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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Petition

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

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Life is hard.  Many of us have been through some things in recent months. I have grieved the loss of my mother, a dear friend’s loss of her sister and another dear friend who just this week lost her mother.  In addition to the loss of loved ones, there are other griefs we bear. Some we share and some we hold close in our heart hoping to shield them from prying eyes. In the midst of our hurt, we don’t’ always feel like giving thanks or celebrating.

At least lately that has been my story.  But God is faithful and he is holy. He is worthy of our trust in any and all circumstances. He is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving.  He alone is worthy.

So, today, on the eve of Thanksgiving and the weeks of Christmas preparation that this season ushers in I felt the need to utter a petition on our behalf.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You, above all, are faithful and Holy. 

Hold us close to your bosom and whisper your peace into our souls.

We are weary and battered from our travels; our steps falter under loads we were not meant to bear.

We lay our burdens at your feet asking humbly that you take the weight off our shoulders; steady us and walk alongside. 

Shield us from the fiery darts flung carelessly our way; Intercept them and render them useless to be used for harm.

We seek your wisdom and guidance; Lead us ever gently along the path you have designed.

We stand before you with open arms ready to receive, with gratitude, all that you bestow.

Wrap us in your love and let it overflow so that we may gift it to others.

With thankful hearts in the name of Jesus, we entreat your mercies. 

Amen.

 

If you haven’t read the 31 Day Series, A Journey Through Grief and would like to you can click here to be taken to the table of contents page.  

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

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The City That Is to Come

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.       Hebrews 13:14 ESV

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VISION

My heart is overwhelmed with sadness and grief

My soul cannot bear it alone

Lifes storms are too great for my steadfast feet

My spirit is sinking – I’m almost gone

But someone is reaching to take my burden away

He has a spirit of kindness and love

His touch has vanished the night into day

I’m light and free as the dove

He draws me nearer and nearer to his heavenly throne

and let’s me see visions of that city fair

I fancy I see loved ones perfectly at home

Basking in the sunshine of his presence – God’s son!

Written by

Letha Bernice Tackett

April 3, 1982

I wrote on Day 3 That Heaven’s Sounding Sweeter All the Time. I remember the night I first had those thoughts.  I was cocooned in the upstairs room that my Mom had wallpapered so beautifully.  I was waiting for sleep to come and thoughts flooded my mind and I spoke them into my phone app so I wouldn’t forget them.

In those moments if Jesus had said come I would have gone gladly.  Honestly, I think in those moments the reality of heaven spread over me in a way it never had before.

It is beginning to dawn on me that we have to live in the reality of heaven’s sweetness in order to truly be at peace in this life. We don’t really belong to this world if we are in Christ; We are just pilgrims passing through.

Click to hear the song, Heaven’s Sounding Sweeter All The Time

 

Grace for the Journey,

Teresa

Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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POSTSCRIPT:

Thank you so much for reading along with me on this grief journey.  I have many more stories to share when the time is right, but for now, if you will grant me grace, I am going to stop shy of the 31 days.  I will be spending the day Saturday with a dear friend and then going home to spend a few days with my Dad.

I will probably take next week off, then when I’m back home I want to do a recap of what the past few weeks have taught me about my grief journey.  I am not naive enough to think that I can write for a few days and be over the grief.  Grief is an ongoing journey and once you have had a great loss it will always be with you, so I’m sure there will be many things to discover going forward.

I will be back to share more stories of my Mom, family, and other things.  I hope that you will stick around and continue reading.  I hope you have found hope and encouragement during this series.  I know you have been a tremendous encouragement to me.  Many of you have been gracious to tell me and that has been a blessing.

I hope you have enjoyed the poems of my mother’s that I have shared with you.  If they bring you comfort you are free to share but please make sure you credit them to her.  I’m hoping to find a way to publish all her poems in a collection.  I think that would please her very much.  She was a wonderful, creative, caring person and I want to pass her legacy on to her family and friends.

