Friday, December 29, 2017

Snowmageddon 2017

I watched the world outside my window turn white on Christmas Day. By the end of December 26th snow fall totals were record breaking, earning the title Snowmaggedon 2017. Never before in the entire state of Pennsylvania had so much snow fallen in such a short period of time. Roads were closed and interstates were shut down during the storm. Drivers were warned to stay off the streets and stay safe at home.
The Christmas day snow storm grounded every flight leaving the airport and disrupted holiday travel plans. Plows worked overtime clearing streets, creating mountains of piled snow in the process.
The sixty inches of white fluffy flakes caused tree limbs to snap and porches to collapse. The wall of white blocked doorways from opening and barricaded driveways, trapping cars in cases of snow and ice. Authorities declared the historic barrage of winter a "state of emergency." Even the national news made the storm their top story.
In under forty eight hours Snowmageddon had successfully shut down the entire town by snowing in all of its residents.
Yet, when I looked out my window from inside my cozy house, the storm didn't appear to be such a catastrophe. When I looked outside my eyes took in the scene of a snow globe come to life. Every where I looked trees were blanketed in inches of white fluff. Every branch glittered. The whole landscape was transformed into a picture perfect winter wonderland.
On Christmas day, looking out my window I couldn't see the burden in the storm. I could only see the beauty in the snow.
Snowmageddon 2017 isn't my first run in with a storm, snow or otherwise. I've lived in Erie nearly my whole life and I've seen plenty of snow but it isn't a meteorological storm that has most devastated my life.
For nearly a decade I have endured a sickness storm of historical, record breaking proportions. Sickmageddon has barricaded my life with debilitating ailments and inexplicable maladies. The accumulation of symptoms has been so great I can't even open my front door let alone pull out of my driveway. Seemingly overnight, this inescapable storm dumped mountains of ill health and crushing pain on my life. Ever since the skies of my physical condition shifted my will has been grounded. My future plans shut down until further notice.
The magnitude of Sickmageddon has been so overwhelming that I have hesitated to even look outside. The burden outside my window pane taunts me with a mountainous road to recovery and deep, thick layers of illness still in need of shoveling. In my weakness, I wonder how I will ever dig out.
But God's faithful love always draws me back to look at the world in the light of His Son. He pulls me back to the window pane of Christ and opens the blinds wide to reveal the beauty in the storm: the everlasting glory of His redemptive grace.
Fixated on Jesus Christ's everlasting life, I take hold of a scene so stunning and beautiful it takes my breath away. In the flakes of illness that have barricaded my life, I see God's goodness and mercy transforming the landscape of my heart. I see how He has sent the snow of sickness to blanket me in the glittering love of Christ that covers me in tender compassion. Looking through God's window I behold the Savior overwhelming me with rest and peace.
As I behold the vision of God's perfect Son,my world is transformed and I can no longer see the burden in my storm of sickness.
I can only see the beauty in its snow.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Silent & Holy Night

I woke up on the morning of Christmas Eve without a voice, dashing my remaining dreams of singing a solo during the Christmas Eve church service. The final score was in and the cold/flu virus had won.
With no voice and only hours till the service, I made a quick edit to my Christmas list. Miraculous cold/flu recovery took the top spot. I even detailed my wish list by narrowing "quick" down to two or three hours - tops.
Well, one hour and then two hours passed and my voice did not return. I tried sipping tea and gargling salt water to revive my lifeless vocal chords but nothing helped. The best sound I could produce was a squeak and that was painful for everyone involved - both squeaker and listener alike. When the clock ticked past noon and my wish wasn't fulfilled I conceded to my Christmas Eve fate. It was destined to be a very silent night and, as I soon discovered, a very holy one, too.
It was after willingly conceding to a voiceless fate on a snowy Christmas Eve that God fulfilled my Christmas wish with a gift I never thought to ask for.
Without a voice to speak I became silent, truly silent. Silent enough to hear God speak to me with a new message of Christmas, one I hadn't been quiet enough to hear.
His message said, "Stop...."
Stop trying to be your own salvation. Stop trying to make all of your plans succeed. Stop trying to be the one who is bright....Stop your worrying. Stop your fretting. Stop your mind from wandering to your concerns....Just stop and behold the new born King....Stop and see that Emmanuel has come! Stop and bow low before the Savior of the world who is with you in your midst.

This Christmas Eve God gave me a gift of a stilled voice and quieted soul in order that I stop, fall down and worship before Emmanuel, my Lord and Savior, the new born King.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Down on antlers but not out of Christmas spirit

This Christmas season I took my car festive. It was a last minute spark of reindeer spirit that inspired me to purchase a "Car Costume" for my vehicle. Online I found a holiday car ensemble that included antlers wrapped in ribbons and bells and, of course, the classic Rudolph red nose. With only two weeks till Christmas I wasted no time making my one-click purchase and, two days later, Amazon Prime delivered.
When my package arrived I immediately unwrapped it and held up the contents of the bag: two brown antlers and one big round, red ball. But there were no instructions. How would this red nose stay on the grill of my car, I wondered?  How would the antlers stay affixed to my window when driving against the wind? The manufacturers instructions, or lack there of, didn't answer any of my questions. I suppose they figured dressing up your car should be self explanatory. Given where this story is going, I can assure you it is not.
Despite the lack of costume clarity, I was determined that my car would be festive this Christmas. With further inspection I figured out how to affix the antlers. The trick? Crack the driver's and passenger's windows.
After my car was officially a reindeer I picked up the perplexing red nose with my sites set on Rudolph. Unfortunately, further inspection did not reveal a red nosed trick. After minutes of frustration and failure, I gave up on my vehicle becoming Rudolph and settled on Dancer instead. After all, not all of Santa's reindeer have red noses.
Since my car put on its costume my driving experience has been enhanced. Since my vehicle became Dancer my travel has been as merry as a Christmas Eve ride on a one horse open sleigh.
Or should I say, was as merry as a Christmas Eve ride on a one horse open sleigh. Driving Dancer was a joy and a delight until Dancer lost her antlers.
It happened one at a time. The first antler annexation occurred during heavy rains. It all happened so quickly I didn't even get to say goodbye. The window was barely cracked, just enough to let in a little fresh air when the car, I mean sleigh, got stuffy. But that's all it took for the wind to carry Dancer's poor left antler away.
Down one antler and still without a nose, my car's ensemble went from sparse to silly but I refused to give up my festive reindeer spirit. Who's to say Dancer didn't have only one antler? If Rudolph could have a red nose, why couldn't Dancer have one antler? In my version of Santa's sleigh Dancer was down an antler but she wasn't out.
So for days I drove my one-antlered Dancer with just as much Christmas spirit as two-antlered Dancer had delivered.
But then tragedy struck. Or, should I say, snow struck. It all happened so quickly. There was rain and then suddenly it turned to snow. My windows began to fog up immediately. Desperate to see I cracked my right window and that's when it happened. I heard the "swoosh" of bells on antler ears as the wind took the last piece of my car's festivities up, up, and away.
Now, with two days till Christmas, my vehicle has lost of its festive spirit. My days of driving Dancer are over. With both antlers gone and a red nose still perplexing me from its packaging, my vehicle is done pretending to be a one horse open sleigh. It's just a little black SUV with really powerful heated seats.

