Earth Has No Sorrow…

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish;
Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish,
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Today marks five years since we lost my little sister, and I miss her every single day. I can’t see the color pink without thinking about her. Certain cadences in my speech and the intoning of particular expressions make my words catch in my throat because I think I hear her voice coming from my body. As I think about her life, our conversations about dreams and goals, I realize we sang the same song but to a different tune.

I tried to keep myself busy today because I know where my thoughts “live” on March 11. I tried to stuff the grief into a neat box inside my heart, when what I wanted to do and what I needed to do was to pull away from the rest of the world and cry myself tearless.

Just last night, I finished a letter to a dear friend regarding the recent brutal loss of her own sister, administering medicine that I must take. Grief doesn’t come in a neat package with step-by-step, day-by-day instructions. Grief is a process that can’t be staged, coached, cultivated, or rushed.

And we must allow ourselves to go through it–no matter how long it takes–with apologies to no one, not even ourselves.

If We Love Each Other…

I read something this morning that nearly brought me to tears–a comment written in response to a blog post about God’s love for us. The post, written nearly two years ago, had few comments, but one comment in particular caught my attention. It was written by a man who for several years dealt with a series of really bad circumstances and came to the conclusion–after a lifetime of belief–that God does not love him. The saddest thing, however, is that the comment sat beneath the blog post with no response for a full year before another “random person” stumbled upon the post and read the comment.

A full year.

Even after the “random person’s” response, neither the author of the post nor the Christian organization that hosts the site responded. In nearly two years.

If it hurt me, imagine how much it affected the man who so bravely and desperately cried out. He needed an answer. He needed a virtual hug and assurance of God’s intimate concern and love for him.

He got crickets.

The thing that keeps me sane and walking upright in this world is knowing that God absolutely loves me, but I first experienced God’s love through others.

It is God’s love for and in us that allows us to love sincerely and deeply; it is His love that permeates our being and generates love action. It’s nearly impossible to experience or “possess” Divine Love and not be transformed.

Loving God and understanding His love for humanity results in reaching out to hurting people, living out His presence in our lives, and showing the world who He is–through acts of love.

Without human manifestation of God’s love, His love is simply theory.

Walking in Amazing Grace…

This is what grace does […]. Grace gives us the faith to be utterly assured of what we cannot see […]. It connects us to the invisible One in an eternal love relationship that fills us with joy we have never known before and gives us rest of heart that we would have thought impossible. And that grace is still rescuing us…  –Paul David Tripp (emphasis mine)

“Amazing Grace” is a powerful hymn. Whether I’m singing along with a congregation, singing alone, or simply reading the words, the lyrics always move me to tears.

When I watched and listened to my beautiful colleague, Julie Moore Foster, and her equally beautiful daughter soulfully sing “Amazing Grace” this morning, I was stunned into meditative silence.

Even before I reached the end, which presented a short montage of Julie’s oldest daughter’s life, I knew their singing of this song was not “just singing” but a powerful story of God’s work in the soul–His amazing grace.

They lost Témar at the beginning of 2015, a loss they walk with every day.  I “knew” Témar briefly; she was enrolled in my British Literature class her last semester of college, the semester I lost my sister. Two years later, I bonded with Hannah, the daughter featured alongside Julie in the video below, over our mutual loss of sisters.  A question in my Shakespeare course led to an intense discussion of disappointment, loss, and coping with the “most difficult” challenges of life–a moving experience that I might have the courage to share another day.

I know what it is to be saved by God’s grace, not just from sin and the ravages of this world, but rescued from the deep, murky pit of grief and despair that can suffocate and rob a life of meaning and joy. But when my mother, Julie, any mother–indeed any parent–can stand upright and sane in this messed up space where parents have to bury their children, I see clear evidence of God’s grace walking and talking among us.

Notes on the song/video: “Amazing Grace” arranged by Kelvin Wooten, Wayne Bucknor, and Julie Moore Foster. Direction and videography by William Jenkins. Audio production by WoodaWorx Productions, Inc. The song is part of Julie Moore Foster’s first album, Soul Songs. To find out more see: Soul Songs Project.

“Random Acts” of Christmas/The Intentional Gift

I’d planned to drop by today with a quick post about goodwill and the holiday season, but then this happened:

How could I resist sharing such a gorgeous Christmas morning sky? It’s a gift–a reward really, for having to wake up so early after being up so late last night (read: early this morning).

I love the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the colors, the various interpretations of the Nativity, Christmas trees, Santa, reindeer, the movies, cartoons, the glitter, glitz, and traditions of the holiday. I even like the hustle and bustle–to an extent. But what I really love about the season is that it generally brings out the best in us and reveals the goodness in our hearts. We’re kinder and gentler, more giving, and more patient with each other.

A few days ago, our new neighbors did something that we haven’t experienced from neighbors in more than a decade. They dropped by with a Christmas gift–a delicious assortment of cookies and holiday goodies they’d made themselves!

Despite my love for the holiday, my Christmas spirit remained dormant for much of the season, buried beneath exhaustion and a far too long to-do list. This neighborly act began a shift in my state of mind, particularly as I thought about how these same neighbors have performed other random acts of kindness for us over the last several months.

