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Sunday grace

I awake, move toward the coffee pot in the kitchen. I open the window over the sink, as is my habit. Coolness flows in.

The day dawns glorious as night must give way to the day. The sun will not allow darkness to remain.

I read the Word, seeking comfort. I want music this morning, something to soothe the ache in my heart. I put on a CD in the player, the piano solo begins, and this is my testimony:

In my moments of fear, though every pain every tear,
There’s a God Who’s been faithful to me.
When my strength was all gone, when my heart had no song,
Still in love He’s proved faithful to me.
Every word He’s promised is true. What I thought was impossible
I’ve seen my God do.
He’s been faithful, faithful to me.

He’s Been Faithful    by Damaris Carbaugh 

I lift my hands in honor and worship to the One who has been faithful to me. In every situation, both joyful and painful.

He was near when I felt Him and when I didn’t.

He was with me when I laughed and when I cried.

He was present in the moments of my conception and He will take my hand when I breathe my last breath.

He has been there in the good, the bad, the ugly, and the glorious.

I look back and see His faithfulness. I look forward with faith in God my Savior.

Sunday Grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

 

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Sunday grace

The deck on the back of the house is always shaded in the early morning, the sun rising at my right. As it shines, the shadows shift.

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The pole house my dad built when our one and only son was small receives the early morning sun. It leans precariously, the years taking a toll on it as the ground underneath gives in.  Each year I wonder if it will fall over.

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By evening the sun will have shifted and the deck will reflect the heat of a summer’s day. I will retreat to the shelter of a climate-controled house.

All day long the shadows change. The little woods stay dark in some places most of the time, the leaves of taller trees keeping the light from filtering in.

Life is like the shifting shadows. On any given day, the world seems bright and cheerful. Then one event can change everything. The shadow falls and we reel in confusion.

We wake to the new day and do not know what the afternoon will bring. And where do we go to find shelter?

The Psalmist asked such a question.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? — Psalm 121:1

Our prosperity will not save us. Friends and family may gather but they cannot change anything.  In our own strength we falter, our resolve melting like wax.

Where do we go for help?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1, 2

The Maker of heaven and earth is our Helper. He watches over us. His loving eyes see us in our tribulation. He gives strength to the feeble, courage to the fearful, grace to the weak.

He does not shift like the shadows of our lives. He is steadfast and sure, a faithful God who is true to His word. He shines in our darkness because He is light.

He will not leave us in despair and hopelessness. He is Immanuel, God with us.

He is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. And flowers still grow in His brightness.

Sunday grace.

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Moon signs

I stepped out to the deck, it all sparkles with frost on the railing ledges in the cold pre-dawn. The moon sends light in the clear dark sky.

The moon draws me this time of year. In its waning cycle now, it will take its time toward full round in less than a month. And then it will be Passover.

With fascination and memory, I watch the progress of the moon this time of year as it grows small, disappears and then starts to grow large again. Science books would explain its rotation and the shadows that block my view, but let me simply enjoy the beauty and mystery of it.

I watch the night sky with anticipation, the moon cycle signaling the Passover season which falls close to the holiday of Easter.

The first day of Passover is always a full moon. And my mind wanders back thousands of years to the first Passover when the Israelites prepared lambs for supper and brushed blood on their doorposts, following instructions they didn’t fully understand yet.

A scene from the classic movie, The Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston as Moses, comes to mind. It is the night of Passover and the moon glows full and bright. What appears to be the shadow of death begins to move slowly toward Egypt. In this particular scene, the shadow blocks the moon for a few seconds as it pushes forward.

passover moon

 

I wonder what it was like that fateful night, the people of God shut in their humble slave dwellings, covered by the blood, eating lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread while they waited for something. Did they know this was the night of their deliverance?

Passover was God’s object lesson of what was coming. It was the shadow of the real and tangible Savior of the world, Jesus. The people would wait long for the promised Messiah, and He would come.

The anticipation of Passover carries me toward the season of remembrance.  Remembering the promise of a Lamb that God alone would provide for the redemption of the world.

This perfect Lamb would provide our freedom. Do we know this? Do we recognize it? Do we remember it? Have we accepted Him as our own Deliverer?

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

                — 1 Corinthians 5:7

Observe the moon set in its orbit by our creator God. He is the One who promises, and He is faithful to do what He says.

 

Christmas grace

I remember becoming engaged. The excitement of it. Showing off the ring. Gathering my trousseau. Conversations with my mother that only women understand. The look on Sweet William’s face.

