When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

He Keeps Weaving ~ We Keep Becoming

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It’s getting cold.

Leaves from the trees are drifting in the wind along with some pretty big snowflakes today.  The once full branches, on the trees, are starting to bare.

The days are getting shorter, the air that once brushed my cheeks with warmth has a chill to it now.

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In the evening as the sun sets, my home becomes a cozy sanctuary.

Wrapping up in a blanket last night, grabbing a book on the table next to me, I thought about my youngest son’s blanket.  The one he once cherished.  It was a gift to him at birth and it became his special blanket through his toddler years.

He slept with it, snuggled with it in the morning while waiting to wipe the last traces of sleep from his eyes.  He carried it around with him most of the day, traveled with it and even ate with it on his lap sometimes.

I have a similar attachment to my blanket too.  Maybe not exactly like my son had but it’s still a special blanket.

My mother made it for me about 15 years ago.

I was with her for a couple of weeks in Florida that year.  It was her first attempt at Swedish weaving and often we’d sit and talk while she worked on it.

At the time, I wasn’t aware that it would one day become mine.

While working the thread through the fabric, one afternoon, she gasped.  A quiet hush fell over the room.  She made a mistake.

Setting the cloth down for a while, thinking about her options to correct the mistake, my mother came to a creative solution.

I let out a sigh–one of relief.

Instead of taking the section apart to start over, she weaved the mistake into the design.

No one will ever notice that, mom.  I assured her.

After she finished that first blanket, she made a couple more.  She gave one to me and the other two were given to my sisters.

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I received the one with the mistake.  Deep down I was glad that I got that one, because I was with her as she weaved some of it.

For a while I knew exactly where the mistake was.  Now if you asked me to point it out, I wouldn’t be able to find it.

The blanket is one big beautiful piece of art.

I love my blanket.  Not only because my mother made it but because it reminds of God.

Often when I look at it, I remember how God takes everything in my life–the good, the bad, the beautiful the ugly and every mistake I’ve made and is weaving everything together into something beautiful.

Nothing is ever wasted in God’s hands.  Nothing.

Even when we can’t make sense out of life, as questions arise or we are trying to make it through a difficult season, when we wonder how anything good can come from the bad, he weaves it through our lives to give it meaning and purpose.

Some situations may look hopeless but when given to him he creates a wonderful design.

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Did you know that YOU are God’s handiwork, workmanship, masterpiece?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)  

For we are God’s masterpiece…(NLT)  

For we are God’s workmanship…(ESV)

The ‘good works’ it speaks of in Ephesians 2:10 stem from our relationship with the Lord and from every circumstance in life–even the pain and sorrow of sin–whether caused by us or caused by others toward us–the truth is we live in an imperfect world where the good resides with the bad and nothing is perfect.  We learn how to help others as God forgives and helps us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  (2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 NIV)

Ah…I love that.  Our suffering becomes a gift.  There are certainly experiences that send us running to God for comfort.  It’s often there that we truly experience God.  Then that same comfort overflows from our life into the lives of others.

How else would we know how to comfort people?  That’s why it’s woven in.  Everything is miraculously recycled to become something new.

Every situation in life is working in and working out for our good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

He’s working it all together for our good.

Then He takes it a step further:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  (Romans 8: 29)

The ultimate purpose of all our experiences is to transform us into the image of His Son.

As God weaves everything in life together for good to those who love him, we become more like him.

Our life is in process of becoming a perfect whole.  Just like I can’t see the mistake in my blanket anymore, many people won’t see how God weaves our mistakes–and the difficult circumstances in life–together with the good.  They’ll just see what we’re becoming.

We’ll keep being fashioned into the image of Christ and he will be revealed in and through the fabric of our life.

He keeps weaving.  We keep becoming.

Written By:  Nancy Janiga ©2014

Throwing off and Putting on

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We traveled north down some winding roads.  There was a spectacular show going on outside the windows of our vehicle.

The beauty of autumn surrounded us.

I said, “Isn’t it amazing that all this brilliant color is a result of dying”?  My husband nodded.

Autumn in its brilliance looks spectacular, beautiful, vibrant, lovely and all because of death.

I think that’s true of us in a Spiritual sense as well.  I’m thinking of the act of dying to self that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16: 24-25 and Mark 8: 34-35.

When we die to self and come alive with Christ we are being transformed into something beautiful.  Just like the autumn trees.

It’s not because of anything we have done but everything that Christ has done and we simply decide to yield to His life in us.

It’s the exchanged life and an act of putting off the old self and putting on the new self.  See Ephesians 4:22-24.

The leaves are in the process of death.

We are in the process of dying to what we once were and becoming like Christ.  It’s not an overnight miracle but the more we put off what belongs to our old self and put on more of Christ the more vibrant we become.

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As we allow Christ to have more of us everyday, we become more attractive as believers.  There will be a Christ-radiance that will emanate in us and through us.

Dying daily to our selfish nature isn’t easy.  That’s why it’s often called a process.

Jesus said, For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  (Matthew 16:25)

So the goal in death is LIFE–here on earth and on into eternity.

The exchanged life cannot be seen more clearly than in Saul of Tarsus (who later became known as the Apostle Paul).  In regard to putting off his old self and putting on the new…what a contrast!

He went from hatred to love, killing to offering life, and from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the greatest Christian teachers of all time.  There isn’t another person in all of scripture, apart from Jesus, that shaped the course of Christianity more than the Apostle Paul.  His conversion story is in Acts 9.

Paul, even with his strong personality, yielded his life to Christ.  Yet he also admitted that he was in process and that he hadn’t fully arrived.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3: 12-14

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And Paul even referred to himself as the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15-16.

He was shown mercy but he was in process, daily choosing to take up his cross and follow Christ by dying to himself.

How do we do this thing called ‘dying to self’?

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trail of trees - CopywdpI think it comes with practice–the practice of throwing off our old tendencies and putting on a new way of life–the Jesus life in us.  The more we do it, the more likely it will become easier, but I don’t think it’s about changing our personalities.

Look at the disciples.  They were called by Jesus but had their own distinct personalities and gifts.  I think it’s more about dying to self-will, control, ego, pride and anything that places us on the throne of our life and at the center of the universe.

Anytime we feel the pain of rejection, heartache, disappointment, experience something bad or unpleasant, illness, hardships, trial, suffering, when we’re treated unfairly–we can choose to throw off our old way of reacting with pride or ego and die to ourselves.  We die to sin and self.  We throw off the old way of reacting and respond in a new way.

So this autumn as I enjoy the beauty of the dying leaves on the trees, I’m reminded that the more I keep choosing to die to self the more beautiful I’ll become–not from outward appearance but by what comes out from within.  Death brings life and dying is beautiful.

Written by: Nancy Janiga©2014