For When the Season You’re in seems Desolate and Void of Love

Winter 8While reading the other day I came across this quote by Celia Thaxter:

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.”

Liking it, I texted it to my friend with the following question: Can I have an eternal fall and winter in mine?

I’m sure she rolled her eyes. She knows how much I adore the fall with its pretty leaves, rosy-cheek breezes, and pumpkin spiced everything. But winter? She, and pretty much everyone else I know, can’t understand the crazy obsession I have for this cold, dreary, never-ending season.

 Our conversation continued:

Her: Not winter!

Me: But I love it!

Her: But it’s desolate and void of love. 

Green LeavesI get it! Winter is hard especially here in Michigan. Winter means you can’t go outside without pain. It means you (and your kiddos) are stuck inside for months on end. It means constant shoveling, tedious driving, and dealing with ice and snow.

Winter means days and days on end when sunshine is scarce and pretty much everything you look at is colorless, dead, and gray. 

And for my friend, the season of life she’s in is kind of like winter too. Hard things are happening in her work and her family. People she loves have betrayed her. Right now there’s no end in sight.

Despite all of this when I read her response something in me snapped. I had this sudden conviction, this knowing with all my heart that her words, no matter how right they seemed, simply weren’t true. 

Lake MIWhich is why I wrote: Oh no! Winter is full of love and far from desolate. Think of all those bulbs in the ground, in the dark just waiting to bloom. I was thinking about it this morning, how beauty and transformation and miracles always start in a dark place. So is winter desolate? I don’t think so. It’s full of life just waiting to happen. And as for love? Think of “Jen” snow! Of icicles shining in sunshine. Of how good coffee tastes and feels on a cold winter morning and how snuggly warm your most favorite blanket feels at night. Each of these and millions more are God saying, “I love you” all winter long.

Jen snow? Yes, I love the falling flakes so much my friends have coined a name for it.

At any rate, this was my knee jerk response to her comment, but I can’t stop thinking about it. About the life and the love that happens even in desolate seasons.

Snowy PumpkinIn seasons that seem like they’re void of warmth and all things good.

In seasons when life is hard, and cold, and dark. When we’re forced to wait for sunshine, to wait for spring to come.

In seasons when we feel all alone as though the ones we love…as though the One we love…has abandoned us.

I’ve lived these winters. I’m watching my friend live one now and I hope she can know what I know. I hope she can see and feel and experience the life and the love that’s still there. That’s happening all around her.

In the dark, in the hard, in the terribly lonely, life IS waiting to bloom. Love IS calling your name.

AmarilysOn my kitchen windowsill an amaryllis bulb my family was given for Christmas reaches just a little bit more for the sun each day, a reminder that spring is coming.

A perfect gift for those in the middle of winter.

For When Christmas Comes Up Empty

MangerThe stress of the week had left me empty, had drained me dry. Work challenges, family challenges, and holiday pressures had taken their toll.

Desperate for peace and joy I retreated to the nursery to rock my daughter to sleep for nap time.

With Promise sleeping soundly in my arms I opened the playlist on my phone and scanned my albums for music to bring back the spirit of Christmas. For me, this music is found yearly on Michael W. Smith’s album: Christmastime.

Somehow it never truly feels like Christmas to me until I set aside a sacred time to still, and slow, and listen. To let this music stir in me the feelings of snow and warmth. Of family and coming home. Of worship. Of Christmas.

And on this rocky Thursday morning, with tension filling every room of the house. With stress running rampant and discouragement decking the halls, I needed this balm. These tidings of great, great joy.

 

“Fragile finger sent to heal us,

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us,

Unto us is born

Unto us is born”

 

As the lyrics from Welcome to Our World fell over me and the sleeping babe in my arms, I found myself overwhelmed with how much I need Him. With how much my family, my household, this crazy, smoldering world needs Him. How we all need Him to come and fill not just the manger but all the empty, the lost, the broken.

Christmas, it brings with it so much joy and yet there is always this beautiful ache. This ache for Him to fulfill all we truly long for. 

The manger so long ago was such an unlikely place for a Savior King to fill. And yet He did. He came in the most unlikely way to the most unlikely place and even so fulfilled every need, every ache of the world. 

