I Had No Idea

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I had no idea.

Not a single thought, or wandering moment, when I considered the choice before me. My heart had already spoke before the words came off my lips. “Yes, yes, I will do this.” I believed in the choice before me. I knew it was right. I understood their would be sacrifice. I envisioned, I suppose, what my days might encompass Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this past year as a mother, as a wife, as a woman- who chose to be a caregiver.

I find deep joy in giving to others. It’s second nature to me. It’s who I am. I believe in good. I believe in people. I believe in loving them to the best of your ability. Offering love and compassion to someone is a gift – having the honor to do so in their final days on this earth – indescribable. Regardless of my beliefs, nothing could prepare me for the months that would follow.

I really had no idea.

This was a time when believing in what you thought was right turned your feelings and thoughts into action – you just do. I thought I had the strength, the fortitude, to march onward. Although I had no knowledge of what lay before me, I believed I would be able to withstand the pressure. But whom can prepare you for moments like these in your life?

Looking back on it now, if you had told me then what it would be like, perhaps giving me descriptions and details of what would unfold – I may have made a different choice. I probably would have wanted someone else to come in and do all the work. Because there was no way  I was going to be able to handle it all. The daily grind of medication administration, personal care giving, driving to appointments/treatment, the constant need for attention. Working 16 hour days – day after day, week after week, month after month.

Oh.

I didn’t realize at the time how much of the burden would lay at my feet. I assumed it would be a family affair – sharing responsibilities between us as we worked together. At times it was as we combined efforts to divvy up responsibilities, but that was short lived. It was my wonderful husband, whose plate was already overflowing, who worked so hard to help shoulder the burden that lay before us. This was a new journey we were walking, together. 

The exhaustion would envelope me daily as I crashed upon the bed hoping to find some reprise and rest. I pushed through days savoring gentle moments of God’s presence with me. Seeing the sunrise and witnessing the start of another day, I would snap a quick photo to remind me why I was here. That God called me to these moments. I was learning to be still – to rest – to trust. To allow the situation to unfold and know that I have absolutely no control, this had to be okay. It was beyond time for me to learn how to be. Being still in the knowledge that these moments, no matter how crazy they are, are precious gifts from the Hand of the Almighty Father.

I was walking a path filled with instances of God breathing life into long ago dead places. When His Presence becomes known. Where His fingerprints become your marking. When you are planted in peace that permeates your soul. Your purpose clear, the calm present, a gift from the throne room of heaven.. Whispering as you collapse into God’s tender embrace, you begin to feel His love, know His love, be His love. Your existence no longer becomes about what you do – but who you are – bellowing out for all the world to hear. You are there, you are here – you are. Somehow in the everydayness of caregiving, you became cared for.

I had no idea.

This journey has been so much more than a physical one. Facing your final days on this earth your focus begins to shift as you pause and reflect on what is of most importance. All that you had invested in comes crashing down. The security you put in your bank account or shored up property can’t erase the fact that death is knocking at your door. Questioning your choices in life, you ask some very hard questions. Hoping to ease your heart, your mind and your eternal soul, you search for answers where only God holds the key.

Tending to your soul is of primal important in these precious days, what a privilege to alongside you. Emotional times spring forth as we talk about the value of life. All pretense began to drop as you face the reality that death is coming – soon. Gentle times of togetherness, laughter among family and friends and the truth spoken brings calm to anxiety filled hearts.

I had no idea.

None. Nada. Zip. That the emotional journey I would embark on during this caregiving time would take such a tremendous toll on my life.  I didn’t bargain for the way your story became my own. I didn’t know that your pain would be so unbearable to witness. I didn’t plan that the days which followed your death would immobilize me so very much. Your death became a part of my own – for a part of my old self passed along with you.

My body, my mind and my spirit are all eager for rest. Not only am I physically exhausted, but emotionally and spiritually too.  I am forever changed by these days of sacrifice, that’s the wonderful thing about love – it changes you. I am hopeful for healing. I am waiting for peace to reside. I am quiet as I listen. I continue in the practices You wrote upon my heart God, each day looking to You, for You and being with You.  I know you are here and I am enough because I am Yours..

