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

 

 

 

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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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 “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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Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

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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Praising Him Forever And Ever

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And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’.              Luke 2:13-14

Throughout this season of Advent, we have been waiting for the arrival of the Christ child, watching to see how God is with us and preparing our hearts to receive him. His arrival is one of great celebration, a time of praise.

When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they sang “Gory to God in the highest”. The sky lit up with brightness, and the star led the way to the manger. I would imagine to those Shepherds alone in the quiet darkness that it was indeed a spectacular announcement. It certainly grabbed their attention and propelled them to go and worship the king.

They didn’t wait for a more convenient time; they went immediately to kneel at his feet in adoration and thanksgiving. They knew the moment was now. I think they also knew that the moment was for all eternity.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen… Luke 2:20

The moment we encounter Christ his glory comes down, and our praise goes up, and it is a praise for all time. Even when we don’t’ feel like praising.

If I’m totally honest, my emotions have been up and down during this Christmas season. They have ranged from despair to hope to peace to disgruntledness to just so-so. The constant has been that I know he doesn’t change. And, I know he is here with me in all of my many moods. So, even in the moments when the last thing I feel like doing is celebrating, I can still speak words of praise for his arrival. I can still be thankful he came, and I can still share his good news of hope with those around me.

Maybe your praise is celebratory with flashing lights, or maybe your praise is more a quiet reflection, but wherever you fall on the spectrum of praise, don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child; to remember why he came and to look forward to his coming again.

The king has arrived, he’s in the house, and his reign is forever and ever

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever. Psalm 145:21

Praising in grace,

Teresa

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Today’s post is 4th in an Advent series, one for each week of Advent.  Wait, Watch, Prepare and Praise. For all four weeks in the series you can click on each title:

Waiting On Pure Delight (week 1)

Watching For God With Us (Week 2)

Preparing To Make Him Room (week 3)

 Praising his coming. (week 4, this weeks)

Preparing To Make Him Room

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How do you prepare for Advent?  We find it so easy to prepare for the events and gatherings of Christmas but do we prepare to receive the Christ Child? We dig out the decorations, shop for gifts, line up the holiday recipes and make endless lists, so as not to leave anything undone.

It is not wrong to make any of those preparations; in fact, doing some of those familiar traditions can be calming and a way to corral our scattered thoughts if we use them to our advantage.  Why not start with the beginning of Christmas – the waiting, watching, preparing and the anticipation of praise.  Let the significance of the Holy birth sink deep into the center of our being.   Allow the scripture to wash over our soul and the familiar Christmas hymns restore our balance.  Bask in the joy of the season with a heart full of promise in the one to come.

If we approach Christmas with a prepared heart, everything takes its rightful place and priority.  While putting the lights on the tree, we can remember that He is our light.  When we wrap gifts, we can glory in the ultimate gift of Jesus and pray for those who haven’t yet received Him.  When we welcome friends and family around our table, we can remember his table and how the bread is his body broken for us, and the wine is his blood spilled on our behalf.

If you haven’t taken the time to prepare him room this Christmas why not do so now.  Pause in the middle of all the hustle and bustle to make room for the Christ Child.  Let him enter into his rightful place around your Christmas tree and table.  Read through the Christmas story (Luke 2) savoring each detail and imagine that you are a first-hand witness as the events unfold.  Wait expectantly with Mary as she carries the baby, Watch carefully with the Shepherds as they journey by the light of the star to kneel before him, prepare your heart like Simeon as he hoped in the promise that he would live to see the Messiah.  Let your heart prepare him room This Christmas.

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Luke 2:8-11

Preparing in grace,

Teresa

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Today’s post is 3rd in an Advent series, one for each week of Advent.  Wait, Watch, Prepare and Praise. For all four weeks in the series you can click on each title:

Waiting On Pure Delight (week 1)

Watching For God With Us (Week 2)

Preparing To Make Him Room (week 3, this weeks)

 Praising his coming. (week 4)

 

Watching For God With Us

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Sometimes my Mom and I discuss spiritual things. One of the things she has held onto despite the Alzheimers is her faith. It doesn’t waver. Yesterday she told me God was in the House.

Today we discussed our relationship with Jesus, and she said she was afraid some people don’t acknowledge him – she didn’t use those exact words, but that is what she meant. She then said, ”Jesus is here somewhere.” I acknowledged that he was indeed in the very room with us. She went on to talk about how he is closer than we think. I imagine that somewhere locked in her memories is the worry about her loved ones that aren’t Christians; the one’s that aren’t watching for him.

Even when we know he lives in our hearts, we need to watch for him to show up in our lives. We get caught up in our everyday living, and we don’t take the time to sit down with him. We don’t take the time to realize that he is here somewhere, closer than we imagine. He is standing ready to engage with us, to show us that he is with us.

Advent is a time to watch for him. Long ago the people of Israel watched for the king. The Shepherds followed the star to find him. One day he will come to earth again to reign and the Holy Word tells us to keep an eye out, watching for his return.

Between that first coming and the second coming that we anticipate there is also the daily watching for him to show up in our life. He shows up in big and small ways. He shows up in the middle of cancer treatments, when the budget is stretched thin, when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, when we see the ultrasound of a new baby, or at the dinner table; he shows up when we don’t even notice that he is there.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:27-28)

For me, he showed up yesterday evening in a visit from my parents. It’s easy for me to be focused on my to do list. I knew my husband would be gone yesterday evening, and so I had planned a quiet evening to write. To be honest, I was struggling with this week’s Advent theme of watching. I wasn’t exactly sure what direction to go, so I felt the need for some quiet time to gather my thoughts. But, the phone rang, and it was my father saying he thought they’d come over for a while.

