September 22, 2019

To Dance In My Seasons by Alan Anderson




For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…-Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4

I am struck by a question our writing prompt asks this month. “How would you describe your season at this time?” I’m sixty-five years old as I write this post. When I consider life is made of several seasons, I estimate I’m in mid-Autumn. 


My spring season has long past but I have memories from those early days. Ah, the memories so varied and real. I remember as a little boy sliding down the stairs of our house to rush into the kitchen for breakfast. I remember at nine years old seeing my grandpa collapse and soon die in our home.


When I became ten years old I remember the ocean liner sailing us to Canada from Scotland. I remember the first time I tasted a peanut butter and jam sandwich for the first scrumptious time. I remember my parents surprised me with a dog for my birthday. I loved her until her final day. I remember graduating from high school and being glad these years were over.
 


My summer came on with no fanfare. I was now confronted with the reality of adult life staring me in the face. I became a Christian at twenty-one and enrolled in Bible College the next year. In 1978, I married my darling and two years later; I became a dad. I devoted a number of years to bi-vocational pastoral ministry. When depression came upon me I wandered for two years in “The Tunnel” unsure of which way to go. A few years later, I served as a chaplain in healthcare and loved those I called, “my teachers.”


Now in my mid-autumn season, I expect new adventures and experiences. Looking back, however, there have been life-changing challenges since autumn came. I said farewell to both my parents as their winters ended. I cried when five of my grandchildren went to heaven without ever enjoying the kiss of spring. Yes, times of tears have not escaped me. As my autumn season drifts by, I am all too familiar with a time to mourn.


I also glory in my autumn season for times of dancing. With my transition into autumn, I waltzed into the arms of the InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship. InScribe helped save my words. My words now have a place for nurtured and to dance. Through our InScribe family, I became a blogger. This gave me the confidence to begin my blog, Scarred Joy. Autumn is where I have sent more of my words out into the world.


When I think of winter, I hope it is still a long way off. In winter I may encounter creaky and stiff joints longing to write or do other fun things without challenges of the body. For now, in my autumn, I am content with life, at least for the most part.

 


When my season turns into winter, I hope I accept it well. I hope I embrace my old age without grumbling. I hope I still take pleasure in seeing young women being courted by young men. I hope I still embrace happiness at seeing children run and jump and giggle. I pray my darling will still be with me as we look back at the decades we enjoyed together. I don’t want us to be parted and yet I know heaven is across the horizon. For now, I continue to dance in life with my beloved and our season is sweet.




https://scarredjoy.ca/

September 21, 2019

Falling into Autumn/Out of the Express Line ... by Jocelyn Faire

Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry John Piper

“Sometimes these are the slowest lines,” the white haired customer ahead of me lamented. I agreed adding that this was my second slow express line of the day; I'd been at Walmart that morning and was certain the lady ahead of me could not count, clearly she was over the limit. “If this is your second express line today, you might be a slow learner. But,” he paused, “I'm guessing we both have enough time that we shouldn't be hurried.” My response included a chuckle, “Well, looking at the others in this line, I'm guessing that overall you and I have less time left in our lives, and I don't want to be wasting it in a slow line at Safeway.” With a twinkle in my eye I added, “I also don't buy green bananas anymore.”
     When observing others, I think of aging as the autumn season of life, a kind of unhurried time. There are parts of this I love ... the slow down after a busy summer, the cooler weather, the invite to sit by a fire, the harvest time of apples, and the way autumn carries itself with an elegant mature beauty. While I want this season to feel unrushed and want ample time to be still and know that I am God, the harsh reality is that life continues in busy format, unless I do something about it. While in her early nineties my mother expressed that time still passed too quickly for her, even though she spent much of the day in her chair with few tasks on her to-do list. She spent her time remembering. 
     One of my favourite theologian poets John O Donohue said “In the autumn of your life, your experience is harvested ... Aging invites you to become aware of the sacred circle that shelters your life ... In fact if you come to see aging not as the demise of your body but as the harvest of your soul, you will learn that aging can be a time of great strength, poise and confidence." My sister-in-law believes people's character distills over time, both the best or worst have potential to grow stronger.
     I've come through quite a long season of transition ... Feb 2020 will mark the fifteenth year that two of my children went to Heaven ... to say it has been a journey would be the biggest understatement of my life. In the last decade, I have lived on two different continents in five different places, undergone divorce, ended my nursing career, began writing, met many, good-byed many, remarried, blended two families. The highway of transition has been a rich, difficult and beautiful journey with much time spent both in the desert and by the nourishing river waters. Change is constant, but self-initiated change is always more welcome than change thrust upon us. And now I find myself in a new season ... and it takes adjustment as well ... you see we never arrive at a place without some baggage from the previous season. As obvious as it is, our today, is not exactly a brand new slate. We may enter the autumn phase having undergone a wet spring, a dry summer, a late frost, a freak hail storm. And seasons do not end precisely on their designated equinox days ... chinooks do happen.
     When I ponder the question Jesus asked Bartimaeus: What do you want me to do for you (now)? I wonder what do I want? Reversal of time does not happen. Through the grief journey, I feel as though I “lost” some of my productive years ... and yet, while on the healing road, there was/is no point in hurrying. I knew I did not need to explain to God my hours spent in reflection and contemplation. While I lived my life solo, I had no one's task oriented life to measure mine against. Now that I have remarried, with a husband who works half time, I feel as if my productivity is once again measured by tasks done. This is more my perception than his. In her book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young tells us that spending time with God can be a difficult discipline because it goes against the activity addiction of this age. You may appear to be doing nothing, but actually you are participating in battles going on within spiritual realms. Last Sunday morning I passed a little girl on training wheels calling out ... Help Mommy, I'm stuck and can't move. At times I feel like I'm still spinning my training wheels, not going anywhere. It's not God's measurement I'm up against, it's my own, as perceived by others. Perhaps the man at Safeway was right, perhaps I am a slow learner.

