Saturday, December 31, 2011

What will I say at midnight?

As the end of 2011 has gotten closer and closer I've been tempted to shout: "GOOD RIDDANCE" at the old year as we welcome 2012, or possibly hide my head under a blanket and wait the old year out scarred 3 year old style. 

At a glance 2011 has been an incredibly hard year.  We have seen more of the inhumanity and cruelty of humans than maybe ever before.  We have struggled through situations with life and work and school that tested every ounce of courage we didn't have in ourselves.  We had times of intense hope on the medical front only to see that hope dashed like so many times in the past.  We watched our dear friends bury their baby.  We have been grieved to the core by people we love abandoning their resolve to follow God's way even when it isn't easy, and choosing to live in opposition to everything we used to fight for together.  We have felt isolated and alone. We have often felt like we lived in the twilight zone because of the chaos all around us and often inside our own hearts.  We have sat sleepless nights crying out to God for answers, begging for an end to suffering. 

He didn't bring an end. 

As we enter 2012 many of the same situations are still part of our life.  Our eyes, which we have longed to close so we didn't have to see the pain around us, are wide open.   And we have a choice as we always do: we can allow the pain of 2011 to make us bitter and closed, or we can allow the peace of God which passes all comprehension to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   We can hate the circumstances we have been placed in, or we can love the people around us who are hurting in very real ways.  We can speak of God's joy and peace and then act like it doesn't make any difference choosing to live in a perpetual bad mood, or we can take to heart what we believe to be true and let it make us beautiful people with beautiful attitudes. 

2011 was probably the hardest year of our lives thus far.  Yet, if we look deeper we can see blessings that came directly from walking through this valley:
1.  Relationships deepened through walking alongside others in their pain.
2.  Patience with those who need it from us on a daily basis. (I;m definately still working on this one!)
3.  Joy in little things:  moments just the two of us alone together,  peaceful walks,  a trip to the lake for a quick swim before church,  singing,  poetry,  mastering a new recipe,  the 3 baby summer squash we harvested from our garden,  the Farmer's Market,  camping trip even in the rain,  going to class with my Husband,  laughing with my Grammie,  lunch with my sisters, text messages from friends,  hugs from my brothers, the Grocery Outlet! (Brie is only $1.49!!!), wisdom from parents, flowers and the joy of arranging them .... the list goes on and on.
4.  Clarity in our future dreams.  2 New Year's Eve's ago my sweet husband hugged me and as I cried and told him that I didn't know how to dream anymore, he told me that he would help me dream again.  It's taken time, but I am beginning to REALLY dream.  That dream includes our plans after his graduations to move to Africa where he will teach and I will hold babies in a high risk orphanage.  This dream is most precious to me because we have been in contact with this orphanage for awhile now and are planning to begin the adoption process 3 months after we move there.  There are a LOT of variables with this dream - but we are excited about the possibility!   We know that God can change the way this dream looks over the next 18 months, but we are taking the first steps and holding onto His mighty hand for guidance every step of the way.

So, as we say good-bye to 2011 I won't yell: "GOOD RIDDANCE!!" out the door at midnight.  Instead, I'll breath a sigh of peace and joy in all that God did through the challenges, and a prayer of thanks that no matter what 2012 holds for us, we will have that Everlasting Arm to lean on with each new day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Christmas Story

Merry Christmas a day late! I saw this on a friend's blog and just had to share with all of you! The accents make it even more incredible and cute. Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

faith in the midst of suffering

The beautiful writer of this real, raw blog post is one of my most precious friends.  Please be praying for this family and learn something from this very true faith in the face of a very hard time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

1. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day - Casting Crowns

I thought this remake of one of my favorite Christmas songs was perfect for the post about peace I just wrote ..


This Christmas season I find myself longing for one thing above all else: peace.  When there is chaos all around how is peace even possible?   The answer is Jesus. 

Not one of us can orchestrate our lives (or anyone else's lives) to be free from pain, suffering and the chaos around us.  What we do have control over is our attitude and where we turn when life becomes hard.  Turning to Jesus in times of stress or pain doesn't take away the situation - but it can change our heart and make it easier to bear.  

Yes, I do still long for peace in the situations around me.  I do long for suffering to end.  I do long for relationships to be healed.  I long for those who are sick to be healed.  I long for war to end.  I long for orphans to have homes.  I long for crime to end.  I long for everyone to have the hope and peace that Jesus only can provide.  But for the deepest part of me I am learning (I have so far to go) to embrace the peace  and joy that is given me through Jesus even though my heart is so heavy with the chaos all around.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Redemption of our Loss

Sometimes our biggest loses can become our biggest gains.   Seven years ago today I went in for surgery with the 50/50 chance that they would do a hysterectomy.  I honestly never really thought that would happen.  I thought that God would let me die on that operating table rather than ask me to live a life without my longest and deepest dream of carrying a baby inside me.  But I was wrong.  (and I am so thankful!)

