courageous HOPE

Raw. Vividly described.  Heart-wrenching ache.  Crushing burdens.  Wave after wave of a whole new level of “hard.”  Hers is a reality I honestly cannot say I have ever experienced.  I took in page after page in solemn stillness.  I wanted to honor her pain with attentiveness.  A genuine search for understanding.  To simply listen and really hear.  To pay attention and really see.

In her book, Glorious Weakness, Alia Joy bravely describes the many difficult trials she has navigated in her life.  A path few of us are ever called to walk.

With passion and vulnerability, she details her unexaggerated, harsh reality, devastating hardships on so many levels: physical, mental, financial, emotional, and spiritual.  She sheds tragically needed light on the additional pain of being unseen, ignored, misjudged, neglected – by the very ones she hoped would notice her deep struggles and offer any help they could, even just to be present in her pain.

With honesty laid bare, she shares her struggle to understand and trust GOD in the depths of her darkness.  Her outright rebellion against Him, and the miraculous ways He reached her right where she was to draw her heart to His.  The ways He used His Word to disarm her darkness, and His Spirit to place the desire in her to read and receive it.

Many of her struggles, Alia carries with her still.  Decades running.  It is unthinkable to imagine the depths of her felt weakness.  Yet she boldly claims HOPE in the LORD!  He has given her different eyes with which to view the gaping lack that characterizes her life.  Her heart has been drawn to surrender the most painful places, to see them as caverns the LORD’s presence is welcomed to fill.  She now sees weakness as a precious gift, where He can meet her uniquely and intimately and give her priceless glimpses of His glory, a sacredness far beyond herself.

Alia’s words remind me of many of the Psalms.  Raw honesty.  Desperate agony.  Bold questions.  Unfulfilled longing.  And yet… in the midst of unresolved trials, a determined choice to believe!  To hope in GOD.  To trust in His unfailing love.  These words of wrestling yet choosing hope could have been her own:

“O LORD GOD of my salvation, I cry out to you by day.  I come to you at night.  Hear my prayer; listen to my cry.  For my life is full of troubles.  I am forgotten.  I am in a trap with no way of escape.  My eyes are blinded by my tears.  Each day I beg for Your help, O LORD; I lift my hands to You for mercy.  Can the darkness speak of Your wonderful deeds?  I have been sick and close to death since my youth.  I stand helpless and desperate before You.  Terror has paralyzed me.  It swirls around me like floodwaters all day long.  Darkness is my closest friend.”  Psalm 88

“For You have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.  I will ever praise You.  I will always hope.  I will yet praise You more and more.”  Psalm 71:5-6, 14

 “Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.  Hear my cry for help, my King and my GOD, for to You I pray.  In the morning, LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.”  Psalm 5:1-3

 “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.”  Psalm 143:8

 “I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my GOD.”  Psalm 42:5

.   .   .

As one of my favorite podcaster’s described it, Alia’s book “wrecked me.”  I have struggled to process it all.

Do I recognize the needs all around me?  Do I take time to look and really see beyond someone’s brave exterior?  To pick up on cues that they are desperately longing for someone to notice?  Am I willing to respond to nudges from GOD’s Spirit to reach out in any way that I can?

When I face my own struggles, when I am paralyzed by my own fears, do I dare to believe He is still there?  That He is who He says He is?  That He will meet me in those hard places?  That His Word will give me fresh hope, exactly how and exactly when I need it?  That with His help, I can always take one more step, face one more day, endure what seems unthinkable?

Can I learn from Alia how to look for ways the darkness shows me the LORD’s wondrous works?  Have eyes to see His glory revealed through my weakness?  Determine to choose courageous hope, even when a difficult path remains unaltered?  Am I willing to let the tender touch of My Savior, the very presence of His person, to steady my heart and heal my pain?

