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Spring will Spring Again

 I’m mad at winter.

And when I say “winter,” I don’t mean the earth’s meteorological season. Although I’m not particularly loving late winter’s lingering chill, it’s not nearly as infuriating as my body’s persistent season of sickness. That’s the winter that really has me hot (sweating) and bothered.

It was almost two years ago to the day that I received a Lyme disease diagnosis and began treatments to reclaim my health and life. The healing process has been incredibly intense, exhausting and, seemingly, never ending. Regaining my health has been more of a long slog than an early spring. Frigid, gray days have, by far, outnumbered the warm and sunny. This season of fighting Lyme has felt like a perpetual winter.

By now in my Lyme journey I had expected my illness to have thawed. Two years in I knew it might not look like summer quite yet but I at least expected it to feel like late spring. I never imagined I’d still be waking up in the midst of winter’s dark and dreary gloom.

It’s been so long since my body has experienced a true spring that sticks around for more than a day or two that I’ve been tempted to question whether or not my physical condition will ever change. Will I be stuck in this season of sickness for the rest of my days on earth? Am I destined to a lifetime trapped in winter? 

As He so often and so graciously does, God answered my doubts and questions by showing me the wonder of the earth’s spring. He pointed to a twig on a tree and said,

“Spring has always been your favorite season and with good reason. You love it so because spring always comes right after winter, on the heels of brutal cold, snow and ice. That’s when I step in and bring the dead earth back to life!

Spring is such an incredible miracle and it thrills you each and every year when I make it happen! As soon as I command the seasons to change, I hear you oh and awe as if you’ve never seen a budding flower before. You gaze at them with admiration and wonder – just like you’re doing to the one I’ve formed right here on this delicate twig set before you.

In your twenty-eight years of life I have never failed to deliver spring. Not once. I have always put an end to winter. I have always renewed and redeemed the earth. Remember my faithfulness. Rest in my righteousness. I am trust worthy and my promises are true. I will end your winter and bless you with the most beautiful spring you’ve ever seen!

Do not lose hope, little one. Just have faith and believe.”

While fixated on how faithfully God cares for the foundation of the earth and every flower that grows upon it, the Holy Spirit   descended into my wintry soul to strengthen my faith and renew my hope.

Even though my season of sickness has been brutal and long, God has not abandoned me in body, mind or soul. All along He has been orchestrating His plan to renew and restore me. While trapped under the snow and ice of symptoms and illness, Jesus has been protecting the root of my spirit so that, when the time is right, I will bloom like a beautiful flower.

To my Father God all I can say is, “Forgive me for hating on winter and lamenting the length of this sickness. Teach me to live with the joy of salvation in each and every season. Restore me with the hope of heaven that renews my spirit with the promise of eternal spring. Not my winterless will, Lord, but yours be done – no matter what the seasons may bring.”

“Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.”

Psalm 119:140-141

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Redeemed by Belief

December 2018 was a bust – well, almost.

The first twenty-three days of my December were short on Christmas spirit and high on Christmas angst. The dominating thoughts in my mind revolved around shopping and sulking. If I wasn’t on a frustrating hunt to find the perfect present for every person on my list, I was most likely in a depressive funk. My mood was more melancholy than merry. Sadly, I must admit I was more prone to crankiness than cheeriness. To those who had to share a roof with me this Christmas season, I’m sorry.

Sadly, I know I’m not alone in experiencing a depressing December. When Christmas lights come on and jolly tunes are turned up every sadness and heartache gets magnified. Smiling Santas betray the despondent, mocking them at every festive turn. “Have a holly, jolly Christmas” doesn’t ring true. “I’ll have a Blue Christmas” sounds more appropriate. For those who have an identifiable “reason” to be sad it’s easy to slip into a season of sulking come Christmastime.

And so, on December 1st, that’s precisely what I did. I entered into a twenty-three day season of sulking.

While out shopping I was hopeless, unable to find the perfect gift for the loved ones on my list. While at home I was discontent, trapped in the sadness of my not-so-perfect life. Staring me in the face was the heavy weight of grief born out of a life sidelined by sickness. Although there was much to celebrate since last Christmas – more healing, vitality, improved health – I was blind to the many healing victories. All I could see were a lifetime of dreams and plans destroyed by a decade of sickness.

