Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Making Way for the New

"Behold, I make all things new..."
Revelation 21:5

My sister, Debbie, and I have come to the conclusion that we both have a severe change disorder.
We have such a hard time with it...even the smallest changes.  
We talk about it and laugh about it, but I feel sure it is true.  :)

(By the way, Anne, per our conversation in Walmart the other day,
this post is for you, sweet friend!)

In April of 1988, a couple of months after Kevin and I became engaged,
I moved into the apartment that would soon become our first married home together.
Kevin's parents decided they would buy our first living room set as a wedding gift for us.
Since I was already living there, they went ahead and made the purchase and had it delivered.

We were thrilled.
It was so beautiful.
Such good-quality.
So appreciated by us.

We wouldn't have been able to afford such nice furniture on our own,
and we were very grateful to Mom and Dad Smith for their kindness and love.

I loved that furniture.....
so much so that every time Kevin mentioned getting something new,
I resisted.

Every, single time.
Bless his heart, he would make comments like.....
"I'd love to get a sofa with recliners"
"This furniture is on its last leg" amongst other things,
but it didn't matter.
It was all to no avail.

I would politely listen....then I would smile and say something like, 
"Well, honey, we'll be all right.
We don't really need new furniture.
This furniture still has good bones.
We can make do with it...for just a while longer."

Truth be told, I would have liked new furniture, too...at times.
But, the thought of letting our furniture go....
the thought of bringing a whole different dynamic into our living room....
the thought of changing things....
well, it would prove to be a bit too much,
and rather than take the plunge and get something new,
(and much to Kevin's dismay),
I would talk myself right out of the thought.

I just couldn't bear the parting,
so, in the end, we would just stop talking about it and move on to something else.

We have had so many memories that revolved around that furniture.
Beloved get-togethers with friends,
cherished moments with family,
Christmas Eves spent on the floor in front of it opening gifts,
and even church services have been enjoyed by those sitting on those cushions.

After Kevin and I got married in June 1988,
my dear friend Wanda continued to attend the Bible College in our town.
She and other friends would come over and visit sometimes, and, of course,
we would sit on that furniture together.....
laughing, having fun, sharing moments.

A few years ago, Wanda and her husband came to visit us from Virginia,
and as we sat there...she on one end, me on the other end of the couch,
she looked at me and asked,
"Cheryl, is this the same furniture y'all had when you first got married?"

Ahem...."Wellllllll, yes, Wanda, as a matter of fact, it is".

We laughed and laughed.

Does anyone on earth keep their living room furniture for nearly 26 years?
Did we set a world record?

The straw that broke the camel's back was when Kevin found out 
Uncle Orville and Aunt Joyce
were planning to sell their furniture before they moved away.

I had promised Uncle Orville I would advertise it for him on our home school classified loop.
It was a great package deal, and surely someone out there would snatch it up.

I was just about to head to the computer to type the listing and send it out to the loop,
when I told Kevin about it.
He stopped me, by saying, 
"Honey, we really need that furniture.
Another year, and we will be sitting on the floor."

"Oh, no, it's okay.  We can make do with what we have.
Can't we?"

"Well, that is a really great deal, and you know how well-taken-care of that furniture is.
It is top-of-the-line, quality furniture.
It looks brand new.
We need to go ahead and get it."

"I know, but I'm satisfied with what we have.
Ours will hold up a while longer, don't you think?"

"But, I want to get this for you.
Let's just go ahead."

Bless his dear, kind, loving heart, Kevin looked so hopeful...
waiting for my response.

Still resistant, still not wanting to make any changes,
I sat and contemplated his words.
I've always been an "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it" kind of girl.
I don't like to spend money unnecessarily...
I'm not into blowing it, that's for sure, it's always been way too hard to come by,
and I sure don't care about being trendy or worry any about whether or not our furniture is in style.

We dropped the subject for a little while, as Zach and I started school.

Soon, I heard Kevin walking towards us.
I looked up to see him holding a couch cushion in his hand....
a cushion that was near to disintegrating...I suppose I must add.  :)

"Do you still say that we don't need new furniture?"
he asked, while showing me the ripped-up upholstery.

Ummmm.....well.....I had managed to hide that part of that cushion.
Very well, I might add.
I just always made sure it was facing the back.
I didn't see it as that big of a deal.

"Well, no, it's okay.  It isn't that bad."

How much company do we really get anyway?
And those who do come to see us love us in spite of such frivolous things.
They could care less how new....or old....our furniture is.
They don't judge us, and it just isn't the slightest issue.

Dear Kevin.
He walked away in frustration, 
shaking his head,
laughing at my silliness....and stubbornness.

The other day, Zach was sitting on the love seat and heard a big ripping sound.
The whole bottom portion had torn loose from the back of the love seat!


I looked at Kevin.
Kevin looked at me.

"Okay", still reluctant, I answered.
I finally caved....
for Kevin's sake.
Much to his enormous relief, I finally relented and said, "Yes!"
I overcame the separation anxiety,
and we bought the furniture.

It now sits in our living room, computer room, and office/school room.

It looks so nice.

Through the years, I have come to appreciate....and trust Kevin's wisdom.
He looks at the big picture.
He is unaffected by sentimentality....
especially, if it is standing in the way of doing what is best.
So, even though I may resist some at first,
I have learned to set aside my whims and just trust him and what he thinks is best.

We did the right thing.

Now, what to do with the old furniture?
Surely, someone who has no couch and love seat at all
would still be able to use it and find it purposeful.

I called our friends at the church next door to see if they knew anyone who would be interested.
They have visited us in our home, and they were familiar 
with our furniture and the fact that it is clean, even if it is a bit dilapidated.  :)

Yesterday, I stood in our driveway and watched it go away...
on the back of a trailer pulled by one of their pick-up trucks.
Sure enough, they found someone who really needed it
and who will give it a new home.

As we stood there and they loaded it,
I told them the story...and how old it is.

"It sure don't look that old", one of the guys said.
He didn't seem to share our opinion of it being so bad off, after all.

"It probably won't last whoever is taking it for 26 years,
but maybe they can get at least some use out of it",
I said, laughing.

One man's junk is another man's treasure.
To someone sitting on the floor, this furniture will be a blessing.

