Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Saved Your Life This Year?

Hey there, friend!  Oh, it's so very good to be back with you again!

I've always loved a good Christmas break, this year maybe even more so because I purposely focused on observing the month of Advent instead of just randomly falling into Christmas day.  And unlike other holiday seasons, I actually followed through on that sacred emphasis, thanks to Ann Voskamp's gently powerful guidebook, The Greatest Gift.

At the conclusion of this most unsettling year, Advent became a necessary gift, a healing grace that I slowly unwrapped and pondered and savored, this offering of steady attention and devotion to our Savior.


Most mornings found me reflective and still, sleeping later and slowly praying myself awake.  There was no need to head online to check things out or run hither and yon to link up a post, flitting all over the place, leaving a trail of comments in my wake.  In fact there were days when I didn't even think about going anywhere near my laptop.

And then there were those moments when I was missing that connection with you so I quietly tiptoed around online for a few minutes but didn't leave a much of a footprint behind.

The break recalibrated my soul and reminded me of the need to pursue what feeds my soul at the deepest level, the solitude and silence of a yearning heart that finds fulfillment in an unrushed rhythm, a gentle interaction with her Savior, those most needful choices that all too easily get lost in the shuffle of the daily, the routine.

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In recent weeks, I've tossed around Emily Freeman's prompt to write about what I learned this year.  And reflected more than a bit on Episcopal pastor / professor Barbara Brown Taylor's superb query, 'what's saving your life today?'

If I rolled those invitations into one, it would look like this ...

What were God's unexpected blessings that offered you
 a needed invitation, a life-giving wellspring, a refreshing oasis?

After a bit of jotting and shuffling around a bunch of random thoughts, these are the three life-giving graces that melded together to best redeem these most recent 12 months ...

WRITING



There were those morning conversations journaled back and forth with the One who knows me best, the Lover of my soul.  The Holy One who has faithfully proven to always accept me where I am, yet has never failed to invite me into a deeper, more substantial relationship with Him.  

If I chose to {and I usually don't}, I could page back through spring, summer, and fall and see the remnants of simply surviving and doing the next right thing.  Walking through, working through the avalanche of decisions and farewells and layers of grief, one on top of the next, a non-stop cascading domino effect that left me breathless and numb.

When it all seemed to be just too much, when I was overwhelmed by sorrow, when anxiety made its occasional random unsettling appearance ... it's all written out in living color, names and identifying descriptions purposely excluded 'cause God knew exactly what I was pouring out without going into any specific details that would hurt or upset a someday reader.

I'd see a trail of answered prayers and a miracle or two amidst the churning whirlwind, His oft' whispered, 'peace, be still, Linda.'  His mercies seen and noted and embraced, words of deepest gratitude and appreciation interlaced with other much less attractive observations.

And then there's this world of writing online, this wonderful weaving of words and phrases, images and conversations, this sharing of life together.  It all started back at the Creekside blog some eight years ago and morphed this past summer into this light-filled, sparsely decorated, more personal space where encouraging conversations between kindred spirits continue to flow.

In this ongoing process of heart and pen and ink melding together and flowing freely, I've been heard, validated, held, and loved.  By Him.  And by you.


COMMUNITY

Over time I've learned that healthy community comes in all shapes and sizes.  We usually require active participation in more than one to live lives that are balanced and whole.  Each group serves a different purpose, meets a different need.  For we were never meant to sojourn alone, to do life in a vacuum.

Family.  We're bound together by blood and adoption, generations and stories, and a faith that anchors strong.  Despite the miles, the differences in ages, personalities, and perspectives, there is an oft' unspoken grace given and forgiveness received, bursts of laughter and song, and cherished gathering together that keeps us tight and close. 

And then there's that 38 year sense of place back in NY, that sense of belonging left behind after this summer's huge relocation.  To leave friends and ministry and clients and all that was familiar was raw and wrenching indeed, leaving a gaping hole that still aches when touched.

This season finds Tim and I responding to some warm invitations to venture into a new church community ... and I am surprised at the strength of my yearning, despite my sometimes tentative responses.

And last, but certainly not least, there's this delightfully portable community right here on these pages.  You didn't miss a beat as I moved from one state to another.  Dozens of you came along for the ride, pulling up cozy chairs around this virtual table, offering kind support, shaping discussions that matter, and dishing up some savvy and smart observations as we experienced those 'what, you too?' moments week in and week out.


GRATITUDE


In the midst of everything, anything, all things, there is the call to give thanks.  Not necessarily for life's painful griefs or aching heartaches, but for the stunning, uplifting presence of our Holy Savior right in the middle of the mess, the mire, the melancholy.

Christ stands rock solid and sure when all around our souls is giving way, when the bottom is dropping out of life, when we wonder what might be waiting around the next corner.  Speechless as we may sometimes be, awed by His mercies and grace, the reality of His redemptive loving care is a cause for awesome praise, indeed.

In the midst of Advent's beauty, Ann Voskamp wrote it best ... 'Rejoicing in the Lord happens while we still struggle in the now.  Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other.'

I overflow with gratitude and praise God for His faithful loving care.  Ever and always.

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What saved your life this past year?

