Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Year of Our Lord, AD 2017 ~ In Retrospect

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill;
but time and chance happeneth to them all."
Ecclesiastes 9:11
(KJV)

As I contemplated the process of closing out yet another year of life,
I began to think of it as AD 2017, and I delved into the meaning of "AD".
This abbreviated term is often misinterpreted as "After Death" of Jesus Christ,
but, in actuality, "AD" means "anno Domini" and the full phrase translates,
"in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ".

I'll be honest.
2017 has been really hard.
Beyond difficult.
I think it is safe to say that the amount of worry I have carried and the tears I have cried this year 
far surpass a lot of other years of living combined.
It started on January 1st...the very first day of this year, 
when my niece, Kristen, who was expecting her first child, collapsed in the Emergency Room,
only to find out that she had a blood clot in her lung.
What followed was an intense urgency placed upon my heart to personally pray her and her unborn baby through the pregnancy and delivery.
It was something that I could not shake off or dismiss, because Kristen is, and always has been, 
very near and dear to my heart.
Though I knew I had no control over any part of the outcome of her ordeal,
I was bound and determined to do all I could to move God on His throne on behalf of her and her unborn baby boy, often asking you, dear friends, to join with me in fervent prayer.
(Which, by the way, you were ever so faithful to do, and I am eternally grateful for you.)
The outcome God permitted was a definite response to the many prayers prayed.
More about the little miracle guy and pictures later.😃

During the time of Kristen's trials, several other extenuating circumstances began to arise,
that required more of me than I felt I could even begin to give.
Time after time, I have been forced way past what I thought were my "limits".
God stretched me in so many ways this year, I realized my "limits" were just points the flesh part of me never wanted to have to go past or deal with.
As much as I did not want to walk past those points, God had other plans, 
and each time He forced me forward into places I did not want to go, it became evident that I was not walking at all, but being carried by arms that refuse to let go.
I know it sounds insane, but the only way I know to describe the way I have felt, at times this year, is that it was like I was having an out of body experience.
It was almost like it wasn't even me....going through the motions, stumbling along, doing what was required on automatic pilot, completely numb and void of feeling.

We end this year much different than we started.
Kevin no longer has an earthly father.
It is a hard thing to watch the effects and depths of his grieving this first Christmas/holiday season without his Dad.
His Mom's struggles remain and loom enormous after a horrific car wreck, in which she totally lost control, hit a rock wall, fractured her neck, and mangled her right arm.
Aunt Vaida's lung cancer is back, and she continues to fight this awful disease.
All three of my dear sisters stand in the face of severe testing...
one, still reeling in the aftermath and ongoing chaos from her home's direct hit from Hurricane Irma,
one, whose whole world was turned completely upside down when her husband, LD, passed away just four days ago...none of us can believe he is gone...the grief is so raw and near-unbearable,
and, one, who continues to suffer from complications after surgery this year.
My cousin, Danny, and his wife, Vickie, both died within eight hours of each other.
Another cousin, Billy, lost his only son, Chris, during 2017.
Our dear, precious family dog, Paige, passed away after suffering terribly.
We will never, ever forget her.

There are a host of other personal things...things that have shaken us to the core and come close to knocking us off our feet this year.
Our future feels very shaky and uncertain heading into 2018.
Things we counted on to be there, can be counted on no longer.
So many chapters closed...so many heartaches and changes...seeming to come from so many angles.

Someone said it is a compliment when God allows extreme anguish.
That satan fights hardest against those he considers a threat.
That God entrusts hard things to those He can trust the most.

I'll be honest.
None of this feels like a compliment.
It feels like way too much at one time.
More than once, I have said, "I can't take anymore".
More than once, God has proven that when I can't go another step, He is strong enough to pick me up and carry me...issues, hang-ups, burdens, included.

I started this post talking about this being AD 2017, the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we wrap up this beyond-difficult year, the point God is trying to get across to me is that
the year 2017, along with every other year of life, was His...to do with as He chose.
To order, direct, orchestrate, and allow every detail, according to a plan that is so far above anything I can comprehend.
The moments, hours, days, months, and years are His.
Psalm 31:15 says, 
"My times are in Thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me."
It is not for me to dictate when and how things occur in this life.
I have NO control over anything at all.
There is a "fullness of time" for every event that happens to each and every one of us.

