Monday, December 26, 2016

Brighter Days, Higher Hopes

"He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth'..." - Job 37:6

**Photography by Melissa Talbot

When the time comes for Christmas to be celebrated, the world seems to take a pause. A rest. Living in this country of Canada affords incredible freedoms and privileges that enable a greater awareness of that pause. That for a short while, all hardship, fighting, and difficulties appear to cease.

Unfortunately, for those who don't know Jesus or living in dangerous places/situations, may find it very difficult to have hope. That taking a pause or knowing rest is a foreign concept.

As a Christian, Christmas is an incredible time because it brings to mind the wonder and blessing of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born in a stable, laid in a manger, under the bright star in Bethlehem.

For Christians, that single birth represents the hope, joy, peace, and spectacular reassurance of greater things to come. Like the promise of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.

For me, this time of year causes deep reflection on the past twelve months and things that have changed and grown, both inwardly and outwardly. Thoughts come of how God has worked in my life, heart, mind, and spirit in wonderful and unexpected ways.

How He has changed things for the better as my pursuit of Him quickens. How good and faithful He continues to be even during those times of heartbreak and struggle.

Which brings about other thoughts during reflection. Thoughts of another year without the manifestation of marriage. Of hopes and dreams dashed and unfulfilled even though God knows what desires lie deep within. God given desires.

Even though tears are shed and the pain of disappointment runs deep, God always brings other blessings along to over shadow the things that were wished for to be waiting in pretty wrapping under the tree.

Blessings like sharing tidings of the season with friends. Spending time with family around a buffet of home cooking. Being present in each moment of the blessing so as not to miss a single word, glance, or smile. Hugging those tightly who have only come for a short while, wishing they could stay longer. Sharing in the announcement and celebration of wonderful news.

Those are the things to hold on to because they will keep you hoping for the things yet to come. Greater things beyond imagination and comprehension. At least that is my hope and belief.

So choosing to soak in the happiness and joy of right now instead of being sorrowful for the things that still haven't happened is my posture right now. Every effort will be made to remain in that posture so that every day can be enjoyed. This, my friend, is my great hope for you as this Christmas season, once again, passes away and the dawn of a new year quickly approaches.

As the cone in this post's picture looks forward to new life in the coming spring, it is my hope that you will also look forward to the coming year. That the past would be left behind. That the present would be cherished, even in the tough times, and that the future would be something that invokes excitement.

Encouragement for the week:

As enjoyable and exciting as this time of year can be, it may also be overwhelming and stressful.

Expectations placed on us by others can, sometimes, place a damper on what we hoped Christmas would be.

May I just encourage you, this week, to take time by yourself to reflect on the past year. Think about the things you faced and overcame. About the changes that happened not only in you, for the better, but also in others or in your life situation.

In spite of the pain, hurt, or disappointment you may have incurred in the past year, a new year is about to dawn and the possibilities and opportunities for you are endless.

If you are a Christian reading this, you not only have the extraordinary joy of knowing your salvation is secured as you follow God and live your life for Him, but each day with Him is also an adventure. Yes, even in the ordinary, mundane, monotonous days.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can share in the great hope that I and others have within the personal relationship we share with God and Jesus Christ. A hope that will bring you peace, joy, contentment, and the excitement of greater things to come by knowing Jesus.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. For those who struggle during the holidays, I pray for great peace and comfort to wash over you. I pray for hope to fill you all as we approach a new year.

**The photo in this post is the debut of my photography. I hope you enjoy this picture and each one to come. Each photo has also been inspired by Scripture found in the Bible.**

Monday, December 19, 2016

Tis The Season

When someone I love is hurting, it's difficult and painful to stand by, being unable to do something to lessen their pain. Most times, it's hard to know what to say. Praying, for me, has been a way of helping.

At this time of year, our hearts should be filled with joy and excitement to spend time with friends and family. We should be looking forward to festive meals, relaxation, laughter, and reflection on the reason behind the season.

For the first time in a really long time, I have joy, peace, and excitement for this time of year. Being freed from things that used to burden and changing my mindset has made all the difference. A difference that has only happened through a relationship with Christ. I'm beyond grateful for the turnaround this year.

For decades, this season only meant loneliness, rejection, hurt, and without cause for celebration. So it's very easy to understand the plight of friends and family who struggle at Christmastime.

The reasons can be many behind not feeling all too merry or engaging in the meaning of this time of year. Some reasons that, recently and personally, resonate with me are someone who lost their home to the cruel and unbiased nature of fire. Another moved out of their marital home, facing divorce, with three small children.