Before they arrived to pick it up,
I took some pictures.....
not that I could ever forget what it looked like,
having looked at it for nearly 26 years!

In all honesty, I could have been content with our dear, old furniture from now on.
I just didn't see the need of getting anything else.
But, I'll admit that it is kind of nice having something "new"....
well, at least new to us!
And since I know the history of this furniture,
and since we have sat on it so many times at Uncle Orville & Aunt Joyce's house,
it felt like it was our own and familiar right away.

Thinking about our furniture dilemma and situation makes me wonder about other things.
I wonder how many times my "change disorder" has kept me from enjoying
other blessings God has wanted to bestow?
What other "new" things have I missed out on through the years,
simply because I did not want to part with the old?
Why am I so opposed to what is different?
Why is it so hard for me to accept change?

Maybe it stems from my childhood, all of the moving we did,
and me never feeling like I really belonged anywhere.
Maybe it is because I never really felt like anything was "permanent".
Perhaps I determined within myself that once I got older and on my own,
I would make sure and certain there were as few changes in my life as possible.
That I would do whatever it took to keep things "the same"...
at least those things that are within my control.
Maybe holding on to that furniture all those years 
helped to fulfill my need for continuity and consistency.

There have been times in my life that I know without a doubt
that I have closed my heart to what may have been really good for me,
simply because it was easier to stay in the rut I was in (regardless how miserable it was),
than to step into something unfamiliar and do something that required change.

Even the word "change" causes my stomach to churn, my pulse to quicken,
and anxiety to kick in to full speed.

This is an area that really requires trust on my part.
Because allowing change to enter my little realm of existence means letting go of what I have tried...
letting go of what is known to me....
letting go of what I am used to.
That is not comfortable for me.

There are people who crave adventure....
who rely on continual change to keep them enthused about life....
who need constant movement to stay motivated.

I am obviously not one of those people.
I prefer to find a comfortable niche and dig a really deep rut there
and just settle in....indefinitely.  :)

That isn't always the best thing for my own well-being.

So, God is faithful.
He comes along, when it is time, and He shakes the nest.
He troubles the waters.
He stirs a slight restlessness.
It starts out very subtle...very gentle....barely recognizable.
Then, over time, He allows it to increase and become more pronounced.
Until finally, I realize He is wanting me to do something different...
than what is familiar and comfortable and easy on the flesh.

The sad thing about my resistance to these times is that when God does this,
it is always because He has something better for me.
He has something new to give.
He has prepared greener pastures that are fresh and full of nutrients and spiritual benefit.
He knows that to leave me for too long grazing upon the pastures
where I long to stay is unwise....and unhealthy.

Shepherds know this.
Over time, over-used pasture becomes infected with parasites and can be a health risk for the sheep.
So, they are always alert and on the look out and ready to move when it is time.
The sheep must be willing to be led...
if they refuse and stay behind, they will die from malnutrition.
Stubborn sheep are handled with the staff and the rod.

Looking back over my life, I see many such moments.
Every time my Shepherd had something better in mind for me,
He had to first deal with my stubborn unwillingness and aversion to change.

I must seem like a handful to God...
with all of my issues, idiosyncrasies, and hang-ups.
He must shake His head, in total frustration sometimes.
When He wants so badly to give me something better...
when He holds something brand new and beautiful in His hands...
when He longs to place it in my life and see me enjoy it to the fullest....
and all the while I fight Him with all my might
and keep digging in my stubborn heels telling Him "no"....
just because I do not like change.

Thankfully, Abraham did not share my problem.
God called him forth to leave everything familiar,
and here's the worst part....
he didn't even know where he was going!
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram,
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house,
unto a land that I will shew thee..."
Genesis 12:1
God had no intention of telling Abraham where he was going when he started out.
He had no Bible to read and study and investigate God's track record.
He only knew God for himself, and yet, his faith was unwavering.

God said, "Go", and he went,
totally and completely reliant upon sheer faith.
Had he stayed behind and settled deeper into his comfort zone,
he would have missed completely out on all God had prepared for him.
He would have stayed right there in his hometown of Haran,
and he would have never known the great fulfillment that comes in accepting what God offers,
no matter how unfamiliar, untested, and uncomfortable the path to get there.

God doesn't always show us or tell us where He is leading us when He calls us to a particular path.
He knows that we would, many times, become overwhelmed, and never take the first step.
He doesn't always reveal the gift He holds in His hands for us,
until we make a firm decision to let go of fear, turn loose of the familiar, and accept it from Him.

Sometimes, He requires that we take that first blind leap of faith...
just like Abraham did....
not knowing where his foot would land.

After we make the choice to let go and let God,
we are pleasantly surprised and overcome with gratitude to Him
for the exchanges He makes.
He takes our old, and He give us His new.
Whatever He bestows is always better than what we had
and were so bound and determined to hold on to.

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.
Author Unknown

Change is never easy...at least not for some of us.
I suppose some thrive on it.
I say, good for them!
They are way more brave and courageous than me.  :)

Have I missed our old furniture?
Not really.
Because something "new" and exciting...
and better....
has taken its place.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom...We Miss You!!

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: 
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; 
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Isaiah 43:2

I knew it was coming...I just tried to ignore it.
Then, I opened our email, and there it was....another reminder from birthday alarm....
sitting in our inbox.
"Send a greeting card to Mom for her birthday...", it said.

Our sweet, beautiful Mom
(I miss that mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes...
among so many other things.)

I let it sit here...in our inbox....for days.
Somehow, having it sit here helped me pretend that she is still here.
That I can buy her a card....and present.
That I can take her out to eat to one of her favorite restaurants....
and/or cook one of her favorite meals.
That she, Zach, and I can take a long drive together, 
like she enjoyed doing so much.
That I can bake her favorite kind of cake for her
and invite Debbie, LD, Mark, and whatever other family is around over,
so we can celebrate together.....
as we have so many times before.
Thinking about it makes me recall so many, many happy memories.

"Precious memories, how they linger!
How they ever flood my soul!
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious, sacred scenes unfold!"
(Written by J.B.F. Wright)

She has gotten two things in the mail here at our house,
over the past couple of weeks, reminding us of her upcoming birthday.
Each time I see her name on the envelope, I stop in my tracks,
tears fill my eyes, and I miss her so much that my heart breaks all over again.

