Embracing Change

When change abounds, focus on the One who never changes.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

This Christmas was different. Later Thanksgiving holiday led to an even later end of the school year. I had to wait for one, and then the other, college kid to make their way home. The two teenage boys left at home were knee deep in theater rehearsals and their own holiday celebrations. We waited until the last kid arrived just a few days before Christmas before we officially decorated. I’m usually the decorating Grinch, but this year even the Grinch was thrilled to see those tree lights twinkling. And this year the young man who is pursuing our daughter’s heart joined us for our holiday celebrations–that was certainly new. In the midst of this different year I began to realize Christmas would never be quite the same.

board-1273117_1280In many ways, this Christmas was an exclamation point to a long period of transition. Two years ago God began this season of new. First a dear friend and partner in the gospel moved a few states away. Within the year, another dear friend and her family moved across the country. Then a series of changes in three separate ministries I was involved in left me with a shaken soul. My personal world turned topsy turvy as one and then another of my children graduated high school and moved away to college. It often felt as if the Lord was sifting all those things in my life that I counted on when the world pressed into me. My places of security were being stripped away, and I felt unstable and weary, and, if I’m honest, a bit forsaken and a lot broken. It was an unusual grief. A grief it’s taken me quite a while to confess without being weighed down by the guilt of my own selfishness.

 

As I continue to walk through these seasons of change, I keep coming back to my bulwark verse. The verse I seem to constantly return to when life is hard. In an unusual grief, this verse is a strange comfort.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

This powerful verse reminds me of two vital things about my Abba.

  1. God gives good and perfect gifts. Psalm 18:30 says, “This God—his way is perfect.” Psalm 145 repeats this phrase, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.” If this change is a gift from His hands, then I can trust it is a gift from a God who is good, perfect, faithful, and kind. The Word makes it clear life won’t be easy (John 16:33; James 1:2), and I’m convinced the transient nature of our earthly existence is part of those trials and tribulations. Yet, we can rest confidently in the character of the One who orchestrates those changes. All of the changes that are happening have been walked through with fervent prayer. It is beautiful to see God put every detail in place. Even when my heart doesn’t want to cooperate, my mind can focus on truth. Over time, I am finding, my heart is molded to the shape of the truth. When I’m walking through the unknown, it is crucial that I set my mind on what I know (Colossians 3:1-3). There I can anticipate the future with joy and peace and confident hope.
  2. My God does not change. Malachi 3:6 says it bluntly, “For I the Lord do not change.” God is constant, even more constant than the sun rising and setting. He is faithful to His Word and always, always true to His character. The Lord, in His goodness and grace, is teaching me much about misplaced security. I depended far too much on my friends. I leaned against them, instead of leaning against my Abba. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus-loving friends and godly counselors are a gift, but too often I would run to them instead of seeking my Father first. It was easier and more comforting to receive validation from a trusted friend. It’s much harder to spend extended time in prayer, dig deep in the Word, and listen closely to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In this season of sifting, I am learning more of my own stubborn heart, learning to repent quickly, and learning to run to Jesus first and fervently.

My season of change is still in full swing. My oldest daughter graduates from college in the Spring and is heading out on a new adventure. My oldest son graduates high school next year and will set off on a journey of his own. My husband and I are asking the King how we can serve Him best during this season of new. And while I wish I could say I’m embracing change with a contented heart, truth is, it’s still hard. But I’m finding joy and peace come more easily as I focus on the unchanging One. When I focus on His constancy, He reminds me of His goodness and faithfulness and kindness. That causes me to place my security in the One I can always rely on to be the same yesterday, today, and forever. When I focus on what is true, I am reminded of this truth: As I am learning to embrace change, my Abba is embracing me.

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My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the dog bites, When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.

The Christmas season rings with the chords of this uplifting song. Although it’s not really a Christmas themed song, we regularly hear it each December. Perhaps it’s because of an old habit TV stations had back in the day of airing The Sound of Music each Christmas Eve. Or maybe it’s because at this season we make out our Christmas wish lists like little children and we think of all the things we wish we had. Or it could be just a carry over from the Thanksgiving holiday of thinking about our blessings. Whatever the reason I love it! It reminds me to focus on the beautiful things, the small things, the ordinary overlooked blessings in our lives.

As I sat at breakfast today in a beautiful hotel restaurant while accompanying my husband on a business trip, my mind flooded with thoughts. The Eggs Benedict, that I got to enjoy in a leisurely manner, is something that I only eat once a year when I’m on this business trip with him and have a chef to prepare it for me. It propelled me into thoughts of my favorite things:

  • Eggs Benedict for breakfast (of course)
  • Christmas – celebrating the Christ child’s birth with family.
  • My oldest grandchild’s first snowy, peaceful Christmas with us.
  • High school football games.
  • Twinkling lights.
  • Coffee conversations with friends.
  • The Pinesol and candle scent of my clean house.
  • A walk in the autumn leaves.
  • Snow.
  • Any book that grabs me so that I can’t put it down.

Those are a few of my favorite things.

What about you? Why don’t you make a list and check it twice of all your favorite things.

There’s something about that exercise that makes a heart light and joyful rather than gloomy. This time of year with its lack of sunlight many folks find themselves depressed or discouraged. So a thorough examination of the blessings and beauty and love that God has put in our lives is like a dose of good medicine. In fact Proverbs reminds us that “a joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (17:22)

So think of the song above. Examine the pictures or the suggestion list. Or just let your emotions roll with the beauty, wonder, joy, delight, excitement, love, relationships, blessings, and every positive thing you can dwell on today! Remember, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Things of Beauty and Wonder…

pexels-photo-83761…music that stirs the soul

…artwork that speaks to you

…kisses on the cheek

…holding the fragile hand of a frail mother or father who has lived a long life

hand-2906458_640…the lisping wisdom of a 4-year-old

…the smell of a baby

…floating on gentle waves

hot-chocolate-winter-chocolate-hot…gazing into the innocent eyes of a child

…snuggling with your grown children reminiscing times past

…hot cocoa with marshmallows on a frigid day

…a crackling fire in the fireplace

blaze-2178749_640…jumping in piles of leaves

…swimming in the lake on a hot summer’s day

…hearing the words “I Love You”

…climbing to the top of a lighthouse or mountain and soaking in the view as your reward

pexels-photo-266011…dancing in the rain

…kissing tender baby feet

…making cookies with a friend

…decorating the Christmas tree

…a sweet breeze scattering the white blossoms of a cherry tree in the spring

cherry-blossom-white-sky-bloom-48133…strolling down a tree-lined lane

…candlelit evenings

…dipping your toes in a cool, babbling brook

…the crash of waves

…that sudden insight from the Word of God.

At this season of celebrating the Savior’s birth, take time to follow the example of Mary the mother of Jesus. Ponder your treasured things and be blessed!

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

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The Sound of Music – “My Favorite Things”