This is Easter Morn

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes, we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV)

As many of you know my mother wrote poetry.  She was never formally published but I wish we had pursued that while she was alive. She was in a poetry writing group for a while and had a few published in a couple of newspapers.  She also generously shared poems with others when she felt a poem had a message that could encourage the person in whatever circumstance they found themselves. If you have a handwritten copy of one of her poems I hope you keep it as a treasure.

I promised her when she was in hospice that I was going to see that her poetry was published for the whole world to read.  I have published a few on my blog, but I have plans, God willing to do a book of her poetry.  Most of her poems were written in the mid-seventies through the mid-eighties.  They were actually quite good; some, a little rough around the edges, needing some final editing.

In 1975 during Holy Week, on Good Friday, she wrote an Easter Poem and titled it Hallelujah. Because of the repeating refrain of This is Easter Morn I thought about changing the title of the poem but decided that the whole concept of Easter is definitely one big Hallelujah and that must be how she felt about it, so I left her title. I’d like to share it with you:

Mom's Easter Poem

Happy Easter! I hope you find a church and attend on Easter Sunday to Worship our Risen Savior!

Celebrating in Grace,

Teresa

If you haven’t read it yet, I shared a whole series about losing my Mom to Alzheimer’s. I shared a few of her poems throughout the series. You can click here to check it out.

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Into Your Hands

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’

When he had said this he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46

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The verse we read in Luke 23:46 as part of the Easter story is also referenced in Psalm 31:5. Several sources I came across while researching indicated that the phrase “into your hands I commit my spirit” was how the Jewish people ended their evening prayers.

I would imagine that like other Jewish children, Jesus was taught this prayer as a young child. It was a familiar practice that was an act of trust. To commit something of value to another is not a small thing.  By definition commit means to entrust something to someone; it also means to put into a place for safekeeping. (Merriman Webster).

By committing their spirit to God each evening they were submitting their soul for safekeeping.  What a beautiful picture of complete submission to the will of the father. We know that Jesus had prayed on the Mount of Olives asking for this cup to be taken from him but he surrendered by concluding his prayer with “not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). This too would line up with committing his spirit to Father God.

Then, we have the account in Mark 15:34 of Jesus crying out asking God “why have you forsaken me?” According to Mark, this was at 3 O’clock.  Luke’s account begins at noon, followed by three hours of darkness and then right before Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” Luke mentions that it is 3 O’clock.  This would imply that only moments after asking why God had forsaken him, Jesus then acknowledges that he is committing his spirit to the father.

In his darkest hour, burdened by the weight of my sin and the sins of the whole world, sins that had not yet been committed, sins that God in his holiness could not look upon, Jesus felt the crushing despair of complete and utter abandonment.  But yet, he still trusted that his spirit would be safe with the father.

His loud proclamation of “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” tells us all we need to know about God’s faithfulness.  It tells us that a daily practice of committing our spirit (soul) to him is how we develop trust in him, it is how we surrender to his will, not ours, and it is how we can face our own mortality with confidence.  When the time comes, just as Jesus did, we can breathe our last breath knowing that we will be united with our Father eternally.

Maybe you are facing insurmountable trials that are shaking your very foundation.  Maybe you feel that God has turned his back on you and your world has gone dark. Maybe you are crushed under the weight of despair.  I urge you to remember that if you are a born again believer you have hope and even when it seems that all is lost, you can confidently say, “Father, into your hand I commit my spirit.” You can trust him with the safekeeping of your soul.

If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior I can’t think of a better time than during the Easter season.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen”

Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Committing with Grace,

Teresa

The Next Right Thing

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

I’ve been all twisted up in decision fatigue recently. Considering my place, my purpose, and how that relates to my husband, my writing, my family, my health, my church and my community.  I encountered a situation that was a relentless drain on my spirit. Some things were said that were out of line and it hurt deeply. Being the melancholy type that I am and also one who tends to overthink things I replayed the scene over a few times in my mind.