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Collected Tears

 

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Journal: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today was a day of crying and praying and missing my Mom. Of all the people in the world that I can talk to and tell anything, she was always the one I could be the freest with. The one I could count on to comfort me and pray for me; to love me and forgive me when needed. So today was just a day that I really wish I could talk to her. Some days I miss her so much. I need her love, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and care. I know there will always be days like today and it won’t be easy but I know God can be my comfort. I can go to him.  I can take him my heart; I can ask for strength.  He is faithful.  He loves me even more than my mother.

I miss my Ladybug and our late night talks; our inside jokes and laughter; our trips to the Dairy Queen when we’d sneak off without telling the guys; The drives we took in the country when we were restless. I miss all of it. I love her so much. 

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.                                                               Psalm 56:8 NLT

One of the things I miss the most is talking to my Mom.  Before the Alzheimer’s took so much away from her we would talk constantly. I’d call her or she’d call me and we’d talk about everything and nothing in particular.

Even after the Alzheimer’s I’d call home, Dad would answer the phone but I’d always ask to talk to Mom.  Sometimes she’d talk a while, other times she’d have trouble with the phone. Eventually, she pretty much gave up talking on the phone.

I missed our talks even while she was still living.  There were times I’d tell her things knowing that she didn’t fully comprehend, or remember later, but at the moment she’d try to let me know all would be well.

A few months before she died we had a wonderful conversation about forgiveness.  I’d recently been short with her.  I told her that I was wrong and hadn’t treated her as kindly as I should have.  We talked about forgiveness in general and what it means and I asked her if she would forgive me.  She ever so sweetly said yes she would.  Even though she probably didn’t remember the incident in question and probably didn’t remember our conversation later, at that moment she understood my need to ask forgiveness and she sincerely, without question granted it. Much like she had several years earlier when I had needed to ask for forgiveness. (you can read about that time here)

Growing up, forgiveness always flowed freely. If Mom and I had had a particularly trying day as can sometimes happen, she always made sure before bed that all was well between us.  We would talk things out and I always knew she was there for me.  Even as a small child I remember kneeling beside her to pray about whatever was troubling me. Being the melancholy child that I was it seemed I was always needing to pray or talk about something.

That did not change as a teenager.  We had lots of adventures together.  I remember one summer or two that she spent a lot of time driving me around the countryside chasing a dream of a piano player (not Rocky, that came later) that I thought I was in love with. I also remember having many late night conversations about boys, dreams, life.  It was nothing to stay up until the crack of dawn talking. Even after I had married and moved away from home, we always had at least one all-night talk session when I’d come for visits.  Rocky and Dad would come downstairs of a morning and there we’d be still sitting on the couch.

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One of our adventures at a camp meeting in the mountains of Eastern KY during one of those summers chasing a piano player. The photo bomber also had a daughter, probably chasing the same piano player.

Later, when Rocky came on the scene I wrote her a letter telling her that I was in love and I knew he was the one.  I was in college and cell phones and Facebook didn’t exist, so you either made a long distance call or wrote a letter.  I found that letter last year when going through some of her things. She had kept it all these years. I know my Mama’s level of sentimentality and I know she hung onto that letter to mark a significant time in my life that she rejoiced in with me.

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Rocky and me the early years. Mom always said she couldn’t love him more if he was her son. The minute he came on the scene, he was family and she never let me forget that. She was always on his side. Sigh. I’m glad she loved him that fiercely.

I’ve always shared my everyday life with her.  Each new adventure, each crisis, everyday moments. It was all chronicled with her. And she never failed to cheer me on or commiserate when necessary.  Every new move she was there helping and planning with me even when it took me too far from home.  She never tried to hold me back, but always rejoiced at each new opportunity.

She did tell me, as she grew older, that she missed her daughters and wished they could both move back home. She once offered to give my sister her house if she’d move back home. And my mom really loved her house. She is now buried on the hill facing her house. When Rocky and I moved to Louisville in 2007 she was glad we were closer. She and Dad would come to visit and we would go see them when we could.

In 2010 when we went in with Dad to purchase the house next door to them she was excited for us to fix up the house and be there on breaks, but before we could spend much time there the Alzheimer’s was fast approaching. When we moved there in the summer of 2012 between the seminary and whatever was to come next, it was clear that Alzheimer’s had set in and we were needed.  I know it was a God thing that we had decided to buy the house two years prior when it didn’t really make sense to do so. We had no long-term plans of settling back home once schooling was finished, but home was exactly where we needed to be.

