Wishes of Wonder

We laid my sweet papaw to rest this past week. It was a tough day, to sit there in the seat meant for my daddy, trying to be strong for my mom while the memories and emotions of his funeral flooded over me. It’s been a tough year, there’s no doubt about that and there’s moments when I truly think my heart is so fragile, that if the wind blows one more gust of hurt my way, it might shatter. But then there’s days I feel numb, like whatever breath of emotion that generally circulated through my body has left in one big gush.

But as I stood there by the casket saying goodbye, I looked around me and saw family hugging one another and telling each how much they loved them, clinging to each other’s shoulders, and wiping away shared tears, and it struck me; there is nothing that brings people together quite like tragedy. I was overwhelmed with wonder and amazement at how such a precious moment could exist amidst such hurt and despair.

In the days leading up to the funeral, I kept repeating my spill about how although it had been a tough year, I was looking forward to the fresh start around the corner to those who ask how I was. And in the back of my mind I kept thinking how much I needed Christmas and the holiday season this year. The months surrounding and leading up to Christmas have always been my favorite. I love the cold weather, I love snow and I love how the season just seems a little bit more magical. Besides, it literally combines four of my favorite things; Christ, shopping, decorating and eating. I kept telling myself if I could just get through those two days, I could go into Christmas mode and everything would be alright. At the time, I think my game plan was hide in the spirit of the holidays and face the music afterwards.

But on the drive back from the funeral home one day, I propped my feet on George’s dash and got lost in my one of my favorite magazines, The Magnolia Journal. It is one of the few magazines I truly read from cover to cover, so as I read Joanna’s opening letter, I had to laugh. The theme of this issue was wonder, and finding the time to truly enjoy the magical moments of Christmas with the heart of a child. The pages were full of ways to transport yourself to those years when just the twinkling of Christmas lights could brighten your day, when the smallest dose of Christmas magic could get you through an entire year.

After the funeral, everything that had been swirling around in my head for the past week suddenly made sense. What my heart needs to heal from this year is a little wonder and God knew I would need help seeing it, so he brought me to this crossroads at just the perfect season of life, the Christmas season. Besides, what other time of the year is quite as magical as Christmas time? Even though the world is literally darker, the darkness is alive with twinkling lights, joyous Christmas music, love and laughter, and the holiness of our Savior.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

You see, Christmas is a time that no matter your beliefs, no matter your circumstances, and no matter what you believe, everyone simply believes a little more at Christmas time; that there is joy to be found in our lives, that there is hope for the despair we see all around us, and that miracles and wonder do exist around us. And as God speaks to us through 2 Peter, he tells us that everything we need to live a godly life, a life pleasing to him and one laced with survival for us, has been provided. He has given us the very tools we need to make it through anything. And perhaps, one of those tools is wonder. He has given us the ability to see miracles if we look, to see happiness in pain, and to love one another through each and every day. He allowed me to see the the wonder I needed as I was mourning the loss of one of the most important men to me.

And just as he has given us what we need to survive, he has also given us what we need to heal. The very thing that can take away the sharp pain of death every time we breathe the breath of life when those we love take their last, can be found nestled beside the pain in our hearts. So in times like these when days seem long, and just a little darker, perhaps Christ gave us the ability to dig a little deeper and find the wonder in our hearts to brighten the darkest part of our lives. After all, it is his birthday season and what better time to enjoy true peace then with the birth of the Lord and Savior of our lives.

So this Christmas season, that’s what I will do. I will dig a little deeper, past the pain and the hurt, through the lingering numbness to find that ember of wonder that I know exists in my heart. I will cling to it, I will nurture it, and I will find ways to let it shine all season long. I will take the time to appreciate the magic of this holiday season, and to let magic dance in my eyes through the twinkling lights. I will give this season to others, and in turn heal my own heart as I am blessed by their thankfulness. I will cling to the moments I am surrounded by friends and family and revel in their love and light, taking small pieces of it with me through the rest of the year. And I will remember above all else, that so many years ago, my Lord and Savior came to this Earth as a small child and brought with him the salvation of my life. And that’s truly all I could ever need in life.

I invite you to surround yourself with wonder this Christmas season, surround yourself with love and allow your heart to heal amidst the holiness of our Savior and the celebration of his birth. And together, we will start fresh come the new year. Blessings to you and yours, may this be the best holiday season yet.

 

Advertisements

Love Without Abandon.

I’m a dog person, it’s no secret. If we are friends on Facebook, fellow Tweeters on Twitter or connected on Instagram, you know that my feeds are full of pictures of my fur children. I have two dogs, one little and one big. They have their own unique personalities but the one thing they have in common is that they love their momma. As I type this blog, my Doddle is literally resting his head on my shoulder.

Being a dog mom has taught me a lot, it’s given me patience and showed me that if I can make it through the puppy years, I can raise a child one day. But the most important thing that my sweet boys have taught me is how to love. It may seem strange to think of an animal that doesn’t speak our language or share our belief system as the perfect symbol of how we should love, but I truly believe that the love a dog shows is the purest love and the closest we will ever get here on Earth to knowing the true immensity of God’s love.

