the comfort of three

I wear three bracelets on my left wrist and during a quiet time the other day, I was contemplating why I feel so strongly that I need to wear all of them. And I realized that the comfort they offer goes far beyond the habit and the physical sensation of having them there. Each bracelet is different and each represents important, even vital, aspects of my life.
One is a cuff bracelet with the phrase “always in my heart” engraved on it. I’ve worn it every day since I purchased one for myself and both of my daughters after my mother-in-law passed away last November. I’ve come to see it represents not just my mother-in-law and her loving heart, but all those that have come before me. They are the foundation I have built my life on, and without them, I would not be the person I am today.
I also wear a beautiful double strand braided gold chain bracelet that my husband gave me in honor of of our 25th anniversary. In the 11-plus years I’ve been wearing it, it has come to represent the interweaving of our two lives. Each visibly separate, but intricately connected. It is my present, the circle of love that surrounds my daily life.
And “last but not least” is an expandable bracelet with a charm that says “Nana”. I received it as a Mother’s Day gift, and I proudly wear it in honor of my grandchildren and my children as well. Because without my daughters and sons-in-law, I would not have this amazing blessing of being a grandmother. They are the future, not just my future, but the future of the world. I pray that at least a tiny part of my love will live on in them and perhaps be the foundation of their lives…

thrill of hope

I saw a sign for a Christmas service the other day and it’s title resonated with me. It simply said “the thrill of hope”. I have been turning that phrase over and over in my mind – as well as singing O Holy Night! – seeking God’s message for me. Several thoughts have come out of my musings…

We use the word hope so often that it seems to have lost some of it’s power. Hope is a deep wellspring of anticipation for the future, a yearning for better days and better ways. It lives within each of us and waits for us to give it the least bit of encouragement. Picture the stray flower that seems to magically grow out of a sidewalk or driveway. There doesn’t seem to be any source of nourishment, any way the flower could survive, and yet it does. That is hope. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for hope, yet we hope. And that’s the beauty of hope.

The other thought revolved around the idea of a “thrill” of hope. With so many heartbreaking things going on around the world hope seems hard to come by, let alone a thrilling kind of hope. But in this Advent season, we need to remember that the world Jesus was born into was also filled with strife. If God could see a reason to hope for the betterment of human-kind in those days, why is today any different? Just imagine, God trusts us enough to continue to reach out to us, to surround us with love and offer us hope for the future. That’s what I call thrilling.

I wish each of you the thrill of a hope filled Christmas. It may not be the kind of hope that others can see, like the fragment of soil that supports the flower in the sidewalk. But like the flower, may you allow it to nourish you so that you too can blossom and share that thrill of hope.

always in my heart

We lost my mother-in-law last week when God called her home after 93 years. She was an amazing woman, and her deep faith was equalled only in her belief that family was God’s greatest gift. Though feeding everyone would be a very close finisher!

I am blessed to be able to say she taught me many things, but the greatest was the importance of keeping family in my heart and in my prayers. As her health failed and her strength waned, she wasn’t able to cook for her family as she would have liked. But as she reminded me, she could pray. And pray she did. She trusted that God would hear and understand, no matter how she prayed.

My prayer is that as my children and grandchildren grow I can share that same message with them. That I love them no matter what, and that a deep and trusting faith in God will help them face every challenge.

To that end, I recently purchased bracelets for my daughters and myself that say “always in my heart”. Not so much as a reminder that we have Mem in our hearts, but that we were always in her heart – right up to the very end. I wear mine all the time and every time I look at it, I thank God for the great gifts gifts God has given me – a deep faith, a loving husband, two amazing daughters, two wonderful sons-in-law, three precious grandchildren, and of course the generations that have come before and laid the groundwork for our family.