My heart cries out, "This is so unfair. Why them? Why now? Why this time of year, or any time of year for that matter?" Though the questions go unanswered, it's hard to reconcile these things when hurt is the end product.

As a Christian, I have not only known great hurt, still do, but there is a source to help heal and restore a hurting heart. That source has been God and Jesus Christ. That's why this time of year holds so much more hope and joy than ever before. A hope and joy that remains a great desire, of mine, for others to know.

Along with a want to reach into the depths of another person's pain filled life to pull them into hope. Hope to live another day, to trudge ahead, to dream again. Hope to look beyond the brutal reality and see the absolute truth that things will get better and the fog will fade away with the rising sun.

Hope was the thing I was desperate for the most throughout life. When my son was taken from me, when the divorce papers were served, when the addictions took over. Hope would have really been good but there was very little to none most days.

When I became a Christian and things were changing within, the learned and experienced things of Jesus brought hope. A fuel laden, dynamite charged fire of hope that helped a broken heart to beat again.

So, as the days draw closer to Christmas and my reason for the season, Christ, hope stirs and rises as desires for others to experience that same hope does. Not just for those I know, but for everyone around the globe who don't yet know the promise and joy that hope in Jesus brings.

Encouragement for the week:

You are loved. In your loneliness, your broken relationship, the loss of your home, or whatever brokenness you are facing, you are loved. Beyond measure, beyond your own understanding. There is nothing you have to do to earn this love. It's yours for the asking.

I know you're hurting, especially this time of year, and I may not know the right words to say. I have been where you are, in that place of hurt, and sometimes a listening ear might be all you need but it's here for you. Whenever you need it.

I understand and care and desire that you know the same hope and joy I found, not only for this time of year, but all year round.

If you are a Christian reading this, it is my hope that you cling to the reason for this season, Jesus Christ and that His birth would bring fresh joy and hope into your heart.

If you are not a Christian reading this, it is my great hope that you would look for Jesus and reach out to Him to experience all the hope, joy, and peace that He desires you to enjoy.

I wish to thank all of my dedicated readers and followers for being a part of my blog success so far. May you all have a very Merry Christmas. Get caught up in the little things and do away with the trivial. Enjoy each moment because there are no do overs. Time is precious and the amount we each have on this earth is unknown, so enjoy your life.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Awestruck And Gobsmacked

In my singleness really-wish-it-was-over-already journey, I feel like I have been climbing the emotional and spiritual equivalent of Mount Everest.

I know that many people have tried to get to the top of this infamous mountain. Some were successful, others were not and had to return to the bottom. Some lost their lives trying to achieve their dream of reaching the summit.

Even though I have never attempted the climb, I think I may have a sense of what those, who tackled the real mountain, experienced.

In this season of my singleness, I don't think I was fully prepared for what was going to be required to make this journey. I know I was not ready for the length of it and it often felt like my season was ALWAYS winter with blizzard after blizzard.

Each subsequent step upward seemed to take more effort than the last. At times, it became hard to breathe and I would have to camp in one spot for hours, sometimes days because the storm just became too much.

Often, there was exhaustion, impatience, pleading, frustration, and discouragement ruling every part of me. It took everything I had to want to continue up the daunting mountain.

There was even that voice inside that said I would never get to the top. That I would never overcome the doubt and fear that plagued me.

This might seem a bit dramatic, but I felt like I would die on that mountain of singleness. Never realizing the sweet taste of victory over the misery my status often brought.

Yet, something inside of me kept telling me to hold on, fight through the tears, and resume the climb. Keep on toward the summit of marriage that, I believe, God has in store for me.

Interestingly enough, after nine and a half years of climbing, I stumbled upon a hidden pre-summit this past week. Frankly, it was like a five star cup of hot chocolate, with mini marshmallows, suddenly appearing to warm and thaw this woman-sicle.

As I drank carefully but desperately, I could feel joy and contentment filling me. Almost to overflowing. The more I drank, the more hot chocolate came.

My heart burst with gratitude as this spiritual beverage filled every longing crevasse. The experience left me awestruck and gobsmacked to say the least.

There is a man in the Bible by the name of Paul. I guess you could say that he, spiritually, climbed Mount Everest too. He would talk about his experiences of telling people about Jesus and the opposition he encountered.

He was beaten, flogged, shipwrecked, threatened, and so much more. You would think he'd pack it in early on in his climb.

