I miss you…

Dear Mom,IMG_1427

I miss you.
Oh, how I miss you.
Not a day goes by when I don’t miss you.
I’ll always miss you.

Symbolically, I think about my life being like a box of crayons.  So many beautiful colors fill my crayon box.  The colors can be used together to create a wonderful masterpiece. Some days are colored in shades of blue, others in tints of gray, others with vibrant pinks and refreshing greens. They are all needed at one time or another to create the pictures of my life.   My crayon box world is full of so many amazing people and wonderful life-experiences.  I am truly grateful for so many.    IMG_3878

But today, the brightest yellow crayon is missing.   That vibrant hue has not been physically in my world these past 730 days.  You’ve been taken out of my box, out of my world…at least for now.  And because of this there is sadness, there is loss.

But also,  I thank God for memories, SO many cherished memories! I can look back at so many days when that bright yellow color was ever-present, easily accessible, just a phone call away.   Your unconditional love and care was present in my every day, adding your shade of bright yellow.  And, I remember…and it gives me great comfort and joy.

 

 

Life without you here is harder, emptier, definitely not the same.   I can’t just pick up the phone and call you when I am struggling or hurting, call you when I want to share good news.  The person who’d be one of the first people I’d go to for prayer is not here anymore, at least not in the same way.  You always had a way of encouraging my heart and lifting my spirits, pointing me to the One who will always be my greatest encourager.  Thank you!

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted;  You encourage them, and You listen to their cry.”   ~Psalm 10:17

Mom,
There is no one here just like you.  You will never be replaced.  There is no one who loved me exactly the way you did.  Oh, how I thank God for you.  Oh, how I look forward to seeing you one day again in heaven.  What a glorious, tear-filled, overflowing-with-joy kind of moment that will be!  That gives me great hope and peace even as I miss you now..

The gift of your life/your love will carry on.  Every yellow leaf, yellow flower, brilliant gold finch, fluttering yellow butterfly that crosses my path reminds me of you.  Every anchor reminds me of God’s faithfulness during this part of our journey.  Your strong faith and devotion to prayer, your constant desire to bless and serve others, your uplifting, positive, hardly-ever complaining demeanor, your peace and your quiet strength…all continue to remind and inspire me in this life.  Your faith and love, joy and hope will leave a legacy that will go on well into the future.

 

 

You lived a life of impact.  Thank you for impacting me!  You showed me how to truly live, how to truly love.  For that, I will forever be grateful.

Mom, today I miss you.
Today I remember you.
Today I take the time to thank God once again for you.
I love you. Always and Forever.

Your daughter, Amy

“Now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”  

~I Corinthians 13:13 on this April 13.

Have You Dusted Today?

 

As he got to the end of the field, he readied himself as he turned to plow down the next row.  The rotary hoe attached to his tractor sliced several lines into the dirt and lifted up the weeds beginning to grow in between the rows of soybeans.  The hot wind blew in his face like a furnace.  The farm-hand took 3 deep breaths and made a 180 degree turn.  This time as the rotary hoe plowed up the dry earth behind him, the steady wind pushed a thick cloud of dust around him, surrounding him on every side.  It was hard to breathe. He covered his mouth and nose and continued to forge through to the end of the row, trying not to breathe in too deeply.  At the end of this row, he turned his wheels another 180 degrees and now was met again with a blast of hot wind.  The dust was blowing behind him once again. He could breathe in deeply…until he got to the end of the next row.

My husband has had dozens of dusty experiences in his life.  He grew up on a wheat farm in the midwest.  Working for his dad all throughout high school, he remembers being “caked with dust” often as he worked out in the fields.  Cleaning grain bins, gathering hay bales, harvesting wheat and soybeans…all were very dusty activities at times.

In 2002, he was stationed in the desert of Kuwait at Camp Doha with the army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The dust was so fine it hung in the air like a thick blanket.  He said he got used to it and it almost wasn’t noticeable, but the air all around had a tan-colored tinge most all of the time.