God needed to be my life source and keep me going. He was the fuel to my engine for each day. It was just my job to wake up and move. To glance out that window and remember who was in charge. Then let Him be that one. My purpose was to rest. My aim, to trust. My hope, to live. It sounds so simple now, like some quick and easy plan or mathematical equation we often use to define our spiritual selves. Like study + prayer = Peace – who believes the eternal God who created the universe and calls each of us home in His time, can be summed up in a + b = c? How finite our minds are! During these long days that stretched into months,  I didn’t have time to study. There weren’t moments for long winded prayers. I gasped for prayer like I was gulping down air. I needed oxygen to breath and I needed His Spirit to fill me. Period.

I had no idea.

Of the blessings that would flow. Of the depths to which your love would reach me. Of the truth that your ways are higher than my ways releases me from imposing my own way on others. I am free. Because of you and my relationship with you, I am free. You are more than a ticket to heaven later, you are the life giving force in my life now. Here. Today.

We serve an infinite God! He chooses to love us in intimate and personal ways. Speaking to our hearts and our minds. He brings clarity to our thoughts. He brings hope to our musings. He is more than words on a page. He is more than an answer to prayer. He is. The Almighty God is over all and wants to bring peace and build quiet places where we live, where you live, where I live – today.

My body may be weak, my emotions may vacillate but my hope is in God. Would you put your hope in Him today? His arms are large enough to hold you. His heart beats for you, empathizes with you, loves you. Yes – you. So, don’t wonder if you are good enough. Life is too short and precious to focus our energies and our vision on our weaknesses, our shortcomings and our missed opportunities. Don’t belabor the choices you have made already in your life. Seek God out, He is enough.

All this time, I had no idea.

I Am Not Ready

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I walked outside and felt the sun upon my face. It’s been a few days since I felt its warmth. It wrapped me up like a blanket, touching my face and my heart. I needed it’s warmth. I took a deep breath and looked at that blue sky and wondered how it could look the same when all inside my heart felt so different.

As we emerged from the Hospice House, I had family come walking towards me. Normally a light and happy feeling, today felt like a deep pain inside of me. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find any words, so I just kept on walking straight to the car. How had the warmth of the sun I had just felt become so cold?

It hit me then in that moment, as it has many more since then – that life goes on no matter what happens in your own. People will still gather together, enjoying meals, laughing, telling jokes. Working, playing, living – that is the nature of life. It’s meant to be lived.

Even in death.

I had just witnessed someone I dearly love loose their battle with cancer. They had fought  very long as they faced the disease that would finally claim their life. As I said goodbye for the final time, I was overcome with the emotions that saying goodbye really means. This isn’t a TV show you turn on and off at a whim, or some internet sensation you can google to learn more about them, this is not temporary, but final. This is life – and his was ending.

Somehow sitting around talking about the weather, the news, the current state of politics, or any other subject just doesn’t matter. It was all minutiae in comparison to the deeper questions we had been facing. We had been talking about life and death, embracing the precious journey of having one foot in this life and one in the hereafter. Moments were sacred. Time was precious. Love is eternal.

We all have a journey in life and this was his to walk.  I was humbled and so honored to be a part of his story. Touched to be trusted with tender moments that I will never share again. Forever changed by the authenticity and the humility that comes in facing death. If you are blessed to walk this road, standing beside them from this life into the next – it’s a gift.

Embrace it.

Do not fear the difficult days, the hard work of love, the sleepless nights nor endless days of activity and probably stress.. There will be painful moments of grief that tear apart your soul. Ripping at who you thought you were and inviting you to step even deeper into the presence of God. This road is not something to be taken lightly. Countless hours of doctor’s appointments, treatment, travel time, injections, TPN administration, medication, organization, physical, emotional and relational assistance. It wasn’t a blur – it was a hurricane.

