Hope in Affliction and Sorrow

I am behind in various things. One of the areas where I fell behind was getting a blog out on October 23. For the past three years I’ve written a blog that honored the anniversary date of Mother’s death. The blog always centers on the last hour I spent with Mother on the day she died. And, it centers on something else: God and His Word.

I spent almost a month in Texas that October. Three of those weeks were at Mother and Daddy’s house. Mother had battled with Alzheimer’s disease for 8 years. She was in her final days. Hospice kept saying we didn’t have much time left with her. Most of the time during those last weeks, she was peaceful, there was very little pain. What a blessing that was.

Every morning after I awoke, I’d go into her room and check on her. Usually Daddy was still asleep in his bed next to her hospital bed, so I’d slip back out, go grab a cup of coffee and return to my room to spend quiet moments with God. However, on this particular morning four years ago, Daddy woke up early and went on into the den to read the paper. Since I wasn’t interrupting his sleep, I decided to just sit there with Mother.

For some reason, I opened my Bible to Psalm 119. And, for some reason I decided to read it out loud. It’s a long Psalm, but I read it all. I tired of sitting pretty quickly, so I walked around her room and read. I’d read sections at a time and then pray. These were powerfully sacred moments. They are moments I will never forget. Just as I finished the last verse, she took her last breath. At that moment her spirit left this earth and she was in the presence of her beloved Jesus.

A part of honoring Mother’s going “home to Jesus day”, is reading again the 176 verses of Psalm 119. I read these verses always anticipating that there will be a theme that will leap off of the pages. This year the theme is affliction and sorrow. The Psalmist knows life has afflictions and sorrows. He has first hand knowledge. He knows where help is found: The Word of God.

  • My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word.
  • My soul melts away for sorrow: strengthen me according to your word.
  • This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
  • I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!
  • Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

We can be laid low in the dust as we grieve the death of precious loved ones. But, there are other things that bring intense sorrow and affliction too: exhaustion, burnout, confusion, broken relationships, shame, loneliness, debilitating illness, divorce, natural disasters, shattered dreams, job losses, addictions, sin, aging. The list could go on and on. Sorrow and affliction bring chaos and heart pain that can be indescribable. We’re never ready for these life altering events. We may find ourselves asking these questions: How will I get through this? Is there any hope? Will I ever find comfort?

Because of God, there is help. There is comfort. There is hope. His light will burst back through and lift us up from our broken state. It’s a given that we have seasons of suffering, but God in His marvelous goodness lifts us out of our despair. He uses His Word to give us back what seems has been lost for a season: The Joy of our salvation, Peace that passes all understanding, abundant Grace that keeps our eyes on Him.

As I’m passing through a new affliction, not having any idea of where this journey will take me, I cling to Jesus. I cling to hope. I cling to comfort from the Word, especially these words from Psalm 23: His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

What are some words of comfort you cling to during seasons of affliction?

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Out of the Mouth of Babes

Every June I have the incredible blessing of spending the morning with some children who are attending Vacation Bible School. This special morning occurs on Thursday, the morning after the children have heard the simple, yet profound message of the Cross, from the Children’s pastor.

In this message the children hear the reason God sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross. It was because of Love. Man’s brokenness, which the Bible calls sin, separated us from God. The remedy for restoration with God is Jesus. He is the bridge from God to us.

It’s impossible to be restored to God without understanding sin and understanding that all of us have missed the mark which is perfection. I don’t know about you, but I know about me and I am far from perfection!

There are children who, after hearing the Message of the Cross, want to know more. They want to know how they personally can be in a right relationship with God, through Jesus. Those with these questions are given the opportunity to have a one to one conversation with someone who can provide some of the answers they’re searching for. That’s where I came in . . .

In one conversation with a young girl, I asked, “What are some ways we can and do sin?” I was quite stunned when this young girl said, “Oh, one thing I do is take two hours to do my homework.”

I was ready to jump in and say, “Oh, dear one, that’s not a sin!” But, something told me to just sit and listen. She went on to say that she really could get her homework done a lot quicker. She just didn’t want to. I got kind of bold using this word, but I threw it out anyway. I said, “So, it’s rebellion?” She didn’t bat an eye when she said, “Yes. That’s what it is.”