But then the light of God pierced into my darkness on December 23rd by way of a simple children’s Christmas play.

At New Life Community Church, the home of my church family, a small group of children performed a short and sweet Christmas program that shared a powerful and profound message. With bed sheets for costumes and a simple Bethlehem set, the kids told the story of Jesus’ arrival into the world. Mary and Joseph entered the manger scene followed by angels who appeared to shepherds as they watched their flocks by night. After telling them the good news about the Savior’s birth the young shepherds excitedly declared their desire to travel to Bethlehem and see the promised King of Kings.

As the play came to a close the audience’s attention was drawn back to the narrator as he said, “In believing, they found the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, their Savior. And tonight, just as it was in Bethlehem so many years ago, God has chosen you to hear the good news and believe.” That one line changed the spirit in the room – or at least it changed the spirit in me.

Belief transformed my heart.

Belief in Christ, who He is and what He came to do transformed my December bust into a beautiful time of celebration. By returning to Jesus Christ and fixating on His life from the cradle to the cross, my depression lifted and quickly disappeared. In the Savior’s presence the sadness I had experienced all season long was replaced by abundant joy and overwhelming peace.

Whether it be Christmastime or the middle of July, when we approach the manger throne believing in Christ and the salvation He delivers, we will encounter His peace, comfort and joy. By seeking the Savior and entering into His presence our hearts will be renewed by redeeming love.

Come to God bearing your bust of a month. Surrender your sadness and sorrow so He can transform it. God is faithful. He will redeem and restore you. Come to the manger and God will revive you with an eternally abiding Christmas spirit.

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Harveigh: The Survivor Cow

Harveigh is a survivor cow.

During Hurricane Harvey, the category four storm that hit southern Texas in 2017, twenty-seven billion gallons of water fell in just four days causing the loss of over one hundred thousand homes and eighty-eight lives. The hurricane, often referred to in Texas as “the storm of the century,” left wide spread devastation in its wake.

Set in the midst of this heartbreaking scene we meet Harveigh, a baby calf born in the midst of the storm. In the chaos of the hurricane, Harveigh’s mother abandoned her and left the poor calf in the pasture to fend for herself. That’s when farm owners, Mr. & Mrs. Canton, spotted Harveigh standing all alone in the flooded pasture. The rain was still falling and the waters were rising quickly. They knew Harveigh was in imminent danger and hopeless without help.
Despite the treacherous weather conditions, Mr. Canton jumped into action. He went straight into the pasture and maneuvered through frigid, muddy waters to rescue Harveigh and pull her to safety.

But when she was out of the flooded pasture she wasn’t home free yet. Not even close. Harveigh was malnourished, weak and chilled to the bone. She had been battered by the worst of the storm and hadn’t been nursed in days.

Although the Canton’s house was already full of dogs and families displaced by the storm, they rushed Harveigh into the warmth. They laid her in a dog bed and covered her with blankets and towels. The vet warned that Harveigh would likely not survive but the Canton’s weren’t about to give up hope. They were determined to fight for Harveigh and do everything in their power to help her survive. They drove through flooded streets to buy formula so Harveigh could be fed by hand. The Canton’s loved on Harveigh, prayed for her and nursed her back to health. Even the family dogs became Harveigh’s friends, encouraging her to recover and join them in the yard to romp around and play.

Today Harveigh is over four hundred pounds and a beloved member of the Canton family. She is playful, gentle and spirited. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Canton’s, Harveigh not only survived the storm, she has gone on to thrive and enjoy a full, abundant life.

Harveigh’s story reminds me of the greatest rescue story of all: Jesus’ act of rescue that saved you and me from our devastating storm of sin.

Like Harveigh, you and I were caught in the “storm of the century.” Our storm of sin separated us from everlasting life and the eternal protection that is only found in God’s house. We were spiritually weak, malnourished and chilled to the core of our soul. We were stuck in rising flood waters, helpless and powerless to get out.
But Jesus spotted us.

From up on high, Jesus saw our desperate need and jumped into action to save us. He entered into the lowliest of circumstances, a humble manger, and walked through the muck and mire of this life to rescue us. Jesus Christ lived and died in our pasture to save and deliver us from certain eternal death.

