh, loses to grieve. All of us have losses. I encourage you to find a few minutes of alone time. Ask God for a sanctified imagination, then allow Him to show you where He wants to replace your pain or grief with His loving presence. Pleases let me know how it goes. I am praying for you.

* A verse from “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” by Issac Watts, pub. 1707

Anticipation and Advent

I generally like surprises! Especially good ones. This time of year anticipation hangs heavy in the air! But what are we waiting for?

A hand carved cresh from Mali, West Africa. The shepherds are Fulani herdsman.

A hand carved cresh from Mali, West Africa. The shepherd is a Fulani herdsman.

All the adds around are trying to get us to buy “stuff.” The anticipation of things! But there is so much more to the season!

These four weeks preceding Christmas make up the beginning of the church calendar called Advent. We are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus, God made flesh. Emmanuel, God with us.

For the Joy that set before Him, he came to live among us. He experienced all of life’s joys and temptations, yet remained without sin. That is not something I cannot say about myself.

He came to endure the cross so we may become friends of God. God entering our existence as a baby, who’d have guessed!?! A defenseless baby!?! Yet without Him, we are eternally separated from our Creator. In many ways it is a fantastic story. What makes it even more fantastic is that it is true.

My prayer is that in this season of Advent, we can pause for a few moments of awe each day. The following is just a bit of fuel for you to spring from. Please add your own and always share with me how it goes.

Prayerfully consider:

*What would my life be like without Jesus? (I literally shudder at the thought.)

*When the shopping is finished, or before I start, how do I see life and goodness in the people I am giving to?

*Beyond obligation and sometimes entitled expectation, what are my deep reasons to give and be kind?

*How can I give of myself to those I love? (I love to give hugs and words of encouragement as liberally as possible and appropriate…all year round.)

*How do I see God in the faces and lives of those around me, whether friend or stranger?

*Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become an Advent ritual for me. I get out the tissues and I allow it to touch me as I ask Abba how I have touched the lives of others, and how others have touched me. Try it and get ready to be humbled and grateful….

 And the surprise? I Know that Jesus came willingly to reconcile us to Himself.

 

Walking Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

Over the last two months I was honored to journey with my mom through the valley of the shadow of death, then hand her off to cross through the gates of splendor.

One body giving way, another giving comfort.

One body giving way, another giving comfort.

Mom passed the day before Thanksgiving. I am sad, but she is truly thankful! She lived an abundant 81 years here on earth. Even now in Heaven, in my minds eye, I see her dancing the Jitter Bug with my dad. You see, among other things, she had severe scoliosis all of her life, a 39 degree angle at one point in her spine! That is not an exaggeration.

But not that, or anything else, kept her from living life to the full extent. She had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That gave her strength and joy. Not until these last years of her life did I begin to know about the constant pain she lived with.

She cultivated an attitude of gratitude. As a family we teased her about living in denial, because she faced so many extraordinarily difficult circumstances through life, yet she had what we thought was a facade of optimism. But I learned over these last months that her gratitude was genuine.

Over the last two months I learned a lot about life and about death and the presence of God. I learned that God’s timing is not mine or necessarily the dying ones timing. It is God’s. There is often unfinished business with our maker when we approach the end of this life.

I am many things, and one is a prayer minister. Our loving heavenly father gave me the privilege to hold my mom’s hand often, to pray with her and to help her give her end of life regrets and fears to Jesus. She was at peace when it was time to cross over…and I was blessed to hold her hand when she went.

She is truly free. She is released from her constant pain. She is no longer a prisoner in her own body.

We shared fun and laughter mixed with times of pain and sadness. Yet through it all, Jesus was present. He is present. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” I have experienced that promise first hand now, from this side of the valley. Mom has experienced it all the way through and has graduated to her new body, with no scoliosis.

Mom is happy! I too am happy for her and sad for me, my brother and my grown children as well as the many people who  knew and loved her yet remain here without her. I miss her every day, but take great solace that she is healed, and that by the grace of God I will see her again when my days here are complete.How have you experienced the presence of the Lord in difficult times? Maybe you didn’t notice at the moment. Please take a moment. Ask God for a sanctified imagination. Then pray, asking to see or understand where Jesus was at that time. Listen. I am genuinely interested to hear from you. You are in my prayers.