Yet, oh yet… there were moments of deep conversations, laughter that came from deep in your soul.  Times of reminiscing and rememberance. Moments of regret and of wonderful forgiveness. Oneness like never experienced before. Family that bonded in new ways. A treasure which anchors your soul. Love heals and love hurts.,

It hurts to give sacrificially, it hurts to give it your all, it hurts to love in deep ways over long periods of time – it just hurts. This pain doesn’t go away overnight. There is no easement of the grief as the people who surrounded you during the memorial services leave your side. It doesn’t subside when the grave is covered up with dirt. Grief lives when you love, why would I expect it or want it any other way?

So, if you are reading this – I am not ready.

I wasn’t ready that first day standing in the sunshine and I am not ready today. Don’t invite me to a crowd or gathering, I probably won’t come. I am not ready to be around people. I am not ready for the questions that may come. That very first day I said goodbye, I didn’t want to talk and it’s still true today. The grief is suffocating, the loss too raw. I am not the same person and I pray I remain forever changed by the gift of the relationship that emerged in these months of service.

In time – love will heal, love will reignite the spark, love will bind up the wounds. But for now, I choose to embrace the pain and not run from it. Be brave, like he was. Honor his memory by fully feeling the loss of his place in my life and the life of my family. It won’t bring him back, oh no. But it will allow me to process through the depths of pain that come in losing someone so dear. So when the time is right, I will fully laugh and love anew again.

Just not now.

Think whatever you’d like about how to handle this grief. Encourage me or not, that’s your choice. I have no control over your thoughts or your perception of me. Just remember, it’s not your place to tell how me to grieve. You can honor me, and the memory of the one I loved and cared for – by accepting me for who I am. It’s time character trumps duty, grace more than works – love overall. All.

That was the gift of these precious months as his health declined and his body gave out. Authenticity. Realness. Honesty. Openness. I may not be ready to live again, as most people would define their day to day. Certainly not ready for crowds of people. Ready for conversations about what seems to me trivial things. I just may not be much fun for a while. Oh well – deal.

Love me, or not.

That’s your call, this one is  already deeply entrenched in my own heart. Love me unconditionally. Places no strings upon me. No expectations on how to handle life. No quick prayers that all will be okay. I challenge you today – to love. Truly, give deeply of yourself and your heart – and love.

Let go of the past. Let go of your anger. Let go or your bitterness. Let go of your unforgiveness. Those dark places in our hearts we all fear to admit even exist. Let it all go. Rest in the promise that love can heal. That love is enough. My friends, it’s time to experience love. To receive love. To feel love for others. To give in ways you never expected. To see with new eyes that every heart is hurting and it is only love that carves into the trenches of hearts and heals.

How?

By trusting others. By giving in new ways. By accepting someone for who they are. Do you struggle in really loving? Do you gossip and slander those you say you love? Do you harbor resentment and bitterness? Are you selfish with your time? Do you waylay your energy? Shift your focus? It’s hard to offer unconditional love. It’s so hard to bring compassion into places that may have never experienced them before. I encourage you, I challenge you. Do it.

There is a beautiful treasure that lies within a heart, let God dig in you. Give to yourself and to others. Most of all, honor those whose lives you stand upon, who came before you and loved you when no one else would. Yes, I am grieving, but grieving is a part of love.

Love anyway.

As The Storm Closes In…

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How long will it last – the storm that is?

The weatherman says it will be the largest blizzard in over one hundred years to hit New England. A place where snow is a plenty and each flake is as welcome as the sands that scatter the shoreline. It is part of our culture and who we are. Storms come, we hunker down – press in and watch with scattered enthusiasm as the snow falls and witness anew the beauty of creation which casts it’s shadows among us on frigid winter days.

Whether it is a Nor’easter, a blizzard or just plain ‘ol snow granting us a few inches – we find ourselves like a child filled with wonder for a moment as we gaze at the white washed blanket that has settled over our landscape. It sure is pretty, isn’t it?  We pull ourselves away from the dreamlike state and remind ourselves of the reality that storms bring. Shoveling, losing power for hours on end and being house bound to remain safe on the roads we most often travel.

