Tuesday, December 31, 2013


January 1, 2014
The first day of a new year!

Reminds me of another time of "firsts" in my life.

I had come to Maine, to the ocean, because I sensed I needed to.  I guess I felt that I needed to prove to myself that I could.  But deep down it really was because I felt God guiding me and leading me to come.  I wasn't sure why, but just knew I needed to do it.

It was the first time I had ever come alone. 
It was the first time I had even driven here by myself. 
It was the first time I'd ever stayed in a motel by myself and it also turned out to be the first time I ever pumped my own gas!! 
It would be a weekend of "firsts" for me.

October 2, 2004 was the beginning of those "firsts" in my life.
October 2, 2004 was the day, Phil, my husband of 33+ years, died.

Wells Beach, Maine was where we had vacationed for many years.  First, as a family with our two young daughters and then, as they grew and left home, we started marking our yearly treks just the two of us. Gradually our trips to Maine became a long weekend in May to celebrate our anniversary, and a long weekend in September for the annual Chili-Fest, and most years, we also managed to spend a whole week there sometime in between.  We loved our time there, loved the ocean, salt air, the lazy and relaxing days, our long walks on the beach and just being together.

But now, going all by myself, 10 months after losing my husband, I was apprehensive and wondered if I could handle it.  So many wonderful memories of happier times, family times, couple times.  But I was also feeling that I wanted to lose myself for the weekend in those memories, so I set out not knowing what awaited me.

The first day I was there, I drove to "our bench" and just sat and watched the waves crash on the shore and I remembered the many times we brought our lunch and sat on this bench together.  We would just sit, eat and enjoy the sun, the breeze, but mostly, we just enjoyed our time together.

In the years since the kids had been gone from home, we had grown closer as a couple and our love for one another had deepened.  We loved the time we were able to spend together and guarded it diligently.  The love we had found together so many years ago was renewed, refreshed and restored to us and we looked forward to growing old together.

But now, I needed to find "me" here without Phil to know that I would be okay.  His death was so unexpected and sudden and I was still living with a mind that could barely comprehend what had happened.  But for this one weekend, I was going to remember, grieve, remember and grieve some more. 

I went to all our favorite places; took the drives he always liked to take, went to the beaches that were our favorites and remembered. 
I walked the miles of sandy beaches and remembered. 
I remembered his child-like surprise whenever he found an ocean treasure. 
I remembered his gentle patience with me because I never wanted to leave the beach. 
I remembered our long walks on the beach; playing cribbage on the beach, desperately trying to hold on to the cards in the strong ocean breeze. 
I remembered, especially, our last trip to Maine.  He was not able to do all he once had done; he was held back by the feeding tube and IV pole, but he so wanted to make the trip for me - he wanted to give me this time because he knew how much I loved it.  He was able to go the Chili-Fest while I sat on the beach and when he returned that day, he brought with him a beautiful gold pin for me that he had found at a local craft fair.

As I walked the beach that last morning in Maine by myself, I stopped to sit and reflect on the last beach he had sat on with me.  A stone caught my eye and I decided to pick it up as a marker of this weekend of remembrance.  As I turned it over, I gasped!  The stone was shaped like a heart with a piece gone from the lower left hand side.  I felt God whisper soft and gentle to me -

"A piece of your heart is gone; died with your husband, but you will be okay!"

As I left Wells, Maine that day and started home, God began to show me the real purpose of my trip.  It was to say good-bye to my husband; something I had not had a chance to do before he died.  He died on an operating table surrounded by strangers and we had no warning that this surgery could or would take his life.  So God had brought me here, to a place we both loved so dearly, to say my good-bye - to take that first step into the unknown of my new life.  I was leaving behind my best friend, my lover, my husband and soul-mate, but God had assured me I would be okay.

As I continued to drive away, it was almost as if I heard Phil say to me - "We made so many wonderful memories together, Donna, but now it's time for you to make some new ones of your own."

On this first day of a new year, if you're starting some "firsts" of your own, be assured that God is right there with you, leading and guiding you. 