Sometimes Christmas festivities don't end up like we think they should. Sometimes the package is delivered and its contents don't fit quite right. Sometimes it feels like the instructions are missing, assembly is confusing and everything is just plain frustrating.
Sometimes the holidays don't feel as jolly as a one horse upon sleigh. They may not look the least bit merry or bright.
But if you're December is down a few antlers and missing one Santa approved red nose, remember that your Christmas joy is not out because the real reason for the season is still dashing through the snow.
True Christmas spirit is not contingent on a car costume or any package that arrives by Amazon Prime. True Christmas spirit is found in the birth of God's Son, Jesus Christ. The baby born in Bethlehem is the cause of all merriness and the source of all light. The little Lord who was laid in a manger and slept in the hay is the cause of the celebration in December and all year long.
Whether you have two antlers and a red nose or your Christmas costume is a bit lacking this year, you can wear the most festive ensemble of all this holiday season. You can wear the joy of the Lord who has come to earth to bring good will to all and peace to the world.
Because God sent His Son to be born for the salvation of the world in the bleak mid winter of a Christmas long, long ago, you and I can be filled with a festive heart now and forevermore.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Ms. Pac-Man kinda life

Ms. Pac-Man and I have a lot in common.
In the arcade game life of Ms. Pac Man, her mission is to traverse random mazes lined with pellets and power-pellets, frantically accumulating as many as she can. In my life, the paths I travel are lined with material possessions and personal fulfillment and, just like Ms. Pac Man, I frantically try to accumulate as much as I can.
On her arcade journey, Ms. Pac-Man aims to devour as much fruit as possible. When she discovers a treasure such as an apple or cherry her point total increases. When I discover a fruit of God's Spirit such as gentleness or joy, my unity with Christ is strengthened.
Ms. Pac-Man and I also share a very similar struggle in life. We are constantly on the run from a mysterious nemesis. On every screen and stage of Ms. Pac Man's arcade life, ghosts come out of their contained box to seek and destroy her quest for advancement. As she outruns them, advancing to the next level, the ghosts pick up speed. With eyes bugging out of their brightly colored bodies, the ghosts pursue Ms. Pac-Man with relentless passion, threatening to end her pellet and fruit eating days.
And so it is in the maze of my life.
My enemy chases me at every level, pursuing me with frustration and fear. On every screen I frantically attempt to outrun my ghosts of sickness and pain while eating the pellet's of God's goodness along the way.The moment I think I've conquered my enemy, eaten all the good fruit ther e is to be had and consumed every possible pellet, the screen shifts and opens to a new maze filled with new obstacles. At every level my enemy changes tactics and picks up speed, taunting me with ultimate defeat, threatening to once and for all end my days of eating luscious fruit.
So many of the similarities between Ms. Pac Man and I are downright troubling and discouraging. Both of us are doomed to a fate of never-ending running from an inescapable enemy. But the good news is that Ms. Pac Man and I share a similar blessing along our maze's path - the blessing of "power pellets."
Power pellets are miraculous energizers along Ms. Pac-Man's computerized path. When consumed the pellets transform her ghostly nemesis into blue fuel, adding points to her score and power to her position in the game. When Ms. Pac-Man has a power pellet she dominates and every ghost flees from her presence.
And so it is in the maze of my life.
At every level God has the power pellets of Christ's overcoming life along my path. When I eat of His mighty victory I become invincible in His Spirit. Filled with God's holiness every one of my ghostly enemies is sent running away in fear. Not a single foe stands a chance when the Lord, my soul's energizer, is infusing me with the conquering power and strength of Heaven.
Playing Ms. Pac-Man I never made it to a very high level. The ghosts always did me in. But as I run with God through His maze of life, I have the confidence of His promises and eternal assurance that the ghosts will never win. Because of Jesus Christ, not a single ghost on earth can keep me from His final level. By the power of His indwelling Spirit and the victory of His salvation, I know how this game of Ms. Pac-Man ends: with a crown in Heaven and my name in the King's eternal record book.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Hallmark Happy Ending

My writers dream is to author Christian devotional books but if that career never takes off I have a back up plan.
Hallmark Christmas Movie Writer.
I think I'd be a great fit for the position. My writing never uses profanity and the content is clean. When it comes to suspense, I prefer a loving approach free from the use of murder and gore. Even my interior design style fits with the Hallmark brand, favoring classic decor and little white lights.
But my most valuable qualification for the Hallmark movie writer position is my keen ability to watch the same romantic comedies and never grow tired of the story line. This quality alone should make me a shoe-in for a Hallmark channel position. After all, that's all the channel does all December long. They play the same romantic comedy on repeat. Twenty four hours a day; seven days a week. The names and places change but the plot is always the same - and so is the home decor.
Hallmark Channel Christmas movies follow a very precise formula and I'm quite sure I've cracked the code. The secret is writing backwards.
Here is how it works. The author formulates in their mind the very most perfect ending. They ask themselves, what is the most miraculous way I can picture this story coming to a close? And that is what they write down. Then the author writes backwards.
Using the turbulence and turmoil of everyday life, the author pens a tale of reluctant lovers overcoming unlikely obstacles to live out a fairy tale romance.The characters are always reluctant to give in to the perfection at hand. The girl's past hurts and brokenness paralyze her from loving again. The guy is madly in love with her but too shy to profess his affection and risk rejection.
But, working backwards, the author has already written the happy end.
The key to the Hallmark channel formula is that it begins with the answer. The author doesn't have to contemplate how the story ends, it is already assured. All that remains for the author to do is throw in some classic romantic turmoil and farfetched fantasy scenarios. Set all of that to a background of festive twinkle lights and, viola, the Hallmark Original Christmas Movie is complete.

Cracking the Hallmark Christmas Movie code wasn't any great investigative feat. It was remarkably simple. I just looked in God's Word and read how He writes man's life story. His perfect stories are written backwards, beginning at the most perfect ending.
God always writes His stories of life knowing how each tale comes to a close. God writes the ending of Heaven while we, His beloved characters, still feel the hell of earth's turmoil and trials.
While we live out scenes of brokenness, hurt and fear, God sees how our story will resolve in Christ's overcoming victory. At the end of every plot twist, regardless of the reluctantly of the characters, the fate of God's final line is always assured.
In His perfect love He has authored for every believer a perfect conclusion to the story, always ending in the location of Heaven and eternity in His presence. The story on earth is set against every imaginable scenery and home decor, but, for those who trust in the ending purchased by the resurrected Christ, the story always comes to a close with joy and never ending life.
God, the Author and Perfecter of the Hallmark happy ending, always writes the best stories that always end with His precious children living forever and always in the victory of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A bubble of a blessing

