Advent – Hope

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Have you ever spent time waiting for something? I do not mean packages from amazon, or a call from a friend. I mean waiting, really longing for something; waiting for the right one to come along, or waiting to be healed,  waiting to get pregnant, or waiting for a loved one to know Jesus. A waiting or longing that sits at our very core and the marrow of who we are.

Over 2000 years ago, the Israelites were waiting. They were waiting for deliverance, deliverance from oppression, from living under rulers who did not share the same beliefs they did. For 400 years they waited. And when their deliverer finally did come, some did not recognize him and some were possibly a little disappointed over what the deliverance looked like. I can imagine during those 400 years and even after there was  a little disappointment, a little hope deferred…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

I thought of this verse recently as a friend was sharing their journey of waiting, and as I thought of my own prayers awaiting answers. What does it mean hope deferred, or to defer hope?

Defer: to put off (an action or event) to a later time, postpone. 

Looking at this verse, I see when I push hope off or stop hoping; it leaves me with a heavy heart. When I can instead hold on to hope, and choose to trust even when I do not see the outcome, this hope will eventually bear fruit.

“But blessed is the man who trusts (to be confident or sure – be bold (make to) hope (put make to trust)) in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

We like the Israelites are still waiting, waiting for answers to prayers and even more, waiting for Jesus to come again. If we can trust Him to be our  deliverer, Jesus to be our hope, He will make sure our trust and hope bears fruit in Him.

Jesus –

“All our hopes and fears are met in Him tonight…” – Peace, Peace by Sara Groves

Letting Go

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One of my favorite family movies is Finding Nemo. I love the way the dad lovingly chases after his son, and goes to the ends of the earth to find him and bring him home. There are many parts of the movie I can relate to, but one conversation in particular between Marlin and Dory has stuck with me. Lately I have been hearing these words over and over in my everyday. In this scene Marlin and Dory are stuck in the belly of a whale, and life is looking pretty miserable. Here is a short piece of their conversation…

Dory: “He says its time to let go. Everything is going to be all right.”

Marlin: “How do you know? How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?”

Dory: “I don’t.”

And those of you who have seen the movie know Dory and Marlin let go, and the whale spouts them out, and everything is okay. In fact, they end up exactly where they want to be, in Sydney.

Like Marlin, we as parents are given this little gift to take care of, and for most of our child’s life we are the ones calling the shots. For those of us moms especially, who like to have all our ducks in a row; this works out just fine…until that day when the duckling is ready to leave the pond. Or when things do not go as planned, and we do not get the happy ending Marlin and Nemo got.

This year as both my girls are in high school and the older one is in her senior year; I seem to keep banging my head up against this “letting go”. When the girls were younger, I would not have necessarily called myself controlling 😉 or felt like I was holding on too tightly. It was not until recently I began to see just how much I really do need to let go.

In wanting what is best for our children, we may try to influence their choices such as friends, where they go, what they study, etc. There is nothing wrong with this per say. It is our job as parents to influence and advise. Yet I am starting to see there has to be a point where we are listening more than talking. A place where our lives are not quite as intertwined, always suggesting this or questioning that. I am again reminded there is one who does this so much better – the Holy Spirit.

If we as parents need to trust God’s Spirit, don’t our children need to trust His leading as well? And if we are the ones always leading, how will our children learn to hear His guidance, His voice?

I am grateful this process happens slowly, in stages… first job, driver’s license, making their own decisions and choices, and eventually leaving home.

So… my challenge for myself (you can hold me accountable if you see me:) and for you today is to,

Talk less. Pray More. And Let go.

I saw God today, in letting go.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” – Luke 11:13

His way, not mine

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About once a year or so, I seem to journey down the same path. The “what is my purpose, and what am I doing with my life?” path. I am not sure why I never seem to find the answer, and these questions reoccur yearly. I often blame it on lack of a specific talent or calling, and sometimes I end up complaining to God, asking “Why couldn’t you have created me with a specific gift like the artist who I work for or my husband with his gift of teaching?”

Thankfully, I do not seem to be alone in my questioning. There are myriads of books and courses out there covering this exact topic, and many of them I have read. The words and thoughts at times were helpful. A thought or sentence stuck with me and I found peace and contentment for some time. Eventually though that nagging little question would make its way back into my head again.

The other week as these questions were once again swirling around in my thoughts, I read a verse in Proverbs, one I had read many times before.

“The Lord has made everything for His own purposes….” – Proverbs 16:4

His purposes vs. mine.

Maybe it is not a matter of finding my passion, narrowing it down, or even asking the question, “what is my purpose?”

God has not made me for my plans.

If I do insist on finding answers, I can instead ask the questions, “What are your purposes God, in general and for me personally?” What would you have me to today? How are your purposes for this day similar or different to mine?

These two views may not seem so different, but for me it is a shift from figuring out my life and what fulfills me to focusing on God and what is important to Him. This is where I find fulfillment, this is where I find rest.

I saw God today, in His way not mine.

What do His purposes look like for you today?

Maine

Summer

In our hearts, summer for us is a trip across the Atlantic to family who live along the Baltic sea. There is no better place to spend warm days, by the sea with those we do not see so often.

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This year we were not able to travel to Sweden, so we did the next best thing and made our way up to Northern Maine to experience its beauty and a little taste of “Swedish home”. The only thing missing was our long distance family. We were amazed time and time again just how similar these two dots on the map are.

The trip was a good mixture of a little bit of planning and a little bit of spontaneity. We knew we would spend 4- 5 days camping on Mt Desert Island, but the few days on either side of the trip were left open for travel time and for exploring new places.

We took a couple tips from my sister, and we planned our mini vacation as best we could. If you are thinking about where to take a vacation, go to Maine. You will not be disappointed.

