Hopes, Dreams, Expectations

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So, here you are, looking into the future and wondering whatever in the world it will look like. At certain times in a young person’s life, the future seems wide open with opportunities. At other times, not so much. I know how excited I felt at being able to finally go after my childhood dreams and be “on my own.”

Each one of you have been blessed with a talent or maybe many, something unique to who you are. You may not know exactly what you want to do, but you are poised to leave childhood behind, and get into the adult sphere. Independence sounds so good, right?

Perhaps you’re an athlete. Or a musician. Maybe you worked hard to make good grades, and you were accepted into the university. Maybe you have in mind a certain kind of job, and you want to go out and earn a living for yourself. Maybe you have been accepted to the graduate school you want to attend. What about that sport you excel at, and want to play? What is that next step in your life?

Right now, at this time in history, the world shut down right in the middle of your school semester. No goodbye parties. No last formal dances. No graduations. How does all of this impact you personally? Do you feel like you’ve experienced a profound loss? Or does it feel okay to simply move forward when the time is right?

Though I didn’t have my milestone events swept away in high school, or college, I know many Americans have encountered major storms in the midst of their best hopes and dreams. We don’t have to go back in history very far to remember all the young men and women who either postponed their dreams to go fight for our freedom, or perhaps lost their dreams altogether. During the Great Depression, Americans lost many of their comforts, their “normal” way of life, and of course, in some instances, even the daily blessings of food and housing.

We can go back to each dramatic period in history to see that we are not the first to face interruptions to our plans as we have during Covid-19. As you studied in history, the foundation of our nation was shaken to its core during the onset of the Civil War. States chose to withdraw from the Union, and families were sometimes split as to who they would fight for. It was not uncommon for cousins to be fighting cousins on the battlefield, or fathers and grandfathers fighting on the other side against their own flesh and blood. Everyone’s normal lives were changed and farmland became battleground. I can’t even imagine.

The Bible tells us that human life is brief. When a person is standing on tiptoes leaning into their individual future, life seems to be very long. To see life in a larger frame, even an eternal perspective, Psalm 102:15 says, “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here.” (NLT) Yet, there is a much larger picture here, if you believe in God and His promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Today may be brief compared to eternity, but that doesn’t eliminate God’s love or promises. In the same Psalm, we read, “But, the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear (revere) him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!” (NLT)

What do we do when we find our hopes dashed? How do we go on? Where does our hope come from? Loss is painful, no matter the size of it. What are your thoughts?

 

Where do I find hope?

The Lifter of My Head

Where do I find hope?
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So many life changes have occurred since I last wrote, and by now pastors, singers, and people gifted to share faith have offered abundant advice, truths, and prayers to help us handle our catastrophe. When we first heard about Covid-19, fear ripped across our land. What untold millions would be impacted by this new and deadly disease? We listened to the news ad nauseum; enormous numbers of people would succumb, they said, calculated on little known reports coming from other countries.

We were vulnerable. As the curtailing of a “normal” American lifestyle became our status quo, I prayed and read my Bible. I found scriptures which calmed my own troubled heart, and wanted to share them. Yet, I felt scattered, and struggled to think I had anything of value to add to this conversation.

I was suddenly thrust into the quest for basic supplies: Sam’s Club in the wee hours of the morning, online shopping (forget the sales) requiring curbside pickup, discovering many items were limited for purchase, or there were none at all. Finding toilet paper became a central topic of conversation among friends and family, sometimes as a joke, sometimes as a serious point of desperate need.

I prayed for America and its leadership daily. I prayed and still pray for our nation to seek God’s will in this time of stopping our usual endeavors. Yet, in agreement with others, I don’t pray for us to return to “normal.” Why? Because as a whole, our culture has turned its back on God. The Biblical roots of our nation have been replaced by secular humanism and “tolerance” of most everything … but Christianity. Long held truths and foundational American beliefs have been challenged as wrong, outdated, or simply problematic.

So where are we in this limbo state? American life = busy. Everyone is busy. If we are busy, life is as it should be goes the mantra. Children are busy. Parents are scrambling to keep up with jobs and “busy children.” Even many seniors keep busy. Some are chasing all the to-do’s on their bucket lists or looking for ways to find comfort in their final years. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us busy. Then there is no time to ponder the deeper things, the things that truly matter when nothing else does.