Dust is everywhere.  Outside.  Inside.  It seems to be an ever-present part of life.  Some locations are dustier than others but all places need some dusting.  I’m always amazed how quickly it accumulates.  Dust is everywhere.

Dust was the material God used to form man originally.

Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a Father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;  for He knows how we were formed, He remembers that we are dust.”

Our Loving Creator knows that we are fragile, easily broken and weak at times.

(Photo Credits:  Yellow Tractor by “PaulR 1800” and Green Tractor by “Lutz Blohm”  www.flickr.com)

 

The Great Thaw

IMG_2440As sub-zero temperatures cover much of the Northeast/Midwest and wind chills plummet into the negative digits, I am thinking about ice and cold.  Even down here in the South, we’ve experienced temperatures below freezing for several days.

Growing up in the Northeast, I experienced many icy cold days of winter.  When I was younger, I don’t think the cold bothered me as much.  As children, we would be thoroughly bundled up before heading out to play in the winter white.  I remember putting on two or three layers of thick socks and then sticking my feet into empty plastic bread bags before putting them into my winter boots.

Snow pants, coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots…
It was quite an endeavor to get ready to go outside, but we didn’t let that stop us.  We loved traipsing through the thick snow to build snowmen, make snow angels, play “Fox and Chickens”, go sledding, and have snowball fights.

These days though, I’m grateful to live in the Southeast where winter temperatures tend to stay quite mild.  I am thankful for a warm place to come home to and a snuggly blanket to wrap around my shoulders.  Later this week it will warm up outside, but right now it remains wintery-cold.  My bird baths have been frozen solid every day this past week.  Each morning, I’ve gone out and poured hot water on them in hopes of melting the ice so the birds can get something to drink.  Most days I’ve gone out more than once to try to melt the ice-covered bird baths.  As the ice melts, it always starts at the outer edges and moves to the center…

MELT:  The Dictionary definition is “to make or become liquified by heat.”  Some synonyms are: thaw, defrost, soften.
THAW:  The Dictionary states “(Of ice, snow, or another frozen substance, such as food) to become liquid or soft as a result of warming.”
MELT: definition 2.  “to make or become more tender or loving.”

All this cold and ice has me thinking about hard hearts.  Do you know anyone who seems to be “hard-hearted” and in need of some melting?

The Definition is “incapable of being moved to pity or tenderness; unfeeling.”  Some synonyms include:  cold, hard, callous, uncaring…stony-hearted, having a heart of stone.”  

I can think of  few people in my life who seem to be this way on occasion.  This world feels so broken at times and there are so many hurting people out there.  I’ve heard it said that “Hurting people hurt people” and very often this seems to hold true.

I know sometimes I can be this way.  When I’m frustrated, hurt, fearful or angry, my soft heart can turn a bit hard.  My angry thoughts can turn to hurtful words.  My impatience can lead to nagging.  My fears can lead to stressed-out actions.  My focus can get very self-centered and self-protective, which doesn’t lend itself to loving and “valuing others above myself” (Philippians 2:3).  My heart can get cold and my actions can get icy at times.

I don’t want to be this way.  I want to have a soft heart, a tender soul, a love that is patient and kind.  At times like this, I need to step back and get warmed back up, to melt (as defined above) and be made “more tender and loving.”

How do I do this?  How do we do this?

I have found there is one true cure for my cold, hard-heart…for all of our hearts.
It is the pure LOVE of God, found in His Son, Jesus.

I believe we all were created for love and we all want to be loved.
Many have sung that “Love makes the world go round.” (Deon Jackson-1946, Jennifer Lopez-2016)  True love is not thinking of myself but of others first, of seeking to bless and to give unselfishly to those around me.  True love battles hate and hurt.  True love changes hearts.

I Peter 4:8 says,  “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Love has a way of softening the rough edges in our lives.  