"That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him..."
Ephesians 1:10

"But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law..."
Galatians 4:4

We can't rush, nor delay the things that God reserves unto Himself.

If I had my way, none of my loved ones would ever suffer, and I would never be separated from any of them through death.
They would all live to a ripe, old age, in well, healthy bodies, and I would spend every possible moment with them.
Accidents would never happen.
Phone calls that bear bad, shocking, shake-you-to-the-core news would never occur.
All would be well.
Always.

I don't always get my way.
That is a fact of this life, and the sooner I accept it, the easier it will be to navigate through all of the things that are "not my will".

We live in a fallen world, so far inferior to the home Jesus has gone to prepare for us.
As long as we are here, there will be many things to endure.

Jesus said,
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. 
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

None of us are exempt from the human condition.

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Matthew 5:45

At the end of this year, our hearts are broken shattered.
LD's passing left my family and me completely stunned, and my tears flow like a river.
We all had so much faith for his earthly, physical healing, and when it didn't happen the way we wanted it to, we are left reeling from the shock.
I'm not even going to pretend that I come close to understanding why God took LD right now.
We will miss him forever, and the hurt is going to linger for a long, long time.
He was such a strong, necessary part of our family, and there is just this big, deep void now.
There are no words.

As we mourn and pass through this season of enormous grief,
there is a bright spot that illuminates all of our hearts and souls.
His name is Eli, and, as promised, here is a picture of the little guy.


I love this picture! 
He was looking up at the Christmas lights.
And, in this one, it looks like he is ready to take on the world!
Isn't he a dollbaby?
An aunt has the right to brag, you know.


To God be all glory for the amazing gift of little Eli!

He is our symbol of hope, in the midst of so much darkness and pain.

We suffered deep, deep losses this year, but God sent a precious angel to earth to show us that life must go on, in spite of all.

It sort of reminds me of the year 2000, in some ways.
God took my dear Dad to Heaven in June, but He sent us precious Zachary in December.

It's hard to say this, but "the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
Job 1:21

To each of you faithful, precious readers and friends, I say,
Happy New Year!
May God bless each of you in a special way every, single day of 2018.

I end this final post of 2017 with five of the songs that have helped sustain me countless times.
They truly express how I feel right now.









Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Sad, Sad Good-bye & Reminder of Special Fasting & Prayer Day ~ 12-27-2017

"So the people...believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them."
Jonah 3:5
(KJV)

I started writing this post days ago, and my, how things have changed since I began writing it.
My heart is so overwhelmed that I can barely finish it.

Before I get into the rest of this post, I want to say that today is dear Zach's birthday!
Seventeen years ago, at 10:32 am, our dear miracle baby made his grand entrance into this world,
bringing with him the sweetest bursts of sunshine ever to enter our lives.
Unbelievable to see how quickly the years have flown, and I cannot believe our "baby" is now 17.
Being the one he calls, "Mama", is truly one of the greatest, most precious joys, gifts, and blessings I have ever been given.
I cherish every, single moment with this dear boy, and I will never cease praising God for allowing Kevin and me to be his parents.

Today, we were eating at one of Zach's favorite restaurants and enjoying the special treat of getting to go there on such a special occasion, when Kevin's cell phone rang.
It was my nephew, Mark.
I knew when I picked up the phone that something was tragically wrong.
The flood of tears and each near-unintelligible word that followed felt like an individual dart shot straight into my heart.
I could NOT believe what I was hearing.
"We lost him, Aunt Cheryl", I finally deciphered Mark's words between sobs.
"What do you mean, Buddy?" I did NOT want to even imagine I had heard him right.
"He's gone."

Yes, dear friends.
The one you have prayed for so earnestly and for whom I called the day of fasting and prayer for tomorrow, 12/27, is now resting in the arms of Jesus.
My tears flow like a river, as I try to see the screen while typing these words.
LD left this world this morning at around the same time dear Zach entered it 17 years ago today.

I feel numb.
I won't say I come close to understanding God's plan.
This is not the way this was supposed to turn not...not even close....in my way of thinking and realm of thoughts.
But, who am I?
God's thoughts are so far above mine that the two do not, nor can they ever, be reconciled.

