This summer surely goes down in the record books as one of a kind. With a relocation to Lancaster, a new church, a new job, new neighbors and my oldest daughter graduating high school and preparing for college, I can’t think of a better way to wind down a season of mass transition than to clear the calendar, carve out some quiet time and refresh my soul.
Do you ever find yourself wondering how or where or even why GRACE fits into the everyday grind of humanity? This book is for you. Author David Jeremiah so simply and beautifully leaves the reader with a very clear, very biblical view of the plan of grace, the power of grace, the provision of grace, the promise of grace and yes, even the 7 wonders of grace. He leaves no stone unturned considering grace for the past the present and the future. And finally, he parallels the stories of two incredible lives….John Newton, an 18th century slave trader with the Apostle Paul and his Damascus Road experience. Maybe you’ll never write the worlds most beloved hymn, and maybe you’ll never be an apostle, but, because no one is beyond the reach of a loving God, you too, can be CAPTURED BY GRACE.
The summer of 2011 has brought with it a lot of time “on the road”. This past week I’ve covered well over 600 miles. For me, outside the context of vacation, that is A LOT!!! Being accustomed to a 4 minute ride to and from work for the past 4 years, and living a stones throw away from just about everything…..the long daylight hours of summer and knowing it is temporary, makes my 3 day a week commute(106 miles round trip to be exact)from Lancaster to Paoli bearable.
As the weekend neared, and I was anticipating some much needed close to home R & R, my calendar reminded me that this was the weekend to attend a family graduation party. Sure I wanted to be a part of this beautiful season of celebration and achievement, but even more, the quietness of home and the remaining clutter of unpacked boxes from our recent move was beckoning and would have to be put off yet again.
Hair pulled back, windows down and sunglasses donned, I set out. Before long, “ON THE ROAD AGAIN” began to take on a whole new meaning! So much more than another 200 miles logged, God in His faithfulness began to deposit reminders of richness and great delight in the depths of my being. Although I hadn’t traveled these roads in years, they were still familiar to me from days gone by. Sights and memories of time spent with loved ones who were no more, experiences and moments in time that have shaped and defined who I am today, began to flood by heart.
The Susquehanna River stretched out as far as the eye could see—weekend long canoe trips on those waters were a great activity for building character and enjoying God’s creation.
The Daily Item Newspaper post box displayed in front of every house—that was Granddpap’s route more than 30 years ago. We would help him with it during our weekly summer visits and he’d always treat us to an ice cream cone afterwards. Not only was it good for building discipline and work ethic, it also affirmed that we were loved and appreciated.
The Shadow Mountain Road/Inn—A place that used to spook me, when we’d drive by at night. Today the mountain doesn’t appear so vast and the Inn is a small roadside shanty. Oh how perspective changes.
I was making good on time and well ahead of schedule when I decided to pull off and sit by the road a bit. Oh she hadn’t occupied that place for 30 some years, but flashbacks of walking in the pasture, having an Easter Egg Hunt on the front lawn and sitting on the front porch with Grandma quickly flooded my mind. You know when they say it is the little things? It really is the little things that sit deep within, instilling a sure and confident foundation, that enable us to be something great. I am so thankful that my heritage equipped me with deep, satisfying, God-fearing roots that yield a solid, confident, happy and purposeful life.
Numerous other roadside stops along the way brought specific remembrances to mind. The time my children (who were much younger then) and aunt Cindy laughed and giggled til it hurt. Oh to have one more laugh with my sister. But, because I don’t I wipe the tears and find great joy in the bond we shared.
Do I feel better when my house is clean and in order and there are no more boxes sitting around? Yes Indeedy!
But for today, “On the road again” I delight in that which gives me joy and confidence. When I ponder all the special memories of yesterday, I am reminded of my true purpose and that builds even greater hope for the future….A Graduation Celebration Indeed!
A dark, stately looking bookcase sits with grandeur, in one corner of my living room, reserved for my “most treasured” books and trinkets. I could put together a prize-winning display of books that I’ve collected on Motherhood. Many I have received as gifts from friends young and old, and many containing personalized, handwritten messages tucked inside the front cover…..affirming me, encouraging me, inspiring me. Did I mention the “grade-school” pottery? The joy that went into those proudly crafted pieces of art work created just for me….because I was “mom” have also earned a forever place on those shelves behind the glass doors.