Out of the mouth of babes I was shown what depth and insight a fifth grader can have. I was reminded through this young girl that that’s the best descriptive word there is for sin: rebellion.

Again, I think of the lesson Jesus was trying to teach adults when He said, “Come to me as little children.” I realized at that moment that children can be a lot more sensitive to understanding that something is not quite right with the human heart. And, we need a rescuer to save us from ourselves.

The Rescuer is Jesus! There is only one way to get it right with God. We must admit we are separated from Him because of our sin and then put our total faith in Jesus who died on the cross. I’m so glad death has lost its sting. It lost its sting because Jesus rose from the dead so that all who put their faith in Him will live with Him forever. Forever begins the moment we put our belief in Him. What a joy it was to look into the eyes of a precious child whose abundant forever began yesterday when she confessed with her mouth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

How about you? Has your abundant forever begun?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grief-A Hard Journey

 

 

It’s good having people in our lives who frequently ask, “How are you really doing?” I’m grateful for family and friends who take me as I am today no matter where I am emotionally. It is hard to admit where these weeks of May 2018 have taken me emotionally, but I know I must.

I remember calling a beloved friend of my sister’s on the day she died, May 26, 2017. I cried out these words, “I didn’t think it would hurt this badly!” She said, “I know.” She did know and she understood. She, too, had lost a cherished younger sibling to the enemy of cancer.

I didn’t think it would hurt this badly because I knew, as did my sister Kimberly, and others knew, that she was going to lose this earthly battle with this wretched disease. I thought somehow that this knowing would help me be more prepared to tell her bye and to accept it, but it didn’t. I also thought that because we are a family of Jesus followers who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when we take our last earthly breath that the next breath will be in Heaven with Jesus that my grief wouldn’t be so intense. But it was.

All in all, I believe I’ve walked this journey of grief in a good and healthy way. It’s been a hard journey, but with God’s care and the help of family and friends, I think I’ve done pretty well. Joy returned. I went with a friend to her cabin in the Smoky Mountains in April. I laughed and shared funny stories about Kimberly with her. I remember thinking, “Kristi, you’re doing quite well! It’s nearly been a year and look at you! You’ve hardly shed any tears during the last weeks. You are in such a good place.” But then, May rolled in. The first week of May I was off on an overseas mission trip. The trip was full of good, life-giving activity. Again, I thought how nice it was that I was doing so well. Then, unexpectedly, during the second week of May grief grabbed me again. I thought it would hold off until this week. It didn’t.

Sunday my pastor took his sermon from Matthew 18, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” He said we are to be child-like, not childish, which means we are to have a child-like faith that comes from humility. This is being totally God-dependent.

On my way home, grief punched me in the gut again. With tears rolling down my face, I knew I was going into a place that seemed very childish. And, in all honesty, I knew God could take it. My heart was throwing a temper tantrum before God as I cried out, “I want my sister back. I miss her so much. This hurt and pain is awful!” A child’s needs are to be met by parents. I know as a parent, I did not always meet my children’s needs in a perfect and loving way, but my Heavenly Father meets His children’s needs in a lovingly perfect and right way. He lovingly listens, He lovingly shows patience. He lovingly shows He understands. He knows I am weak and frail. I admit my weakness and frailty. Perhaps it’s in the admitting of my childishness that I can grow deeper into that child-like faith. When a child falls, the parent reaches down and lifts them up. That’s exactly what my Father God is doing for me today: He’s lifting me back up, and He will do it again and again. Of that I am sure.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3

A Transformational Tool That Has Impacted My Life

                                                                                                                                                                   Photo courtesy of Rfitzel.com

Personality theories have always intrigued me. A few years ago my daughter introduced me to a new personality typology. I thought, “Why not learn more about this one, too.” This particular typology has a strange name— the Enneagram. Of course, she had to spell it for me and pronounce it quite a few times before I could even come close to getting it right. She signed up for an all day teaching on this odd sounding personality study and invited me to go with her.