But, just like Harveigh, our story doesn’t end at the rescue.

After He saved us, Jesus opened the door into God’s house and welcomed us in. He prepared a special place for us to keep us warm and well fed. He cleaned us up from the ravaging effects of the storm and wrapped us in blankets of grace and love. To bring us back to health, Jesus Himself came and nourished us with the Holy Spirit’s strength and overcoming life – an act of infinite love He still performs to this day! 

Glory be to God who redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb and restored us in His house. We are made survivors because of the Savior who rescued us and gives us full, abundant, eternal life!

 

**Check out  a video about Harveigh!

 

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My Grown Up Thanksgiving List

Out with the old and in with the new…traditions that is.

This Thanksgiving I’m instituting a new tradition and I think it could catch on: The Thanksgiving list.

My thanksgiving list could go on forever because, as the saying goes, there is always something to be thankful for. From the bed I woke up in to the family that will fill the dinner table tonight for a feast, my life is full of blessings that give me an abundance of reason to over flow with daily thanksgiving.

So, without further ado, this is my grown-up Thanksgiving List:

1.     Redemption.

I was once a lost, rebellious, hideous sinner. My life was marked by bad decisions and double-minded wickedness. But God saved me and on November 2, 2009 I received new life in Christ and a fresh new start. On that fateful day Jesus rescued me from myself and redeemed me with Himself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the day I received God’s free gift of salvation was the best day of my life.

2.     Forgiveness.

I mess up daily, if not hourly. Although I constantly fall short God is always full of second chances. He keeps picking me back up, brushing me off and giving me the opportunity to try, try again.

3.     Strength (and weakness).

Becoming intimately acquainted with my weakness by way of chronic illness has introduced me to the limitless depth of God’s strength. Every time I surrender in weakness it is an invitation that welcomes God in so He can effortlessly lift me up by His almighty, strong and powerful hand.

4.     Grace.

“Amazing Grace” has always been my favorite hymn and with good reason. It tells the story of my life. “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.” By grace through faith in Jesus Christ I have been given new life.

5.     New mornings.

Every sunrise is an opportunity to wake up, get up and start again.

6.     Healing.

God is the healer of the body and the soul and I am thankful for both. Last year at this time I was a shocking 65 pounds; a walking skeleton, uncertain of what the future held for my health. Wow, it is truly amazing what a year can do. Although my journey to full health isn’t over yet the healing I’ve experienced in the past year is a miracle. I am alive! That in and of itself is a miracle. I am regaining function in parts of my body that were either dead or dying. At the same time God has been doing a work on the inside, restoring hope, peace and joy to my soul. God works from the inside out, healing on deeper levels than I ever imagined possible.

7.     Church family.

This year more than ever before I am aware of what a precious gift it is to be a part of a faithful body of believers and so appreciative for the incredible prayers warriors who intercede on behalf of one another. I am always stunned by how many dear brothers and sisters in the Lord are praying for me and pleading with God for my continued healing and renewed health. I cannot say thank you enough.

8.     Eternal assurance.

I have no doubt about what comes after this life. After I leave earth I’m going to Heaven. End of story. That part of my journey is not a mystery because I am a child of the King and know that one day I will cross through the pearly gates and spend eternity with God.

9.     Pain with a purpose.

I’ll admit that I am slow to be thankful for pain. Naturally, I tend to have the opposite reaction while assaulted by gripping pain in my gut, burning in my eyes, or spasms in my legs. Instead of rejoicing I want to escape but when I consider my circumstances through a spiritual lens my agony drenched tears are replaced with abundant thankfulness because my pain has an eternally profitable purpose: to pull me closer to Jesus Christ, to make me wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit and to draw me into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

10.  Love.

The greatest gift of all is the love of God poured out on the cross of Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” I am alive today – both physically and spiritually – because of the love of God that will not let me go. God lavishly showers me with love through His Word, His Spirit and the people He has put around me.

 

Although this list is not exhaustive it is foundational. My abundance of thanksgiving is rooted in this list because every good gift, from the love of family to the comforts of home, comes from above and springs forth from the fountain of everlasting life.

 

Have you written a Thanksgiving list? I’d love to hear what you’re most thankful for.

Share in the comments below!

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I believe in a thing called love – even when it’s running late.

The leaves were running late this year.

