Holding on to the Moments

  Someone that I love once told me of a near death experience, of a moment when he thought for certain he was going to die. He said the sky never looked so vivid blue, and the air in his lungs felt so fresh and wonderful. In a matter of moments many memories went through his head as he recalled his family and how much he loved them. It is amazing how vivid the everyday normal things around him were, and how beautiful, even in that dark place where he was at. All brought to vivid display and all written forever into his memory because death was at the door. 

 Why is it that the bad things always get stuck in our heads. We remember things that frighten us, things that break our hearts, and these memories often lead us to fear for we are terrified of reliving them.

 What if we made an effort to hold onto the mundane moments, to savor the everyday normal that we so often take for granted? Personally I believe this is perhaps a very important thing that we so seldom do.

 A few nights ago I sat on our back porch as a storm blew through. The wind was whipping through my hair, the mist from the falling rain was hitting my skin and the smell of the cold rain hitting the scorched hot earth was intoxicating. I had seen many a thunderstorm in my 56 years but for some reason this one was memorable. It was memorable because I savored it. I consciously took in the feeling of the wind, the feeling of the rain, the scent in the air, how the clouds roiled in the sky and the thunder shook the heavens. I reveled in it, and in reveling in it I was transported from a mundane ordinary moment to something beautiful.

 When my oldest son first deployed to war and we took him to the airport to say goodbye, I can still remember the scent of him, the feel of him as I hugged him tight. I can vividly recall these things. I had hugged him thousands of times over the years, I had enjoyed those hugs, I took delight in those hugs, but on this occasion I savored it. I took it in for there was a part of me so afraid that I might never again be given the privilege of holding him close. Hugging a loved one is a mundane normal everyday moment. But what if we took it to the level of savoring every hug, as if it were the very last one, what if we did that every day?

 There is a beautiful butterfly bush in my back yard, it is a favorite of mine and I have looked at it's blooms many times, rejoiced in it's beauty many times but recently I examined it carefully. I examined the large blooms that are made up of hundreds of tiny perfect purple flowers all molded into the large purple blooms that I can see from my back porch. I breathed it in, and for the first time noticed that my beautiful butterfly bush has a scent to it's blooms. It left me in awe of the wonderful detail that goes into that ordinary bush, a bush that sits in thousands of yards, a bush I have beheld for many summers, even rejoiced in many summers, and yet a bush that I had failed to completely take in.

 As Ann Voskamp once said, "we only have this one moment", this moment right now that we are living and breathing in. The next breath is not promised, the next sunrise is not promised, the next hug is not promised.....nothing is certain except this one moment right now. So breathe it in, breathe it in deep. Savor it. Whether it's a thunderstorm, a hug from a loved one, or a flower, or perhaps it is just you in the kitchen cooking dinner and feeling a bit frazzled....whatever it is, slow down, consider for a moment. What if this is the last sunrise, the last hug, the last time you ever have to cook dinner for them?

 There is so much beauty in the everyday mundane, so much holiness in the daily ordinary things. We need to seek it, look for it, live with eyes wide open to it....else we miss it entirely and in missing it we miss the wonder of it all.

 Take it all in, speak out in gratitude for all that you see, all that you sense and smell and taste that is good.

 In thinking of these things I pause and give thanks for the mundane moments of my own life:

For the old dog laying quietly at my feet, who lives and breathes to please me........

For the husband who left this morning to do work on one of our vehicles, how I often take him for granted, how lost I would be without him.......

For the younger son and his smiling face as he stands next to his beautiful girl friend, and for the fun he is having on his first excursion half way across the country...........

For the older son relaxing today in his home, for his life and the fact that he is with us, that he did not die...........

For the window that I am gazing out of now, as I write these words, for those beautiful mountains that take my breath away near every day, for the plants and flowers and their beauty........

And for so very much more.............I am grateful.......I breath it all in........and savor it........Lord help us to be people who breath it all in, who savor the moments, who see the beauty.