I left pretty overwhelmed that day. You see, this is a typology that identifies more than just those nice strong characteristics that work for good in our lives when we use them in the way God intends. It also identifies negatives qualities that can show up: the sinful part, our lower nature, which we all have. I was pretty uncomfortable. I left that day with more questions than answers. I left that day pretty down on myself. Surely those negative characteristics in what was looking like “my number”, “my space” weren’t true! Well . . . they are there. I wanted to hide.

However, something significant took place that day. My daughter and I went to a deeper place of connection in our relationship. We talked. We cried. We asked for forgiveness from one another. We gave it to one another. We now have more understanding and compassion toward one another. We have more grace towards one another because we understand ourselves and each other better.

We discovered we each look at life and even at each other through a different lens. Many of us believe others see things in life just like we do and if they don’t then we believe they’re wrong and we’re right. That’s not necessarily true. I’m very grateful for the new discoveries I continue making about myself, about others, and about God through using the tool of the Enneagram. There’s spiritual wisdom to be found in this ancient typology system. It’s leading me closer to God.

In my journey of studying the Enneagram I ran across this quote by John Calvin. “Nearly all wisdom we possess, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. No one can truly know God without knowing oneself and one couldn’t truly know oneself without knowing God. Which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.”

God uniquely and beautifully designed each of us. Unfortunately, sin marred God’s perfect design. Placed in the perfect Garden of Eden, the first man used the gift of choice and chose to disobey God. But, God in His perfect love sent us a Rescuer who redeems. His name is Jesus.

The Enneagram is a great tool that can help us confront those things in our lives that Jesus wants to redeem and transform. I love what Eugene Peterson says: “In His love, Jesus, diagnoses what is unique in us. He understands the precise ways in which things have gone wrong, and diagnoses the particular aberrations that have seeped into our lives, and then He mercilessly saves us from them. Jesus’ love awakens the sleeping parts of our lives to the colors and delights of eternal life. This waking is not without pain or difficulty or struggle. Being awake requires more energy than sleeping. There is also the possibility of more pain. Sleeping people don’t suffer.”

We can be asleep at the wheel of our lives and stop growing in our relationship to God, with each other, and in relationship to ourselves, which includes knowing what is going on in those deeper recesses of our hearts. This is a part of spiritual transformation. There is pain and struggle involved, but it moves us to a deeper place of flourishing that is joy-filled, love-filled, and peace filled

God is using the tool of the Enneagram to make me more aware of who I am: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Each day God reveals more of Himself to me through the Holy Scriptures and through His Spirit.

Roberto Assaglio aptly describes spiritual transformation: Spiritual development is a long and arduous journey, an adventure through strange lands full of surprises, joy, beauty, difficulties, and even dangers.”

I can honestly say the past year included all of those things. It’s included grief like I’ve never known before, Biblical study in a way I’d never done before, obedience to God in areas that surprised me and stretched me, deeper connections in relationships with family and friends because of my own spiritual growth, and the opportunity for deeper training in understanding the Enneagram through an exceptional Enneagram coach. That training has opened doors for me to coach others using the Enneagram, too.

I’m learning how to truly love God, others and myself (Romans 13:8, Galatians 5:14, 22-23). The journey is just beginning! In coming blogs, I’ll share more of the transformation God is doing in me and, I trust, you’ll be challenged and encouraged, too. Are you in a growth process? How has God been transforming you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Passion that Changed the World

 

 

There are things said to us in life that we never forget. Some of these words spoken are good for our souls. They are life-giving. But, some words hurt our hearts and cause us to bleed for a while.

Many years ago I had a part-time job that was helping us get by financially. What should have been a life-giving environment was not. When I received my yearly evaluation I was rather stunned when out in the margin was the question, “Is this your passion?” I was offended by that question. I felt unfairly judged by this fellow pilgrim. We never had a chance to discuss what she had written out in the margin. The evaluator and I definitely had different perspectives on some things.

However, something positive resulted from this. I did some introspection and asked myself, “What are your passions, Kristi.” I didn’t have much trouble coming up with them. When I did, I knew they were the right ones for me in that season of life. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines passion as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.

