Christmas Praise

Colossians 3:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I had heard Jaime Jorge was giving a series of concerts in Minnesota… a quick check on his schedule gave me the idea to drive to Hutchinson MN to listen. It has snowed here, and it’s a little icy out.. but I really wanted to go. I set off early.

I arrived a little early, and waited a little in the car before venturing in the church. I have had the privilege to meet Jaime on a few occasions, and as we happened to walk into the building together we chatted a little.

His concert was centred around Christmas. The most beautiful renditions were played of some of the more well known Christmas carols… even though I loved it, it was not what grabbed me…

He started playing Silent Night… just on the violin, no back up track … and asked us to join in singing in the second verse. Maybe there were about 150 people there… and the beautiful sounds that raised from the audience accompanied by the violin moved me. The sprit of Christmas started for me right there.

Right after he played one of my favourite hymns… I surrender all… and he expressed how easy it is to play the song, but how difficult it is to live that out in life.. to surrender all. I can sympathise with that. I am a control freak, and surrendering is the opposite of control… it’s asking God to be in control. That will be my learning and struggle for eternity!

His witness and stories about his mission ‘healing music’ are worth listening to. You can hear he speaks from a living relationship with God. He lives out the words of Coll 3:17 I quoted above.

If you have an opportunity to hear him… do it! His schedule is on his website. (www.jaimejorge.com)

The long drive was worth it. My Sabbath is blessed already..

Giving Thanks

There are few American celebrations I can identify with… most don’t relate to anything I really know. However, Thanksgiving is something that resonates with me. Remembering why we can be thankful.

In the American history, this signifies hard times and new beginnings. Religious persecution lead to the voyage to America to pursue religious liberty. And after a slow start in Plymouth, the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the first successful harvest. This gets celebrated every year. It’s a national holiday. In Europe we also celebrate the harvest of the year. It’s celebrated in October and I wonder of the pilgrims took this tradition with them and gave it new meaning.

Thanksgiving.. giving thanks for abundance. Often in the humdrum of life, we don’t stop often enough to say Thanks to Him who provides. We may believe that hard work got us there, and not always see the significance of giving thanks.

Over the past years I have been privileged to be in the US during this holiday. Families and friends come together, spending quality time, remembering why they are thankful. Maybe a round table saying out loud that which they are thankful for.

I wish we would pay more attention to this in Europe. To be thankful is an act of acknowledgment that what we have is not of our own making. And that is always good to be reminded of! God relishes in our giving of thanks to Him.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4.

We do not need to minimise the giving of thanks to just the 3rd Thursday in November. We can be thankful every day. Every day is a new gift, a new chance to make choices. But to be especially aware of this act of giving thanks once per year is wonderful.

I will certainly miss it this year, to not be in the US. However, wonderful American friends have invited us to celebrate with them in London. So don’t mind me if I am just a little teary eyed, remembering why I am grateful, and thinking back to last year, visiting Plymouth Rock… there were this remembrance started.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Rock

Laying to Rest

We laid my father-in-law to rest yesterday… a diagnosis made 2 months ago, and the fight following did not result in success. Not all fights can be won. He was spared much suffering, but leaves an empty space.

A wise man said to me a few days ago that even if the wish to die is not there, the knowledge of Jesus and His loving grace is there. That makes death a pause… not a permanent end. And life has been worth living, he is now sleeping in the knowledge of Jesus return to take us all home.

It does not ease the pain. We want to keep close that which is precious to us. We want the physical touch, the conversations, the knowledge the other person is there when we need them.

We were touched by the love of the people that loved him too. Cards, texts, emails, presence at the service.. it’s a wonderful thought to know he touched so many lives.

Life will go on. The missing will not get less, but life will be a new normal which takes getting used to. Memories will be relived and stories retold. All the ‘firsts’ will be hard. This is not unique to this family, all of us have to deal with loss, a tearing apart of a connection. Death is the enemy. But glad we know Jesus, who is Life!

1 Timothy 6:12

Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses.

Turning 50

Am sure you can all think of funny quotes, memes and advice for those that turn 50… well, it had to happen sometime, I joined the 50s club…

Its a bit of a mixed feeling with my father in law passing away on Sunday… am not really in a celebration mood.