The leaves in Northern Pennsylvania typically begin changing color in early October. By October 13th the annual green leaf transformation is usually well underway and dazzling shades of red, yellow and orange are expected to display their finest glory on October 19th – give or take a day or two.

But not this year.

In early October the leaves didn’t begin their annual color change. When October 13th arrived most of the trees were still covered in green. Then the 19th came and went without even the slightest hint of a fall foliage display.

It was around that time that Northern nature lovers began questioning the absence of autumn’s seasonal tree transformation. Where are the colors of fall? They asked. When will the leaves change? People wondered. Where is the beauty of autumn we all expect to see this time of year? Was the question on everyone’s mind – mine included.

Fall is my favorite time of year and when the leaves didn’t change colors I missed the beautiful foliage scenes expected during the month of October. I become depressed, worrying that this year the leaves would never change color. I became sad when I imagined an October without nature’s autumn masterpieces painted across the Northern Pennsylvania landscape.

And then I saw it. I saw fall on full display in the mighty Maple tree.

On October 30 while driving down the road on a bright blue Tuesday morning I saw a gorgeous Maple tree draped in autumn leaves as stunning as spun gold. Swaying peacefully in the gentle wind stood flawless fall foliage on grand display. The sun hit the leave’s yellow hues and made them sparkle and shine. The Maple tree was seasonally picture-perfect, as if it had been cut from the cover of a fall foliage brochure.

Gazing upon the golden kissed Maple Tree all of my questions and concerns about the future of fall disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief, reassured that the leaves were still destined to change color. The golden leaves on the Maple tree stood as irrefutable evidence that the seasons still shift the way they always have – just not according to my time.

The glorious vision of the Maple tree reassured me of God’s faithfulness to the seasons. Even when the green stayed on the trees weeks past what is considered “typical,” God’s forecast for fall was already predetermined and established. The transformation of the trees was always destined to arrive according to His perfect timing.

And so it is with love in my life.

God is as faithful to my love life as He is to the changing leaves on the trees. The dazzling, and slightly delayed, Maple tree reassured me that God has the love of my life predetermined and established, destined to arrive according to God’s perfect timing.

God has not abandoned me as a twenty-eight year old single. Although love appears to be running late, God has my future scheduled according to His perfect timing. I trust and believe that the very Author of love, the Ultimate Match-Maker, is writing my love story so that, when the time is just right, a love as glorious and golden as a Maple tree at the peak of fall foliage will be revealed upon the landscape of my life.

The love of my life is going to arrive just like the colors that transformed the Maple tree. Later than usually but as brilliant and beautiful as ever.

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Icy Conditions

My digits are frigid.
This isn’t new news. All ten of my fingers have been trapped in layers of invisible ice for the past eight years. Freezing hands is a chilly side effect of chronic Lyme disease and to be expected at my low weight.
Despite many attempts to bring warmth to my cold fingers they remain stubbornly icy and stiff. In their deepest freeze my whole hand turns blue with translucent white fingers and yellow tips. Even when the temperatures outside are warm and the sun is shining my hands cannot escape their bone chilling condition. My fingers simply refuse to thaw.
The inescapable predicament of my fingers’ frozen condition is one I am powerless to change. Until my health is restored and the Lyme battle won, I am trapped in a body with terribly cold hands.
But thank God I am not trapped in a body with a bitter, cold heart.

At the foot of the cross the deep freeze of my heart is broken and warmth is restored to my soul. Because Jesus is alive my heart is not doomed to a fate of inescapable, impenetrable ice. The moment I seek the Spirit of God He is faithful to thaw me by the radiant warmth of His love and grace.
The Son of God’s perfect love is the only power on earth that can break through the thickest layers of my stone cold heart and restore Heaven’s everlasting heat.

In the presence the Lord of Life and Love my frigid heart is made new and kept eternally warm.

“If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love; whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him. In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him.” 
1 John 4:15-17

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Prom Memories

My senior prom dress was fit for a princess. It was my fairy tale dream come to life.

The elegant ball gown was painted in pale pink and sunset hues. From the moment I put it on I knew it was the one. The lace bodice was embellished with sequins and beads stitched in a floral design. Layers of tulle floated elegantly to the floor. Every detail of the dress was perfect. Never before had I felt as beautiful as I did while wearing that breathtaking ballgown.