It is impossible to believe that it has been nearly two years...
since I stood there and watched them close the lid over that precious face.
The face that first peered into mine....terrified and crying for all I was worth
after just exiting a safe place to enter such a cruel, cold world.
The face that looked concerned when I was upset or hurt,
that tears streamed down during times of grief and loss,
that smiles covered when something made her laugh.

Sometimes, I feel a sudden sense of panic that I am forgetting what she looked like...
that I wouldn't recognize her voice, should I have the sweet opportunity of hearing it again,
that I could think of nothing to say, if we had the chance to talk.

If Mom were here today....
I would do my utmost to show her the happiest 86th birthday possible.
In addition to her cake, I would make sure there were candles
and birthday plates, cups, and napkins...
and the special birthday tablecloth would be on the table for everyone to sign.
We would sing to her and try to make her feel as special as she deserves to be made to feel.
I would make sure she was comfortable and had what she needed.
And I would tell her over and over and over again how very much I love her.

Did I tell her enough?

I told her...a lot.
Nearly every day of my life.
I showed her...as much as I possibly could.
But, did she really know?
Did she realize how very important she was to me?
Did she comprehend the depth of my concern for her?

I can only hope that she did.
I can do nothing for her now.
The very best care and treatment I could ever give her or provide
would fall so hopelessly short of the kindness with which she is now being treated.
There are no sweeter, more loving, compassionate arms with which to enfold her
than the arms that will hold her for eternity.

If I could somehow get a phone call through...to Heaven....
to Mom today, on her 86th birthday, this is what I would say.

It is so good to hear your voice again!
I miss you.
Every, single day.
I sometimes feel like I won't be able to go on without you.
I am doing what you told me to...remember?
That night in your apartment..as I paced the floor in front of you,
while we waited for the ambulance to arrive?
You told me you didn't think you would make it through that time.
It turned out, you were right, Mom...you didn't.
You told me to stay encouraged and to keep the faith.
And remember that day in ICU?
You had the bi-pap machine forcing air into your lungs.
You were trying so hard to tell me something.
The nurse took it off long enough for me to bend close to your face, so I could hear.
Keep pressing on, you said.
I have, I am, and I will, by God's grace.
There have been moments I have felt the urge to give up.
A lot has happened since you left us.
Unexpected changes have come...both good and bad.
But, through it all, I have not let go.
I know that in order to ever see you again, I must hold fast,
and I must press on.
Your fight is over.
You have won your crown.
No one has ever deserved it more!
I can just picture it...in all its glory...resting on your head.
My fight continues.
I am bound and determined, by God's grace, to finish my race with victory,
and to finish strong....just like you did.
How I miss your prayers!
Oh, the times I have wanted to pick up the phone and call you!
Oh, the times I have needed you, Mom!
Just to tell me it is going to be okay...
just to encourage me in your sweet, motherly, firm way 
to help me snap out of whatever doldrums I was in.....
to hear you quote Scripture to me!
Oh, I miss that!
More than I ever thought I would.
I miss our talks, our car rides, our trips down south, our prayers together.  
YOU were the best mother a girl could ever ask or hope for, Mom.
You were not only my mother....you were my dear, precious, cherished friend.
Will I ever stop missing you?
I have been so sick...fighting things you didn't know about...
and new things that have developed....since you were here.
Those are the times I miss your prayers the most.
I have even cried out to you...begging you to pray for me....there in Heaven.
You must be so close to His throne!
Oh, the glory!
The wonder!
I can only imagine!
What did you do, Mom?
When you first saw HIS face?
How did you react?
Remember your favorite song, When I Bow At His Feet?
What was it like????
The very first time??
Oh, how I wish you could tell me!
Do you talk to Him?
Or do you just rest?
Do you think of us...down here?
Or would that bring you too much pain?
Have you seen Dad?
And Papaw?
And Mimmie?
And other loved ones?
And all of those old-time saints you used to talk about so much?
How does it feel to be rid of that walker?
And to be out of that pain???
And to never cry?
And to never have to worry...about us....or anything......ever again?
What does it look like, Mom?
What does HE look like?
Does He still have marks and scars from the nails?
Is that how you first recognized Him?
Or did you just know?
Is He the One Who carried you over....as you left us there in that dismal, depressing hospital room?
Who came for you?
Do you and Dad sing together?
Are you looking for me?
Oh, Mom, there is so much I want to say!
The main thing I want you to know is that I love you, Mom....
more than human words could ever convey....
with more love than my earthly heart could ever hold.
And one day, I will meet you there, Mom.
I promise, by God's grace, I will get there.
Then, we will never part again."

Our family circle broke in two when our precious Mom was called away.
Sometimes, I feel so lost without her link.
She was like the glue that held us together.
And though our family get-togethers are still beyond precious to me,
they will never be the same without Mom.

Her love for all of us,
her deep concern,
her kindness,
most of all, her prayers...
are things we will all miss for the rest of our lives.

If you still have your Mom...and/or Dad...why not pick up the phone and give them a call?
Why not drop by for a visit, if they live close by, or make plans to go see them, if they don't?
Why not tell them how much they mean to you and how happy you are to still have them in your life?

Unfortunately, there are no phones in Heaven.
And once our loved ones cross over to the other side,
we must wait until eternity to speak with them again.

So, if there are words that need to be said, why not say them now?
While they are still here,
while they can still hear,
and while you can still bless them with your words?

Why do we procrastinate in these matters?
Always thinking there will be a more convenient time.
Sometimes, there just aren't any more....
opportunities...chances....moments of life.

If there is something between you and your loved one,
why not forgive and let go of the past?
Don't let another day go by without mending fences and relationships.
It just isn't worth the risk.

Regret is a heavy, but unnecessary burden.
If your loved ones are still around you,
you still have time and opportunity to do the right thing...
to prevent those nagging, life-draining regrets.

I will more than likely miss my parents for the rest of my life.
But, knowing I did all I could for them while they were here,
makes the grief a tad bit easier to bear.
I can't imagine having the sting of regret added to my already-overwhelming sense of grief.