I lay it all before the LORD.  He simply whispers, “keep your eyes on Me… I will help show you how…”

Alia closes with these words as she bears witness to the redeeming power of GOD’s unfailing love, her every reason to HOPE:

“We keep company with sadness.  We learn the lament of everyone who holds quietly to the knowing: things are not as they should be.  And still we hope.  Still we see our Redeemer come.  We speak in a dialect of our kin, our native tongue.  We are fluent in the language of hope.  We bear witness to the goodness of GOD in the most unlikely places.  He is our all in all – we know this from the desperate spaces when we had nothing else.  No other route, no calmer sea, no other choice but surrender.  And that is a gift.  That is our glorious weakness.” (p.222)

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If you long for courage to believe in the One who offers hope and healing, Alia Joy’s story may help you discover a precious new reality in trusting JESUS.  Look for Glorious Weakness, published by Baker Books, wherever books are sold.

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set free

“What a wonder to treasure this place where I was broken and spilled out. 

Where we counted the cost, but still chose to follow CHRIST. 

Out of trust and obedience that has always propelled us, but now also out of worship! 

For He is worthy of the surrender of my whole heart!”

I had just finished writing those words as part of another project when my husband returned from the mailbox with a package I expected to arrive weeks before.

It was not late in coming, as I assumed.  It was intended for that day.  Specifically.

I pulled two books from the Baker Publishing Group package.  Seeing the first cover, I sunk into the back of my chair and closed my eyes with a knowing smile – Joyful Surrender, by Elizabeth Elliot.

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This woman’s heart for GOD’s truth and straightforward, let’s-be-about-the-Father’s-business challenges grabbed my wandering heart as a twenty-something.  I have a bookshelf filled with her writings.

I knew.  I just knew the words I had just strung together to express a very real and present wrestle with the LORD for my full heart surrender would be reinforced by her thoughts in this book, a reprint of what she originally published in 1982, called Discipline.  It was time for my own heart to circle back – a return, but with fresh eyes and a newly tuned heart.

As she has done many times before, Elizabeth Elliot’s thoughts in Joyful Surrender cut to the chase of my own thinking and set my mind squarely on things above.

“Discipline in the wholehearted yes to the call of GOD.  When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master.  I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.” (p.16)

The word “discipline” causes us to cringe, conjuring up images of hard work, strict expectations, harsh sacrifice, severe limitations.  We shrink back when we feel our comfort bubble threatened.  Elizabeth Elliot’s no-nonsense language admittedly caught me off-guard.  I squirmed uncomfortably and felt the urge to argue.

But just like our Savior, she took her time setting a very different scene to which my heart could respond.  She reminded me that I am “created, cared for, called” (p.9) by One who attends intimately to the unique details of my life.  Almighty GOD is my Creator.  I honor Him when I acknowledge my “createdness.”  He is GOD.  And I am not.

“Discipline” is simply the life of a disciple, one who has chosen to follow the One who has captured the heart, whose very Person commands full trust and loyalty.  “Discipline is the believer’s answer to GOD’s call.” (p.15)  “We may choose to say yes and thus fulfill the Creator’s glorious purpose for us.  GOD calls us to freedom, fulfillment, and joy.” (p.15)

The tug on my heart goes deeper still.  As Creator, the LORD is fully worthy of my surrendered will.  His creation is not mine to direct.  But He is also my Savior!  He gave everything, His own life’s blood, to reconcile me to GOD and draw me to His side!  How could I not respond?  How could I not desire to offer Him all that I can?

“The disciple is one who has made a very simple decision.  JESUS invites us to follow Him, and the disciple accepts the invitation.  The disciple is no longer on his own.  He gives himself to the Master.” (p.23-24)  JESUS CHRIST is Savior because He is LORD.  He is LORD because He is Savior.”  (p.26)

Now with my full attention, Elizabeth Elliot moves chapter by chapter through seven key areas of surrender in the life of a Christ-follower: body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, and feelings.  She offers snap shots of what this surrender will require in “real time.”  Again, I felt myself wince a few times.  But His Spirit helped me to pause each time and admit she is not wrong.  She unapologetically presents the truth of Scripture!