From a deep sleep I awoke up in a painful panic. Something was wrong with my left eye. It couldn't open. I felt the thin, translucent skin protecting my delicate eye and that's when I discovered that on my lid there was growing a gigantic bubble.
Minutes passed slowly as the troubling obtrusion grew. Every time I tried to open my left eye a pounding headache ensued. When I opened only my right eye dizziness soon followed. For quite some time I laid in my bed, paralyzed to move, afraid that even the slightest disturbance might burst my lid's bubble.
I passed the time praying for a miraculous resolution to my growing problem but I didn't receive instantaneous healing. Instead I received miraculous, instantaneous resolve. All at once a burst of will overcame my fear and pain, practically catapulting me from bed. I rose with determination to take on my day, with or without my left eye.
The growing bubble rendered my left eye useless so I decided to look at the world through my right eye. It didn't take but a moment to realize that tactic wouldn't work. Looking at the world through one eye made the room all distorted and made my head spin so I quickly shut that eye, too.
Now I was down two eye. But I wasn't out. With both eyes closed I began my journey across the room, relying on my memory and the feeling of my toes to guide the way. I started out slowly at first and made my way to the hall without incident. I groped for doorways and held fast to the banister when I made it to the steps.
As I maneuvered the house without the use of my eyes I became more comfortable. Even though I couldn't see I soon discovered that I could still live.
And live I did.
I made my bed, washed dishes and made breakfast. I even managed to completed an entire yoga exercise video following the sound of the instructor's voice.
All the while the world around me began to fade away, off into the distance. Without vision to see it, the reality of my surroundings drifted into obscurity. In the absence of my physical sight the vision of God's presence overwhelmed me. Radiant rays of God's goodness cast upon my shut eyes. The clarity and calm of His peace surrounded me. God even silenced the sound freeing me to fixate solely on the brilliance of His presence.
Without my physical vision stealing away my attention I found rest in the nearness of God.
With my lids shut I became still and comfortable in the company of Christ.

Days have passed since the troubling bubble on my eye lid first arrived and the bump is still very much an obstruction to my vision. But today I am sending a "thank you" to the Lord above for giving my eye lid such a blessed bubble that has healed me with miraculously enhanced spiritual vision that sees more clearly the presence of God's everlasting, brilliant light.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A SON Shining Day

A little ditty to sing when you're down and think you might be out. Go ahead and hum this tune to declare that, in Christ, you will have a SON shining day.

I can't see clearly now because the rain isn't gone. 
I can barely see the troubling obstacles that are to come my way.
But even so, these dark clouds can not make me blind. 
Because of Christ it is going to be a bright, Son shining day. 

I don't know how I'll make it because the pain isn't gone. 
I haven't seen all of my bad feelings disappear. 
Yet even so, there is a rainbow, a covenant answer to my prayer. 
In Christ, it is going to be a bright, Son shining day. 

Look all around. Do you see any blue skies?
Look straight up and ahead. Christ is making a way into blue skies. 

Christ sees clearly now and forever, His eternal rain is gone. 
Christ sees all obstacles in my way.  
There is no darkness that can make me blind. 
Because in Christ I see, it is going to be a bright and Son shining day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hey mountain, Jesus Christ is born!

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

While shepherds kept their watching over silent flocks by night that behold throughout the heavens there shone God's Holy light.
Go tell it to your mountain, over your hills and everywhere. Go, tell it to your mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled when lo, above the earth there rang out the angel's chorus that hailed the Savior's birth.
Go tell it to your suffering, over your aches and every pain. Go, tell it to your suffering that Jesus Christ is born.

Down in a lowly manger our humble Christ was born and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morning. 
Go tell it to your struggles, over your troubles and every trial. Go, tell it to your struggles that Jesus Christ is born.

When I am a seeker, I seek both night and day; I seek the Lord to help me, and He shows me the way:
So that I can go tell it to my sorrow, over my sadness and every distress. Go, tell it to my sorrow that Jesus Christ is born

He made me a watchman upon the city wall and if I am a Christian, I am the least of all.
Forever I will go and tell my ailing spirit, over my heart and all my soul. I will go and tell my ailing spirit that Jesus Christ, the Savior, is born.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 9, 2008

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook's "On This Day" feature.  Love because "On This Day" remembers beautiful, cherished memories I might otherwise forget. When I click on the events of this day years ago I nearly always find an encouraging picture or quote. I may have forgotten it but "On This Day" never forgets.
And that's partly the trouble.
"On This Day" never forgets one single day's posting. It flawlessly recalls not only my good days but every dark, sad day filled with pathetic musings. "On This Day"  reminds me of pieces of my past I'd rather forget. Even the people I'd rather not revisit are not off-limits.
"On This Day" doesn't have a filter or sensor to shield me from the memories I don't want to remember. It displays in living color the good, the bad and the ugly. And on December 9, 2008 it displayed something very ugly indeed.
On December ninth nine years ago to the day I was eighteen years old and a freshman away at college. It was just a week before finals and I was feeling terrible. A trip the school nurse confirmed my fears. I was diagnosed with mononucleosis.
When she broke the news I remember telling her it couldn't be true. I hadn't kissed anyone so how could I have the "kissing disease"? When the nurse suspected I had shared a straw I admitted to being guilty as charged. 
These memories wouldn't have come to mind on this particular day but for Facebook's "On This Day" feature. It is all thanks to my social media account's memory that I was reminded of this day in my history and and how significantly it changed my life.
Since this day nine years ago when the school nurse delivered her diagnosis my health has never been the same. I have never been fully healthy again. Brewing in my body were infections and their co-infections. Symptoms were developing and disease was spreading but I was blissfully unaware of the suffering to come.
Now as I look back on this day nine years ago I can see the crossroads I came to in my life on that cold Tuesday morning. It was alone on the nurse's examination table that I was told for the very first time that I was in ill health. But it wouldn't be the last. For the past nine years my life has been full of troubling health reports. Everyone from doctors and nurses to health gurus and complete strangers have made bleak pronouncements about my body's physical condition. It all began nine years ago with mono on December 9, 2008, a watershed moment that changed my life.

As I look back to those many years ago it makes me wonder, what is happening right now that will be significant later? What Facebook post will prove life changing nine years in the future?
The mystery of God's design for life is that it doesn't come with an "On This Day" in the future feature. My understanding can only look back on the past and see a sliver of how it has impacted the present. I cannot even begin to see the magnitude of significance the present will have on the future. God alone knows the true importance of this day. He alone knows the part it will play in shaping my tomorrow and my life nine years in the future.
All God tells me about the future is not to worry about it. My only duty is to live surrendered to Christ and united with His righteousness in the here and now. Today, on this very day, I am instructed to make decisions that are pleasing to God. He will take care of my future as I follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The show must go on

The isle of blue cushioned auditorium seats ran in a slight descent from the back of the theater right down to the orchestra pit and center stage. I grew up dreaming of being on that stage, standing in the center of the spot light, performing to a captivated audience. In my imagination I could see myself acting out scenes in my favorite musical productions so when the auditions for Annie came around I put on my best performance for the directors, hoping to land a spot on the stage.
I left the audition with optimism, convinced this was the show I would finally land a speaking role. On the day the cast was announced I eagerly approached the posting displayed on the theater's front door and checked for my name. Then I checked twice. My name wasn't on the list.
The list absent my name crushed my center stage Annie dreams. I was disappointed and discouraged but my love of the theater wasn't defeated. Determined to find a way to be part of the production I took a position as part of the back stage crew assisting with the moving of set pieces and setting of props. The role of stage crew didn't come with a costume or speaking part but at least I would be "on" the stage. Even if it was hidden behind the curtains.

