Thanksgiving is perhaps a bit more mature of a holiday. Besides stuffing my face with all sorts of comfort food and watching uncles and grandpas snoring the afternoon away (with a football game on for their subconscious pleasure), what do I really do on Thanksgiving? The truth is, true thanksgiving is a thought—this thought can be expressed to others through actions, and that is why we celebrate it, but taking the time to think about everything we have to be thankful for is a bit more difficult than simply succumbing to the warm fuzzy feelings and joy that celebrating the birth of our Savior brings upon us.
I pondered this year what I was thankful for—the truth is it goes beyond a simple list. I can’t just sit and think of all the things that I should be thankful for. Simply acknowledging the fact that there is always something to praise our Father for is an incredible thing.
Even in the darkest of times, there is a reason to rejoice—even if I can’t see it, being a child of God gives me the assurance that there is something to be grateful for—hope. That small glimmer of light at the end of what seems to be the blackest tunnel—that feeling that seems to emanate from somewhere so deep inside of me that I can’t touch it—a flame I can’t possibly douse—an ever faithful glimmer of beauty amidst every kind of horrible pain.
This hope is passion…this hope is love…this hope is anything and everything you’ve ever dreamed of. It lies at the end of life’s road—its splendor is a magnet to the fervor in our souls. The life we live is pointless without it—this hope is Jesus Christ.
With all of the exquisite blessings in my life, I can truthfully say they would amount to nothing without the hope, both earthly and eternal, that my Father has presented to me. Sometimes life seems to be in shambles—hearts are shattered, minds are dazed, and living holds little life. Yet hope remains. Though I may break, God is still holding every little piece of me and He will never let me fall. His love can heal every broken heart—His touch can untangle every bewildered mind.
Today and every day I am thankful for Love’s hope—the excitement in life and the constant reminder of a plan designed by my Creator.
And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry,
Some of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break –
It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to you…”
Tomorrow it will have been four years since my sister, Anna, was taken to paradise to spend eternity with her precious Father and Savior. She was six years old and yet so grown up. I’ll never forget the giant smile she got on her face when momma would sit next to her, take her hand, and tell her about what a brave girl she was. Her eyes would light up as she told her that it was proven by the “battle scar” that lay across her chest—the last physical signs of the open heart surgery which had taken place when she was nine months old. (To read my family’s story in more detail, please follow this link.)
On the morning of November 19, 2004, the first thing I remember is my daddy’s voice. ”Abigail…wake up. Grandma and Grandpa are here.” I was too groggy to hear his soft voice catch in his throat as he spoke. I don’t remember getting up, but the next thing I knew, I was walking down the stairs. It struck me as odd that my grandparents were there since it was barely 7:00 a.m., but I ignored it. When I was about half way down the stairs, I could see my whole family sitting in the living room—my whole family except for one. I had an odd feeling, but I was sure all would be explained soon, so I sat down on the ottoman across the room from my parents.
Finally, after what seemed like several minutes of silence, my dad began “Last night Anna got sick…” With these words, my mind immediately drew the conclusion that she was in bed, sick with one of the migraines that she got occasionally. Almost as soon as I had set my mind at ease, deciding that I had gotten my answer, my dad’s voice continued, this time strained “…she got really sick—and this morning she went to be with Jesus.” My heart caught in my chest. What?! I was sure I had heard him wrong, but my doubts were soon proven vain by the stunned and pained expressions and stale tears I saw on the faces of the people I love.
Within moments I was in my momma’s arms, sobs filling my ears and my mind from all directions. So many times I had been in this very place—with my dearest momma’s arms around me, keeping me safe from the worries of the outside world—but this time it was different. I didn’t feel safe and secure, because this time I wasn’t just crying on her shoulder…she was crying on mine too.
The next several weeks were some of the hardest days of my life. My mind was constantly bringing sweet memories to the surface, but then reality would kick in and those memories would change from sweet to heart wrenching. I would never be able to braid her hair again…would I even remember what her wavy dark hair felt like in my hand? I wouldn’t ever hear her sweet voice asking if I could “pleeeeeeeeease” sleep in her room with her, just because she wanted me there.
At first, the pain seemed like it would never go away, but moment by moment it eased. My family would daily gather in the living room and share thoughts and emotions—sometimes our conversations would last for hours. Afterwards, we would kneel in a circle on the floor and join hands and each of us would spill our hearts to our always listening Father. Momma probably did this best verbally, but we all felt our true words in the deepest sanctums of our souls.
Now, four years later, my memories of Anna are still with me…I can still hear her laugh, I can still see her smile, I can still feel her hair…but the memories have changed from pain to nostalgic reminisce. What seemed to be the official unraveling of the beauty of life has bloomed into a creation so magnificent only God could have arranged it. Through it all, my Father was with me. I know it pained Him to see my family hurt, but in His will I can rest, knowing that whatever trials He sets before me, He knows just how to carry me through.
What does it feel like to look into Jesus’ eyes? Does it take your breath away the way it does mine when I try and picture it? How much stronger are His arms than what I’ve dreamt them to be? How much gentler is His touch then what I’ve tried to imagine?
Are you always singing? I can picture how beautiful your voice must be now…Jesus must love it when you sing for Him! Does it send shivers down your spine when He takes your hand and dances with you?
Anna, I want you to know how much I miss you. My sweet memories of you will never fade away. I can’t wait for the day when I can touch you again…when I can see you face to face.
I’m so proud of you, baby sister.
I love you…
This was part of a blog that I recently read that motivated and inspired me to write this today.
Matthew 26:41 says “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Often, we care too much about what the world thinks about us…we make sure that our clothes fit the trend, that our shoes are new and fashionable, that we have the perfect haircut, etc. How often do we make sure that our hearts fit the molds that God has set for them? Do we care about how we look to Christ?