  " The lover’s smile in the morning, the child’s laughter down the slide, the elder’s eyes at eventide: this is for you. And the earth under your feet, the rain over your face upturned, the stars spinning all round you in the brazen glory: this is for you, you, you. These are for you—gifts—these are for you—grace—these are for you—God, so count the ways He loves, a thousand, more, never stop, that when you wake in the morning you can’t help turn humbly to the east, unfold your hand to the heavens, and though you tremble and though you wonder, though the world is ugly, it is beautiful, and you can slow and you can trust and you can receive each moment as grace. Eucharisteo. " Ann Voskamp

A New Word for a New Year

   My word for 2015 was LIVE. I had spent so much time waiting, holding my breath, hands clenched tight on this roller coaster of life. I felt God was telling me to breathe, and to live gratefully and joyfully despite the circumstances.

   I have been somewhat successful at my endeavor for 2015 although I have at times fallen back into my habit of holding on, breath held tight, waiting for something to pass. I have found that certain things are key to living despite our circumstances. Primarily one must believe in God and have relationship with Him.  One must look for the blessings, the common daily things, the moments of beauty and grace that are always there, even in the middle of the not so good times. And last, but no means least one must have an attitude of praise to the Giver of life.

   This attitude of thankfulness is cultivated (at least it has been so for me) by seeking to see the blessings and acknowledging them. How many sunrises do you fail to see, how many sunsets? How many beautiful flowers, trees, mountains, lakes and streams do you fail to really take notice of? How many times have you heard the laughter of a loved one, seen the smile cross their face and failed to really even notice how beautiful it is? There are a hundred thousand things for which to be thankful.

 I am thankful for the living, for the everyday blessings of beautiful sunrise, beautiful flowers, still mountain lakes, pink mountains in evening sunset, the sound of a loved ones laughter, the feel and smell of a good strong hug, dogs who are so happy to greet me, the sight of snow softly falling on a crisp winter day, hot tea on a cold evening, the sound of voices raised in praise to a good God, for friends joining with me in prayer, for words written on paper, for birds around the feeder, for the strong warm man who is my husband, for the hope that burns within my heart, for the Savior who loves me........

 A new year is coming, the old one is passing and as it passes I will take into the new year the lessons I have learned in the old one. The new year requires a new word. After much reflection I have determined that the new word for the new year is PURPOSE. It seems like an excellent word to follow after LIVE.

  I desire to live with an attitude of gratefulness, and an attitude of praise to the One who holds all things together, and I desire to live with PURPOSE, to make the moments count as best I can, to spend them on the things and the people that matter most. I have learned this past year that God always has work for us to do, ALWAYS. We so often miss the moments. I don't want to miss them anymore. I want to live with my eyes wide open, and my heart wide open, so that I can see the needs, and I can do what ever I can do to meet them.

    Lord, I want to make the days count, to pause for prayer, to pause for praise, to pause for reflection, to greet each soul as if this greeting is the very last one, to depart from each soul as if this is the final goodbye, to forgive easy, to love hard, to trust always in Your grace and to fall on Your mercy, to hold onto hope, to live with eyes wide open, to embrace it all, even if it hurts, to speak truth, always in love, to be a source of comfort, a source of encouragement, to always build and never tear down, to believe in miracles, remember Your promises, feast on Your word and to pray without ceasing. Only by Your great grace can I accomplish these things. Help me Father, help us all Father, to LIVE with PURPOSE.

  A new year is coming, I see the road ahead......off we go!


 

 

Thanksgiving 2015

  Today is Thanksgiving, and for some reason that strikes me as odd that one day out of the year could be called Thanksgiving Day, as if there is nothing to be thankful for on the other 364 days, or as if I could possible store up all the grace, all the blessings and then sit down with family on this one day and give thanks for them all. The table would break under the weight of all that grace!

  Every day ought to be Thanksgiving Day. A grateful heart is good medicine for the soul; in fact it is the key to a healthy soul. It took me over 50 years to realize this and it took me that long to realize that every day is so full of His grace that even when I try and capture it all I fail utterly and completely. Some days I fail in even attempting to capture the blessings.

