Seasons

12990873_10156786009335244_6828089269176082029_n[1]There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (The Message)

I love living in an area that experiences four distinct seasons – winter, spring, summer, and fall. This spring, the flowering trees and bushes have been especially brilliant in their displays, showing off with bright whites, pinks, yellows, and purples. I enjoy coming to the end of winter and anticipating that first showing of spring … and then waiting for the first 80+ degrees streak and planting our garden (which we started this week), as summer is clearly just around the corner.

These seasons mark the passage of time, break up the year into segments, each with its own goodness and glory. Creation does indeed display the wonder and majesty of the Creator. God paints in wondrous colors, all vivid and unique. He inspires artists – painters, musicians, and writers through His perfect, ongoing creative acts.

As the seasons of the year come and go, I am reminded that so do seasons of life. And while we lament the passing of one season, we need only remember that the next season, though different, will be no less wonderful.

Right now, we love our garden. It’s new, freshly tilled, no weeds. By August, we’ll begin feeling differently. We’ll grow tired of working in the heat, pulling weeds, and picking beans. We’ll be ready to close shop as fall begins to peak around the corner. But the end of the summer always brings the greatness of fall – cooler days, s’mores, bonfires, the return of school.

Each season, while glorious in its own time, passes, leading to another season with a different set of expectations, but with a goodness all its own.

And so do our lives.

“Taste and See…”

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

20160403_125154In this year of celebration, God is re-teaching me to enjoy – to really savor – the good gifts that He has given. I am learning again to use all my senses and marvel in the God of creation. I want to listen, to see, to taste, to feel, to smell all of the great experiences that God creates anew each and every day.

We have taken our American Puritan work ethic to its furthest extreme – if we are not busy being productive at something, then we mistakenly believe we are wasting time. But God created us for space and for rest, as well as for work. He created within us the desire to enjoy His creation – to listen to the birds, to smell the coffee, to taste the cake, and to stare at the clouds.

Work is good, and yes, God made us to work. But He also made us to stop and see how good He is. In the psalm above, He invites us to use our senses to understand His goodness.

This week is spring break in our corner of the world. I have every intention of using this week as an excuse to practice doing just this, to enjoy my people, to rest, and to remember that God made the world for us to care for and to enjoy.

Can you sense His goodness today? If not, might I suggest walking outside for five minutes to stare at the sky, and take in creation with all of your senses? His handiwork is all around you, if you will only “taste and see.”

For Wednesday of Holy Week

That is when one of the Twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the cabal of high priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?” They settled on thirty silver pieces. He began looking for just the right moment to hand him over. Matthew 26:14-16

Father, as we ready our hearts for the coming of Easter morning, help us today to recognize the ways that, like Judas, we betray You for a cheap thirty pieces. We belittle your sacrifice in a thousand ways. We forget the grace You have given us. Like Judas, we walk with you, and then we turn away when Your plans don’t match our own. Forgive us.

We collude with the enemy. We flirt with worldliness, and sometimes we have an all-out affair with it. We are tempted to wander from our faith, especially when Your plan isn’t clear. Forgive us.

Father, may we see our wanderings and recognize them for what they are. In Your mercy, call us back to repentance. Keep us from the darkness, fill us with Your light. Remind us again and again that You are our Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, Strong Tower, an ever-present Help in times of trouble.

Prepare our hearts, Lord. Let us learn from Judas, but never follow his path. Show us the ways we sully Your sacrifice. Bring us back to fellowship with You. Prepare our hearts this week. Show us with fresh eyes Your glory.

Amen.

A Week of Celebration

Friday is a big day around here.

It’s the day I turn 40. As in, forty.

I really don’t dread it. If you had asked me at 23, the year we moved to Kentucky, 40-year-olds were much more settled, much more grown up. Forty-year-olds had accomplished. They were sure and steady.

I’m not really sure I am any of those things, but I do know that I feel much more comfortable in my own skin than I did at 23. I speak up for myself more, but I also try to give more grace, assume the best, and strive for peace.