But here’s the thing–I don’t think my neighbors’ acts are so random. I think they’re specifically for us and intentional, with a particular result or reaction in mind.

It is this thought that led me to Christ and “the reason for the season.” The gift of His birth was specific and intentional (John 3:16, 17).

Just before falling asleep [this morning], I read a few devotional thoughts from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young that underscored my thinking. Thus, my Christmas spirit was recharged. Here are the parts that resonated most with me:

As you celebrate the wonder of My birth in Bethlehem, celebrate also your rebirth into eternal life. This everlasting gift was the sole purpose of My entering your sin-stained world. Receive My gift with awe and humility. Take time to explore the vast dimensions of My Love. Allow thankfulness to flow freely from your heart in response to My glorious gift. Let My peace rule in your heart and be thankful.  –December 24.

I set aside My Glory so I could identify with mankind. I accepted the limitations of infancy under the most appalling conditions–a filthy stable. That was a dark night for Me, even though angels lit up the sky proclaiming “Glory!” to awestruck shepherds.  When you sit quietly with Me, the process I went through is reversed in your experience. As you identify with Me, heaven’s vistas open up before you–granting you glimpses of My glory.

I am the gift that continuously gives–bounteously with no strings attached. –December 26

May you find the true joy of the season in the Gift of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Let Us Be Grateful…

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  –Marcel Proust

Early yesterday morning, I realized that I’d been “unfriended” by an acquaintance on Facebook. It made me feel “some kind of way.” Normally, I couldn’t care less because Facebook is Facebook. People come and people go. I don’t even spend a lot of time on it. But the person is someone I communicate with regularly, so this came as a surprise (and yes, she’s still on FB).  I prayed about it–asking God to free me from the icky feelings that were creeping in–and moved on.

Less than an hour later, when I’d moved on to other matters, I was overcome by an overwhelming appreciation for the wonderful people God has placed in my life–people who have held me together when I was clearly falling apart, people who have provided joy and laughter and deep friendship, people who know me and get me and expect nothing more from me than who I am, people who make much over me and shower me with love and good things, expecting nothing in return, people who make my “soul blossom.”

It was clearly a lesson in “gratitude”–and when it comes to the people in my life, I am more than grateful.

Recently, I received the beautiful card [above] in the mail from Amy, @outofbroken, whom I met via Instagram. I initially encountered her when my Brittany tagged me in one of outofbroken’s “giveaway” posts. [I ended up winning Redefined, a beautiful journal from Well-Watered Women]. Amy’s posts are inspiring, and one evening we had a spirited conversation in which we shared our spiritual struggles and committed to praying for each other.

Some time later, the card came filled with encouragement, blessings, and uplift. Her message ended with one of my favorite phrases–one of my mantras, really–God is faithful.

And He is…and I’m grateful for the people He has placed in my life–for a moment or for a lifetime.

Psalm 23 Celebration Freebie: We Did It Again!

Yesterday, one of my besties, Aleta, sent a morning text filled with encouragement for the day and a beautiful poem, a reworking of Psalm 23 by Japanese poet, Toki Miyashina. She wrote:

 

The poem speaks perfectly to our need for peace and calmness of mind as we rush through our days of madness. Meditate on it today…

 

When the seriously involved mom of four-busy lawyer-pastor’s wife who is also taking courses toward yet another degree tells me that something helps her find balance in her days, this woman takes note.

 

The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things
to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here;
His timelessness, His all importance,
will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of my activity
by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruits of my hours;
for I shall walk, in the pace of my Lord
and dwell in His house forever.

 

The only “solid” information I have on the poem is that it was written in the mid-1960s. But what has been popularized as the “Japanese Translation of Psalm 23” is really a reworking or reinterpretation of the psalm rather than an actual translation of scripture. No matter. Toki Miyashina beautifully captures the essence of the psalm for the busyness of our modern-day lives: God as guide and giver of rest and sustenance and God as pace-setter and balance-keeper, under whose management we produce harmony and effectiveness.

I must see this poem as I’m going through my busy days, so I designed a simple printable for my Arc and Classic planners. And…I’m giving them to you in celebration of my completion of NaBloPoMo for the second year in a row and as a simple “thank you” for enduring my random postings and musings for the last 30 days.

 

There are two designs and three different sizes: for full-sized planners and notebooks (8.5 x 11–such as the Arc, Levenger, or Tul); for the Classic (5.5 x 8.5–Franklin Covey, DayTimer, DayRunner, etc.); and for A5 planners. The printable was designed with floral elements from Jen Maddocks Designs. Take your pick and download the size you need–or all of them. Click one of the links below:

Be sure to adjust your printer settings for the size you need. Enjoy!

His Joy…My Strength

Joy is the atmosphere of heaven. It is the air God the Father Himself breathes in every day of eternity. And because joy is heaven’s delivered gift to me while I walk on planet earth, it is my delight and strength to experience the blessedness that God on His throne enjoys.   –Carol Burton McLeod, Joy for All Seasons