O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, I sang as I lit the candles on my table.
I noticed the E had slipped off my peace sign. As I went to straighten it, still singing the words of that familiar Christmas carol, I thought about how the E in PEACE could represent Emmanuel.
There’s no real peace without him.
No peace in our hearts.
No peace in our relationships.
No peace in our world.
No real or lasting peace can be found anywhere else ~ O come, O come Emmanuel.
We often talk about that first Christmas and the gift we received through the babe in the manger.
The perfect gift given that no other gift could ever outdo or outshine.
Emmanuel: God with us.
As I fixed the E, I thought about how I was bringing (or not bringing) Emmanuel into my family, my relationships, my little corner of the world and beyond.
I don’t want to just receive the gift. I want to give the gift.
But I know I can’t humanly do that unless I invite the gift into my own life and not just once but everyday. O come, O come Emmanuel.
I need him here, now … right where I am.
Bob and I have conversations about this as he struggles with his health. We’ve talked about how we need Emmanuel to come daily into our situation. We have sung or just recited those words as a prayer often through the month of December… O come, O come Emmanuel. Here now. In this present moment. God with us. Emmanuel.
We’ve also examined ourselves in the days leading up to Christmas to make sure (as far as it depends on us) that we have given the gift of peace to others in our lives, offering forgiveness, asking for forgiveness and extending grace and love to others. O come, O come Emmanuel.
The broken parts of the world around us can only be mended as we carry the light into the dark. Emmanuel, the light in us leads the way.
These are the gifts that mean the most to us this year. The gifts we will give and hope to receive.
How about you? What gifts can you give to others? How can you bring Emmanuel into your life and into your relationships this Christmas? Real peace comes from the Prince of Peace. It’s that settled feeling deep in our souls that we are right with God and others.
Some gifts can only be wrapped in love and given in peace.
Saturday was World Kindness Day. It’s celebrated on November 13 every year to educate people about the importance of being kind to one another, yourself and to the world. It’s great to be reminded of the importance of spreading kindness but what a difference it would make if we put it into practice every day. I like the lyrics to the song Put a Little Love in your Heart:
Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place
For you and me
You just wait and see
Another day goes by still the children cry
Put little love in your heart
If you want the world to know
We won’t let hatred grow
Put a little love in your heart
Take a good look around
And if you’re looking down
Put a little love in your heart
Hope when you decide
Kindness will be your guide
Put a little love in your heart
(Put A Little Love In Your Heart: Songwriters: Jackie De Shannon/ Jimmy Holiday / Randy Myers)
Click on the video below of a few of my sunset photos, put your sound up to hear a sample of the song I referenced (by Al Green and Annie Lennox) and then scroll to the end of my post:
Not just on World Kindness Day, but before the sun goes down every day let’s think of ways to spread love through acts of kindness and even to those we may feel don’t deserve it. Being kind will do their hearts good and in a mysterious way bless us as well. When others are a recipient of a kind act, it usually spurs them on to do the same for someone else. Let’s start a chain reaction and put a little love in our hearts today and remember to be kind daily.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4: 7-8
Me: God, I’m angry. I need help dealing with this.
God: You’re not really angry.
Me: What? You are all knowing. You see me, know the circumstances I’m facing and you’re telling me I’m not angry?
God: You don’t have to hide your feelings from me. I want you to be vulnerable and authentic.
Me: Huh? I am being vulnerable.
God: Today you finally stopped carrying this alone and brought it to me for help.
Me: Yes, I need help with this anger.
God: So why are you angry?
Me: You know how I’ve been hurt in that relationship. There’s so much that I don’t understand and after all these years of friendship to be treated like an enemy is hurtful and makes me sad. I tried to reach out to talk but she shut the door on all communication.
God: Ah, so you’re hurt and sad? Have you read Psalm 55: 12-14?
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. Psalm 55: 12-14
Me: Tears flow …
God: My door is always open to you. Read Matthew 5: 3-4 and mediate on those verses for awhile.
I come before the Lord empty.
Spiritually I’m destitute. I’m not strong enough in my own strength to handle this. I need Him. I open my bible to Matthew 5: 3-4:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
There’s no room for anger, unforgiveness or pride, not even a little wiggle room.
