Friday, November 30, 2012

'Tis the Season . . . Right?

I have a confession to make: I'm not a big fan of the holiday season. I know . . . you are shocked! "How can you possibly feel that way?" you ask.

I grew up in a large family and Thanksgiving and Christmas was huge! We had lots of family around, especially as we four girls got married and began having children. All of us would at one time or another gather at Mom and Dad's house for food and presents. There was a lot of noise, a lot of really good food and the occasional annoyance from one or more people. But that's family, right?

Twenty three years ago, my husband and I left the family fold and moved from Texas to Washington. The holidays became more difficult because our families were in Texas and we were here all alone. But we tried hard to make our own memories with our family as it grew.

Here's another part of the problem . . . I live in the Northwest. Winter is long . . . dark . . . gloomy . . . wet . . . and did I mention long? I get so tired of the dreariness and the rain. Did I mention it is dark? The sun doesn't rise until almost 7:30 am and it is dark by 4:30 pm. I have a childhood friend who lives near Fairbanks, Alaska and I have no idea how she survives! Betty, how do you do it?

This is our twenty-third Christmas season in the Northwest. You would think I would have adjusted by now. However, between the lack of family, the dreary weather, and often limited finances, I have come to dread the holidays. Add to that family members recently lost, and I'm having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.

The other day I was in the car running errands and all of the radio stations are playing Christmas music already. As I listened to the words of a familiar Christmas carol, I realized there is much more I could be focusing on rather than what I do not have; because frankly, I have much more to be grateful for than I have to wish for.

So this is my plan - no, this is my goal: I'm going to spend the month of December focusing on the Scriptures and songs that speak of the promised Messiah and the birth of Jesus. The angels, the wise men, Joseph and Mary . . . what were they thinking, feeling? How did they react to the revelation that Messiah had come?

Perhaps as I focus on the promise it will help me adjust to the loss . . . and I prayerfully hope that it speaks to you as well.

'Tis the season . . . right?


"For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10b, 11

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Heart is Steadfast . . .

"My heart is steadfast, O God, 
my heart is steadfast!"
Psalm 57:7

Debbi, Margie, Annette, 'Lena
c. 1962
If you read my last post, you are aware that my sister, Annette, passed away two weeks ago. I have just returned from Texas where we said our final goodbyes to her, this side of Heaven. My eldest sister, Debbi, shared her thoughts this morning in Another Empty Chair. This time last year we were missing our Mom and Aunt who had died earlier in the year due to a car accident. We were just adjusting to their loss, and here we have another. 

As Debbi said, we would not call her back for anything! She is pain free, healed and whole, dancing in the streets of Heaven. But our hearts are heavy. There are many who miss her.

This morning as I began to get busy with preparing for Thanksgiving at my home, I opened up my computer and began to read all the "thankful" posts on Facebook. It's not that I don't have much to be thankful for, because I do. I do not take for granted my husband, Mark, who I have been married to for almost 30 years, my children and other family members, friends who have been the lifter of my hands when I am to weak to continue, and my God who is faithful beyond measure. But my heart was heavy this morning. And as I read those comments on Facebook, I began to feel ungrateful.

But just moments later, I was reminded of Psalm 57:7. If you read the verses before, the writer is in desperate circumstances. He is being pursued by an enemy, surrounded by ravenous beasts, with traps all around him, waiting for him to fall prey to one of them. But then the writer says, 

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!"

The word steadfast literally means "fixed in place",and indicates undeviating constancy. As I pondered this verse, I realized the Lord Himself is steadfast:

The faithfulness of the Lord, 
the love of the Lord, 
the grace of the Lord, 
the mercy of the Lord, 
the  Lord Himself is . . . 

God is constant 
He is consistent
He never wavers
He never deviates
From who or what He is . . .

I was created in His image; 
His Spirit dwells in me. 
It is up to me to be faithful, 
to show His love to others, 
to extend mercy and grace, 
and to be . . .

So, in the midst of grief, sorrow and loss; 
in the midst of trials and tribulations, 
in the midst of whatever I have to face tomorrow . . .

My heart is steadfast!

The writer of Psalm 57 concludes with:

"For Your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds."
Psalm 57:10 (ESV)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Dance Has Begun...

My prayer had been the same for quite some time. 
I gave Him two options in my request. 
And in my heart, I believed either option to be good.
To be acceptable.
To be a relief...

"Father, either heal her,
Or take her home to be with You."

Sunday, He answered my prayer.

I'm not sure what I expected...
It wasn't the relief I thought I would feel.
The air was sucked out of me.
And left a big hole in my heart.

I wouldn't bring her back for anything.
I could never be that selfish.
But, we didn't get to finish our conversation.
I still had more to say...

She is free of pain
She is free of tears
She is free of the limitations of this world.
"Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance!!"

And Jesus said, "May I have this dance?"

And the dance has begun . . .

Annette Brown Simmons
January 11, 1955 ~~ November 11, 2012 
I love you, sis!

"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."
Revelation 21:4