It was exhausting. I remember telling my husband, who is my biggest champion, that I wasn’t even angry, although I may have had reason to be, but that instead I was just done. Over it. I was too tired and weary to handle the stress of the situation.  So, I decided to just be me, do life in my corner, trusting God for the outcome and being a helpmate to my husband which is my first calling and the most important relationship in my life after God.

I’m sure that it’s not over yet and there may be more to come. I’m sure that emotions will run the gamut from angry to sad and everything in between. But, I’m also sure that I don’t have to stay on that emotional roller coaster. I don’t have to have all the answers.  I just need to do the next right thing.

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So what is the next right thing? Well, I’m so glad you asked.  For me, the next right thing has been reading Emily P Freeman’s latest book, The Next Right Thing. It is a game changer.   It actually does not officially release until April 2, so you have a few days left to pre-order and receive some pretty cool bonuses.  Here is a link if you want to check it out:  http://nextrightthingbook.com/

I was privileged to be on the launch team and help promote this book.  I had actually already pre-ordered my book back in November when Emily first mentioned it in her Newsletter. When the invitation came to join the launch team I jumped at the chance.  Even if I wasn’t on the launch team I’d tell you to read this book. All of her books, actually.

Emily’s writing style is beautifully lyrical but at the same time, it is everyday practicality.  It’s like sitting down to have a conversation with a kindred spirit. A friend who understands you on the deepest level and will help you see the best parts of your soul. She will guide you through the decision making process, not by telling you exactly what to do, but by showing you the strategies that can help you find the answers that fit you.  She also reassures you that you don’t have to see the whole picture all at once or have everything figured out.  It is ok to take it one step at a time and just “do the next right thing in love.”

By doing the next right thing you are giving yourself permission to let go of the anxiety-producing over thinking that makes your head spin in circles.  The cycle that keeps you awake at night, gnaws at your insides and tells you that you’ll never be enough.  This hit home to me in the chapter called Don’t Give Your Critic Words.  In this chapter, Emily gives you permission to “refuse to give the critic words”.  I can tell you that was very liberating for me to read.  I had already decided I was done trying to please the critic, but what I hadn’t fully realized was that as long as I was rehashing the scene I was still giving the critic words.  “The critic only lives if we let her live.”

when we don’t admit or become aware of our current life situation, we will continue to have expectations of ourselves and of other people as if things are as they’ve always been when, in fact, they are not. When we’re unaware of where we are, we can’t possibly make informed decisions about where we want to go.  This leads to an inability to discern our next right things. –Emily P Freeman

There are so many treasures in this book.  Many of them are simple practices that are based in common sense.  Yet, they are things that we easily overlook when we get caught up in making plans and choosing what’s best. We make it more complicated than it has to be. That’s where Emily comes along as your guide to gently lead you through the process.

The chapters in the book range from Becoming a Soul Minimalist to Looking for Arrows, Being Where You Are to Wearing Better Pants and Looking for God and Coming Home to Yourself. Throughout the entire book Emily gives a clear path to take one step at a time; A path that will free us to slow down and be fully present and allow the journey to unfold. Instead of worrying about the outcome you will learn how to rest and just do the next right thing.

Finding Grace In The Next Right Thing,

Teresa

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The Greatest Love

 

 

As Christmas draws near I am realizing just how much not having my Mom with me this year hurts. I know I am not alone in missing someone.  Several of you who read have also lost loved ones and you know that tug and pull of celebrating while grieving.

We will make new memories this year but the air will be palpable with longing for those who are not present.  One of the new memories for our family will be taking Roses to my mom’s grave in honor of what would have been her and Dad’s 59th wedding anniversary.  He had been giving her roses for the past several years.