And this is what He continues to do. And this is what we celebrate. This is what we need at Christmas and every day of the year. For Him to come and fill the manger of our hearts, our homes, our lives.

Anything, anywhere can be a manger if we but open for Him. Make room for Him to come. If we stop being so afraid of the empty, afraid of the ache and go to Him ready and waiting and asking of Him, “Lord, please just come.”

The only time Christmas comes up empty is when we look to lesser things to fill our greatest ache. 

And the best way to remain full this holiday season is to remember the truth of Christmas. To remember the baby who filled the manger, who filled the empty, the open, the cracks in all this broken world. 

My daughter expressed it perfectly this week while listening to an instrumental version of Away in The Manger. “This song reminds me of baby Jesus,” she said. “And when I hear it all I want to do is pick him up and hold him in my arms and love him forever.”

So simple. So profound. So very full of Christmas.

Sweet friends, may your heart, your home, your life be full with Him this holiday season.

When all else leaves you empty may you remember Baby Jesus, may you hold him close to your heart, love him forever, and let your manger be filled with Him.

What We Have to Remember When Evil Breaks Loose

 

Nativity“Tell me, Annabelle, how is she?”

“She’s different, my lord. I’m afraid her time in Lukenwalde, and that horrid Prince Silvano, has changed her dramatically.

“I was afraid it might be so.”

“Tell me, my lord, is it time? I hate to see her languish like this. She can’t even look at her gifts. She insisted I burry them in that wooden chest of hers. Hidden in darkness, they have remained there since the day she came home.”

“It saddens me to hear it, but no, ‘tis still not time.”

“Forgive me, but I can’t see the sense in waiting much longer. I know you have your reasons, but I don’t understand.”

“Trust me. ‘Tis all I can ask. I know ‘tis hard. I know you don’t understand. But trust me, dear Annabelle. Please, just trust me.”

~*~*~*~

As I watched the headlines light up the screen last Friday night all I could think was: Again? It’s happening again?

Innocent people murdered. People doing nothing but living their lives, attacked by pure evil.

I thought of the school children killed in 2012.

The marathon bombing of 2013.

The heinous acts being carried out against men, women, and precious children throughout the Middle East.

And now Paris.

I thought of what this world has come to and the evil we’re facing and how we desperately need a rescue.

And I thought of my story, of this scene I edited just a few days ago. About the king and his beloved that fill the pages of this tale I’m writing.

In this particular scene the king’s beloved, Princess Merrily, is in trouble. She needs a hero, a rescue. Her friend and confidant, Annabelle, implores the king to come. 

But the king, he’s patient and wise. He has a plan and it’s a good one. And while Annabelle doesn’t understand, the king asks just one thing: “Trust me, dear Annabelle. Please, just trust me.” 

When evil strikes like it did last Friday I think we’re all inclined to implore our King and Savior to come. To come and rescue His beloved. To come and recue this weary world. We don’t understand the evil or why He’s waiting so long.

But our King, too, is patient and wise. He has a plan. A good, good plan. To prosper and not to harm. To give hope and a future.

And our King, too, asks us to trust. 

To trust him and Him alone.

Not our government. The headlines. The next election.

Not our trendy beliefs. Our Facebook posts. Our celebrities, our leaders, our heroes.

Not the rock of dread in our gut. The voice of fear in our ears. The image of horror before our eyes. 

Just Him.

“Trust me,” He says. “Trust my tract record. My truth. My promise.”

“Trust my unfailing love for this world, for you, for my precious beloved.”

“Please, just trust me.”

 Trust that the King is coming.

For When You Need a Fresh Start

Congratulations to Karen for winning my Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All Giveaway! Thanks for entering, Karen! Your book will be on it’s way soon!

No mailI surprised myself this morning. Without much thought I did something completely unexpected. Something I haven’t felt ready to do for almost two years.

But this morning I was ready. And I did it.

I deleted a mountain of emails from my inbox and granted myself a fresh start. 

 Earth shattering, I know, but it meant something to me.