I thank God for every one of Mom's birthdays that He allowed me to spend with her.
45 of them, in all.
I was blessed to keep her in my life a lot longer than a lot of people are blessed to keep their mothers.
I am eternally grateful for every moment He allowed us to share.

To anyone who grieves, I offer you my deepest condolences.
I know how you feel.
But, more than I know, Jesus knows.
He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
I encourage you to turn to Him...in those heart-wrenching moments that are flooded with anguish...
those times when you feel you will succumb to the pain....
call on Him.

He will be there every time.
He will hold you...and console you...and comfort you,
as no other can.
Trust me on this one.
I know.

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up."
Psalm 27:10

"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you..."
Isaiah 66:13

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him."
Psalm 103:13

Happy Birthday, dear, precious Mom!
You meant more to us than we could ever put into words,
and we all miss you more than you will ever know.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Rod and the Staff

"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him:
For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."

Hebrews 12:5,6

I am so thankful for all God has done for me...
for the healing power He has applied to my body...
for the peace He has placed within my soul.
And though I am still battling afflictions,
I am so grateful to be healed of the pneumonia.
I want to give Him all the praise, for He deserves it!

Yesterday, as I was eating out with Kevin and Zach, I had to reach into my purse for something.
As I looked down, 
my eyes fell upon the inhaler that had become my companion during the siege of pneumonia.
For such a long period, I had to know where that thing was at all times.
I would keep it close to my recliner, within reach,
so I could snatch it up and use it when I needed to.
If I went out, the inhaler was in my purse.
 As I sat there yesterday, the dear Lord stopped me in my tracks,
and His gentle voice reminded me that I have not had to use that inhaler for many days now.
I mentioned it to Kevin and Zach, and we all rejoiced.

God has brought me so far from where I was just a few weeks ago!
Truly, you would have had to hear me breathe to understand the effort it required.
God is a mighty God, Who is worthy of all of my praise....
all of my adoration....
all of my love....
all of my worship....
all of me.

He has taught me SO much through this trial.
Lessons precious and dear to my heart!
My perspective has changed.
I have prayed for it...begged Him to renew my mind in certain areas,
because I did not know how to change myself.
I do not have the power to renew my mind or rearrange my own way of thinking.
Only He, as my Creator, can do that.

Many times, the process He chooses to correct us involves suffering.
The classroom He places us in is not always one that is pleasant.
The lesson, not our comfort, is what matters.

If I could have chosen, I would never have walked into this trial, in the first place.
If I had to go through it, I would surely have preferred that it didn't last so long.
And if I had my way, I would be healed completely....right now...without further delay.

God chastens His children, because it is necessary.
If we are ever to make Heaven our home, we must be made holy...
and pure....and dross-free, like Him.
Not that I am insinuating that all sickness comes as a form of chastisement or correction.
I just find, on a personal level, that there are always lessons in it for me.

God loves us with an everlasting love.
He loves us enough to do what is needful to correct our errant behavior.
How precious that He always sends His staff, along with His rod!
The rod for correction, the staff for direction.

He never chastens us without explaining the reason for the chastisement...
if we will be still long enough and listen.
If we will keep an open mind and heart,
He will faithfully reveal the purpose behind our correction.

If He didn't, it would be like us disciplining one of our children,
yet, never telling them what they did wrong.
What good would that do?
They would never learn, and we would be failing them miserably.

After all, the whole point of correction is to re-direct and get us back on the right track.

Today, I just want to praise Him for the chastening.
I praise Him for the affliction.
Yes, I even praise Him for what I am still going through.
Because I can see it is working a good work in me.
It is in the process of yielding something valuable.
I know there are still lessons He longs to teach.
So, I remain here, yielded and still...expectant and heart-wide-open.

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: 
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness 
unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11

We must be willing to allow ourselves to be exercised by our chastenings.
We must lean into the lessons and accept God's choices and methods of teaching.
Otherwise, the desired outcome of fruit will never materialize.

I praise Him for the peaceable fruit of righteousness that I can already see
budding and blooming and springing forth....
resulting from what I first perceived as so grievous.

God is worthy.
He answers prayer.
He is faithful.
He never leaves His throne, and He never loses control.
He loves us enough to correct and discipline us,
just as a father chastens his children from a heart of love.
Fathers know that without correction,
children will never realize or recognize inward tendencies that hold the potential
of becoming problematic and causing them to stray.

Whenever Dad used to correct me, as a child,
he would tell me the story about a twig.
He said if you didn't straighten it while it was still little, pliable, and flexible,
it would grow to be a crooked tree.
He said you couldn't change it or correct it later on.

That lesson always stuck with me.

Recently, Zachary and I were returning home from a field trip,
when I had to stop the car, turn around, go back, and take a closer look and pictures of this tree.
It stretched out and cast its shadow upon the road which we traveled.

Obviously, it was never straightened when it was a twig.
It has grown and flourished and now it is several feet tall.
And it is crooked.

To try to straighten this tree now, would be impossible.
It is what it is.
It is what it will always be.
There will be no changing of the direction of this tree.

What if God allowed us to always have our own way?
What if He saw a "bent" in us that is unhealthy,
yet, He chose to ignore it?
What if He permitted us to go all the way through life, without correcting or straightening us,
then as we came to the Judgment bar, He told us about our problem area
for the very first time?
At that point, we could do nothing to adjust our wrongful tendencies.
It would then be too late.
And God would not be a just and fair God.

Life on earth is like a dressing room...a rehearsal....for the world to come.
This is where we must make corrections.
This is where repentance must take place, in order for us to spend eternity with Him.

Wouldn't it be best to undergo seasons of chastening while here?
While we still have time and mercy to make modifications?

God doesn't enjoy seeing us suffer.
I never fully understood that until I became a mother.
Disciplining Zachary is a very heart-rending experience for me.

Thankfully, he is a very tender-hearted child, who is very easily entreated.
Knowing he has disappointed Kevin and/or me, is usually discipline enough for him.
More often than not, he punishes himself...through remorse and regret.
Seldom has he ever needed more than being talked to and made to see that his actions
have pierced our hearts and caused us distress.

Papaw had nine children, and he used to tell Mom that every child was different.
They were all of a different temperament, so he had to discipline them accordingly.
Some children only needed a stern look to straighten their behavior.
Others needed only to see a tear in Mimmie's eye to make them want to turn around.
Others needed...well, stronger measures of discipline.

