January Blues

I entered another appointment on my calendar, and turned to my husband. “So far all our outings in January consist of medical appointments. Not a great way to start the New Year!” He laughed as I further lamented, “Is this a sign of old age setting in?”

My husband battled kidney stones over the Christmas break. Between his medications and mine, I am seeing an unwelcome trend emerging in this new season of life. We are in denial of course, but the fact remains, while our brains continue to think ourselves young, our bodies prove otherwise.

I’ve noticed that we spend a lot of time thinking and/or talking about our health. Whenever we talk to friends our age, we cannot sidestep conversations about a variety of aches and pains. Especially over the past year, we are hypersensitive to anything amiss that may be a Covid-related symptom. To tell the truth, I’m sick of it – literally!

Am I the only one?

Hands up everyone who is fed up with ANYTHING having to do with this pandemic? I am so done with news reports, Covid numbers, mask-wearing, vaccine shortages, lock-downs, restrictions, hand-washing and online everything! I’m sure the majority of my friends and family feel the same way as I do. I feel like I want to escape all of this, but there is nowhere to escape to.

And that’s the crux.

I am immersed in an uncontrollable situation, and no matter how much I want to change the circumstances, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

This morning I awakened feeling like it didn’t really matter if I stayed in bed for the day. I have no schedule, no pressing engagements, no projects that need attention. My house is dust free for the most part. I don’t feel a pressing urge to reclean or reorganize just for something to do. As I snuggled under the covers, and contemplated another quiet and uneventful day, much the same as the day before, I said out loud, “It is what it is.”

It is what it is.

I’ve been saying that a lot, but truly it sums up life right now. It is what it is. I cannot change a single thing about the Covid pandemic around me. I can’t change the fact I’ve battled cancer twice and I still have lingering side effects as a result of my latest battle. I can’t change the fact I’m aging. No matter how many cosmetics I put on my face, wrinkles refuse to be erased. Certainly, there are many things I can take control of, but for the most part, it is what it is and I have to accept it, like it or not.

Or do I?

I reluctantly pushed the covers aside and made my way to my prayer corner. This year, I am reading through Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest” devotional again, and these words sprang out from the page at me:

“Consider the lilies of the field…” (Matthew 6:28). They grow where they are planted. Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. Therefore, we don’t take root anywhere.” Oswald Chambers

“Consider the lilies of the field…”

In this long season, I have been completely uprooted. I have been relegated to the sidelines, so to speak, because of my compromised immunity, so everyday tasks are carried out by my husband who does almost all the shopping for us. I do not go into stores like I once did. Grocery shopping was a weekly outing, a task I actually complained about doing before, but now I miss. I used to thoroughly enjoy a day out just window shopping, but again, it is what it is.

Safety protocols and health restrictions have prevented me from attending in-person worship services. I enjoy the online services, but I miss my church family around me, gathered in corporate worship. I miss being involved. There are still opportunities for ministry, but I am reluctant to plug in again.

I miss seeing my children and grandchildren. We delivered some pancakes a couple of weeks ago to the kids, a quick drop off, but my heart broke when Paxton, four years old asked, “Grandma, is it safe to hug?” I can’t help feel like Covid has robbed us of a full year (so far) of building and nurturing relationships with one another. We hide behind masks of our own making…literally!!

“Jesus said if we would obey the life of God within us, He would look after all other things. Did Jesus Christ lie to us? Are we experiencing the “much more” He promised? If we are not, it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us and have cluttered our minds with confusing thoughts and worries. How much time have we wasted asking God senseless questions while we should be absolutely free to concentrate on our service to Him? Consecration is the act of continually separating myself from everything except that which God has appointed me to do. It is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process. Am I continually separating myself and looking to God every day of my life?” Oswald Chambers

It is a daunting challenge. How much time have I wasted asking God all those useless questions about why we are faced with Covid, restrictions, health challenges, etc. etc., rather than look for opportunities to serve Him in the midst of all this? God is in control, why do I doubt it? I have separated myself. Circumstances have uprooted me, but I have also willfully allowed myself to be uprooted.

I confess that I have not been experiencing the “much more” God has promised me lately. I don’t want to say “it is what it is”, and use that as an excuse to stay dormant. I am praying for God’s direction, and even today, He has answered by planting me here, writing. It is a simple act, but one I have neglected these many weeks.

It’s a small step, but a necessary one. I long to take root again!

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How Do I Respond?

Shock. Horror. Disgust. Only a few descriptions of how I felt as I watched the crowd of insurrectionists storm the capital in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I was watching history unfold, but I likened it to how I felt during 9-11, when the world changed literally overnight.

I’m a Canadian, but I am blessed with so many American friends who live in the U.S., work here in Canada, and some hold dual citizenship. After 9-11, I gathered with them at church to pray for their country. “God bless America” was uttered several times followed by “Amens”. We wept together. We lamented the loss of life and the changes that came about as a result of that horrific attack on American soil.