     With God's help, I want this to be a slow down time to take in the elegant beauty of fall and share from my harvest those who need its gleanings. This week my new granddaughter and I were picking leaves in awe of the rich reds. To take a line from a gardening show ... I've matured into foliage. And isn't that a beautiful thing!


September 20, 2019

Cheering Me On in a Season of Mercy – Denise M. Ford


Recently, while enjoying craft time with my granddaughter, Violet, she said to me, “Well, did you know Nana, it’s going to be my first day at preschool. So, Mommy will come with me to watch me.”

“Oh, that will be exciting,” I responded.

“Well, you know, Nana, Mommy will be cheering me on!”

She gestured with her hands waving, palms up.  Her smile crinkled her nose and her eyes. The truth of her statement could only be interpreted as overwhelming delight.

Cheering me on! Oh, how I felt caught in her confidence!  I could picture the moment: a mom on the sidelines as her child runs onto the field to take part in a new game, to move through a new experience, to step into a new role.

Cheering me on! I allowed this phrase to settle into my heart over the past few days.  It led my thoughts as I prayed.

I pictured the seasons of my life cascading before me, down the sheer drop of a memory waterfall that could threaten to suck me over and into an endless vortex of regret.  Except that at the edge of the waterfall, stands my Lord and Saviour.  And He’s…why He’s cheering me on!
Not to jump into the thundering swirl of tumultuous transgressions, but to cross over and above it.  He’s cheering me on! 

I can’t let go of this image. 

How appropriate as September unravels its days into the high school football season.  Both our sons devoted their fall months to honing their skills as defensive backs on the Springbank Phoenix football team. How many games did I run up and down the side lines cheering them on?  How many times did I hold my breath as helmets banged loudly, bodies crashed into each other and players unwound themselves out of a heap of tangled limbs?  Even when I knew they were properly equipped to handle the plays on the field, I still prayed for their protection.  I still cheered them on in quiet and loud cries that poured forth from a mother’s loving heart.

What does the Lord’s cheering sound like?  How do I know He is cheering me on?

I believe I have entered into a Season of Mercy. A season in which each morning I acknowledge the blessings He has afforded me through His mercy. Then I ask, who can I show mercy to, for you, Lord?

The words from Isaiah 45:4-5 resonate within me as I seek to understand this Season of Mercy as I enter my sixties. 
This decade promises to bring new playing fields of opportunity into my life.  If I listen for Him to call me, if I trust that He has equipped me (or embraced and armed me), surely, I can pursue the purposes He has designed for me.  I don’t need to know all the details that will happen in each new day.  I simply need to know that He will be cheering me on with quiet and loud cries from deep within a loving Lord’s heart.

In Romans 12 (TPT version) Paul says, “God’s marvellous grace imparts to each one of us a grace-gift.” We come fully equipped to our playing field and He cheers us on to use our gifts.  Through the years I’ve come to identify that I often use the gift of compassion, or Mercy, in my relationships with others.  Today as I read Romans 12:6-8 again I focus on the line “if you have the gift of showing compassion, then flourish in your cheerful display of compassion.”

