Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For a Little While, If Necessary

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV).

Father, it's been a hard year in a series of hard years. You know that already of course, since you've been storing up all my tears in Your bottle all along. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way. Things are hard for a very many people these days, and for many worse than for me and mine. Show Yourself strong on behalf of those who trust You, Lord. In You alone we take refuge. Don't let us be put to shame in our hope.

Thank You for the anchor of Your Word keeping me from being blown too far from my living hope. Thank You that nothing can touch Your children unless You give the go-ahead, and that You won't give the go-ahead unless it is for our good, the growth of Your people, and Your glory. Thank You that, no matter how painful life gets, it's only "for a little while, if necessary." Thank You for the hope that whatever genuine faith comes through this testing may "result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I can't even imagine how that will be.

I offer this year back to You, Lord. Bathe it in Your grace. Wash away its stains. Redeem it. I lift to You the ones on my all-day-every-day prayer list. Redeem their sorrows too. Nurture and cultivate the good seeds which have sprouted in this year, seeds of character, love, patience, perseverance, prayer, . . . . You know. Bring forth much eternal fruit from Your truth and grace planted in and through our lives. Let us say confidently with Paul that You cause all things to work together for the good of those who love You, who are called according to Your purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Thank You, Abba, for Your faithfulness,
in 73 medical appointments,
in 2 marginally helpful rounds of physical therapy,
in my first-ever round of acupuncture,
in countless prescriptions,
in my husband's hard work to provide for my needs,
in major surgery for my mom,
in major surgery for my sister,
in 2 epidural injections for me,
in my gallbladder removal surgery,
in a shoulder injection,
in many and various activity and dietary limitations,
in healing my body enough to tolerate moderate amounts of fat and spices by Christmas.

Thank You for pushing me out of my comfort zone over and over this year,
in 2 months of water exercise,
in many of the medical tasks You appointed,
in 4 new physicians,
in a summer of major, loud, prolonged home repairs,
in grace for road trips I didn't feel I could manage,
in a joyful, fun night away for our anniversary (with no increased health problems),
in a long weekend in central Texas with family,
in a difficult church transition,
in sharing the hard parts of my story out loud and in person more than I perhaps ever have.

Thank You for the people in my life,
for the Bible study ladies who prayed all year long and fed us like royalty after my surgery,
for friends far away too,
for my church's new pastor,
for the Watchman prayer team,
for my kind friends through blogging,
for our neighbor and contractor,
for the gazillion times I've read his daughter "I Love You, Stinky Face" and "Where the Wild Things Are" while he and Amore talked
for laughter with my nephews every time I see them,
for my parents and all the help they've continued to give,
for my sisters,
for Amore.

Thank You for the family transitions,
for Mezzo's graduate degree and college teaching job,
for Terza's renewal of her professional certification,
for unexpected job changes for two loved ones,
for Nonni's move to an assisted living residence after 50 years in the same house,
for the things that had been constant which are no longer so.

Thank You for provision,
for medical needs,
for household repairs,
for a replacement when my computer broke in the middle of the repairs,
for the gift of a second vehicle.

Thank You for spiritual markers,
for 26 years walking with You,
for grace to complete my Bible read-through schedule,
for grace to count more than 10,000 of Your gifts in 2013,
for grace to hide 2 2/3 chapters of Your Word in my heart this year,
for 4 ladies' Bible studies completed.

You are good, and Your love endures forever. Hallelujah!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent Waiting

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of  the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because  Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years (Luke 1:5-7, ESV).

Where do you see yourself in the Christmas stories, if you recognize yourself there at all? Mary's costly, daring "yes"? Joseph's long obedience? The magi's seeking? The marginalized shepherds' rejoicing? Bonnie of Faith Barista asked this, and it took long pondering before I could say, Elizabeth. But not perhaps the part of Elizabeth's story we emphasize. Elizabeth between Luke 1:5 and Luke 1:6. The waiting Elizabeth, before the angel appears and Zechariah stops talking for nine months. Before the maternity clothes and gossip spreading through her town. Before she could say, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:25, ESV).

In significant ways, December 2013 for me greatly resembles December 2012. Several of the big, hard, God-sized challenges remain visibly unchanged. Sometimes it feels like our prayers have expired or fallen on deaf ears, and we must cast ourselves on the truth of God's Word that they have not. (Feelings make fine thermometers but lousy thermostats.) Sometimes apparently unanswered prayers are just waiting. Waiting like Elizabeth until the "fullness of time had come" (Gal. 4:4).

In the waiting, as I'm often feeling like the "before" Elizabeth, I'm remembering this imagined peek at the "after" Elizabeth. Perhaps it would encourage one or two of you who find yourselves with me in the waiting room.

An angel's good news beggars the priest's belief

A seed of joy, sown by an expired prayer,
Takes root in his aged bride's shriveled womb,
Flutters, kicks new life into dead hopes.
Fruit of the promise swells, burgeons,
Tautens the walls of empty longing
With outlandish hope.