When this life is over, will you have a relationship with the God of the universe? Are you grounded in a faith that assures you will live your eternal life in a heavenly place, a place where there are no more tears and sorrow? Your spirit will live eternally. But do you know where? In Psalm 46:10, God speaks his truth over us busy ones: “Be still, and know that I am God.” One day when you face your own mortality, this will be the only thing you need.

As I face the Coronavirus head on, I know it has been a disrupter. On a lighter level it has stopped me from pursuing some of my present goals. I halted what had been pressing projects to sew masks for family and friends. It caused me to learn how to maintain relationships through technology. It forced me to learn new ways to gather food and supplies without entering a store. It has temporarily stripped our economy, and while the government prints money, we wonder how it will ever be repaid. And, most deeply, my heart aches as I grieve the loss of a sister-in-law who was struck down by this dreaded contagion. But, God. He has her in his care at this very moment. Because of her relationship with Jesus Christ, I can peacefully release her. 

Yes, I have hope. God is sovereign over all things. If you believe there is a Creator, He is a power we cannot fully grasp: omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal, for starters. But, we know a lot about Him, and His will is for our good. Will this pause in life be something God can use for good in my life? What will I do with this pause in life? He makes clear from the beginning of scripture to the last page, he desires a relationship with the people he created. He made us for relationship. He loves you. He loves me. It is God himself who is the “lifter of my head” when sorrows make me downcast. He is for me, not against me. He has a good plan for my life, and promises an eternal home filled with beauty and joy. He calls me to come near; he awaits patiently when I am lost in earthly “busyness.” He calls us to come now.

“So do not fear, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord

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Did you ever “find” animals and shapes in the clouds when you were a child? My father and I used to have such fun doing that. Later in life, I tried identifying optical illusions, searching for images that were not immediately recognizable. I confess, I don’t always discover the hidden objects as quickly as others. I have read that “seeing” what is hidden within the “visible” is a function of our perception, our ability to respond and interpret sensory information.

In Scripture, we learn that God performed miraculous healing of physical eyes on a number of occasions so people could see. But, He also opened the eyes of humans to perceive things which were, at first, unseen in the natural. In one instance in 2 Kings, God encouraged the Israelites of the spiritual armaments He had prepared to protect them.

In 2 Kings 6:16, the Lord encouraged the servant of Elisha in this way. The king of Syria was making war against Israel, and had sent a great army specifically to capture Elisha. “And Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see,” (2 Kings 6:17 KJV). The servant had seen the physical presence of the enormous threat against them … with his own eyes. He was afraid of what seemed to be Elisha’s certain death. But God intervened and opened the servant’s eyes. He suddenly saw God’s army, horses, and chariots of fire all around Elisha, a compelling counterforce.

God allowed the vision, the spiritual revelation, so they would regain courage in face of a seemingly insurmountable Enemy. At first, they had only seen with their physical eyes, and the threat was real. Yet, there was more provision behind the scenes. God had His invisible army, even more powerful than the Syrian forces prepared to defend His children.

We live in a physical world, yet as humans with a mind, body, and spirit nature, why should we be surprised that there might be more to “see” in any given circumstance? Are we looking for God’s spiritual viewpoint when we face our trials and “insurmountables”? We often cannot see more than the present circumstances, and when those are painfully difficult, we lose heart.

King David prayed to the Lord: “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law,” (Psalm 119:18 KJV). Maybe we would be wise to pray the Lord open our eyes so we can see things in a dimension that God sees. What might we be missing by not praying that prayer? Maybe we need courage in times of attack. Perhaps, we don’t see the invisible forces He has already provided for us when we think we are alone.

God made it clear that He wants a relationship with us. He loved us while we were yet far from Him, out doing our own thing, apart from His will. How do we know this?  He sent Jesus, His Son, to take the penalty of our sins so our most perfect, loving God could once again walk with us and talk with us as He had originally planned. After that, it was left to us to choose to align our lives by asking forgiveness, and accepting His free gift of relationship. We can be confident in our prayers that God is for us. He chose not to stay apart from us, and made a way for us to have relationship again after sin had, by its very nature, separated us from His Perfect Love.

