Sunday, January 19, 2014

Always by My Side

I touched the beautifully adorned Christmas tree and needles began to fall. Sadly, I knew it was time to remove it...

This year, I'd gone with a teddy-bear decorating theme, in honor of our "Ted-bear" we were all missing so much. But removing the warmth, beauty and symbolism from my home wouldn't be easy, especially this first Christmas without my loving husband. The kids had all been home from far-away places, and we had shared sweet "God-with-us" time together, cementing new memories in this journey that was uncertain for all of us.

As I slowly took off each ornament with a story of its own, I thought I could be strong. But the tears began to flow. "I miss you so much, my love," I began to say to Ted. "It's been so long since I've heard your sweet voice. If only I could hear your voice... I loved our life together." I realized it had been exactly nine months since I had last heard him speak... since the night he'd been put into a drug-induced coma that he had never come out of.

I turned on my Christian music station because it was just too hard to be there in the quiet alone. In a few short minutes, I heard the Chris Tomlin song, "Whom Shall I Fear (The God of Angel Armies)," reminding me Who goes before me, Who stands behind and Who is always by my side.

Such strength I had received from that beautiful song, hearing it again and again during the very critical times while Ted was in the hospital. This was the same song I'd sung to him on that most trauma-filled night of my life, and his. I had grasped at whatever I could do to give him strength while he fought for his life. My tears were now coming in great gushes. Finding it too painful to go there again, I turned my mind back to untangling the lights.

I thought of how God makes His presence (and Ted's presence) so real. He has certainly shown me in a multitude of ways that He holds me tenderly in the palm of His hand. I have felt His enduring love in so many ways and the joy has reawakened in my heart. I told Ted not to worry, that I would be alright. "But the reality is that I just miss you tremendously." 

As I dragged the tree out the door, another precious song came on the radio. This one was 10,000 Reasons, another that had encouraged us and had become a mainstay. I had later chosen it for his memorial service. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, I still have 10,000 reasons to keep on singing and praising His holy name...

Both of these songs had been very popular last year, but hadn't received much air time lately. How odd, I thought, that not one but these two special songs had played just now to encourage me.

No... maybe it's not odd at all. I had sung those songs to Ted to give him encouragement and now perhaps he was singing them to me?

Gracious God, you are the BEST! How personal is your love and attentiveness to me. Whom shall I fear? Nothing formed against me will stand. You hold the whole world in your hands. I'm holding on to your promises, you are faithful...!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back, Moving Ahead

It's been a difficult year, but God's unfailing love is sweet as I am learning to abide more fully. Here are a few highlights of what I've learned in 2013 to help me live better in 2014:

  • To abide more fully in the Lord. My most desperate times (Ted's weeks in ICU, then learning to live without him) caused me to cling to the Lord, looking fully to Him for whatever would come next, especially when I had no clue how things would turn out. Clearly, that it is the Lord's intention for our lives, each day and every day and I will focus on continuing to live that way.
  • To grasp God's grace. I'm letting go of things I worried needlessly over in the past. Grasping God's grace is realizing He has the whole world in His hands, the very best in mind for each one of us, and He's orchestrating the ultimate, beautiful plan for everything here and into eternity. There are things I can't comprehend, but when I rest in His grace, I know that whatever happens, I am still in the palm of His loving hand.
  • To be a truer friend (daughter, sister, mother, grandmother). Family and friends have never meant so much as when walking with me through the gullies of grief this past year. Relationships have been deepened and strengthened by the experience shared. I have deep gratitude for those who have shone their light into my life in so many extraordinary ways, wrapping me in compassion. I will strive to pay this compassion forward in everything I do.
  • To use my gifts and not squander them. Forsaking other distractions in life, I will pursue the activities that give God the most glory. God created each of us with unique gifts, and if they are not nurtured and shared, not only do we miss out, but others around us do, too. When I use my gifts, I feel His pleasure -- and God intended it that way! Why wait until everything else on the to-do list is accomplished? -- this is what I've been created to do!
  • I won't sweat the small stuff. And most of it is small in relation to life, death and eternity. Does every detail have to be perfect? Does everything have to "fall in place" before we act on something? Probably not. Ted and I had very little grumbling in our relationship, but if I could do it over, there is NOTHING worth grumbling about! I want to love well the people God has put in my life.
  • To live my influence. Where God placed me in life is a divine appointment. What He has poured into me is meant to be shared for the good of others around me. That may mean telling my story or listening to another's, passionately pursuing or patiently persevering, encouraging or correcting, lavishing love or sacrificing. Life on earth is short. There is meaningful work to be done. Jesus is coming back for us soon.
What will you pursue in 2014?