In a few places, I hoped for a little more sensitivity to the unique struggles of individual people with certain challenges she mentioned, but the truth behind the call of GOD is right and true.  I can trust Him to direct my heart to respond.  He will show me what surrender in each of these areas asks of me.  As my Master, I simply need to ask Him.  And decide again and again to follow where He leads.

I started the book with a heavy, uncomfortable feeling.  But I can honestly say, with each new wave of surrender, I felt a lightening.  A falling away of so much that bound me.  Expectations – real or perceived, my own or other voices – that held me captive in pursuit of ideals my Creator never intended for me.  Pressures and burdens from which my Savior died to free me!

I reached the end of the book with a true sense of JOY!  There is a single-mindedness in following CHRIST.  A beautiful simplicity.  A pure and singular focus.

He plans and directs.  I follow.

He refines my heart.  I learn and grow.

He creates beauty.  I receive it with JOY.

My Creator and Savior only asks me to surrender what takes up space in my heart He longs to fill with something infinitely better – Himself!  He delights in pouring His best and abundant provisions into my open arms, lifted to Him.  In GOD’s economy, nothing surrendered to Him is ever a loss.  It is only gain.  When my heart responds to Him, I always “trade UP!”

Elizabeth Elliot includes a beautiful analogy:

“Is there any image of freedom and joy more exhilarating than a full orchestra, everybody sawing, tootling, pounding, strumming, blowing, clashing, and hammering away for all they are worth, under the direction of the immense energy and discipline of a man who knows every note of every instrument in every concerto and knows how to elicit that note exactly so that it will contribute most fully to the glory of the work as a whole?”  (p. 38)

How thrilling to imagine!   Surrendering who I am and what my life can become into the hands of the One who orchestrates all things to perfection!  He knows exactly when and how to call me to play my part, to offer to His masterpiece what I, alone, was created to contribute!  In that yielded place, His flawless design shines in its full glory.  And I have the unspeakable joy of hitting my note in full strength, feeling with chills the harmony with which it resounds in concert with every other exactly intricate piece!

Elizabeth Elliot concludes with these words:

“He offers an exchange:  His life for ours.  He showed us what He meant by giving Himself.  He offers us love, acceptance, forgiveness, a weight of glory, fullness of JOY.  Is it so hard to offer back the gifts that came in the first place from the wounded Hands – body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, feelings, and more?” (p.150)

Elizabeth Elliot doesn’t pull punches.  She is not concerned about being “politically correct.”  Her straightforward, unapologetic delivery may catch readers off-guard, as it did me.  I fear this is more likely a sad commentary of how loud the voices of a worldview have become.  Our hearts are too easily draw away to listen to what we think we want to hear, rather than wrestling to fully understand the desires of the One who created us in the first place.  The One who gave everything to redeem us so He could give us all things!

The Savior called Elizabeth Elliot Home to heaven a few years ago.  Imagining her in His very Presence, face to face after a lifetime of longing to know and serve Him more, I can only guess that she does not regret one thing she ever surrendered to the LORD.  If anything, it is not until then that we will fully understand how much we owe Him.  Given the chance to step back in time, I believe she would long to have given Him more!

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

How can we, in turn, not freely offer all things back to Him in Joyful Surrender?

give Me your heart

Find Joyful Surrender, by Elizabeth Elliot, published by Revell Books, wherever books are sold.

jubilee

Exhaustion was setting in.  We had toured so many homes that we stopped counting.  New in town, but with high hopes of settling there to raise a young family, we pressed on, determined to get this right.  Convinced there was a house the LORD had set aside just for us, we were prepared to search until we found it.

When yet another home seemed not quite right, we stood on the front porch as our realtor checked the listings one. more. time.  A look of surprise and hope spread across his face.  He turned to look at a brick house on a corner lot just across the street.  “See that house?  It is not even on the market yet, but they are scheduling a tour for agents tomorrow.  Maybe I can get us in for a sneak peek?”