After cancer last year, every birthday is something to celebrate, and this one certainly is. I don’t exactly know what I will be doing on Friday (those plans are being held under lock and key), but whatever it is, it will be good because it will be with the people I love and care about most.

Turning 40 is one of the reasons that I chose “celebrate” as my word for the year. I want to celebrate life, and celebrate living. I believe that God rejoices in our celebrations when we recognize that all good and perfect gifts are from His hand.

So, here’s to the first 40 years of my life. Some were great, some were not, but all are worth celebrating.

The Coming of Spring

Spring might be coming a little early this year to our corner of Kentucky. I say that with some reservation and trepidation because you never know. Today will be 70 degrees, but it’s not impossible that it could turn cold again, even snow again, in March.

I am desperately ready for spring. We haven’t had anything resembling a terrible winter, and yet … I need to feel the sunshine and warmth, the promise of days outside, time to play in the dirt, longer days, more freedom.

I believe that God placed this desire in our hearts. He gave us this beautiful world to live in and care for. He made us to need sunshine, warmth, connection. The psalmist tells us in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

God has created an intricate, glorious world. Spring highlights much of this glory – new life as flowers and plants awaken and burst forth, trees flower, fruit grows (strawberry season!), days lengthen, the sun shines more each day, and the world calls us out into it.

I intend to soak up just as much of spring as I can. Last night saw the kids in our street riding bikes and running with the abandon of youth. Moms and dads gathered on the sidewalk to chat. Today I am enjoying the sun coming through the windows while beautiful music plays in the background and I type words into this computer. In spring, each day brings new joy.

What do you enjoy most about this season of the year? What are you looking forward to as the weather warms and beckons us outside?

 

We Can All Use Some Encouragement

I was sorry to be MIA last week, but I had a few other things going on that just took every free second of writing time that I had, and, well … no post.

But here we are at the beginning of March. I am a huge fan of living in an area where we experience all four seasons, and spring is right around the corner. Flowers blooming, grass greening, Easter – and my birthday! March is a great month, as far as I am concerned.

Sunday night, we had a fun time bowling with our church family. Lots of laughs with greasy and salty bowling alley nachos – who could ask for more?

I am terrible at bowling. I knocked down exactly zero pins on my first three frames. But in the middle of that great showing, I learned a valuable lesson. After one very brilliant set of gutter balls, I found my little 5-year-old at my side, shouting this:

“You go, Mom! Great job! I am so proud of you!”

Huh? But I didn’t knock down any pins…

“It doesn’t matter! You tried and did your best, and that’s all that counts!”

That, of course, is exactly what we tell him. So why don’t we believe it’s true for ourselves?

Life would be so much better if we could give other adults and ourselves the same advice we give our kids.

Do your best. Try your hardest. And even if the ball goes in the gutter, be proud because you tried.

Who can you give some encouragement to today? We all need a pep-talk from time to time. Who needs you to be in their corner right now?

Celebrating Busy Days

We have jumped back into life full-force after the holidays, which feels both good and bad, depending on the day and how well I am handling things. The effects of chemo don’t end when the treatment does, and I still struggle with multitasking and managing our busy life. Some days I think I’m doing pretty well, and the next day I can wake up and not know how to manage anything about my schedule and to-do list.

It is frustrating, but I am learning it is what it is. I can fight against it (and I do), but I also have to learn to manage it. When I am having a bad day, I just have to embrace it for what it is and change my plans.

There’s a thing going around the Internet lately – writers talking about “things that are saving my life.” I’m having trouble getting on that particular band wagon because, truthfully, chemo saved my life, not a particular shade of lipstick or the latest latte at Starbucks. (Don’t email me – I understand that most of these bloggers don’t mean that these things are literally saving their lives. It’s just where I am right now. I can’t find it in me to be that flippant.)

That said, I do have some things I am enjoying right now, and that provide some sanity on the days that I need it.

  1. Podcasts. I have to work to fit listening to podcasts into my schedule, since I don’t have a commute. However, the treadmill and time spent cleaning goes a whole lot faster listening to Serial, Around the Table, and What Should I Read Next?
  2. She Reads Truth Lent Study. I love the She Reads Truth studies. She Reads Truth is an app for your phone or tablet that provides a daily Bible reading and devotion. The Lent study just started, so if you are looking for a good Bible reading plan, check it out.
  3. The final season of Downton Abbey, and the new season of Doc Martin. We love British TV. If you don’t, you should.