I think that is what hurts the most – knowing that my Dad has lost his bride.  He married her on Christmas Day in 1959 and he loved her well through all the years they had.   I remember the week she was in Hospice he held her hand and told her that he had loved her for 58 years and would never stop loving her.  I know she heard him because she tried to tell him that she loved him. We heard the word love.  It was one of the last moments that we knew she was still somewhat aware of us. A moment we will treasure.

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Two hearts entwined; inseparable LBT

Christmas is Love.  The greatest love ever given to us was the birth of Jesus.  It is because of his love that we are capable of loving.  It is because of his love that my parents were able to celebrate so many years together and raise their children to know Jesus.  I know my mom loved Jesus.  She would tell me that she wanted to see Jesus. In the midst of the Alzheimer’s she still knew who Jesus was and she would talk about him.

This year she is celebrating Christmas with Jesus. She is having the ultimate Christmas and so even though I miss her terribly and know that Christmas will be bittersweet this year I am rejoicing with her that she is experiencing the greatest love of all this Christmas.

She has received the gift that was anticipated for so long.  Her long-expected Saviour has arrived.  As we are celebrating the Advent of Christmas, we too can wait expectantly for the Christ-child. We can open our hearts to receive him. He will be our comfort and help us navigate the missing, the longing, the memories and the hope of one day being reunited.

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.        1 John 5:11

Hope for the journey,

Teresa

How Great Our Joy

We often think of joy in terms of wild exhilaration or shouting from the rooftops. But joy can also be a quiet peace that settles in the bottom of our soul and wraps a scarf of contentment around us.

For me this year Joy has been on the quieter side. Maybe it’s been that way for you too.

Grief sometimes leaves us feeling drained and weary; if we are not careful we crowd out the joy.

When we find ourselves in that situation we need to take time to sit in the stillness and allow joy to quietly well up in our soul.

I found myself Home alone the other evening relaxing in the big chair with a cozy blanket and I realized that underneath everything that I was going through the joy was there. I acknowledged it and I accepted the peace that it brought.

As I go through this season of Advent that can sometimes seem hectic I want to be able to pause for those moments of quiet joy and allow them to sustain me.

The source of our Joy, of course, is Jesus and his gift of salvation that began in the manger.

I pray that you find comfort in the joy of Advent. One way to do that is to make a Joy list. I’m sharing some of my list below. Maybe you would like to share yours in the comments.

1. Birth of my savior.

2. Friends and family.

3. Christmas lights.

4. Beautiful music.

5. Being still before God.

Maybe you’re finding it hard to see the joy this year. If that is the case then may I suggest that every day you look around you and find one thing no matter how small that can bring you Joy. Start a list and see how many things you can add between now and Christmas Day.

I wish you all the joys of the season and peace in your heart.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

 

 

 

Peace Wrapping Around Us

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

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I’ve been wearing my mom’s socks; it makes me feel close to her. It is one of the ways I am navigating through grief these days and finding moments of peace during the Advent Season.

I’ve also been seeing her in my dreams. she usually doesn’t say anything; she’s not even necessarily a main part of the dream and I don’t remember all the details. it’s like watching a movie and there are people walking down the street or in the background. you see them but they’re not part of the main movie.

When she does show up in my dreams she looks like she did in her fifties. She’s dressed stylishly with her hair pulled back and she’s walking with confidence and purpose. She looks happy and peaceful.It’s seeing her like she was before the Alzheimer’s. I think these are little gifts that God has been giving me to reassure me that all is well. To remind me that she is whole now and complete in him. I still miss her terribly but I wouldn’t bring her back even if I could.  She’s dancing with Jesus and I would not take that away from her.

A few nights ago the funeral home that handled her arrangements hosted a memorial service for those who had lost loved ones this year. It was a sweet simple service that began with singing Joy to the world, followed by a message that allowed us to acknowledge our grief and accept it while encouraging us to find comfort and peace in laying our grief at the feet of Jesus.

