God’s Lights

GodsLights

“Can you see the stars from outside?”

“No.  Not with the lights on.”

“I can’t see the stars from in here, either.”  Beth pressed her face against the cold window pane.

“No, but after we turn off the lights, we can look again.”

“It’s funny that, when we turn on our own lights, we can’t see God’s lights any more.  We have to shut off if we want to see God.”

“Yeah, sort of like that.”

Beth drew her face away from the window and looked at her sister.  “Does the house look pretty when you look at it from outside?”

Clarisa met Beth’s eyes.  “Yes, it does.  Do you want me to take a picture, so you can see?”

Beth giggled.  “Yes!  I’ll wave to you through the window.”

Clarisa got up, grabbed her phone, and started out the bedroom.  “Don’t forget to put on your coat and galoshes,” Beth called after her.  “It’s still wet from the snow melting.  It must be mushy.”

Beth continued looking out the window until she caught sight of Clarisa.  Oh, she’d rushed right out, no coat or boots at all, all the way to the neighbor’s across the street.  Beth waved as she watched Clarisa raise the phone and then dash back into the house.  She heard her kick off her shoes before she stomped up the stairs.

“Did your shoes get soaked?”

“Only a little.”  Clarissa’s face was red from the cold and the run.  Her eyes sparkled.  She held the phone out to Beth.  “What do you think?”

Beth studied the photo.  “You should send this to Uncle Larry.  He’d love to see us all lit up like that.  He might be mad that we put them up without him, though.”

“I’ll tell him that Grandpa helped.  He’ll be okay with that.”  Clarisa tapped for a few minutes on the phone, then tossed it back onto her desk.  “There.  I bet they don’t get any Christmas lights in Afghanistan.  I bet he smiles and shows all his buddies.”

She looked at Beth.  “You okay?  You want me to help you back to bed?”

“Yeah, I’d better.”  Beth held her arms out.

Clarisa looked again at Beth as she tucked her in.  “Is this going to be a hospital night?  Should I go get Mom?”

“In a minute.”  She was silent, looking down at her bedding, twisting her fingers in the blanket.  “I don’t want to go back to the hospital any more.”

Clarisa was silent then, for so long that Beth finally looked up at her.  Their eyes met, and Clarisa searched her little sister.

“I don’t know if I can go first in this talk, Beth.  Or even, if I should be here.  It should be Mom.”

“Can it please be you first, Lissy?  If you can’t, I guess that’s okay.  But, I hope you will.”

Clarisa gently caressed Beth’s face, her fingers on her bald head, her thumb brushing where her eyebrow used to be.  Tears welled up, and she had to swallow before answering, “Okay.  Go ahead.”

Beth pulled her prayer journal from under her pillow.  Clarisa looked at it.  It was so little-girl, so pink flowers and polka dots.  The writing in it was so childish, but the words were – well, the words were as from her little sister.  Written so plainly that anyone could understand, but written so plainly that Clarisa knew she would need to read it for the rest of her life.  Beth made no secret about her journal entries, often sharing.  But, no one in the family looked without it being offered first.

Beth opened and flipped through some pages.  “I’ve been writing about it.  But I think it’s really time now to talk about it.”

They both heard their mother climbing the stairs.  She entered the room, still looking at her phone.  “Well, it looks like Grandma and Grandpa won’t be back until Friday,” she said.  “They e-mailed and said they’re looping around north, to see friends before they head back home.  Maybe we can have them over for Sunday dinner.”

She looked up at her girls, and came over to sit on the other side of the bed.  “What’s up?” she asked gently.  Her hand smoothed the blanket over Beth’s belly.

Beth and Clarisa looked at each other.

“Mom,” Beth began.  “You know how you and Dad always talked to us about being ready?  Ready for bed.  Ready for dinner.  Ready for school.  Ready for next year.  Ready for marriage, and ready for life, even.  Even after Dad died, you still make sure to help us get ready.  For whatever.”

Mom reached to the dresser and pulled the framed photo to the bed.  She looked into her husband’s blue eyes.  “I wasn’t ready for him to go.”

Clarisa reached over and took her mom’s hand.  “We couldn’t be.  No one could be.  No one was.”

Mom looked again at Beth.  “What are you telling me?”

Beth marked the rise of panic in the back of Mom’s eyes.  “I want you to be ready, Mom,” she said, simply.