After I got the word out about the day of fasting and prayer, responses began to flow into our email.
Responses from people who are hurting.
Who have loved ones who are hurting.
Who need a miracle.
Just like LD.


Tomorrow, is the day we set aside to call for a time of collective fasting and earnest prayer on behalf of my brother-in-law, LD, who has been battling stage 4 lung cancer.
I originally thought this time of intercession was to be set aside, just for LD.

God, obviously knew all along, that by 12/27/17, LD would no longer need our prayers.
He knew that there are others who would need this special time that is set aside...
a time to pray and seek God's face with the intense earnestness it takes to move Him on His throne.

Jesus said, "This kind goeth not out by by prayer and fasting."  Matthew 17:21  
There are situations in this life that require a greater level of intercession and desperation before God, such as was the case in LD's situation, and many others.  
Fasting does not mean that you have to go without eating for a full day.  
Many people have health issues that prohibit this.  
Even the sacrifice of one meal or the setting aside of something for the sake of obedience accelerates the power of prayer.

Now, instead of praying for my dear brother-in-law, who has just today received his perfect healing in Heaven, will you please, please pray for my sister, Debbie, and my nephew, Mark?
In the moments you would have mentioned his name, will you please kindly mention theirs?
Their grief is unbearable.
All of our hearts are shattered.
We had so much faith to believe things would turn out the way we wanted them to.
To be honest, we are just consumed with grief...we cannot understand.
We all prayed SO hard, and dear LD had SO much faith.
We all just knew this would turn out differently, and we all feel like we were just slapped in the face and punched in the gut.
God sent the healing we asked for...just not in the way we had hoped.

In addition to praying for my family tomorrow, will you also please pray for the others who have sent prayer requests that would so appreciate being included in this special time of prayer and fasting?
I list the prayer requests below, in the order they came to me.
  • Please pray for fellow-blogger, Betsy Queen's, brother-in-law, Mike.  I share her words here.  "He has three cancerous tumors in his lungs. The anti-rejection medicine he has to take from his liver transplant causes these cancerous tumors. It’s truly a “pick your own poison” situation he’s in. Without the medication, his body will reject the liver. With the medication he gets cancer. He has treatments three times a week at the hospital, and it’s very draining for him and my sister. It’s been a years long battle so far and it is draining them."
  • Please pray for fellow-blogger, Mary Zatkalik, who recently had to have both knees replaced and is now going through a painful, difficult recovery.  UPDATE:  12/27/2017 @10:01 PM - Please also pray for God to heal a chest cold that Mary is suffering from.
  • Kevin's Aunt Vaida Waid is very ill, battling lung cancer for the 2nd time.  (You may remember me mentioning prayer for her last summer, when I spoke of her illness in this post.)  The type of chemo they are giving her this time around has wreaked havoc on her body, and she is being forced to decline further treatment.  Please pray for her healing.
  • A heartbroken mother shared this request "for a son in the bonds of alcoholism to be delivered.  That the Lord would remove the desire to drink from him, and that He would give him the courage to take the steps necessary to stop drinking and the strength to see it through.”
  • Doug and Rose, both stand in need of physical healing, they long to draw closer to the Lord and to put Him first in their lives, and their home needs a new roof.
  • Please pray for fellow-blogger, Bettie G., who suffers terribly from physical afflictions and has just undergone a change in medical treatment.  She shared this, "Would you pray that this new medication will not cause side effects while we have family gatherings here? I want to be "present" and full of the Holy Spirit's grace during our visits."
  • Please pray for Louise, who is suffering from bone cancer and has been sent home from the hospital with little hope.  UPDATE:  12/27/2017 @ 9:15 PM - I just got word that Louise just passed away.  Please pray for this dear, grieving family.
  • Please pray for Minnie, who has suffered a stroke and is not doing well.
  • Please pray for the parents and family of 10 month old, Eden, who recently died after suffering a rare brain aneurysm.
  • Please pray for a miracle for a mother and her 4 children who are in dire circumstances and sent this request for prayer, "My children and I ask for financial security, safety, and God to do miracles for us.  There is so much we need. I ask for miracles to never be apart from my children."
  • Please pray for a wife who sent this prayer request for her husband, "Would you uphold my dear beloved - we’ve been married for 39 years and I’ve been praying for his salvation for 37 1/2 yrs.  Would you pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to work on his heart and woo him to Jesus.  Our lives and days grow shorter, and I desire to share my Jesus with him."
  • Please pray for Bronda Boley, who is heavily burdened and sent this request, "There are so many things on my heart right now..."  Sometimes, we cannot even put into words what we need.  So thankful to know that Jesus knows!
  • Please pray for a two-year old with respiratory distress.
  • Please pray for Scota young man who is battling stage 4 cancer.
  • Please pray for a brother-in-law, named Roy, who is in hospice "who wants to go to heaven--"home".
  • Please pray for Lemeno Pearsall, who is suffering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure.  Please pray for her daughter, MG, who has to travel a long distance to be with her.  Pray for safe travel and peace of mind and heart.
  • Please pray for 38 year old, Monica Brown, who is suffering from a rare, cancerous blood disorder.  She has been on life support for a month and is not doing well.
  • Please pray for a teenage boy named Parker.
  • Please pray for fellow-blogger, Kitty, and for healing hearts in her family.
  • Several have silent prayer requests that they would prefer to keep private.  Please cover all of these with a blanket of intercession tomorrow, along with the names you are mentioning, if you will, dear friends.  God knows who needs your prayers, and He sees and knows every individual heartache....yours, included.  He hears and understands the words the heart speaks.
Your prayers and the sacrifice you are making to join in this fast mean more to me than I could ever express in mere words.
I pray that God will richly and abundantly bless and reward each one of you, 
and may He work out your own personal prayer requests and meet every need in your lives at this time.