Living there was as it should be.  Mom was restless a lot and had lots of questions about everything in the early days.  She would come to my house for reassurance or sometimes just to chat a moment.  The door was always open for her and sometimes she’d be back and forth several times a day.  We’d have the same conversations, mostly with her trying to make sense of the muddle in her mind.  Memoires were hiding and bits and pieces would show up and she’d need me to help her make sense of it all.  She trusted me and I did all I could to honor that trust.

Even in the difficulty of living with Alzheimer’s, we had some good times and lots of laughter.  I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.  But sometimes I’d miss our old conversations.  The last couple of months before she passed away there were several times I’d think I need to call Mom only to immediately remember that things were different.  I went through a spell in the summer of nesting and tweaking my living room, buying lamps and finally hanging pictures.  All the things I would have discussed with Mom.  So, I called my Dad and shared with him.  I suppose I could have told mom, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same and I also knew that she might not even engage at all on the phone.  I wish I’d tried anyway.

Since her passing, I have had several times where I wish I could talk to her or something will happen and my first thought is to call Mom.  I’ve needed so much to hear her words of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. I’ve needed to laugh with her. There are times that you just need your mother because no one understands you like she does. In those times I remind myself that God can comfort me and that he truly understands.

I cling to all the hope, dry my eyes, and do my best to live life without my Ladybug.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. ~~ Washington Irving

Another song for you to listen to, For Those Tears I Died

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

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My mom, the cheerleader (8th grade, Mt. Carmel) standing by the fence in front of their church turned house where they lived in Beechburg, KY.
This home is now a garage and
my best friend recently purchased the property.
My Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader.

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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Spread Happiness

The most simple things can bring the most happiness.  ~~ Izabella Scorupco

One of the things that my Grandmother, Mom and  I have in common is the love of rocks and other bits and pieces of nature. When organizing Mom’s antique secretary after she passed away I ran across a bowl of leaves.  I left them there.  I inadvertently threw away a dried up piece of twig that she had brought in from the yard just a few days before she passed away.  My father was looking for it but I had already cleaned the sideboard and thrown it away not realizing what it was or that he wanted to hang on to it.

My niece remembered as a child that she and my nephew would pick the little wild field daisies and dandelions and bring them to my mom.  I remember many times seeing them in little containers on the sink or table as a reminder of a happy day well spent with the grandkids.  In honor of those memories, they sent a beautiful wreath of daisies for her memorial service. Those flowers then and now are far more precious than diamonds or rubies.

I know it’s sentimental really to hang on to such seemingly trivial bits and pieces but sometimes it is the small things that invoke a tender memory or happy thought of our loved ones.

My mother has two large rocks that belonged to her mother.  One of them came from a long-ago trip to Arizona and I’m not sure where the other one came from but it is large, round, brown and smooth.  I remember seeing that rock at my grandmother’s when I was a child, leaning against a door to prop it open. My mother almost gave it to me once, but then changed her mind. I’m glad she kept it to enjoy, I’m sure seeing it reminded her of her mother and her love of rocks and other bits of nature.

One of the days we were at Hospice  I found a painted rock that had been left outside near the front entry. It was painted in shades of green and blue, colors that Mom would have loved. It had a message painted on it that said spread happiness. A  fitting message for someone who had spent her life spreading happiness to others. I brought it inside for her room.

I don’t know If you have heard about the painted rock sensation that has been around now for a few years; it is a group of people that paint rocks with messages and leave them in public places for others to find. It originated with a woman in Massachusetts who started the Kindness Rocks Movement. She started a trend that has gone worldwide and there are several smaller groups that have cropped up as well, all doing basically the same thing.  There is a group in the community where our Hospice was located, called Maysville KY hidden rocks.

The premise is that you find a rock, enjoy it and then rehide it for someone else to discover.if you decide to keep the rock that is ok too.  But you are encouraged to paint your own rock to hide.

