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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

My last remaining aunt passed away yesterday (at the time of this writing). She was my mom’s youngest sister at 88, but her health wasn’t good. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it always is. This passing. This finality.

The past few years have reduced the family generation above me to nothing. My dad’s been gone for twenty-five years, and even though he came from a large family, all his siblings and their spouses are also deceased.

Marg – Mom (2), Erna (5), Mary (1) Beth (4), Kay (3)

My mom was the second-born of five. The eldest passed a number of years before Mom, the third in line was next, but Mom carried on quite happily until her 95thyear. She passed beginning of November 2017, then her next youngest sister went in December, and her youngest sib left us this January.

And that’s it. The older generation is no more.

My brother and I spoke of this recently. “Everybody’s dying,” he said. I agreed, and added that our generation is next in line. It’s a sobering thought.

Aging is a process best understood, unfortunately, when our time is nearly up! Most of us find a comfortable age and continue to “live there” as long as our bodies allow us to deceive ourselves. Suddenly we are old, and have no idea how it happened.

There are several ways to handle this issue of mortality:

— ignore it…but it won’t go away

— embrace it…but you will age more quickly (I aged a lot when Mom lived with us her last year)

— gain a balanced perspective…we were not made for this world only

To further explain the third option, this life is short, and for many people on this earth, very difficult. I’ve been blessed with love and “more-than-enough” my whole life, and yet I can find things to complain about. But the point is, this life is only a training ground, a weeding out, if you will, for eternity.

Three generations: daughter Wendy, me, Mom

We were made for Eden, but we goofed it up big-time. Then the One who created us had mercy and took our punishment for our sin by sending His only Son—that’s Jesus—so we could be free from the penalty for our failure. And now, IF we accept His unmerited gift of grace, we can look forward to eternity in heaven as a reward for accepting mercy. How cool is that?

Yes, the journey may be unfamiliar, even frightening, but the destination will be worth it all.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

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I started reading the book of Matthew on January 1, using the theme: with new eyes. I want to see God’s Word in a fresh way in 2019.

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Matthew 11:3 features John the Baptist’s question to Jesus: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” John had obeyed God, and was now sitting in a cold, dank jail cell, his earthly future bleak. Perhaps—and I’m speculating here—he’d expected something entirely different from the Messiah he had prophesied about. The Jewish traditions handed down through the centuries may have created another expectation in his mind.

Jesus’ reply to John’s messengers (verses 4-6) was curt. “Go back and report to John what you hear and see…Blessed is the man who does not fall away because of me.”

As I read the first few verses of chapter eleven, I was reminded of a podcast my husband and I listened to recently by Ron Hutchcraft. The idea was that if we live life with expectation, we sometimes miss the freshness of a brand-new message. But, if we live with expectancy, we can be open to God’s surprises.

How often do my limited expectations get in the way of experiencing the newness of living in God’s Kingdom? If I live in expectancy, I am watching for whatever God has in his creative mind.

So, one of my goals this year is to live in expectancy of all God has for me, in all areas of my life. That’s definitely more exciting than my own expectations.

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This morning I sat down at the piano and decided to play through the Christmas section of our hymnal, since my old Christmas piano books seem to have disappeared. The words of a particular advent hymn resonated with me.

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O How Shall I Receive Thee?

(Melchior Teschner [1584-1635]; Paul Gerhardt, trans. by Arthur T. Russel)

Verse one:

O how shall I receive Thee, how greet Thee, Lord aright?

All nations long to see Thee, my hope, my heart’s delight!

O kindle, Lord, most holy, Thy lamp within my breast,

To do in spirit lowly all that may please Thee best.

 

 

Verse four:

Love caused Thy Incarnation, love brought Thee down to me;

Thy thirst for my salvation procured my liberty.

O love, beyond all telling, that led Thee to embrace

In love, all love excelling, our lost and fallen race!

 

How beautiful and all-encompassing is the love of our God in Christ Jesus, our Lord! May thoughts of Him increase your joy this Christmas season.