As the worship song lyrics by Michael W. Smith affirms, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You, I want to see You …” Let Him show you the spiritual dimension of life, tearing back the curtain of our physical and mental limitations. “I want to see You, Lord.”

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=open+the+eyes+of+my+heart+lord+michael+w+smithhttps://

Where is the Son?

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While visiting our seven-year-old Kansas grandson recently, Max excitedly burst into the house carrying a bouquet of sunflowers … for me! He had convinced his mama to buy them for me when they were shopping. The uniqueness of this spray of flowers was that each large flower head was drooping, bowing down from its stem, rather than standing upright.

Maxwell explained with confidence that they were simply being sunflowers which are always looking for the sun. Of course, I graciously accepted his gift with an exclamation of his thoughtfulness. His daddy brought some filler plants in from the yard, which somewhat improved their countenance.

In reflecting on the downcast sunflowers, I was taken back by the image above of the girl gazing in the opposite direction. If the flowers symbolically seek the Sun, shouldn’t we also seek the Son, Jesus, for our Source? Yes, of course. There are times and seasons when we may be tempted to think we’re capable of handling life all on our own. All is well, finances are secure, health is good, and we have done it all ourselves. We may pat ourselves on the back and expect our fans to applaud because we’re successfully sailing along in our strength. Who needs God anyway, one might ask?

But, often that isn’t the way life works. You know that. I know that. Sometimes, nothing seems to go our way. So in those times we can misguidedly plunder through our days, lacking the Son in the messiness of life, lacking His strength, peace, and His Omnipotent wisdom for guidance. Scripture is replete with advice for living a complete and satisfying life, in the good times and bad.

In Hebrews 12:1-2 we are reminded to “… fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter or our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Yes, indeed, as the sunflowers seek the sun, we are advised to “fix our eyes ….” Where? On the Son.

Psalm 34:5-6 tells us that “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” More evidence that when we don’t look to ourselves, in our good old American independence, we will become radiant. We will be the sunflowers of humanity, with faces tilted upward with dignity, grace, and assurance. If you are feeling downcast today, pick up the Bible, and look to God’s Word to you. He will be your strength and radiance.

I don’t know about you, but I need to seek the light of Christ … daily. Whenever I try to go it alone, I quickly become the wilty-headed sunflower, looking at the problems at my feet, instead of the Son’s LIGHT as my Source. I encourage all of us to not lose sight of God’s amazing gift, even in the hard times. When we “look up,” we will find the resources necessary to finish the race victoriously. Not because of our own tremendous capabilities, but because of our loving God and Provider. Look up to the Son, beloved children of God, and become all you are meant to be.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7. 

 

 

“STOP!”

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Most of us, including me, love sunshine. The old John Denver song (for those of you old enough to remember) comes to mind: “Sunshine on My Shoulders” of course … makes me happy! Somehow the sun has the power to transform a cold winter day from dreary to cheery. Sunshine delights the eyes as it illuminates and accentuates the early blooms of spring. Sunshine intensifies the glory of crimson and yellow fall leaves, leaving an onlooker breathless from its vibrant display.

However, in real life, not every day is so perfectly beautiful and filled with light. Your “skies” may turn dark. Storm clouds might roll in hard and fast.  If you are from Tornado Alley, like I am, you may run to take cover as the green-gray cloud soup drapes itself over the land, and tiny funnel-shaped structures dip and dance overhead. There are certainly vivid Bible stories depicting the fears and consequences of storms at sea. Think of dear old Jonah who was trying to escape God’s directives. The Lord sent a great wind and a storm so wicked that the sailors were all afraid their ship would break up, leaving them to drown in the sea. God needed to get Jonah’s attention. And, he used that storm to speak to Jonah’s heart. When storm clouds threaten, do you call on the Lord?

When Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a sudden and furious squall arose. (Mark 4:35-42) Waves crashed over the boat, nearly swamping it. The disciples thought they might die, yet Jesus slept in the stern of the fishing vessel until they awakened him. He fussed a bit at their unbelief. “Do you still have no faith?” he asked. But, before he spoke to the disciples, he got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Wow. Just like that. The storm subsided. The disciples were in disbelief even though they had been following him for awhile! Yet, they feared death and destruction in that moment, when they couldn’t see the sunshine, but felt the wind. Yet, Jesus was right there. He was with them in that boat. Do we ever doubt where He is during the storms, or do we remember He is with us?