An autumn evening and I was cleaning up the dishes, when the phone rang. Overcome with weakness and the battle against cancer, my sister found the strength to leave a “few last words” with me. “Thank you for being a Godly mom, an amazing mom. Sarah and Matt are so lucky to have you. Through the good the bad, the joy the sorrow, the ups and downs, you have stayed the course, and never stopped walking faithfully. Now the fruit of their lives is showing forth. Your labors and example have not been in vain and you deserve to be proud.” Hanging up the phone, I pondered and gave thanks for the amazing example I had in my own mother, found the nearest box of tissues and just wept. Of all the things she felt worthy to highlight in our 42 years together, it was MOTHERHOOD. What an honor!! You see, there is a saying that goes , “ The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation”. Although I don’t always see it…… in a very profound way that night, through the words of my dying sister, I knew it. 24 hours later she would be in Heaven.
From the triumphant, to the trivial, and yes, even the tragic, motherhood demands the best I have. Some days I get it right, some days well, not really. Dedicating myself first and foremost to the strengthening of my home hasn’t always been easy or without sacrifice. There are moments that call for putting my nose to the grind, putting my knees to the floor and not quitting. Then there are those moments where I quiet my heart, pull a book from the shelf, or remember a phone conversation and realize, I am blessed with the “most treasured” name on earth…….MOTHER
Preparations are underway for another heart warming Christmas Eve Service as well as everything that goes along with our “usual” Christmas morning. The luminaries line the streets and as dusk draws nigh, I reflect on “expectations of Christmas”.
I make my way through the huge wooden doors to the church. Candlelight and carols fill the air, and…. so does the knot in my throat.
This is our first Christmas Eve without Sarah and the “normalcy” of expectations and traditions feel challenged, changed, and taken away. Although I may not always like it, after 40 years I have finally learned (and in some ways am still learning) to “stand still and see His Glory”.
As you read the remainder of this Christmas Day blog and “Expectant Christmas Reflections” I hope you will be inspired to do the same.
For a weary, stranded traveler who exchanges a warm and festive meal around the table with loved ones, for bad weather, cancelled flights and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will hold…….hope was still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
For the young mother who struggles to comfort the fevered brow of her child, instead of decorating, caroling and baking…….hope was still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
Unfortunate circumstances give way to broken homes and broken hearts. Any hopes of happy and joyful Christmas times will have to be put off until next year or the next….but even in that, hope is still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
The missionary family who embraces the “unplanned”, because there is no other choice (or electricity), exchanges fresh made enchiladas and swimming, for a rainy day and dinner out…hope is still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
Mary and Joseph resort to a Bethlehem stable because there is no room at the inn…. HOPE IS BORN AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS REVEALED!!
Between you and me, there are a thousand and one more “real life” scenarios we could add to this list. But let me ask you, what did Christmas look like this year compared to what you expected it to look like? Maybe everything went perfectly and as planned, but maybe, just maybe it didn’t.
We have 17 more days before we see Sarah face to face. And, although we wait with great expectation, our hearts are learning to take great comfort in the unexpected, in the different, and in the HAND-PICKED, HAND-DESIGNED expectations of the Father (Just like that very first Christmas Night)!
Then and only then, is hope born and HIS glory revealed.
The Hole In Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns is a book unparalleled to any other in calling us to a deeper place of commitment & understanding of the Great Commission. One can talk about being fishers of men, one can get excited about making a difference and impacting the lives of fellow human beings, but until one TRULY understands the magnitude of need, and what making a difference REALLY looks like through the magnifying glass of the “whole gospel” we are hard pressed to get it right.
This book is a powerhouse of facts, real life examples lived out, and scripture, all woven together to create a masterpiece that brings the reader face to face with the Whole Gospel. Beware, it is radical and convicting! (In a great way).
If you are: compelled to greatness or desire accurate information, if you are moved with compassion and desire to be Christs hands extended, if you are affluent and self sufficient, if you are lukewarm and lack for not much of anything, if you sit in church week after week and don’t really know why, or even if you love the Lord with all your heart mind and soul, this book is for you and a must read!
Whatever our views are, wherever our priorities lie, reading this book is sure to bring us one step closer (if not a hundred steps closer) to lining up with the “whole gospel”.