Renewal

Blossoming trees were vibrant in pink, white, yellow, blue. Lilac buds scented the air. Intense blue   delphiniums craned their necks high, painting a bright swatch of color across the rocks. A stone table and benches, covered in pink blossoms. The setting of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference was once again awash in beauty.

Following two very demanding weeks just prior to the conference, I was tired and wound up like an old slingy. My shoulders were tight, my head hurt, and my body ached. Settling into my room, I studied the weekend’s agenda again to ensure I went to the most significant workshops to help hone my craft.

During evening sessions, Elizabeth Hunnicutt led our several hundred voices in harmonious songs of praise and worship.  Mark Batterson challenged us by sharing the ways God has expanded his pastoral and writing ministry.

I wore my Fitbit and walked 2.5-3 miles a day, moving through beauty from one meeting to another. Mentors, critiquers, session leaders, and keynote speaker were all vested in our becoming better writers, that our stories be told to share God’s life with many.

I enjoyed a meaningful Mentoring Clinic with the precious women at left, led by author Sarah Sundin. We critiqued each other’s work, spent one-on-one time with Sarah, and learned a great deal from each other while sharing laughter and tears.

It was a time to release – tension, worries, anxieties; and receive – love and direction from the Holy Spirit, insights and teaching from qualified mentors and instructors. As tired as I was by the end of four intense days, I was also renewed in spirit, mind and body. And ready to write some more!

Where do you need renewal in your spirit, mind and body?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agony … and Glory!

“Christ is risen.”

“He is risen indeed!”

The traditional Christian Easter greeting celebrates the greatest truth believers know. But how often do we also focus on the agony that came before victory?

It’s Thursday. Jesus flinches as spittle splatters onto his face, and groans in pain as the crown of thorns is pressed into his forehead. The open gashes across his back attest to the whippings he has endured. His mother, Mary, is barely able to see above the rest of the crowd as she stands, watching while they nail her boy to a rough-hewn cross. Reaching out with her right arm, she forces her left hand to cover the scream that threatens to break out of her throat. She rocks back and forth, heart shredded. “My son. My son.”  Wanting to take his pain; unable to do so.

Later she kneels at the foot of the cross, wringing her hands, keening as she watches her son dying. Never has she felt so alone. Then John steps up and lays a hand on her shoulder. Mary looks up through tears to see that John, too, is suffering as he watches his Rabbi’s body being torn and bruised and broken. She sees Jesus look down on them both.

“Behold your mother,” he says to John.

And “Behold your son,” to Mary.

And after Jesus’ death, after they have buried him in a borrowed tomb, she goes home with John, who cares for her from then on.

There is so much agony in our world. On at least three of five days last week I read about another school shooting, a bombing during Easter celebrations, and a fired employee returning to the workplace to kill. I hurt because some people I love are going through physical, emotional or mental pain. A good friend with whom Don and I have ministered in Mexico for the past few years went in for what was thought to be a non-critical surgery, caught an infection and died. Wars and famine abound.

But, as an old song says, “Sunday’s comin’.”

Sunday, when Mary’s world, John’s world, our world, was changed forever because Jesus conquered death and, in so doing, gave those who believe, life eternal–and hope now!

Yes, sorrow is ever-present in our world. But there is a day coming when joy will be the light of our morning and the song we sing at night. The day when Jesus the Christ returns for his people, and sorrow will forever be forgotten; pain a thing of the past; and peace, justice and harmony will reign. What a day that will be!

I pray that if you are hurting, lonely, confused today, you will turn to the God who gave us Easter Resurrection; and the promise (and experience) of His presence with us in the sorrows and agony of today.

Sunday’s comin’!

 

 

He will quiet you in His Love

Searching for documents

My fingers tapped the table. My mind struggled to remember where I’d put those documents.  I’d been gathering information for our CPA for hours already that day. But I couldn’t find some significant paperwork I needed to complete my part of our tax preparation. Finally I went outside to find my hubby.

“Don, I need your help. I can’t find these papers and can’t finish my tax information without them.”

“Let’s both go look.”

I leaned into his shoulder while my love put his arms around me, holding me close. My spirit quieted because, whether or not we found those documents, I wasn’t alone in my search. Don was there for me, helping me, sharing the load. We walked into the den and checked everywhere we could think of, without success.

I spoke up. “Lord, we really need your help here. I have no idea where else to look.” Don looked up at me. “Have you checked the safe?”

“No, but that’s a good idea.” I got out of my chair and walked towards our room. Before I got there my view fell on the folder I needed in the hall closet.

“Thank you, Jesus … and Don.” He took my into his arms and we both laughed, rejoicing that the lost was found.

This is such a teeny example of the truth in a scripture I love. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

When I take my concerns to the Father, He puts his arms about me and says, “Let me carry this burden, my child.

I’ve got it!” And even more, the God of the universe rejoices over me with singing. That feels like the tenderness that surrounded me when my mother sang lullabies to me as a little girl. In God’s love I feel enfolded. And my heart and mind quiet in His presence.