The year is new, with no mistakes yet, and it stretches out, like a road, before you. Who knows where it will take you? Only God!

What "firsts" will you experience this year?
Whatever they are, they will be laced with His grace!
His grace that is more than sufficient no matter the circumstance!
His grace will sustain you, grow you, surround you and envelop you!

His grace is always enough!
HE is always enough!

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, ......"
Philippians 3:13


Monday, December 30, 2013

Out With the Old...In With the New!

Well, here we are at the end of another year.
What kind of a year have you had?
Are you glad it's coming to an end?

What, of God, have you experienced this past year?
And what, of God, are you taking with you into the new year?
I usually try to take inventory at this time of the year; looking back and looking ahead.  God has done a great and lasting (I pray) work in my heart this past year and I suspect it will continue into the new year, because my heart is a "work in progress."
I am taking several Scriptures into the new year with me; Scriptures the Lord has put on my heart in the past few weeks:
"Thus says the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?  For all those things have my hand made, and all those things have been, says the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word."
Isaiah 66:1, 2
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 3:3
"Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?"
Jeremiah 32:27
Only God knows what He will do with these Scriptures in my heart and life and I wait with great anticipation to unfold that work.

The greatest truth I am taking with me from 2013 into 2014 is:
God is always good and I am always loved.
Those of you who are regular readers of my blog, I'm sure, are not surprised by this for you have read it many times here in the past few months.
It's a life-changing truth and one I remind myself of every day.
Faith, trust, mercy, grace, goodness, truth, love, joy, comfort, thanksgiving have been big words for me in 2013; foundational words to build a life on, one I've been building on for almost 40 years!  Or maybe I should say, God's been building on for almost 40 years!
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Philippians 1:6
"Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24
"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me: thy mercy, O Lord, endures forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."
Psalm 138:8
Unfortunately, I'm also taking some "unfinished business" into the new year with me, too.  Are you? 
Our messes, our pains, our disappointments, our illnesses, our hurts and losses, all of our imperfections don't just disappear at the stroke of midnight; wish they somehow would!  But as we take those messes with us, we also take the Lord with us, too.  He is Lord of all that pertains to us and we can rest assured, He will be with us in and through it all.
I pray that God will grant you a blessed, healthy and happy new year.  I pray that He will grant your hearts' desires as they line up with His Word and will for your life.  May you see and experience His hand in performing that "good work" in your life, fully knowing and believing by faith that He is faithful and He will do it!  In all the circumstances of your life, good and not so good,
acknowledge Him,
trust Him,
believe in Him and His goodness,
seek Him,
love Him, and above all else,
thank Him!
In happy moments - praise God!
In difficult moments - seek God!
In quiet moments - worship God!
In painful moments - trust God!
In every moment - thank God!

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Do We Do With Jesus?

God. Is. With. Us.
Jesus, our Savior, God incarnate, came to us in the form of a baby - a helpless, naked baby - born in a manger - with only his parents and the animals as witness.  No fanfare, no headlines, no family waiting in the next room to congratulate the new parents.
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
John 1:14
Now that He is with us, what do we do with Him?
This quiet, unassuming baby
asking nothing more than His basic
needs be met?
This baby born in the wood of the manger who would grow
to die in the wood of the cross.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3:16
God gave His son, they called him Jesus. 
What do we do with Jesus?
This man who would grow to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, forgive sins and cast out demons.  Not only that, He made claim that He was the son of God.
What do we do with Jesus?
Someone once said, "Salvation is free, but it will cost you your life."
That's true.  Salvation is free.  The penalty for your sins was paid on the cross by this Jesus. 
But there is a cost.
This Jesus said,
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but, whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:24
What do we do with Jesus?
This Jesus, who asks us to deny our own will to do His.
This Jesus, who asks us to seek first His kingdom.
This Jesus, who asks us to love our enemies and even pray for them.
This Jesus, who asks us to serve rather than lead.
This Jesus, who tells us to love one another as He has loved us.
This Jesus, who longs to give us the peace only He can give.
What do we do with Jesus?
This Jesus, who loves us with the most unselfish love.
This Jesus, who feels our pain, our hurts, our losses, with a heart full of compassion.
This Jesus, who promises us a peace that passes understanding.
This Jesus, who desires for our joy to be full.
This Jesus, who longs for relationship with us.
What do we do with Jesus?
Simply this -
Receive Him!  Invite Him in!

