31 December 2015

Reflections on a Year


I end the year in a spirit of celebration with a mixture of exhaustion and anticipation of good things to come in this approaching new year. Challenges, for sure, but ones that help me to grow into a better person, employee, and writer.

I seek so much for this coming year, and I remain full with thanks for what has already happened. I would not be who I am today if it were not for these challenging days/weeks/months of 2015. Both personally and professionally. And for those who have encouraged me, I am deeply thankful for you.

Looking back on a year in reflection causes me to recall several things I have learned. Some bits of wisdom I have come to know more deeply this year.  Amongst them being the following. 

- Look on each new day as a new page. Remember that is full of endless potential.

- A challenge is going to stretch you beyond what you thought you could take. But you took it.

- You never know who God is going to bring into your life. There is usually a good reason.

- Stress you put on yourself is only going to be felt by you.

- Don't forget to take time out for tea/coffee and reflections each day. It is the act of slowing down to enjoy that is important.

- Usually a really rough day is following by a day so delightfully and unpredictably sweet.

- When you give your all, it will be evident.

- When you can let things go, life looks so much brighter.

- If you feel so weighed down and sure that you will fail, keep going. Go on anyway.

- When you come upon a struggle in yourself, pray.

- When you want something, pray.

- When you need something, pray.

- When you think you are the only one, you are not.

- Blank pages are the best. You get to fill them.

Get ready for the new set of blank pages in a new year. I am eager and look expectantly toward that goodness that is to come.

Hello 2016.

30 December 2015

In Anticipation of.....

Places to stop and reflect.

Today would be a particularly perfect day to be overcast, grey, and rainy except that it is the exact opposite. Sunny and hot.
Is this winter?

Odd as it seems, it is the strangeness that we live in, and I ponder at it. As I muse on it, I remember that there are other places in the world that aren't so hot. I long to go there. I long to walk the cobbled streets and breathe in the crisp air. A place with weather and overcast skies. A place chilled and yet moving and buzzing with life along the streets. A peppering of people chatting on street corners and their boots clicking on the sidewalks.

Where the people get chilled, they are found ducking into cafes to get cups of soup for lunch. There are places where I stop in a coffee shop to sit at a solitary table, warming up with a cup of coffee and the written word.

A grey sky and busy street rests outside the window, and viewing it from said solitary table is a way to be a part of it, but be still and quiet for a little while, before wrapping up and dashing back out onto the street. 

Since I always carry a book and my journal in my bag, I can stop in a coffee shop or tea room on a whim, and pick a spot to linger with a hot drink and words to dwell in. The background noise is soothing and the chatter and clang of coffee cups helps my focus as I write. Somehow, it is not a cacophony, but a melody of the daily sounds of life. Busy and slow -- a mixture of two speeds.

I am in anticipation of when I get to do this again.

28 December 2015

Slowing Down

It was the days after Christmas and all through my home
The candles were burning; I was reading quietly, alone.

Here I have been, on these fog-laden humid mornings and afternoons. Here is where I have been slowing down. Here is where I would like to stay for awhile. Reveling in the quiet and the peaceful. The hours of reading or the hours of just spending time with family. The comfortable, cosy feelings that surround Christmas. 

These days are spent without agendas. Not much happens. Just enjoyment of company. Yet, somehow the days fly by. Time seems to separate from the norm and goes too quickly. All too soon it is back to the usual daily schedule. But shhh, not quite yet. 

The sky is close, and grey. Darkness covers the mornings in fog, and I don't mind one bit. The drive over to visit with family is a different landscape with fog, and I look at the lake that has disappeared as if I am looking at it for the first time. Wonder fills me.

At home, I am engrossed in this new book I got for Christmas, and I cannot put it down, it is so intriguing and mysterious. I will most certainly write about it more as I digest the immense amount of clues and mystery.

If you re having quiet, slow days, take them in. Breathe deeply and cherish the time. Because all too soon the real life tasks will creep in again.

25 December 2015

Happy Christmas!

Be merry.
Joy to the world!
Christ - In whom all things hold together.

Merry Christmas!

I am deeply thankful for all the people in my life who make my days sweeter. Those who love me for who I am, and appreciate me. I value them so deeply. Specifically at this time of year, I always think about that because we spend time with each other, buy gifts, write cards, and do special things for each other. I love doing all these things for those in my life, even though I do not like shopping very much. It brings me joy to do things for those I care for so deeply. That is what I love doing, not out of any obligation, but because I want to show I care.