Just like life.

When faced with our own personal, individual storms. We have a choice in how we handle them – how we face them. Do we gaze upon our lives in reflection with realistic eyes of the work that lies ahead or do we remain in a  dreamlike state, unmoving – accepting the snow even as it falls?

Along with any storm or trial in our life, there comes a point where we can no longer deny the reality of how much snow will be dumped upon us. We have little control over the storms that come our way, but we do have control over how we respond to them. One lesson I needed to learn oh so long ago.

Sometimes, I just wander around in the storm. Overcome by the beauty as I walk about. Gazing at the places where the fresh snow lights up and glitters all around me. Digging perhaps into new places and finding new adventures along the way. Yet, often when you shake that tree limb as you climb on up – snow just pummels you down.

You just don’t always expect what comes your way.

How long will you wander about in your storm? At what point do you admit that you may need to bundle up, chart a new course as you walk about. I suggest, the only way to handle a storm is to get through them. There might be white outs as the wind howls and throws things to distract you as we walk. Sometimes we must settle in, hunker down and keep on walking.

Don’t believe me, that’s okay, you don’t need to. Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter 14, we find some stories of storms and trials in the life of Jesus and his disciples. It began with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Matthew 14:13 says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Why would Jesus remove himself in private to find a solitary place? Could He perhaps be upset with this news? Jesus recognized His need to be alone and allowed himself the grace to find such a place for Him. This is how He chose to handle this personal storm – alone with His Father.

Yet, what does Scripture tell us? Verse 13b-14 says, “…. the crowds followed him on foot …. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Do you see? Jesus hears the sad news of the beheading of the man who baptized him and helped start His ministry. In grief, I suppose, he left privately in a boat to be alone. Yet as He landed on the shore, a crowd of people gathered. They sought Jesus out and He had compassion on them.

Compassion.

How many times when faced with your own moments of pain and strife, does compassion well up within you? Do you find yourself able to pull away and be alone with God to bring strength and comfort to you? In what ways do you seek to soothe your soul? Could I learn from Jesus who tried to carve out time for Himself with God? 

Are you looking for healing? This crowd gathered and waiting for Jesus was seeking just that – healing. Jesus went on to perform a miracle here and feeds the people, 5000 men – along with the women and children too. This my friends, is a lot of people. Many travelled to seek healing in their own storms of life. Whatever their situation upon the mountainside that day, Jesus met them there. He took care of their needs and loved them right where they were.

Right there.

With a compassionate heart, He set aside His own needs and gave. Although Jesus craved intimacy and oneness in the midst of His personal storm, He remained true to who He was, and gave love. I have to ask myself, would I do the same thing? When I am caught in my whitewashed way, do I deeply love from my heart? Am I seeking to calm the storm of my own life, rather than loves others in their’s?

The story continues in Matthew chapter 14 as Jesus continues to teach about compassion and love during storms. Even His disciples who had walked with Him needed teaching, just like me.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-31

Jesus walked on water – absolutely amazing.

I’ve seen the waves pounding the disciples boat. Felt the spray on my face as the water sprinkled through the sky. Heard the winds howl bemoaning their course. What a storm, one for the record books! Envision Jesus walking, Peter focusing, Jesus reaching. In those quick moments, Jesus saves, saves. No matter what storm is going on in your life, Jesus….He’s got this!

Storms often cause us to focus on the waves, the tossing, turning of the boats. Drawing our attention away from that which centers us and casts us adrift, setting our minds to those things which may incite fear in us. Reminding us of past failures, hidden mistakes and defeat. Do not listen!

As the storm bears down, where is your focus ?

Are you making time to get away and be alone? Are you loving yourself, and others, right where they are at? Do you have your bearings set for a course straight on through that momentary storm?

Gather up moments my friends, seek out peace, focus on the good and no matter what interruptions comes your way – make the time for oneness with God.