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I assume some of you are overwhelmed by Christmas preparations and family visits and Christmas programs, so I want to share a poem I came across many years ago, one that encourages me every time I read it. It’s by Ruth Bell Graham…

God Rest You Merry

“God rest you merry, gentlemen…”
and in these pressured days
I, too, would seek to be so blessed
by Him, who still conveys
His merriment, along with rest.
So I would beg, on tired knees,
“God rest me merry,
please…”

A very Merry Christmas and a blessed 2019.

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“We are judged by how we finish, not how we start.”

How true. Some people are so worried about whether or not they’ll be able to finish a project that they hesitate to begin anything. I confess to being one of those. Partly, it’s because I tend to perfectionism. Please understand that perfectionism doesn’t mean that everything I do meets that high standard, but it’s what I wish I could attain. Through my life, I’ve had to make choices about where to spend my energy and focus, a fight against perfectionism. (Dusting the furniture was something that lost out!)

My husband is a starter. He loves to jump into a project and get it going. He doesn’t usually worry about finishing at that stage. I, on the other hand, am afraid to start something in case I won’t be able to finish it. The result: I talk myself out of a lot of things that might be good if I trusted myself. I have to say my husband and I have rubbed off on each other over the years. I’m more willing to try something, and he’s more intent on completing a project.

As a writer, I’ve learned that first words aren’t crucial at the outset. It’s the act of beginning that’s important. First words can be changed, edited, tweaked, or stricken from the record! They are only a starting point, a thought-bullet fired in a specific direction. The more important aspect is following through, completing a task to the best of our abilities.

We’re on a journey through this life, and our paths are not complete until our number is called. Let’s give each day our all, with the help of the God who created us do the things He has prepared in advance for us to do.

 

NOTE: For as long as I can remember, our household has regularly received The Furrow magazine, a farming publication published by Deere & Company. My favourite part of this magazine is the next-to-last page, titled fun & Philosophy, a collection of jokes, quotes from famous people, and capsule sermons. From these I’ve chosen a few as conversation starters for my blogspot. Thought-bullets.

 

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By the time this blog appears live, I will have been and gone to my favourite annual writer’s conference: InScribe. It’s a treat I look forward to every year, and this one’s accessible; I can drive there or ride with a friend.

Conferences are superb confidence boosters, in that our association with other writers helps us to believe we really are writers too.

Conferences are comfortable places for introverts to network! We’re most of us—but certainly not all—introverted types that gather at writing conferences. We spend a lot of our time in solitary, with only our computers as companions, and mostly, we’re okay with that. But from time to time we need more than virtual input. A conference is a time when we can reach out to others who understand our boundaries. Maybe we can find someone who can fill a gap in our writing life: a story editor, a cover designer, a formatter. And just maybe we can fill a gap in someone else’s writing needs as well.

Conferences are memory makers. We meet people we’ve met before and renew our acquaintance. We meet people we’ve never met before, and often our personalities will click. Or we meet people we’ve heard of but never met, and find out they are accessible and normal folks. We feel surrounded by friends of like mind.

If there’s a conference in your area, save up your bucks through the year and take advantage of it. You won’t regret it.

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I’ve visited a couple of local cemeteries recently, because my siblings and I need to choose a memorial marker for our mother. Some people stay as far from graveyards as possible, but I find them restful, at least in broad daylight. The dates and names give wings to my imagination.

Just as the people buried in the churchyard are more than granite engravings, our fictional characters need to be more than life-size cardboard cutouts. The years that lie between birth and death dates are mysteries, untold stories of real people.

One stone marks the life of a wife/mother who died at the age of 22. Why? An accident or illness? What happened to the child? I feel the grief and lay my hand on the stone as I pass.

A large, flat engraving includes details of birthplace, emigration, moves, farm locations, spouse, children. Few are this informative, but it tells the story of an eventful life, well-lived. These details considered important enough to be carved in stone.

Several small graves lie in the shade of the poplars, babies that died at birth or in their early childhood. Stories of unexpected loss and grief.

Ideas come from everywhere, and a cemetery is a tremendous resource. It can also remind us of the fragility of life, the brevity of the time we have to make our mark between two dates.

If you’re looking for writing ideas, inspiration, or perhaps a quiet and meditative walk, visit a cemetery, and remember that:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants” Psalm 116:15 NIV.

 

 

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