Lost Joy

joy

Joy. How many times do we get so wrapped up our circumstances, we turn our backs on it, unaware it is as close as peeking over our shoulder? However, truly, it is always there-bold and crisp, wrapped with a bright red ribbon and the merry giggle of bells.

The day this photo was taken, our granddaughter was in a funk. Mom had picked her up from daycare and hadn’t given her the down time it takes for her to unwind from being zapped socially. At 2 1/2, we learned very quickly that if she didn’t have a bit of refreshment and quiet, the melt down in the grocery store or visiting a neighbor would result in a toddler melt down of major proportions. Give her some breathing space, and she bounces back as the usually giggly, eyes dancing bundle of happiness.

Still today, one of her passions is to check people’s joy temperatures.  “Are you happy?” she asks with her brow knitted in concern. “I can make you happy,” she assures as she takes grubby toddler hands and pushes up one’s cheeks into a joker like smile. Who can resist perking up after that encouragement?

However, this day the planets were not aligning for anyone. Mom’s best friend, a fantastic photographer, was in town for a rare visit, and the quest to beat the setting sun had us rushing to jam sweet and adorable Christmas pictures in a sliver of quickly vanishing minutes.  Add being pitched into a strange environment, us all being tired, and cheerfully demanding that little missy be on center stage as we preformed ridiculous comedic antics any savy 2 1/2-year-old could see through was definitely not working. Bribery and begging failed miserably as well.

None of this was natural to her, which morphed her into a grumpy bearcat. Obviously, she felt the stress to produce in the way we fake cheerfully tried to eek out at least a few darling shots.

Instead, she shut down, pooched out that bottom lip, and crossed her arms to ward off the overwhelming. Take that, crazy people!

Thankfully, Photographer Meg captured this shot in which everyone can relate. How often do we sink our heels in and aren’t going to smile, gosh darn it!? Our stubbornness screams, “You can’t make me! You can’t control me.” Most of the time, it’s because we’re tired, scared, have either isolated or over socialized ourselves, are out of our realm of comfort, or have allowed our fragile confidence to be stolen. Why on earth do we make Joy work so hard?

What if we saw it as being more than mere happiness? What if we fed it raw meat for breakfast and depended on the fact it has iron in its soul?

“The joy of the Lord is my strength…” Psalm 28:7 is what everyone remembers, but if one travels a bit farther, we find, “… and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Until now did you realize Joy has protection woven in it’s fabric to form His shield, warding off the arrows of cynicism, doubt, depression, bullheadedness, criticism, negativity, and whatever else is crammed into the poisoned quiver.

The bottom line of this verse urges us if we will be brave enough to trust Him though the fatigue, being out of our element, fear, having our confidence stomped on, too much being thrown at us, or a myriad of other overwhelming factors, Joy will burst through the cracks, to light us as we radiantly draw others to Him. Sure, anyone can be joyful through perfect times; it’s the challenging ones where Joy shows off God’s faithful presence most excellently.

May we always choose joy to be our shield.

(PS-Megan of Megan Colson Photography did end up pulling out these smiles from somewhere. Joy wins again! All photo credits go to her)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Witnessing a ‘Mary’ Christmas

What is everyone standing around for?  Pick up the baby!!!

What is everyone standing around for? Pick up the baby!!!

The young mama-to-be found herself in a precarious situation. Only God knew she carried the child. The circumstance was too much for even family and friends to understand. She could only imagine the glances, the whispering, the opinions, and way too much advice. This baby had to be protected at all costs. The human side of her wallowed in a bed of sleepless nights, for how could this possibly turn out well? Yet, she knew in her heart she was honored to be carrying this precious gift. To think the future of the child was unknown—well, she couldn’t afford to think about it now. All she knew was she had committed to follow this through.

When the labor pains began, she cried to the Lord. And He was faithful.

The wiggly bundle looked at her with moments fresh eyes, ones filled with wonder and uncanny wisdom. She tucked the moment into her heart and said, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you will be to someone.”

As days ticked by, God’s will revealed that this precious baby would not only affect the lives of many, but would be the redemption for the mama as well.

A story straight out of Bethlehem…

And Emporia, KS.

Every year I intentionally pray that God would show me something new from the age old story of Him in baby-bound form coming to earth. Little did we know that He’d start revealing our advent revelation on the quite early date of July 3rd. In a ballet of unmerited favor and unbelievable provision on so many levels, God showed himself faithful through the birth of a unforeseen girl grandbaby. Her name is the testament of God smiling on each and every person her life touches–Gracie Olive. (A ‘wow’ moment in research just revealed itself–Olive means ‘anointed for the good of love and charity.’ Perfect!)