I know we cannot always rebuke every storm in our lives and see it instantly dissolve. Yet, I want to take this analogy one step further. Oftentimes, our storms are not physical or environmental. Sometimes, they take place in our heads and hearts … a heaviness, a loneliness, a lack of joy, a grief that doesn’t seem to end. I want to encourage you to take heart. Though you may not see miracles every day, Jesus did tell the disciples in John 14:12, “,,, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

When you feel some torment from your spiritual antagonist, Satan himself, put on your spiritual armor and stand your ground. In James 4:7 we are reminded to submit ourselves, to God. Then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 

I had a bad dream a week ago and it was a reminder of this principle. A dark and shadowy cloud formation was following me. I noticed it but kept walking. Then, I began running. It followed relentlessly. In this dream, I suddenly turned around to face that fearsome thing, and shouted, “STOP!” And, it did!

I know. This was a dream. There was no real threat to me or my loved ones.  Yet, I do believe the Lord speaks to us in dreams. The dark cloud stopped in its tracks, and I, in joyful amazement, praised God. It was only a dream, but symbolic, no doubt.  I will wear my spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). When I feel the darkness of the Enemy discouraging me from fulfilling God’s purposes, I will boldly proclaim, “STOP! In the name of Jesus!” I pray this imagery will be an encouragement to you as well. I pray that you won’t be overcome by the one who wants you to lose hope in the storms of life.    

My Daddy’s Face

“Where is daddy’s face?” asked my six-year-old granddaughter. “I can’t find him!”

The child turned over random puzzle pieces, examining the details for clues. The puzzle had been a gift created from family photos, each image represented a favorite memory.

Shrugging her little shoulders, Cassie replied, “I know he’s here! I just need to look harder.”

“Look, Cass, is this Daddy’s eye and nose?” I asked, holding up a piece. “Yes, yes, I see him!” my sweet grandchild answered.

I was reminded that sometimes I, too, have searched for my Father’s “face” among the disassembled puzzle pieces of my life. I’ve even cried out. “Where are you?” In those times of darkness, I have to trust and remember who my Heavenly Father is. Like Cassie, I need to remember to “look harder” for evidence of God’s presence, instead of fixating on the unsolved problem. It seems to be human nature to painfully focus on what is wrong, those missing pieces.

Yet we have assurance that God has not abandoned us. In Romans 8:38-39, He comforts His children. “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ((NLT).  What an all-encompassing promise!

Exodus explains that God’s face is hidden from view because He is so holy. “But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live,” Exodus 33:20 (NLT). The Bible is explicit. God is not withholding his presence because he is an unkind Father, but He is so sinless that we could not survive a face-to-face encounter. Thus, enters Christ. He is why we can have relationship with this Holy God. Through the sacrifice of Christ, the penalty for our sins have been laid to rest, absolved, on the cross. Father God can now see us as forgiven and perfect in His sight! The gift of Christ made a way for us to be brought back into an intimate relationship with perfect Father God!

We have been given the promise of seeing Father God face to face … someday … in heaven. “And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them,” Revelation 22:3-5a (NLT). I will then be perfected, and though in awe, I’m sure, I will see Him clearly, face to face. As the song title says, “I can only imagine …” what that will be like.

Even when I feel like young Cassie, searching for the comfort of my Father’s face and presence, I can say with the confidence of a child, I know He is with me. Look for His presence around you. Listen for His voice, and watch for evidence in all ways. As you search for your Spiritual Father  in the middle of your unsolved puzzle, know He is near. You can encounter His presence. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you,” James 4:8 (NLT). His desire is to comfort you with great love and compassion. Look up from your despair, and He will show His face when you need it most.

His Glory and Majesty … and Me?