I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes it this way:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

God’s kind of love is unselfish and always focused on others.
His love can soften even the hardest of hearts.

It reminds me of the animated Christmas classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Even the Grinch thought he could steal Christmas from the Whos in Whoville.  But, instead he was welcomed in with loving-kindness, despite what he’d done…and it changed him.  He was changed down to the core.

“But this… this sound wasn’t sad. Why… this sound sounded glad. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing, without *any* presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it *came*! Somehow or other… it came just the same

He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!

What happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!”

-Excerpts from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss

Love changed the Grinch.
Love changes us.
Love can take an icy cold heart and make it soft and tender.
God’s unconditional love can change us all.

God says in Ezekiel 36:26,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

In C.S. Lewis’s allegory, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the White Witch turned many creatures into stone with her magic.  I love the scene in the movie based on the book, when Aslan, the Lion and Jesus-figure, comes into a hall filled with dozens of stone creatures.  He simply breathes on them.  Right before our eyes, Lucy’s close friend Mr. Tumnus melts from Aslan’s warm breath and becomes fully alive again, taken out of his frozen state.  This breath of life turned the creatures of stone into creatures of flesh once again.

God is always in the business of bringing new life.

Genesis 2:7  “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.”

Ezekiel 37:5 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones—I will make breath enter you and you will come to life.”

John 20:22, “And with that, He (Jesus) breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit.”

2 Timothy 3:16  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

Amy Grant recorded a beautiful song called “Breath of Heaven.” (watch on YouTube)  It was written by Chris Eaton and Amy said the following about the song in an interview,  “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people and circumstances, because it’s a cry of mercy.” (www.songfacts.com)

Are you in need of some mercy this New Year?
Are you seeking some warmth for your soul?
Does your heart long to be loved unconditionally?
Do you want someone to help you soften your rough edges?

May I invite you to turn to Jesus and ask Him to breathe on you with His life-giving grace and love.  May He warm your soul and soften your heart as you spend time with Him reading His Word.  May God melt all your cold places with His love, peace and hope this day and always.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  ~Romans 15:13

 

I Wish You WELL

What does the word “WELL” make you think about?

 


Maybe it is a place to retrieve water, like in the photo above.  Or, maybe you think more about a person being wished well, as my title expresses.

The Dictionary defines well-being as “a good or satisfactory condition of existence, a state characterized by health, happiness, prosperity, and welfare.”  Some other synonyms include “comfort, ease, and good.”

Well-being that involves being well is something we all most likely desire for our lives and the lives of those we care about.  Living lives full of love, comfort, happiness, good health, and success are truly great blessings.  I’ve experienced all of these things throughout my life in varying degrees and in varying seasons.

And, also, at times in my life some of these things have been harder to find.  Sometimes I  don’t realize all I’ve had until some of it is taken away.  I’ve experienced personally or been close to others who have experienced job loss, broken relationships, declining health issues, disappointments, failures, or the loss of someone they loved dearly.  Life has its share of ups and downs, triumphs and set-backs, gains and losses.

And, although I most certainly wish each one of you wellthere is a deeper kind of “well” I wish for you, too.

There is a story in the Bible about Jesus and His interaction with a Samaritan Woman at a well.  He was tired from his journey and He asked this woman for a drink.  (John 4:7)  There is something about this story that draws me in, just as water is drawn out of a well.  It invites me to look down and peer into the water reflecting at the bottom.

It says in John 4:4 (NIV) that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.”  I wonder why?  He was traveling from Judea to Galilee, and apparently it wasn’t common to go through Samaria.

According to Wayne Jackson from The Christian Courier:

“…since Samaria lies between Judea and Galilee, passing through Samaria was not the only route between the two provinces—in fact, it was not the most common one.