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..."
Ephesians 3:20

"And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God."
Mark 11:22

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017!!

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11
(KJV)


And, just a reminder....


God bless each one of you in a very special way this wonderful Christmas Day!!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Upcoming Day of Fasting and Prayer

"Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Matthew 17:21
(KJV)


I know many of you are praying for my brother-in-law, LD, who is battling stage 4 lung cancer.
His condition continues to worsen, and the doctors cannot get the bleeding to stop.
As I spoke with my sister, Debbie, last night, she asked if I would call for a day of special prayer and fasting for LD.

I know this is a very busy time for all of us, there is a lot of eating that accompanies this festive and wonderful time of year, and it would be very difficult to fast before Christmas.
But, many times, after Christmas, we all feel the need of taking a break from food and allowing a fast to cleanse the extra food indulgence from our bodies.
So I decided to set the date for the fast for Wednesday, 12/27/2017.

I know many of you are battling your own physical issues, marital distresses, emotional wounds, financial woes, and have a multitude of other mountains in your path.

As I prepared this blog post, I felt led to open this up to ALL of you.
Though I am privy to some of your personal needs, I would never think of adding your name or situation to the list, without your individual consent and permission.
Your privacy is precious and important to me, and when someone trusts me enough to bestow the gift of their confidence, I do not take that trust lightly, nor do I abuse it.
I hold the prayer requests you share with me very close and dear to my heart, 
and I pray earnestly and privately for you.

If you would like to add a prayer request to be included in this universal, collective fast,
please feel free to let me know.
If your need is of a private nature or you prefer to communicate by email, you can contact me by scrolling down the right sidebar to the "About" section, clicking on my name located right next to my picture, then clicking on "Email" on the page that comes up next.
Or, you are more than welcome to leave a comment, sharing the prayer request there.
Perhaps, you want a name included, but not the particulars of your need, or you may want the details included, without a name.
God sees and knows all, and He is ever mindful of our individual needs.
Just let me know what information you want shared publicly, and I will respect your privacy and honor your wishes.

In the meantime, we would SO appreciate your continued prayers for LD,
as through human eyes, things do not look good for him.
It surely takes a concentrated effort to keep looking through the eyes of faith.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Hebrews 11:1

"For we walk by faith, not by sight..."
2 Corinthians 5:7

Lord willing, I will post the prayer requests to be prayed for around midnight of 12/26/2017,
so everyone will know who to pray for, specifically, in addition to praying for LD.

God bless you all this Christmas season!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Please Pray, Dear Friends! Update on LD

"Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us."
I Thessalonians 5:25
(NLT)

My family and I are so very thankful to you for every prayer you have prayed for us.
Sometimes, I feel so hesitant to ask yet once again for more prayer,
but, at my family's request, that is exactly what I need to do tonight.