Just a few nights before the first public performance I stood in the back of the theater behind the long isle of cushioned auditorium seats. I was imagining the thrill of opening night when the director's voice boomed through the speakers and impatiently announced it was past time for places. I had lost all track of time and now I was late to get back stage. In a hurry, I leapt into action and quickly moved down the isle towards the stage ignoring the theater's "no running" policy. In a rush, I ran.
And that's when tragedy struck.
When the gradual descent of the theater floor met with my two left feet I was sent flying forward. I cascaded downward until my head first fall was broken by row J's arm rest. I hit the ground in a state of shock.
Every voice in the theater went silent and every onlooker in the room joined in a collective gasp. But it is what happened next that was truly shocking.
I hopped right back up again.
As if I were a cartoon character and the arm rest were a trampoline, I sprang back up and into action. Instead of being leveled by the impact I was catapulted forward. The force that by all accounts should have knocked me out miraculously lifted me up.
Back on my feet again I set of running. Without a moment's hesitation I bounded up the stage steps and disappeared behind the curtain to take my place with the crew. The show had to go on.
Within hours of my big fall I had a big black and blue bruise covering my eye. I looked as if I had been in a bar fight that row J had won. Not even stage make-up could hide the damage.

It took weeks for my beaten and battered eye to finally heal but the lessons I learned from that big fall have lasted much longer. I assure you I most certainly learned why the director had a "no running" policy in the theater but I learned something else, too. I learned that I'm far more resilient than I ever imagined.
Despite having a black, puffy eye that obstructed my vision and caused a pounding headache I still performed my stage crew duties setting props and moving set pieces. The catastrophic blow to my eye couldn't keep me from fulfilling my role behind the Grand Curtain.
From that great theater fall I learned that no matter how black and blue the eye or how hard the hit, the show must go on and it can go on. Just because I have been knocked down does not mean I have been knocked out.

Since the day of my great fall in the theater I have taken countless falls in life. Physically, I've taken illness falls that have sent me cascading face forward onto the ground. Lyme and its infections have beaten me black and blue, inside and out. But by God's healing hand, the show has always gone on.
In my spirit I've fallen, too. I've broken God's "no running" policy and run when He's said "walk." I've disobeyed. I've tripped and fallen. But by the power of God's forgiveness, the show always goes on. 
Every time I have taken a great big fall and ended up flat on my face God has lifted my body and soul back up with shocking resiliency. He has never - not once - left me sprawled out on the floor without providing a way to bounce back up.
At the bottom of my life's greatest falls I have experienced the softest trampolines cushioned with God's grace and redemption. When I've hit the ground, or row J, God has always met me there and raised me back to life again. He is always faithful to transform my shades of black and blue into hues of His resiliency and grace.
By the power of God's Almighty hand, in accordance with His unfailing will, His everlasting show goes on. It always does. It always can. And it always will.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bare and Beautiful

The leaves have all fallen off of the trees. Well, most of the leaves. It happens every year when fall transitions into winter. Sometimes the seasonal transformation takes place in one night. All it takes is one storm and the trees are beaten bare.
The departure of fall always catches me by surprise and makes me a little sad. Bare branches look sickly without their leafy covering. I always miss the golden hues and lush foliage. Without the colors of fall the landscape looks gray. The world is draped in gloom when vibrant shades of red and orange aren't painted on the tress.
When the foliage fades into crumbled piles of leaves all shriveled up and devoid of color, I miss fall's colorful display of beauty. I've never liked the look of sticks without leaves. To me the bare branches have never been worthy of the name "beautiful." Until this year.
This year fall faded into winter so suddenly I don't even remember hearing the winds whip and I don't recall a single storm. One day I woke up and it seemed that the whole earth had been transformed into a palate of gray, lifeless branches. The only remaining remnants of foliage were scattered across lawns, destined to be bagged or burned or turned into someone's compost.
When I first looked at the bare branches I saw nothing but a lifeless silhouette and the memory of departed beauty. But then I looked closer and I saw something else. I saw leaves.
There were just a few of them and they were crumbled up and brown but they were still stuck to the branches. They were still hanging on.
In those hardy leaves that would not let go of their branch I saw the beauty of persevering. On the surface it might not look beautiful. Persevering can be ravaging. Like the leaves that endured the storm, the one who perseveres might look a little worse for wear, beaten to a pulp and weakened by the storm. But look closer. There is beauty in the determination to hang on and endure. There is determination and a will that is awe-inspiring.
The bare branches of winter have taught me how to see unexpected beauty in all sorts of places. Not just in nature, but in my own life, too. Like the leaves, I have been ravaged and beaten to a pulp. My life has been through storms that have stripped me of everything I once considered beautiful. From my appearance to the vitality and fullness of life I once enjoyed, so much has been snatched away from me in the winds of disease and sickness. I am bare, shriveled up and devoid of color.
But I am still hanging on. I am still enduring. And I am still beautiful.
You see, what I see in those branches is what God sees in me. He looks at me and He sees that I am still remaining sure and secured in Him. I have not been blown away. I may have lost my color and my physical health but I have not lost my faith. I am still attached to my life-blood and my salvation. Although my body has taken a beating and is worse for the wear, my spirit is still full of life. I am still enduring and in the eyes of God that is truly beautiful.
No matter the storm or the severity of life's winter, as long as I remain attached to God and one with Christ I will always remain beautiful. United with my Savior I can be bare and beaten, ravaged and ruined, and still I can endure by the power of His cross and the indwelling of His Spirit. And I can always and forever be truly, eternally beautiful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hang On - A Maple Leaf Story

