I hope you find this blog to be a place where you can find encouragement and hope in Christ in the midst of everyday life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grief, Grace, and Gratitude

Today is August 1. The date has rolled around in my head all day.  It has caused me to to cry big tears today and has slightly reopened a huge wound in my heart. Today should have been my daddy's birthday.  And it was a big one.  He would have been sixty years old today.  My family should have gotten together this weekend, poked fun at him, and given him some corny gifts.  We should have eaten strawberry cake. I should have heard him say, like he had over the last several years, "Well, you are over half my age, you know." A running joke between us.
None of it happened.  Most of you who know me know that daddy left us last year on December 19th. A gaping hole was left in our family just in time for Christmas and grief was an undiscussed part of our holidays.  For me, grief held its power over me for several weeks. I spent a great amount of time in my Bible and on my knees. I held on to the truth found in the lyrics of Christian music.  All of those things showed me and reminded me of the grace of our Lord and Savior and that grace was the balm that began to seal the wound that cut me to the core.
The reality of God's grace is what began to bring on peace.  The grace that my dad accepted as a young man in a small church where he attended a revival is the same grace that I accepted in a small church as a young woman. It's the grace that saves us. It's the grace that Christ is able to offer because of his death on the cross. It's the grace that assures us of our eternity. A verse from Ephesians 6 jumped out and grabbed me one day. It's verse 24.  It simply says "May God's grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ." (NLT) It is the closing sentence in the book of Ephesians. It can be the closing sentence on a life well lived here on this earth. God's grace extends beyond this life.  Realizing that my dad (and all of us who follow) is living eternally in God's grace began to bring on a new gratitude. Realizing that eternity belongs to our Lord made me more aware of his role in our present and how he marks our paths for us, making me even more grateful.
Most days I can think about my dad and talk about him without tears.  A grateful heart overflows with memories of things we did and words that he said to me.  I am even grateful for the difficult things he made me do and the challenges he gave me.  Most of all I am grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who gave us to each other and sculpted our family, who offered us the same grace, and promises us the same eternity. It makes the grief seem to fade away even on the big days.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sunscreen and Waterparks

"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

School's out for the summer, and the heat is on in Eastern Oklahoma.  That can only mean one thing - it's time to play in the water! Tristan, Katie, and I did just that yesterday when we ventured to one of the local splash pads. They enjoy soaking in the cold water and I love soaking up the sun (with the occasional cool down) while memories flood my thoughts.  The kids laugh at me every time I tell them that one of my favorite things is the smell of sunscreen on their skin.  Regular old Coppertone sunscreen. It's been around since I was a kid, and fills a huge space in my memory. That smell conjures up images of all the time spent in the pool or on the lake as a kid and those memories epitomize summer, and rest and relaxation.  As an adult, I now know that all that time was not entirely restful for my parents.  But yesterday in the sun, with the smell of sunscreen all around, and the cool mist blowing off the water toys, I felt that rest for a short time. The rest that is almost absence of responsibility and freedom from things that press in on us from the world.

Life has a tendency to come at us hard sometimes.  Circumstances change, jobs change, we lose people that we love, and kids go through rough spots.  It would be nice if we could, like the school kids, just hang on until summer vacation, and then get away from it all and find some rest.  The rest that we are looking for really doesn't come from time off, or sun, water, and sunscreen. It isn't even rest that we can get in a vacation.  The rest that we need is really the peace that God gives us through His assurances and the hope that we have in the cross.

Life takes us down many paths and oftentimes we have to make choices.  When we get there, we should pray, ask God for direction, and take the way that is right. Let me just say, the way that is right honors God and builds your relationship with Him.  That is not a promise of easy, but it really can bring rest. Rest comes from knowing that your full trust is in Jesus. He is willing to be your Protector and Provider. Psalm 62:5-6 says "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

I can't go to the splash pad every day.  I can't even walk memory lane every day. I CAN place my hope in God every day.  I CAN trust God's promises every day. That means every day can be a day of rest.  I hope you find some today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Snow Days, Snow Days and More Snow Days!

It has been a long, hard week here in Oklahoma, and I've only left my house three times in the last seven days! The blizzard of 2011 left us with three foot drifts of snow and a couple of inches of ice under that.  No school for four days last week and no school AGAIN today has left us wondering if life will ever be normal again.  And you want to know the good news (note the sarcasm...)? It's supposed to start again tomorrow afternoon! Another 4-8 inches is on the way.......Sigh.

I must admit though, I have needed and enjoyed the time at home.  The holiday break we had from school in December was neither restful or enjoyable and this time has made up for that.  Tristan and Katie have been fun to be with.  They have cheerfully done their chores and played together better than I could have hoped for. Praying for your children really does work or God really doesn't give us more than we can bear!!!! Either way I'll take it.

Even though the last week hasn't been what we've expected and it seems that life has been turned upside down, that is no reason to believe that God is not aware of it all, or is overlooking NE Oklahoma.  Psalm 139:16b says "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." (NIV) This whole week was given to me by a Creator who knew me before I was born!  Knowing that my God holds the minutes of my life in the palm of His hand is a comforting thought. That gives me a new perspective. This past week and the upcoming one are no longer full of inconvenience and a trial and to get through, or a setback to summer vacation. They are a gift from a God who desires a close relationship with the one He created.  In that walk with Him, I can find Him woven through every minute of my days.

Look for God this week, praise Him that THIS week was ordained for you in THIS way, worship Him for being your Father and Protector, and seek His wisdom and will for your week! Then, live it up, no matter how much snow you get!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

What a day I have been waiting for!! My blog is finally up and running! To those of you who know me, you know this is big. This is a big step that I've been needing to take on my path to writing something that will actually be published! To those who don't know me, let me introduce myself.  My name is Cheryl.  I am a wife of 18 years, a mother, a teacher, and a follower of Christ who is doing my best to be obedient to what He has called me to do.  That, I believe, is speaking and writing to glorify God and encourage others, and that is the intention of this blog.

I wish I could tell you that I have it all together and could wrap up life in three easy application steps and go on our way. That is NOT the case!!! I have a 6 year old and a preteen. Enough said, right? There are many days that I would be mortified for you to see the state of my household, both physically and emotionally. I wish I could say the people in my household never get angry or yell or have bad days. Those things happen because we are not perfect people who live in a fallen world. The time we spend here togeher at this blog is a time to help us overcome that.  A place to find hope and encouragement in God's word, to know that we are not alone in our struggle, and maybe a place to laugh at it all and put it behind us.

I am not going to promise to post everyday. You read that part about being a wife, mom, and teacher, right? Then add all the other activities that demand my time and some days it can't all be done.  I do promise to share things that have made me laugh and cry, and most importantly, what God has taught me along the way.

Stay tuned!!! I am looking forward to this adventure!!!!