 A few years ago, God used a little book and a wonderful lady from Washington State, to teach me about gratitude, or at least to start me on the journey of learning about gratitude. Times were hard then, it had been a long dark night of the soul with no end in sight. My little family had sent a loved one to war twice, had spent near two years holding our breath and trying to be normal while a dear one fought in faraway lands. We were also dealing with a dark and painful mental illness here at home, one we did not understand and often could not make sense of. One that took a heavy toll from me, and from both my sons. Then my husband’s company closed their doors and money became extremely tight forcing him to seek work out of state.  For two long years we lived apart, seeing each other one weekend out of the month and talking on the phone each evening.  Then at last the war was over for us, the husband found work here, and it seemed that things were looking up. But the dark mental illness continued and to add to it, the son we had held our breath for was now trying to deal with the aftermath of war and loss. Then we had the first suicide, my beautiful daughter in law who had struggled so hard against the darkness of mental illness. Her death hit like a wrecking ball, a wave of pain so intense, so awful that it just cannot be described.  I had just a few weeks to try and breathe try and make some sense of that which cannot be made sense of, try and keep my son alive and then came the second suicide, my handsome nephew, husband and father of two.  A few weeks after flying home from that funeral, a little book arrived in my mailbox, sent by a kind lady in Washington who had ministered to my daughter in law.

 “One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”, by Ann Voskamp. It was almost an affront to receive such a thing at such a time. After all, what did I have to be thankful for?  And yet in reading it I began to see, I began to notice, I began to count the blessings. There were days when all I could come up with were the little things, “thank You Lord for coffee, thank You Lord for dogs” but as I practiced daily this art of counting the gifts I began to notice how blind I had been, and how wonderful it was to finally be able to see. To really see the beauty of life, the beauty of creation, the beauty of souls. My situation was still the same, nothing had changed about it, family members were still struggling hard in absolute darkness, and there were many times when we feared we would lose them to the darkness, feared yet another funeral, and yet something within me had changed.

 Giving thanks changes you, and the more you practice it the more you will be changed. There are ALWAYS the gifts He gives. There is beauty in the hard places, but we so often miss it completely because our lack of gratitude blinds our eyes to all the grace being poured out.

  So today, this Thanksgiving 2015, I give thanks to God most high, for the love, the intense and beautiful love that holds on no matter what, the love that just will not let go, the love that saves and redeems.  I give thanks for family, a family that looks out for each other, sacrifices for each other, and a family that has known pain and become all the stronger from it. I give thanks for beauty, the beauty of creation and the beauty of the human soul in all its suffering and in all its joy. I give thanks for sacrifice, for in sacrificing for others true love becomes known and understood. Love is pouring out your all for others. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, love hurts, your fur gets rubbed off, you get a bit ragged and worn, but oh how worth it is to truly love!  And last, but by no means least, I give thanks for the grace, grace poured out without measure, grace that falls like rain, grace that has sustained me and the ones I so love, grace that has saved and redeemed, grace that has blessed, marvelous outrageous grace.

  My prayer for us all is that the Lord most high would open our eyes to the gifts He gives, that we might always be a people of Thanksgiving, and that He would open our hearts that we might love with a measure of His love, and that we would be people of grace, giving it out to each other, as He gives it out to us.

 May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed. Remember our imperfections as you go about your day. No matter how hard you try, it will not be perfect. So give grace to the loved one that drinks a little more than they should, and grace to the one who arrives late to the table, and grace to the one that is loud and brash and ungrateful, and grace to the one who weeps and disrupts attempts to be happy, and grace to all the other disruptions and mistakes that might somehow mar your attempts for the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. For it is by grace that we are saved, and He has poured it out on us, so let us pour it out today on each other.

 Remember those with an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, whether it be those deployed in harm's way, or those deployed to heaven.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Mm

A Week of Blessings

 Last Sunday we lit the first candle of Advent, the Hope candle, tomorrow we light the second candle, the candle of Love.