No matter the mess of our lives, He will gladly accept the invitation!
Immanuel - God. Is. With. Us.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Silently, How Silently.....

I sit here writing this post on Sunday morning, December 22.  Church has been cancelled and rain/sleet/freezing rain is falling outside my window.  The trees are covered with ice, the roads and walkways are crusted over, and there is very little traffic activity that I can see on Route 2A. 

The airport is closed.
Church Christmas Programs all over the area have been cancelled.
There is an Ice Storm Warning in effect until 7pm tonight and the radio and TV are advising that if you don't have to travel today, please stay home
Driving is treacherous. 
Over 16,000 people are without power.
There will be very little Christmas shopping done today.

In the midst of all this, I see this day as a gift
The gift of a whole day - stretched out before me - with no schedule to adhere to!
A gift from God that forces me to slow down when I am unable or unwilling to slow down by myself.
Selah - stop and consider this!

On a day like this -
I have to stop. 
I have to be still. 
All of my plans have been aborted.

In the midst of the Christmas rush and the fever to "get it all done", I have been forced to
step back,
take a deep breath, and
be still!

It's hard for us to sit still, to just be, instead of always doing.  We always have places to go, things to do, people to see.  We have twitter and tweet and Facebook and all other ways to be LinkedIn.  Social media consumes a lot of our waking day.  We rush here and we rush there, but never far from our phones or our ipods or ipads! 

We are rushing as if we can make 2 days out of 1, as if we can stretch our lives longer, make them mean something or at least feel as if we mean something, we fill every waking moment trying to convince ourselves that we matter.  Even today, in the midst of all the warnings, cancellations, etc., there are still people going about "business as usual" because they can't/won't even be forced to take "a day off."

But in all this rushing, what are we missing?

- the chance to be alone with our own thoughts; are we afraid of what we would hear? afraid we would be faced with unpleasant truths and realities we don't want to see?

- the opportunity to really see and hear others; do you look, really look into the eyes of the person on the other side of the counter serving you and say thank you or do you just mumble something and turn away, checking for your next new message?

- life and all its wonders, the beauty that surrounds us; it's a beautiful Winter Wonderland right outside the window; do you see that or do you just see cancelled plans and feel frustration?

I sit here at my desk in the quiet of the day.  I have even turned off my Christmas music for a time, just to enjoy the quiet and the stillness.  Outside my window, I see a squirrel feverishly trying to dig through the ice-covered snow to perhaps find a nut that he buried there this past fall.  Watching him, I think of two things -

1- we are like that this time of year, feverishly digging, digging to find the buried treasure of a perfect Christmas

2- I wish that I and others had that same perseverance when it came to digging for the hidden treasure found in the presence of the Lord, found in His Word.

All season long, I have heard these words from the Christmas Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, playing in my head.  Some mornings I even awaken to them.  Can't seem to stop the tune.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessing of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still
the dear Christ enters in. 
These words still my heart every time I hear them. 
He came silently into the world, born in a manger.

What a contrast to this world where things are announced and proclaimed with great gusto, pomp and circumstance.  When someone is introduced, it's with loud music, a grand introduction of all accomplishments and then a "Heeere's Johnnnnnnny" type of hoopla.
He came silently into the world, born in a manger.  No-one but his parents and the animals shared in the moment.

So, too, He silently invades our hearts when they are open to Him.  And while there may be people around us, no one shares that particular moment in our heart except Him.