How are you spending the cold, dreary days of February? How do you manage your crazy days?

Snow Days

thumb1D99Q65ILast year, snow days were not my favorite. In the middle of eight rounds of chemo, snow days meant my childcare (preschool) was cancelled, a necessity on days I couldn’t get out of bed.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, snow days are very different this year.

Today is a snow day. We have been very busy – all of our regular commitments with a little kids’ basketball thrown in – and we have been feeling it. Henry fell asleep during church last Sunday night, slept about 45 minutes, came home, and went to bed an hour later. We have been tired – a good tired, but still tired.

So, today (and maybe tomorrow!) are welcome breaks in the schedule. Today, we have watched a lot of movies, and enjoyed popcorn, hot chocolate, and oatmeal for snacks. I finished the first season of the Serial podcast, which I loved.

In the busy, I want to see more of God’s grace and beauty. Snow days are the perfect reminder, as we watch the beautiful flakes fall and cover the earth with whiteness. We are eating pancakes tonight, our snow day tradition that happily also falls on Fat Tuesday.

God created us for rhythms of work and rest. He created us to enjoy beauty, and to find comfort in our homes and families.

Do you find yourself in need of a snow day? Whether you have snow to stop your activities or not, you can create your own sanctuary of rest. Light a fire, make hot chocolate or hot tea, set out the good dishes, or make a comforting recipe. Winter is a time of rest, of preparing for what is to come. Find ways to make the most of it.

 

 

2016 – The Year to Celebrate!

I’m sorry that I’ve been absent for the past month! The beginning of the year has slammed our schedule hard, and I feel like I am just now beginning to crawl out of the hole of lagging behind. Blogging had to get dropped to the side for a few weeks so I could get a handle on everything else.

If you read along with our journey in 2015, you know that God very specifically gave me a word for the year, brave. I had quite the experience with that word, never knowing that God was asking me to be brave as we lived through a year of cancer.

So, it was with some anxiety that I asked God for another word this year, but I believe that He has given me one – celebrate!

This is the year that God is asking me to learn to celebrate again. We lived with a lot of fear and anxiety last year, and we learned so much about God’s plan in suffering. And now, I believe that God is inviting me to relearn how to celebrate life – life in Him, life with my family, life in my community, life filled with joy – regardless of what may come in the future.

It would be so easy to continue to live in fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but God gives us hope in His Word:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:4-8

God invites us to enjoy Him with all our senses, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” That’s my goal this year, to seek out the beauty that God has created, to look every day for His imprints in my life.

Just like last year, I don’t know where God will take my journey to celebrate, but I am eager to get going and find out!

 

Celebrate the Season – Week Five

I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be taken for callow, black-haired boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men.

We are great, my friend; we shall not be saved for trampling that greatness under foot … Come then; leap upon these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it. The longest Session of all is no discontinuation of these sessions here, but a lifting of them all by priestly love. It is a place for men, not ghosts—for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthiness of the True Jerusalem.

Eat well then. Between our love and His Priesthoood, He makes all things new. Our Last Home will be home indeed. – Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb

We are at the end of 2015, a year that I have to say I am glad to see away. We have struggled and we have celebrated, and through it all we have been reminded that this world is but a shadow of what is to come. There will be sort of like here, but better, greater, more glorious, more than our imaginings can imagine.

So I want to leave you with one more song that is so fitting for us at the end of 2015. Eric Peters is a great singer-songwriter who you may not know but really should. Listen as he sings “The Old Year”:

At the end of 2015, I echo the words of Robert Farrar Capon above – “Come then; leap upon these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it.” I hope you have celebrated the season with a fullness and richness this year that has nothing to do with the presents that were under your tree but were more about savoring the gifts of God. I pray that we would carry forth in the same way into 2016, ever watchful for the beautiful and the joyful. I will see you next year!

 

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