Oh Lord, I pray I will come ready to suit up in your gift, to fully embrace and arm myself with your Mercy so that it can flow to others.  So that I can properly cheer on others in compassionate and caring ways. 

I think of my granddaughter animated and sparkling with the very idea of her Mommy cheering her on.  She doesn’t have any preconceived notion of a cheerleader at a game. She pictures a loving mother providing a smiling face or a thumbs up “you can do it” wave. She knows her mother will be by her side no matter what happens.

In this Season of Mercy, I hope to respond to others in cheerful displays of compassion. I hear my Lord, I see my Lord, and I know my Lord is with me, cheering me on!

At this point, my husband enters the room to bring me a cup of coffee. He listens as I lament over how to find the right finish to this blog post.  He has no idea what I have been writing. 

“You have such joy when you talk about writing, even when you are frustrated,” he says. “I can see it emanating from you, with your smile lighting up your entire face.”

And there it is, The Lord, my Lord, cheering me on through my husband. 
This is my Season of Mercy.  I hope to let His mercy flow to others in circumstances only He knows will unfold.  
Thank you, dear, sweet Lord, for cheering me on!

Can you hear Him?  How is He cheering you on?

September 18, 2019

To Trust Him More - Gloria Guest


As I write this, fall has gently touched down on the prairies of southern Saskatchewan basking us in golden, sunshiny afternoons that turn to gradually, cooling evenings and rich, colorful sunsets that seem to literally spill across the sky.  Although I have come to appreciate the prairies in all of its seasons, I grew up in southern Ontario where my love of the fall season first began. I still remember kicking through the large, bright red maple leafs on my way home from school and watching the squirrels racing from tree to tree with their cheeks filled with their winter treasures. In fall, a warmth of thanksgiving spreads through my soul. I also feel nostalgic, introspective and as I enter the season I often find myself pondering heading into the much less welcome winter season and  like those

squirrels, how to best prepare myself for it.

This fall season has been no different. I feel a stirring of the winds of change upon my soul in various areas of my life, including my writing and the direction it needs to go; directions that I may not have set out to plan but that are necessary to get me through the next season.

And so, with nothing but thankfulness for the opportunities that I have had to participate in writing on this Inscribe Blog and the many connections that it has brought into my life, I am choosing to let the sun set a little early for me on this blog and this will be my last post.

This month’s blog topic was a very challenging one for me, asking what I would like Jesus to do for me in my writing life and in this season of life. That is a big question, especially for someone who tends to get lost in my questions and then the maze seems to never end.

However, Tracy Krauss’ post which talked about ‘just being’ was an inspiration for me and helped to clarify for me that what I really seek from Jesus at this time in my life, writing and otherwise, is His quiet presence. I have often felt desperate to have my answers whenever I’ve approached Jesus but now I realize that more than answers, all I really need is His warm touch to spread through my soul.

There is a popular meme that floats around Facebook depicting the fall season with a saying that says, “The trees are about to show us how beautiful it is to let go.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, even as I’m writing this, my new favorite Christian singing duo, Caleb & Kelsey are singing on YouTube in the background, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.”

I do have a few plans. I have some 'winter treasures' to get me through the next season, just like those cheeky, little squirrels.  Some are to write, mostly on my memoir and my own blog. Some are to take some editing classes, something that has interested me for a while. I'm branching out into other creative endeavours such as stained glass classes (I love the aspect of broken pieces being made into something beautiful).  The most important plans are to continue on my own personal journey of hope and healing. In my blog posts over these past few years some of you have come to know some of my  struggles. I’m thankful for the opportunity that I was given to share those in trust with people who I felt cared. I think it has also been a testing ground for me, to see if I was ready to share more in depth in my memoir. We will see. All I know is that I need to continue to rest in God’s grace and let Him lead me. Just as the song says; "Oh for Grace to trust Him more."




Gloria Guest writes, blogs and enjoys the changing seasons from her cozy little house on the prairies in Caron, Sk. where she resides with her husband and two cats.

September 17, 2019

A Season of Uncertainty by Lynn Dove



One of my favourite Scripture passages comes from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

When I was a young Mom, I lamented over the fact that I had no time to accomplish all the things I wanted to do during the day.  I was so busy chasing after two toddlers, caring for their needs as well as figuring out how to accommodate the schedule of my tweenager, there just didn't seem to be enough hours in the day to fit in other household chores, Bible studies, or eking out time for daily devotions.  I had no time for myself, let alone trying to have a date night with my husband.  Getting ready for Sunday morning worship services was a task all on its own, and I found myself so spiritually unprepared for the service because I knew I had probably broken a few commandments on route to church just wrestling kids into car seats! 