The specs of the home were unknown to us, but the lot was lovely.  The timing and location seemed too convenient to pass up, so I agreed to take a look.  From the moment we set foot inside the house, I just knew.

The original wide plank floors in beautiful condition, the spacious living room, stunning fireplace, the breezy side porch, the staircase, and the soft, butter-yellow paint on the walls that appeared so dreamy in the late afternoon sun!  I quickly moved from room to room, mentally checking off the list of bedrooms, bathrooms, play and office areas, and even abundant storage in the garage, full basement – and the best of all – a sweet untapped space in a walk-up attic!

A vision for so many spaces in that house began flooding my mind.  My heart started to race.  The sun was sinking fast, but I held out hope that my husband could still make it around the corner from his new office to see this property in daylight.  Eager prayers for confirmation were lifted.  In the core of my being, I just knew… this was HOME!

By the next day, we were under contract!  In a matter of weeks, the initial wave of painting and cleaning was complete and we were settled in a home we would enjoy every single day we were blessed to live there!

We renovated rooms, installed a gorgeous white picket fence, and planted flowers in gardens that circled the entire yard.  That old house was new to us, warm and inviting, mysteriously familiar, and ripe for all our dreams to find a beautiful reality!

This new chapter in a new place felt like setting foot into an old familiar dream we hadn’t known to hope for!

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*   *   *

The journey toward home. The shaping and reshaping of a place until it feels like it was made for us. That place of comfort and belonging where our truest selves can emerge and grow. A place of peace and joy that inspires us to open the door wide, set extra places at the table and welcome others in to make themselves at home there too.

These endeavors capture beauty in so many forms … in the physical space of a sunlit room or a cozy chair or a bustling kitchen, in the natural space of a blooming garden or a patch of green, but also in the faces of the people who treasure and reflect the beauty that touches them.

This is what Christie Purifoy calls “placemaking,” a pattern given to us by our Creator when He first fashioned man, made a home for him, and placed him in a garden.  In her new book, “Placemaker,” Christie welcomes us to journey with her through the many places she has lived, the ways she and her family have shaped (and been shaped by) those places, the joys and sorrows along the way, and the gardens and trees that help tell her story.

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photo credit: @christiepurifoy

Christie has awakened in me a deeper interest in history!  For at its best, placemaking first seeks to know a place, its natural surroundings and its people, the backstory that frames the present.  When we treasure those details and weave them into the history we ourselves bring to a place, a beautiful vision for the future materializes.

Intentional placemaking will cause us to fall in love with each place we live.  I now understand why moving more times than I would care to count has carried with it a grieving process for me.  “Placemaker” has helped me to begin long overdue healing, appropriately acknowledging the loss associated with each place in my own history.

But this journey toward home also brings JOY.  When I truly understand that history builds and adds rather than subtracts, I see it as multiplied beauty rather than loss.  Each new place, each new experience can carry with it a sense of returning.  A rediscovering of old joys in new places, a bringing in of something treasured to shape a new place and make it home.  A realization that seeds have been sown all along the path and there is an enduring and a harvest of the work that has been done.

Just before Christie and her family discovered their home at Maplehurst, a brick farmhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania, a friend shared a dream she had about their new home… with its long tree-lined driveway… where she sensed the trees whispering a single word… “Jubilee.”

Simply stated, the Year of Jubilee for GOD’s people in the Old Testament was a time of celebration, restoration and return.  Debts were canceled.  Slaves were set free.  And property was returned to its original owner, as allotted by GOD when His people first entered the promised land.

I’ve read this book twice.  And both times I’ve stopped and stared at that word, “Jubilee” through brimming tears.

“Why?” I asked myself.  “Why does this strike a deep cord in me?”

Because I have spent years nursing an intensifying hunger to return home.  To the northern hills.  And yet the stronger pull on my heart has been in the opposite direction – to follow where the LORD has led and placed us – hundreds of miles away in tropical south Florida.