I humble myself, I’m truthful about who I am and what I’m feeling.
Lacking what I need, I open my hands. I’m ready to receive.
This is my vulnerable place.
My mind flashes back to when I first came to Jesus years ago. I was finally truthful with Him about who I was. That was the door to salvation.
He swung open the door and welcomed me in and here in this present moment He does the same.
That vulnerability that brings me to God comes through what the Bible refers to as lament.
Lament means: “To express sorrow, regret, or unhappiness about something.” Or: “A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”
Jesus’ first sermon goes counter culturally to what our world says we need in order to be fulfilled and lamenting seems weak.
But God shows me, in the first beatitude, that being poor in spirit brings me blessing and that His kingdom is mine.
I read it again: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Matthew 5:3
That’s present tense. That means right here; right now.
Honest lament and being truthful with God is the doorway into His presence and that doorway leads to His kingdom … on earth as it is in Heaven.
I share my hurt, sorrow, confusion, grief and I am transported above this painful circumstance.
I’m free to grieve. I’m free to be vulnerable. It’s ok to not be ok when I’m in His presence.
I mourn my loss. I read Matthew 5:4 again. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.
I am comforted, at peace and spiritually full. This is what it means to be blessed.
Since my husband, Bob, became critically ill 6 years ago, I’ve been referred to as his anchor. Mostly by his medical care teams and by his friends whom he confides in about what direction my role has taken in our marriage.
Being a caregiver to a spouse who has been hospitalized at least 12 times in 6 years with many of them being 1-4 week hospital stays has been daunting.
At the beginning of this journey, I knew that the only way that I was going to be able to fulfill my calling as Bob’s caregiver was to make sure that I took care of myself as well.
That becomes difficult when you feel the pressure to be the anchor of the family. The one who keeps the ship (so to speak) stable, secure, supported and free from floating erratically in the wind of the storm, keeping it in our safe harbor protected from invaders … or in our case, pathogens that can infiltrate the weak and vulnerable one on board.
The anchor is lifted when we have to sail to another medical procedure, treatment or check up and anchor in that harbor until it’s time to return to the safety of our home. Anchor down. Our life once again lived in our isolated stable environment. It takes its toll at times to be the support in turbulent times.
God knew long before I knew that this was going to be a difficult storm. One that would not be over quickly or easily and that Bob would be on deaths doorstep several times and I would be called upon to buoy him up and hold our ship steady. Miraculously his life has been spared time and time again and most recently when a palliative care/hospice physician released him from his care with the words, “Not time yet.” God knew and His plan prevails. How grateful I am to still have Bob here with me.
At the outset of his illness I knew that part of taking care of myself was remembering that I wasn’t capable, in my own strength, to be an anchor. It was too heavy for me. When I tried, when I became overwhelmed, I needed someone to help lighten the load. God provided everything that I needed in Jesus and through the harshness of the forces coming against us He became enough. He is still enough …
Enough to plant a deep faith in me
To show me daily what I need to add or subtract from my life to keep me in His peace
To supply the desire and strength to walk 2-3 miles most days to keep my body and mind healthy
To provide me with good nutritional choices to make balanced meals
To bring me resources to help keep my mind and emotions healthy
To give me gifts and hobbies to use and enjoy
To move in the hearts of family and friends to call or text me when I need encouragement
To show me who I can share my deepest thoughts with
To have good listeners available when I need to talk
To lead me to friends who won’t judge my words or emotions
To keep me from sharing too much so I don’t become a burden
To encourage me to share my story to help someone else
To reveal to me the good in the hard
To fill me with joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit
Enough, enough, enough…He is always enough.
And definitely enough to help me take on this assignment with grace for such a time as this. I feel deep in my soul that this is my best work. A deeply spiritual work. A job here on earth with remarkable meaning and purpose. A holy work. This job of taking care of someone who relies on me as I rely on God is truly holy work. I have to be mindful of this daily and to practice the presence of my Lord and talk to him throughout the day and not just during my designated prayer times. He is the anchor of hope and the anchor of storms.
That’s not to say Bob doesn’t rely on God. He does. I could never take that number one place in his life. Nor would he want me to. Bob has a solid faith, his soul is healthy and strong but his body is weak. Our anchor, our God, our all in all, is the one anchoring our lives in this storm.
