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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

5 Things 2015 Wanted Me To Know

100_4469.21. NOD TO THE NOT (it’s ok to pause)

It’s ok NOT to choose a word for the year.  I had chosen a word in previous years but at the beginning of 2015 it just wasn’t a priority.  I survived the year without a special focus word.

Taking a blogging break is ok.  I trusted that my loyal readers, those that are my community, would not forget about me and would be waiting to encourage me when I came back.  They didn’t, and they were.

2. THE WORDS WILL COME, GIVE THEM TIME (After all, you are a writer)

I rediscovered the joy of using a pencil on paper.  Nothing can compare to that sweet, scratchy sound.  I need to practice this art more often.

Even though the writing was meager in 2015 and not writing scared me a little, I learned to trust that, in God’s time, the words would flow again. Because I have to write.

I want my writing to make people feel as if they have come home.

Hope*ologie was great, but Hope*writers is even better. I need a writer(ly) community that says what I do matters.

3. PRACTICE CONSISTENCY AND OBEDIENCE (how hard can it be)

I’m not a morning person, and there is no shame in that.  Not being a morning person may sometimes mean that I do better with my quiet time in the evening rather than the morning.  One thing I’m learning about quiet time is that consistency is key.  Regular time in the word is beneficial no matter what time of day you engage.

Sacrificing for Lent is not the point.  Sacrifice is nothing without obedience.  Obedience is a daily submission to God’s will for my life.  Godly obedience is not the kind of obedience that sounds like a bunch of rules.  Rather, it is a willingness to give Him complete control  It is 365 days a year, including the forty days of Lent.

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4. EMBRACE  THERAPY, ACCEPTANCE, AND RESTORATION  (God is your buckler)

Binge watching 7th Heaven preached to me in lots of ways; it was my therapy for a large chunk of time during the first half of 2015.  One of my favorite posts in 2015 was What I Learned From Watching 7th Heaven.

Y’all, I fell in love with Southwestern Virginia.  We spent some lovely days visiting a friend and explored the back roads near her hometown.  It was restorative and gave me much Joy In My Father’s World. And, lots of pictures.

Back in 2013, I realized that I need to make peace with My mom having Alzheimer’s, but it wasn’t until sometime in 2015 that I was able to accept that it is what it is, and only God has all the answers.  Instead of wasting time grieving over what we’ve lost, I’m starting to embrace the path we are on and I’m beginning to realize that you can never truly lose someone, you just adjust to a new normal.

More than ever in 2015 the truth in Psalm 18:2 sustained me:

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

I  also relied on Psalm 91 and knowing that he covers me with his feathers; He is my buckler which according to Merriam-Webster means “one that shields and protects.”  I have discovered that I love the word buckler.

I also found strength from the support of my husband. He takes care of me and loves me well. I love doing life with him.

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5. ENJOY A SEASON OF STRENGTH AND QUIET (embrace the real you)

I’ve always loved Autumn, but this year I realized that the way I describe Autumn also describes me.  Makes perfect sense.

I see Fall as both a little bit spicy and practical.  It is no-nonsense, but serendipitous all at the same time.  It is a warm hug as well as a brusque nod in passing. It is a steadfast heart that loves without condition, but won’t be trampled.  It is chaotic and fragile, but stands strong in the storm.  It is a little rough around the edges, as well as gloriously beautiful in spirit.  Like me.

2015 taught me that by God’s grace I am stronger than I think.

October loves me – she sent me several postcards this year during the 31 Days Writing Challenge

November is a melancholy month when the skies are gray and somber, and the first real chill is in the air.  Lights come on earlier, and we settle in for quieter evenings. I’m ok with that. Because I’m a little bit melancholy.

Advent is a time of waiting for “Emmanuel, God with us“, or as my mother says, “I’m so happy, God is in the house.”  A welcome note of praise to celebrate the arrival of the Christ Child…

and then, we slipped quietly from one year into the next.

Growing in grace,

Teresa

Linking up with Emily for What I Learned in 2015

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)

Quiet Christmas

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This year is different.  Priorities have changed. Christmas is quiet. Making time for family and friends is intentional.  Hustle and bustle are are not welcome. Instead, we are waiting for Christmas.  “God is in the house” and “Jesus is here somewhere”  are the overriding themes as we prepare him room.  

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One of the ways we have prepared him room is to take a less is more approach.  we’ve been doing this the past few years, but this year we did even less. We kept it basic and simple and left room for peace to enter our hearts and time to focus on the Christ Child.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

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Our hope is that you are finding ways to celebrate that bring peace to your heart and that you too are waiting for Christmas.

Even though we kept the decorations simple, I’ve captured a few photo memories to share with you.  Enjoy!

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Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey,on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

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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

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I also wanted to share a picture of the tin can drummer boy my father made – I think it is very folk artsy. And, even though we didn’t put up a tree this year, I took a picture of my parent’s little tree to share and included a picture of my tree from last year.

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Thanks for stopping by!  If you’d like to see how others are decorating for Christmas, be sure to stop by the Nester’s tour of homes where several other bloggers are linking up today.  If you have a blog you may want to link-up as well.

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I’ve been writing a weekly advent devotional – you can find them by clicking the titles: Waiting On Pure Delight (week 1), Watching For God With Us (Week 2) and Preparing To Make Him Room (week 3).  Come back next week and join me for Week 4 where we’ll talk about Praising his coming.

 

 

Quieting in Grace,

Teresa

 

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)