God sends a son called Grace*--
A son for Elisabeth--
Grace for her disgrace,
Favor for her shame,
Joy for her sorrow,
But grace upon grace:

Her Grace-child jumps for joy,
Joy dancing in her barren places.
Mute joy-leaps hail the Author of joy,
And the mother of Grace meets the mother of her Lord.
Grace rejoices in the coming
Of the Grace-giver Himself,
As near and as far
As the embrace of two unexpectedly expectant mothers
(One too soon, one too late, both in good time)
Rejoicing together in good news
Of the promise coming,
So near they can feel it kick.

*The name "John" is a variant of the Hebrew for "Yahweh is gracious."

Sharing belatedly with Bonnie and early with Laura. Thank you for your prayers. I think I'm on the mend, thanks to antibiotics and time, but my participation in church this Christmas week remains in question. Thank you for understanding the quiet here.


Monday, December 16, 2013


The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John 1:14, HCSB

While I love the hymns and carols of Christmas, I treasure the wistful, yearning hymns of Advent too. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is perhaps the best-known of these, but a different one washes over my heart these days. It unfolds quietly and unrushed, like snow descending. We need that in the bustle and noise of Christmas preparations, don't we? Or is that just me?

Ebony and I are slowing here today to nurse a nasty cold. (The cold is mine, the nursing his. See how hard he's working?) I encourage you also to press pause on your day for 5 minutes and savor this hymn about the glory and incomprehensibility of the Incarnation we celebrate. {If reading in email or RSS, you may need to access the post itself to view the video.}

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, alleluia,
alleluia, Lord most high!”

paraphrased into English by Gerard Moultrie (1864) from ancient Syrian liturgy

Quietly thanking the Lord this morning 
for a day with my sister and nephews last week
for no major negative side effects so far from the new medicine
for the Lord's loud and clear message to hush
for sister's voice on the phone for a minute this morning
for her successful surgery
for my parents' ability and availability to help with her boys
for another, milder weather transition
for Ebony's obedience in dropping contraband into my hands
for rest in all its forms
for hope and joy in 1 Peter 1
(gratitude journal # 2461-2470)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Little Girl in Me

A joyful heart is good medicine,
But a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

The little girl in me usually hides away in a dusty box on the top closet shelf, unless twirly skirts are involved, in which case she takes a spin and giggles a little, but in private with no one else around. Sometimes she peeks out from under the lid and claps her hands when I make up new words to an old song to sing to Ebony or hide one of the wise guys in an especially good place to surprise Amore later. She creeps into the dark room after bedtime prayers to ask Amore to rub her back so her body will calm for sleep.  Most of the time, though, you'd hardly know she was around.

Yesterday she snuck into my backpack for a day with my parents and nephews and a little bit of sister time to bookend the rest. She emerged for a romp, helping Lightning with his letter to Santa asking for an Angry Birds toy and some Lego kits. She sang silly songs about cats that keep coming back and reindeers with red noses and do, re, mi, fa, sol, and so on. When Rocky asked her how she knew all these songs, she said, "I used to be a little kid like you once." She blew up balloons and let Thunder and Rocky play with her hair. When the comb got tangled, she shrugged and said, "It's just hair," even though she was relieved when Grandma extricated the errant teeth. She played with kids' meal plastic football players and did a touchdown dance when the ball cleared the soda cup and she caught it. She hugged and tickled and laughed and when it was done, even though she was plumb tuckered out, she decided maybe she should find a new home a little less dusty and lower in that closet so she could come out to play more often.

responding to Bonnie's prompt this week at


Called, Beloved, Kept

From Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you! (Jude 1-2, NET)

Did you see it? It passes so quickly we could easily miss the treasure in the first short verse of this short letter. Jude describes his recipients as "called, wrapped in the love of God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ." Other places in the New Testament apply these terms and ideas to believers in Christ more generally, so I have no qualms about claiming them for myself and for you who are my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What's my point? Whatever you face this day, my friends, whatever circumstances lift you up or weigh you down, you are called. You have eternal significance in the fact that the God of the universe chose and invited you into His family and kingdom.  (See also Romans 8:28-30.) You are beloved. You are "wrapped up in the love of God," as the New English Translation has it. All the hunger in your heart for love and affection, all the hunger to be chosen, treasured, and cherished--all that is granted and satisfied in the love of God. You are not alone. You are not unwanted. You are deeply beloved. (See also Romans 8:35-39.) Finally, you are kept for Jesus Christ. He is our security in an insecure and often threatening world. His return is our hope. He keeps His blood-bought children for Himself until then and forever. (See Psalm 121:3-7; John 10:27-29; 17:11-12, 15; 2 Thess 3:3; Jude 24.)

