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The newness of Spring..

 

I love this time of year.. after a long rainy winter, we are finally getting some beautiful weather and the first signs of spring are here. All my potted plants are showing signs of life.. it is always a surprise when I see that they survived so much rain and I never managed to transplant them.. yet they are coming back again. Their conditions are less than ideal.. but they persevere..reminds me of our lives.

We live in less than ideal circumstances.. yet every spring we can look ahead with hope and trust that the Lord has new things for us in this season. The hardships of winter may have beaten us down.. but there are signs of new growth.. signs of life. I don’t know about you.. but I need to have hope for the future.. to believe that there are going to be surprises.. things that God is going to do that I never expected..I try to make a point of noticing those things when they happen.. even if they are very small things.. like my rose bushes looking exceptionally healthy this year.. almost ready to bloom.. a precious gift from God.

Easter is coming in two weeks.. a time of celebration.. rejoicing in what the Lord has done for us. We have this time to begin to savor each day and to be thankful for this life.. to pray and ask for restoration and healing.. to seek a greater glimpse of His goodness. This is a special time and I don’t want to waste it looking back at the disappointments..the desire of my heart is to experience the abundant life of John 10:10 every single day in the midst of the challenges and trials.. He is always with us and always pouring out His love into our hearts.. time to drink deeply of the Living Water.. to fill up so we can pour out that love to others.. Let it be so Lord!

 

7 Years Today

 

My blog is 7 years old today. I remember when I started it.. I really did not know what a blog was or if I could write anything that people would want to read. So here we are  way down the road.. and I am still writing.. and there are some of you who benefit from what I share.. I am thankful to the Lord for providing me with the words and ideas for the last 7 years.

The month of March is significant in many ways.. my dad died 10 years ago this month and I got married on March 30th..15 years ago.. to the love of my life after waiting many years to meet him:) God is so good. My son-in-law’s birthday in March as well. It is a significant time for me.. endings and new beginnings. They always go together.. often things need to end so that new things can begin and it can be painful while it is happening. Steve and I are in a new season right now and the transition has been challenging. After 7 years of job disappointments for both of us and a long period of unemployment.. we are finally in a more stable place. The things I hoped for during that time have not happened.. but God has been sovereign over all of it. He has taken care of us and provided for us during this long pruning season. I look forward to the fruit that will come from this time.

The road of life is unpredictable and uncertain.. we hope for stability and the ability to see way down the road and know we will be safe.. that is natural for us. The truth is this life is not going to provide that.. our certainty and safety is only in the Lord.. not in our circumstances. He leads us and we follow.. knowing that He is ahead preparing things is very reassuring… we are in His hands and He will never forget us. In our world that is shaking daily.. where all the news is bad and frightening.. we have our God and our real life is in His kingdom.. Someday we will experience it fully and the things of this world will fade away.. Right now we can only live a day at a time.. or maybe an hour at a time.. trusting that He is with us and for us!

” Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.” 

 

All things..

 

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Romans 8 : 28 is one of my favorite scriptures.  The NIV says And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I also like the KJV version of this verse..And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Both translations are making the same point. God works everything together for our God and to fulfill His purposes. It is reassuring to know that nothing is happening without His permission.. that He is always working behind the scenes and His plans and purposes will prevail. I was recently reading the first chapter of Job.. it is quite an eye opener when it comes to explaining trials and tests. The NLT version tells the story this way;

“One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan,came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.”

The Lord granted the enemy permission to test Job. That’s right.. He allowed all those things to happen to a righteous man. Job’s losses were not punishment. They were from God.. He was involved and He even suggested that Job be tested.. why? Because He knew Job and He was going to use all of this suffering for good in this man’s life. Of course while Job was suffering.. he did not know that and he doubted and challenged God. Eventually by the end of the book.. he realized his folly in questioning God.. The Lord reminded him of who He was.. the creator and sovereign God of the universe. Job was humbled and realized he has no right to question God’s ways.. All things will work together for the good of those who love Him.. those who trust Him ..those who submit themselves to Him.. those who lean into Him when times are hard.. ALL THINGS!