But the circumstances of my prom night were far from a fairy tale. Disappointments and relationship letdowns had cast a sad shadow on the end of my high school career. I wasn’t feeling much like getting dolled up or going to a dance.

But then I recalled the dream dress hanging in the closet. That dress was too gorgeous and too perfect to be left hidden away and unworn. In that moment I had a decision to make. I could choose to stay home and let defeat win the night. Or I could choose to step into that perfect princess dream dress, go to the prom and dance.

I choose to put on the dress and dance…and I’ve never regretted the decision.

A decade has passed since my senior prom and many of the memories from that night have faded away, but the lesson I learned the moment I stepped into my dress has stayed with me to this day.
Whether I’m wearing a gorgeous ball gown with matching high heels or I’m caught in stretchy pants with memory foam sneakers, I have the Spirit of the Lord residing in my heart.

Heaven’s most glorious gown that hung on the cross rose again to defeat death and conquer my every grave. The love of Christ is heaven’s gown too gorgeous and too perfect to be hidden away. United with His victorious life, the garment of His love can be mine to wear in all circumstances and on all occasions.

The Spirit of the living God compels to wear the dress of His perfect love, go forth in His joy and dance.

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Surrender the Toast

The bakery bread on the kitchen counter was white but I preferred sprouted – or at least whole wheat. The offerings before me were fluffy with plain refined flour. There wasn’t a single nutty, seedy grain in sight.

For years I passed by this particular bread and reached for my own personal supply instead but on this particular morning I’d run out. I was craving eggs and toast but had yet to restock my whole wheat bread. At first I thought I’d settle for only an omelet but while beating the eggs it became clear that just an omelet would not do. They needed a side dish. As my morning eggs sizzled they begged me to give up my sprouted resistance and surrender the toast.

Once slice of white bread served as my white flag as I surrendered my toast. Under the heat of the electric element it toasted to a perfect golden brown.

In that moment of freedom my nose was met with the aroma of fresh bakery bread awhile my heart was met with the sweetness of surrender. Feasting in the glory of freedom I enjoyed my piece of simple white toast and didn’t miss sprouted grains one bit.

Even in the simplest of circumstances surrender is sweet. When the will is submitted and preferences are put aside, the spirit of Christ will always provide a bountiful feast. The most satisfying nourishment is experienced in His presence and savored in His love.

At His table, God has prepared a place for me and He has set it with surrendered toast.

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For the Love of Donuts

The donuts are different. For the first time in my life the Sunday post-sermon donut selection has changed.
For the past twenty four years the church donut selection has always featured the exact same sugary delights. The “random assortment” ordered from the grocery store bakery is never random. It’s the same each week. There are always cream-filled, jelly-filled and coconut-topped donuts. There are always plenty of glazed and a few apple fritters. For the children, and those young at heart, there are always doughy treats featuring sprinkles and chocolate frosting, too .
But today the decorations on the donuts were different. On one particular donut pretzels adorned the chocolate-frosting while gigantic California walnuts were atop another. A few of the chocolate eclairs were drizzled with pink frosting.
Since I haven’t tasted a donut in years and haven’t had a single craving, you might wonder why I care so much about the church’s donut selection. Although it’s true that my appetite no longer desires donuts my heart still craves them because donuts have played a very special role in my life.
You see, church, donuts and I go way back, all the way back to my very first church memory. It was 1994 and I was a toddler, still small and short enough to hide behind my Mom’s flowing skirt, which is precisely what I did until the end of each service. After the sermon, pastor would give a word in benediction then dismiss the congregation into the fellowship room for a time of conversation, coffee and, of course, donuts.

And so it began, my love for donuts.

As a young child I reached for puffy glazed donuts and cinnamon twists. As a teen my taste buds were tantalized by the dense cake donuts that were covered in sweet maple frosting.
Over the years my choice of donut has changed countless times and now I don’t eat donuts at all. But the unconditional love and grace serviced at during the post-service fellowship hour hasn’t changed a bit. The compassion and care of my church family is as sweet as ever and as plentiful, too.
Although the decorations on the donuts are different the beautiful offering of the Savior’s love served and shared in that blessed fellowship room is still the same.