Yesterday I awoke tangled in a web of emotional upset and inescapable stomach pain. I was on the edge of a break down and I knew it. I did my best to soften the crash but my attempts were futile. The physical distress caused by my latest round of Lyme treatments hit me with such a powerful force, ravaging my gut so severely, my emotional stability didn't stand a chance.
After a morning spent in fits of anger and tears, I found myself behind the wheel of my car eager to drive away from my pain. I knew I wouldn't find relief on the road but I was desperate so before I put the car in drive, I put my head on the steering wheel and prayed.
What proceeded from my mouth was far from eloquent but it was sincere. First I begged God to relieve my stomach's pain. "Right here, right now, God. Touch me and make me well!" I petitioned for a miraculous, instantaneous healing and then I paused, waiting for Him to act.
When I didn't feel a hand or hear a rumble of thunder I went back to my prayer. Picking up where I'd left off I proceeded to plead with God. "If you won't heal me, at least give me a sign! God, give me hope!"
This time I didn't pause to hear God's response and I didn't linger in His silence. I lifted my head and put the car in drive. When I opened my eyes I noticed something stuck to the windshield of my car. It was a little yellow maple tree leaf.
The leaf was all alone, the only remnant of fall stuck to the glass, and it was perfectly positioned in the center of my line of vision. As I began to accelerate the car's engine I expected the fragile leaf to blow away in the wind. There was no storm or rain to pound the leaf into the glass. Nothing held the leaf yet it didn't budge. Even when I I sped up and slowed down the hardy little leaf stayed stuck.
And that's when I saw it. That little leaf was my sign. That little leaf was me!
Filled with hope, I threw my car into park at the first red light, jumped out of my seat and grabbed the leaf off of my windshield and put it on my dashboard as a keepsake of God's promises. The leaf would be my covenant of God's healing, reassuring me that He would keep me secure and deliver my body from anguish. In the leaf God reminded me to, "Hang on. Your healing is imminent." 
For the rest of the day my heart held the message of the leaf long after I held it in my hand. Even when hours passed without any change in my physical condition I refused to release the hope I received in the maple leaf. When evening came and a miraculous change didn't transpire, I reclaimed God's promise and went to sleep full of hope, convinced renewed restoration and alleviated pain would come in the morning.
But then morning came and my gut dealt my spirit a most devastating blow. The excruciating pain announced that my healing hadn't been delivered.
Hopeless and crushed I called out to God. "Why have you abandoned me?...Why have you left me in this debilitating condition?..."
Without healing, my heart turned hard. I couldn't even bring myself to ask for a sign. 
Hours passed in tears and anger and I didn't remember the little yellow leaf or God's promises. I didn't want to remember. I felt too abandoned, neglected and doomed to let my mind hope for healing or claim restoration.
It was hours later when, without a petition or pathetic prayer, God delivered His sign with a mysterious and miraculous crash. 
A display case slid off a nearby table and fell to the ground, scattering a stack of papers across the floor. For a moment I hesitated, too defeated to clean up the mess. But then a little voice inside my head called out and insisted I rise up and help clean up.
And that's when I saw it. My sign. 
It was the only paper of its kind in the whole stack and it was laying on top, glowing in golden hues. Printed on the special paper was a design of little yellow maple leaves. I picked it up and held it in my hand, overwhelmed by awe and wonder. This paper featured the very same shape, size and color of the maple leaf I had found stuck to the windshield of my car. The message it delivered was the very same too.
"I have no abandoned you. Hang on. I am doing a new thing. Your healing is STILL imminent." 
Hours have passed since I found that paper and I still have it in my pocket and, although I still have the pain in my stomach, more powerful than the pain is God's promise of hope I have in my heart.
The promises of God endure no matter the evidence of healing or the state of my physical condition. In the maple leaf God has reassured me that no matter what my circumstances or what trials befall my body or soul, He will not abandon me. He will remain forever true to His word. He will never cease His work of healing, renewing and making all things new.
Come what may, my hope is in God's truth and my health is in His hands so I will hang on and cling to His promises because I know the Lord my God is doing a new thing in me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trot or no Trot


It was Thanksgiving 2013 and it was cold, especially down along the lake, which is where I found myself at 8:00 am that morning. I was signed up to run the annual Turkey Trot, a 5K that gathers hundreds of runners together each Thanksgiving morning. Some runners were dressed as turkeys and pilgrims. I even saw a few dogs take part in the festivities.
I remember taking my place among the 9 minute mile group. It was an accomplishment to be standing anywhere in the lineup, especially given my health history. In 2013 I was three years into inexplicable symptoms that had relapsed and remitted at random. I had already gone through one cycle of unintentional weight loss followed by some weight gain. Unbeknownst to me on that Thanksgiving morning a relapse was on the horizon and I was on my way back down the scale but standing in the turkey trotting crowd I was unaware of the future to come. I believed I was on the mend once and for all. I thought I had been healed. I was confident that my body had been restored and was on the path to regaining full health.
Oh, how little I knew.
That year I ran the Turkey Trot without any trouble, beating my anticipated time. I felt alive and full of vitality. I had flush cheeks and an invigorated heart. When I crossed the finish line I did it with victory, proclaiming healing and vowing to return again next year.
And I did. I ran again in 2014 and 2015 but each year I returned with less weight and less speed than I had the year before. I ran but I couldn't cross the finish line proclaiming healing. Instead I crossed the finish line proclaiming the sufficiency of God and His ability to physically sustain me.

In just a few short days it will be Thanksgiving and runners will line up along the lake for the annual Turkey Trot but I won't be in attendance. I wasn't there last year, either because, last year, I had to face the tough reality that my body can no longer run three miles. In fact, it can no longer run one mile. At least not today. Not this year.
When this year's online Turkey Trot registration opened I contemplated entering as a walker. I imagined myself naming and claiming future healing by walking the 3.2 miles, vowing to return again next year at a faster pace.
When I completed the registration, one click away from being added to the list of participants, a hand guided my mouse away from "submit" and hoovered over "cancel" instead. Then a little voice spoke and stopped me in my trotting tracks.  
You don't need to enter a race. You're already winning one. 
At that moment I realized that I don't need to make a great proclamation of healing or make claims about my future physical restoration. God has my health in His hands and His timing under His control.
I don't know when my body will put on weight again or pick up speed again. I don't know if I will ever enter a Turkey Trot again. And I don't need to because God knows.
God knows my physical condition. He knows how weak and fragile I am. He is fully aware of every symptom that plagues me. God knows what is head on my long journey back to health.
Instead of claims about the future, God wants my faith for today. I know this is true because He tells me not to worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself. He doesn't need me to make a great 3.2 walk to claim His healing. He needs me to wake up every morning, trot or no trot, and proclaim His sufficiency and provision even when my body feels weak and evidence of physical restoration is no where to be found on a scale or a scan. He desires my trust whether I am lacing up my sneakers or retiring my running shoes. God commands that I believe in His power to heal even when my weight is slipping and my pace is slowing.
I can't claim to know what God has in store for my body because claims for the future are not mine to make. But I can claim to have faith in whatever the future holds, trot or no trot, because I know who holds it. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


It was while driving home along the interstate late one Sunday night that I saw the brightly shining Fed Ex sign and a message illuminated in fluorescent light. Glowing in purple and orange, the Word declared, "I am delivering you."
Announced boldly on the mountain side my eyes beheld a great display of God's promises and the darkness of my car's cabin was filled with His light. He opened His mouth and out of it He spoke glorious words of truth.

By my power I am delivering you. 
Not by doctors. 
Not by man's design. 
But by my mighty hand you are being, YOU HAVE BEEN, delivered." 

His message stunned and shocked me with news too good to comprehend. Immediately, I thought I understood the meaning of His message. At the sound of triumph's trumpets I assumed the war was won. I believed a victory won against disease declared my days of battles and suffering done and over.
Little did I know, healing would bring a struggle of its own.
Now I see the folly in my comprehension and the flaw in my understanding. Now I see that the message all at once declared the victory one and the days of struggle just beginning.
The message was all together true. I most certainly have been delivered and disease is most assuredly dead. The truth is I have been rescued by the mighty Hand of God. 
But my days of suffering are not over. United with Jesus, they never will be. To be one with Jesus in His victory is to be one with Him in His suffering. To live is Christ. To die is gain. To one day join Christ Jesus in His heavenly life requires joining the journey of His earthly life.
Healing is a battle all its own. It is the battle to rebuild from scratch. It is the labor to replant the fields after they have been ravaged and trampled bare. It is from nothing that healing begins and everything new is built. With a glory greater than before, dedicated hands of restoration do a work on the desolate land.
The work is long and tiring. The ground is hard and dry but God is faithful and patient. He will not abandon the fight. He will not forget the fields. The same God who won death's victory will deliver the healing and reign triumphant in its new life.
By His mighty hand and the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Lord my God is delivering me, has delivered me, my every victory.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dog walks and God walks