Being married now (going on 2 and  half years) the pain of being barren is greater every day.  You would think it would get better with time - but as I see my friends and younger siblings having babies left and right and as I watch myself grow older I sometimes panic feeling like adoption is too long of a road for us and we're not even to the starting point yet.  

But then I remember the Lord I love with all my heart. 

And I remember that He is the great Redeemer.  His business is taking things that are not right, or useful, or perfect, or beautiful and making them great.  He took the sin of the whole world on His own shoulders and gave us hope and forgiveness - He turns loss into victory every day.  December 15 will never be forgotten for me.  But I want the grief I feel over the loss of being able to bear a child be a reminder of the greatness of the Redeemer I serve.  I want to always remember that God took this loss of mine (and now of my sweet Husband too) and turned it into our great gain.  If God brings us children to call our own on this earth - or finds some other way to use our love for children - I want His name to be praised.  

I know that His redemption of our loss will be beautiful even though I don't know exactly what it will look like yet - and that makes me super excited. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joy Is Like the Rain

At the beautiful memorial service on Sunday for Mrs. S (see previous post) her family sang this song. I had never heard it before so I came home and found this version on Utube and thought I would share. It is a beautiful old song describing joy. Mrs. S had great joy despite great physical suffering and pain. An example we can all learn from as we walk this life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hope and the best chocolate cake ever

As a shy 15 year old I was hesitant to go to my first Sunday School class at our new church.  I was glad that my brother was with me as we walked into the little room.  We were greeted by a sweet lady with snow white hair and a box full of puppets!  Mrs. S (as she told us to call her) had a firm hand and beautiful spirit.   We spend Sunday School hour reading through Proverbs and practicing puppet skits and songs.  Sometimes we would practice puppets on a Saturday and Mrs. S would make sloppy joes and chocolate cake with delicious icing for lunch.  Through the years Mrs. S had a lot of influence on my heart and development into a young lady.  I knew that she suffered from chronic health afflictions, yet she was always ready to ask about how I was doing - the focus was never on herself.   Her deep faith in God through the suffering she endured (which included loss of a leg due to diabetes) was a testimony to everyone who knew her.  As our Pastor's wife the sermon she gave just by how she lived was beautiful.  On our wedding day she was there and I found her in the crowd and we hugged before my Farmer Boy and I took off on our honeymoon (she said it was about time that he married me!)  She said our wedding was the most beautiful she and her husband had ever seen.  I remember the last time they had us over to their house - she baked a delicious poppy seed chicken dish and her house was spotless and decorated so beautifully as always.  I always admired the wonderful housewife she was (she had 7 children just like my mama!)  and the sweet relationship Pastor Dave and Mrs. S had - faithfully married all those years. 

Yesterday morning Mrs. S went to heaven.  My heart is grieved deeply for the loss her family has suffered - she will be greatly missed.  But I am also rejoicing that Mrs. S is seeing our Savior face to face in a place with no more pain where she is whole and healed.   The Bible says that we grieve when someone we love has passed away - but not as those who have no hope. 

I've been thinking a lot about hope lately.  We use the word hope more like a wish: "I hope Santa brings me a new car for Christmas", " I hope I don't catch that cold bug" ... but the Bible uses the word hope much differently.  It is a confident expectation.  A CONFIDENT EXPECTATION.  The confidence is because Jesus Christ (fully God putting on human flesh to save us) came as a baby so many years ago and then died for our sins (and raised from the dead!) so that we might live in heaven with Him forever.  He took away the deep hopelessness of death and replaced it with confidence and joy.  Yes, we grieve.  What I would give to see Mrs. S again.  But we also have hope.  Hope that those who believe will see her again in heaven someday.   Hope does not disappoint. 

I wonder if Mrs. S will be making chocolate cake in heaven - serving others as she always has. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011


My Grammie and Daddy have instilled in me a deep deep love of poetry.  My youngest brother memorized this one and when he recited it I got teary eyed.  The words are so good and so many good character traits to pray for and strive to embody.   It's far too easy for people to make excuses because of their area of suffering whatever it may be - and I want to always fight against that selfish mentality.  Just because someone is in physical pain, or emotional pain, financial suffering, relational problems .. whatever kind of suffering (and everyone has some kind of pain in their life) doesn't mean that they get the "right" to not aim high in life and in character.  There are always going to be different struggles that we all have to overcome, but we can overcome day by day through the grace of God!  Be encouraged and even though it may be hard - it is worth it to reach for a good goal ... I am in the process of memorizing this poem and am through the first section in 2 days!!   The hardest line so far has been: "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting" ... I'm working on that one.


you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;

If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling