Monday, November 30, 2015

Only God~

I don't know how we first met, or how it is we became friends.
We just always were.
J, L, and me, the three of us.
First grade through high school graduation, we spent the years of growing up side by side.

I have no doubt in my mind it was God himself who orchestrated the details of our lives,
so we might live where we did,
when we did,
sharing our life together with who we did.

Only God.

There were a lot of similarities between us,
although admittedly more between J and L, then me.

J and L were both only children,
I had two sisters.

J and L's parents both owned VW bugs.
My parents were Ford people.

J and L both went to the small, country church situated on an old dirt road.
I went to church in a nearby city.

J and L both had birthdays in November.
My birthday came a few short days behind theirs in December.

We were friends - through thick and thin, and everything in the middle.

Now,
the older we get,
the more I keep finding myself in a place that seems to look back over the years instead of out in front to them like we did when we were kids.

And, I realize I have more in common with these friends still:

None of us, although we all married, had children of our own.
We were all Daddy's girl through and through.
And this year, - this year we all turn 50.

In fact, today is L's birthday and with it came the most unbelievable similarity between us all.
This morning, in the wee early hours of her birthday, L's father passed away.

I  awoke to this facebook message from J:
Just read that he passed away at 2 am this morning. My heart is heavy for her.

Almost 11 years ago, on my birthday, my father passed away.

And, years before that, on J's birthday, her father passed away.

(I'll give you some time to let that sink in.)

When J's father died, almost twenty years ago now, my heart broke for her and I remember thinking over and over and over again, how sad would it be for your father to die on your birthday? Little did I know at the time, I too, would experience this. And now, almost 11 years beyond my own dad's passing, L - today - feels this same incredible loss on her birthday.

My heart, too, is heavy for her.

Finally, early this afternoon, I messaged J back:
So very heavy - tears for her, all day long. And, if I'm honest, maybe tears for you and me, too, all mixed up and wrapped up with hers. Love you, dear friend.

J was quick to reply:
Yep...I had a hard day. Kinda relived it all over again. Tonight I'm better. Love you Esther!

(She always called me Esther.  Can I just tell you right here and right now how comforting it is to hear the "blessings" of your past, words and phrases from a heart that knows you so deep for so long - words that somehow have the amazing ability to ground and settle your heart when it feels as though it has had the rug pulled from underneath it?)

And my reply:
You're the best, Gertrude. Always have been, always will be. 

(I always called her Gertrude.  And, it felt good typing that name.)

I don't know how we first met, or how it is we became friends.
We just always were.
J, L, and me, the three of us.

And, I don't how it came to be that all three of us would experience such a heartbreaking loss on the day we took our first breath.

And yet,
even in this,
I have no doubt in my mind it was God himself who orchestrated
the details of our fathers' lives,
so me might experience what we did,
when we did,
sharing our grief together now with who we are.

Only God.

We are linked together still.  

And the tears we shared together today, 
in a bittersweet way,
are just as precious to me as all the laughs we have shared for the past half-century.

Yes, we are friends - through thick and thin, and everything in the middle.









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Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Most Unlikely Place~

Sometimes, the message of Christmas shows up in the most unlikely place.

A young virgin.

A stable.

A Facebook news-feed.

A couple of Decembers ago, I decided to hop on my computer and check Facebook one more time before heading to bed, before sweet dreams took over.

My younger sister was spending the weekend in New York City, taking in all the city and Christmas there had to offer. Me, I was "seeing the sights" through each post, (plus, keeping tabs on her in the big city - it's what big sisters do, right?! - no matter the fact that my sister was 38 at the time!)

It was hoping to discover where she was now that had me booting up and logging on.

Sure enough, she had left another post and another photo. Oddly enough (or maybe not odd at all) it was smack dab in the middle of these other three posts.

Anita:
Tears of sadness tonight. Breast cancer has taken the life of a dear friend. I sure do look forward to that day when all suffering ends. To those of you who knew Sheryl, she passed away at 6:30 tonight.

Shelly: 
"God's strength is fully revealed when our strength is fully depleted." ~LizCurtisHiggs

Laura:
Such a lovely sight! I love NYC! 


Danette:
My aunt Carmen lost her battle with cancer today. Prayers for the family are welcome. Rest peacefully Carmen. I love you.

Yes, sometimes, the message of Christmas is torn from the manager, hand-delivered, unwrapped and placed right in the lap of your heart when you least expect it, but need it the most.

As I read through each post, I thought of the baby born on that blessed night. Jesus, bundled in swaddling clothes, innocent, pure, all-God, yet all baby, oddly enough (or maybe not odd at all) hand delivered by Almighty God, through a young virgin, and placed smack dab in the middle of our world.

In the middle of our suffering.

In the middle of our sin.

In the middle of our weakness.

As my eyes stared at my computer screen, my heart found itself gazing upon the very heart of God.

This is why the herald angels sang.
This is why "we three kings" traveled afar.
This is why the little town of Bethlehem is still visited today.
This is why the night of this baby's birth, unlike any other night, was silent and holy.

Immanuel.

God is with us.

Not in some far away Heaven.
Not hidden from view, out of ear shot, untouched or unbothered.
Not there, but here.

Jesus came straight from Heaven,
into our sin-marred, heart-breaking, pain-inflicting world
so that through
His immaculate conception,
His lowly birth,
His spotless life,
His sacrificial death,
you and I,
in the midst of all this earthliness,
can taste and know the sweetness of Heaven,
that is found in only in God
and only when God is with us.

Hope.
Peace.
Strength.
Joy.
Love.
Salvation.
Everlasting life.

This is the message of Christmas to be lived out in our hearts all year long.

God with us when the diagnosis is cancer.
God with us when our tears fall beside the freshly dug grave of a loved one.
God with us when our strength is gone.
God with us when the world turns against us.
God with us when we stand and gaze at the lights of Christmas.

God with us here, now, forever.

As I re-read the posts left behind by those I love,
I pictured Anita and Danette
     wiping away tears,
                      longing for Heaven,
                                 comforted by the blessed hope we have in Christ.

I pictured Shelly
             sitting up a little taller,
                                 her courage and faith a little stronger,
                                                        strengthened by the power we have in Christ.

I pictured my beautiful sister, Laura,
                smiling with delight,
                              her eyes seeing the sparkle of Christmas shining radiant and bright
                                            against the darkness of night,
                                                          overwhelmed by the joy-filled light we have in Christ.

And, I pictured God,
               wiping a tear,
                               sitting up a little taller,
                                         smiling with delight,
                                                   looking down on His own son lying in a manger,
                                                             defined by ALL we have in Christ.


This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. 
And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; 
by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 
God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger,
 telling the world how bad it was. 
He came to help, to put the world right again.
 ~John 3:16-17 (MSG)


Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. 
If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, 
because you will have the light that leads to life.”
~John 8:12 (NLT)



Yes, sometimes, the perfectly perfect message of Christmas shows up in the most unlikely place -
the human heart.

And when it does,
a life is reborn -
a life that is not bound by time and space,
a life that is not limited to here and now,
a life that is not without help, not without spiritual healing, not without hope.

When the Christ of Christmas is hand-delivered,
unwrapped,
and given residency in the heart of a human,
God. is. with. us.

Now.

Forever.

Always.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it.
~John 1:4-5 (NIV)








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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Blessed Beyond Words~

This morning,
as the water from my shower washed over me,
joy, thankfulness, and contentment flooded my heart.

Moment after moment,
memory after memory,
my heart reflected on
blessing upon blessing,
friendship upon friendship,
my whole life thru.

As I relived each moment,
focused on each person,
thought of God's blessings,
it hit me like never before.

 I AM SO VERY BLESSED.

So blessed, I thought,
that if my life ended right here,
right now,
in the middle of this shower,
my life would have been
more than enough,
more than satisfying,
more than I ever imagined it could be.

And I found myself singing the words from one of my favorite songs -

"If I never have another prayer that's answered,
Or have another blessing come my way.
If this is all I know of heaven's kindness,
Father, I would still have to say -
You have been good,
You have been good,
So many ways You've been good to me."

~Scott Krippayne

But, it didn't end there -
in my shower.

God graciously granted me
another day of life,
another day of blessings,
another day of hugs,
laughter,
tears,
joys,
challenges,
praises,
and one delight of my heart after another -
minute by minute,
moment by moment,
all day long.

And tonight,
even MORE than this morning (how is that even possible!),
my life is
more than enough,
more than satisfying,
more than I ever imagined it could be.

And, all I can say,
all I can do,
is bow my head as thanksgiving pours from my heart.

"Thank you, Lord."

Such a tiny sentence to express all that is in my heart,
but,
it is all I have.

And, yet,
as this simple phrase ascends to Heaven and is heard by my Saviour,
the Giver of all good gifts,
it is more than enough,
more than satisfying,
more than pleasing to His heart.~♥










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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for His Perfect Plans~

Plans.
We all have them.

Some are grandiose like climbing Mt. Everest.
Some are simple like what to fix for dinner.
Some happen.
Some don't.

As a child, whenever a plan fell through and disappointment flooded my heart, my mom would always turn to this old familiar quote: the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray (a paraphrase from the poem by Robert Burns called To a Mouse.)

I can't speak for mice,
but I can speak for me,
and in my lifetime,
plans have often gone astray, awry, and everywhere else!

My plans, that is.

Not God's.

His plans are always in place.

Like the time I was engaged to someone who became engaged to someone else while still engaged to me. (True story! You cannot make this kind of stuff up!)

Or the time I ended up losing my job after twelve years of sacrifice, dedication, blood, sweat and tears. (Ok...no blood was involved, but my heart hurt so bad over this it felt like it was bleeding.)

Or the time I was expecting and miscarried.

Or the time I was expecting for the second time and miscarried.

Or the time I was expecting for the third time and miscarried.

Yes, my plans have gone astray.
My plans have taken detours and led me to places
I never thought I would be or ever hope to go again.
My plans have twisted and turned until sometimes they were no longer recognizable.

But...in the end...my plans have always led me to God.

Sometimes the road to God was sweet.
Sometimes, it was bitter and full of doubt, questions, resentment and anger.
Sometimes, it left me bitter and feeling hollow inside.

But....at the end....God was there.

{Photo Credit}


Looking back, I can see God's hand in some of the twists and turns.

When I think I could have married the "man of my dreams" (well, if he hadn't gotten engaged to someone else), and missed out on the husband I have now, I throw up my hands and thank God with every fiber of my being.

God knew best.

When I think I could have stayed at that job and missed out on re-locating near my parents and spending time with my precious Daddy during his last days on this earth, I throw up my hands and thank God with every fiber of my being.

God knew best.

When I think about those three precious little babies....

I cry.

Still.

And, I fold my hands in prayer and give my sorrow to the Lord once again. I have not yet seen the "why" behind this, but I have felt His love comfort me. I have to trust that God knows best.

Our plans are not God's plans.
Our ways are not His ways.
But, His ways are perfectly perfect.

I can't speak for mice, but I can speak for me.
When my plans falter,
when disappointment and sorrow flood my heart,
I turn to the truth found in God's word.

‎For I know the plans I have for you,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
~ Jeremiah 29:11.

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. ...
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."
~ Isaiah 55:8

In all things,
God's ways are perfect,
and for this,
I throw up my hands and thank God with every fiber of my being.





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Monday, November 23, 2015

As Blessings Unfold~

As I reached for the alarm, and sat up in bed, the dream that had just been interrupted was still vivid in my mind.  As I put on my slippers and made my way down the darkened hallway and into the kitchen, I couldn't help thinking about what I had "witnessed" a few minutes earlier while tucked under my covers, sound asleep. As the coffee brewed and I booted up my laptop, this dream kept making its way to the front seat of my heart, driving every topic of conversation in my mind straight to the image I had seen while I slept.

I was in a car with someone I knew very well (maybe my sister or a dear friend - I couldn't quite tell who). We were driving down a back country road  in the middle of nowhere. As this someone navigated the car down this windy, barren stretch of highway, we rode along enjoying each other's company, laughing, talking, and marveling at the beautiful scenery unfolding before us.

As we topped a small hill, the driver suddenly pulled over on the side of the road.

"What's the matter?" I asked, as she opened  the car door and stepped out.

"I forgot to say 'thank you'," came the reply. "I'll be right back."

Here? I thought.  

In the middle of nowhere?   

Walking through the open countryside without a house or a person in sight?  

Thank you?

I watched as she made her way over to a small cluster of trees.
Then, I watched as she knelt down, right then and there, and began to pray.

Instantly, I turned my head, feeling as though somehow my gaze was intruding,
- that this was a holy moment made for two, not three.

Minutes later, she returned to the car and we continued on our way.

"I always forget to say 'thank you'."

She must have noticed the puzzled look on my face and felt an explanation was due.

" I pray and God graciously hears my pleas and extends His hand. My life overflows with His blessings. But, so often, without even thinking about it, I snatch up the blessing and go.  I enjoy the gift without thanking the The Giver. I breathe a sigh of relief without whispering a word of thanksgiving to The One who has come to my rescue. I always seem to forget to say 'thank you'."'

We drove a few more minutes in silence, then she continued.

"Like today. My father hasn't been feeling well. This morning, I prayed and asked God to help him, to give him some peace, to help him enjoy his day. When I spoke with my mother a few hours later, she said my father was doing so much better.  I was happy no doubt,  SO very happy, but I didn't bother to stop and say "thank you". Until just now. As we topped that hill, I thought about my father and the way he loves cresting a hill, and I suddenly remembered, once again, I had received of God's hand without so much as a look back, a smile heavenward, or a heartfelt prayer of gratitude.  I just took my blessing and ran."

Beep!  Beep!  Beep!

With the sound of the alarm, my dream was over, just like that.

And yet, even now,
as the warm coffee makes its way down my throat,
and the sleepy in me begins to fade with the light of day,
the message tucked in this dream is holding on tight.

Thank You, Jesus.

God delights in answering our prayers, but He also delights in our thanksgiving. 

As the blessings of God unfold in your life and mine, 
may we not simply take the blessings and run,
may, we too, come to a stop,
pull over from the road of life,
step out of what we are doing,
find a quiet place of retreat,
drop to our knees,
and thank our most merciful, gracious, loving, Heavenly Father.

May we not take hold of the gift
without first holding up our hands to Heaven
and thanking The Giver of all good gifts.

Every single moment of every single day,
as the blessings of God unfold in our life, 
may we remember to fold our hands in prayer and say 
"thank you".~♥ 













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Sunday, November 15, 2015

He Has Not Forgotten You~

Have you ever wondered if you have fallen off God's radar?

<span class=
{Photo Credit}

Life was merrily rolling along and then all of a sudden you found yourself
in a prison,
out to pasture,
thrown in a tomb.

Joseph.
David.
Lazarus.
You.
Me.

No matter where you are.
No matter how silent you find this place to be.

{Photo Credit}


No

matter

how

unforgotten you may feel.



Rest assured.
God knows where you are.



He has not forgotten you. 


In fact, chances are, where you are is right in the center of God's will.

When only a youth, God gave Joseph a glimpse of where he would one day be. Prison wasn't it. In fact, his journey to prison was nothing Joseph could ever have imagined. From a pit, to slavery, to prison. Where was God in this? Right beside Joseph, that's where. Waiting for the perfect, God-ordained time to take Joseph's hand and lead him from the prison right into the palace.

David was out in the pasture tending sheep when Samuel came calling with a call from the Lord. His family may have overlooked him. His own father may not have thought him worth calling for. But God hadn't forgotten about him. In fact, David was the reason Samuel had come. He was God's man and soon everyone knew it. The shepherd soon became King.

And then there was Lazarus. Sick, dead and buried, but far from being forgotten. Jesus came and not a minute too soon. He was right on time and Lazarus received a call of his own. At the words of Christ, life came into his body and he came forth, out into the light of God's resurrection power.

Maybe where you are is far from where you ever thought you would be. Looking around your life, you, yourself, have doubts as to where you even are. Don't worry. God knows where you are. In His perfect timing and in His perfect way, He will come calling.

He sees you in the prison. He is with you in the lonely pasture. And yes, even in the dead places of your life, the places where you can no longer see a sign of life, He is there.

Stay faithful to your calling. Stay faithful to your God. Keep trusting Him in these dark, barren places of your life. He is with you. He is working behind the scenes and one day, it WILL happen.


Jail Door
{Photo Credit}


The door will open.
The call will come.
The dead will spring forth with life.


As Joseph stood before his brothers, the very ones who had sold him into slavery, he proclaimed this truth.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20, NLT.

God's purpose was revealed.

David, who had been faithful to keep a watchful eye upon his father's sheep, was now the one being gazed upon as Samuel anointed him to tend the sheep of Israel.

Then he asked Jesse, "Is this it? Are there no more sons?" "Well, yes, there's the runt. But he's out tending the sheep." Samuel ordered Jesse, "Go get him. We're not moving from this spot until he's here." Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health— bright-eyed, good-looking. God said, "Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one." Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. 1 Samuel 16:11-13, The Message

God's purpose was revealed.

Lazarus, dead, and buried, and lifeless for four days, walked right out of the tomb and back into the lives of everyone watching; a living testimony of God's power to bring whatever is dead back to life.

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. John 11:43-45, NLT

Lazarus walked in newness of life and once again, God's purpose was revealed.

0414 waiting for revelation
{Photo Credit}

The God of Joseph, David and Lazarus is our God, too.
When it seems God has forgotten us or life has taken a wrong turn, we simply need to remember this:

God HAS a purpose.

Soon, in God's perfect timing and in His perfect way, His purpose will be revealed in your life, too!








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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

To Know The Rock~











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Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Changing of The Seasons~

I stood in the living room, staring straight ahead at the bricks framing our fireplace. 

“How have I never seen this before?” I wondered.  

Here, in plain sight, a small circle of light, no bigger than a dime, filled to overflowing with the colors of the rainbow.  Somehow, a ray of early morning light had slipped through the peep hole in our front door, its refractive beauty showcased for all to see.  Only, I hadn’t seen it until now.

I called to my husband who was in the kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“Honey, come quick! You’ve got to see this!”

“See what?” he answered back. “Oh,” he said, as he saw where I was standing, “the rainbow of color above the fireplace?”

Not sure which was more astonishing, the fact that I had never seen this, or the fact that my love had and hadn’t bothered to mention it, I nodded my head up and down in total bewilderment . . .

. . . Today, I'm so thankful to be writing over at Incourage. To read the rest of today's post, come join me here.









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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Beauty in Beginning Again~













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