My passions revealed my priorities and they were spot on. I didn’t have to feel guilt for not being passionate about the job I had at that particular time in my life especially when it was full of difficult stresses. But it was helping provide for some needs in my family and that lined up well with a passion concerning my family which was finding a way to live debt-free. Our passions may change over time. A passion can flame up for a while and then pass.

There’s another kind of passion that I investigated through my recent study of Romans. It is the passion of Christ.

When we speak of the “passion” of Christ, we speak of his suffering. Jesus had no “excitement” about the cross. Death on a cross was likely the most horrific death ever experienced. The physical suffering on the cross alongside the emotional and spiritual suffering of bearing the sins of all mankind are of such a magnitude that is beyond imagination.

But in his suffering, Jesus did find joy! Hebrews 12:2 challenges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, “the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What was the joy before Jesus? Perfectly obeying the Father, for sure, but also, I believe Jesus had joy because he saw your salvation and mine! Jesus’ passion changed the world.

Because of the cross and resurrection death lost its sting and we are given all we need to live abundantly now with hope, power, love, comfort, joy, and courage. He gave His all so that those who trust in Him can really live.

Today, Easter 2018, is a great time to revisit what we’re passionate about. Do our passions honor and please the Savior who suffered and gave His all so we could really live? Do our passions include using the unique giftedness God has placed within us? Our passions make known what we love. If our “loves” are wrongly placed, it’s never too late to let the old go and replace with something new. It’s the best way to live.

 

 

 

Thinking in Threes: It Makes a Difference

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I attended a couple’s retreat. The theme was “Be Refreshed”. It was a delightful couple of days hearing different speakers share the importance of being refreshed in our souls, marriages, ministries and other areas of our lives. The men and women met together for many of the sessions, but we had two separate breakouts. Mike shared his notes from the men’s session with me. Don’t we all love to hear someone speak whose presentation is full of good “take away’s”. His was.

The topic for this particular breakout session was “Be Refreshed in Your Soul.” Our soul is our mind, our will, our emotions. The speaker for the men, Tony Rankin, had many practical suggestions in the area of mind refreshment. It’s hard to find times of refreshment during the day when we have a list a mile long of things to get done. Tony suggested taking that list, but limiting ourselves to thinking about and only doing three things on the list at a time. When a set of three is done, then take a break, maybe a 5-10 minute break. Then, start on the next three things.

I like this idea. This week I thought I’d give this a try. I tweaked it just a bit for me. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with life, so on my blank, small piece of paper I wrote down only three things. That made it more manageable. By the end of the day it brought great satisfaction to look at the many “threes” that were completed. The last set of three’s wasn’t completed, but it really didn’t matter since I could look back and see the other “three’s” that were completed.

Thinking in three’s can actually be something quite spiritual. The number three is significant in the Bible. It’s used hundreds of times. It seems to be the number of completion and perfection. My life has been and continues being changed by these “three’s”:

  • The Trinity: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Where would I be without having a personal relationship with God the Father through His perfect son, Jesus? Where would I be without the abiding power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in me, through me, and around me?
  • The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ means I can now live free from the power of sin and death. This is available to all who have put their faith and trust in the One who gave His all so we can truly live. Acts 17:28 says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
  • Our design as made by our Creator God – body, soul, and spirit. We are created as image bearers of the one Master Designer. This is who we are. We are His workmanship

The plan of working in “three’s” is quite practical. I may get to the end of the day and find that I’ve checked off most things in those sets of threes. In most cases, if something is left undone, we are gifted with the newness of the next day to complete what was left unfinished.

Additionally, there is an important question I must ask myself when I look at that list. How many things were centered on self and how many on others? If it’s way out of balance, I need to do some re-prioritizing in my life.

Recently I got to the end of the day – much was accomplished. Then I saw a word on one of my lists of three’s that didn’t get done . . . a word I really don’t like very much. I saw the word iron. It hadn’t gotten done.

In reality, I didn’t have to do that ironing. My husband has plenty of clean shirts to wear, but it was something I could do and wanted to do because I love him. It was an opportunity to die to self in a real practical way. Making a deliberate focus on serving others a part of my daily planning will be a huge blessing to me and others. I sense that more will be accomplished, too.