No ear will hear Him silently slip into that meek soul that will receive Him.
And where meek souls receive Him, because it does take a meek heart to be able to receive, still He enters in.  Still today, He comes silently to those who have ears to hear and meekness of heart to receive.  
"There is no need to produce or perform or perfect - simply become a place for God. That is all.  Christmas is conceived in your world when you simply receive it - however Christ and His will come to you.  Christmas can't be made.  .......it is a gift."
(The Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp)
That's what I think of when I sit here in the silence.
"Be still and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Be still from all your doing, all your rushing, all your preparation
and just receive the gift.
Receive Him!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Preparation

This is my first year celebrating Advent. 

I have celebrated it the past few years with my daughter and her family,

but I've never done the candles here at my home.  I didn't grow up celebrating Advent and frankly, I didn't know about the celebrating of the four Sundays before Christmas until I was an older adult.

This year I celebrated it myself in my home with a book called The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. 

This book has devotional readings for every day, so you're not just doing the four Sundays, you are observing every day from December 1st to the 25th. 

This has made such a big difference in the way I've approached Christmas this year and the way I am celebrating it.  It has helped me to slow down and put the emphasis on what really matters.  It has helped me to keep the "Christmas Spirit" even in the midst of the busyness that I've been involved in.

Each morning after breakfast, I light the particular candle for that week -

The first week the candle represents Hope
The second week the candle represents Peace
The third week the candle represents Joy
The fourth week the candle represents Love

and then I do the reading for that specific date.  At the end of each reading there is an application to do that day - "Unwrapping More of His Love in the World" and then there are some personal questions to answer. 

I bought a special journal to write the answers in so I wouldn't mark up the book (I plan to use it over and over each Christmas). 
After I answer the questions, I hang the specific ornament for that day on my Jesse tree (Advent tree) and then I sing a Christmas Carol.

I can't begin to tell you what joy has filled my heart and what a difference this has made this Christmas season.  Usually about this time of year, I am pulling my hair out because there are more things to get done then there are hours in the day.  I am usually about now extremely tired, frustrated, wiped out and wondering where all the joy of the season went!!

I am still busy this year, that hasn't changed; there is always the next thing that needs to be done, but I have hope, peace, joy and love in the midst of it.  My spirit is calm and things are getting done -
I'm not coming undone!! 
He has quieted my heart.  And this time before Christmas has become more about preparing my heart to receive Him, then about all the preparations of shopping, baking, wrapping, etc.

"Let every heart prepare Him room.......!"

This - this is what Christmas is all about - focusing on the One who is Christmas.  Focusing on what brought Him to earth, what kept Him here and what caused Him to hang on the cross -

His love for us...
He is the Gift.

He is the Giver.
And as we receive the "greatest gift", we, too, can become "givers" by passing on the gift,
passing on the hope, the peace, the joy and the love He gives so unselfishly, 
passing on the grace, mercy and truth that He shares with us unceasingly.
This is Good News!! 
The news that
God is always good and we are always loved!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Joy to the World!

This past Sunday we lit the 3rd candle of Advent- the candle of Joy!

I began to reflect on what brings joy - real, lasting joy - to a heart. 