"Hey, I've got a question for you," the stranger yelled from his car. Being the only human in sight I assumed he was directing his line of questioning at me.
"Sure, what's your question?"I hollered back from the sidewalk.
"Does the one always walk on your left and the other one on your right?"
I looked down first to my left, then to my right. Then I looked back up and answered the strangers odd inquiry, "Yes, Pippy always walks on my left. Molly always on my right." I never instituted this walking arrangement. Years ago the dogs naturally fell into this pattern and they've stuck to it ever since with a resolve that is far more stubborn than it is submissive.
The friendly driver just laughed. "I thought so. Even dogs get stuck in their patterns. You should switch it up on them."
And with that he drove of.
The stranger's suggestion troubled me. Wouldn't changing their comfortable routine be cruel and unusual and altogether unnecessary? Why would I want to disrupt their walking harmony? What did I have to gain by confusing their comfortable routine?
The stranger's suggestion sounded like a mean trick until I considered the road and all of its dangers. Big trucks and speeding cars were a threat to my little stubborn schnoodles. Even when a car come far too close on the left Pippy refuses to move to the right. When traffic comes up near the right I always have to yank Molly's leash, forcing her to comply with my command to move out of harm's way. I know it can't be pleasant for them to be pulled on and tugged but I do it for their safety and their protection. I do it because they aren't trusting and obeying.
The truth is Pippy and Molly aren't truly obedient walkers. They are only obedient and compliant when they are each on their own designated side. They would rather walk in harms way than change their ways.
Considering my dog's faux obedience I began to see the flaw in my "cruelty free" logic.
To disrupt Pippy and Molly of their patterns wouldn't be a trick played for my own twisted amusement. It would be a way to train them up to be obedient. Breaking them of their routine would make them more malleable and flexible in all circumstances, leading to safer walks. By becoming true followers, naturally trusting and obeying my every command, my pups would enjoy the fullness of my protection and walk peacefully in the shield of my love.
It didn't take but a few steps further down the sidewalk before God began to tug on the leash of my heart. As if He were calling out from a nearby car window I could hear Him ask, "Do you always walk on that side?"
Ashamed at the reality of my own faux obedience, I had to admit that I am prone to patterns and absolutely stuck in my routine. I'm a rigid follower, trapped in my own ways. I'm downright habitual about my habits. With a stubbornness more powerful than the weight of two schnoodles tugging on their leashes, I protest when God forces me to change my walking pattern. 
The way I've been walking hasn't been the way of true obedience. I've been stubbornly pulling on the leash, robbing me of the true peace that comes from full faith and trust in the protection of God. By demanding I follow my own way I have denied myself the rest and joy that comes from unwavering obedience. I've put myself in harms way and exposed myself to unnecessary danger. From my stubborn end of the leash I have foolishly denied myself the fullness of God's safety and love.
But thanks be to God that old dogs can learn new tricks. And so can forgiven sinners.
Today, right here and right now, I can choose to change the way I walk. By following God's voice and trusting completely in His will, no matter where it leads, I can become a truly obedient child of God. When I fully surrender my will to walk my way I will enter into the true protection and lasting peace of God's safety and serenity. It is only by releasing my routine and abandoning my patterns at the foot of Christ's cross that I am truly obedient.
From the voice of a stranger and the grace of my Savior, now I can see that on both dog walks and God walks flexible, malleable, unwavering obedience is key to safely enjoying the journey.

Friday, November 10, 2017

God's girl

In my former life, the one I lived prior to sickness and disease, I embraced my inner relationship girl. Deep, committed relationship was integral to my existence. I thrived on creating bonds of love and romance. I was a girl with wedding plans and dreams of becoming a young wife. But then I became sick and my inner relationship girl became a shut-in and all femininity was snatched away by the hands of disease.
Ever since relationship girl succumbed to illness I have mourned the loss of her. As fiercely as I have missed enjoying the companionship of a special man, I have missed the relationship girl I used to be within. I have missed the very essence of who I was and ached to experience that life again. I’ve cried tears of longing to feel relationship’s joy again.
From my knees I've cried out to God and begged Him raise my precious relationship girl from her grave. I have pleaded with Him to revive her in the restoration of my body. To God I have even pledged my future marriage and dedicated my future mate. All I’ve asked is that He bring relationship girl back to life.
But relationship girl hasn't risen. She hasn't been raised from the dead. She can’t because relationship girl was crucified so that God's girl may be risen to new life.
On a cross set aside for me, fashioned with the bonds of surrender to Christ, God took my lost and broken relationship girl and let her die in disease. He used nails of sickness to cleanse my past of her sin and shame. In the solitude of His presence, at the foot of Christ’s cross, God let my precious relationship girl perish.
But God did not let her die in vain. Even in the darkness of the grave the life of my inner girl was never for a moment abandoned.
Now, dwelling in my heart’s place where relationship girl once lived there resides someone altogether new. Up from the grave has arisen a different kind of girl. Now it is God’s girl who lives.
With the life of God's girl beating boldly within me I have experienced more love and passion than I ever knew possible. The depth of joy felt in the presence of God is unlike anything relationship girl ever felt before. She never understood the depth of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. The relationship girl of my past didn’t appreciate the sweetness in surrender or the joy of solitude.
Now I see why relationship girl had to die. She had to be crucified with Christ in order that she could be raised to new life as eternal as God’s precious girl.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Wheat is evil. 
Dairy is certainly not your friend. 
Gluten shall be a plague upon you. 
See those nightshades? They have come to ravage from within. 
Beware, even raw foods will betray you and chocolate treats will always torture you in the end.

The devil's slithering voice haunts me. In the night He taunts me to confuse my appetite and rob me of rest. As he snickers he unleashes his tummy torment and disquiets the peace in my soul. His lies cause both my stomach and my spirit such great distress. With shackles of nutritional "nos" and dietary "don'ts" satan has chained my joy.
Every intolerance has tightened satan's grip on my serenity. He has used pain to further paralyze my palate and trouble my mind. Captivity in satan's dietary prison has made my stomach his slave. My very appetite his victim.
For too long I have been held in satan's bondage. For too long I have been held hostage by my body's digestive "needs." For far too long I have been kept as a prisoner in the darkness of my body's distress.
But I will not be held captive any longer and refusing to let my enemy has his way with me. I am breaking free and claiming Christ's victory.
It is in the name of God's Words of truth that my chains are broken. It is by my Lord's victory that triumph rains, declaring that my days of slavery have ended Jesus has come and released me from my bondage. Once and for all, He rose to set set this death bound captive eternally free.
Delivered from darkness and released into the light I am free to be healed. Free to be restored and renewed. Free to be strengthened and empowered.
Hallelujah Jesus reigns as victor and eternal King! 
My Lord has won my victory and made me truly, everlastingly, free!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Did you get spooked this Halloween?