Carry that with you as waybread for the rest of your day, dear Crumbles. Whatever God's providence has in store for you, you are called. You are wrapped up in the love of God the Father. You are kept for Jesus Christ. The Triune God is enough for us, beloved. May His mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Glimpses of Wits' End During the Ice Storm of December 2013

We are grateful for God's protection and provision of all our needs during 4 days of confinement (with considerable ice still on the ground a week later). The ice brought dangerous beauty and a not unwelcome reminder that "The mind of man plans his {her} way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

That's solid ice.

Photo credit: Amore

Dawn's early light on ice-coated tree branches... Looks like diamonds to me.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter Storm {A Repost}

Winter Storm
 On Record Snowfall, 2/11/10

                                                Stealthily overcoming lawn and leaf,
                                                                                            Roof and roadway—
Transfix attention with their delicate beauty,
Microscopic bits of Irish lace.

Floating down irregular as feathers,
Deceptively light,
Multitude on multitude inexorably accumulate.
Boughs bow
Beneath the weight
Of dusty anxieties.

What does not bend,
Shed burden to strong, waiting earth,
What does not bend must break,
Though strong live wood
Thick as Jacob’s thigh,
Joint sundered with a touch.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 6:6-7, ESV).

On This Day in December 2013

FOR December 6, 2013

Outside my window...
The world is white and glittery with the ice and sleet that blew through yesterday afternoon and evening. The dark-eyed juncoes, cardinals, sparrows, and white-winged doves have been feasting all day on the birdseed I cast out onto the patio. Two limbs of our live oak have broken so far, and one of our crape myrtles has parted down the middle from the weight of the ice.

I am thinking...
about loved ones nearby, affected by the storm, and loved ones traveling many miles away, possibly also affected by the storm as it regards their return Sunday morning. I am also thinking about the weakest and most vulnerable, always most severely affected by harsh weather like this, the thousands in our region without electricity today, and those areas farther north, even harder hit by winter storms.

I am thankful...
Our electricity has remained on without interruption;
Amore's employer sent him and his colleagues home early with their work computers yesterday;
my sisters and brother-in-law were also able to stay inside and off the roads today;
my Nonni is in a safe place and no longer alone and responsible for an aging house and her own pipes and trees;
the Lord kept me safe driving myself home from a doctor's appointment at dusk yesterday in sleet and freezing rain;
Amore had tea ready and waiting for me when I arrived;
I have a new medication change ahead (when we can get to the pharmacy) which may allow my tendinitis to heal;
the Lord prompted me to take my lunch outside Wednesday when the temperature approached 80F;
ears to hear the woodpecker and eyes to see the baby sparrow eating her lunch three feet from me;
my side of the family had a lovely Thanksgiving last week;
the youngest nephews had a great time raking my parents' leaves, hiding in them, jumping in them, making leaf angels in them, and so forth;
we were able to see a movie at the theater on Black Friday;
my parents are enjoying a relaxing vacation in warm Hawaii this week;
our times (and the weather) are in God's hands;
for the security that comes in knowing, "He gives snow like wool; He scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down His crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word, and melts them; He makes His wind blow and the waters flow" (Psalm 147:16-18).

In the kitchen...
two cookie sheets full of peppermint candy are cooling, the coffeemaker and tea kettle have been busy all day, and preparations will soon be under way for pasta and tilapia baked in tomato sauce for supper.

I am wearing...
black fleece pants, a long-sleeved black t-shirt, a blue hooded sweatshirt, wool socks, and hiking boots/ankle brace/orthotics.

I am creating...
a prayer shawl for a friend undergoing radiation treatments for breast cancer.

I am going...
hmmm, it's been a busy week with a quiet weekend ahead. I might go with some Bible study friends to sing carols and take cookies to a retirement home Wednesday, but right now I'm just happy to stay put.

I am wondering...
whether my parents will be able to return as scheduled Sunday and whether my new medication will bring any improvement.

I am reading...
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg, All Things for Good by Thomas Watson, assorted devotionals, Daniel, and the letters of John.

I am hoping...
to visit my grandmother next weekend or the following one
and eventually to complete learning Ephesians by heart (I'm apparently a very slow study.).

I am looking forward to...
studying 1 Peter with Terza while we're on break from our church Bible studies.

I am learning...
Ephesians 5:20, NIV1984: "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Around the house...
Ebony has been snuggling all day long, the Christmas tree lights are glowing, the heater is hard at work, Amore has been in his home office logged into work until recently, I've chipped away at my usual task list, and there are stacks of presents waiting to be wrapped. The rest of the decorations and the creche await unpacking, maybe tomorrow.

I am pondering...
God's redemption of difficult seasons of life and how our circumstances can turn on a dime, even when things seem worst.

A favorite quote for today...
"He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him." Charles Spurgeon

One of my favorite things...
The Sound of Music.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
not to leave our property if I can help it,
to set the Nativity out,
to make the second batch of toffee for the year,
a stay-home date with my honey.

A peek into my day...

That's my adult hand peeking out from the leaf's edges.

Sharing with Peggy Hostetler's The Simple Woman's Daybook today