As you know, my brother-in-law, LD, was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, 
and has also been battling double pneumonia.
He had to be taken to the Emergency Room a couple of days ago,
due to vomiting blood and blood clots.
After he was admitted, he began to suffer from severe hemorrhaging,
and a trauma team had to be called in to get it stopped.
After that crisis was over, the doctors found that the tumor in his lung is wrapped 
around his pulmonary artery, and it is inoperable.
He was told to get his affairs in order.

The news could not have been worse, and, needless to say, my sister, nephew,
other family members, and I are completely devastated.

LD is a man of faith who has been in the ministry for many years, and he is a firm believer in God's power to heal.
I, myself, have witnessed his prayers for other people and have watched how God has come on the scene and answered, time after time.

We all know that what man deems impossible is an easy task for God.
It only takes a mustard-seed-sized amount of faith to move a mountain.

Regardless what doctors say, I believe God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or even think.
He is the Great Physician, and Jesus suffered those awful stripes upon His body for our healing.
Even after the devastating news, I come to you, once again, asking you to please pray for LD's healing.
I ask you to please pray for my sister, Debbie, and my nephew, Mark, as they are in much need of your prayers at this time.
I also ask for prayer for the rest of us who care deeply for LD.
Our hearts are utterly broken.

These are two of LD's favorite songs, and I want to include them here, in honor of him.
The tears flow, as I remember the many, many times he has sat in our living room,
playing his guitar, and singing these songs.
After many past physical afflictions, the first song below has become his "signature" song.
I never, ever hear it that I don't think of him.


I Can't Even Walk Without You Holding My Hand - Charles Johnson & The Revivers


I Know A Man Who Can - George Jones

You will never know how much we appreciate you and your past and continued prayers.
God bless you abundantly for helping to carry our burdens.

Thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Greetings from BABY ELI ~ A "Jesus Loves You!" Book Review ~ Update on LD

"I will praise Thee: for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation."
Psalm 118:21
(KJV)

As many of you know, we started out the year 2017 with some very troubling news.
My niece, Kristen, who was expecting a baby, had a blood clot that had traveled into her lung,
and she had collapsed at the Emergency Room.
What followed were many months of me asking you, dear friends, to lift her and her little unborn baby in prayer.
You were faithful to pray.
And, GOD!
He was faithful to answer in such a miraculous way.

The result ended up being one of the major highlights of the year, when on July 5th, one super-special little man, named Eli, made his grand entrance into our family and lives.

(You can see his very first picture and read about that happy day, by clicking HERE.)
It is hard to believe that over five months have passed since little Eli's arrival,
and, now, he is enjoying his very first Christmas!


Isn't he just a little doll?
I keep saying he just gets cuter by the day!
Oh, friends!
We are SO grateful to God for this precious little bundle of joy,
and each time I think of him, I am constantly reminded of the amazing miracle God performed,
in answer to all of our prayers.
Things could have turned out so differently, and I never, ever take what God did for us for granted.
He is such a dear baby, and oh, the brightness he brings into this world!

Today, he decided he would try to get out of his chair, while no one was looking!
(Or so, he thought...)


This is what happened when he realized he was caught red-handed!!!!


Oh, my word!
That face!!
He is downright hilarious and has such a personality!!!
What a dollbaby!
We will never cease praising God for the way He intervened on behalf of this little guy and his Mommy.
She still has some residual health concerns, but, thankfully, for the most part, all is well, praise God!
He is so faithful!!

********************************************************

I've never done book reviews on this blog in the past, but when someone reached out to me recently and asked if I would review a book called, "Jesus Loves You!", I couldn't refuse.
Any way that I can spread the message of His love...well, that is a-okay with me!
So, I got the book in the mail, and I just had a chance to sit down and read it tonight.
This is my honest review, and I received no compensation.


At first glance, I thought this book would be geared towards very young children and could be used as an introduction to who Jesus is and His love for them.
However, when I got into the reading of the book, I realized that the writer refers to events that happen much later in life and are more of a mature nature.
There are references to asking a girl to dance, a "first romantic kiss", a painful relationship break-up, a "co-worker who you thought was totally cute", and marriage to "that cute co-worker".
The author also refers to aging parents.