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However excited I was about seeing Maine, the camping part scared me a little bit. Of my family, I am the least camper-like. However, we had invested in some new gear, and when we arrived at our camp-site, all those fears quickly disappeared as we saw the beauty of the place.

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We camped at Mt Desert Campground, and I highly recommend it. This was my first experience with platform camping, and I am convinced this is the way to go.  The campground was also clean and beautiful. There were many campsites, yet the sites were nestled between the trees, giving a sense of privacy while camping neighbors were still a stone’s throw away if we were feeling social.

We spent most of our days hiking and making our way around the island a little bit at a time.

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We did the touristy things such as sunrise at Cadillac Mountain.  This mountain is the highest, most Easterly point, making it a natural sunrise magnet. I warn you though, bundle up, especially if you are there in early June. Between the wind and early morning coolness, it makes for not only a beautiful but chilling experience.

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We took a little bit of time to peruse and shop the streets of Bar Harbor.  When we found ourselves hankering for the ice-cream (It is difficult not to when everyone is walking around with some), we found a place called, Jordan Pond Ice-cream parlor . (The lobster was actually at another ice-cream shop but it and my daughter were so cute, I just had to add them:)

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And during our last full day there, the girls had their first Kayak experience. I can assuredly say that they are hooked, much to my husband’s delight.

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The spontaneity part of the trip included an extra day driving to Acadia and an extra day driving home. On our way there we drove mostly along the eastern Coast and spent our first evening near  Mystic, CT. A lovely little town with an incredible drawbridge. Definitely worth a visit.

On the way home we were given a tip to check out the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. Since we didn’t want to deal with Boston/New York traffic again, we took their advice. After making a pit stop in Portland, ME to visit a friend we had not seen for many years, (So much fun to spend time with her, eat a yummy meal, and catch a glimpse of Portland) we meandered our way slowly through New Hampshire, a little bit of Vermont and finally, the Berkshires. We enjoyed the scenic drive and in Great Barrington, I fell in love with one of the shops we visited. One Mercantile. Check out their website. I plan to head back there and to the Berkshires again!

We so enjoyed our trip to Maine and hope as you see the photos you will too.

In a couple of days, June will slip into July. Summer is speeding along much too quickly this year, but we plan to enjoy every moment of it and hope you will too!

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Friday’s Inspiration – Something from the week. Inspiring me… Inspiring you.

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“I lift my up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.” – Psalm 123:1

 “…where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1, 2

May you catch a glimpse of who your God is this weekend, the maker of heaven and earth. And as you see yourself in the light of who He is, may your cares shrink to the the size they were meant to be.

Spring

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Last week I went to Longwood Gardens for the day. The last couple weeks had been pretty intense, so I thought I would get away a little bit. I suspected the outdoor gardens would not be much to look at, yet I knew the greenhouses would be alive with color. It was in the greenhouses I thought I would spend my day.

When I arrived, it was actually warmer than I thought, so I found myself walking the paths, enjoying the quiet except for the occasional songbird, and squeal of a child. The gardens were just as I expected, brown and bare. I had never walked the gardens this time of year. Other times I had visited,  there was always something blooming, or at Christmas time the gardens would sparkle with Christmas lights. If I had not known what the gardens usually look like, I would have thought they were not anything special to see. But somehow because I had seen them before and knew what they would become, I could find beauty in the barren, and enjoy the quietness and rest they invoked.

There are days when my heart reflects the brown and barrenness of a winter garden. The winds of winter can turn a soft heart hard, and difficult circumstances can turn a once blooming heart into desert wasteland.

Yet as I sat there and could feel the hard earth around me starting to thaw, I felt that same thaw occurring in my heart. As I remember and trust that Spring will always follow Winter, I can trust the warmth of His love to once again make my heart new.

Remembering gives way to trust and trust gives way to hope.

As I walked further down the path, I looked hard into the dark soil, straining to see whatever growth I could. And finally I saw it… a little green shoot poking its head above the dirt.

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A little sign of hope… spring and new life returning again.

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

 

It’s the little things…

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The other morning as I took a walk with Smokey our dog, I could feel the warmth of the sun on my back. I could barely remember what that felt like, the sun sharing its warmth. In my mind there have been many grey days this winter.

So when I felt the sun’s warmth, I did what any normal person would do:) I stopped in the middle of the road, and stretched my face towards its rays, and let myself take in all its goodness.

Sometimes it is the little things…

Smokey did not seem to mind, it gave him more time to try and rip off his “gentle leader” and eat more snow.

When I lived in Sweden this is often what would happen in the early spring. After months of not seeing the sun, people would stop and tilt their faces upwards, ready to capture all of the sun’s warmth and gain back what they were missing those dark winter months.

I have certainly missed the light and warmth this winter. And while I have enjoyed this season, I am looking forward to Spring.

Some of the things I have enjoyed this winter:

  • reading (I have rediscovered the joy of a good novel and can’t seem to get enough of them.) The latest one was The Midwife of Hope River by: Patricia Harman – so good!
  • knitting – a simple shawl, and crocheting a lap blanket for my daughter (I think it is going on the third year now)
  • slow mornings – yea for snow delays!
  • coffee and coffee with friends – the only thing that really gets me through the winter

What I am looking forward to this Spring:

  • planting – flowers/veggies
  • walks without dressing like a snowman
  • patio meals with friends
  • biking to work

And finally I am hoping to incorporate some new ideas here on the blog. This blog has mostly taken on the form of a devotional, and while I intend to keep this aspect of the blog, I also want to include other ideas I have floating around in my head!

So if the sun is out, take a moment and let your face feel its warmth and goodness. And if it is hiding in the grey, look forward to its return with anticipation and look for the other gifts hiding in today.