Another year winds to a close, a new one awaits.
I can’t say I’m sorry that 2008 is ending. For me, it’s been a bittersweet year, full of emotional ups and downs. I had the chance to return to Ghana this summer, for the first time in 3 years. And I was able to share Ghana with someone who loved me enough to go with me, my husband David. That was a wonderful “high spot” in the year for me. At the other end of the spectrum, I lost my grandmother Eula Belle. She was a guiding force in my whole life, one who always encouraged and supported me, one who always managed to make me laugh. I’ll miss her for the rest of my life.
There have been other events of the year. Some have made me laugh, some have encouraged me. Some have left deep gashes, wounding the soul, leaving rough scars. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the gashes and scars, that I don’t pray for the situations and people.
But as I grow older, I realize that sometimes God uses the worst pains in our lives to help us make the biggest gains and learn the best lessons. So I’m trusting that the gashes and scars will somehow bear sweet, sweet fruit one day.
An example of this: Several years ago, I was very involved with a small church. I played piano there every time the doors opened. My friends were all part of that church – my whole social support system revolved around it. But an issue arose, and I found myself feeling as though I just didn’t “fit” there any more. So I resigned my positions there, and began my search for truth. It was gut-wrenching; I couldn’t understand why I felt so abandoned by the church, by my friends. Leaving that fellowship was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. But…looking back, I realize that I HAD to leave that church, in order to truly find Christ in my life. Had I not left that church, I’d never have gone to CCC, never have surrendered to Christ, never have gone to Ghana, never have written a book….the list goes on. So the pain of leaving those friends, the gashes in my soul then, healed over to beautiful scars, part of the pattern of my life.
I just have to believe that these most recent gashes, given for whatever reason, will eventually become beautiful scars, as well. That is what gets me through, that Romans 8:28 is truth in this (and all) situations.
For a change of scenery, David & I traveled to Florida for Christmas to visit with his mother. It had been several years since he’d spent a Christmas with her; almost a year since he’d even seen her (though he calls her almost every day, just to check on her). When we left the Carolinas, it was about 28 degrees and we were bundled up! But we drove a few hours south and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale where the temps were in the 70’s! One of the first things I had to do was buy a pair of flip-flops – I didn’t pack exactly “summertime” clothes and shoes!
So Christmas Day this year was very different for me. It began quietly, we’d opened gifts earlier in the week. After lunch, we decided to go to the beach. We drove the few blocks to Deerfield Beach, parked the truck, and began to stroll down the sandy shore.
The beach was very crowded, full of families swimming, sunning, playing volley-ball. Hand-in-hand, we started to walk. At the beach, I tend to search for pretty shells, and I look down as I walk. As I scanned the sand in front of me, I saw few shells, but lots of blue pods that sort of looked like small balloons with long blue strings. I realized they were stinging Portuguese Man O’ War – dangerous jellyfish-like creatures. Some of them floated in the water – giving cause to the lifeguards’ whistled warnings to swimmers. As I expanded my gaze, I could see that the beach was littered with these creatures. Some were tiny; others were as large as both my hands, with yards of tentacles dangling. Walking down the beach became something akin to making one’s way through a minefield. One step upon one of these balloon-like things would result in a very painful sting – as evidenced by the line of injured people at the lifeguards’ stands.
So we walked carefully, watching our steps as we went along, pointing out dangers to each other, helping each other along. In that way, we enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach, relishing the warm sunshine and glorious colors of the day.
I realized, later, that this is like our Christian walk, too. The enemy is always trying to lay traps for us, to injure us with snares and stings. That’s like the Portuguese Man O’ War pods that lay in the sand and floated on the water. But if we are watchful, and aligned with others who also are watching (like Godly friends)…we can avoid many of the slings & arrows the enemy sends us.
David & I have endured a few hurts lately. We’ve both faced some harsh stings, some traps, issues and words that made us feel hurt and/or angry. The enemy of our souls is always prowling around like a lion, looking for something to devour. But we’ve also been able to watch our steps, point out dangers to each other, and help each other along. We’ve also had help and encouragement from other family members and friends, who pointed out other traps along the way, or helped us find strength to step out in a different path and avoid a sting.
That’s life, isn’t it? We face each day’s beauty and danger simultaneously, learning to avoid the stings and traps, often relying on the help, guidance, and encouragement of those who love us. We can walk down the beach, feel the water swirl around our ankles and the sunshine on our faces, confidently stepping around the sharp stones and stinging tentacles that may harm us.
My prayer for you this New Year of 2009 is for one of happiness, friendship, and guidance. While we all seem to face an uncertain future – with the news of economic disasters, wars & rumors of wars, slings and arrows of people who for whatever reason wish to cause us harm -- we still have the confidence of faith, the encouragement of good friends, and the assurance of the Love of Christ in our hearts! May God bless you and keep you safe and healthy