“Ready for what, exactly?”  Mom was struggling to keep control of her tone.

“I want you to be ready, Mom.”  Beth repeated.

Mom stood up abruptly.  “I have to get out of here for a couple of minutes.  Can you wait that long?  I can be back really soon.”  She looked at Beth, and Beth nodded.  She darted from the room, and the girls heard her bedroom door close.

“Mom’s on her knees,” Clarisa said.  Beth nodded.  “I’m going to, too.  Do you want some help? Or do you need to stay there?”

“I need to stay here.”

Clarisa was on her knees, holding Beth’s hand.  “Lord, I lift up Mom right now.  I know she’s calling out to You.  Cradle her, Lord.  You know what she needs, and I pray you fill her.  Help us right now, Lord!  We are not ready.  Please make us ready.  Please help us get through the pain.”  She looked at Beth.  “Please help us all get ready.”

Beth, eyes closed, murmured, “We put ourselves in Your hands, Father.  Thank You.  Thank You.”

They remained so for a few more minutes.  Mom came back in.

“Are you … ready?” she asked Beth.

Beth nodded.  “Except for you.  I think God especially wanted to bless you.  He knows you weren’t ready for Dad.”

Mom sat back down on the bed and took Beth’s other hand.  “Honey, when you first got sick, I told God in no uncertain terms that He couldn’t have you, too.  He took too much away from me already.”

Clarisa added, “I know Job said, ‘The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’“ She paused.  “It’s not that easy, even to say it, much less have it in my heart.”  She looked at Mom, then at Beth, then wiped her eyes.  “But, I bless the Lord.” She sobbed. “I can’t even think about you not being here, and I pray I won’t be the one shaking my fist at God when you’re gone.  But, He has me in his grip.”  She leaned close to Beth’s face.  “Just so you know, God’s got me.”

Mom hugged her over the bed.  She smoothed Clarisa’s hair, wiped her tears, then wiped her own.  She folded her hands together, and paused a moment.

“Beth, I don’t know what ready means for you, and I don’t know what it means for God.  We’ve had a lot of middle-of-the-night emergency room runs.  The doctors say you’re maintaining.  But, we never know.  What do you want me to do if you need the emergency room?  Is this something I need to be ready for tonight, or tomorrow, or next week, or next month?”

“Well, Mom, you know how tight God is with that future kind of stuff.”  Beth smiled, then softened her eyes.  “Soon, Mom.”

She looked at her daughters.  “Honey, I didn’t think, while you’re still little girls, that I’d have to prepare you for death, as well as for life.”

Clarisa was quick to come to her mother’s defense.  “You have, Mom!  Look how you’ve trained us both up in God’s Word – I mean, not just in reading, but in everything that He teaches – in everything that you teach us.”

“Lissy, show Mom that picture, will you?”

Clarisa handed it over, and clicked to the picture of the house lights.  Mom looked at it, then turned her eyes to Beth.

“Uncle Larry might not be here, after.  Lissy, you show him that picture again.  Tell him that’s me, up in the window, waving.  You can’t see me waving, because it’s dark with our lights on. It’s like after I die.  You won’t be able to see me, but there I’ll be, and that wave and that smile are for you.  That’s what you’ll see, as soon as you all get to heaven, because I’ll be so glad to see you.”

Mom looked, questioning.  Clarisa reached for the phone.  “We just took it, like five minutes ago, so Beth could see what the house looked like.”  She pointed to their bedroom.  “She was waving out the window.”

“The lights are beautiful, Mom.  You and Grandpa did a great job with them this year.  But look how dark it is everywhere but the lights.  I was telling Lissy that, with the lights on, we can’t see the stars.  When we make our own lights, we can’t see God’s lights.  Sometimes, God has to make the decision for us to turn our lights off so we can see Him.”

“God turns off our lights so we can see Him,” Mom repeated.  She hugged her girls again.  “You two are my brightest lights, no matter where God lets you shine.”

*        *        *

Later, after the girls were in bed, and the Christmas lights and house lights had all been shut off, Mom stood in the darkened house by the window and gazed up into the sparkling sky.  She fixed her eyes upon the stars and prayed.  “Dear Lord, please leave me enough light to see my way.”

 

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Sunshine Blogger Award 2

Thank you, Amy, for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Amy is a gifted blogger; please visit her site at https://anewlife256599767.wordpress.com/ 

Here are the rules…

Thank the blogger who nominated you.