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” Psalm 8:1

Have you ever felt small as you looked into the night skies, stood on a mountaintop, or gazed into what seems like an endless sea from the shoreline? My human life, which is of utmost importance to me, is but an infinitesimal dot in one unfathomable universe … among many universes. In Psalm 8:3, David, the Psalmist, raises the question with this: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (NIV) 

[Enjoy listening to and watching this musical expression of Psalm 8:3 on Youtube:  https://youtu.be/6_f0aOp0EPE ]

The Scriptures proclaim His creativity in Psalm 104: 24: “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”  When I view the intricate details of nature, I am in awe. My heart is stirred at the exquisite pinks, reds, and yellows of a setting sun, at times dispersing its glory into clouds and reflecting waters.  Upon delighting in the scent of honeysuckle or a delicate rose bloom, I am humbled by God’s meticulous design. The calming song of a dove’s “cooooo-coooo,” or a lyrical human voice can lift my spirits even in turbulent times. How can I hold a newborn baby, so helpless, yet brimming with potential, and not see His works? I have only to let myself see, feel, hear, and touch what is all around me, and it becomes evident that God has allowed us glimpses of His Glory now. I can only imagine what Heaven will be as we then gaze upon the One who is the Creator!

It would take greater faith than I have to believe that my world came into being from some astonishing accident of nuclear particles. Or that the complexity of human life evolved from amoeba emerging from its watery habitat. Even the precision of the tilt of the Earth as it rotates, scientists say, is “just about right” (like perfect?) for advanced life to flourish. Such a “coincidence”?

It is no wonder that I am overwhelmed that God, The One who has formed not only my “tiny” yet miraculous life, but the whole of all universes, should care for me. “But God,” I ask. “How can you care about me?” I am but one among the myriads. My heart is so selfish. My woes must are surely fleeting and unremarkable among the countless multitudes in Your creation. And You? So Eternal, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient … all that I am not. My mind is incapable of grasping the wonder of You.

And yet. I can know absolutely that He cares … for me … and you. We do see the beauty of His handiwork and His revelation through our senses. But, even greater evidence is that same all-powerful, creative God wants to have a relationship with me! And you! If you wonder how I know this, I can be certain because He sent His Son, Jesus, to dwell among us on this planet. He came to teach, to heal, and to make a way for me, and all of us who seek God, to have relationship with his Almighty Majestic, Perfect Father. Jesus embodies the words of Eternal Life. Jesus, the only Son of God.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:9-11 (NIV)

“You have made them (human beings) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. … Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:5,9 (NIV)

Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limits: Blessing or Curse?

Being the owner and “parent/caregiver” of two adorable Bichons, I am fascinated with their behaviors. I often see an analogous relationship between their instinctive behaviors and ours as humans. Interestingly, when I put them on a leash, no matter what the length, they strain to the end of it. I tell them, “No pull!” quickly making them aware of their limits. If the leash is 4 feet, 6 feet, or 20 feet long, their reaction is the same without training and correction. They want complete freedom without restraint. So do we. It’s a primary struggle.

From the very first creation account, we have testimony that a single boundary was given by Creator God in the midst of an incredible and most perfect place – Eden. Adam and Eve had no labor, no toil, no sweat … just the beauty of the Garden God had placed them in with provision and comfort. Ahhhh … such sweet contentment. But, wait. That’s not how the story goes.

Given only one limitation, and that given for their good, the humans decided that God really couldn’t have meant what He said. Surely not, the Tempter said! The Evil One was lurking about ready to sell deception to these first human children. He also had chafed at his role of being an angelic being, desiring to be God himself. Forever being dismissed from his original heavenly purpose, he has been up to no good ever since. “Why,” he said to Eve, “God merely wants to deny you the gift of being like Him, the ability to know good and evil.” Eve reasoned that this made sense: God wanted to deny them that delicious and beautiful fruit to protect His authority and omnipotence. Wrong.

God had higher purposes for his instructions. Not only had He created these human children with free will to choose, but He also did not want them to live forever in sin. He was protecting them from their own potential wrong choices. Oh, but they chafed against that simple restraint. They tugged at the proverbial leash until they broke free and had their way. Momentary freedom ultimately led to pain, sorrow, and death.

Why, oh why, do we never see boundaries and limits as a gift, for our good and protection? When you say, “God wouldn’t give me THIS situation (you name it) if He didn’t think I could handle it,” are you sure He gave it to you? Or did you break the restraint to have your way instead of His highest and best? Or sometimes, it could be someone else’s sin that produced chaos in your life. Or it could be the condition of the fallen world splashing upon you, a child of God. Father God will see you through the storm, no matter the cause because God is love. Yet, should we examine the potential of our own failure to walk with Him before we assign God the blame?