It was a few months into the global pandemic and her husband left her for another woman. With a wounded heart and two young children holding onto each of her hands, she tried to muster up the strength to move forward.
Then came her cancer diagnosis. Suddenly the path ahead became a mountain to scale.
It was as if she was traveling through an ash heap of burnt up memories, promises and lost dreams.
Surgery, radiation, ongoing treatment and sorrow filled her days and I imagine trying to be strong for her children only made the load heavier.
She’s a woman of faith, a photographer friend who gave me permission to share a little bit of her story here.
She set her camera aside for awhile. She told me that she didn’t have the strength to pick it up anymore and her passion for photography was gone. Her brokenheart didn’t have room for it anymore.
But God. But grace.
He’s been showing her that beauty and sadness can coexist. He’s given her strength and the desire to pick up her camera again. She’s sharing her art and the beauty she creates but sometimes the titles or captions on her photographs reveal her not so beautiful emotions … her unseen wounds.
I wrote a comment on one of her instagram posts when the sorrow of her words didn’t match the beauty of her photograph. “This is art (I wrote)…when beauty and sadness occupy the same space. It is possible to have both together.”
And it’s true. Isn’t it?
I thought about how that could be a metaphor for life. In the deepest of sadness there will always be times of encouragement. It can come from God in many ways but one way is through the beauty we see around us and even through the beauty we create.
I’ve noticed that most of us have an innate desire to create. That takes on different forms but think about yourself. What are your interests? Do you like to cook, bake, paint, draw, decorate, garden, craft, tackle home improvement projects … ? Also trouble shooting and coming up with new ways to handle a difficult situation falls under the umbrella of creativity as well.
We were designed by ‘The Creator’ and we were created in His image. Therefore, we must have those same qualities in us. Right?
I think we were all designed to be appreciators too. When we notice the beauty we see in our environment and appreciate it, we become people of gratitude. Writing down something we’re grateful for in a notebook or a journal at the end of the day can help shift our focus from our problems and alleviate some of the stress we’re feeling. This is especially helpful at the end of a hard day.
I was happy to see my brave friend capturing beauty again and creating art. Her sadness isn’t gone, her emotional and health struggles are still there but she’s managing to scale her mountain while trying to keep her mind on …
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. Philippians 4:8
Seeking the good through our trials, being able to see the beauty in spite of our battles, and trusting that the mountains we scale will produce spiritual strength and ultimate growth will help us persevere. The outcome …the strength; the growth … that’s a wonderful gift from God. He recycles our ash heaps and gives us beauty.
That’s grace. That’s mercy.
A Jewish prayer/blessing I heard recently and find myself repeating often lately: Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the Universe, through whose word everything comes into being.
Well hello there. It’s been 9 months since I visited the pages of this journal so I just may be typing to myself.
During the past 9 months, like the 9 months that it takes to birth a new life, something new has been developing, growing and birthing in me.
I’m not sure if that means that I will consistently write in this space again but that may happen.
I’ve been up to soul care. My soul care. Sometimes, like King David, we need to speak to our souls. I love the Psalms. The honesty of David is so refreshing. He was honest but always ended his prayers with attention directed toward God. He may have been depressed, downtrodden, running for his life at times but in his honestly he found God to always be enough. He could praise and worship the God who loved him only after pouring out his heart before him. Sometimes he had to speak directly to his soul…Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5
When Bob and I returned home after almost 11 months away for Bob’s cancer treatment and ultimate bone marrow transplant, I thought I’d pick up right where I left off. But as Bob recovered I found that I needed a period of recovery too.
For so many months I ran 90 miles an hour without thinking much about what I/we were going through. I had to stay strong, above collapsing, taking care of Bob, arranging hospital and doctor appointments, organizing the dozens of medications that he needed, making sure he received the correct doses at the right time, administering medications through IV’s, keeping everything sterile, watching him helpless; limp with barely being able to lift his head off of his pillow most days and feeling helpless when I couldn’t take his discomfort away.