I didn’t want to be ungracious or make them feel unwelcome. Part of the reason I live next door to them is to be their support as we navigate living with Alzheimers. I realize that bringing my mom over for a visit is one of the ways I can support my parents. I want to make sure I am willing to put them at the top of my to-do list when needed. I want to gather memories of time spent with them. So they came, and we sat in the living room with the Christmas lights and the fake fire on the TV, music playing softly and had a great visit. It was peaceful and restful and more beneficial to me than my original plans.

If I had been more concerned with my plans than watching for how Jesus wanted to show up, I would have missed out on an opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing in return. How are you watching for Jesus to show up in your life – are you aware that he is here somewhere – in the very room with us?

There is nothing this side of heaven that is more important than our relationship with Jesus – he is by definition Immanuel, God with us. During this season of Advent, we watch for him. Look around you and see how he is showing up in your life. As my mom said “God is in the house.”

Watching in grace,

Teresa

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Today’s post is 2nd in an Advent series, one for each week of Advent.  Wait, Watch, Prepare and Praise. For all four weeks in the series you can click on each title:

Waiting On Pure Delight (week 1)

Watching For God With Us (Week 2, this weeks)

Preparing To Make Him Room (week 3)

 Praising his coming. (week 4)

 

Waiting on Pure Delight

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I’ve shared this haiku before.  I wrote it several years ago and for me it captures the essence of how we do Christmas.  We hustle around trying to do it all and even if we don’t quite feel the merry in our heart we put on that bright, merry smile anyway, assuming that if we fake it long enough it will be true.  We hope that we end up with the pure delight.

I’m not against a little hustle and hurry because that can be exciting.  I used to love to go out on or near Christmas Eve when everyone was making that last mad dash for presents.  There was something magical about being in the bustling crowd getting caught up in the flurry of the season, but all too often we allow the hustle and hurry to take over and steal our joy.

For too many years, I got caught up in the wrappings of the season and wanting everything to be just perfect with the end goal of sitting in the peacefulness of white lights and a perfectly coordinated Christmas.  Of course, a lot of times that peace eluded me because I was so exhausted from all the running around gathering up the perfect bits and pieces that would somehow make Christmas more special.

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A few years ago, Christmas was already over, when I finally sat down and started reading a Max Lucado Christmas book I had left over from gift books I’d purchased.  Reading it was peaceful and it helped me focus on the real meaning of Christmas in a way I hadn’t before.  I wondered why I hadn’t started the season by reading this book; it would have made all the difference.

I’m still working on the right balance during the Christmas season, but little by little, I’m learning to drop the need for perfect.  I’m learning to let go of much of the hustle, bustle, hurry.  I’m learning to hold onto the cold, bright, pure delight instead.   Especially, the pure delight.

Pure delight is wrapped up in the Christ Child. It is the core of all we celebrate.  The pure delight is the one for whom we wait.  God With Us.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

What if, instead of the hurry this season, we just started with the anticipation of the pure delight.  What if instead of waiting impatiently in line, arms crossed, fingers tapping and heavy sighs, we open our arms with palms lifted up, waiting to receive; waiting for the pure delight that Immanuel offers.

Waiting does not necessarily come naturally to us.  If we take time away from our hustle and bustle for rest, we somehow feel that we aren’t doing enough.  We think it means that we are unproductive.  If we’re searching for direction we want the answer to come immediately, even though, learning to rest and wait might be the answer that is most needed.  We complain about how God is silent and doesn’t seem to be hearing our petitions.

He does hear, but sometimes, I think the silence is necessary to slow us down.  Do you remember, as a child in school, when the class was rowdy how the teacher would stand quietly at the front of the room staring calmly.  Eventually, everyone would start to notice and pretty soon, it would quiet down and once the teacher had everyone’s attention, she spoke.

I imagine that is how it is with God sometimes.  He just quietly stands close by waiting until he has our attention.   What seems like waiting too long, is not a punishment, or God ignoring us, it is simply because he knows we need time to be ready for his revelation.

The children of Israel waited a long time for the Messiah.  They had been hearing the promise for many years before it was brought to fruition.  I’m sure they must have wondered about God’s silence, but still, those who were faithful waited because they knew that he was there, standing, watching out for them, even when he didn’t speak.  They knew when the time was right all would be revealed.    They waited with anticipation for God With Us.

I found a prayer written in the back of my Bible that I penned a few years ago about waiting on God.  I’d like to share it with you.

I wait for you in the silence and even though you don’t speak I know you are there.  You know my name, you know my struggle and you care. You will sustain me; you will be my strength.  You will come in your time and shed the light of your presence upon me.  

I don’t remember the circumstances of what prompted that prayer, but I am beginning to understand the faith in praying that prayer and waiting for him to come.  He will bring the pure delight.  After all, he is God With US.

I hope during this season of Advent that you will wait for the pure delight to enter your heart and you will ease into this holy season with a renewed faith in the waiting.

Waiting in grace,

Teresa

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Today’s post is 1st in an Advent series, one for each week of Advent.  Wait, Watch, Prepare and Praise. For all four weeks in the series you can click on each title:

Waiting On Pure Delight (week 1, this weeks),

Watching For God With Us (Week 2)

Preparing To Make Him Room (week 3)

 Praising his coming. (week 4)