However, the other side of the coin… not everyone makes 50! There is definitely gratefulness mixed into the mix.

Am not compiling a bucket list of things I want to achieve etc. Nothing wrong with doing that, but it’s not me. I am blessed, saved by grace and grateful to live another day. I am also grateful for all the various people in my life. I hope to keep adding to the list of special people, and for that I wish to learn more and more the gift of kindness.

There is this old Amy Grant song “I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl… and my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world… but that’s alright as long as I can have one wish I pray… when people look inside my life, I want to hear them say….. she’s got Her Fathers eyes…eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around… eyes that find the source of help when help just can’t be found… eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain… knowing what you’re going through and feeling it the same.. just like my Fathers Eyes…

So maybe I have a bucket list after all. The list of learning is still long, there is a ways to go… I pray I have enough years left to achieve it all.

So maybe I have a bucket list after all

Because He lives

As I was driving down the motorway, reflecting on the day and the sad news that sickness is winning over life, the song below came to my mind. I copied the full lyrics… and maybe that is just enough for this blog post.

It sums up my sentiment pretty well. The future is the only thing that allows me to get through these days and I know that is the same for my family.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and the joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives.

And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

Because he lives
Because he lives

Written by William J. Gaither and Gloria Gaither

I hope that where ever you are, and what ever you are going through, this song gives you as much courage to face tomorrow as it gives me.

Sorrow

We are all different. We all experience events differently. We all have different coping mechanisms. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…. some say… don’t worry about tomorrow, is what God says… I care for you today and every day…

But then you hear the words from a doctor no one likes to hear… we are talking about lengthening life, not healing… and suddenly the crazy world is upside down….

My previous post I referred to my father in law being sick… now we know how very serious it is…

what to do next…. everyone has words of advise… diets to follow, pills to take… all meant very well ofcourse. No one wants to say goodbye…even if this world is not our home, we are still at home here and saying goodbye till we meet again is very hard.

How do I cope? I am very good at pushing things away… not thinking about it is better than trying to deal with it.. other members of my family are different… we are all so busy and suddenly we are all forced to slow down…

I have spent these last days in an imaginary world… a world of make believe.. where miracles happen… even if it’s just fairy tales, I know my God is in the miracle business… not all miracles have happy endings… but for sure our end is sure… He will come back to take us home. We will be reunited with our loved ones.

And that keeps me going more than anything!

Let these flames be a prolonging of my prayers….

Pancakes

It’s maybe not my all time favourite thing to eat, but it’s probably a very close second….Dutch pancakes with cheese and pineapple… or pancake with apple, cinnamon and sugar… or just simply pancake with stroop…. or I have been known to order all 3… just for me…

The family was deciding what to eat…. and it soon transpired that one of our nieces is waitressing at a pancake restaurant….as we would not have an opportunity to see her on our whirlwind visit, and we love pancakes… the decision was quickly made…. pannekoekenhuis!!!

A quick call to make the reservation, ensuring we would sit in her section, and asking if they would not tell her…. and off we went…

The family is loud… everyone talking over everyone else, laughing, joking…. but surprisingly she did not hear us until we all stood in the doorway, waiting to be seated…. judging by her face the surprise was a success… at least for us loud bunch…

The pancakes were delicious! Being waited on by one of the youngest nieces a pleasure… her boss allowed her to sit with us…. memories were made!!! we missed those not able to join..

My earlier post spoke about illness in the family, and the unknown ahead… that’s when these moments are most precious….

There is this song by The Isaacs… the words are below…

The sentence ‘I don’t know about tomorrow…. I just live from day to day…. I don’t borrow from it’s sunshine…..

It speaks to me…

we may not see each other again… but the pancake moments remain!!

I know who holds tomorrow

i don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand
I don’t know about tomorrow
It may bring me poverty
But the one who feeds the sparrow
Is the one who stands by me
And the path that be portion
May be through the flame or flood
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

Expectations

Everyone has them… expectations… especially on other people… how a person should act, dress, behave, raise their kids, love their parents etc..