Creator of the Universe, Father God, is also Omniscient – One who knows our choices before we do. Yes, He is also a loving, forgiving Father even when we foil His best plans for our lives. When we turn from our wayward paths, He redeems our mistakes and even uses them to bless us … when we repent.

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Winter

Photo by Becky McMillen, Baldwin, KS

The beauty of a new snowfall carried sweet remembrances that winter evening. It was so tantalizing that I couldn’t wait to pull on boots and warm gear just to experience the magic outside my window. White puffs of delicate intricacy fell on my head, shoulders, and ultimately, my feet, creating virgin footprints in the yet untouched snow. Everything in sight was transformed to a pristine state of perfection. Just hours before the drab of winter browns and grays dominated the landscape. The ugliness was made new.

As a child, I remembered the excitement of making the first footprints, first sled tracks, or even shoveling the first paths on the sidewalks or driveways. The reward of hot cocoa, and perhaps a just-baked cookie, was often part of the expectation after we’d broken into the frosty scene to our heart’s delight. Even without a fireplace, we could gather around the oven, warming our numbed fingers and toes as we waited expectantly for mother to finish the cocoa.

Winter in the Midwest also reminded me of chilly thrills and spills. There was the joy of riding our steel runner wooden sleds down steep hills and even streets in our small town. As a youngster, I would gleefully jump onto the back of my father at the top of the hill near our home. It seemed like “forever” to the bottom of the gentle slope beside my home, every inch of the way filled with excitement. Dad steered the handles upfront, and I clung to his broad shoulders, screaming for effect as we hit unexpected bumps along the way. Though I knew we might take a tumble, I had ultimate trust in the outcome as I held on to my dad, the one I believed could make all of life go well.

As an adult, I pulled the sleds of my own little ones and as they grew, we sledded any hills we could find when the snow fell. I wanted my children to have the same fond memories I did of winter. We became a skiing family, and that passion infused a new interest in the wintry cold. My feet ached, my fingers froze, and yet, to stand at the top of a mountain range in the Colorado Rockies was worth every discomfort ever experienced. The Creation of God before my eyes was breathtaking, and skiing was an adventurous way to be a part of such beauty.

Over time, despite its beauty, I also learned how harsh and barren winter can be. The cold season brings punishing winds, stinging cold, and danger to wildlife as well as humans who are ill-prepared. Winter can be hard to endure, and seemingly endless some years. I personally find candles and fireplaces comforting with their glowing warmth and esthetic beauty. People use various ways to cope with the restrictive boundaries of winter — remedies for relieving the itch of cabin fever or simply “snow weariness” in the dark days.

Reflecting on a deeper, analogical meaning of “season,” poets and writers have often alluded to the stages of human life. Admittedly, my years of “spring” have passed, those exciting years when everything continues to bloom and flourish in beauty and energy. Those were years of my youth in which mortal life appeared unending, full of promise and expectation, eyes on the next milestone. In the summer, I remained strong, able, and healthy with the promise of more good things to come. In the fall of life, my pace slowed, my children had grown, and I looked forward to their promises of new life and growth. Their milestones became mine vicariously. I knew my “winter” was to come, but I didn’t really ponder it. There were still plenty of projects to accomplish, friends to see, and life to live! If I let myself think about it, the final chapter of life on earth did seem not as far in the future as I once believed.

When my parents passed into eternity, I had the opportunity of holding their hands in those final moments. I stood beside my mother, realizing that I was suddenly the matriarch of the family. I felt instantly orphaned. At that moment, I could not avoid the sight of my own mortality. How many more years would I have, and how should they be spent? How would my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, direct my paths? Would I obey and follow? What purposes would my life serve, however many days, months, or years were left? Was there some significance to this winter season? Was I to glory in pleasureful activities with more freedom to play? Or was there more to this end game?