Let me explain.

My pups meet me at the door every time I come home, and their excitement is uncontainable. They are wagging their tails, licking my toes, and doing their very best to get my attention and let me know that they are so happy to see me. Our doodle is one-year old, and Andy my shih-tzu mix is only three. I remember their younger year very vividly. I got frustrated a lot and let’s face it, I still lose my temper with them now and again. But you know what? No matter how loud I yell at them, or how many times I get angry with them, they are always right back at my feet, begging to be loved.

As sad as it is, we see it all the time in the news. Every time a new animal neglect case comes up or animal cruelty pictures surface, those gruesome photos depict the face of a poor dog who loved its owner despite their cruelty and shortcomings. We see a heartbroken, defeated animal learn to trust a human again in such a short time. We see a puppy who gets a second chance with a new family and falls in love with them all over again. It seems that no matter what this world does to these defenseless babies, they bounce right back and learn to love in spite of it all. We could learn something from our furry friends.

But what may be the most rewarding thing ever about being a dog owner is their ability to love endlessly without expecting anything in return. Sure they like to be loved on, they are hearty eaters and enjoy the occasional stroll through the park with you. But they demand none of it. They would love you the same if you both sat day in and day out in one spot and never ate again.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

The greatest commandment that God ever gave us in the Bible was to love; to love Him with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And yet as humans, this is often one of the most difficult task for us. We are quick to judge others, we are afraid to expose our hearts and we hide behind walls that prevent us from loving unconditionally. And we are skeptical. We are threatened by anything that presents itself as pure love. We are quick to discount it, and toss it out of our way because it scares us.

Whether it is in a relationship with a significant other, a second chance connection with someone who hurt us or basking in the light of a potential love, we often run and guard ourselves from hurt. I sometimes wonder if it is that exact reason that often times people stray from the church and God’s love because they just don’t quite get how someone as awesome and powerful as God could love them, and forgive them and keep on loving them through all of the bad and the good. But the truth is, he does. Our God is an amazing God that loves us no matter what we do.

Do your reservations about love hold you back in life? Is it holding you back from the relationship with your Lord and Savior that you crave?

The Bible itself tells us to guard our hearts, they truly are important. But for us that typically means hiding our hearts, and containing them from the cruelties of this world. But I encourage you to not let the state of our world, or the hurt you’ve experienced keep you from a true relationship with God. Open your heart to him, only there will you find the peace and comfort you crave. The truth is, each and every one of us have a God-shaped hole in our heart that is yearning to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And if you have been holding God at an arms length, scared of what that love may feel like, you my friend are missing out on one of the greatest things we will ever experience. God’s love can change not only your life, but your eternity.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35

And perhaps what is often times even harder than the immensity of love, is giving something so dear to you to someone who has done you wrong. But even so, God calls us to not only love Him, love ourselves, and love our neighbors, he calls us to love our enemies. If we are so guarded against love from those we care about, it may seem impossible to love someone we despise.

As Christians we have something that no one else has; the perfect role model. God is the very definition of perfection and his love is the purest and most real love you will ever experience in your life. He loved us so much that he sent his only son, Jesus, to be crucified on a cross, ridiculed and beaten, just so that we could have the choice to live free of sin. God himself said it in John 15 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And that is exactly what Jesus did for us. I encourage you as Christians to look to the example of your Heavenly Father to love one another.

How are you holding back from giving your love away to those in your life?

Have you had bad experiences with love in the past? Were you done wrong by someone when you had just opened your heart to vulnerability of truly falling in love? Or maybe you had your love taken advantage of by a family member or friend and you were left feeling scorned and exposed. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you today to not let that experience keep you from experiencing one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to us. There is a hole in our hearts that is perfectly carved out to hold the love that we will carry with us through our lives here on Earth. God intends for us to find fellowship and companionship with our brothers and sisters on Earth through friendship, a church family, a husband or wife or even the joy of a pet. What he didn’t intend for us to do was take a gift so great as love and find a hole in the ground and bury it so we never have to be hurt by it.

So if you are on teetering on the ledge of falling in love, jump in with both feet.

If you are cultivating a new friendship, open your heart and soul to that person.

If you are married to the love of your life, cherish them and tell them how you feel every day.

If you have children, encourage them to love without abandon.

If you have a furry little head resting on your shoulder, give that sweet puppy kisses every day.

But don’t stop there, share your love with others by doing things out of love. Don’t do things because you feel obligated, or because you have to. Do things because in your heart you feel that small tug that says “this is right.” Look for ways to do small acts of kindness for others. And when you experience one yourself, find a way to pay it forward. If there is anything that we can do as Christians in a world so full of hate, it is love. You have no idea the amount of power you have sitting right there in your chest. If we open our hearts and let the love that our Heavenly Father gave us poor out into our everyday life, we can change the world.

I pray that every day you would pick up your Bible and read this verse. Memorize it, put it on a post it in every room of your house and carry it in your hearts. Live this verse, practice this verse and share this verse with the world because nowhere will you find a more perfect definition of how we are called to love one another…except maybe through the eyes of a man’s best friend.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8