I suppose we are like that, as God's children.
Some of us are more stubborn and bull-headed than others.
Some are tender and can be corrected with the slightest prick of conscience.

God knows each of us, individually.
We are all His children, and He is our loving Father.
He handles us according to our unique needs and personalities.
Using a "one-size-fits-all" approach would be completely unwise.
The desired effect could not be achieved by using unnecessary force on those who are more sensitive
and too soft a hand on those who are harder to reach.
So, God customizes our chastenings to best fit our needs.
We should never despise Him for it.

"Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth:
therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty..."
Job 5:17

"My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction..."
For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."
Proverbs 3:11,12

Again, please don't misunderstand me....
I am not saying that every time something adverse comes our way,
we are being chastened or punished.

But, through my own life experiences along this Christian path,
I have found that, more often than I care to admit,
God has had to use His chastening rod to get my attention.
Many of these times, the rod has led me to the crucible of pain,
for it is there that I seem to become most still...most pliable....most humble before Him.

I have heard His tender voice often through these trials.
It has become more and more precious to me.
How I praise Him for loving me enough to help me on my Christian journey...
even if that help sometimes comes in the form of discipline.

After all, what is the root word?
Are we not His disciples?
Do we not require discipline?
To become more and more in line with Who He is?

Every season of chastening molds us more into His image.
Every session in the Refiner's fire removes more of our dross.
Every walk through the heated furnace burns off more of our ropes and releases us from more bondage...
setting us more fully free.
Every time we walk forth from a severe trial of testing,
we are better equipped to perform the tasks He requires.

No suffering in the Christian life is without purpose.
God never wastes a moment.
There is always a reason for His actions.

Experiencing the blows dealt from God's chastening rod 
reveals one of the most undeniably evident proofs
that we are indeed His child.

"If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children,
it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all."
Hebrews 12:8

How goes it with you, my dear friend?
Do your trials seem unending?
Does it seem your night of weeping is perpetual?
Do you feel God-forsaken?
Are you undergoing rare forms of testing?
Do you find yourself delivered from one trial, only to walk directly into a new one?
Are you suffering?
Facing uncertain days ahead?
Have things become nearly unbearable?
Are you now bent low beneath the consistent blows from God's chastening rod?
Is satan whispering that surely you do not belong to God,
otherwise you would not be so severely tormented?
Does he cause you to doubt your position in Christ?

Allow me to gently bring to your attention that your extreme season of discipline brings with it
undeniable evidence that you are indeed His child.
"For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."
Hebrews 12:6
This will bring comfort to you...right in the midst of your grief.
Let me remind you that along with His chastening rod, He always sends His directing staff.
I want to encourage you to seek His face...often and earnestly.
Allow yourself to relax in His everlasting arms.
Ask Him what it is that He wants you to know.
Inquire of Him as to the nature of the lessons He is trying to teach.
"In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider..."
Ecclesiastes 7:14
As you consider, be still.
Give Him your full, undivided attention.
The sooner we surrender and stop squirming,
the sooner we will learn what we need to know.
Perhaps we can even shorten the trial?

One day this season of testing will pass.
"Afterwards" will come.
And with it will come a stronger, more capable, closer-to-God you.
You will then enjoy the peaceable fruits of righteousness that were God's sole purpose for today's trial.
Until then, turn your face Heavenward,
and if you can think of nothing else for which to praise Him,
thank Him from the heart for the reminder 
that you are indeed His child.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More of Him, Less of Me

"John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.
He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:27-30

I am so deeply challenged every, single time I read these verses.
Upon first sight, I see this situation through only human, self-seeking eyes.
Looking at it this way, I feel such an overwhelming sense of pity for John the Baptist.

But, should I feel this way?

John's whole, entire life was never about him.
He spent years in obscurity and solitude preparing for a small window of time
in which he would preach and "prepare the way of the Lord".
Then, quickly and violently, his life would be snuffed out....in an instant....
without warning....all due to the whim of a sinister, plotting, evil-minded woman
whose wrath toward him was all rooted in the fact that he spoke the truth concerning her sinful ways.

To our knowledge, he never married.
He never experienced the joy of having his own children.
He never got the amazing opportunity of knowing how it feels to have a family of his very own.

His very purpose was weighty....
entirely necessary....
vitally important.
His job could not have been more significant.

Yet, he was never the main point.

And the most impressive thing about him...to me....is this....

he knew it.

He accepted it.

He didn't try to be someone other than who God intended him to be.

He didn't feel cheated.

He didn't go into a selfish, self-pitying state when Jesus arrived on the scene
and all glory and honor and attention went directly to Him.
He didn't sulk and walk away when Jesus began to draw all men to Himself,
and his own disciples began to lean Jesus' way.
After all, this is the very thing that was supposed to happen.
The focus was never intended to stay on John.
His moment in the sun would be short-lived,
and the minute his purpose was fulfilled,
he was to quietly secede into the shadows....
behind Jesus.

Jesus and John had a lot in common.

Jesus was John's cousin, remember?
They were related by blood.
There was a familial bond between them.
They were born only six months apart.
It took a Divine intervention miracle in the womb of each of their mothers
in order for them to be conceived.
John's parents were old when God chose to open his mother's womb 
and allow her to conceive and carry him full-term.

Jesus' mother was a virgin.
She had never had physical relations with a man.
It was virtually and entirely impossible for her to conceive a child...
until the Holy Spirit of God overshadowed her body and placed the seed,
which would become Jesus Christ, our Messiah, within her womb.

John knew that he was not the main point.
He always lived with the reality of that.
At what age did God reveal this to him?
We do not know.

But, by the time his ministry began, he was thoroughly convinced.
He knew his place, and he stayed within it.

I am touched every time I read the 29th verse.
For sake of clarity, I want to include a couple other versions here.

"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; 
and the bridegroom's friend who stands by his side and listens to him, 
rejoices heartily on account of the bridegroom's happiness. 
Therefore this joy of mine is now complete."
"It is the bridegroom who gets the bride, 
yet the bridegroom's friend, who merely stands by and listens for him, 
is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom's voice. 
 That's why this joy of mine is now complete."