Through the storm.

Who Can You Trust?

 

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Isn’t this the question for all ages?

Who can you trust? This tender belief that the person, the situation you find yourself in, the emotions you are feeling, the circumstances – whatever it may be – that it can be reliable, dependable – true. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship – with spouses, with parents, with siblings,  friends and those you love. Relationships grow and are built with trust, without it, we crumble.

Yes, crumble.

Like tiny pieces of rock, pebbles which grind into your feet. Like rocks you stumble over, tripping along the way to your destination. Like huge boulders you try to carry, throwing them on your shoulder acting like you can handle it all. These rocks of many shapes and sizes all crumble in some ways. Perhaps it’s a large gouge taken out of that rock or a crushed pebble under the weight of your boot. Whatever it may be, there is tiny tender evidence of what a lack of trust can do as it becomes dust under your feet. Crumbling trust that scatters the ash of the rubble into your life.

Rather than the bedrock that trust provides, erecting strong ledges to plant your feet upon. You see insecurity, you find hopelessness, you become distrustful and once down that road, it’s very hard to turn yourself around. Life becomes a burden.

You know what I mean?

You can shake your head in agreement or scoff at my probing, it’s okay. Trust is like that. Once it’s broken, it’s incredibly hard to fix again. We can spend a life time trying to rebuild and access the damage this lack of trust has meted out upon our life. Then within brief moments you can find yourself starting it in the face again. The question reverberates within you, “who can I trust?”

Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In John chapter 14, the context shows that Jesus has finished the Last Supper with his disciples. Reclining at the table, they surround him and are left trying to comprehend His claims. He had washed their feet and asked them to do the same (John 13:1-17). He predicated his betrayal by Judas Iscariot  (John 13:18-30). He prophesied that Peter  would deny Him (John 13:31-38). It’s at this very moment that He chooses to say these words to his beloved disciples, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.(John 14:1)”

You see, those disciples began to feel the impact of his words, ponder the painful thoughts of living without Jesus on this earth. Questioning who would deny him, “will it be me?” Casting their doubts and insecurities freely on the table before the Lord. He affirms them, “don’t get lost in despair.”

Have you been there?

Lost in despair and clamoring for hope? Wondering when the pain will end? Questioning how the story unfolds? Angry at life for how it’s transpired? The time, gone. The energy, sapped. The trust, broken.

Jesus says, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.” Jesus says believe God. Believe what He says. Believe He knows what is best. Believe that he loves you. Believe. Even moreso  He goes on to say, “believe in God, and keep on believing in me.”

Remember now, He is talking to the disciples who had been with Him in His ministry from the beginning. He encourages them to keep on believing, keep on trusting. A belief in God means a belief in His Son Jesus too. Jesus looks at his brothers and implores them to keep on believing, don’t get lost in despair.

Believing is trusting.

I admit I can get lost in despair. I wander around like it’s some well worn coat that I slip on. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable and frankly it’s mistrustful. Every moment I look at my circumstances clamoring for peace, I am believing in myself to fix it. Trusting in what I know and what I experience to be true. That’s not what Jesus calls me to do. He wants me to trust Him. Yes, Him.

I have a distrusting heart. There are pieces of it that won’t trust one word of what Jesus says. Or honestly, what you say. I am full of doubt and there is no bedrock here, no place to position myself to stand firm. Finding a ledge somewhere to grab ahold of to keep me standing is a mystery. I have searched, oh have I! I trip over those rocks along the way, I grind pebbles into the soles of my feet and I continue to carry that boulder of burden on my back – weighing me down.

That is my confession – I am not good at trusting, I lack the faith to believe.

Just ask those closest to me, my spouse, my family – dear friends. I will let you in, I will trust you but there comes a time when my wall I erected years ago stops you in your tracks. Don’t try to pound on the wall, I won’t answer. Don’t try to climb it, I will probably knock you down, Don’t try to take off the bricks aligned high in the sky, as I will start building the wall in other places. Just don’t try.

