The Long Winter~

IMG_9345

Snow. 

For some this word creates a sense of anticipation and excitement. For me dread sets in. I am a lover of all things sunshine. I enjoy spring, I am nuts about summer, I hesitate to embrace fall because I know it ushers in the dreaded winter season.

Melodramatic? Nope, completely true. Winter, for me, is long, cold, and oft-times depressing. If I were a skier then winter would have a different meaning (and my husband would be so happy), but I am not. Having been raised in a beach community I learned that water and sunshine filled my emotional cup. Winter and snow just don’t.

Socially, the summer season is full of outdoor connections with friends and family, picnics on the grass, walks on the river trails, camping near a beautiful lake, and mountain hikes. Winter feels more like a Netflix binge and early nights.

Having lived in Central Oregon for over 20 years I have learned one thing: the sun does come out again, the seasons do change and I receive the change wholeheartedly!!

Life is kind of like that isn’t it. We all experience seasons of joy, celebration, challenge, and opportunity. Some seasons fly by so very fast, some seasons seem to last a very long time. Seasons of challenge can feel dark and overwhelming, even isolating. We ask ourselves, “will this ever end? Where is the light at the end of this tunnel?’

Just like the weather seasons, our life seasons will ebb and flow but it will not always be “winter”, the sun will come out again.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says,

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Oftentimes, we lose heart or during seasons of challenge, because it doesn’t appear anything is happening.  We lose heart. Learning to trust that God will usher in a new season change can be difficult.

However, The Lord created different seasons in our lives to shape us and create us into who He intended us to be. He uses seasons to show us that He is good and can “make everything beautiful for its own time” Seasons (good and bad) are ways for God to capture our hearts and our faith.

If you feel you are in a long winter season take heart today; spring is just around the corner!

c2cab837efb35943e55658b8bc9f4448

I watched The Shack~

th

When I mention the new movie “The Shack” I get mixed responses. Back when the book came out I never took the opportunity to read it; life was just so busy at the time. Nevertheless, people I loved and respected both loved it and disliked it.

When my girlfriend asked me to watch the movie with her I was intrigued by all that I had heard; allegory or a literal representation of God? It was time to find out.

When The Shack was originally written my life had been a series of wonderful blessings, challenging situations, hurtful experiences, sadness’s, great joys and blessing: a real mix.   Having now seen the movie I believe I would have been deeply moved in so many ways yet it may have lacked a deeply personal response from me at that time.

It’s been over 5 years since an angry, ruthless, greedy individual stole my precious nephew’s life; snuffed out in the prime of life. Christopher was/is dearly loved. Never forgotten.   The perpetrator has yet to go to court; Christopher’s’ body has yet to be found.

In the first few months after losing him I used running as an avenue to process and “work out” the angst in my soul. “WHY GOD?? You could have saved his life, protected him, kept him from harm!!! Where were you??”   My trust in God was challenged, believing in all I was told He was – love, protecting, caring was turned to disbelief. I ran and ran and ran; all the while shaking my fist at what I didn’t and couldn’t understand.

One day, while running, I dropped on my face in a grass field tired of the battle, tired of trying to understand, and heavy with the deepest grief I had ever experienced. When I got still I heard God whisper to my heart “My shoulders are big enough for your grief and questions. I need you to be prepared to forgive in order to feel whole again.” I sat there for over an hour pondering His words and questioning the latter…forgive???

Back to the movie; seeing it now after walking through such deep sorrow, going from anger to sadness and grief, to asking questions, rebuilding trust in the One who formed and knew Christopher, to learning to forgive ( sometimes daily); the impact of the movie struck me deeply in this single paragraph:

“Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.  Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.  That will only lead you to false notions about me.  Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors. Evil exists, broken people exist, wounded people exist and make devastating choices. These are not acts that I coordinate but I will work for good what evil sought to destroy.” The Shack

As I exited the theater I could feel the tears welling, first in my throat and quickly to my eyes as I began to ponder those words and their impact on me in this season of my life.