 

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Hope is renewed..

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It is really springtime again.. I never feel quite sure until May appears..than I feel safe saying winter is over! We came back from a long weekend away this afternoon and as we looked up we saw beautiful fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky.. the fields along the highway were a vivid green dotted with patches of yellow wild mustard. I could see the Lord’s handiwork all around me.. it was very comforting. God’s love for us revealed in creation.

It was a weekend of reminders for me. We went to a very special wedding.. one that was full of amazing surprises.. I could see God’s fingerprints all over this union. He brought these two people together and it was clear that His love drew them to one another. He was transforming their lives and it flowed over each of us watching the ceremony…we stood in awe of His redeeming work. I had a similar experience at another family gathering last December.. as I looked around the room I could see how the hand of the Lord had been at work healing broken lives and relationships. His hand of redemption on our family.

God is at work even when we can’t see a single thing He is doing. Suddenly He allows us a glimpse into the lives He is restoring.. a glimpse of His healing touch. Spring is like that for me.. all winter long I wonder how I will make it through my least favorite season.. too many hours inside waiting for the weather to warm up… too many grey skies.. short days and long nights.. Suddenly the season changes and I realize He has been working in the dark.. behind the scenes.. getting things ready for the new things that He is going to reveal.. Spring is here.. winter is over.. Hope is renewed!

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Celebrating Lent with art

I spent most of my Christian life never really appreciating Lent. Many churches don’t acknowledge this season and seem to ignore it. I am not sure why but I suspect it has to do with rejecting ritual or tradition.  I feel like I was missing something all those years and this year I have embraced Lent in a new way. I started googling Lent and scripture and came up with some very interesting websites. Many of them seem to spring from the more contemplative stream of the faith. As I began exploring and reading things from each site I suddenly saw an opportunity. Traditionally people give up things for Lent and I understand the reasoning behind this.. although admittedly I have not done much giving up during Lent in past years. This year I am joining in with giving something up.. that something is Facebook. I have only been on Facebook for less than a year and I have to admit that I think about giving it up permanently every time I visit the site.. Actually giving up Facebook the first time I was on it.. 5 years ago.. resulted in my starting this blog.. So here I am again thinking that God has a plan for me to do something that I can only understand if I quit that site and free up the time that it takes from my life.

So since yesterday was the official beginning of Lent.. Ash Wednesday.. I stopped visiting the site and sure enough.. here I am back on my blog. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I love writing and I have not been very inspired since I started wasting so much time. I also started an art journal for Lent.. an idea that emerged today and I am very excited about sticking with it for the entire season of Lent.  I am journaling a new scripture every day for the 40 days of Lent.

The first day has been inspiring and I hope to draw closer to the Lord as I am faithful to listen each day and create my art journal. This is the type of project anyone can do.. you don’t need artistic talent and you definitely don’t need lots of art supplies. Any little journal or even one that you make yourself will work. At the end of the 40 days you will be able to look at what you have done and realize how far God has taken you by being intentional and focusing on Him every day until Easter.. For my journal, I took watercolor paper and cut it into small rectangles and punched holes in the sides. I tied them together with ribbon and that was all there was to it.. very easy. I hope to do a different type of thing on each page.. giving the scripture reference and a phrase that jumps out at me. I plan to post some pictures of what I am doing as I go along.

So why not do something creative this year and let yourself enjoy Lent. Yes you might have to give something up to make this happen.. but think about how much you will gain in the end. This season only happens once each year and it ends in a celebration of the life God has given us! Preparing for the celebration will bring thankfulness and joy into our hearts and we will have those things to offer up to Him!