Don't you feel that way? Like you want to shower your loved ones with ways of saying "I wanted to do this for you" or "I wanted to get you this wonderful gift because I care for you".

Now multiply that by an exponential number and that's what God did for us. He sent a gift down to earth, in Christ. An infant wrapped in cloth and visited by lowly shepherds first. He loves us so much that He wanted to shower us with a gift so wonderful we could never produce such a thing. A gift that would do something for us that we can never do for ourselves. Take our sins and wash us clean by taking the punishment we deserve. All of that begins with the baby boy born on Christmas.

Christmas is so wonderful because it is something we never could replicate. It is something so mysterious. So full of wonder and so beautiful. Enjoy it with loved ones, and remember that the whole reason we give gifts is because God gave us a gift. A gift of hope and promise, packaged up in a baby born in Bethlehem. 

24 December 2015

God's Grace in Many Places

O Emmanuel by Malcolm Guite

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us

O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

I begrudgingly wake up to some very humid warmth. It certainly does not feel like winter, and Christmas is tomorrow. And yet, I cannot help but feel full of cheer and thanks. I do not have reason to complain. For God is good, and His graciousness overflows abundantly, unless you close it off. We do not have to notice God's grace that is evident in so many places. But He is still there.

Christ plays in ten thousand places, wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins. And it is true, and these words make my imagination wander and consider the omnipresence of God, but we can choose to dwell in ourselves and not notice the good that Christ plays all around us.

I can complain all day about the hot weather, but instead I notice all the cheerful decor, the candles, the smiles on faces, the kindness, and I smile at the reminders that God is with us. He has come, to become lowly, and to be with us. Not in a kingly arrival, but a humble arrival on Christmas.

Instead of our Saviour coming and looking down upon us, He comes as an equal (and yet even more lowly) to be with us, next to us. Not lofty and high above us.

Thank You, for the daily reminders Lord, that I am loved and that I can rest in You because You have come, and You have done the most amazing thing by taking my sin as Your own. My thanks are infinite. Glory to God!

21 December 2015

Reluctant Winter

A thousand flowers, each one seeming one
That learnt by gazing on the sun
To counterfeit his shining;
Within whose leaves the holy dew
That falls from heaven has won anew
A glory, in declining.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The days of reluctant winter have broken at last, and suddenly, like a swift moving gale wind, the winter has arrived in the deep south and I can rejoice. I get to wear a jacket. I get to go outside and take a walk as I love to do, feeling the brisk air brush against my skin. It is, I admit, a bit of a shock to the system when I am so accustomed to the warm, humid air, but you will not hear complaints from me. I will just add another layer and be so merry.

As quickly as the chilled air arrives, it will depart. It is swift and sweet, and there is no telling of a repeat visit. So, indulgence is a necessity. One must seize the day, or in this case, the few days.

When I take a walk, like I did on this brisk, windy, lovely day, part of my requirement is to find a good place to read. That is an important aspect of enjoying the outdoors, to me. So, of course, I stopped in the garden after my walk, to sit in the shade on the stone bench, and read. The wind blew my hair and my pages, but I read until it was too cold to stay there any longer. When the air is crisp, I take my reading outside and stay there until I grow too cold. Then I head home and make a pot of tea to warm up. It is my idea of the loveliest way to spend the day.

16 December 2015

Exactly Who You Are

Some neither lie nor starve nor fight,
Nor yet the poor deny;
But in their hearts all is not right,—
They often sit and sigh.
We need thee every day and hour,
In sunshine and in snow:
Child-king, we pray with all our power—
Be born, and save us so.

-George MacDonald (1862)

I am tired and should go to bed, but my heart wants to linger here with some blank pages, in my cosy living room with glowing candles, white twinkle lights, white mums, greenery, and gifts under the tree.

The quiet evening lingers in a warmth too far away from the feeling of winter, but close enough to a cool temperature that I can turn off my a/c as the evening grows deeper. I listen to the crickets outside and the occasional noisy car out on the road. I breathe deeply with a few moments of quiet and just being still.

I feel inspired by people dear to me in my life who have such a deep trust in God and His goodness and the provisions that He provides and will continue to provide. All shall be well. When our hope is in Christ, we can never be let down, and we are always enough, just who we are.

No matter the circumstances, we are meant to be just as we are. No additions necessary. As much as we may wish for certain changes to ourselves, we are not required to become someone different than what God set inside of you. We should be exactly who we are, and begin there each day.