It was a time of anticipation, and my dream of becoming a wife and then later a mother was coming true. And that is what I had wanted since I was a little girl playing with my dolls and setting up my pretend house.

Did Mary feel the same?

Matthew 1:13 tell us Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph.

Her situation was similar yet different. In first century A.D. marriages were arranged by the parents. Mary didn’t get to “fall in love” or “find her soul mate.”  A contract was drawn up and covenant confirmed by both families. It was done.

Marriage was the hoped for dream of a young Jewish woman, to have a husband to take care of her and provide a home for her. And they would pray for children. Mary would expect to bear a child.

Neither Mary nor I had any idea what the future would bring.

None of us ever do. We dream, make plans, follow through with our promises, and begin walking out the life we hoped for, the perfect little white cottage with the picket fence and a life of happiness.

The unfolding of our days never plays out exactly like that.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways, “

God’s plan is so much loftier, elevated, immense, huge. It is deeper than we can fathom. It is wider than our minds can comprehend

Mary expected a normal Jewish life, the way she had seen it lived out in her mother, her aunts, and the women of her community.

But God had grander things in His infinite mind. Plans that would take Mary on a journey she never could have imagined. Plans that would embrace a world in need of a Savior.

God’s plans for me have been surprising, unexpected, even unwelcome by my limited viewpoint. While I hoped for a flower-strewn pathway, the road has often been rough and rocky, an uphill climb, a test of endurance.

I am comforted by the promises made to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. . . . 
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Like Mary, God tells me not to be afraid. He says I am loved and cherished. He promises the Holy Spirit will be with me and in me, to comfort, guide, and teach. I have assurance that nothing is impossible with God and that He is faithful to His promises.

Can I respond to the mystery of the unknown like Mary did?

“Behold,I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

I want to. I bow my face before a Holy God in surrender to His will and His plan for the rest of my wild and wonderful life.

And this is my assurance and consolation, that we will walk together.

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On this day of giving thanks

It’s early morning. Gentle winds blow the chimes on my deck and I hear music.

The house is quiet except for the popping of the gas longs. The window close to where I sit is open slightly. Even outside there is a stillness on this Thanksgiving Day.

My house is full, all beds and some couches nestling warm bodies in sleep. Three dogs still doze in the darkness of the yet unbroken new day.

I am thankful they are all here, all snuggled in, us together on this special occasion. I have been broken and grief-stricken on other holidays throughout my life time. Death and distance can wreck havoc on a heart.

But today, loved ones are here. And for that I am filled full with joy and gratitude.

I have not always been thankful in all my circumstances. In the dark place of the not knowing, in the wondering how good can come from my trial and my pain, in my own house of self-pity, I have been doubtful and fragmented.

I have coddled my misery too much and sat in my despair too long.

Life is not always an easy, flower-strewn pathway. It is often rocky and rough, the climb steep and foreboding, the night dark and long. We work muscles, reach for every ounce of strength, and learn endurance as we press on to the new dawning and the green pastures in our vision.

For there is always the hope of God’s Presence, His Word of promise of His never-forsaking love for us. He is our Immanuel, the with us God. We do not have to do this life on our own.

He calls me to a mature mentality of praise and thanksgiving, even in the hardest of circumstances. Even when loved ones are not gathered around a table. Even when death takes one held so dear. Even when pain is my companion.

He calls forth hope in Himself, asking me to focus my gaze on His beauty, to see glory, to see everlasting love, to remember His faithfulness always.

This is His will in Christ Jesus, to give thanks in all circumstances, to see Him in every situation, One who is working all things for my good, One who is redeeming every heartache and disappointment, One who is planning on bringing beauty out of my ashes.

He is a good and loving Savior who makes all things new. He mends our brokeness, filling us with Himself and shining through the cracks of our humanity so that the world may see Him in us, His children.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.  — Psalm 118:1

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Second Tuesday in November

Today is election day in the United States of America. It seems we have not been particularly united of late.

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I woke with the thoughts of campaigns ending, the circus it has all been finally leaving town. And the Spirit sings to me, “Our God is in control.”

As I sit in my rocker in the pre-dawn hours, coffee and Bible in hand, I pray for my country, sweet land of liberty, land that I love. Today marks a day of changes, no matter how the pendulum swings.

Sweet William and I went early to the polls to cast our ballots. The parking lot was full and people waited in line to vote. I hope that is an indication that we care about the election outcome, that we are willing to be responsible citizens, that the invasion of lethargy and hopelessness has not won a battle.