Isn't that amazing?
This was John's perspective.
He truly wanted the very best in the world for Jesus,
and he knew his place was to stand by and rejoice with all his heart to watch Him shine.
It was enough for him to know that Jesus received all glory.
He knew Who deserved it,
and it was the thrill of his heart to give it to Him.
It was enough to realize that his mission had been accomplished,
that his scene had been acted out,
and it was time to step aside and allow the next scene to happen....
without him in it.

What would happen in our lives if you and I would live our daily lives 
operating fully and continually under the mindset of John the Baptist?
If we would truly realize....and fully accept....
that none of this is about us.
That it doesn't matter how it is affecting us.
That God is the only One Who ever deserves the glory.
That we are here to fulfill the Divine purpose He has designed for our lives,
and that in order for that to happen, we must step out of His way.

I SO want to get this.
I think it is one of the most important things we could ever learn
and also one of the strongest messages God has been endeavoring 
to get through to me during these afflictions of late.

He is stripping the pride off....layer by layer.
He is showing me that it is proud and presumptuous of me to lean unto my own understanding,
instead of trusting in His with all my heart.
It is proud and presumptuous of me to give one thought to how things are making me look,
how they are putting me out,
how they are forcing me from my comfort zone,
because none of this is in any way about me.
It is proud and presumptuous of me to think it is me who is doing anything,
because it is in Him that I live and move and have my being. (Acts 17:28).

I never thought of pride in this way before.
I always thought pride was manifested in other ways,
but I am learning that pride takes on many forms....
sometimes very sneaky, hidden, and surprising ones....
ones that are buried deep within the human spirit...
ones that will trip us up and hinder us from being all God wants us to be.

John the Baptist set the example by realizing his place,
accepting it,
and staying in it.
When it was time for him to step aside, he did so...
with an enormous amount of grace and surrender to God's bigger plan.

He stepped aside...humbly and meekly...and watched from a distance,
as Jesus took the stage...front and center.

I will forever be challenged by his words....
"He must increase, but I must decrease."

How did he reach that level of consecration?
How did he get to the place where it was just completely natural for him to understand
and accept the fact that Jesus was, and should always be, the main focus?

It is easy for us to say these words....they kind of just roll effortlessly off the tongue.
They have a very pretty ring to them.
Saying them makes us feel "holier" and somehow more spiritual.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

But do we really realize what this means?
As John did?

Jesus told His disciples in John 15:5,
"without Me ye can do nothing."
John knew this.
He recognized the fact that had it not been for Jesus coming into the world,
his life would have been empty....pointless....without direction.
There would have been no Messiah to go before and prepare the way.
There would have been no reason...no purpose....for his existence.
Would God have even opened the womb of his elderly mother and permitted him to be conceived?
Had he not been designed to fulfill this amazing role?

You and I were created for God's pleasure.
For His glory.
To live lives that will bring the very most exaltation possible to Him.
The Apostle Paul summed this up very precisely in Ephesians 2:10.
"For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

This life that we live, day by day, moment by moment,
is not about us.
We are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works"...

for the sole objective of serving our Creator.

We were not born to live selfishly.
God did not open our mother's womb without Divine purpose.
We are not where we are merely to stumble through each day, seeking our own interests,
trying to survive with no real reason for living.

God, help us to grasp this!
I am trying so hard to.
I must decrease, so He may increase.
There must be less of Cheryl, so there can more of Jesus.
Making this happen requires self-denial...
a humbling....
a stepping aside...
just like John was willing to do.
I am not my own.
Neither are you.
"For ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
I Corinthians 6:20

John got this.
He knew his place.
He totally embraced it.

The other day, Zach and I were in a position of waiting in the car for a very long time.
While we did, we began to talk.
It was Divinely appointed.
I just know it.

We talked about a situation I went through several months ago that humbled me dramatically.
In the time that led up to it, I had approached it with such a spirit of fear,
and looking back, I can see how the enemy used that fear against me.
When it first transpired, it was hard...on my pride....
not that I realized that was what was hurting at the moment.
I never really understood the purpose for the humbling, until the other day in the car, as Zachary and I talked.
I finally came to realize and understand the lesson God was trying to teach.
From this point of hindsight,
I can see how much I needed to walk through that.
It was good for me.
And though I would not, in any way, want to repeat it,
I will never forget what I learned.
It has helped me, and for that, I am very grateful.

Little Mr. Wisdom began to speak.

"Mama, fear is a three-part process.
Did you know that?"

"What do you mean, Zach?

"Okay, it is like this.
Fear starts out.
You are afraid.
You don't think you can do something, but you know you have to do it.
This leads to the next step, called pride.
Something rises up within you and you are bound and determined that you will do it.
You decide that you will not fail.
You decide that you can do this without anyone's help.
Which leads into the third phase, called temptation.
Temptation makes us take matters into our own hands and act.
We put all kinds of precautions into place, to make sure that we will not fail.
We lean to our own understanding.
We decide that just in case God doesn't help us, we will already have these safety nets in place,
so we will catch our own selves, if we fall."

I sat there....dumbfounded....speechless....trying to grasp the depths of Zach's words.
God uses this child so many times to clarify and sustain me.
I am amazed at the power of God that works through him
and the way God fills his mouth with messages for me...directly from Heaven.

He had just sat there, across the car from me,
and totally, completely, and entirely unraveled the mystery.
It was so plain.
He was exactly right.
Directly on target.
This is exactly what had happened in my humbling situation.

Bless his little heart, he was there...through it all.
He saw my struggles...my efforts....my tears....my fear....ahead of time.
He watched as my fear went into pride mode and my determination to get things right.
Then he watched temptation knock on my door,
he saw me open it and follow it right into the realm of over-rehearsal,
over-preparation, over-creating and reinforcing safety nets to the point that I became self-reliant....
which is never, ever, ever a good thing.

Oh, how often we follow this process!
When God wants total surrender.
Total trust.
Total relinquishment of self.

God is all-sufficient.
He is all-powerful.

