Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tis The Season

Tis the season…to be thankful. I love Thanksgiving so much because it’s all about attitude and being with people you love. The holiday in and of itself isn’t hyped, so it’s easy to overlook. What comes after the antics and party of Halloween? In a lot of peoples’ minds it’s Christmas. And I admit, as a young person I felt much the same way – why waste time on a holiday where there was no gift-giving or party? Now that I’m older, and hopefully a bit wiser, Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite times of year.

My list this year is LONG, not my Christmas list, but my list of things that I’m grateful for. I’m so blessed. My life has become a little less chaotic and I’ve seen God moving so obviously that I’m trying to take it all in and be grateful for the big and the small things. I could write a whole blog on all the ways I’m thankful for my relationship with God (and I might do just that) but today I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my friends. It is clear that s God has given me amazing friends to share my life with.

I’ve had a blast the past 24 hours. One of my girlfriends who has a family of all males decided to have a little girl fix and come stay the night with my girls and me. We had dinner out, went shopping and then stayed up late into the night talking. Then this morning I got to have breakfast with another sweet friend that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. So because of that I’m feeling very filled up and grateful.

I’m extremely grateful for my four closest friends and the qualities each one of them brings to our relationship.

•One of them is incredibly loyal. She has served me and been available both emotionally and physically more often than not. It’s one of her most endearing qualities – and there are many.
•Another friend has made my girls and I part of her family. We are invited to holiday gatherings, dinners and get-togethers. She has shared her family with me and since I live in a city with no other family, this has been huge for me and my girls.
•I’m fortunate to be the recipient of the wisdom of my third friend. She has counseled me and been my spiritual mentor the past few years. Her wisdom has helped me tremendously.
•And finally, my best friend. She’s my kindred spirit, and the sister I always longed for and got to choose. We share a similar passion for God, for music and love for good books and meaningful lyrics and so many other things.

As I’ve gotten older I have come to realize that “stuff” just doesn’t mean much to me. Time spent with people that I love moves my heart in a way that I cannot adequately express. The people in my life that fill my day to day with love and joy and experiences are what I am most thankful for this year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

God's Sovereignty

Today I’m thinking about God’s sovereignty. Days when bad news hits or the reality of life just seems a bit hard to take, it’s comforting for me to realize that God knows all, and his knowledge transcends time and circumstance. My dearest friend is separated from her husband right now, and she’s hurting. Because I’ve experienced that same hurt not so long ago myself, I feel like I’m reliving some of the pain with her up close and personal. I got a call today that one of my old friends has been diagnosed with Leukemia. She’s going to spend the next six weeks in the hospital fighting for her life. This is one of those days when I feel the darkness. There is a lot of sadness and hurt all around us and unfortunately that is just the reality of life in this fallen world.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. “ Prov 3:5

I sit here feeling this heaviness, yet knowing that I do not see and understand all that God does. My understanding and view is limited by time, emotion and sin. Even when I’m feeling close to God and am “tuned in” spiritually, my thinking is still from a worldly perspective. I could be angry, but I have no idea how God can and could be using these very difficult circumstances to bring himself glory or to prosper me in some way. Only God can see without time and situation and sin affecting his plans. Listen to how God answers Job and his friends when they do not trust his motives or the circumstances that God allows to enter Job’s life in Job 38:1-7.

Job 38
The LORD Speaks
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

There are three chapters at the end of the book of Job where God lists reasons why he is sovereign and we are not. It is humbling and sobering to read. I need to trust in God’s understanding and not my own. Life in this fallen world is difficult and full of painful situations and things I don’t understand – period. I guess I don’t really have to understand I have to learn to trust with childlike faith. I realize that if I truly believe God and his promises, then I know that even in the midst of tragedy and pain, he has already made plans for me and those I love to prosper both here during this life and in the life to come - more than I can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Memories Of An Old Friend

There is something about this time of year that is almost magical for me. As I sit or walk outside, feel the coolness in the air, and smell the leaves, I’m transported back in time. For some reason memories just seem more vivid to me during autumn. Tonight I have the rare occasion to be completely alone, so I lit some candles, poured a glass of wine and am letting the memories just have their way.

Twenty-seven years ago this month, a very close friend of mine died when the car in which she was a passenger was hit by a train. She was a sophomore in college – just starting her life. That day changed me in a way that no other event ever has. It was my first real experience with tragedy. I looked through old boxes of keepsakes tonight and found the “Jenny” box…filled with the cards and letters that she gave me and all the newspaper clippings about her death. I have a book of poems that she had written and a couple of things that were special to her that her parents had given me – I hadn’t pulled them out in years. Tonight, though, I felt compelled. I’m not dwelling on the sadness that I experienced when she died, I just wanted to think about my friend and all the ways her friendship changed my life for better.

A few things changed in me on the other side of my grief. I began to understand what it means to share my heart with God. Before that my prayers were shallow and I was afraid to express true emotions. I was so angry after Jen died that I either had to share that anger or be superficial and fake. In the Psalms, David was completely honest and open with his true emotions. I didn’t see or understand his expressiveness until I was in a position to be furious at God and to have to work through those emotions honestly with him in prayer.

I also realized that when I was having a hard time actually understanding my emotions, that if I wrote my feelings out in a journal or a poem they would usually sort themselves out. I wrote my first poem the day after Jenny died. Writing and journaling continue to be a sort of therapy for me. My books of poetry are my life’s journal.

And finally, I realized the value of friendship. I am much more grateful for my friends and try my best to make sure that they know how much I care for them. Jenny was always leaving notes or sending cards or showing how much she cared in little ways. She had written me a card the night before she died…just to let me know she loved me. I still have it, of course. Those small yet meaningful gestures she made really stuck with me and have instilled in me a desire to do the same for those I love.

I still have a photograph of Jen that I took the week before she died. It sits on my bookshelf and I see it all the time. For someone I knew for a short time, she had a profound impact on me.

It happened on a day like this
The sun was bright
The leaves were vibrant in color
The air had the feel of autumn
That is unmistakable
I was young and carefree
This time of year takes me back
The years have been many
And my perspective has changed
I remember the innocence
Of a young soul
That touching mine
Gave my soul more depth to it
Life was no longer as simple
But it became more precious
And the people in it
More valuable
And so to you
Friend of years past
Thank you
For gently shaping
My soul