If fullness of life comes from living and moving in a way that honors the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, then the days that make up our lives will be days that delight the Father. These kinds of days bring us joy, peace, satisfaction and a sense of completeness in Him. They are days of productive fruit-bearing.

Two Important Questions

 

How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me? This is the first line of a song written by Andre Crouch: To God Be the Glory. Yes, it’s impossible to ever say it enough, but I need to live my life trying.

As I think about living a life of thanksgiving, I can’t help but think of the last month of my sister’s life. She was a woman on the go pretty much till she took her final earthly breath. She’d texted these words to many of us two weeks prior to that day: “I ain’t down yet!” And, she wasn’t.

Kimberly and I had a phone conversation a month before she stepped into eternity that I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget it because she asked me a question that shocked me. It shocked me because it was coming from someone whose life was fading because of terrible cancer. Her question was, “Have you ever felt like God was giving you the desires of your heart?”

I think I kind of stumbled around trying to formulate my answer. I said, “I guess so, but many times those desires aren’t material but spiritual.” I was having trouble with her question because we’d prayed so much for her healing over many years and it wasn’t being answered the way we wanted. That was the main desire of my heart and I know it was hers. And yet it seemed she was living on a different and higher plane than I by asking me that question. Now I can’t help but wonder if she already had one foot in Heaven. She probably did.

Kimberly went on telling me many things God was giving her and doing for her. I was blown away by what she was saying and with the joyful attitude she was saying it. So, I asked her for a favor. I asked if she would write down these blessings in a journal so she could share them in person with me since I was going out to see her soon.

A few days later I got a text from her saying she was just going to text these blessings to me. These are some of the things she wrote the last weeks of her earthly life:

  • Today I am SO blessed! This is the day the Lord has made! I’m having coffee in bed. I slept 7 hours!
  • Today I’m really resting. I’m in bed with pillows propped up, have a food tray, TV remote in hand that “I” control, Jesus going before me like a hurricane!
  • Today I’m headed to Arkansas for a wedding. I got a portable breathing machine. My breathing is 100% better!
  • God keeps doing so much for ME minute by minute. “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” God is in control!
  • I’m having a fun snack: chocolate chip cookies, lime potato chips.
  • Let us rejoice because JOY is in this morning

How was she able to live her last days with this kind of joy and attitude? She was joyfully fighting to live and make it to one of the most important days on her calendar – the wedding of her son. She was fighting not with her own strength but with the strength of her beloved Jesus. At the time she said Jesus was going before her like a hurricane I had no idea what that meant. Now I do. She loved contemporary praise music and the song she must have had on her mind was “Fierce” sung by Jesus Culture.

 

Before I call

Before I ever cry you answer me

From where the thunder hides

I can’t outrun this heart I’m tethered to

With every step I collide with You.

Like a tidal wave

Crashing over me

Rushing in to meet me here

Your love is fierce

Like a hurricane that I can’t escape

Tearing through the atmosphere

Your love is fierce.

 

Kimberly experienced Jesus’ powerful love in ways she’d never known before. She had spiritual eyes that could see the Lord Jesus at work in her life during the most difficult journey she’d ever taken. She found joy in that last leg of her journey because of His love – the most powerful energy there is in the Universe.

We can never say thank you enough to the One who gave His all so that we can really live. But we can live trying. It makes a difference in the way we look at our yesterdays. It makes a difference in the way we view today. It makes a difference in the way we view our tomorrow.

Thanksgiving allows joy to take over instead of despair. With the apostle Paul we can say, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

 

Sacred Moments Always Remembered

 

My mother had Alzheimer Disease for eight years. I live in Tennessee, Mother and Daddy in the Texas Panhandle. During her battle with this disease, I made trips to see her and Daddy once every three months. I wish I could have gone more often, but it’s a long way from Tennessee to Texas. Daddy’s a tough Texan who had the strength to take care of Mother at home until the very end. What a gift he was able to give her.