What helps you give your concerns to the One who wants to quiet your heart with his great and unconditional love?

FOREVER FRIENDS

I was discouraged and frustrated–and I blew up! Ugly. Heated. Off-putting.

I felt a medical need I had hadn’t been respected, and that my friends were not supportive of my being in a new relationship. I understand now; they were afraid I might have to experience widowhood a second time. At the time, it just hurt. So I blew up. I’m not proud of it. I acted badly and was not at all Christ-like in my demeanor or, for that matter, my heart.

But … one friend determined that I am a “forever friend” and stuck with me. The other turned away from continuing a friendship in which we had supported each other through some difficult and, in one case, frightening times. The difference? One chose to forgive and rebuild; the other, to say she forgave but yet to walk away from any ongoing relationship, despite my efforts at reconciliation.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I John 4:7, 11

Compassion

Forever friends … incredible gifts in a mobile society, and a life filled with transitions and political turmoil. Friends one knows will always be there for me, even if they disagree with a choice or behavior of mine. Who will tell me when I’ve offended, or confront me (in love) when they see sin in my life.

Two of my forever friends are moving out of state–at the same time!  Oh, how I’ll miss them! But, because we’re forever friends, our relationships will continue across the miles, with phone calls, prayer support, emails, and hopefully some visits tossed into the mix.

I’m also grateful for those forever friends who are still nearby. My life, my walk with God, my relationships are enriched by people who see me as I am, and choose to love me. First among those is my husband, Don. So to you, Don, and to my other forever friends … Thank you! I love you too.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

I expect many of us have gone through times when friendships were not easy. Perhaps there was a need for forgiveness, on either or both sides. Maybe a need to challenge a friend in a difficult area. And maybe a dear one who, it seems, was “born for a time of adversity.” I’d love to hear your experience.

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A Tearful Farewell

We said a tearful goodbye Wednesday morning. Our sweet, 14-year old Kelly has recently gone steadily downhill. It hurt to watch her stumble, her legs splay underneath her, her turn away from food, and sleep most of the day.

Don and I have prayed that God would give us wisdom as to when it was time to say goodbye. Several times we’ve thought we were there, but then she’s rallied. And Kelly has never been a complainer, so we watched her eyes, her walk, her food intake, her energy level. Monday we took her to the vet for blood tests. “I’m really not happy with what I see,” Kelly’s kind and competent doctor told us. It was time.

We took our Kelly-girl home for another day and a half to love on her and to say goodbye. En route home I said, “Don, I’d love it if we could take her to the beach one more time. But I know it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” Kelly slept on my shoulder for two hours that night, something I don’t think she’s done since Don and I married, when she retreated to the bottom of the bed.

My sweet number 1 girl

Rain was heavy Tuesday morning, but the sun peeked out about noon. “Let’s go!” Don and I took Kelly and Paige down to the beach, where we strapped Kelly into her doggie stroller. Paigey ran alongside. We walked over a mile in glorious sunshine, a lovely breeze cooling us. Kelly perked up enough to sit up and watch life around her. It was a wonderful time and the sunshine, a gracious gift from the Father to assuage my hurting heart, allowed us to do something special for Kelly on her last day.

This little beauty has brought a lot of joy and laughter to our lives over the almost ten years I’ve had her.

  • She came to me, a good gift from God, when I was alone and lonely. During a time of grief, she gave me a reason to get up every day because she needed me. During cold winter months I often wakened to feel her little body cuddled under the covers against my thigh. She sneaked under without waking me. I never knew how she managed to breathe underneath the blankets, but she did; and I loved waking to her warmth.
  • Kelly’s antics made me laugh. Early in our life together I went straight to my laptop in the morning. Kelly looked at me from across the room. She opened her mouth and chomped her teeth – I hadn’t fed her yet! Message received.
  • She was my buddy and sweet companion, and I took her along whenever I went somewhere dogs were allowed. She sat quietly and unobtrusively at my feet in Bible studies, lunches, and one-on-ones, never disrupting except with her sweet cuteness, happy as long as she was with me. And if I lunched with a girlfriend and left the table to use the restroom, Kelly stayed behind, remaining in one position, her big brown eyes fixed on the door until I returned.
  • She had grit. When Kelly was just a baby, she took on a big dog who broke her jaw. In the last few years, my girl’s tongue hung out to one side of her sweet, crooked mouth. I think her imperfection made her even more beautiful. And when we brought her grandpup, Paigey, to join our family, Kelly definitely let her know who was boss!
  • I acquired Kelly two months after meeting Don. When we began dating, Kelly was always happy to greet him, to sit with us, to go on walks with Don and his gentle German Shepherd, Ginger. I once waved my hand to include Kelly and said to Don, “You know this is a package deal.” He smiled. “Oh, I figured that out a long time ago.”
  • Our precious princess has left us and we miss her. I am so grateful for this good gift God gave me when I needed her more than I knew.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.” James 1:17a (MSG)

I love you, Kelly girl! Your imprint will always be on my heart.

Have you lost a pet? What did you love about him or her?

 

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