I pray they never forget that they are always in my heart…

empty corners…

Our house is a littler emptier today, a little quiter, a little neater and it breaks my heart.
The last of our feline “children” (fur babies a friend calls them) left us today. And while I know he is now happy and healthy and playing with his “brother” and “sister” who had gone to heaven before him, it still hurts.
For the first time in 18 plus years, there’s an empty corner in the bathroom where the litter box used to sit.
And the corner by the pantry is empty since we no longer have a water bowl there (or the tray we needed underneath it because he loved to splash in the water before he drank!).
The corner by the fridge? That’s empty too. No more food dishes, no more treats to try to tempt him in his old age, as his appetite failed and he lost weight.
No more warm furry body tucked next to me in the corner of the chair. No more meows to communicate his desires. No more loud purrs resonating with comfort and contentment.
When I look at those empty corners, one last empty corner begins to ache. The corner of my heart that was his from the time he came home to us, a small black ball of fur, a corner that will always be his. Empty now except for cherished memories of a life well lived and loved.
The corners in my house may look empty to the eye, but if I look with my heart, I can see them all. The brown tabby, the calico and the black – all loved, all cherished, all greatly missed. And the empty corners of my heart are comforted.

the answer

It’s been said that you shouldn’t ask a question unless you already know the answer. Perhaps it should be that once you know the right answer, the questions really don’t matter as much. There is a song written by Shane Barnard, The Answer, inspired in part by Ephesians 1:5-6. It contains this compelling line… “I have found the answer is to love You and be loved by You”. What if we accepted that as the answer to all our questions? What if when we are stressed or worried and asking, “What do I do now?” we answer ourselves – “Love God”. When we’re scared and uncertain of the future, asking, “What will happen to me?” – we answer, “Be loved by God”. What if we let go of our worries and fears and just trust in God’s love. Time after time, we see examples of how well that works, but to do it all the time, in all circumstances? Even for the more laid-back, go-with-the-flow people that’s quite an undertaking, but for the individualists and control freaks among us it’s a major challenge.

Perhaps this Lenten Season rather than giving something up, we could take something on – learning to trust that God’s love truly is the answer…

one small thing

We are called to share our time – to share God’s love, to offer His comfort and peace.

“The smallest things can change our lives –

one hand reaching out to another…

one prayer whispered in faith…

one moment that shines in His presence.”

Anonymous

One small thing, one prayer, one moment. Not everything, not all our time. Each small act can have a profound effect when done with love. What one small thing can you do today?

I see the moon…

Driving to work before sunrise this morning, I saw a beautiful full moon playing hide and seek from behind layers of streaky clouds. At times it was in full view, glowing brightly in a blue-black sky. And at other times it was almost completely hidden from sight. The times it was hidden from view did nothing to diminish it’s beauty when I next caught a glimpse of it. If anything, the moon seemed a little brighter, a little more beautiful each time I saw it. I was so taken with the sight, it was hard to focus on driving. I would much rather have pulled over to the side of the road and just watched the moon, but work has to come first.
As I continued on my way, the twists and turns in the road allowed me occasional glimpses of the moon. As I drove, I noticed how at times, whether due to the clouds or the turns of my route, the moon was completely out of sight. Yet at other times, it seemed as if I was driving straight toward it.
It occurred to me that this drive was a perfect analogy for God’s presence in our lives. Whether – like the clouds – life seems to get in the way, or – like the twists and turns of the road – the choices we make lead us away from God’s path, sometimes the light of God’s love is obscured. But like the moon, God is always there.
As children, we’re taught that the moon is always there, Whether we see all the glory of the full moon or only the merest shadow of a new moon, we accept that the moon does not ever go away. Cloudy nights do not make us doubt the moon’s existence, neither do the cycles that cause the moon to gradually fade from sight or the times that our journeys call us to move away from the light of the moon.
Yet, when we face difficulties in life, whether like the clouds they are beyond our control – illness, injury, the loss of a loved one, unemployment – or like the twists in the road, when we make choices that turn us away from God – rudeness, selfishness, unkindness – many people are so quick to say that they can’t see God in these circumstances so God cannot exist.
But, like the moon, God is always there, willing to shine His love to light our way. It seems when we find this light blocked, we become so focused on the darkness in our lives it becomes harder and harder to find the way to God’s light.
Perhaps we can learn to trust that the light is available to us if we will just take our focus off the darkness. If we can give that darkness to God, the clouds will clear and we can see God in our circumstances. And like the moon, God will be able to shine brightly in our lives during the good times and the bad.