So how do I reconcile the truth of Jubilee?  And this beautiful thing called placemaking?  In a place I never imagined I’d find myself, a place I still struggle to call “home?”  Christie brings it all into focus in the final pages of her book…

We find our truest home in and with the One who created us, who first placed us in a garden, who agonized in a garden and stepped bravely forward to secure a forever Home for us with Him.

Until we make our final return to that place where we were first imagined, every bend in our path can be a step of return.  Home on earth is wherever He places us, welcomes us to make ourselves at home, draws us closer to His heart, allows our truest selves to emerge and grow, and inspires us to open the door wide to welcome others in to make themselves at home there too.

*   *   *

For over a decade, We have lived far away from that little brick house on the corner lot with its beautiful white picket fence surrounding a favorite saucer magnolia tree bursting with petal pink blossoms.  Stories and pictures of that place still bring a warm, enveloping smile to my heart!

In that place I embraced my new life as a mom.  It was within those walls that I surrendered my heart to the LORD, receiving His call to move south, wherever He would lead us.  Our story of His stronger pull to the home He had planned for us here began in that beautiful living room with wide-plank floors.

I have thought for a while that the first floor of our current home needs an update.  Maybe, just maybe, I need to return to a little bit of my own history, and allow favorite touches from the past to transform the present… shaping it until it feels like it was made for us!

Maybe, we can save our pennies to replace bland white tile floors with ceramic that looks more like wide planks of wood, and paint our walls soft, butter yellow, like the filtered afternoon sunlight spilling from the breezy side porch of that brick house in the northern hills.

There is a sweet and honored place for all of our story… past, present, and future!  A place that fills our days with comfort, beauty … and peace.

Return to the LORD your GOD, for He is gracious and compassionate,

abounding in loving kindness.   Joel 2:13

 So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you,

being rooted and grounded in love…  Ephesians 3:17

 

 peaceful place

#weareplacemakers  #jubilee  #return  #home  #ourtruestHome  #homeiswhereHeleadsus  #purposelyplaced  #wherepeacecangrow  #extraplacesatthetable  #pastmeetspresent  #beautythatstillsus

invited to create

Our festive Christmas morning had drifted into a sunny, sleepy afternoon and I found myself alone in the living room, soaking in the gift of these two books.

One is packed with stunning artwork and rich devotional truth (with space to add my own ponderings!).   The other is stacked with crisp pages, a clean slate inviting all that the LORD will write on my heart and move my hand to pen.

I whispered a prayer that it would be a response of worship that is uniquely my own – His redeemed creature creating to touch the heart of the Creator!

I treasured those quiet moments, lost in the wonder of what might emerge from another year on this journey, in this growing hunger to know more of His heart!

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*    *    *

I started this year with this crisp, clean (and lushishly pretty lavender floral!!!) journal, wondering what the LORD might write on my heart and move my hand to create on its pages???

It took me longer than I thought to brave the pen to page, to christen that white expanse, so desperately wanting what appeared to live up to those Christmas Day dreams.

Thanks to a sweet but powerful nudge from an online writing workshop, the spine is now cracked open, pages scribbled on, and the beginnings of an outline for a new project taking shape.

I am reminding myself to invite Him into this work, ask Him what He thinks about it?  To trust Him to shape it as He desires … to grow the hunger in me (and anyone who reads it!) for more of HIM!

#giftsthatcultivate  #invitationtocreate  #touchHisheart  #wonder  #whatwillemerge  #createdtocreate  #Heiseveryreasontocelebrate  #adoreHIM  #crisppagesmeanttobechristened  #bebrave  #asHeleads  #trustingJESUS  #juststart  #newproject  #restinHIMwhileIwrite

special touches

The sewing machine hummed as I carefully guided the pretty floral fabric under the needle.  In much less time than I imagined, a handful of perky little pouches were constructed.  Was I crazy to expend the extra time and energy to create a pouch to go inside another pouch?  Maybe, but I so wanted these little gifts to match the table setting.