Just a few days ago, on Halloween, Pippy got spooked.
It happened while we were out our daily walk. Pippy had been working on her village off-leash skills, and behaving beautifully. She was perfectly obeying my sidewalk safety rules and heeding my commands. She pranced beside me full of joy, leash-less and free.
That's when terror struck.
The spook came courtesy of an impatient UPS truck driver encouraging a pokey Prius to get a move on but, to Pippy's doggie ears, the sound was as alarming as a Zombie Apocalypse. At least, that's what I gathered from her terror-struck face. The ear-splitting sound sent Pippy into a frenzied state of fear. In the blink of an eye my obedient schnoodle was transformed into a petrified pup.
Completely oblivious of the dangers ahead Pippy went running scared, heading straight for the street.
My eyes must have grown the size of saucers as I watched her paws step away from the protection of the sidewalk and into potential peril on the road. Immediately I sprang into doggie-Mom mode and in my loudest, most authoritative voice commanded "Pippy, stop!"
At the sound of my voice Pippp's paws came to a screeching halt. Slowly, with ears down and shame in her eyes, she stepped away from the road and made her way back to my side. I knelt down next to my petrified pouch and petted her quivering fur. "You don't need to be afraid, Pippy. Just stay next to me on the sidewalk and I'll keep you safe all the way home." 

After our walk, back home safe and sound, Pippy took up her comfortable position on the couch, as dogs are apt to do. While Pippy went on to take a nap my mind went wandering back to the sidewalk to replay the scene so that so thoroughly spooked my precious schnoodle. As I pictured the fear in her eyes I came face to face with crippling fear that I let spook my spirit and haunt my heart. In my petrified pouch I saw my own fear-induced behavior that send me running scared and away from the safety of God's sidewalk.
What puts the fear in me is the horror of troubling test results, financial woes, relational stressors and darkness up ahead. I become paniced when things aren't going smoothly. When the future looks bleak I become as petrified as Pippy on the village street.
In an instant I allow my fear to replace my trust in God's protection. Acting on emotions and feelings of alarm, I flee from joy and head for anxieties. Spooked and scared, I forsake "be no afraid" and forget "do not fear." Petrified and panicked, I step away from the safety of God's will and providence and step directly into oncoming peril.
When struck with such fear, only the voice of my Protector and Provider can break through the street noise and restore my soul back to His peace and rest. With love and grace He welcomes me back to the sidewalk and reassures me that there is nothing in this world to fear. I am safe by His side, walking in the security of His will. As long as I remain faithful to His commands and keep my life life hidden with Him in Christ, He will save me, keep me and preserve my life.
In this world there will be troubling sights and alarming sounds but walking with God on the safety of His sidewalk I need not be spooked and scared.
In the center of His will, heeding His commands and obeying His voice, I can walk in peaceful assurance and all of heaven's joy, assured that the Almighty God will keep me safe all the way home.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Holy Broken

Smash....the force was too powerful...
Crack... the weight was too much...
Pop....the pressure was too great...

It all happened so quickly. The lumbers shifted and discs slipped. In an instant my back became broken.
Ever since that moment in time my life has never been the same. Pain entered in and it has never departed. Years of damage have degenerated into unrelenting agony. Day and night, I am plagued with the physical torment of my spine's affliction. In the grips of such severe pain I become tempted to cry out in misery and curse my broken body.
As tears well up in my eyes my glance is taken upward and what I behold up ahead is the vision of Calvary.
In the shadow of such glory my lament is silenced. At the foot of the cross I fall to my knees where I am bathed in the light of my Savior, body broken for me. 

Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, was crucified for my transgressions. The Son of God willingly took up my cross and carried it on His sinless spine. His precious, blameless back endured the burning pain of my traitorous rebellion. His discs and joints bore the weight of my guilt and shame. The evil of my offenses pierced His body and produced in His soul the deepest agony and anguish.
It was my sin that broke the back of Christ.  

"But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins."
 (Isaiah 53:5) 
The perfect, sinless, Son of God broke on the Cross to set me free. With cleansing in His redemptive blood He washed away my eternal anguish. In His mighty resurrection He claimed everlasting, eternal victory.

"He was beaten so we could be whole. 
He was whipped so we could be healed."

 (Isaiah 53:5)

At the foot of the cross I am broken.
Holy broken by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Halloween Haunting

The latest in my small town moving adventures has me in a suburb of Pittsburgh rich with village charm and grand estates. Early 1900's Victorians and 1890's Colonials abound on shaded streets lined with lush landscapes. Every neighborhood block in this little town is a feast for the eyes. At every turn there is a new reason to "ohh" and "awe." From impressive hand-laid stone walls to the unique woodworking framing stately front doors, each home displays the skills of a fine craftsman and decades of a homeowner's tender love and care.
With autumn's arrival I anticipated the beauty of the landscape transformed by the changing colors. I imagined the homes draped in gorgeous shades of orange, yellow and red. But when October came a very different kind of gore transformed this quaint village town: Halloween gore.
As it turns out, this town just so happens to love all things that scream All Hallows Eve, especially scary, gory scenes replete with open graves, fake blood, flying witches and vampires. Nearly every street has a few gigantic spiders hanging from homeowner's trees and windows are decked out with orange and black lights illuminating spooky scenes.There are so many tomb stones in garden beds it's a wonder there are any living residents left. In preparation for Halloween night the homes and landscapes I've admired have been transformed into frightful sites designed to scare and terrify.
The displays of death and darkness have draped an eerie pall over my daily neighborhood walks. Even though I know that the blood is just paint on a bed sheet, the gory scenes still disquiet my soul. The plastic tombs and empty graves taunt me and haunt me with the one death that still causes me to fear: the death of my own will.
The death of my will petrifies me. I am haunted by the very site of the tomb stone inscribed with my dreams and desires. With white knuckles, I've been holding on for dear life to my will that yearns to be made well and whole. Even while my body has been wasting away, my spirit has been afraid to surrender its own self-imposed will, lay down and die.
But this will of mine to be made physically healthy and well is failing fast. My way to be healed has been gasping for its last breath and not even life support can save it now. My spiritual lungs are giving out. I simply cannot run in fear any longer.
In the cemetery that is my will's final resting place there is a grave marked out bearing my name and Christ bids me to come lay down in it and die. In a place called Golgotha, Jesus invites me to surrender to the tomb of my will and ways.
Laid to rest in Christ's lush bed of redemption and grace I am covered with the peace of God's eternal providence. Hidden with Christ, I am freed from the haunting of the grave. By uniting with my Savior in His death I am risen again to eternal life in the center of God's everlasting will.
Death where is your victory?
Death where is your sting? 
Because Jesus is alive death has been made powerless. The empty tomb of the risen Lord has defeated death once and for all in order that I may live eternally unafraid in the peaceful presence of the everlasting King.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wolly Worm

Every autumn, like clockwork, a furry creature returns to the earth. His name is the wolly worm.
While cold weather warriors prepare their wardrobes with sweaters and their feet with warm socks, earth’s crawling caterpillar puts on his own fuzzy coat of own. While the fur covered caterpillar prepares for the brutality of winter he enjoys all kinds of attention. Children make a game of catching him and farmers inspect his stripes for winter weather forecasts.
Then the seasons change and fall is replaced by a winter's frost and freezing temperatures. And, as suddenly as he arrived, the wolly caterpillar disappears from sight. He is no where to be found in the snow and ice. To survive the winter weather in his furry coat the wolly caterpillar goes into hiding. He escapes from the face of the earth to seek protection in the sanctuary of a log or a rock. He may even find refuge in a hollowed out tree stump. For many months and through many storms, the wolly worm hunkers down in his fuzzy cocoon and hangs on for dear life.
And then spring returns. The freeze breaks and so does the cocoon of the wolly caterpillar. As the season changes once again the caterpillar is released from the burden of his heavy winter coat, free to explore the earth. During the winter his furry stripes and fuzzy design has been transformed, exchanged for delicate wings that open wide in dazzling color. 
From nature’s bunker the lowly wolly worm emerges a beauty to behold. In winged exaltation he takes to the earth to announce the glorious arrival of spring. 