14 December 2015

Share Cheer

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die

- John Donne

Share some cheer with others. For the season of light is upon us, and it is all about the gift of Christ. The hope that comes along with God's promises sustains us through the year, but in this advent season, we wait and prepare for the reminder we come to each year. That while we were all still sinners, God sent Christ as a baby for us. A gift, to us undeserving folks, because of His deep love for us.

How can we show thanks for such a gift?
By giving to others.
Giving time.
Giving love.
Giving an ear to someone who needs to be heard.
Giving thoughtful gifts.
Giving joy.
Giving grace to someone who needs some.
Giving forgiveness.
Giving energy toward something worthy.
Giving light to the darkness.
Giving cheer to the lonely.

Giving thoughtful responses.

We are here to share the cheer of the season. Focused and centred, it is, on the love of God. Let the rush of culture and the lures of materialistic society pass you by, while letting the deeply rooted love sink into your soul this season.

09 December 2015

O to Read!

O to read!
It is a delight! Something I have missed so dearly.

Yesterday, I took the final part of the securities licensing exam, which means that I have been in full-on study mode for several weeks (months really) and haven't read more than a few pages in my books at a time because studying has taken precedence. I am one of those serious studious types that uses all free time to read and practice, because I have to and because I want to understand it. If I could remember and apply everything so easily I wouldn't study so much, but I also do not allow any room for failing, so the pressure is there. Surely that is my own doing.

But lo and behold- I passed my exam! So, I am free to dive into my books again, so long neglected!
I rejoice and give God all glory for getting me through it.

As I was prepping and growing nervous of the impending exam, I fell across these verses. It never is just falling across certain verses, though. I believe God helps direct us to words that bring us reminders and also comfort, and are applicable to certain situations.

For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You have brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on your backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

- Psalm 66.10-12

I let these words dwell in me. It is not that we should not go through struggles. We do go through them and that is where God meets us to bring us all the way through to a better place. We stay true and trusting of God. We lean on Him for wisdom, understanding, and strength. The comfort in knowing that through all the trials and testing, God brings us out on the other side to a place of abundance.

Grace abounding.
Love surrounding.

As I got home after passing the exam, this new book was waiting in my mailbox. And that's one of the first things I did, was read a few chapters in this book, with great enjoyment.

03 December 2015

Around Cheer

What is written now is not only influenced by what has been written in the past but in itself modifies the way we read the poetry of the past. It shines new lights upon it and makes new connections.
- Malcolm Guite

Our year is a cycle. Round and round we go, each year coming to the same holiday. The same remembrances. The same stories. Do you tune out the story when you hear it again?

Perhaps we are meant to revisit these same reminders year after year because we need those reminders. Deep within our souls, we need to be reminded of what we are truly made for. Not this world and all the material and cultural desires. But far better things than we can even imagine.

We need to remember that the love of God comes down to earth on Christmas in the form of a baby. One who saves us from our sins. One who washes us clean.

Each year when we hear the story again or read it again, we should look upon it with fresh eyes, as if seeing it for the first time. Reflect how the last year has changed your heart, and how God's gift to us can impact you differently now.

This year, be reminded that there is a reason we have calendar years that repeat. Our memories can be short, and we need that reminder each year. To bring us back to a place of light, wonder, delight, love, and giving. Recognizing that all of that and all we know as good is only possible because of God. He is the Father of Lights.

01 December 2015

Song of Thankfulness

The name of the True God will be my song, an uplifting tune of praise and thanksgiving!
- Psalm 69.30

We toil and rush through all our days and rarely take time to dwell in some beautiful moments. When life moves so fast, the weeks fly by, and the time is easily spent. But not always enjoyed. Part of what I love at Thanksgiving is the requirement of me to slow down a bit. Don't get me wrong, Thanksgiving is exhausting. It is several days of family/friends, hours of games, late nights, and full social times that take all my energy. But I would not wish to transfer that out. These are the few days that I dwell in the social aspect of seeing those people I but rarely get to see. Sometimes just once a year. A group of people I have known most of my life. It is an interesting thing to come back each year to see what has changed, and what is just the same.

These days of thankfulness sing in my mind as songs of praise to God in thanksgiving. For the days that force me to step away and enjoy the beauty of my hometown and the warmth of my family and friends. This is not a given assumption, but a gift from above. It is God's gift that we are able to look a little deeper into things and people. Filled with songs of thankfulness.