And then we have expectations on ourselves… what we should achieve, do etc.

I am the wife if a pastor, and although we live in the 21st century, and my husband co pastors a large reasonably modern church there are expectations.. not just on me, but also my husband and daughter… it’s expected to contribute in a certain way. I am away a lot, so some of that transfers to my daughter too. When a member expresses how my husband should behave as a pastor it hurts too… I also have expectations on myself as to how I should live my life.. and I often let myself down too… especially being away so much (which also attracts comments)

Why am I writing this? Cause I read a recent article on self worth and what matters. Is it hard to look at yourself through someone’s expectations on you? Yes!! But it’s not needed to be hard. Our self worth comes through Jesus only. Only through His grace can we live up to our full potential. His expectations on us are that we accept His grace.

With that in mind, I will try to be not do hard on myself… it’s good to be reminded sometimes!!!

(And dad… am not sad!!)

The King’s daughter is all glorious within” Psalm 45:13

Song

One of my favourite songs is the well known hymn ‘this is my Fathers world’. It tells me that no matter what He is in control!

It does not always feel that way…. the week started out with me being stuck in France for a day due to a cancelled flight. The plane had something wrong with its software and was not cleared to fly. I arrived a day later at my destination Costa Rica. And that while my work is so busy… a day makes a difference!

On Wednesday England lost the semi final football game to Croatia… I am not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I also got swept up in the hype and the ‘catch phrase’: it’s coming home! Instead we get to support either France or Croatia in the finals… and England gets to wait another 4 years..

My back is slowly getting better…

and on Friday it was the 13th… not that I am superstitious, but don’t you sometimes wonder? And avoid black cats?

That’s when that song comes back in my thoughts… the last couple sentences are as follows:

This is my Father’s world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

And that is exactly what I am doing…. be glad!! Enjoy nature… He is in control!!

Life Lessons

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post…life doesn’t always go the way you want it to or the way you’ve planned. When you look at the news headlines from the last couple weeks, one thing has been apparent…more and more people are committing suicide. So I asked myself why? The most common answer that kept coming forward for me was loneliness, depression and low self esteem. The three go hand in hand and feed each other.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, depression and a low self esteem, it is easy to be told to just speak up when you need help. But it really isn’t that easy, when I am down I socially isolate myself. I don’t mean to do it…I don’t want to do it either, my brain tells me that I’m being silly but my anxiety ridden part of my brain comes out with all the ‘what ifs’. Now I’m not saying don’t be there for those who are going through this, all I’m saying is that it isn’t black and white…gives us time.

The self esteem issue is one that is growing, I’m seeing the younger generations struggling more and more with their self image, and to be honest I am too. Media nowadays is constantly bombarding us with what is deemed ‘beautiful’. Gone are the days when it used to be ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’…freckles are labeled as imperfections. Curves, which used to be ‘the fashion’ is now considered majorly unhealthy and ugly…We are in a society where instead of building each other up, we are tearing each other apart! And then we get shocked when a young person or a celebrity commits or attempts to commit suicide.

We are all unique, shouldn’t we be celebrating that!? I dread to think what it would be like for there to be 2 of me…my parents would definitely agree there! But I also know that they wouldn’t want to imagine a world without me…and I wouldn’t want to imagine a world without my friends or family. So rather than tearing each other apart…lets celebrate what makes us unique!! Instead of finding fault in someone…find something positive in each person you meet!

We are all beautiful! Whether its your freckles, or your smile…we are all beautiful! Being brought up in a religious family, my parents used to always tell me ‘God doesn’t make things that aren’t beautiful and perfect’ and ‘the God who made the mountains and seas, felt like the world needed a ‘you’’. Those stuck with me and helped me when my self esteem was at the lowest.

I still struggle on a daily basis with my self esteem but I try every morning with a daily affirmation that I repeat to myself all day when I feel low. Some days those affirmations are ‘I release negativity from my body and mind’ to ‘I will not compare myself to others. I stay in my lane. I compare myself only to how far I have come and where I want to go.’

So what about you? What is your affirmation quote of the day? What helps you when you are struggling with depression, anxiety, low self esteem or loneliness?