Hard truth, but real honesty. I don’t trust Jesus well. Oh I have in different ways and in various places, but in this place – the darkest of all, the wall is there – end of discussion. Harsh, yes. Raw, totally. More than you wanted to know, probably. Yet, I think of these words. “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.”

Keep on believing in Jesus.

In your doubt, ache to believe. In your sadness and despair, reach out the One who can fill you. In your pain, let Jesus heal you. He does this as you keep on believing. No matter what your mind tells you. No matter what your experiences continue to tell you. No matter the thoughts that drift in. Find that bedrock and belief in God, anchor yourself to it and keep on believing in Jesus.

If you have a wall erected like a citadel, admit the truth and let Jesus in. He’s the King anyway, let Him be in your heart, in your mind and in your own citadel. Circle up around His throne and keep on believing.

Trust the only one who is trustworthy.

Jesus.

The first week ~ 2015

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Well it’s the start of a new year. 2015 has come upon us and we are past the night of resolutions and promise making. Now is the real test of who we are and who we want to become. Will we make the deliberate choice to follow through on our decisions and honor ourselves by being discipled and devoted to the resolutions and goals we set forth?

Will we be the people we want to become?

This is the first year I haven’t made any specific resolution , but rather I made a grounding firm decision to continue the journey I have been engaged in these past few months. I am a woman of faith and any of my resolutions are embedded with a spiritual focus. This year – I chose to be. Yes, just be.

Not an idling, carefree, lack of purpose type of being. No. Moreso a passionate understanding of who I am and was created to be. Living authentically from that place. Engaging in activities which grow who I am and deepen my sense of worth so that I no longer live under the guise of pleasing others – I am looking to just be.

Be free.

Perhaps you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier or focus on something specific physically. All wonderful resolutions. Yet, if  we tend to focus on just one part of who we are, we become unbalanced. So I ask you, dear friends. Do you want to be balanced? Do you want unity in purpose? Do you want freedom to be who you are no matter what the occasion or circumstance? There is a place for you, to walk in this freedom.

With Jesus.

Okay breathe, yes I just said Jesus. You see, with Jesus this is a deep awareness of who you are in light of who He says you are. You can immerse yourself in affirmations and truth of how much you are loved, how much you are worth and believe what He did to save your very soul. His love is powerful, mighty and able to redefine who you think you are. Who you have experienced life to be to this very moment. Jesus, well – he’s a transformer!

Not that robotic movie making, life saving creature. No. This transformation is not something that’s temporary like our resolutions often are. This is deep transformation into who you were created to be and learning to embrace yourself is what Jesus wants for you. Living freely from this place – with no fear.

No fear.

That’s the beauty of making resolutions in spite of who you think you are. We are free to make them and trust God to help us be faithful and devoted. I find  often that we are our deepest critic and the hardest person to please. Let go this year and just be. Find your center and allow yourself to love, yes, love you. How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?

“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Love is most important, the greatest of all of Jesus’s teaching, it sums everything He taught, and the teachings from the Law and the Prophets hangs upon this premise. Love. Love. LOVE. Loving others comes in direct proportion in how you love yourself, Scripture says so. So I ask again, ” How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?” or  how will you love your neighbor, your spouse, your parents, your children…. if you don’t love yourself? It starts with you and how you view and love yourself.

So, love you.

In this new year of resolutions and promises, I encourage you this very first week to love yourself. Love in the way you desire and want given to you. Learn to love if you must, relearn and untangle all you have been taught. Resolve to love those who have hurt you, abandoned you, shamed you. Whatever your story is – love from that place.

With love springs forth many devoted thoughts and resolutions. Don’t worry about the end result. Just be in the present. Love yourself. Let God’s love empower you, disarm you and break through the shield of denial you’ve placed around your heart. Be in the moments of life. Be who you were created to be. Let your light shine from that most sacred place.

It’s the first week of 2015,  let’s really live in it!

Be.

