Are you getting cleaned up and checked up as you celebrate a new year? Cleaning up from the holidays can wear us down physically and emotionally. Taking down decorations, especially my Christmas trees, makes me sad.
My favorite little Christmas tree is one I leave up year round. It stands four feet tall downstairs like a toy soldier welcoming me home every night with clear lights and a shining star on top. A few weeks before Christmas I felt an urge to decorate my special tree, but hanging family ornaments that would magnify my sadness didn’t seem the right thing to do. So I waited.
Two days later, I opened a box of cards and began reading words of hope and love sent to me when James passed away. Seeing some of those cards hanging on my tree popped in my mind. God does that to me. How about you? People pop in my mind often that I am led to visit or send a card. Anyway, I chose ten cards that shared special messages and placed them inside the branches of my little tree. I marveled and stopped to thank God as I touched each card with gratitude. Joy arose inside my heart. How can that be when it is still broken, when adjusting to life here without James is so hard? Some things just cannot be explained and must be endured while waiting for God to bring good from the bad according to His plans for our lives. We must help ourselves in the midst of the storms that try to steal our joy. Having the love of the Lord in our hearts and trusting God as we go forth ever so slowly in sadness, sorrow, situations that many would completely give up and run like Chicken Little. We have JOY in our hearts when Jesus lives there! He empowers us to smile and set out each day with joy in our hearts…when we walk with Him and talk with Him and tell Him we are His own. Even in hard times, we can be JOYFUL!
Each day, I would stop and read words from one or two of the cards that helped chase my Christmas blues away. My tree did not shine with ornaments and glitter but with love and life that filled my heart with hope.
Taking a break from cleaning on New Year’s Day, I settle down beside my tree and begin reading handwritten messages from family and friends who sent those special cards. I ponder things in my heart that have no answers here and pray for peace throughout our troubled world. I thank God for His promise to bind our wounds, heal our hearts, and prepare a place for us to go when our work here is done.
Sharing messages from some of my cards stirs my heart. If your dreams, spirit, or heart feels broken, read these words and feel JOY. Remember that He is the potter, we are the clay. He can mold us and make our lives beautiful again, even when we think all hope is gone.
The first card shared words from Billy Graham, “The Bible says this world is not our final home, and we are ‘strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’ Our true home is heaven. And that is where God’s path leads.”
Jan and Whit sent this card, “The Impact of One Life – When a stone is dropped into a lake, it quickly disappears from sight – but its impact leaves behind a series of ripples that broaden and reach across the water. In the same way, the impact of one life lived for Christ leaves behind an influence for good that touches the lives of many others.”
The card from Laura and Marcus caused me to ponder my own legacy. What will yours be?
“Your Loved One’s Legacy – A Christian leaves a legacy through their walk of faith that does more than point us back to a wonderful life remembered – it also points us forward in hope to an amazing celebration that is to come.” Isn’t that awesome!
This card with no name shows a gorgeous sky with PEACE written in the clouds. Underneath the heavenly display one reads words of hope for any situation. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you,” Jesus.
With the beginning of a new year, peace is endangered in all corners of our world. Terrorism and tough times send shock waves of fear and famine to countries far and near. The peace that surpasses all understanding comes from being closely connected to Christ and being ready to go when He calls.
Another card I cherish rests on a front branch for easy reading when I walk by, “As You Honor Your Husband…
To know sorrow is to acknowledge the love that was yours.
To carry on with a heart full of memories is to be wholly and lovingly human…
To heal, day by day, is to build a bridge of love that will reach far beyond time into forever.
Do you honor a loved one’s legacy? Building a bridge far beyond time into forever preserves the precious love shared and provides healing from broken hearts and shattered dreams.”
I pull one of my favorites from the tree and read it with awe…for the umpteenth time! “We serve a loving God who cares for us and works things out for good with blessings we never would have imagined possible.”
Having daughters is one of those beautiful blessings. They are Sarah and James’ daughters; yet, our heavenly Father brought them into my life (and my sons into James’ life) when we became one in covenant with God. “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement…” Philemon 7. Tina added her own words that I read over and over…with JOY rising up inside every time! Her words and actions remind me how much she loves me and how God works all things out for our good in His time. I remember many times James told me his girls would love me like a mother and be good to me. And they are! These are the miracles of love that fill our hearts and lives with pure, sweet, JOY!
Time has been ticking as I’ve been writing. Soon, the darkness will turn to dawn and our little corner of the world will come alive for another day of living here while waiting for Heaven. The year of our Lord, 2016, will be in place in spite of our predicaments. Life goes on even though hearts are hurting and times are tough. The choice is ours to share the good news, walk in faith, trust in God, and help people along the way.
And our hearts will be full of JOY…because He lives within!
Becky Spell Vann is a long-time columnist for the Sampson Independent’s Faith & Family section and owner of the outreach ministry Tim’s Gift.