Make no mistake, this child is certainly not divine. She can throw a ring-tailed fit like no other. However, her arrival was swaddled in the warmth of God’s love.

And while making different choices to scoot them down life’s road, I’m convinced our daughter Misty and Mary still would have heart-connected at the local MOPs meeting. Oh, the things they have in common. Ordinary people thrown in extraordinary circumstances. Come take a look.

Let’s start with every branch and leaf of family being nothing but supportive. Nary a stone was as much as tripped over, much less picked up. Perhaps, this was Mary’s family’s reaction as well, since she stayed in her hometown, except for visiting cousin Elizabeth, until that uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem popped up. Whether the decision would be adoption or to keep this little one, everyone respected Misty’s judgment and had her back.

Once our dear friends Megan and Michaela heard the tidings of great joy, they dropped everything and made the three hour journey faster than hyped up shepherds on the hunt for a newborn King. And Cheryl…well, she hovered over the story from afar, being the angelic ear and prayer warrior to the heavenlies we needed at critical times. Pat’s chicken and noodles were truly a Godsend after eight days of eating hospital and drive-thru meals.

While Mary was visited by Magi bearing exotic gifts, Galen and Richelle from Argonia in the East came barreling through the door with a new baby bed and pink bedding with zebras dancing on it.

While angels winged across star-dazzled skies, singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” our pastor strummed his guitar, lifting up heart-felt praises from our couch.

Two communities of faith in the fashion of the true redeeming love of Christ were generous past the point of ridiculous. And while in the hospital, once it became apparent that baby was coming home with her mama, the nurses blew us away with gifts and encouragement fit for royalty as well.

Instead of Anna’s tears touching Baby Jesus’s cheek, Pam of the Co-op’s eyes glistened as she knelt in front of Gracie snoozing in the rock-in-play, unspeakable joy running in streams down her face. Our threshold became a well-worn path of those pouring love, encouragement, and offering babysitting services. Every single on soul itched to get their hands on her.

Ordinary people kissed by God, lavishly serving Him in extraordinary ways.

Tonight I gaze upon my Grandma Olive’s handed down nativity scene. I appreciate and understand the distant reverence and awe the brightly-colored characters hold for the Christ child in the manger.

However, from what we experienced, how can anyone keep their hands off of a baby? Don’t we all crave to drink in the scent of purity, snuggle the softness of love, and treasure in the whispered coos that are the healing salve of the deepest wounds? The world cannot compete with this phenomenon. Even the most regal Wise Man would have cracked open a chuckle at a bit of baby slobber as it ran down lush robes. Who can resist those powers?

For almost six months we have seen that mojo every day. Like I said, Gracie Olive is not divine, but she gave joy to a lonely old woman in Wal-Mart, flirted a smile out of a car technician, and made Santa laugh when she ate his beard. Every stop takes ten times longer with her around. She’s kind of become everybody’s baby, and her dimpled smile sprinkles joy like glitter on heaven’s breath.

This little glimpse we have been blessed with has opened the earthly blind a little wider to see how hands-on our Savior is. Whether it was the bleeding woman that simply needed a touch of his garment, or the children he insisted hanging out with, or the multitudes that were drawn to him, there is comfort in knowing that no way would He be confined to a manger for one second longer than necessary.

Oh yes, He is everybody’s Savior.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

‘Mary’ Christmas from The Long Family!

photo credit: http://blog.christmasnightinc.com/tag/outdoor-nativity-scenes/

The Beauty in the Barren

House 2Definition of barren: Highway 10 from La Junta to Walsenburg, Colorado.

(So I’m not Webster, but am a watered-down relative, who is taking a few liberties.)

When I was merely a sprout of a Kansan, it was quickly imprinted on me that the mountains were created specifically for my family, but we considerately let everyone else borrow them. While there is nothing like a glorious Kansas sunset and great majesty in the red dirt wide open spaces, a refreshment of the soul happens on those pine-scented slopes one can find no where else.

However, to arrive there is no getting around trudging through a longsuffering stretch of desert wilderness. Magnetically, our engrained homing device always pulls us down this particular dusty trail.