A Godly, older woman I admired for her strength of character and wise counsel, spoke into my life on numerous occasions.  This time she smiled at me sympathetically as I sought out her wisdom with regards to my time constraints and my guilt for not being a "perfect" wife and mother. 

"Lynn," she said calmly, "there is time for everything, and everything in its time.  This is an important season of life for you.  ALL seasons of life are important, and your walk with God will be different in each one, but your main priority in this one is looking after those three children.  God gave them to you.  They are His gifts to you.  They are your responsibility to train up in the way they should go so they will never depart from it.  You may not be able to spend time on doing everything on your "to do" list, but embrace this season of life.  It is fleeting. Your children are only babies for a short amount of time.  Enjoy this precious time with them.  There will come other seasons in your life, when they will be grown up and you will have time for all the things you may think you're missing out on now, but you'll never have that time back with your young children. So, take advantage of this season of life now before it's over and then prepare for the ones ahead."

My first cancer diagnosis in 2001, changed me in ways I never expected.  All of a sudden things that had been priorities before, now were not important.  I was fighting for my life, and all activities were put on hold as I battled.  My entire family joined me on the journey.  I am only now beginning to realize how that season of my life, affected each of my loved ones in a variety of emotional and spiritual ways.  We all grew in the Lord, especially my sixteen year old daughter.  She had to lean entirely on Him for wisdom and guidance as she took on the role of caregiver to her two much younger siblings when I was too sick to look after them myself.  She was determined to not burden me with the load she carried every day, trying to excel at school, and be available at home.  I didn't realize at the time what a toll it was on her, but I couldn't have managed without her. 

I was so immersed in the battle, I forgot time even existed.  My husband's role fluctuated daily with caring for me, his children and working full time too.  It was an exhausting season for him.  Then when I was declared cancer-free, I started to embrace life again.  As a family, we took a big breath of relief and started making plans again.  I lived one day at a time, thankful for each day.  I wrote my first book during that season, followed by two more in the years that followed my battle with breast cancer.  I went to seminary and got my Master's degree.  I helped plan my daughter's wedding.  I began blogging.  As I told everyone, who seemed to admire my new-found lease on life, I was a "thriver" not just a "survivor".  I embraced that season wholeheartedly.

When my two youngest children hit their teen and young adult years, they had outside interests that didn't include me.  I was so immersed pursuing my hobbies, my writing, and participating in Bible Studies, that I forgot my priorities.  Sometimes I over-extended myself, having the inability to say, "No" to some activities.  It came at the expense of spending good, quality time with my two adolescent children still living at home.  Even though I was involved in worthwhile activities, I was not as engaged with my younger kids at a time when they needed me most.  It was a hard lesson to learn and a hard season followed. 

It was only after they had both moved away from home that I remembered too late, the advice from my friend that time is indeed fleeting, and I should have embraced all those precious years more readily with each of my children.  It seemed I had squandered a lot of time "chasing after the wind" to find a lot of what I had accomplished meaningless.  I was unprepared for being an empty-nester and so I poured my heart out to God, asking Him for direction through this new stage of life, and try to redeem some time again with my adult children.  God was faithful.

I started to write again, particularly on my blog, Journey Thoughts.  As the readership and followers grew, I realized God was growing it from just a collection of my musings, to a full-fledged writing ministry. I was once again fully immersed in a new season of writing, reconnecting with my children, husband, and my church.  Grandchildren were born, and I found myself telling my adult children the same advice that was given to me when they were little: embrace this season with your young ones because it is fleeting.  Thankfully, they seem to be heeding that advice.

In April of this year, when I was starting to settle into a routine with blog writing, and was eagerly embracing the thought of spending my retirement years traveling with my husband, another cancer diagnosis, this time endometrial cancer, floored me.  Every plan I had made was immediately put on hold.  I once again had to re-evaluate what my priorities would be moving through a new season of uncertainty.  In the scheme of things, time cannot move fast enough to get me through this season, and yet, God is teaching me so much about Himself through this most challenging time, I hesitate to rush through it too fast for fear of missing out on all He wants me to learn. 


My life verse: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9, has brought me comfort through every one of my seasons.  God has faithfully brought me through every season of life and I know He will get me through the ones to follow. 


Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at lynndove.com