The good news is that our Creator God has provided purpose for His children in every single “season” of life, from conception to the grave — or to the arms of God in heaven.  I have learned that as long as we have breath to breathe, we have life to live. If there are physical limitations, God has provided (the potential for) spiritual wisdom, which is an even greater gift. In seeking answers for this query of how to live joyfully in the “winter of life,” my eyes were opened to a fresh perspective. Just as we began, we should end. Jesus told us the greatest commandment in the Law:” Matthew 22:37. “… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

These words of Christ are so simple, and yet so profound. If we walk in those great commandments, we can find peace and significance of purpose that I believe all human hearts yearn to know. Undeniably, I have lived through many seasons, but I have discovered that God is my source of strength, courage, peace and all spiritual blessings … through it all, even in the unpleasant and painful trials we encounter on Earth.

I have a choice though! We all have a choice. God was purposeful in His creation, making certain that we could choose to love Him and follow His plans, or not. It’s called Free Will. Father God did not make His creation in such a way that they would be forced to walk according to His Divine Plans. What Father would want puppet children, forced into relationship like slaves? But, He promises to cover our sins like the beauty of new fallen snow when we make that choice to walk with Him.

As for me, I choose to walk in faith until He calls me home to Heaven, Eternal Life, in the presence of the One who created it all. I invite you to find that same assurance, purpose, and peace by accepting His free gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Invite Him to be the Lord of your life. If you are unsure how to accomplish this, talk to someone who is a Follower, or send a note here on the Blog and I will respond personally. By giving God the reigns of your life in exchange for a loving relationship with the Lord of all Creation, you will have everything you need for a life of blessing and purpose through even the winter of life.

The Ring: My Legacy and Inheritance

I tugged open the drawer of my jewelry box, my emotions awash with memories. The night my mother slipped into eternity, I slid her wedding band onto my finger, feeling the weight of its significance. Yet, I would learn even more from this ring in the years to come.

My father had a beautiful platinum wedding band made for Mom after many years of marriage. Having wed during The Great Depression with no money for extras, this diamond studded ring was Dad’s thanks for her being there through the good seasons and the bad.

Dad had been a frequent top salesman for his company, and for that distinction, he had been awarded “pins.” Almost annually, he was presented with a new recognition pin, often adorned with one tiny diamond to symbolize his success. Dad simply tucked them away in a drawer year after year. When the time was right, Dad suggested they have a jeweler make a new wedding band, using his tiny diamonds to cluster around a slightly larger stone. She chose her setting, and the ring was soon made to their specifications.

After my mom passed away, my husband queried, “Do you want to have it resized so you can wear it?”

“It’s so much more like my mom than me,” I countered, dismissing his idea. Mom was an attractive brunette who dressed with flair, and enjoyed splashy costume jewelry, perfectly accessorizing her outfits. Those pieces always looked wonderful on her. Me? I tended to be more of a minimalist who donned the same yellow gold necklace almost daily.

“Well, we could have the ring reset if you’d like,” my husband encouraged.

I felt guilty even contemplating the thought. It was as if it were a sacred extension of my mother. So, it sat, undisturbed in my jewelry box for three years.

Then one day as I studied the Scriptures, I came across Psalm 139:13-14 once again. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it,” Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT).

A sense of freedom welled up in me as I contemplated her ring with new insight. Just as mother and I were distinctly different, this precious ring symbolized not only my parents’ legacy, but our distinct uniqueness. “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand,” Isaiah 64:8 (NLT). The Lord saw me before I was born, and He knew each of us as He formed us.

I thought of my mother and how dissimilar we had been. She used to laugh saying, “Where did you come from?” because we were nearly antithetical at times. We were mother and daughter, biologically linked, yet as different as we could be. Bound by mutual respect and love, shared family history, and a love for God, we loved each other–despite our contrasting traits.

Instead of guilt that I would destroy something of my mother’s, I saw how symbolic it would be if I did change the setting. Father God is not surprised that we are distinctively different beings, and Mother’s ring is a constant and beautiful reminder of how uniquely He created each of us. Today I wear “our ring,” though now the small diamonds are set in a simpler band of yellow gold. Now it represents all three of us. I believe my parents would both approve.  Their legacy of life and faith has shaped who I am, built the foundation of my life, and I will be forever grateful for this inheritance. But, I am not my mother, or my father. I am an extension of their lives, a unique creation made in the image of God–and this is no surprise to my Heavenly Father.