 

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” He is in the delays”…

Here we are again.. can you believe it? Just two more days before 2015 is over. This is a time for looking back and for looking ahead. God gives us this window of time to reflect after the busyness of Christmas and before the beginning of 2016.. For me it is a little more intense than I would like since my birthday is New Years Eve. I literally start a new year of my life when January 1st rolls around. I am reminded of how fast time passes and how long I have lived. When you are young it is easy to look ahead with some excitement.. as you age it is a little scary. My body is wearing out and I am fighting to stay healthy and strong. My grandchildren are growing up and I want to be here as long as I can to see them as adults and hopefully to see their children.

As I look back on 2015 I see moments of great faith and moments of failure. I remember the days when I felt like He was so close I could touch him and I remember the days when I wondered if He even knew I existed. Yet I know that God made me the way I am.. He knows my pain and He appears in the middle of my brokenness to remind me of His sovereignty over my life. I imagine that you can relate to my struggles and I want to encourage you..to remind you that God knows our hearts.. He knows what makes us dance for joy and what breaks our hearts into a million pieces.

Looking back I see things that I am grateful for.. ways that God has moved to change me  and to guide me into a deeper place with Him. I see healing in my life and in the lives of those around me. Some of us received gifts that we were waiting for and some of us are still waiting. This morning as I visited with a friend and saw how God was giving her a wonderful blessing that she had been longing for I was struck with a thought that I knew was from Him. He said ” I am in the delays”.. when we wait and pray and hope.. He is in that season with us. We are not forgotten or set aside. He keeps our desires close to His heart and at the right time He delights in surprising us with the very thing we hoped for.

So.. let us enter this new year with confidence in the Living God…our Creator and our Provider. Our hearts can rest in His presence trusting that He will come for us.. He will rescue us.. He will heal us and He will shower us with blessings in 2016.

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Prepare Ye the Way

His Kingdom Come website is currently running a series of advent devotionals. They are posting a new one each day until Christmas. This is the one that I wrote for today.. enjoy.

As we enter the season of advent, we can begin to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Christmas season. Of course, in our materialistic culture it is always a great challenge to keep our focus as we resist the temptation to run around madly after the “ things of this world.” We have a choice and this is the right time to decide how we are going to spend this precious time.

As those who follow the Lord, this can be a very rich opportunity.. a time to prepare ourselves for a greater experience of His presence as we begin to focus on the Son of God in a more intentional way. Christmas is a consumer holiday, yet reminders of the Lord shine through into our lives if we are attentive. There are sights, sounds, and smells that may trigger memories from the past. For some of us this is a difficult time. We may be grieving as we remember those who are no longer with us. We need to stop and let the tears flow. It is important that we experience fully whatever emotions come to the surface allowing God to comfort us and fill us with hope for the future.

As I was preparing to write this devotional, the Lord gave me an acronym for this season. He often does this when I want to focus on something important. I love this method for remembering significant words and thoughts.

Anticipation
Desire
Value
Every
New
Thing

We are entering into a short season of anticipation. Looking forward to the new things that God is going to do in His time. We have the opportunity to search our own hearts and to examine our desires. It is a time to look deeply at our values, to set new priorities bringing our desires into line with His and preparing ourselves for the coming year. I love having this emphasis throughout advent and into the end of the year. If you keep a journal this is a perfect time to look through it and remember what has happened over the past year. Reflection and remembering are two important keys to keep in mind as we journey through this season.

All of these ideas are really stepping-stones to the ultimate goal of experiencing a deeper relationship with the Lord. We have an opportunity to examine our lives and to look ahead with joy, expecting Him to meet us in new and surprising ways. Even as I am writing this devotional I am filled with wonder that God allows us to draw near to Him. He sought us out and drew us in and now we have the privilege of seeking Him and pleasing Him. What an amazing truth that is!

My prayer for you during advent is that you come to your table on Christmas with a heart that is overflowing with gratefulness. If we use our time wisely over the next few weeks we will find ourselves filled with joy and peace on that day.

“Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)

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