The service ended with the song I can only imagine. When they sang the line about dancing or standing in awe I told my husband and father that I’m sure mom was dancing for Jesus. She was full of life and laughter and even in the most horrible ravages of Alzheimer’s that still Shone through.

Sitting in the sanctuary of the local Baptist Church hearing the scriptures read, listening to the words so aptly spoken, hearing the songs of worship, I began to notice that there was such a sweet spirit of peace wrapping around us. It was a peace brought on by the presence of the Lord among us but also a peace brought on by the collective grief of those present and the knowledge that we are all walking the same journey.

Even though our grief manifests itself in various ways it is still a common thread that binds us together. We know how the others feel and we know that God is our only peace.

I am thankful for that service and the reminder that it gives to me during this season of celebration.

A reminder that even in our grief we can still celebrate happy times, we can embrace our loved ones, live life fully and honor those we have lost by remembering them and making room for the grief. Joy and sorrow are not an either-or choice; they are allowed to reside together in our hearts and bring us peace and comfort.

whatever grief you are feeling during this season of Advent I pray you are leaving your heart open to be filled with God’s peace.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Grace for the journey,
Teresa
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O Little Town of Bethlehem: The Light in Our Dark Streets

Tomorrow, Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent; A time when we usher in the Christmas season with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Each year our church does an advent devotional booklet written by members of our congregation. Our theme this year is Christmas Carols.   For this first week of advent, I thought I’d share with you one that I wrote (a few weeks ago to meet the deadline).  It may seem dark, but I hope you see the hope and light shining through the words. 

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 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee to-night.

As I sit here in what appears to be one of my brain fog days, trying to conjure up Christmas thoughts on the day after Halloween, not to mention I need to gear up for giving thanks, I find myself wishing I could just hibernate for the next several weeks. It might have something to do with the cold trying to gain momentum as I type, or it could be all the muddy swirl going on in the world around us, close to home even. The news is full of shootings, unhinged politicians, drugs, and mystery illnesses just to name a few.  It’s enough to make even the most stoic among us cringe and say wake me up when it’s over.

If only it were that easy to just hibernate through the bad times. But that’s not how it works. We are told in scripture that in this world we will have trouble.  I guess the world has decided to live up to its reputation.  However, trouble does not have to define us.  God always has the antidote to trouble.  He made specific provision for trouble over two thousand years ago with the arrival of Baby Jesus.  He sent him, not to save us from the world or to shield us from trouble, but to save us in spite of the world, to save us from our sin and help us in our trouble.  He wants to help the whole world in its trouble.

If ever there was a time that the whole world needs help I’d say it’s about now.  As I read the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem I am encouraged because I see the light of Christ shining in the dark streets of the world.  “The hopes and fears of all the years are met…”  All the years tells me that we are not the only generation that needs help in our troubles.  If you research history you will find that each generation since the dawning of man has had its share of trouble. There have been dark streets full of secrecy and evil; full of plans orchestrated by the enemy; full of fear.  But if you look closely, even in the darkest night there has been a light shining.  There has been hope residing next to fear.

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That shining light began long before the baby was sent to a lowly manger.  All throughout the Old Testament scriptures the thread of God’s provision, our hope, was told. Early in the book of Genesis we are confronted with the reality of sin and the need for salvation; In Genesis 49:10 (ESV) we hear of a ruler who will come, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”. And in Isaiah 1:11(ESV) it was prophesied, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

In the New Testament, we see Jesus himself, the great light shining for all to see. Even in his darkest hour, he rose forth victorious and every generation since then has had Godly men and women rise up to be the light in a dark world and show them the love of Jesus.  So yes, there will be fear and trouble and plenty of it some days, but the gift of hope and light has been given.  Freely given:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

                                 O Lord, hear our prayer:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray! Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us to-day. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Open our hearts to receive you still. Enter in I pray. Amen.

Grace in the hope of everlasting light,

Teresa L Hardymon

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