 This week has been a journey, a journey of learning more about Him, about the gifts He brings, about His goodness and His mercy, about gratitude and the art of being ever grateful.

 I read a wonderful blog post from Ann Voskamp, about a woman who desperately needed to see God's grace displayed, about a prayer, about the two women walking away, dissapointed, thinking for a moment that their prayer was not heard, and then a miracle occurred and the small tiny thing which they sought, displayed itself in a manner outside the norm. You can read it below. As you read it, consider this, had the man not said "Stop", had she not heeded his call, had she walked away in the rush and hurt of her disappointment, we would never have seen this story, for she would never have known that He did hear her prayer, and He gave her more than what she asked for.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/12/when-youre-this-close-to-giving-up-hope/

  And this morning I listened to an old farmer talk about gratitude. This one just needs to be heard, so I will say no more than please take a moment and listen. (Another gift from Ann Voskamp)


 And earlier this week, I read a devotional about Eve that blessed me greatly.

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/comforting-eve/



 And all this week, I prayed for a dog, and for the family that loves her, and last night, the below photo was posted. She is home and resting and recovering with her humans.......God is gracious and loving, and has heard the prayers lifted, and has answered. Her vet says it is a miracle, they did not expect Livy Grace to even survive the first night......but she did....and we are grateful.




Gratitude

Today has turned out to be a day of testing. On this journey of thanksgiving, this journey of learning the true meaning of gratitude, today I came to a wall.

 The day itself was not a bad day, I woke up to snow, when I left for work today the roads were clear, but the trees were snow covered, so it was a beautiful sight without the stress of driving in bad conditions.

 Work went well, I accomplished things, it was productive. On the way home the setting sun reflected off the snow covered Sandia Mountains, the peak was covered in clouds, and it was as if the mountain went on forever, you were not sure where the top was. It was beautiful and I was blessed.

The evening threatened to be one of worry. Sometimes you pray for things so hard, you wish so very much that they were different, that it just tears your heart out when they are not. Worry looms. Prayers are sent up to heaven, and all of a sudden I am struggling to find the thanks. How do i give thanks in this Lord, what is there to be thankful for in this paticular situation? It's a work in progress, this struggle to be ever thankful, this struggle to find the joy, even when my heart is heavy, even when I cry out to God, how long Lord? Save now Lord!

 At this part of the thanksgiving journey  I am reading a very good  book on the subject of gratitude. It is called Choosing Gratitude, Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I have been taking it slow, and savoring it, reflecting on it.

 Today I read that the average Westerner (that would be me) is more prosperous than 99.4 percent of everyone who's ever lived on earth. Wow. I recognize this truth. I am truly rich compared to most people in the world. I may not be rich by American standards, but I am rich compared to world standards. I am grateful for the many blessings God has given me. Tonight I sit on a comfortable couch, in a nice home, it is warm, I have eaten a good meal, and I have a full cup of coffee by my side. There is an abundance of things to be thankful for.

 I read this also today " the difference between being full and empty is not usually between being rich or poor, at home or away, cupboards bursting at the seams or thinly lined with soup cans and Ramen noodles. The difference is gratitude.Ungrateful people are much like a container that has a hole in it, leaking out every blessing thats been poured in, always needing something else, something new to consume for satisfaction fuel."

 I want to be full, like the Apostle Paul was full, sitting in a Roman prison he wrote to the Philippians these words "I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. "  Wow! He was in prison, facing death, from all I have read about the period, Roman prisons were not like our modern ones, and yet Paul states that he has more than enough, he is content with all that God has blessed him with.

 So tonight, I reject the fear and the worry, and I rejoice in the blessings He has given. The one thing that I seek so diligently right now has not yet been given me. Perhaps it will come tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year, perhaps in ten years, perhaps it will come after I have been called home. But He will save, He will deliver. He will use whatever comes for good. He keeps His covenant promises. I will continue to wait, and continue to pray, and as I wait and pray I will rejoice in His many blessings.