He must increase, we must decrease.
Part of that process means letting go of our own safety nets.
It means turning away from our own understanding and relying solely upon His.
It means letting go of the reins and turning them entirely over to Him.
It means cutting loose of the shore line and launching out into the deep.
It means falling back into His arms, when we can no longer touch bottom.
It means allowing Him to completely and absolutely take over every, single thing about us.
It means surrendering self....totally and entirely....to His command.
It means acknowledging our own inability and realizing we can do nothing at all apart from Him.
It means taking every morsel of the limelight off of ourselves and pointing it all upon Him.
It means stepping out of His way and allowing Him full access to do whatever He desires to do.
It means full and complete relinquishment of every ounce of control.
It means wanting with all of our hearts for Him to receive every shred of the glory.

When I think of John the Baptist, I think of a humble man.
One who was truly "over" himself.
One who did not esteem himself more highly than he should.
One who knew that every part of his purpose had to do with promoting Christ.
One who laid aside every personal, selfish ambition to make sure the world knew who Jesus was.

I long to be like that.
I often pray for God to help me.
I want my very sincerest desire to be that God is glorified in and through my life.
I want the focus to be on Him and Him alone.

I am often impressed by the words of a dear, humble pastor whose ministry is a true blessing to me.
In his prayer, before every sermon,
before he has even begun to preach,
he faithfully prays these words,
"Hide me behind the old, rugged cross."

His words challenge me every time I hear them.
How could it possibly be better or more eloquently requested?

Hidden behind JESUS...
and His old, rugged cross!
Could there be any sweeter way to live?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Creature Comforts

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Hebrews 13:8

Burr!  It has been cold, hasn't it?
I love it, though.
Even though I seem to "freeze" a lot more these days,
I still prefer the cold weather over the hot.
Fall and winter are definitely my favorite seasons.

The other day, I was in what has become my "normal" spot...
in my recliner.
I felt the cold chill as Kevin opened the front door to let little Miss Paige in from the cold.
She is becoming quite spoiled and thinks each time the front door opens,
she is being given an open invitation to the inside.  :)
She will probably be sad when the weather warms up outside,
as her invitations for visits indoors won't be as frequent.
She is quite the character!

I reached to pull my favorite afghan closer around me to fight off the chill,
and as I grabbed it, something else came with it.
Mom's sweater.

I had put it on earlier, then taken it off and laid it on the arm of the recliner.
It is incredibly soft...a special Christmas gift to her from Uncle Donnie a few years before she passed away.
Do you know that is still so hard for me to say that Mom has "passed away"?
I just can't stand thinking of Mom being gone...so final...so permanent....so sad.

This sweater has made its rounds.
At one point, she had donated it to Charity's Closet, thinking someone else may need it worse than her.
One day, long before she died, I was working...sorting through the bags of donated clothes and other items,
trying to organize things and get them in order, 
when I spotted Mom's sweater hanging on a rack of winter clothes.
Something told me to walk over to the rack, get it, and take it home with me.

I am so glad I did.

I have worn this sweater until it is literally ragged.
The other night, I had it on, and Zach and I laughed as we realized you could see my clothes right through it.
It is actually transparent and threadbare in certain spots...
like the left shoulder area shown here.

As I reached for my afghan and felt the softness of Mom's sweater,
I felt her presence...right there with me...in this sickness.
I felt so comforted...so blessed...so nurtured by Mom.

I don't want a new sweater....truly.
Not that I would probably wear this one out in public anymore!
But, this sweater is beyond precious to me...because Mom wore it.
It was hers.

I drew it in close to me...there in the chair...and felt a sweet sense of security,
as if Mom were still here...praying for us, caring about us, loving us.
The feelings I felt must have resembled the way a child feels when, in the middle of the night,
they awaken, feeling alone and afraid, and reach out to find their favorite "blankie" or bear.
Just the feel of it...in the dark...sets their world right again....
lets them know they are not alone, and there is nothing to fear....
gives them the comfort they need to close their eyes and fall back to peaceful sleep.

I hugged Mom's sweater close to me for the longest time.
I have since then made it a habit to keep it on the arm of my chair...close at hand...
so I always know it is near...ready to hold on to.

I know it is just a sweater....Croft & Barrow is the brand....
purchased at Kohl's one December.
But, this is definitely not just any old sweater.

This is Mom's sweater.
I will always view it that way.
And looking at it in this light makes it something priceless to me.
If you offered me a lot of money for this sweater,
I'd have to tell you "I appreciate your offer,
but I'll have to pass."

I miss Mom in so many little ways.
You don't realize what you will miss, until it is gone.
Then you look back and think about things you've never thought of before.

Having her sweater comforts me.
I'm wearing it right now...
and wearing it makes me feel loved...and warm...and hugged by Mom....
like her precious arms are around me and everything is going to be all right.
Knowing her arms were in this sweater makes it invaluable to me...
no matter how threadbare it becomes.  :)

Funny....the things and channels and ways through which we find and take comfort.

I still have Dad's things in a box in our attic.
Sometimes, Kevin brings it down for me and I go through his things....
among them are some photographs, little trinkets he made for me through the years,
his coat, some clothes, and his wallet.

I have thought of cutting up Mom's and Dad's clothes into squares,
then combining them together to make a quilt.
Another idea I had was to combine them to make pillowcases from the squares...
kind of like this one I made using some scrap quilt blocks.

So far, I can't bring myself to do it....
it just hurts...feels disrespectful...to think of cutting the clothes they once wore.
I know...they are just clothes...and it is probably time to let go.

These pillowcases make the neatest gifts, though.
Just cut up 72 quilt blocks....5 inches in diameter,
and sew 9 strips of 8, alternating colors.
Then sew the strips together to make a pillowcase.
The finished product fits a regular, standard-size pillow perfectly.
Make two matching ones, and give as a special, homespun gift for Christmas or a birthday.
The cost is next to nothing, and the time spent is minimal....
if you use a sewing machine.

Our bedroom is lavender and sage green.
Can I tell you how much I love the combination of those two colors?
So, I use the quilt-block pillowcases (shown above) on our bed.
They blend nicely with the beautiful quilt Kevin bought me last June
for our 25th wedding anniversary.

I love this quilt.
I love the way the blocks are all different sizes...so unique and country.
I especially love the thoughtful man 
who took such time and effort searching for just the right gift....
then spent his hard-earned money to buy it for me.
He means more than life to me.
I love him with more love than my heart can hold.
After 25 1/2 years together, I couldn't love him more.