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No matter what tomorrow’s result, I know this one thing for certain: My God is in control.

An old refrain echos the same, “I don’t know who holds tomorrow, but I know who holds my hand.”

And still another melody from my childhood offers comfort,

“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise, just to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’.”

Today I will hope in the Lord. His Truth still marches on.

Today I will trust in Jesus. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Today I will sing and rejoice in my salvation with thanksgiving, for this is God’s will for me.

Today I will choose joy no matter the outcome.

Because my God is in control.

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Five years

Breakfast finished and enticed by the clouds moving in, I went to the back deck to sit and watch the promised rain finally arrive this morning, bringing cool breezes. It’s what I’ve been waiting for all week.

As I sit and listen to the raindrops on wood, leaves, and grass, the wind sways the tall branches of trees in our little woods behind the house. It’s a sight I never tire of seeing. The wind blows and the branches give way to its power.

I’ve been blown about and moved by the power. The power of circumstances and illness. The power of emotion and disappointment. The power of love and forgiveness. And the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

Sometimes rain is a welcome relief of dryness and heat. Sometimes it is reminiscent of tears and sorrow of soul. The rain is both to me this morning.

Facebook’s ability to “never let me miss a memory” reminded me what happened this time five years ago. As if I needed its reminder. This week was the fifth anniversary of the day our family next door moved away. I don’t need to look in the 2011 journal to remember the gut-wrenching emotions I felt as the big yellow moving truck pulled out of the lane. I recall the last wave and tearful smile from the grand boy who was only nine. I feel the long hugs and how we all tried to be brave. They were facing the unknown and the challenges of a new location. We were facing the unknown also and an empty house next door.

It was a hard day. A long, dry season.

I looked at pictures captured the last week before they all packed up and left. Sweet William and I spent a lot of time with the grandchildren trying to build memories and pour ourselves into those precious young lives. I wanted them to be filled up with our love. I wanted them to remember it when they hit some hard, dry seasons themselves.

There were lots of smiles in those pictures, us trying to ignore what was coming and live in the present of each other. Nothing else really matter that week except spending time together.

I can barely believe it has been five years now. The house next door stood empty for almost a year. Then two sets of renters moved in and moved out. Two years ago a young couple, her great with child, bought the house and came to stay. They have been a gift to us, their growing toddler calling us Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill, their warmth and friendliness, their love and kindness more than we expected.

I have adjusted to another family living in the house next door. I have adjusted to having my dear ones living so far away. I have adjusted to us being the lone couple at family gatherings and no grandchildren to play with the cousins.

I have adjusted, but tears still threaten to fill my eyes.

A lot has happened in five years. I used to look from my back deck and wave to grandchildren heading out to play in their back yard. I heard their “Hi Grammy,” as they waved back at me. Now the meadow has grown to a woods and I barely see the back yard next door.

Sweet William and I endured three years of hospitalizations and too many surgeries, suffering and questions that were not answered. We are on the other side of the physical problems, but it changed us in uncommon ways.

My 91-year-old father died during the five years, then my step-mother three years later, leaving me feeling a little like an orphan, on my own now for sure. Mother’s and Father’s Days lack the luster it did before.

I retired from a position I loved, working with people who were friends. I knew my role as care-giver would increase, as it has.

We’ve traveled to visit our dear ones, but not nearly enough for me. I’ve missed so many birthdays and holiday celebrations with them.

When we do get to see each other, the time is precious. Whenever they say they are coming, I try to clear my schedule, freshen bedrooms, and cook up a storm. I want them to be at home, to feel absolutely welcome, and to enjoy their visit. When being together is rare, the measured occassion becomes a treasured jewel.

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Good-byes are still hard, even after we have practiced saying them so often. I always find something left behind. And I suppose that gives me hope of their return.

For reasons beyond me and held within the secret plans of a Sovereign God, we live apart from one another. He watches over them as He watches over us. More than ever our prayers seem very significant. They are our connection. They create a triangle: them, us, and God. He holds us all, and His hand is strong.

I’ve learned to trust God more during the five years. Trust when I cannot see the purpose. Trust when I don’t know what is going on. Trust when my tears are my food all day long. Trust when I am fearful. Trust when I can do nothing to change any of it.

My Lord is faithful and worthy of trust. His plans have purpose. He is the One who began the good work in each one, and He will complete it in His time.

The clouds cover the the blue this morning. Grey moves across the sky. Rain is here for a while, washing away the dust, watering the ground and the gardens, soothing my soul, mimicking my tears. It’s what I needed today.