While a two lane highway, it is  a 72 mile stretch where almost nothing grows, albeit some desperate cactuses thumbing for a lift. Scanning the horizon, one might see an anxious antelope, whose GPS evidently malfunctioned. Skeletons of homesteads mark hopes and dreams drying up and blowing away. I always have to ponder why on earth someone would purposefully decide this was the place to stop and stake a claim. Just traveling across it, I marvel the endurance and tenacity of the settlers moving west. I’m sorry, but after so much of traversing land where only sand and rocks grow, I would have demanded that Cliff Sackett turn the wagon around for what we had left was a whole heap better than where we were headed. On a hazy day, Common Sense would have campaigned that our destination had deserted us, and we would be foolishly trudging on forever.

Back in the non-air conditioned day, my family would pack the old Pontiac and head out. The 72 miles took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, especially when you’re six and the brand new crayons are melting into a clump in the back window. It was impossible to believe this was our final stretch and within 30 minutes of its end, we would be engulfed in the cool, stunning beauty of rushing streams and bejeweled pallets of wildflowers.

However, experience is a fabulous teacher. Having gone down this road more times than I can count, that 72 miles seems to get shorter, and after zipping through the harshness of Death Valley a few years back, the scraggly resilient cattle are a welcome sight, along with the possibility of maybe ten oncoming vehicles traveling this, too. I have learned that whether I can see those blessed peaks or not, they are there, strong and mighty, to welcome us.

This summer has been a rough one, hasn’t it?  And I’m not even talking personal issues, which demands unfathomable attention and energy. Our world is turning upside down with a constant volley of reports on the Zika virus, open season on police officers, tragedies that are fuzzy on who is at fault, ISIS attacks, and I’m not even touching on the insanity of the upcoming election. This list could string all day long.

Honestly, I’ve been in a funk. I’ve survived by busying myself so I don’t have to deal with  the fierceness of this desert storm. With a forecast of worse droughts ahead, I can only take so much. So I gloomily meander.

However, wandering in the wilderness is sure bleak. At times I falter a bit to being mad or scared for the future, but mostly I’m in a state of mourning, mixed with a kind of forlorn disappointment is best I can put it. Of course, I want to turn around to what was, but life is not designed that way. I can feel an on-my-face Jesus meeting is on the horizon. I kick myself for not simply getting on with it as I temporarily homestead on this impoverished ground. I know that I know that I know from covering this ground before, the refreshment and security of abiding in the shadow of the Most High will bring peace and rest.  And I will shout once again, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps 91:2)

But today, I’m still not quite there. But I’m miles closer than I was. I see the majesty from a far and His scent continues to draw me like a magnet. I can stake a claim on what I know without a doubt.

Growth will come through the barren, and beauty will blossom.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

(PS-For those good folks that do live in that area, I have nothing but highest respect for you and would love for you to share the beauty that I believe is there.)

Photo Credit-Patrick Praelan

 

The Plunge: Swimming Through Lessons in Humilty

cartoon swim

Swimming lessons with a 3 year old splashed humility all over this grandma.  Allow me to throw you a life preserver in order for you to avoid getting drenched as well.

Lesson #1-Don’t let your plan or pride keep you from the task at hand. Due to my daughter’s work schedule, I was the one to take Gracie for two weeks to a private backyard pool. In with her sunscreen and towel, I packed my book with visions of looking up from my riveting tale to shout inspiring encouragement as our little fish found her inner-mermaid. Wrong. The pool was just deep enough that Gracie couldn’t touch, and several of the tadpoles were there alone, so the instructor had her hands full. In a flash, I found myself, street clothes and all, with 20-30 something bikini clad moms, gliding the future Esther Williams on her tummy through the waves.  From then on, the book stayed home and over my swimsuit came my “Wendy Peppercorn is a Royals Fan” tank top.

Lesson #2-Pushing through pain is worth the effort, but the voices have to be ignored. While physically I could be way more fit, I’m not too shabby. However, due to the shallower depth of the pool, in order to help Gracie, my knees did not appreciate the constant strain put on them in this awkward position.They screamed and tried to convince me that I was dooming me to a future of unending meniscus surgeries and an ibuprofen drip. Honestly, I was on the verge of saying “Sweet Uncle of Marco Polo”, but Gracie would be left high and dry. However, in time, whatever ligaments were being stressed finally stretched out and now feel better than ever. While we dog paddle between the line of common sense and sucking it up, we need not be controlled by the negative or we will never discover what God has up his sleeve for us.