A few days later I puttered away the quiet evening hours, taking my time to arrange each place for our morning brunch the next day – a small gathering of some extra special ladies in my life, who also happen to be willing to indulge my love of a good tea party (coffee works too!).

It was sweet to remember my own Mom teaching us how to set a table, and in many not-so-intentional ways, instilling in us the beauty of special touches – those extra little items like cloth napkins and fresh flowers, a little favor to take home, a hand written card – all expressing without words “you mean so much to me and it is a joy to put in the effort to make you feel honored and spoiled here.”

And it struck me with a widening smile… my mom taught me to be a “placemaker!” – making a welcoming space for others, creating a time and place to honor friendship, to pause and rejoice in GOD’s goodness together!

For those who might also enjoy a good tea party, I say, “pull out the good china, set the table, boil the kettle (or brew a fresh pot of coffee), and welcome some dear ones to join you!” ~ it will make you smile!

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#agoodteaparty  #coffeeworkstoo  #weareplacemakers  #outoftheordinarypodcast  #maketheordinaryextraordinary  #taketimetogather  #lingeratthetable  #rejoiceinGODsgoodness  #specialtouches  #thanksMom

beauty that stills us

I am beyond thrilled to be part of the launch team for a beautiful new book, “Placemaker,” by Christie Purifoy, releasing March 12!

Language that captures my heart and gives me a fresh love of our home and delight in cultivating this space for His glory and our blessing… as well as for those we have the privilege of welcoming through our doors!

More to come as I devour these pages… but for now, this quote lifts my eyes to see and my heart to give praise to the GOD of this magnificent creation, the very first Placemaker, who inspires us to be placemakers in His footsteps…

“The hand that compels us to stop and stare at something as insignificant as a beautiful tree in flower might be the hand of GOD! … rarely do we know what is at stake when beauty surprises us into stillness and we pause to listen to creation’s song!”

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*   *   *

As I continue to read this treasure, I enjoyed these hymn lyrics in Choice Gleanings…

“Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;

birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,

since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.”

G. Robinson

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and immediately thought of Christie’s words (and garden pictures)…

“unlike forests, gardens grow on a human scale… they are a place of encounter with the GOD who draws near… in a garden, we find Christ, who is our peace.”

*   *   *

After savoring it until a bit embarrassed that I have allowed the release date for this precious book to draw so close, I have now completed my second read through its pages… and my computer stands ready to help me collect and refine my reflections into a review for this blog!

I immediately fell in love with this book and thought it would be the easiest review I will ever endeavor to write… BUT, now I hold the realization that there is SO much I love about this book that it will actually be quite a task to (quickly!) narrow down to my most favorite take-aways to share!

I am praying for Christie and her team in these final days before the release.  I also pray that the LORD will give me words to do it justice and to encourage others to receive the gift of this book!

It is published by Zondervan and available for pre-order TODAY!!!

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#weareplacemakers  #beautythatstillsus  #cultivateglory  #welcomeothersin   #ahometobeshared  #pausetonotice  #lookUP  #givepraisetotheCreator  #createbeautythatreflectsHis  #spacewherepeacecangrow  #spaceforgrace  #encountertheGODwhodrawsnear  #HeisourPEACE  #softerblue  #sweetergreen  #flowerswithbeautyshine  #gardensandtrees  #IamHIS  #honorHIM  #whenthepastmeetsthepresent  #returning

ponder anew

Leaning against a large boulder near the water’s edge, he pulled me in close.  I sunk into his full embrace.  The breeze tossed my hair across his face, but he didn’t move.  The gentle lapping of the surf was so soothing.  The little sandpipers flitting from rock to rock around us were fun to watch.  But for us it was precious stillness.  Peace.  REST.

I had a flashback to late afternoons on the bayside beach in Ocean City, NJ.  The sun sinking, the shadows stretching across the sand.  Mom and Dad happily extending their hours of fishing.  And me… sleepy from a full day of sun and sand and surf.  Those were the best times to curl up on a blanket and doze off in the breeze.  A kid-sized power nap!  Utter REST.