Joy is not happiness and happiness is not joy. 
Joy originates from faith, for joy is the very essence of faith. 
Joy is lasting; happiness is temporal. 
Joy is rooted in our faith; happiness is rooted in the moment, a fleeting moment.
Joy, true joy focuses on Jesus and who He is; happiness focuses on self.
True joy is based on the Good News of the Gospel. 
The Good News that the baby who was born in a manger grew to become a man who would take my place on the cross and die for my sins - for your sins - and then was resurrected to take His place at the right hand of God, ever making intercession on my behalf! 
The Good News that I don't have to suffer the punishment of death and hell because my debt has been paid in full! 
The Good News that I can live in the Kingdom of God here on earth! 
"And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
Luke 2:10-12
Joy comes as a result of walking with God, being in a relationship with Him.  It's based on who He is in our lives.  I can be very unhappy, but still have the joy of the Lord because I trust in Him and who He is in my life.  My joy is not dependent on my circumstances because He is Lord of all my circumstances.  He knows my circumstances, He cares about my circumstances and He is always working in and through my circumstances.
The Bible tells me in Nehemiah 8:10 - "...for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  When my joy is rooted in Him, I am strong in Him and the power of His might and the knowledge that He is worthy to be trusted in my life.
Joy causes my heart to sing!  Joy brings a peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of unpeaceful situations.  Joy springs up at the remembrance of my Savior!  St. Augustine said, "No man can live without joy."  It is a sad heart indeed that has no joy!
Happiness is fleeting at best.  It is based on the outcome of certain situations and circumstances in our lives.  Or it is based on whether a certain person loves us or is good to us.  It is based on things - "if I only had this one thing, I could be truly happy."  But the happiness diminshes as the "thing" grows old and then we go in search of the next "thing" that will makes us "truly happy."
The apostle John said, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."  1 John 1:4
Our fellowship with the Father and his Son, Jesus, brings us full, true joy!!
The only thing that can kill my joy is - myself;
my self - the self that refuses to believe the Word of God;
the self that seeks to perform,
the self that seeks to be perfect,
the self that hurries, scurries and tries to fill up with all things temporal because I can't seem to believe that I am loved just for who I am and not for what I do or do not do!
This Advent Season open wide your hands and heart to receive the message of the Gospel - the Good News - open wide your hands and heart to receive the hope, peace and joy that the birth and ultimate death and resurrection of Jesus brings to us.
Let earth receive her King!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yes, Virginia, There Is A......God!

Several years ago, back in the 1970s, I wrote the following article.  I thought it appropriate at this time of year to share it with you.  

"In 1897 an eight-year-old girl wrote to the New York Sun and asked, "Is there a Santa Claus?"  The answer, which became very famous and most of us are familiar with, began, "...Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

In the world we live in today, we all struggle with many questions about life.  Many of our questions are never answered.  One question posed by almost everyone at one time or another during his/her life, "Is there a God?", receives as many different answers as the number of people who ask it. 

I would like to take the libery to answer this question in the same style Francis Church used those many years ago in the New York Sun.

Yes, Virginia, there is a God.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist; indeed, He is the very author of these.  The beauty and joy you feel when these abound were the very intention of God Himself when He sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us to Himself.  Jesus was then and is now, the very expression of love itself, the great unconditional love God has for each one of us.  Alas, how forsaken would be the world if there were no God.  Man would be forever lost in sin and left to his own self-destructive devices.

Not believe in God?!  You might as well not believe in life itself!  Have you ever awakened early in the morning to watch the sun rise?  Have you ever seen the beauty of freshly fallen snow?  Have you ever had your breath taken away by some sight too beautiful for words?  Have you ever seen or held a newborn baby?  Can you explain how some things "just happen to be?"

You might get your Papa to hire men to stand watch at every church in the world, but even if they never saw God enter in or come out, what would that prove?  That God doesn't go to church?  Aha, but that is precisely my point!  God does not live in a church building.  He lives within the heart of each believer who accepts the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus.  Nobody sees God, but that is no sign that there is no God.  The most real things in the world are those that no children or adult can see.  Have you ever seen electricity?  Put your finger in the wrong socket at the wrong time, though, and I'm sure you will feel electricity!  God is real, Virginia.  Whether we believe He exists or not, He is real.

No God?!  Yes, I believe with all my heart there is a God.  He is very real to me, Virginia.  I've felt that peace that only Jesus can give.  I've seen my life completely change and I feel a hope in my heart that this changing world could never give me.   Jesus, who came into the world as a helpless little baby, grew to be a man who would pay the price for my sins when He died on the cross.  Because of that, I am now reconciled to God and can have a relationship with Him in a way I never could before. 

Yes, there is a God!  He lives now and He lives forever.  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousands years from now, He will continue to live and reign as King in the hearts of men everywhere who are willing to humble themselves and call upon the name of Jesus.  The name that is higher than any other name and the only name men can call upon to be saved.

Yes, Virginia, there is a God.  And He will flood your heart with hope, peace, joy and love, if only you believe and receive!"