Not much changed after we got home. I was on high alert as Bob struggled with more setbacks and serious hospitalizations. Go, go go… that’s what I did without much thinking, without much down time except praying and asking God to supply what I needed to keep going at that crazy pace. I knew that I couldn’t get sick and that put more pressure on me. There were times when I would think: I feel sick. What was that pain? Oh no, I can’t get sick. Bob needs me. Sometimes my thoughts were irrational. Stress will do that.
Bob’s doctors told us that it wasn’t going to be easy but we didn’t fully grasp the full scope of it until we got to the other side and looked back.
As Bob recovered and could do more for himself again, I found I remained on high alert not able to relax nor could I find lasting inner peace and quiet that I often experienced during the months away. There was more peace during the hardest places because I was being carried…carried by the Lord even when I couldn’t feel it. It’s obvious now in hindsight.
Many people run through life at high speed so they don’t have to face the truth about themselves or the thorny, painful, hurtful areas of life. They know if they slow down they would have to come face to face with themselves, their fears and anxiety. Running from the pain seems easier so they continue running in the wrong direction. Trying to quench their thirst for God with counterfeit gods doesn’t bring lasting peace. It’s just a bandage but won’t reach or heal the deep wounds of life.
What brings peace is being honest with ourselves, with God, facing our fears, hurts and surrendering them to God. Then we can slow down and live at peace, because we’re no longer running away but toward the one who cares for us like a good father.
I’m by nature a quiet, reflective type. It’s always been easy for me to unwind. I always thrived on peace, quiet, and by being alone but the running to care for Bob, living for so long on high alert, in the flight or fright syndrome — not by choice but by necessity — I became accustomed to that lifestyle. The hypervigilance that I lived for so long left me jumpy, waiting for the next crisis to respond to when I didn’t have to do that anymore. It served me well for many months but began to hurt me when I couldn’t let it go after the necessity to live that way was gone.
I needed to face my fear, anxiety, claim it, speak it out loud, tell God about it and then surrender it all to him. So I have been in process of letting go of the lifestyle I lived for so long and allowing a peaceful, quiet life to be birthed in me again.
That’s where I am. I haven’t been gone just facing myself, those deepest fears, anxiety, realizing it’s okay to rest now. Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) It’s been good for me to rest in Christ.
Healing comes in different ways. Bob is in a complete molecular remission and I am healing emotionally.
Here’s a great song that speaks to me right now. You may like it too. Sometimes we just need to speak to our soul like King David did…
It’s all good, because like the lyrics by Casting Crowns says … “Oh my soul you are not alone. There’s a place for fear to face the God you know. One more day he will make a way. Let him show you how you can lay this down. Cause you’re not alone.”
We are handing in the keys to our temporary home tomorrow. After almost 11 months, this place is no longer needed.
The most intense part of my husband’s Leukemia treatments are behind us.
We spent 3 weeks at our real home this month and returned here this week for Bob’s check-up and biopsy. He’s still in remission and we are going home for good now only to return for periodic cancer checks.
As I walk through the rooms of this small apartment packing up the last of our belongings, I can’t help but think back on all that’s happened here. There were many days of uncertainty. Many lonely nights for me as Bob spent days, weeks, months of his own lonely days and nights in the hospital for treatment.
There were dressing changes, IV magnesium and antibiotic infusions done here and long periods of time when all Bob could do was sleep in this space that we called home. And all I could do was feel helpless — with only a prayer in my heart — as I watched him go through his suffering. There were several emergency trips to the hospital after the bone marrow transplant, because of infections, virus’, graft vs host rashes, low blood pressure and a fall that ended up with a stitched forehead. Then there were the re-admittance to the hospital times, because those side effects and illnesses became serious.
And there were times when I looked up and asked, “Where are you God?” There were times when Bob cried out, in familiar to us words,…”My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
And that’s when Christ identified with us. That’s when His presence became more real. That’s when His compassion flowed into our hearts and uplifted our spirits.
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
And that’s when suffering becomes a gift.
So we leave this place changed. We are forever changed and forever grateful knowing that God won’t waste our pain and grateful for this apartment that so often became our holy ground even in the middle of the not so wonderful times.
God doesn’t waste a second of our suffering. There’s purpose in everything and the hardest of times, those times of trouble prune away the unnecessary to make room for the necessary.