That moment with him by the rocks felt just like that.

It was his only chance to breathe, and REST, in the middle of a hard-fought season.  A wearying stretch of time, in every sense of the word, for both of us!  In just a few days, he would close the door of his office of seven years for the last time, having put in long hours and late nights in these final days to finish well, with integrity and honor.

A new chapter was just around the corner.  A new job opportunity.  A fresh start.  The long prayed-for chance to shift gears, to embrace a new challenge.

We exhaled that day on the beach, lingering in that embrace.  We breathed in peace and whispered back gratefulness!  A long-anticipated day was a threshold away and we were soaking in this pause before stepping boldly forward.

“I want to remember this day,” I said softly.  He held me a little tighter and nodded.

. . .

A study about King David this week drew my attention to his habit of praise.  In victory or in defeat, the words from David’s heart seemed to start and end in praise – to the LORD, the Almighty, the One who had always been with him, the One who had chosen him, the One who defended and provided and guided and orchestrated so many details for David.

Sing praises to GOD and to His Name!

His Name is the LORD – rejoice in His presence!

The GOD of Israel gives power and strength to His people.

Psalm 68:4, 35

. . .

I will sing of the tender mercies of the LORD forever!  …

for the LORD has said, “I will love him and be kind to him forever;

My covenant with him will never end… I will never stop loving him, nor let My promise to him fail.”

Psalm 89:1, 28, 33

As I finished the questions for our group discussion, I simply jotted down the title to an all-time favorite hymn: “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty!”

My mind drifted to our moment of quiet gratefulness at the beach.  And to a second flashback, much more recent than childhood fishing days.

Just days before our wedding, we visited the arboretum where our professional photography would take place.  We wandered the grounds, looking for favorite spots.  My mom, with camera in hand, was eager to snap a few pictures, capturing our excitement (and even a little silliness) while no one else was around.

One of my favorite pictures from that day was almost identical to our moment by the rocks at the beach.  He was leaning against a stone wall and pulled me in close.  In the chill of that October day in Pennsylvania, it was so cozy to lean in against him, surrounded by his warm, strong embrace.

I felt safe.  In a place of utter peace and REST.  Our long-anticipated wedding day was a threshold away and we were soaking in the pause before stepping boldly forward.

We breathed in happiness and whispered back gratefulness.

Our wedding day was quiet, deeply meaningful, yet bursting with JOY.

We exited the chapel as our guests sang “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty!”  Twenty years later, our theme is the same!  But so precious to realize how these words ring truer and deeper today than they did then:

Praise to the LORD, the Almighty, the King of creation!

O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!

All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near,

Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the LORD who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,

Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!

Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been

Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the LORD, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,

Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,

If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the LORD, O let all that is in me adore Him!

All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him.

Let the Amen sound from His people again,

Gladly for aye, we adore Him.

[Joachim Neander, 1650-1680, Tr. by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878]

. . .

As we turn the page into this new chapter, we REST in the LORD’s faithful and gracious hand in and through it all.  We praise Him!  We thank Him!  May all that is in us adore Him!

Twenty years later, what a gift to “ponder anew all the Almighty can do, when with His love He befriends us!”

We look forward again (and still) to all He has planned for us … together.

Leaning on our Rock, both of us surrounded by HIS embrace, there is no place of greater REST and peace. 

in His arms

He will say to Me, “You are my Father, my GOD, and the Rock of my salvation.”  Psalm 89:26

. . .

#HeisourRock  #Hisembrace  #RESTandPEACE  #letallthatisinmeadoreHIM  #ponderanew  #whattheAlmightycando  #withHisloveHebefriendsus  #catchingourbreath  #newchapter  #lookingforward  #HOPEandJOY  #together  #happyheartsmonth  #sweetFebruary  #liftourPRAISEtoGOD