Lesson #3-Patience, patience, patience. Everyone has a different pace. Some of the kids there will obliviously be competing in the  2028 Olympics. They hit the water like a golden retriever after a duck.  On the other side of the buoy, others were clinging to their moms in terror and trying to scramble to higher ground on the top of Mom’s head. Gracie was kind of middle ground. At three, this venture proved to be on her own terms. In fact, one day, she was not having it, so we had to throw in the beach towel and simply pack it in. Then on most days, whenever the instructor came our direction with her perky positive countenance, Gracie would plaster on a fake smile and turn her back on her like, “If I act like I don’t see her, she’ll go away, because I see her plan to ask me to do something I’m not cool with.” Back in the day, I would have had my kids in the corner and frustrated that “we paid good money for this, so get in there and do what she tells you!” (How I appreciate the blessing of being down the road a bit farther now and the wisdom that goes with it.)

The instructor, however, is a master with this age. She would flounce off, give Little Miss Thing space, and then circle back around, not giving up, but allowing her breathing room and time to process getting more comfortable with this new adventure. After several days, Gracie discovered she wanted Tina’s attention and was hollering, “Look at me!”, eventually going with Tina to try some new stuff.

Lesson #4-Don’t expect someone to be courageous if you aren’t willing to be as well.  The big treat at the end of a session was to go down the slide—well, for most of them it was a treat. One mom was trying to encourage her little guy to go down.  He was at clinching the top rails and screaming like a gut-shot panther.  Gracie was soaking it in as I held her in the pool. She yelled in her most excellent, positive, motivational speaker voice, “Be brave, Cameron!” This gave me great hope as she was yet to show a lick of interest in this activity. “So, do you want to go down the slide?”  She matter-of-factly looked at me and stated firmly, “No.”   Another reality arrow with ‘guilty’ written on it pierced my heart.  How many times do we encourage others like we have it all figured out when we would be shaking in our floaties in the same situation?  Oh, how we need to pray for wisdom in the act of encouraging so that it doesn’t sound like it came from the shallow end.

Lesson #5-It seems hopeless right before the breakthrough. Toward the end of my tour of duty, I told my daughter I was afraid I had taken Gracie as far as I could. True, I could have been more firmer in attempting to cajole her into success, but here is where I was laying down the grandma card. You gigis know what I mean. Grandmas can lavish a bit more grace than parents once in awhile-sometimes out of love and sometimes out of sheer survival.  So far she was content for me to coast her Cleopatra style along the Nile. Bubble blowing was rare, not to mention the super courageous plunge under. Don’t even hint at the s-l-i-d-e. In addition, the day before had been the mondo melt-down session when I pulled the plug and dragged the soggy, sobby, little muskrat home. Beached is how I felt with my role in the swimming lesson gig.

But the next day dawned.

GO (her nickname since she’s named Gracie Olive) was nothing but GO!  She wanted to swim with the instructor–well glide like Cleopatra, but got to love baby steps! She could have powered a MasterCraft X26 with the bubbles she blew and her ‘princess kick’ action. Her eyes lit up when it came slide time, and she climbed that ladder ‘by myself!” like she was Greg Louganis’s twin sister. When she let loose to fly down the shoot, the light in her eyes gleamed of the start of an irresistible aquatic romance.

Not a bit of what went on hinged on me or my performance. Simply being present and willing to get wet was all that was asked.

Which proves again, in the everyday, God shows himself in the silly or the serious.  His words are true. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

How has God shown you that His grace is sufficient?  I’d love to know.

Photo credit: http://swimsafer.webs.com/photos/High_resolution_boy.jpg

 

 

 

 

“Hold on Kids! We’re Goin’ for a Ride!”

roller coaster 2

(Gives ‘Kumba-ya’ a whole new perspective, huh? Prayers on the rise?)

Life.

Full of the exhilarating, yet, teamed at times with the white knuckled, breath-stealing chills of a runaway roller-coaster.  Sometimes, the clank of the cogs build anticipation as the tick-tick warns you of something building, be it good or bad. Then, sometimes there is an astonishing twist, a turn, a corkscrew that materializes from nowhere to make the strongest heart quake.

For the almost exactly three years to the date, this blog has been eerily quiet. Life at that time was full of thrills and chills, but ones that tended to give the friendly delight of little butterflies fluttering about the stomach.  That grand baby boy to marvel at and with, a meant-to-be marriage proposal, to witness the relief from a long fought illness by a faithful believer graduating to glory in the most splendid departure, and a long-awaited writing passion finally beginning to taking shape.

And the list goes on.

But suddenly, the roller coaster seemed to take on a mind of its own. Lightning couldn’t compete with its speed, and on occasion, the crushing pressure on our lungs needed a whisper to be reminded to simply “breathe.”

