Sunday, December 29, 2013

Drawing Nearer

2013.  What a year it's been.  It's been a year of laughing, learning, loving, nurturing, mourning, growing, changing.  I've learned more about life this year than any other year.  Not all of it good, not all of it bad. It's been a mixture.  Am I satisfied?  No.  In fact, I'm kinda ashamed of how little I've accomplished this year.  I have a lot more learning to do.  I'm ready for 2014, ready for a new start.  I'm ready to be more, to do more, to love more, to accept more, to pray shine more. 
I want to be able to say at the end of the day that it is well with my soul.  I want to be able to know that I surrendered all. I want to walk with Him and talk with Him.  It's so hard to do these things, though.  So hard.  And I continually fail. Over and over again.
One of my favorite hymns is "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," particularly this verse:
 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
How easy, how beautiful to sing those words- here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it.  It's melodic; it warms my soul.  But I can't just sing it, and I can't just play it- I must actually do it.  I must give my all to Him. It's the key to happiness.  It's the key to life.  It's the key. 
"Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Psalm 73:25-26

Thank goodness for a God who gives second chances. And third and fourth and 3, 201 chances.  And however many I need.  And if He can so easily give us chances to redeem ourselves, surely we can give each other chances, too?  Chances to be better to one another.  To love deeper, to forgive easier, to live better.  Surely. 
"But it is good for me to draw near to God:  I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all they works." Psalm 73:28
In 2014, I want to just draw nearer. Nearer to Thee. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Take Off the Grave Clothes!

"Am I worthy to stand in the presence of God? By no means!  I am a sinner saved by Grace."
Teresa gave me one of my dad's study Bibles about a month ago, but my heart hasn't been ready to open it and look through it until tonight. When I opened it tonight, the sentence above was written on one of the pages- my dad's handwriting on the page of Luke 18.  I was looking for a sign from God tonight, something to comfort me, something to fill me with peace. And He delivered.  How comforting, how amazing, how affirming, to read my father's words on the pages of my Father's words...proclaiming his salvation- right in front of me. I know without a doubt that my dad is in Heaven, always have.  That's never been an issue.  But it was a sweet, sweet reminder from my Heavenly Father of my dad's strong faith.  Of his relentless hope of salvation.  It was a gift this girl needed on the eve of Christmas eve.  
My heart aches in the death of my dad.  It literally aches.  It's rare that I speak of his death out loud.  Very rare.  I can't. I literally start crying every time I speak of him, and it's too much for me.  But a few nights ago, I told Michael that his death is just unbelievable to me.  It doesn't seem real. 
 Looking through his Bible tonight helps me.  Seeing how he placed little dots under each individual word of John 4:41 ("And because of his words many more became believers.")  makes me proud that he was my dad.  A God-fearing, God-believing, God-seeking Dad.   
Flipping the pages, I see some more notes he's written on the pages of John 11.  The passage is about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  My dad wrote on the side of the page, "Has your life turned upside down?  4 days dead!  Jesus can still work it out!"  So yes, Dad, my life has turned upside down.  And you're right- Jesus is going to work it out.  After all, he performed the miracle of raising a dead man back to life.  No matter what we go through, whatever trials come our way, Jesus will still be there.  He's still in the business of loving us, protecting us, and guiding us.  He can still heal our broken hearts. My hope is in Him.  I'm so blessed that I know that he's at peace. 
I'm thankful for my Savior, for giving me the parents that He did. This Christmas, I've experienced the birth of Jesus in a new way because now all the people I equate with the nativity and the birth of Jesus, I imagine my dad meeting in Heaven, talking with them, getting first-hand reports of how it all went down that night in Bethlehem so many years ago.  My dad is with these people now.  That's amazing.   
Last Christmas was a really hard Christmas. Cohen had the flu, so we couldn't leave the house.  We were stuck at home.  I remember texting my dad telling him we wouldn't make it over to his house, and I was sad to miss out on all the festivities.  But later on, he and Teresa came over to see us.  It made our day to visit with them, and had I known that would've been my last Christmas with my daddy, I would've relished in it even more, taken more pictures- this time making sure I got some really great ones of my dad with Cohen.  I had no idea that he would be gone from my life just a month and a half away.  No idea. 
 I pray for healing for our family this year.  But when I think of us, I also think of so many other families that are hurting, that are experiencing loss and sickness, and I pray that we can all help each other through these times.  We need to show God's love and be His light to one another. 
The last sentence my dad wrote on the page of John 11 says, "Take off your grave clothes!"  I think it's his way of saying to me to not be consumed with grief. Rejoice in his life.  But also rejoice in his everlasting life.  It's okay.  It's going to be okay.
O, come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
We'll give Him all the glory, we'll give Him all the glory, we'll give Him all the glory, Christ the Lord.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Goodnight, Sam.

Christmas.  Almost a week away.  With all the decorating, shopping, and to-do lists to make it a magical Christmas, my heart isn't in it all the way this year.  I'm just so sad to have Christmas without my daddy.  The first one in 32 years.  Without him.  But I feel him everywhere.  I think of him always.  Oh, how I miss him. 
Sunday was the first time in a several weeks that I really felt that overwhelming sensation as I played the piano of a connection between me, Dad, and God.  Sometimes, in the stress of everything going on, I lose my focus, but this week, God grabbed my heart as I played.  Grabbed it.  And it was one of those powerful moments that we had that just made me be still.  I need those moments more.  I was playing "What Child Is This?" and I could see so clearly a vision of my dad visiting with sweet Mary and sitting quietly with her as I played, them reflecting on that miracle that happened, that changed the world. The miracle of Jesus' birth.  My dad is up there with them right now.  I wonder what their celebration is like, their celebration of the birthday of our King.  I bet it's amazing.  And Dad is getting to experience it for the first time with the key players.  The stars of the show.  How amazing! 
And tonight he's getting to experience it with his best furry friend.  Our dear sweet Sam.  It broke my heart to get the phone call from Teresa that Sam died today.  Truly a man's best friend.  A loyal, loving companion that's walked by Dad's side for many years.  A dog that brought him comfort, joy, and lots of love. Unconditional love, through good times and not so good times. It's just heartbreaking to say goodbye to something that meant so much to my dad.  Who knows if pets go to Heaven, but I'm going to believe that they do. Why not?  What's the harm in it?  I did look up some scriptures about animals, and found some promising ones, like this one-
"And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." Revelation 5:13 
It feels as if another piece of my dad has died today.  To some, that may be silly, but I'm sure the number of people that understand what I'm writing far outweighs the ones that don't.  We love you, Sam.  You were a dear, fun dog.  A beauty.  May you rest in peace and walk the streets of gold with Daddy for the rest of your life.