Use the “Sunshine Blogger Award” logo on your post.

Answer the 11 questions the selector asks of you.

Choose 5-11 fellow bloggers to nominate, and ask them your own questions.

My questions from Amy, and my answers:

  1. How do you spread rays of sunshine outside of the blogging world?

My husband tells me my smile is like sunshine.

2. By looking at your all-time stats, what are your readers’ favorite posts?

I don’t know how to navigate my stats enough to find the answer to that. From all the clicking I did, I think the top ones are Love Dat Famlee, Environment Shapes Expectations, Change Your Past, and The Art of Listening.

3. What are you favorite posts, either something you have written or something that touched your heart from another blogger?

Reflections: Which Mirror; An Overview: One Approach to Reading the Bible; Where are Your Oars?; and 3-2-1 Quote Forgiveness

4. What is your favorite faith based film?

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1N-Hdqno4w  EE-TAOW! It puts me on my knees, crying praises to God. It’s only a bit over 20 minutes; I encourage you to watch.

5. What is your favorite verse in the Bible and why?

Cannot pick a favorite. However, my life verse when I was baptized was James 4.8b, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” It depicts God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and love; while reminding us of our responsibilities.

6. If given the chance and the trip was free, would go to outer space for a month? Why or why not?

No. Just no.

7. What about writing is the hardest for you personally?

I enjoy it when I’m stirred to write. Otherwise, it feels like a chore.

8. Could you see yourself as a missionary?

I went through the application process, years ago. When I was talking to my friend about it, I told her I thought I’d “received the call.” She advised me emphatically, “Hang up!” I finished up the application and was turned down because I was a single mom.

9. If you had the chance to go on any mission trip where would you love to go?

I’ve already traveled quite a bit (Air Force dad), so I would just go where they tell me.

10. What is your favorite season of the year and why?

No favorites. I do like living in a climate that experiences all four seasons, though; no pining for tropics or beaches.

11. Is there a specific topic that you have wanted to write about but haven’t yet? And if so, what is it?

“The Angel of Death” has been meandering around my head for a while. I’m working on it.

My nominees:

https://dailyhopeful.wordpress.com/

https://jesskidding17.wordpress.com

https://godswhispersoftruth.wordpress.com

(Please note that participation is completely voluntary, no hurry, no pressure.)

Questions for my nominees to answer:

1.Write something about your family (as broad or narrow as you want).

2. Write something about your church family (as broad or narrow as you want).

3. What life lesson has God been working in you recently?

4. What kind of fantasy vacation would you dream up (money not a factor)?

5. Favorite book(s)? Include a note about your favorite genres / authors.

6. Write something about a teacher of yours.

7. Write a two-line poem about clouds (you can change clouds to something else, if you want).

8. Favorite hot beverage?

9. Where is the farthest-away-living relative that you know of?

10. What is a good gift for someone that costs little to nothing?

11. Are you into holiday hoopla (house all decorated, stacks of Christmas cards, lists for gifts, parties & get-togethers, Christmas sweaters, etc); or are you low-key; or are you non-existant?

3-2-1 Quote Me Challenge: Freedom

Stuart, I like this one because it’s quick and easy! Thank you so much for thinking of me to participate in the 3-2-1 Quote Me Challenge.

The Rules Of This Challenge Are As Follows:

• Thank the Selector

• Post 2 quotes for the dedicated topic of the day

• Select 3 bloggers to take part in ‘3.2.1 Quote Me!’

• And give them a topic/word

The topic Stuart gave me was Freedom.

 Thank you again, Stuart. My nominees are

Wendi https://simplychronicallyill.com/

Vickie https://vicklea.com/

Savannah https://rejoicinginhope1212.wordpress.com/

And my word for you is Justice

Note: Although this is the topic for today there is no specific deadline to it, meaning you can answer when you choose; of course, you are under no obligation.  😊

Lost Loves

It hurts our hearts when we lose a love.

God cradles us as He loves us. He knows our hearts, and what we love.

Do we love Him first? Do the things and people we love align with God and His will?

God will gently break our hearts to separate us from anything that separates us from Him.

What do you love? Television? Internet? Parties? Clothes? Food? People? None of these are bad; however, if we love any of them more than we love God, we are setting those, and ourselves, up as idols. And sometimes we love things we ought not love at all.