That Whisperer urged us to not fight the ride, but relax and lean into those curves for the track was laid out by the Master Planner, who prepared this journey long before the foundations of the earth. Gently, an unexplainable confidence settled over us.

Our fingers one by one were pried off the bar, we tossed our heads back and threw our hands to the heavens.

And oh, what a ride it has been!!!

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 King 19:11-12

(Just love that ‘gentle whisper’ part, don’t you? To bring the regular subscribers up to speed-if you are still there-with the exception of a blog post at Christmas a couple of years ago Having a ‘Mary’ Christmas, God put up a ‘Closed’ sign for the season. I couldn’t explain how that worked if I tried. Just as mind-boggling, now it seems to be cracking open a bit. Only God knows how much of the past will surface, and what new adventures will pop up today. I guess we’ll see where the coaster takes us, huh?  So buckle that seat belt tight and enjoy the ride!)

Photo credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HDMexqDn5U

 

 

Witnessing a ‘Mary’ Christmas

What is everyone standing around for?  Pick up the baby!!!

What is everyone standing around for? Pick up the baby!!!

The young mama-to-be found herself in a precarious situation. Only God knew she carried the child. The circumstance was too much for even family and friends to understand. She could only imagine the glances, the whispering, the opinions, and way too much advice. This baby had to be protected at all costs. The human side of her wallowed in a bed of sleepless nights, for how could this possibly turn out well? Yet, she knew in her heart she was honored to be carrying this precious gift. To think the future of the child was unknown—well, she couldn’t afford to think about it now. All she knew was she had committed to follow this through.

When the labor pains began, she cried to the Lord. And He was faithful.

The wiggly bundle looked at her with moments fresh eyes, ones filled with wonder and uncanny wisdom. She tucked the moment into her heart and said, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you will be to someone.”

As days ticked by, God’s will revealed that this precious baby would not only affect the lives of many, but would be the redemption for the mama as well.

A story straight out of Bethlehem…

And Emporia, KS.

Every year I intentionally pray that God would show me something new from the age old story of Him in baby-bound form coming to earth. Little did we know that He’d start revealing our advent revelation on the quite early date of July 3rd. In a ballet of unmerited favor and unbelievable provision on so many levels, God showed himself faithful through the birth of a unforeseen girl grandbaby. Her name is the testament of God smiling on each and every person her life touches–Gracie Olive. (A ‘wow’ moment in research just revealed itself–Olive means ‘anointed for the good of love and charity.’ Perfect!)

Make no mistake, this child is certainly not divine. She can throw a ring-tailed fit like no other. However, her arrival was swaddled in the warmth of God’s love.

And while making different choices to scoot them down life’s road, I’m convinced our daughter Misty and Mary still would have heart-connected at the local MOPs meeting. Oh, the things they have in common. Ordinary people thrown in extraordinary circumstances. Come take a look.

Let’s start with every branch and leaf of family being nothing but supportive. Nary a stone was as much as tripped over, much less picked up. Perhaps, this was Mary’s family’s reaction as well, since she stayed in her hometown, except for visiting cousin Elizabeth, until that uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem popped up. Whether the decision would be adoption or to keep this little one, everyone respected Misty’s judgment and had her back.

Once our dear friends Megan and Michaela heard the tidings of great joy, they dropped everything and made the three hour journey faster than hyped up shepherds on the hunt for a newborn King. And Cheryl…well, she hovered over the story from afar, being the angelic ear and prayer warrior to the heavenlies we needed at critical times. Pat’s chicken and noodles were truly a Godsend after eight days of eating hospital and drive-thru meals.

While Mary was visited by Magi bearing exotic gifts, Galen and Richelle from Argonia in the East came barreling through the door with a new baby bed and pink bedding with zebras dancing on it.

While angels winged across star-dazzled skies, singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” our pastor strummed his guitar, lifting up heart-felt praises from our couch.

Two communities of faith in the fashion of the true redeeming love of Christ were generous past the point of ridiculous. And while in the hospital, once it became apparent that baby was coming home with her mama, the nurses blew us away with gifts and encouragement fit for royalty as well.

Instead of Anna’s tears touching Baby Jesus’s cheek, Pam of the Co-op’s eyes glistened as she knelt in front of Gracie snoozing in the rock-in-play, unspeakable joy running in streams down her face. Our threshold became a well-worn path of those pouring love, encouragement, and offering babysitting services. Every single on soul itched to get their hands on her.

