Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy

Piano

Photo by Tadas Mikuckis on Unsplash

This originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as part of a writing challenge I participated in to stretch my writing:  Five Minute Friday’s 31 DAYS OF FIVE MINUTE FREE WRITES. This is spontaneous writing in only 5 minutes. The word for the day was “Practice.”

“Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.” Psalm 126:5

I enter the room and it beckons me. I have walked past it many times throughout the day, determined to ignore it. I have refused to entertain the memories that the sight of it evokes, but I cannot avoid it any longer.

Sighing deeply, I pull out the bench, and sit down. I gently open the lid, and slowly, tenderly stroke the ivory keys of the piano.

My eyes mist, knowing that I am a poor substitute for the boy we are both missing. With a sob, my fingertips brush the keys and I articulate for both of us, “This house has been silent for too long.”

They worked in tandem, the two of them. He, forcefully, masterfully, pounding the keys and her, thundering in response, filling the house with resounding melody and harmony.

“You miss him,” I whisper. “I know. I do, too.”

I gently caress the keys, bringing forth a melancholy sound that barely plumbs the depths of our sorrow.

It has been too quiet, for too long.

He never had to be reminded to practice. Thoughts fly quickly back to when he was but seven years old, and the piano, a gift from a dear friend, entered our home.

The boy and the piano became fast friends, spending hours upon hours getting to know each other.

Then the boy was nine, and he challenged himself to memorize every piece of music his teacher gave him to practice, and he was not content until he could play unaided and without flaw.

Then the boy was eleven, and his fingers had grown stronger and he was given complex pieces to memorize, and all the while, the piano kept in perfect step with him, a swirling, breathtakingly beautiful dance of sound.

And then he left. He chose an adventure overseas, leaving a silent house in his wake.

“It has been too quiet, but he’ll be back,” I reassure her. I close the lid and run my hands fondly over the smooth mahogany. “He’ll be back.”

“You have taken account of my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” Psalm 56:8

“You know when I sit and when I rise; You understand my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down; You are aware of all my ways.” Psalm 139:3-4

Wait

Wildflowers

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

This originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as part of a writing challenge I participated in to stretch my writing:  Five Minute Friday’s 31 DAYS OF FIVE MINUTE FREE WRITES. This is spontaneous writing in only 5 minutes. The word for the day was “Wait.”

“I wait for the LORD; my soul does wait, and in His word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

I have always loved wildflowers.  I love the mix of vibrant and muted colors, and the way they appear to be randomly strewn across the ground.  It’s like God Himself reached down with His hand full of flower seeds and scattered them where He wanted a splash of color.  There’s a wildness to them, tamed by no man, yet their beauty shines forth just as their Creator intended.

Have you ever seen a package of wildflower seeds?  A variety of seeds are all mixed together, and you have no idea what flowers are going to grow from the mix.  You plant and wait, and water and wait, and in time their distinct colors, shapes and scents are revealed for all to see.

I have an affinity for a succulent called Desert Rose.  They are my favorite flowers because they thrive on neglect…so even I can grow them.  They don’t bloom very often – mostly after a dry spell, followed by a few days of rain.  When you are fortunate enough to find them in the plant nurseries, they seldom have flowers, and the labels don’t indicate what color flowers will appear.  You take them home, plant, and wait for the surprise.

We are the same!  The times we have the most growth tend to be after dry spells, or times in the wilderness.  We are all in the process of maturing, and we won’t be finished until our time on earth is complete.

Look around and you will see people in stages anywhere from seedlings to mature, flowering shrubs.  We love to comment on the beauty of the fully formed flowers, but aren’t as enthusiastic about the seedlings and the shoots that are without bloom.  We can be impatient, can’t we?  We forget that we were once seedlings ourselves.

Wait.  Have patience.  God is not done with them…or you.