Most of the emails I hacked were blog posts from one of my favorite authors. Posts I hadn’t read yet. Posts I knew were sure to nurture my heart. For two years I looked at my inbox and everyday I felt this weight. This that knowing these posts were waiting. This knowing that I should take the time to read them. This telling myself, again and again, that I’ll get to them eventually.

But this morning something was different. This morning I wanted a fresh start more than I wanted whatever it was waiting in those emails. So with a quick tap of my finger I let them go. 

At the end of the day emails are emails but I can’t help but wonder, what else? What else in my life needs a fresh start like this one?

How many weights do I carry because of something I should be doing? 

I should be spending more time with God, the treadmill, my writing, on date nights with my husband.

I should be eating better, praying more, reading more books to my kids.

I should be more organized, patient, willing to get up early, willing to stay up late.

I should be a better homeschooler, housekeeper, mother, wife, sister, friend.

The should be weight is crushing. In all of these things I want a fresh start. I want Jesus. I want grace. I want to trade every “should be” for lifesaving truth.

Fresh starts aren’t just for New Year’s Day or new seasons. They aren’t for perfect people, perfect homes or ducks all in a row. They’re for each and every day, for every five minutes if need be. They’re for the broken, the messed up, the messy. 

Fresh starts are all about dropping the weight of my demands, my expectations, my attempts at making life happen, for the weightlessness of grace and glory. 

He demands nothing but my heart.

He expects nothing but my love.

And He alone is the only source of the life I need, I want.

For all the things I should be, He loves me for who I am. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light…” and these words have never been more freeing. 

So every “should be” you’re facing today? It should be null and void, deleted like a mountain of emails. Because our “should be” list isn’t what matters. 

Fresh starts that align our heart with His heart are what matters. His grace and glory matter. 

Fresh starts that trade the weight of everything we should be, for the weightless truth of who He is. 

For When It All Starts Coming Undone

Running ShoesA few weeks ago while shopping I heard Lady Antebellum’s country hit Run To You played throughout the store. I found myself singing along to this song I’ve always liked but never really thought about.

This world keeps spinning faster

Into a new disaster so I run to you

I run to you baby

And when it all starts coming undone

Baby you’re the only one I run to

I run to you” (Run To You chorus)

These words, this song, they made me think of Jesus. I love when a song does that.

I recently wrote a post about my struggle with anxiety and my compulsion for sugary treats and online shopping. After writing this post I realized it’s in times of stress and fatigue that these struggles become real to me.

Isn’t it always true? That you can turn up the heat and find out who and what you turn to.

I run to sugar and shopping.

I run to my husband.

I run to my friends.

But God? Jesus? I’m sad to say He’s not the first place go. In desperate moments of loss, hurt, or strife I cry to Him, of course I do. I beg Him for help, comfort, and rescue.

But in the day to day, in the worrisome hiccups and squabbles, it seems so much easier, so much more gratifying to pick up the phone and text my best friend. To eat a handful of M&Ms or buy those cute shoes.

But God wants more than my frantic pleas. He wants all of me, my whole heart. He wants me to run to Him when my kids are driving me crazy. When my husband and I can’t stop fighting. When I’m tired, discouraged, and stressed.

When this world spins fast and disaster strikes He wants to be my One, my Only.

So often in times of trouble we turn to the people and the things that can do nothing. All the while resisting the only One who can do anything and everything.

So what does running to Him look like? For me it looks like worship, and solace, and thanksgiving.

It’s a playlist of songs that take me right to the heart of His comfort, His favor, His love. It’s listening to this playlist while getting dressed or cooking dinner instead of other voices, other noise.

It’s prayers whispered in the heat of the moment. In those times I don’t feel like praying. It’s grabbing my prayer journal or taking a walk, a quiet moment just me and God.

It’s filling my heart with the good things He gives me. Scribbling down words of thanks, writing time, a cup of coffee with a good and godly friend. It’s treasure troves of scripture pinned throughout the house. A breath of fresh air from a book that inspires, a sticky-note glimpse of His truth.

And isn’t it also true? That any of these things can become idols, and any of our idols can become conduits of His love.

The difference is who and what we’re running too. 

When the heat turns up, turn to Him.

 Run to Him.

 Only Him.

 Just run.