And so it shall be with me.

I am fragile, weak and small. I am no match for life's bleak winters. But I have an enduring, eternal hope for my survival when I cling to the rock of my salvation. 

To linger outside the protective will and providence of God I perish. Apart from the sanctuary of His presence I am crushed by hopelessness and despair. It is only by seeking the shelter of God's mighty hand that I am sustained and preserved till spring. 
When I rest in Christ and cling to the promise of His eternal life, I can survive the harshest seasons and the most brutal of storms. Even when the winds rage and beat against my bunker; even when the land is desolate and cold, I will endure by the blood of the Lamb. 
Then one day the deep freeze will break and the earth will thaw. The storms will cease and spring will come. Then, just like the wolly caterpillar, I will be set free. From my hiding place, my sanctuary, I will soar on the wings of new life. Transformed and renewed I will be set free to exalt and praise the glory of my God and my salvation, now and forevermore. 

As God's precious child, treasured and dearly loved, I have the promise and assurance that in every season and storm my Lord will cover me in the warmth of His mercy and grace to one day live in the glory of His eternal spring.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Small Town Living

I'm on the move (again) and this time I've landed in a small borough outside of Pittsburgh with village charm straight out of a Gilmore Girls episode. Welcome to the real Stars Hollow.
This adorable small town has a vibrant and active community with a lively events calendar. There is an annual dog parade and light up night festivities at Christmas time. In the town's center square the gazebo is decorated at every season with flags at the fourth and foliage in the fall. Pumpkins began filling the park in October and I'm told the horse drawn carriage will arrive in December. Every day, at the top of every hour, the bells of the local church ring like clock work and for every fire emergency, the fire department's siren roars, alerting the local volunteers.
And my new place is right in the heart of this made for TV village in an1890's barn turned apartments features historic charm and unbeatable convenience. I exit my front door and immediately I am greeted by the the hustle and bustle of small town life. My new home sweet home is a staggering seventeen steps from the grocery store (the local Doose's for you GG fans) and a twenty second walk from the best cup of coffee in town. This new housing arrangement comes with caffeinated perks.
But small town village living also comes with its share of quirks. Namely, its noisy quirks. Before the crack of dawn I hear the market workers arrive to ready the grocery store shelves for an eight o'clock open. All day long customers stream in and out of the parking lot pushing squeaky wheeled shopping carts across the cracked concrete. In the evenings my lively neighbors take to their porches and engage in spirited conversation. During the day light hours I can hear them above me walking on creaky wooden floor boards.

The first few days and nights of this non-stop activity and noise sent my nerves into a tizzy. The disruption to my quiet life was downright disquieting. I couldn't find my rest in the constant commotion. I could slip into stillness or sleep.
As I lay in bed one night, stirred by a sudden sound outside my window, God, my faithful Comforter, swept into my room to still my anxious heart. In the dark of night the very Spirit of God descended like a dove, wrapping me in His arms of peace and tranquility. With a work of holy transformation, He rearranged the sounds of chaos outside my window and rewrote them into calm serenades to comfort my soul. 

When I rose from my bed the following morning the busy village scene was unchanged but to my ear every noise was transformed.
Now, in the chattering voices, rumbling cars and squeaky carts I hear the activity God. At the sound of pitter-patter upstairs I hear God at work high and above my life orchestrating every detail in accordance with His flawless design. At the sound of the garbage man I am reminded that Jesus is constantly cleansing and purifying me with the sweetness of His new life.
In my new home, surrounded by the lively hustle and bustle of small town life, God is using the noise to make sure I never forget that He is always faithfully going about His Holy activity to bring about His good, glorious and eternal will for my life.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


What is normal?
I used to think I knew but then my normal got turned upside down. So, for the past seven years, I've been adjusting and adapting to an "abnormal" life but, once again, my "normal" is shifting. As of late, a new normal has taken over my daily routine and, I'll admit, it's taken some getting used to.

For seven long years I have been wrapped up in the abnormal world of a health saga. With the exception of a few months of relief along the way, most of my twenties have been spent under a cloud of mysterious illness. Even when the symptoms have waned, the inexplicable nature of their comings and goings has haunted me.
As "abnormal" as this life has been, my strange existence has actually become quite "normal" to me. Over time I've come to raise fewer questions and doubts about my limitations. I've even learned to be comfortable in the quiet life.
From my "abnormal" life I've fantasized from afar about what a life returned to full health would look like in reality. In my imagination I had visions and they were always glorious. In my mind's eye I would see myself running full of strength and vigor. I imagined community and friendships. I created a "normal" of physical restoration where my body would be whole and healthy with a full life to match.
But my vision of normal never included the trials and tribulations of making such a dramatic change from the "abnormal." I pictured a flawless and smooth transition from a life of sickness to one of health. Just call me Pollyanna, because I never foresaw a single bump in the road nor challenge along the shifting sands of normalcy. I simply assumed it would be a journey of pure bliss and, dare I say, ease.
But we all know what happens when we assume...we end up looking very foolish and, in my case, very wrong.

As my "normal" has been changing so has my fairy tale vision. My every miraculous healing assumption has been shattered on the long road to physical restoration. Instead of a smooth and steady uphill climb I predicted, healing has been a rocky ascent. Every time I think I am about to reach a peak, or at least tread on friendly terrain, a mountain ridge comes into view and I am reminded that my journey is far from over.
Even the transition into the new normal of friendships and community has proven to be far more treacherous a mountain to scale than I ever anticipated.

As it turns out, my highly-anticipated "normal," and the journey to get there, looks much different in reality than it did in my creative, and flawed, imagination.

While I've been busy envisioning the dream of what a new normal might be I missed the beauty of the "abnormal" life God's given to me. This life that I so long fought against has not been a curse. The quiet life has not been some form of brutal silent torture. Frailty has not been a weakness. Stillness has not been a death sentence.
"Abnormal" has been God's blessed gift wrapped up especially for me.

Now, as my body changes and my health grows stronger the "normal" of my daily routine will most likely change too. But it won't change according to my vision. It will change according to God's will and in His perfect time.
With the author of my life rewriting my "normal" I am free from the need to imagine what a different reality will look like because even in my wildest dreams I could never imagine the amazing future God has planned. I need not know or even see a glimpse of my body's physical restoration or the relationships He has awaiting me because I can rest in faith that it is all safe and secure in His hands.
Because God is faithful to His promises and true to His Word, I am assured that no matter what new "normal" He brings it will be gloriously, eternally good.