Exodus 20.3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

God has designed us in such a way that we will derive our greatest joys and peace when we love Him first. [Mind you, this post is in no way connecting the death of a loved one with anything God thinks is evil in your life. God has many purposes for life and death. If you have lost a loved one, my heart and prayers are with you – such loss is devastating, no getting around it.]

But, for those loves that lead you away from God:                                                                                   It may be time to lose a love. Ditch the idol. Toss the false heartthrob.

Maybe it’s a scary thing to lose your love. What will you hold on to?? God’s got you. He always has, He always will. He will gently love you and lead you. Take the leap.

Seek God first, and His righteousness, and all that you desire will be added unto you.

Talkative Tag

This was created by The Eclectic Contrarian, and I was nominated by Christy at MiraculousSmile. Thanks to both of you!! 😊

This is a fun and edifying tag, since it’s a shout-out to encouragers. I don’t think I’ve read any negative comments on any of the blogs I follow. I am brought to my knees with praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father when I read these uplifting blogs, and the supportive and loving comments that they engender.

Thank you Amy, Stuart, Christy, Vickie, Julie, Maria, Tosin, Ryan, Wendi, Ana, John, Maxine, Laurie, Renee, Brenda, Sue, Ann, and all the others who comment on one another’s blogs and keep us going (and going in the Right Direction). We are blessed and grateful to receive God’s blessings through you.

John didn’t specify any rules with this one (thank you, John!), so if this looks fun to you, go ahead and post one on your blog. Go to your Stats / Insights tab at the top, and scroll down to the Comments box. It only shows the top six on mine.

Thanksgiving Tag

ThanksgivingTag

First, a big Thank You to Christy for tagging me for this fun go-around. Please visit Christy’s blog for informative, thought-provoking reading.

I am thankful for…

A – Abba Father, agape love

B – Bountiful love

C – Counting my blessings

D – Delighting in the Lord, and He gives me the desires of my heart

E – Edification of the saints

F – Father, I adore You, You offer forgiveness freely

G – Going to Heaven some day

H – Holy, holy, holy is our Lord God Almighty

I – In Christ is our righteousness

J – Jesus is my Lord and Savior

K – Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ

L – Loving others, even as I am loved

M – Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

N – No one comes to the Father but by the Son

O – One God and Father

P – Perfect love, perfect salvation

Q – Quieting my heart before my Lord

R – Resting in His love

S – Satisfying my soul in Christ

T – Taking all He has to give me

U – Unquenchable fire of God’s anger

V – Variety of spiritual gifts

W – Winnowing of the wheat from the chaff

X – eXceptional grace and mercy from our Lord

Y – Yea, Lord we greet Thee

Z – Zealously pursuing God

This Tag was started by Moon Child Nova

RULES:

List your thankful ABC.

Add one theme clip art to your post.

Tag 3 people you hope would participate.

I tag Stuart, Ana, and Amy 😊

Environment Shapes Expectations

EnvironmentShapesExpectationsimage from Google Images

How did you grow up? What was your environment?

If you grew up in a loving, two-parent family, with God at the center, then your expectations can be that you are loveable, God loves you, people love you, family is important, you are to give love to others, and God will heap joy upon joy as you serve Him.

If you grew up in an abusive, neglectful, caustic home, then your expectations can be that you are worthless, love hurts, no one is to be trusted, hurt others before they hurt you, comfort is found in a bottle or needle or pill or escape, and you get out of life less than what you put in.

So many environments on the continuum of homes and people and circumstances. And these are by no means hard-and-fast rules: unhappy / ungrateful people come from loving homes; giving / joyous people come from hurtful homes.

The good, amazing, glorious news is that God can change everything. If you came from a good home, He can make it glorious. If you came from a bad home, He can make it glorious. And by making all things new, He glorifies Himself AND (not as a by-product, but part of His glorious design) brings us peace and joy.

God gives each of us an environment for His purposes, for His glory. Only He can bring beauty from ashes. Only God can change expectations.

In His Word, through His Spirit, and through His people, God can bring hope, light, love, comfort, joy, peace into any environment, into any heart.

And He wants to.

Ask Him. Seek Him. Lift up your voice and cry for Him. Incline your ear to Him. Apply your heart to Him. Open your life to Him.

Surrender to God.