I couldn't wait to get home from Georgia to put our new quilt on our bed!

I love mixing and matching things that don't necessarily "go together" 
to create scenes that are uniquely our own.
We keep this bear on our bed.
Aunt Joyce made it for us several years ago.
I love the shades of purple and sage in this fabric.
It might just be what got me started on mixing the two colors in the first place!

I took some of the leftover fabric I used to make the pillowcases
to cover an old, oblong pillow we had.
This is the end result.

Among the toss pillows are a white one from Aunt Joyce,
a white trimmed in sage-green one given to us by Lori,
and some I have picked up at thrift stores.

Mom's old, raggedy sweater, the quilt Kevin bought for me,
the bear Aunt Joyce made for us, my very imperfectly-sewn, home-made pillowcases....
maybe they wouldn't bring a fortune, if they were sold to someone else.
I don't imagine anyone would find them nearly as precious as I do.
To others, they would seem insignificant.
But, to me, they are invaluable.
Because they are comforting....and stable.
They bring a sense of peace to our home...and to my heart.

Home should be like that.
Home should be a place of peace...serenity....tranquility.
It should be a place where you belong....a "safe" place....with consistency....
where you can go and completely shut out the world with all its problems....
and rest.

When I was growing up, we moved somewhere between 40-50 times....maybe more.
I lost count.
I have tried to go back, mentally, and remember all of the places we've lived,
but for the life of me, I can't even recall some of them.
Sometimes, I think I would like to take a trip to Dayton and take all the time I need
to go around and drive past the places I can remember...
I don't know....just to re-connect with that part of me.
It feels like that person has died right inside of me,
and I feel like I have completely lost touch with who I was then.
Who was that girl?
So full of life and spunk.
Always the last one to lose hope.
I want to remember.
I want to feel how that felt again.
Especially, now that both Mom and Dad are gone.

One thing that always stayed the same, during my growing up years,
no matter how many times we moved or where we lived,
was that there were two things I put on the wall of nearly every, single bedroom I called mine.
I had a five-foot long rainbow, made from cardboard.
It was beautiful.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I taped and re-taped it
to make it stick to my "brand-new" wall.
Underneath the rainbow, I would place my butterfly stickers.
I had lots of them...and I would place them, randomly, here and there,
within the boundaries of the rainbow's arc.
I still remember how much comfort they brought to me.
I would lie across my bed and stare at them and know....
that I had something that was all mine.
I guess having that rainbow and those butterflies made me feel a sense of security and continuity....
kind of like things were still "the same", and I hadn't moved.

I hated moving.
I would cry and rebel and carry on every time I would come home from school
to find boxes lying around on the floor and pictures down off the walls.
I would beg and plead with all my might to stay where we were.
I wanted "home" to stay the same...for at least a little while longer.

But, in spite of my tears, we moved....umpteen times.
The longest I ever remember having lived in one place
was probably my favorite house of all growing up.
I loved that house.
We actually signed two year-long leases there,
which, to us, was a record.

If you drove past that house today, you wouldn't see anything spectacular about it.
It was a small, white house, trimmed in black, with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom,
a living room, kitchen/dining area combined,
a full basement, and a one-car garage.
I can still close my eyes and see so many details about that house.
The back yard bordered a big Catholic church that had a basketball hoop in the parking lot.
I used to love hearing the church bells ring from that big, beautiful church.
When I had someone to play with, we would venture over into the parking lot
and play basketball.
I can still see the flowers in our flower garden out back,
and I can still smell the fresh-mown grass,
and see Dad's sweat-streaked face,
as he would stop and take a break and let me take a turn on the mower.

I will never forget the day I came home to find out we were moving from that house.
Oh, my word!
My heart was so broken, I didn't think it would ever heal.
No more daily trips to the store up the street for my Pac-man adventures.
No more fun games of ping-pong in our basement.
The ping-pong table would have to go, since the house we were moving to had no room for it.
No more basketball games...church bells....flowers....basement adventures.
I think a piece of me stayed in that house.
If I drove by it today, would I find it?

That house was home to me....more than any other place growing up.
When moving day came, I took my rainbow and butterflies down off my bedroom wall....
where they had managed to stay in one place for two whole years,
and I cried my heart out.

I hated the house we moved to.
It was cold and damp, with no basement,
and Mom ended up getting really sick there.
She nearly died.
Needless to say, we didn't live there long.
And again, my precious things were taken down from those walls....
to move on and be re-hung some place else.

Creature comforts...I call them.
I know we aren't supposed to set our affections on anything on this earth,
but I believe God places things in our lives to bring us comfort and peace...
when everything around us is falling apart.

That's why I love this old sweater.
It connects me to a time when Mom was still here and things felt more normal.

I am still adjusting to life without her.
Trying to find a new sense of normal....without her in it.
It is a strange feeling to not have parents...no matter how old we are.

Aunt Joyce and Uncle Orville are getting ready to move...far away.
I have cried and cried thinking about it and dreading it.
I will miss them so much.
I will feel so empty driving to their town, knowing they are no longer there.
I will miss driving by and seeing Uncle Orville out riding his bike or walking Noah.
I feel like another piece of me will separate...and go with them.
The bear....and many other things Aunt Joyce has made for us....
will seem even more precious to me now.

In this world of change and insecurity,
aren't you glad to know that today's Scripture is true?

Jesus Christ will always be the same.
He will always be with us.
He will never leave.
No matter how many times we move,
no matter who dies or moves away,
as long as life shall last, Jesus will be the same.

I had to learn the truth and reality of this the hard way, at a young age.
I could always pray to Him and call on Him,
no matter where I was or how unsafe I felt or how unfamiliar my surroundings.
He was always there.
Comforting me and giving me at least two tangible things to hold on to and keep the same.
Looking back, I think it is funny now....
thinking about the two things He blessed me to carry along with me all those years.
What could be more comforting than a rainbow?
A beautiful reminder of His promises.
And butterflies?
Symbols of new life and transformation and hope.

Sometimes we need things we can hold in our hands and look at...
and draw comfort from.
Things that bring us peace and make us feel a sense of belonging.

More and more, as older I grow, I thank God for home...
and for every, single, comforting thing in it.