My personal opinion is that the book may not be age-appropriate for small children.
Small children cannot relate to the seasons of adolescence, adulthood, and old age,
and I don't think they would, at that point, find the content relevant.

The intention of the message of the book is that Jesus loves us so much, and He remains with us all throughout life.
Through the good times, the bad times, and all times in between, He is there,
steadfast and unmovable.
The book is written in a very basic way, and I think young children could understand the words, but the intended message would definitely be best received by those who have experienced life, firsthand, and who have already walked through the stages mentioned.

The illustrations are simplistic, but colorful, bright, and attractive.
It is 13 pages long and is a quick read.

All in all, I would most recommend this book to older teenagers and adults who are learning about Jesus for the first time.
The book is published by Lighthouse Christian Publishing and can be purchased HERE.

*****************************************************
I also wanted to share an update on my brother-in-law, LD, who is battling stage 4 lung cancer.
He has had pneumonia for an extended period of time, and is still in much need of prayer, 
as he continues more radiation treatments and will soon start chemotherapy.
We truly appreciate all of the prayers you have prayed on his behalf, and we are still believing God to send the miracle he needs.
Thank you so much for continuing to pray for him!
UPDATE AT 6:25 PM:
LD is at the emergency room in very serious condition.
PLEASE PRAY!!

*********************************************************

In closing, I wanted to share one of my new favorite Christmas songs.
I think this is the first year I remember hearing this song, and oh, my, as I listened to the choir singing it at church the other night, I was so moved.
The message just makes me cry.
It is so beautiful.
I hope you can listen to this version by "4 Him" I found on youtube.


A Strange Way To Save The World - 4 Him

I hope all of you are enjoying this wonderful Christmas season!!
I love and appreciate each one of you dear readers, and I am praying for each one of you as I type these words.
Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When Christmas Isn't Merry

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
2 Corinthians 1:3,4
(KJV)

It's no secret that I absolutely love Christmas.
And, I would say that a big percentage of the people reading this would, without hesitation,
give the answer of "Christmas", if they were asked to name their favorite holiday.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, both in our beloved little town,
and inside our home.
The Nativity scene is out,


the precious-to-us and still-unscathed-by-so-many-years'-use tree we bought our very first married Christmas together 29 years ago is up and twinkling,


and the stockings are hung with care.
Zach is SO excited for Christmas and counts down the days on this little chalkboard.


There is joy in our hearts in abundance this Christmas season...yes...
but, there are also a lot of other emotions and feelings that pervade.

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, in my opinion,
but Christmas does not remove or erase real life.
It doesn't magically transport the heart to a place where there is no grief,
no tears, no pain, and no heartache.
On this earth, there is no such place, and that is reality.
Only Heaven will bring such blessed perfection.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
Revelation 21:4

Jesus said, 
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. 
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Life in this world is not perfect.
Far from it.
As a year begins to wind down, I always get sentimental
(I know what you're thinking...just when is she not that way?😂)
and become reflective.
My thoughts go deep, and I look back over the closing year and sort of come up with a mental recap.
As I do that this year, I'm telling you, it has been ONE. HARD. YEAR.

The word we chose, as a family, for 2017 is PEACE.
In light of that fact, if I look back and measure the year based on peaceful circumstances,
I would rate it a big zero.
Peaceful circumstances?
NOT hardly.
That is what I was hoping for when we felt led to choose that word as our "word of the year".
God had other plans.
Whew.
Just thinking back on all that has happened, and all that is still happening at this very moment,
makes me weary-beyond-words, heart-wrenched, and just plain mentally and physically exhausted.

NOT that I am complaining.
I promise, I am not.
Because in the midst of loss, grief, physical affliction, mental anguish, and an ongoing fight with severe anxiety, amongst other things, I am GRATEFUL.
From the bottom of my heart.
This year has been far from externally-peaceful, but it has brought more blessings than we could ever count.
God has been there....through it all.
He has come on the scene for us time after time after time, and I say,
all glory to Him for His faithfulness, for His unfailing love, and His never-ending mercies to my family and me.
Praise His holy name from the depths of my inmost soul.
I have never loved Him more.