 

New Day – New Year!

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Happy New Year!

There is something almost refreshing about the start of a New Year. Like a freshly cleaned blackboard (remember those?), a new white board or smart board – everything is new and ready to be written upon. It’s fresh, it has possibilities which are as endless as our minds allow.

Like pages in a new bound book, are the days of the year to write moments of grace, mercy and truth deep into your life. Often, I buy a journal at the start of a new year. I use it to craft out goals, hopes, dreams, desires for the upcoming year. Then as the days pass and the everydayness of the year settles in, I can pull out the journal and reflect on my thoughts and hopes for the year as I am walking in it. It helps bring perspective and balance to my life.

Balance.

That’s the thing about ringing in a New Year- finding balance. We start out with lofty goals and desires. We perhaps face fears and uncertainties about ourselves and our lives that we desire to face. Puling out your own “journal” and thoughts of your goals for the year to find, here you are in the same place as before.

The same place.

You know, there is nothing wrong with being in the same place. Especially if it brings you comfort, allows you to grow and fills you with strength for each new day. But whom among you are the same place that you just no longer want to be in anymore? I am speaking to you. It’s that same place that aches from deep in your soul.

You know the one? Well, I do.

Here’s my word of encouragement in the New Year. Well, not mine – God’s. “…. that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!(2Cor 5:17)” This is not some quick fix, but a deep truth. New life begins with God.

Not with resolutions, or hopes – God. For it is God Himself who makes the person new. Not our own choices, but the author of life Himself. If you are in Christ, the old has truly passed away – so let it go and pass away. Stop holding onto it. Oh wait, I was talking to me!

What you did or didn’t do in 2014, what I did or didn’t do in 2014 – well it stays in 2014 and the hearts of those whom either I blessed or I wounded. Today’s not a day to talk fluff or make light of things. New Years Day can be a day of new life. So, just for today, I encourage you.

Reflect, repent and receive the blessing of new life.

Reflect about who you are, repent of any self indulgent ways and receive the gift of new life in Christ. New life that makes every day new, every moment new and marks each day like that of a new year.

New.

Let God write upon your heart like the pages of a new book and receive the gift of renewal. Find strength in moments and find hope in forgiveness. Let go of all the years past pain and living freely. Move forward. Be free. Find balance.

New life begins with God – trust  Him

 

It’s the most depressing time of the year….

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“It’s the most wonderful depressing time of the year….”

When the song comes on,  I do sing of the wonders of this season – and yet – this is the raw truth. It is the most depressing time of year. In this season that is filled with joy and celebration, with love and thanksgiving as families gather together. It is an undeniable fact, and research concludes, that this is the most discouraging time of the year.

Where is your heart today?

Are you filled with gratitude as your family begins to gather? Are you happy about the time you will share together? Do you feel hopeful as you face another holiday season together? Do you have joy? Do you have peace? Are you emboldened with patience to accept whatever your holiday season holds for you? Frankly – are you ready for these moments you are blessed with?

Where is your heart today?

It’s getting so close to that time when your family with  gather,  gifts will be shared and presents are opened. Things you had hoped for may already be sitting under your tree. Ways you desired to bless others with time spent together is coming into focus. Whatever it may be, it’s the week of Christmas and the holiday season, and I will share with you where my heart is today.

Oh, it hurts….

It aches for those who battle pain – whose bodies are hard and stiff and struggle to make it through the days spent shopping, wrapping, cooking and preparing for the holiday. My heart grieves for those who have lost loved ones and spend this season full of anguish and pain as they are separate from those whom they love and miss so. My heart aches for those whose illnesses and disease makes the Christmas season so much more precious than another holiday, as it very well could be their last. There are so many hurting people in this world who need so much more than present wrapped under a tree.

My heart hurts.

So many people face Christmas living in broken relationships, facing painful memories, and shattered by dashed hopes of what a family is. How soon we forget as we revel in the joy of our family and the love that we have been given, we forget those who don’t have the same opportunities. We forget.