I was already in Texas with Mother and Daddy, three years ago, when she began her final decline with this cruel disease. God has gifts for us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death with those we love. The gift He gave me was that I was there with them during her last days here.

Hospice came regularly. For two weeks they told us her final breath was imminent. God holds the key to life and to death. Only He knows why her lingering was as long as it was. I trust Him in His timing but those were rough days.

The morning of October 23, 2014, I got up about 6:00 and decided to go and sit with her while I spent my devotional time with God. It was one of those mornings I wasn’t sure where to read, but I landed in Psalm 119. It’s a long chapter! 175 verses!

I did something I’d never done before. I read it out loud. I sat awhile and read, I walked awhile and read, I prayed some of these verses over all of our loved ones. Even though her eyes were closed, I knew she heard me and was delighting in the Word of God as I.

The entirety of this Psalm is devoted to the praise and honoring of God’s Word. The room where Mother took her last breath became a sacred sanctuary. The aroma of Jesus filled that place because His presence and His word were with us. His Word gives comfort, gives strength, gives joy, gives hope, gives guidance, gives refreshment, gives wisdom.

Mother took her last breath as I finished reading this Psalm. It was a sacred place.

Every time we worship God in quiet stillness, in reading and meditating upon His Word, and in prayer the place is sacred. There is a blessed communion among Father and child. This Psalm is the place where my eyes will focus on all the October 23rds that are given me by my gracious loving heavenly father who knows my days, and knows your days, too.

Even though there is another sorrow in my life, which is deep and fresh with raw emotion – the loss of my sister – this Psalm tells me: “God’s unfailing love is my comfort. When I’m laid low in the dust, my life can be renewed.” We are told, “Your compassion is great, O Lord; renew my life according to your law”.

What can we all be sure of in our darkest moments? We can be sure that He sees, He knows, He cares, He soothes. And the way to receive these blessings and more is having a heart that hungers enough and loves Him enough to spend time, not only reading His Word, but immersed and consumed by His Word.

Melancholic Joy

 

 

This week marks the four month anniversary of the death of my sister, Kimberly. It’s hard to believe that it’s already a third of a year. I seemed to experience more melancholy last week than this week. It’s probably because I was remembering the days that led up to her death. On the anniversary day of this week I woke up feeling great serenity, until I went to Yoga.

Tuesday during my Yoga class I discovered something new in my life: a melancholic joy. That’s kind of an odd place to discover this, and yet as I think about it, it’s not odd at all.

I tried Yoga a few years ago and wasn’t too crazy about it. Some of the poses were strange and I couldn’t achieve many of the positions to which our instructor guided us. I saw nothing relaxing in it at all, so decided it wasn’t for me. The time of the class didn’t work very well in my schedule either, so that too affected my decision not to go back. It’s funny though, how we change and how God uses all kinds of ways to take care of us in areas where we are unaware.

My renewed interest in Yoga came because a friend in another city began attending a Restorative Yoga class. I became intrigued and quite curious again about Yoga when she told me of the many benefits she is receiving. By the time each class ends she knows her body has let go of an incredible amount of tension which can build up so quickly in just a week’s time. When a new Yoga class opened up at our church’s family ministry center, at an optimal hour for me, I knew it was time to try this type of workout again. I was open to anything that could take me to deeper places of serenity.

The types of stretching, interesting poses, and focus upon deep breathing all are important components of the de-stressing processes of Yoga, but for me, the best thing about this class is the relaxing and spiritual environment that presents itself each week. Of course, I know this wouldn’t be possible without the incredible instructor God beautifully placed to lead this class. It’s evident that the Spirit of God is leading through her. When we’re in the pose with our hands together she often says, “Lift your hands in prayer to God.” This place becomes a worship workout with directions like that. The music she chooses to play during our class connects me to the heart of God. That’s where it dawned on me that there is a place of rest and serenity that is a melancholic joy.

It’s good the lights were low on Tuesday because my face got all scrunched up, my eyes became teary, and my nose sniffled with the closing music. The instrumental music that closed out our workout was Amazing Grace and Be Still My Soul. Later that afternoon while doing some things around the house, I tuned into my favorite Pandora station: Lullabye Radio. Two instrumental songs played: Amazing Grace and Be Still My Soul. I sobbed. I knew it wasn’t accidental that I was hearing those two songs again.