To dress fashionably, have a nice haircut, have nice shoes, etc. is not sin. I like to wear new and interesting things…trying new fashions is actually kind of a hobby of mine—the question is, am I devoting as much time and attention to Christ as I am to earthly pleasures?
Jesus wants us to be happy. He cares about all of the little things in our lives as well as the big things. The trouble appears when we are so consumed in ourselves that we lose sight of barriers. If we aren’t constantly looking to Christ, our flesh easily transforms us into vain creatures.
This generation is in great need of prayer, for this is a great temptation. With the new means of online communication, such as Facebook, MySpace, and blogs, our lives are out there to be judged. I’m not saying it should be this way, but let’s face it…we’re going to be judged by the pictures that we post of ourselves, the music that we like, the movies that we enjoy, our hobbies, etc. When given such a public means of portraying my life to others, will I be found blameless? Will my relationship with Christ and my yearning to be as one with Him be what’s apparent, or will my vain flesh and desire to “fit in” define me and take over my reputation?
The truth is, if we are doing the right thing in God’s eyes, no one can find a valid fault in our lives. If Christ is at the center of my every decision, then that’s exactly where I should be. We need to examine ourselves on a daily basis to make sure that we really are considering and following the words and instructions of our ultimate Guide. Leaning on our Savior for wisdom and understanding rather than turning to man-made trends and ideals will be so much more fulfilling.
1 Samuel 16:7b – “…For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
When I stand before Christ in Heaven, I don’t want to be the one who casually followed Christ, and let my flesh stifle my recognition of His clear direction in my life. In the end, when my God takes my hands and pierces the innermost secrets of my soul with His sweet eyes, I want to kneel before Him and hear “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Sin is inevitable—I am a human, and thus I will sin—but I don’t have to live a lukewarm life. To the best of my ability, I want to live with a deep, passionate, burning heart for my Savior and my Savior alone.
…sweat or perhaps a tear drips from your chin. A burst from the oboe ruffles your hair—a touch, a taste, a feeling…something new. A whisper…a thrill—“Dance with me…” Hands join kindred like hearts as you’re lifted from despair. A revival of souls—can you hear it? Peace…
A melody brims with sentiment. I sometimes sit, paralyzed, my heart either being split in two or swelling to unimaginable extents by a mosaic of instruments, synchronized to earthly perfection. What is it in music that creates such ecstasy in our beings?
I believe that music is one of the most lucid examples of raw and vulnerable human emotion. Melodies touch our hearts with such fragility because in some sense, we’ve already experienced them. Whenever we create a memory, whenever we feel love, anger, passion, elation, anguish, happiness, vexation, or numerous other incisive feelings, we are creating the shadow of a melody in our own memory.
When a string of notes plays at our ears, it’s almost as if a magnet is being pressed to our hearts, bringing past experiences or future hopes to the surface. Whether sweet or sorrowful, bold or timid, simple or complex, each of these has a purpose—for one without the others wouldn’t be so explicitly significant and potent.
If we lived in ignorance of pain, the true beauty in life would never be revealed. Would we ever feel blessed? Would we ever be humbled by a sacrificial hand? Would we truly cherish anything? Wouldn’t faith dwindle and die if we didn’t remember the anguish and brutally horrific crucifixion that Jesus undertook to give human life hope and a future?
If the lowest trenches of our lives were forever erased from our memory, how could we know when we’re sitting in the clouds? If we couldn’t remember life before Christ, would we cease to recognize our Father beckoning us with outstretched hands as He caresses our hearts with His compassionate gaze?
To dance with tear stained cheeks and a throbbing heart is painful, but in the constant and graceful arms of my Father, I will let the music carry me—whispering in my ear the melancholy reminisce of what once was, the savory essence of what now is, the thrill and fear of what is to come, and the gentle but firm reassurance that my God will always be holding my hand and dancing me through the beautiful chaos.
2 Cor. 3:17 NKJV
When I asked Jesus to take my heart a mission was given to me. When I accepted God’s free gift of salvation, I made a promise both to myself and to my Creator that I would strive to be Christ like. This is perhaps the biggest goal one could ever undertake. After all, we can never become a tried and true likeness of our perfect Savior.
As I pondered this, I asked myself “What is it that I do in order to be more Christ like?” I realized, many times I’ve tried so hard to analyze everything that I think and do to the point where I absolutely drive myself crazy trying to make the right decisions. How many times have I tried to pray eloquently or read things that don’t bring me any kind of satisfaction or joy just because I’m trying with everything that is in my being to be like my Creator?
How does this reflect liberty or freedom? How can it be called that when I feel like I’m suffocating under a blanket of self created paradigms? The answer came to me once again with the visual of casting myself into the swelling waves of the ocean. If I simply surrender to my Savior’s loving touch…if I would just let him tenderly take my hand, would I find it so difficult to follow in his way? Wouldn’t my kindred relationship with Him transform me into the vessel that He needs me to be in order for His light to shine through me? I always find that the days when I take the most time to pray and build my relationship with God, my spirit is lifted even more than I think it will be.
It makes sense, since God is my conscience, that when my relationship with Him is flourishing, so is my goal to be more like Him. I, in my simple human form, cannot possibly achieve a likeness to Christ…but who better to form a likeness to Him than Christ Himself? All I have to do is keep a watchful eye on myself to make sure that I always see Jesus’ smiling face.
The only way I can ever be the brilliant essence of Christ that I need to be in order to live for His glory is to strive for this kind of sweet surrender. Only then will I be the shining light that God intended me to be when he offered His life for my sake. Only then can I experience true freedom.