“For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:14

“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.” Martin Luther

Blink

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Photo by Denis Vdovin on Unsplash

LORD, what is man, that You regard him, the son of man that You think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:3-4

I knew I hadn’t written in awhile, due to many life changes over the last year, but I had no idea that so much time had passed since I last sat down to write.  It seems like I blinked, and here I am.

My last remaining grandparent left his earthly body on the 4th of July.  He was 99 years old.  My youngest son and I had plans to go visit him and my parents, who live in another state, in August. In the Father’s Day card I sent my grandfather, I expressed my excitement to see him soon, but that was not to be.  Instead, on the night we celebrate our freedom here in the United States, he was set free from the earthly body that was worn and tired.  A night of celebration across the country.  Was there celebrating in heaven as well?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

My grandfather was a WWII veteran, and proudly wore a WWII veteran hat whenever he left the house.  The small town he lived in during his senior years is a military town, and they treat their veterans very well.  It was not unusual for him to go out to dinner and have his entire meal, including tip, paid for anonymously.  When I was with him out in public, I saw how appreciative people were, often stopping to thank him for his service.

Some of my best childhood memories include my grandfather.

He and my grandmother lived on a lake when I was growing up, and he would take me fishing early on the mornings when I was visiting.  He taught me how to bait a hook, cast the line, and wait quietly and patiently until we had enough fish for breakfast.  We would come home with our catch, where he would clean and cook it.  The two of us would eat our delicious breakfast on the back patio with a view of the lake.  If the weather was bad and we couldn’t fish, he would make pancakes, and he always had strawberry or blueberry syrup in the pantry.  Breakfasts with my grandfather are my favorite memories of him.

My grandfather taught me to swim, and tried, unsuccessfully, to teach me to water ski as well.  He taught me how to drive a snowmobile, and told me to never say, “I can’t.”  He hung a wooden swing with rope on a huge tree for me, where I spent many hours singing songs and thinking about life.

My parents and grandparents came to one of my elementary school music performances.  I was just learning to play the saxophone, the very one my grandparents had purchased for my dad when he was in school.  I was so nervous, and looked out often to see the familiar faces of my family for reassurance.  My father and grandfather both worked in construction, and my grandfather had been involved in the building of my school.  Throughout the performance, he kept looking up at the ceiling, proudly declaring it a job well done.  And it was.  If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

It seems that I just blinked, and he was gone.

Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life. Job 12:12

My youngest son is visiting from overseas, and he will leave for a country in Africa with his father when the summer is over.  It has been a busy summer, but in the quieter times, I have reflected on how quickly time passes, and have been thankful for the Lord’s constant presence and guidance throughout the years.

It is not easy preparing for my son to leave again.  He celebrated his 15th birthday here with family and friends.  It seems like just a few years ago he was born, the dark-haired little bundle who was brought to my hospital room.  He was wrapped tightly in a blanket, and he wrapped himself just as tightly around my heart.

I blinked, and was in Mongolia at a crossroads with my ex-husband.  Would our young son, seven at the time, live with him and travel or live with me near family and have more stability?  I prayed and prayed, planning what I would say in my defense.  When the time for a decision came, I said not a word.  I could not, and need not.  His father stated that he thought it best that our son be with his mother at that young age, and we would arrange summer visits with him instead.  My heart rejoiced, even in the midst of the grief that I felt over our marriage ending.  I knew the Lord had intervened, and I was thankful.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I blinked again, and was back in Florida, where my 12-year old son was preparing to go live with his father in Barbados.  I felt like my heart was being ripped from me.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

God hates divorce.  The devastation that it causes was never meant for us to experience.  We cope, and God can mend our hearts, but there is still pain along the way that He would spare us from.

I struggled with letting him go, but in the end, the Lord made it clear that he needed this time with his father, and so I had to let him go.  It was agreed that he would return for the summers, but the Lord has been SO GOOD to me that He orchestrated it so that I have seen him multiple times over the last three years!

It has not always been easy, but the Lord provides the grace for everything that we encounter if we but ask for it.  He is our comforter, our refuge, and our strength.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I blinked again, and now prepare to say goodbye again as he travels with his father to the other side of the world.

