Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Angels Among Us

Confession time. I used to listen to country and western music. A lot.

Oh, and I also had a fascination with the pop rock band Roxette. Their concert was my very first. I felt so grown up. (I was only in grade 8 .... with my friend and without my parents .... can you imagine!???) If you can still sing the words to The Look or Joyride we would probably get along very well :). Oh mercy, ain't that some hair!!!

But back to C&W music for a moment. Alabama used to sing a song called "Angels Among Us." Doesn't that sound nice :)? And the other morning, when we ventured out of our house in between plummeting wind chills and snow storms (we had 3 different storms in 2 days, which doesn't make for great winter driving!) it's the first song that came to mind.

It's hard to tell, because the skies were very cloudy and lighting wasn't great, but someone visited our driveway, and in the freshly fallen snow, had left us a whole choir of angels!

As we tiptoed through the imprints, trying so hard not to disturb them (though you will notice one or two sliced in half because of tire tracks and Jon having to leave for school!!), I thought of all the encouragers God places in our life. In my life. I grew up in a very small community, and it was probably a little easier to hear gossip than grace, criticism rather than compliments. Maybe this wasn't the case. Maybe people were more open and affirming and positive than I remember.

In fact, I can remember when I was one of those critical people. And I recall distinctly when I was held accountable for it. I was in high school, sitting in the gym at lunch time. There were a few of us girls sitting around watching volleyball inter murals I believe. (I played volleyball. I also did not play volleyball very well!!!!) In jest, I was making critical remarks about some people on the court. Some of the girls were laughing. And that encouraged me to keep making remarks. I don't think they were cruel words, but certainly not edifying. Gossip over grace is what generated the laugh. Until one girl spoke up to me. Stood up to my words. "Wow. You are a really negative person, aren't you?" I was stunned. In general I thought I was a pretty POSITIVE person. "Negative" fit in the same category as "angry" or "direct", and as a "christian" I thought I wasn't supposed to be those things. Act that way.

Her words caught me off guard. I'm pretty sure she was just super-annoyed with me and spoke up, and had no idea that, even to this day, her words would continue to teach me.

Like hours, breaths, dollars, moments --- we have a certain amount of words, actions, prayers that we will be able to fit into our day.
Are my words seasoned with grace?
Are my actions encouraging?
Are my prayers edifying?

There are "angels" in my life that God has used to encourage me over and over again. Honest answers (even when they are tough ones). Surprise notes in the mail. Treasured affirmations. Angel wings in my driveway.
He has used people that are regularly part of my life.
And He has used people that have no clue how much they have forever influenced me.
God is so good. :)

And hopefully, I can share this goodness with others as well.
If gossip over grace generated the laugh in the moment, it's
"...grace that has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home." ~ Amazing Grace

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When in doubt, begin again!

Breathe in, breathe out ---- and welcome to a new year.... a new start.... a new day.

If you promise not to laugh {and even if you don't, I guess!} I will tell you how I celebrated the start to a "new year."
I sat at my kitchen table....
probably with a cup of tea {Jon got me started on loose leaf tea this Christmas, and it is DE-LISH!} my calendar. I am that cool!!

In my defence :) --- we had just returned from a two-night stay in Fargo ON Dec 31, which turned out to be so very restful. Apparently we don't do this very often, and when the Border Crossing Guard guy asked us why, Jon chuckled and said, "because.... we have kids" :). It's not that we don't enjoy a Grand Adventure with our girls - we've had quite a few, actually. But, in the ebb and flow of life, sometimes it feels like it requires so much more energy to spend a day packing every one up and a day cleaning every one up just to enjoy a day away. {And, I confess, we do a bit of camping in the summer, and that also gives us that get-a-way fix!} But this was SO worth it, and we will do it again.

However, it also meant that we didn't have company .... or go away .... or create a fancy home-meal .... or anything "out of the ordinary" for "New Years Eve." Unless, I guess, you count vegetables. Upon returning from our little Family Vacation, L begged me, "Mommmmy, PROMISE ME you'll make vegetables for supper!!" She was tired of restaurant food, no matter how yummy it seems to be! I gave her LOTS of vegetables for supper ;).

There are many ways to celebrate that fresh start. Parties, friends, family.... or quiet.
A quiet reflection on God's faithfulness this past year. There have been countless evidences of His grace. Thousands of mercies, and fresh starts each day. A zillion times I have fallen, and even more times when He has helped me to my feet again.

A moment to look through the calendar and marvel at all that has happened.
The good (the week we decided to build a brand new house!)...
the bad (difficult doctor appointments, challenging development appointments)...
and the downright ugly (family who required emergency trips to the hospital, those seasons of fatigue when everything feels heavy and tough).

A chance to sit in the quiet, enjoying the lull after a full-of-life season, and take in a deep breath. There are many good things on the horizon.
Our house is scheduled to be finished sometime this spring (March/April).
We will say good bye to this beloved place, and embrace God's n.e.x.t. for us.
There is rhythm and routine on the horizon, something I always enjoy.
There will be times with family and friends, the diversity of seasons of life and the solitude of home-life.
There will be adventures and a lot of laughter, and growth and all those wonderful things.

But it's also a time to take a deep breath for those difficult things too.
This past year we discovered that K has epilepsy. A life-challenging diagnosis that will keep us searching and working toward health and well-being for quite some time.
This year we will say good-bye to our beloved neighbourhood. And even though we'll be in the same town, there will be things that will change. It's been so easy to have kids run back and forth, sharing sunny afternoons and cloudy mornings together. Out of our three girlies, this will affect K the most. I'm nervous about this transition for her.

Starting a new year is like starting a new journal. You never know what mercy, what love, what uphill battle scars will spill across those pages. It's thrilling and challenging and altogether full of life.

Words of wisdom for a new year...
Colossians 3:23, 24:

"Whatever you do, 
work at it with all your heart, 
as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. 
It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Welcome to a brand new day!


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