I thought, “God, why am I hearing both of those songs again?” It’s like He said, “It’s not the beauty of the melody that is bringing on the tears of melancholy, but there are some of the words of the songs I need to remind you of.” This phrase from Amazing Grace captured me, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.” From Be Still My Soul, I focused on, “Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide. Through thorny way leads to a joyful end.”

I experienced a melancholic joy because even in the sorrowful place of missing my sister, Kimberly, I was overcome with joy because God’s goodness and graciousness was all around me. I had only to open the eyes of my heart, soul, and body to see it. It is in that place that I choose to continue living.

I will continue loving the One who loved me before I was ever born. I will continue being on the look out every day for things to write down in my thankfulness journal that come from Him. I will continue deepening those relationships most dear to me and cultivate the new ones that God brings into my life. This community of family and friends brings incredible meaning to my life.

I will be comforted everyday in the hope that I will spend not only 10,000 years in the perfectly prepared Home awaiting me, but will stay there forever. It’s in that place that I can gaze on Jesus who redeemed me, my sister, my mother and all others who put their faith and trust in Him alone. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully… I Corinthians 13:12 The suffering of Jesus made possible the joy in sorrow I am now discovering which will one day be made perfect.

A Hoopla Worth Experiencing and Pondering

A lot of hoopla began at least a year ago in our town and surrounding area that I knew nothing about until about a month ago. I’m not a student of astronomy so I was unaware until recently that my town was in the path of the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. As this day got closer and closer, I thought this eclipse mania was over the top. But, I got my glasses, made sure all my family members got theirs and decided there was no way I was going to miss this “event”. This event didn’t cost me a dime. I had some of the best seats in the house! My front yard!

Those few moments were breathtaking as the moon passed between the sun and Earth. How I wish we all could have frozen those minutes of being awe-struck with a wonder we’d never seen before and may never see again. “All things are held together by Him”, Colossains1:17 took on new meaning for me. This fact connected to my heart in a new way through visually seeing this eclipse.

I noticed something else about that day. This was an event to celebrate and many people did it with others. We each viewed this spectacular site through our own special glasses but somehow it became even a deeper experience because we enjoyed it with one another in community. We heard squeals from children and shouts of excitement from teenagers and adults. And some of us just shouted from our insides. Some hailed science. Some praised the Creator.

My soul praised the great Creator God. He’s the One who spoke the world into place. He’s the One who made you and me. I must admit I felt tiny as I looked at the stunning sight of the eclipse. I am tiny when I compare it to the scope of the universe, and yet I’m not tiny and insignificant in the eyes of God. He sees me, He loves me, He knows my name. I matter to Him.

Some of us, like me, in the beginning entered into this “hoop-la” with a little bit of resistance. Some entered full throttle from the beginning, and some totally resisted. In fact, I observed one of those in the resistance category – a person full of fear and anxiousness. They were in eclipse-fear mode. Even though we were told there was nothing to fear, except stupidity by not wearing the correct eye protection, they couldn’t trust that all was going to be okay.

Everyday, not just unusual days like eclipse day, we are confronted with the question of living the day in peace, serenity, trust or living the day in tumultuous confusion, fear, and worry. There is only one way to live in the place of peace. This way is found in knowing the One who holds all things together. Just as scientists have studied astronomy for hundreds of years we must study our Creator God. When we study Him as He is revealed in Scripture we will come to understand that we don’t ever have to give ourselves over to the giant of fear that will eat us alive if we let it.

There are days of incredible joy and there are days of incredible pain that can come because of worry, fear, and sadness. I must admit that it’s in the days of pain and sorrow that I need to remind myself that He is holding me together and He will always hold me together no matter what.

Just knowing “HE IS” is really all any of us need for today.

Today I will remind myself that the awesomeness of God is something I can rejoice in everyday no matter what. I will remember to be still and know He is God.

Just knowing “HE IS” is all I need for today