He has grown in ways that he would not have here with me.  The experience of being educated in an international school has shaped him in ways that cannot be measured.  It has been a necessary part of his development and I believe this is all going to be used by the Lord in ways we can’t even conceive.  Although I miss him like crazy when he is away, I know this is God’s will for him, and that gives me peace.

Goodbyes are hard, whether we’re saying goodbye to someone who has lived a long, full life or someone who has not been with us long enough.  While we have them with us, we need to love them well, pray for them often, and keep entrusting them to the Lord.

If you are facing a similar circumstance, I pray that you will seek the Lord for His comfort and His peace.  I cannot imagine going through these trying times without His constant presence.  He is only a whisper away.  Talk to Him.  Let Him in the middle of your pain.  He is faithful.  He will walk with you and guide you if you but ask.  He loves you so much.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah Psalm 62:8

Friends by Michael W. Smith

Focus

Focus.jpg

Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 16:8

I was in my bedroom one afternoon, looking out at the backyard through the sliding glass doors.  The doors have old, cracked, and peeling window tint to help keep out the heat from the hot Florida sun.  The sun beats down on this second story room for most of the day, and the window tint helps significantly.

I watched the branches of the tall palm trees in the backyard as they swayed with the breeze.  It was so beautiful, and so peaceful.  After awhile I began talking with the Lord, thanking Him for His provision and the many blessings in my life.  Soon I began pouring my heart out to Him about the challenges I was facing. This was such a difficult season of my life.  It’s hard to admit, but at times I even questioned whether I would make it through.

As I continued gazing at the branches, the Lord opened my eyes to something right in front of me that had somehow gone unnoticed.  He showed me that when I focused on the peeling window tint, the beautiful palm trees faded into the background, just a blur, and barely noticeable.  When I focused on the palm trees, the cracked window tint faded and I saw the splendor and magnificence of the stately palms.

His lesson that day?  What we focus on can completely change our perspective.

So what are we focusing on?  And Whom are we focusing on?

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:8

My mother is an amazing woman.  When she turned 50 years old, this quiet homemaker decided that she was no longer content riding on the back of my father’s motorcycle, so she enrolled herself in a motorcycle course and learned how to drive one herself.  After successfully passing the course, my father rewarded her with a Harley Davidson motorcycle of her own.  We were all so proud of her!

During the course, one of the points the instructor kept drilling into his students was WYLIWYG – Where You Look Is Where You Go.  He reminded them to keep their eyes on the road ahead, and not be distracted by the things around them.  After a few mishaps, they learned the lesson well.

That lesson is for us who are Christ followers as well.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Yet the problems of life loom large at times, blocking our view of everything else.  We lose sleep, we lose our peace, and the problem in front of us seems to grow bigger with each passing day.  We know the Lord could step in and fix it, remove it at any time, and we question His goodness in letting it remain.

What if we were able to see past the problem, and focus on the presence of God instead?  And what if we stopped worrying about the worst that could happen and instead focused on His promises?  His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  His promise to never give us more than we can bear.  His promise to provide what He knows we need to eat, drink and wear.  His promise to work all things together for our good.  God is not a man, that He should lie, and He can be trusted.  He truly can.  He is faithful, day in, day out, and always, always keeps His promises.

Abram believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

None of our lives are perfect.  We are all works in progress, and the process is messy at times!  Sometimes things in our lives may look pretty rough – cracked and peeling even, but that can’t be our focus.  We can and should do some clean up work, but the Lord helps us with it.  He instructs us what to do and how to do it, and brings along the tools to complete the work.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Lord, remind us, over and over if necessary, that You are our ever present help in times of trouble, and that You are with us always.  When we have a tendency to look at what is wrong, or broken, remind us that You are a miracle working God with a master plan, and that You are working in the background and will bring deliverance at just the right moment. Help us to trust You even when it looks hopeless, because with You, there is always hope.  Help us to look beyond the cracks and see the beauty in our lives.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Perfect Timing

Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

My home is under renovation right now, and things are in disarray all around me. My house has two balconies, and both have wood that has to be replaced, after standing faithfully for more than four decades. Our plan was to also replace the wood siding on the second story of our home, in addition to several minor things that needed some attention.