As much misfortune that came his way, Paul kept climbing and he kept an optimism that few could muster, myself included. In fact, he delighted in pointing out that in spite of everything that was done to him and all he had to go through, he had joy and contentment.

I'm thankful to say that after all these years of climbing and struggling that I can, honestly and finally, relate to how Paul is feeling and it is so incredible. It almost makes the climb, thus far, worth it...almost.

I have to say that I am looking forward, more and more, to reaching the top of my Mount Everest. To stand at the top in complete awe after this long and arduous climb.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my hot chocolate, with mini marshmallows, all the way to the top.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you feel like you are climbing Mount Everest? You are not alone, my friend.

Though the way is difficult and the journey is taking all you've got, take a break but keep going. You'll reach your summit if you persevere.

If you are a Christian reading this, keep looking up, into the eyes of God and don't take them off Him for ANYTHING. You're going to make it if you don't give up.

If you are not a Christian reading this, God knows your every heartache and cares for you. He and Jesus want a relationship with you. They love you beyond measure. Look for them and you will find them.

Time for more hot chocolate.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Making Something Out Of Nothing?

I think it's fair to say that we all have scars. Some are external and noticeable. Others are hidden deep within us.

Whether superficial or long and deep, scars are permanent. Permanent marks that may have come as a result of a traumatic time in our lives.

Marks that appear because of something someone did or said to hurt us. Or maybe it was something someone didn't say or do that caused the damage.

No matter what the situation or person, scars develop and they sting. The physical scars can be seen and may remind us of something we long to forget.

The deep scars, those of the heart, might even torment us, causing us to set ourselves on a course we were never meant to plot. On a journey we were never meant to take.

I have scars. I have one on the top of my left hand that a family dog left when I was really young. It always makes me chuckle when I look at the scar and know exactly what caused it. It's amazing what the mind remembers.

Then there are the deeper scars. The ones I allowed to shape me into someone I was never meant to become. Someone who allowed the marks to slowly destroy herself.

Scars made of cutting words and abusive actions that wore me down and kept me in a place of anger, rejection, and self-hatred. The combination of these which made it easy to immerse myself in alcohol, drug and sexual addictions.

It's all I knew at the time to get through each day, to get through life. Even life became a struggle to want to live and I, often, contemplated suicide, attempting it many times.

When I became a Christian in May of 2007, the scars were still very much there but God began to change my understanding about those scars. Over the years He has been helping me to see them no longer as scars but as building blocks.

Building blocks to make something good out of something very real and very painful. Construction pieces of hurt turned into healing, immorality into integrity, and rage into restoration.

God began healing the very things I had been using to destroy myself and others. He was taking all of my anger and transforming it into love, empathy and compassion for others.

Turning my self-hatred, insecurity and insignificance into respect, understanding and forgiveness for myself and others.

God is still healing my innermost scars today. Scars I wasn't fully aware of. It's beautiful, to me, how God has never left me where I'm at and only loves me to a better place I never thought I could reach within.

Such an instance occurred yesterday when I heard a powerful message on the force that feelings of a broken heart and rejection can have. Feelings such as anger, being easily offended, and having a controlling/manipulative nature.

I was caught off guard with my mouth gaping wide as the words from the message reached deeper and deeper into me.

As hard as it was to hear the pastor speak on the topic, I couldn't deny that I felt as though he was speaking directly to me. Which was a good thing because those were feelings I had been fighting against for many years.

It was through the message and God's love and grace for me that I felt healed of my issues with rejection and all the feelings I had been carrying, associated with it.

Becoming a Christian doesn't guarantee a painless journey filled with lollipops and kittens (not to sound lame). It does guarantee that we will always be in a time of change and I have come to know and experience that change is good even when it might seem bad at the time.

God wants us to become better because of His love for you and me. He's not going to stop at good. He's aiming for getting us to our very best, but only if we're willing.

For me, I am beyond thankful and grateful that my scars won't be for nothing. Instead, they will all be used to build something. Something really good and so will yours.

Encouragement for the week:

I know you have scars. I know there are some you would rather forget. Don't let those scars define you. Don't let them destroy you.

God doesn't make junk, that includes you. Whether you are a Christian or not.

You are more than the scars you have incurred. God wants to take those scars and turn them into building blocks for something very good.

Something far beyond your own imagination.

If you are a Christian reading this, God wants to heal you using those scars to build you up, not send you crumbling to the ground. I pray you let Him.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can know Jesus for yourself if you look for Him and let Him and God take you and turn you into what I KNOW is beautiful.

Let the building begin.