In our year of the word, "PEACE", I have learned a new appreciation for the quote,
"Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes He calms His child."
There has been a whole lot more of "calming His child" than His "calming the storm" this year.
Sometimes, peace is not about the absence of life storms.
Sometimes, peace is not about the external...at all.
Sometimes, peace is all about the internal work God does in us, in spite of all that is happening around us.

Christmas time is nearing, yet real life remains...for you...for me...for all of us.
The wheels of human condition do not screech to a halt at Christmas.
Brokenness continues.
Grief remains raw.
Woeful hearts bleed.
Impending loss hovers and pulls a cloud over present circumstances.
Fear and uncertainty are still hard at work and ever on the job.
Illness invades the best-laid plans.
Bodies ache.
Marital tensions rip and tear, as the sound of good-bye echoes ahead of ever being spoken.
Wounds, betrayal, disappointment, and shattered dreams haunt, overtake waking thoughts.
Empty seats at family gatherings serve as stark reminders of how much we've lost.
Loneliness magnifies as memories of Christmases past wash over grieving souls.
Dread overwhelms as we look around and wonder whose seat will be empty next.
Depression is formidable...even now.

Life goes on, yes, even at Christmas.
Those who are struggling often find their pain even intensifies during this time of year.
It can feel like a personal attack when it seems that everyone around you is wrapped in a blanket of joy, as you stand outside the warmth on the sidelines shivering from a cold, sad, deep void.

The truth is, everyone suffers, and in spite of all of the merriment of this blessed time of year,
every heart continues to bear its own sorrow.

And, this, my friend, is why Jesus came!
Not to make life one long, incessant bed of ease.
Not to remove every thorn from our path.
Not to promise that we would never hurt.
But, He came...He condescended to be born into a human body...just like us...
so He could FEEL our pain.
So, He could experience what it means to be one of us...
to walk in the shoes of human condition...squalid, wretched, needy parts included.
To not just hear about what we're like, watching from Heaven afar,
imagining what it would be like to go through the things we do,
but to live out the full gamut of life as we know it.
He breathed it all...the entire scope of what sin has done to our fallen world.
He didn't insist upon being born in the palatial castle He deserved,
as a full-grown Prince of Peace whose every wish was granted to the full.
That night, so long ago, in that precious spot, under that brightly shining star,
Jesus, our Lord and Savior chose to came into this world the same, exact way you and I did...
through the anguished birth pangs of His mother, Mary.
He chose to start out the same way you and I did, not to stay frozen in that manger, but to grow one day at a time, so He could live and breathe the complete capacity of life on earth.
He, the Bread of Life, chose to depend upon someone else for His daily bread.
He, the Maker of All, chose to have to learn how to make things at the feet of His earthly father, Joseph.
He, the Word made flesh, chose to need to be taught how to speak, read, and write.
He, the One who "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (I Peter 2:22), chose to become sin and bear the full guilt and punishment for every, single thing you and I have ever done or will ever do wrong.

"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
2 Corinthians 5:21

Regardless what you are going through this Christmas, may I just take this opportunity to remind you that Jesus came.
I know you know that.
May I add two words to the end of that?
Jesus came for you.
He understands.
He truly gets all you are going through...because there is nothing you are facing right now that He cannot relate to on the most personal, intimate level possible.
In some form or another, He has felt every human emotion known to man.

Many years after that starlit night in Bethlehem, He said this,
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

This is why He came.
To do the heavy lifting.
To bear our unbearable sins.
To give us rest.
To offer an easier yoke.

Trying to navigate through this beyond-difficult life without being "yoked" to Christ adds so much unnecessary, extra strain and toil.
We are going to have problems, whether we choose to yoke to Him or not.
Taking His yoke upon us and allowing Him to take the hardest, weightiest end of the load brings blessed relief.

This Christmas, I pray that you experience Jesus, the reason for the season, in a whole new way.
My hope is that He becomes vividly real to you, that as you view manger scenes and starlit nights, 
you are able to give your all to Him...the good, the bad, the ugly, the unmentionable.
That you can release your heaviness to Him, and sense the reality that He is absolutely on your team,
He is fighting for you, and He loves you with an everlasting love.

Though life is hard and situations are sometimes overwhelming,
He is here.
God with us.
Emmanuel.
Our Savior forever.