Knowing my mom’s love of rocks my Dad put it in her hand and told her about the rock. He let her hold it for quite a while and then he placed it on the table beside her bed. When I told him about the history of painted rocks he decided he wanted to keep this one since it was the last thing that my mom held.  When he got back home, he put it on the back porch near where they would sit as a reminder of her.

Moms painted rock, picture takne by Pamela Smith and shared on Maysville rocks FB page
Moms painted rock, the picture was taken and shared on Maysville KY hidden rocks Facebook page. The lady who took the photo had seen the rock and took a picture, but left the rock for someone else to find. So glad she did as it brought happiness to our day. It was leaning against the trash can just before the main entrance to Hospice at Kenton Pointe.

I guess we are a sentimental bunch and many would roll their eyes at keeping rocks, leaves, wildflowers, also known as weeds, and other bits of nature, but that’s how we roll. It’s not the expensive things or material possessions that mean the most in the end.  It’s the simple things, more often than not from nature, that spark our greatest sentimentality and spread happiness.

Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! Psalm 144:15

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Moms painted rock, picture takne by Pamela Smith and shared on Maysville rocks FB page

Postscript:  I had a conversation on FB earlier with the lady who posted the picture of the rock we found. Turns out she had seen my Mom back in February when Mom had been on a Hospice respite and had talked with her. She told me she would lead her back to the nurse’s station when Mom seemed confused.  That was a blessing to find out that someone had been so kind to her. I would never have known that if I hadn’t decided to look for the origin of the rock. God always sends us the blessing we need at the time we need them. How’s that for spreading happiness!

Blessings!

 

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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A Prayer for Your Weekend

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

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We’ve come through several days together, reading and remembering.  Allowing our grief to make itself known.  I know many of you are remembering your own grief and maybe my words are helping you in some way.

For me, acknowledging the goodness of God even in the midst of my grief is a way to remember that he alone is good and he is sovereign.  I can trust him with my grief and my life.

I felt that at this point in the journey I wanted to say a prayer for you, for us. I hope it brings you comfort:

I pray that we will walk in your light, Heavenly  Father and bow our head before you.  Help us to allow your peace to radiate our inmost being and fill us with hope everlasting.

Show us how to practice Thanksgiving in everything and live, arms outstretched, palms wide open to receive your  goodness. With your help we will love others out of the abundance of love you shower on us . We seek to serve generously.

We know, God that you are good and you will be our comfort. I pray that we find the strength to trust you in all things and acknowledge your sovereignty. Help us surrender to your desires and allow you to write our story.

We rest in your arms because that is the only safe haven.  We lay our grief at your feet and ask for healing and peace.

We pray in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

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Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Click here for the complete series, A 31 Day Journey through grief.

Christ Our Only Hope

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Isaiah 15:55

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Is Death The Victory

What is it that comes trespassing on my threshold,

Trying to seize me as its prey?

It has come unexpectedly; a peculiar unwanted guest.

It seems to be a shadow, robbing self of its rest.

Countless times it comes to scores with me

In sickness, peril, or accidents unavoidable.

It is there, this dreaded enemy;

It seems to be allowing time, yet it has no timetable.

Is there no way to escape that my spirit might be free

From this visitor who at my appointed time will join ranks with me?

To think I could escape would be pretending a farce.

I’d be robbed all joys of living; left hopeless without faith.

Ah! There is another victor stronger than death itself.

By the eye of faith, I vision everlasting life.

My faith soars upward as on an eagle’s wing

Christ’s is the final victory; O death where is thy sting!

 

Written By Letha Bernice Tackett

Fall 1975

“I do believe Christ is the only hope.” Those words were written by my Mom at the end of the above poem.  She was right.  Christ is our only hope.  If we are in Christ, death has no victory over us. She is now enjoying everlasting life. Even in my grief, I recognize that the victory is now hers and I am happy that she is soaring on Eagles wings.

Grace for the journey,

Teresa

Come back tomorrow for more of the journey?  Just a reminder that I usually post later in the day. Clicking on the ladybug graphic will take you to the first page in this series with links to the daily posts. Thanks for reading!

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