The process is slow, and at times, frustrating.  There have been many delays.  I was particularly concerned when the contractor was unexpectedly called out of town shortly after being paid for the siding materials.  The materials were purchased and sat on the side of the house.  Each day that went by and the work did not begin, I grew more impatient. I thought surely the contractor would have arranged for one of the sub-contractors to install the siding while he was away.

He returned, but still the work was not begun. Finally I received a call from the contractor, and he informed me that the siding we had selected was no longer up to code. It seems that with every hurricane, the code gets stricter.

As I reflected on this turn of events, the Lord spoke a familiar, yet unwelcomed, truth to my heart: His delays are always for my good. Always.

See, had the contractor installed the wood siding when I wanted it installed, it would have had to be removed, and it would have cost me greatly, both in time and materials, and we would have had to pay for the more costly option of stucco. The delay saved me time, money, and a bigger headache.

But they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Not long after that, Hurricane Irma came onto the scene. I prepared my home as best I could, but there were some things I didn’t have the time, knowledge or strength to do – such as putting boards over my windows.

My beloved came to my rescue. Using leftover wood that the contractor had not yet removed, he, my daughter and I measured and cut the wood, and then covered our windows. My heroes!

I had not been happy that the unused wood was still here, but yet another delay worked in my favor.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25-26

I am in awe of the Lord’s goodness to me. If He loves me so much that He allowed these delays for my good, I can rest assured that delays in other areas are for my good as well.

That means your delays are for your good, too. Maybe you’re waiting for the Lord to send you a spouse, or a baby, or a job, or a car, or a house. Maybe you’re waiting for a loved one to come home, or come to the Savior. Maybe you’re waiting for healing.

Waiting is hard! We try to wait without complaining, try to remain cheerful and hopeful, but sometimes we fail. The Lord knows. He sees, and He understands.

Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-14

Sometimes He sends us reminders through Bible verses at just the right moment, or a message that we hear on the radio or television, or a conversation with a friend. Sometimes He sends us heroes.

I read recently that God is never early and never late. He is never in a hurry, but is always right on time.

Delays. I don’t know what it is that you’ve been longing and praying for, but I know this – the Lord hears you, He sees you, and everything is going to work out in His perfect way and in His perfect time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

What a Difference a Day Makes

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

One night awhile back, I had gone to bed hot and irritated.  I live in Florida, and our air conditioning had been having issues for weeks.  After several service calls, the issue had still not been resolved.

There is a balcony off of my second floor bedroom, and tall palm trees in my backyard block the view of the neighbors.  As I prepared for bed, I opened the balcony door, hoping for a breeze to help the ceiling fan cool me.

For the first time in weeks, I slept.  No outside noises woke me during the night, and the Lord sent a breeze to cool me.  I woke well ahead of the alarm I had set.  In the darkness, I contemplated going back to sleep, but instead decided to just have a time of quiet reflection.

I watched as the darkness gave way to light, and watched the breeze blow gently through the palm leaves.  There were still no outside noises – no slamming doors, no vehicles starting, no barking dogs, no voices shouting.  It was peaceful.  It was perfection.

So the LORD said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 2 Kings 19:11-12

It took me back to my younger days, and my very first apartment.  Money was very tight – so tight that I often ate what I called poor man’s pizza, which was nothing more than toast with spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese.  To save money, I often slept with the windows open.  I lived on the third floor, and palm trees blocked the view of the neighboring apartment buildings and the shopping center across the street.

I was a new believer in Yeshua (Jesus), and I greeted every morning with the joyful expectation of spending time with Him.  I devoured the Word of God.  All of my free time was spent studying, praying, and listening to songs about Him.  He filled my life.  He filled me.