Ordinary people kissed by God, lavishly serving Him in extraordinary ways.

Tonight I gaze upon my Grandma Olive’s handed down nativity scene. I appreciate and understand the distant reverence and awe the brightly-colored characters hold for the Christ child in the manger.

However, from what we experienced, how can anyone keep their hands off of a baby? Don’t we all crave to drink in the scent of purity, snuggle the softness of love, and treasure in the whispered coos that are the healing salve of the deepest wounds? The world cannot compete with this phenomenon. Even the most regal Wise Man would have cracked open a chuckle at a bit of baby slobber as it ran down lush robes. Who can resist those powers?

For almost six months we have seen that mojo every day. Like I said, Gracie Olive is not divine, but she gave joy to a lonely old woman in Wal-Mart, flirted a smile out of a car technician, and made Santa laugh when she ate his beard. Every stop takes ten times longer with her around. She’s kind of become everybody’s baby, and her dimpled smile sprinkles joy like glitter on heaven’s breath.

This little glimpse we have been blessed with has opened the earthly blind a little wider to see how hands-on our Savior is. Whether it was the bleeding woman that simply needed a touch of his garment, or the children he insisted hanging out with, or the multitudes that were drawn to him, there is comfort in knowing that no way would He be confined to a manger for one second longer than necessary.

Oh yes, He is everybody’s Savior.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

‘Mary’ Christmas from The Long Family!

photo credit: http://blog.christmasnightinc.com/tag/outdoor-nativity-scenes/

Three Months of Riding Crazy Waves Grace

5224454-cartoon-surfer-girl--vector-illustrationFor a little over three months, our lives have been turned into a whirlpool. Not only by one event, but by an unusually brisk revisting current.

I have witnessed several friends who have gone through seasons of extreme long-suffering calamity. How they have survived is not beyond me. They clinched on desperately by fingernail faith. When that sliver gave way, God caught them with compassionate faithfulness.

We’ve all had our if-it-ain’t-the-hogs-it’s-the-chickens-and-if-it-ain’t-the-chickens-it’s-the-windmill seasons as well. Ones that left us staggering and not able to remember ALL that we went through.

Has ‘come on, Lord! Give us a break!’ become your constant prayer? Has God mercifully allowed you to keep one foot in front of the other, even if your hair hadn’t seen a brush in you don’t know how long? Are you to the place that you know He is the only way you still stand? Perhaps, down the road you will recognize how you’ve been molded and shaped in priceless ways, but at this moment, you are hunkered down at the faucet, waiting for that lazy drip of a life-giving blessing drop to splash a tiny bit of coolness on your parched tongue?

But, is it possible for things to swing the other way? Does God do that?

Make no mistake about it. He can, and He does!
Our fumbly-bumbly, non-suspecting family rafted along His swirling whitewaters of unmerited favor this summer. When the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and the One that even the wind and waves obey chooses to cut loose, you’d best have your floaties inflated. Humility and awe soaks one to the core.

Ordinary days transformed by the millisecond into pivotal events worthy of entry in the Long Family Bible log. Seriously. Seemingly insignificant happenings from years prior became rudders to steer crucial life-changing events into being. So much goodness, faithfulness, and provision streamed in on a need-to-need basis. In the midst of these renegade waves cresting, I vowed to take a sledgehammer to my inner crystal ball and shatter that defective sucker. Who could say what was going to sweep into our lives next, for how long, or in what way? If cameras were rolling, we would be stars of a hit reality show or destined for a segment of Focus on the Family at least. By all rights some of the circumstances shouted extreme chaos, but a presence over took that stilled our hearts and allowed God to navigate the surges for us and vaporize our blind spots to appreciate how truly blessed we are.

Today, the whirlpool seems to be calming a bit. Our exhausted bodies thankfully seem to be given the gift of a breath, but who knows. Heaven knows I am not at all complaining, quite the opposite. We crave a sort of balance and stability, enough that even an ordinary vanilla yogurt day can be viewed as a blessing as well.

So what are these stories? This blog is about to light up with them. They demand and rush to be shared. However, some may stay curled, and who knows if they will ever give permission to unfurl publicly. What’s important is we can tuck the memory of His mercies in our back pockets when we are tossed once again over stormy and uncharted seas of life.

What I hope to pass on is that whatever one goes through is not fluff, but that every single bit is a key element to a bigger plan. May you let His hope guide you through the day and the darkest night–God is perfectly faithful and loves you so.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt 6:28-31<

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