We are called to pray again. I won’t pretend to understand the political processes that happen in the United States. I know there is a great moral divide between the two ruling parties in the U.S.; similar divisions exist here in Canada. As I wrote in 2016, I have observed Christians against Christians making political determinations based on what they believe is best for their country while still upholding the Christian world view. We may agree wholeheartedly with the Christian perspective, but the division occurs when our political systems collide. Post modern thought pits us against one another, so having a differing opinion on political, social, or moral issues cannot be expressed without battle lines being drawn. We can no longer say, “I agree to disagree”, shake hands and remain friends. We’re either for or against. It’s either right or wrong. There is no compromise, no middle ground,…

…and Satan laughs at us.

Today, I am trying to figure out how I should respond as a Christian to what is happening in the world around me. We are still in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. There is much to cause me anxiety and worry. I don’t know what “normal” is anymore. Change is coming too fast in some ways, and slothfully slow in other ways. What is God wanting of me?

Scripture becomes my lifeline in times of great uncertainty and calamity.

I must PRAY!

2 Chronicles 7:14  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2  “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

1 Kings 8:28  “Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”

I must always remember that GOD IS SOVEREIGN!

Psalm 33: 6-12  “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.  He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.  The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.”

Psalms 22:27-28  “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.”

Romans 13:1  “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Job 12:23-24  “He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.  He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he makes them wander in a trackless waste.”

My focus should be fixed on the eternal not the external!

Daniel 2:44  ““In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”

Matthew 25:32-34  “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

Isaiah 43:5-10  “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.  I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’  Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”  Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble.  Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things?  Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”  “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.  Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Please join with me, friends around the world, to pray for our nations and for peace!

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Winter Solstice

Today (December 21, 2020), is the start of Winter. I always smile when the winter solstice comes about each year, because here in Alberta, winter as we know it, has generally made a dynamic appearance long before now. We can actually have snow in all twelve months, although very rare in July and August, but I’ve experienced snow, even a light dusting of it in our summer months.

We’ve actually been fortunate this year. We haven’t had much snow, and the Chinook winds have blown most of the time throughout the last several weeks. I suppose some global alarmist is already blaming climate change, but truly this is a fairly common occurrence here in southern Alberta. We are so used to it. Still, I look forward to the start of Winter because it actually means we are on the downhill so to speak, towards Spring. Today marks the longest day of the year. The sun rose this morning at 8:40 a.m. and it’s supposed to set at 4:33 p.m. Tomorrow, we start to gain sunlight each day. Yay!

Ten years ago, I remember watching a lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice with my youngest child. She was trying to take pictures of it with her cell phone camera, which was pretty amusing in itself, but even more funny when she asked her Dad if she should stand on a chair to get “closer to the moon” to get a better picture! Tonight we’re supposed to have another celestial event: the aligning of the planets Jupiter and Saturn that has been dubbed the “Christmas Star”, because it will look like one big star in the sky when they align. We won’t see the like for another 800 years, but we will miss it because even as I write this, we’ve got a storm front moving in, and we are expecting 10 – 20 cm. of snow by tomorrow.

But, enough of the weather report…

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Ponderosa. The house looks festive. I managed to talk my husband into putting up some Christmas lights outside, so I bought three “disco” type bulbs that flash lights on the house. My sweet husband, screwed one into a socket outside and declared, “Good enough.” When he’s right, he’s right.

My adult children and I have been texting often about how we will exchange gifts and wishing each other an in-person “Merry Christmas!”, without breaking any lockdown rules this year. I think we’ve got it figured out with a drive-by gift exchange in our driveway, and a Zoom online meeting on Christmas Eve. It’s certainly not ideal, but it will do. My arms will miss hugging on my grandbabies, but I might keep my Christmas tree and holiday décor up until we can actually gather and hug each other again. I figure if the big box stores can advertise “Christmas In July” specials, I should be able to keep my tree up until then too!

I had the privilege of having a journalist from Denmark interview me for an article she is writing on how people are spending a “Covid Christmas” this year. She contacted me after reading my blog post: “Silent Night, Holy Night“. I am looking forward to reading her article when it comes out this week. I will admit, talking about Christmases past with her, and how different this year will be, did not depress me as I thought it would. Instead, it made me determined to celebrate this 2020 Christmas by creating an atmosphere of fun embracing the differences rather than lament the changes. In a way, this is an opportunity to focus on making memories with my husband alone and as they say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I plan on making a Danish meal of frikadeller (Danish meatballs) for him on Christmas Eve after we’ve attended our church’s Christmas Eve service.* He has already said he is really looking forward to that. We’ll have our tiny turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and we are already thinking a Danish Smorgaasbord is the best way to spend New Year’s Eve to say farewell to 2020 and welcome in 2021.

I am praying my kids will make some special Christmas memories with their families this year. I have said to them that this is an opportunity to create their own unique traditions. I’m excited to hear what they do.

The sun has now set; my heart is full. The snow is starting to fall. I praise God for this day and the days to come. Happy Winter Solstice!

*(Note: we are still allowed to gather in church services here in Alberta, but only at 1/3 rd congregational capacity and we are all distanced six feet apart and masked up.)

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