Because of Jewish hostilities toward the Samaritan people (which we will discuss later), the Hebrews frequently would travel to the east when they had leisure time (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews20.6.1, regarding travel at feast times), cross over the Jordan, and thus skirt the Samaritan territory. Samaria was considered as not belonging to the Holy Land, a strip of “foreign country” separating Judea from Galilee (Edersheim 1957, 12). Such a detour would take longer than the normal three days of travel.”

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/282-jesus-and-the-samaritan-woman

It was frowned upon for Jews to interact with Samaritans and it says so in John 4:9 (“For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”) But, it also was taboo for men to be speaking with women in public places back then.

“The Jewish attitude toward women was less than ideal. While the Old Testament afforded great dignity to womanhood (cf. Prov. 31:10ff), the Hebrews over the years had imbibed some of the attitudes of paganism.

A Hebrew man did not talk with women in the street—not even with his mother, sister, daughter or wife! (cf. Lightfoot 1979, 286-287).”

Jackson, Wayne. “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: November 12, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/282-jesus-and-the-samaritan-woman

Jesus wasn’t afraid to break cultural norms/traditions to engage with others.  What amazes me is that after Jesus’s conversation with this woman, she not only left her water jar at the well, but she seemed eager to return to her town and tell people the following,

Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29).

According to John 4:18, she had been married five times and was currently in a relationship with a different man.  She had never shared all these details with Jesus, yet He revealed them to her.  She probably was embarrassed and/or felt guilty about this part of her life,  yet it seems to me that she was drawn to Jesus and what He offered her at the well.  What was it about Him that drew her to Him, despite being “caught” and exposed?

I don’t know about you but I am not always eager to share my own sins and mess-ups with others, let alone my whole town.  I don’t readily proclaim to my neighborhood, “Come and see everything I’ve ever done!”  Sure, I might share the good…but the bad, the embarrassing, the big mistakes…I only share those things with people I trust and feel completely safe with.   So it seems to me that for her to leave her water jar and share this with her town,  there must have been something else more powerful driving her to do so.  I would like to think that although her mistakes had been exposed, she was overwhelmed with the loving-kindness and grace Jesus offered her.  Surely she didn’t feel condemnation for why would she have been so eager to expose all her “dirty laundry” to the town?  Back then she could have been stoned to death for this.

Romans 8:1-2 says, “Therefore, there  is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Even though her sins and mistakes were exposed, it appears she wanted something more.  She wanted to be spiritually well and she found it at a literal well.

Jesus told her earlier (John 4:13-14)  “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.  But, whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life

“welling
up
to
eternal 
life”
I love that phrase.

Have you ever had tears “well up” in your eyes until they spilled out and ran down your cheeks?  My mom had this happen all the time.  She was frequent “cry-er” and one of the finest.  So very often the tears that fell from her eyes were tears of joy, tears of love.  Sure, they fell at sad times, but they also fell abundantly at joyous times, times of reunions and happy moments.  When tears fell, we knew how deeply we were loved.

Revelation 21:4  says regarding heaven, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

I’ve often heard others say,  “There will be no more tears” in heaven.  My mom asked me once “How can there be ‘no more tears’ in heaven?”   So many of her tears were tears of joy and love so she didn’t like the thought of not being able to let the tears fall during those joyous times.  Certainly it says there will be “no more sorrow or mourning or death or pain” but there very well may be tears of joy and love, welling up to overflowing when we see one another again.  Oh, what an amazing day that will be!

Isaiah 58:11 says, “The LORD will guide you always;  He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden–like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Jesus wants us to be spiritually WELL.  He invites us to bring all our mistakes, our sins, our disappointments, our struggles to Him.  He wants to give each one of us “living water” and a soul “welling up to eternal life.”  Only in Him can we find this kind of soul-nourishment and life-giving refreshment that will last eternally.

3 John 1:2, also written by John, one of Jesus closest disciples says, “Dear friend, I pray that you enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

Jesus wants this for each one of us.
Oh, how I wish this for you too!
I wish you WELL.