There are so many children, adults, elderly people – people – who are lonely, depressed, discouraged and feeling hopeless who ache, yes ache for love. Who long to be in a home where their needs are met. Who crave to be surrounded by their family experiencing love in new, healthy way.  Who yearn for love they may have never known.  Revealing deep, dark wounds of their hearts that long for tenderness, affection and love.  Lives that are crushed with pain that no gift, no present can soothe their soul. Whose greatest gift this year you cannot wrap and put under a tree.

The gift of unconditional love.

Love that has no strings attached. Love that bears all things. Love that believes all things. Love that hopes, trusts and perseveres. Just love my friends – what is a more precious gift than that? When at the end of the day, no matter what you have done or haven’t done, said or haven’t said – you are loved for who you are – who you are.

In life, we tend to look at other people and their circumstances based on what we know and what we experience, often comparing how we would handle a situation and use this as a framework to place upon others.  It’s human nature and I know I fall prey to it. Yet, today in light of the most depressing time of the year, I beg you and encourage you. Stand back, let go of your judgement and begin to feel with others, empathizing with them and truly love them.

Love them.

Christmas is centered on the fact of the birth of Jesus the Christ. That is the reason for the season. Not just a catchy phrase, but the reality that we celebrate and remember a man born in manger in the village of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. There are many people who believe in this man as not just a man, but the Savior of the world. I am one of them. Because I have this faith, I offer this to you now.

If you don’t know how to love, let Jesus guide you. If you yearn for love, let Jesus give it to you. If you are wounded and need healing, let Jesus heal you. Jesus is the answer. It sounds so cliche, I know. Like some quick fix that we have a problem and rattle off some mantra and find that Jesus is the way out of all our problems. This is not the Jesus I know – He doesn’t offer false hope. He is hope and He wants a relationship with me, with you. Yes, you.

He will show how to love unconditionally. He will teach you if you don’t know how.  No one else can do this, although some might try. I hear friends and family talk about how your focus in your life is everything. That by shifting your gaze from your emptiness, from your pain, from the sadness that plagues your soul –  if would just think differently, choose differently, act differently – you will be different. Like some formula we place before us, negating the fact that our Creator Himself designed us with these tendencies, placed us in these families and relationships. Is not pain part of God’s plan for us?

Yes, pain.

Don’t run from it. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Don’t let the pain veil   the truth that you are loved. I know depression. There is no shame in who you are. Rather than making pat assurances that all will be okay – allow the frailty of your heart to be tender and to feel. To love, and be loved, in very difficult, sad and depressed places. Open your hurting, depressed, sad heart.

One thing about Christmas that saps joy from the season is the lack of empathy I see and experience. We celebrate with those we love while neglecting the needy, the poor and those who need Jesus the most. We give, we offer prayer, we place change in the red bucket as we walk into the stores to buy things. All the while, the emptiness I hear in the human heart cries out. I make no pretensions today – I don’t follow a name and claim it Jesus. There are no quick fixes in life. It’s time we accept that who we are is by His grand design and plan for us. Let’s no longer believe that depression is something we think our way out of.  Loving Jesus reveals itself first in loving and accepting ourselves – and being who He created us to be.

Depression is real.

This is the most depressing time of year. No matter what gift you  do receive, or don’t receive, this year. In your broken heart of loved ones lost. In the hard truth of disease ridden bodies. In the reality of this annual celebration being your last. There is no greater time to know Jesus, than now.

He knows you. He knows your pain. He knows your fears. Your loneliness. Your lack of love. Your insecurities. Your final days. He knows – and He wants you to know Him. Just Him. A mere babe that came to earth to love. Let Him love you today. Let Him ease your heart. Let Him soothe your soul.

Come see the new born King.

“This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

See the babe with new eyes today. In this season which may seem so dark,  allow Him to show you the majesty of His story. Come and invite Him into your life and seek Him like the wise men of old.  Look up in quiet moments, under a star lit sky, and find the infant wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.

Let Him change your world.