Seasons come and go.  Life gets busy, and sometimes the important things are relegated to a lower place in our lives.  It isn’t intentional, and sometimes isn’t even apparent until we have a nostalgic moment, and then we long for the simpler times.  We quiet ourselves, and the Lord whispers that if we slow down and spend time with Him, today can be that way, too.

He reminds us that with all of the distractions of this life, He is peace.  He is hope.  He is there.

What a difference a day makes.

Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. Lamentations 3:22-24

 

When God Stretches Us

Now the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, those who depend on His faithful love. Psalm 33:18

I’ve been thinking about the growth process of a Christian.  Growth seldom feels good.  Like growing pains in our childhood, it can be a painful experience.  It doesn’t seem to get any easier with experience, either.  In fact, it seems to be even more difficult, at least for me, because as we age, we develop mindsets that we believe are scriptural, yet which are actually based on church, denomination and family traditions and accepted beliefs rather than on the Word of God.  It has led me to question a few things about what the Lord uses to grow us, especially if we welcome His work in our lives and pray for His will to be done in us.

So…when I pray and ask the Lord to help me walk by faith and not by sight, am I asking for more trouble in my life?  More trials?  Is this an open invitation for Him to give me opportunities where I can only walk by faith because absolutely nothing I see with my eyes makes any sense?

When I ask Him to make me more like Yeshua (Jesus), am I asking Him to bring difficult, hard to love people into my life, because He loves difficult, hard to love people?

When I ask Him to give me His heart of compassion, am I asking Him to open my eyes to the pain and difficulties in the lives of those around me, even though it hurts so much to see people suffering, because He has compassion on them and wants to minister to them through me?

When we pray for His kingdom to come, and His will to be done, is this what we’re signing up for?

Yes, I think so.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

It has been a rough week. I have felt like I’ve been standing near the shore in shallow water, while wave after wave after wave has knocked me down. I get back up only to be knocked down again. Over and over. A car repair, an air conditioning repair, another car repair, another air conditioning repair, a contractor issue, a personality clash, added pressure at work, family and friends experiencing illness and life threatening issues, another car repair, a relationship strain…

Lately, I have not been walking by faith or by sight. I haven’t been walking at all! I sat down in the mud and had a pity party. I barely prayed, other than to ask the Lord to FIX THINGS, AND FIX THEM QUICKLY!

Yeah, kind of like a toddler’s tantrum. I am not proud of that at all. I wouldn’t even tell you about it except that I know I’m not the only one out there experiencing these things.

Beloved, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12

That’s not my normal way of handling things. If I’m having one of “those” times, it usually doesn’t last more than a day, two days tops. This one lasted an entire week. I didn’t even have communion with the Lord, which I try to do a few days a week, because I knew I would have to confess my bad attitude and repent. Sigh.

Today I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. The unleavened bread had sat on my table for days, and seemed to taunt me. In reality, it was beckoning me.

Come, be made clean again.

Come, renew your mind.

Come, lay that burden down.

Come, walk in peace again.

Come, be restored.

This time, I couldn’t resist, and I felt the heavy burdens roll off of my shoulders as I spent time with the Lord, confessing, repenting, and being forgiven and loved on. I felt hopeful again, for the first time in days.

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God. Psalm 146:5

Beloved, if you are going through this now, don’t stay there like I did. It’s just not worth it. Bring it all to the Lord and tell Him how you feel. Let Him pick you up, clean you up, and set you back where you belong.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm. Psalm 40:2

I can only guess what the Lord is going to teach me through this, but one thing I know, He is faithful, and when all is said and done, I will look back on this time and be thankful for it. That is always His way.

Father, please forgive us for wanting the fruit without the pruning. Please help us to see things through Your eyes, with Your perspective. Help us not to lose hope, but to continue to walk with You in peace and unity. In the name of Your son, Yeshua, I ask these things. Amen.