I settled myself in my car, sitting there in the silence listening to the wind outside. Out of nowhere I began to sob from my soul, more grief finding a way out!   The words had reminded me that God didn’t cause my pain and that he was there at every moment to help and heal my soul and the soul of my entire family. Forgiveness is for me. Forgiveness sets me free from bitterness; forgiveness keeps my eyes on Christ while knowing full well that it doesn’t minimize the perpetrators guilt.

I am confident and long for the day when my entire family will celebrate a grand reunion with Christopher; what a day that will be!! Until then I will fight to forgive and grow even stronger in my faith that God is good, God is faithful, and God will never leave me nor forsake me.

Revelation 21:4  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Raw~

images

One the eve of Election Day America is raw.  As a nation we have sloshed through months and months of hurtful, harmful bantering that has left so many weary and blistered emotionally.  We have seen and heard verbal wars consisting of snarky,  shameful comments that even our children should not be privy to.  Many of us have found ourselves saying and posting things that do not present the best version of ourselves but because the “bar” has been set so low by those in leadership, we still look pretty good.  This season has wounded us all in some way and we are raw.

As we walk through the Election week ahead, well, it will be bumpy; no one will really win in the end.  Our nation is so deeply divided that no matter who assumes the presidential seat, we will face the future fractured.  Families, churches, companies, and communities will have those who are grieved by the results while others will celebrate and throw their “win” in the faces of those around them.  No one will really win, we are raw and weary as a nation.

I have sat alone many times over the past year and wondered how I should navigate my own behaviour during this tumultuous season.  I have consoled myself with the thought that government wise ” I didn’t cause it and I can’t fix it”.  However, I have felt God nudging my heart as to what I can impact.

First, I can pray, specifically and in earnest I can pray that God will heal our land as found in 2nd Chronicles 7:14.  I can care enough to set aside time to intercede for the country that I love.

Second, I can vote.  Yes, this year voting has been more challenging than any year in my adult life and yet, my right to vote is a right that was fought for by generations before me and I will honor that right always.

Third, I can be the kind of leader I wish our government would be.  I can be honest, walk with integrity, make good clear choices that will impact those in my life and my community, and I can use diplomatic words of kindness in all that I do to keep the “bar” higher than what I have experienced in our government leadership over that past year.

Fourth and last, I can be kind.  I have the choice to impact my world with kindness, love, inspiration, and the hope that I have found in God.  I can choose to mentor. volunteer, coach, and come alongside those in my community.  I can choose to DO what is right regardless of what our government may or may not do. It’s truly up to me.

We all have a choice to be a beacon of light to the world around us that is just a little raw these days.  Our anger and angst over this election could easily cause us to lose sight of the kindnesses we can show every day.  The rifts between those who believe differently than as us could cause us to miss opportunities to share the good news of hope into a heart desperately in need.   This could be the true church’s finest hour if we remember that we were sent here to be salt and light in trying times, to be a healing balm to a raw generation.

THIS is my challenge for this election week and beyond.  May you be encouraged and challenged in the same way.  May YOU share the hope that is within you. 🙂

index

 

I cried again today~

 

chris-smith-1024

Grief is an interesting beast.  Grief sneaks up on us through a smell, a look, a song, or even in dreams.  Experiencing “loss” is something we will all endure in our lives causing us all to walk through different levels of grief.

Today I saw that People Magazine wrote a short story about my nephew who was taken from us over 5 years ago.  It was tough to see the story in print. I cried.

During the first year of grief I was sad and angry at God for having this sadness as part of our family’s story.  How?? Why??  I raged inside.  I cried a lot. Then God began to speak to my heart; asking me to trust him with the questions and the grief ~ He is so good. But the tears would still fall.

Over the years I have cried at the oddest times, it just happens.  Oceans remind me of him, homeless people ( for whom he had great compassion) remind me of him, electronic music reminds me of him, his nieces remind me of him ~ He’s always just a thought away and he is always missed.

Today I cried again.  I know it won’t be the last time, grief is kind of like that.

http://www.people.com/article/california-entrepreneur-covers-up-murder?xid=socialflow_facebook_peoplemag