52 comments:

  1. Hi Linda. I think I would have to agree with your selection of community. I work from home so things can get pretty lonely in my day to day life if I do not purposefully seek out community. I never realized how important community was until it was lacking in my life. Authentic personal blogs are a great way to incorporate new friends into your life, and to give you a sense of comfort and belonging.

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    1. Hello, friend! I'm so resonating with the wisdom you've shared tonight ... that need for us to purposefully seek out community when we find ourselves alone more than we expected is vital, crucial really. In this new time and place I'm finding this to be oh so true.

      Happy, happy new year to you and your beautiful family!

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  2. It was definitely a crazy year for you, Linda. Praying for calm and rest and much, much joy in 2016 for you and your family! You've been such a blessing to me again this year.

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    1. Amen, Lisa! Let's pray for that calm and rest and deepest joy for those we care for near ... and far.

      You bless me real good, girl! Always!

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  3. Your post makes me miss going to church, and all the fellowship there. It's many years since I attended a church service maybe 2016 is the time to start back. :)

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    1. I absolutely hear you, Paula ... embracing a faith community is something most of us yearn deeply for, even though it can be a difficult journey to find one that fits, yet stretches our faith.

      I'll be praying for you as you consider what this would look like for you ...

      So very good to meet you this morning!

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  4. What saved my life? Living BRAVE and seeing the WONDER of it. Loved your post and now, of course, I want to know your story so I will snoop around this love clean space you have on the interweb!!!

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    1. Your living BRAVE is a jumpstart to my soul, Susan! For I know I need to go there in the months ahead!

      Thanks for sharing courage with me, with us, this morning! Your visit has been a God-send, for sure ...

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  5. What a beautiful post! And we are all so grateful for your writing, your grace, your love, and the reflection of the Almighty that you give us, every day.

    What saved my life? Dying. It's reduced things to the fixed point of survival, and has made clear that despite all my failures and failings, I still have a job to do, and it's worthy of my best efforts.

    And God has become very...uncomfortably...real. Not for me the God who comforts the crying child who crawls into His lap...my God is kicking me up the backside and saying, "Do your job!" He looks rather disquietingly like a Marine colonel I once knew...a man who would unhesitatingly order me to my death, or die to save my life. It didn't matter to him which.

    Oh, one more thing. Dying has taught me never to hold back on saying something from the heart.

    Linda, we love you.

    Linda, I love you.

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    1. Andrew, Andrew.

      God's tender mercies and His gentle love surrounds you, the love from your many friends and supporters surrounds you. You matter deeply to us all, most especially to Him.

      May the Marine colonel fade from view as you grow more comfortable with the truth that you are oh so dear to the One who created and saved you. And like a Shepherd, He is faithfully, strongly, tenderly leading you through this valley of the shadow.

      Blessings to you and Barbara. And grace. Lots of it, friend ...

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  6. Best wishes to you and your family as we enter the New Year full of Hope.

    God bless you.

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    1. You bring joy, Victor! May God continue to give you much of it to share ...

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  7. Beautiful Post, Friend! Full of insight--wisdom--hope--
    Happy New Year!
    Praying God continues to use you in a mighty way!
    Blessings!

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    1. Hope! Yes! What better way to end the year and launch into 2016 ...

      Thanking God that we walk together, Lulu.

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  8. I adore you sweet friend. I've been waiting for a new post of yours to appear in my inbox so reading your words again brought a smile to my face. I know it's been a rough year for you but you have walked it with grace and with God, and always pointing us to Him too. You are a constant blessing. A breath of fresh air.

    What saved my life this year? I'd have to say God's Word, Bible Study Fellowship, my dear husband, and the community that surrounds us.

    I have so many emotions when I reflect on the year. A profound loss... I still mourn the loss of a daughter-in-law. But also blessings upon blessings. The renewal of my wedding vows. Precious moments with my husband before another see-you-later moment and more and more memories built as a family.

    And I've been thinking about writing again. We will see but lately things I'd like to write about keep playing out in my head again. They had stopped for a while.

    Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for the words you share. Thank you for being YOU.

    Happy New Year!

    Much love,
    Beth

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    1. Yes, there is that pain and sorrow over your daughter-in-law. Yes, yes, I hear it, Beth.

      I think of you often as your husband is away once more, serving his country, keeping us safe and free. And even in the coming and going, God has rebuilt your marriage strong and solid. I rejoice with you.

      Behind your words, I hear that yearning to write once more. I know what that call does to your soul! And maybe you'll come back under your own terms, not anyone else's on what blogging should look like.

      Here's to doing life together in 2016, dear friend ...

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  9. Hi Linda,
    I have to echo the other commenters that your words in this post are especially beautiful and heartfelt. As you reflect on this year, it seems you've experienced transition in just about as many ways as someone can, and yet you've held onto God's strong hand and invited us, your readers, to share the sorrows and joys with you. I'm wishing you a happy 2016, friend, and look forward to being a part of all that God brings to our lives in the new year! xo

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    1. We just can't travel through this life-maze by ourselves. And I can't help but think that community makes God smile since He is 3 in 1 ...

      Visiting your beautiful online home has been a consistent joy for me this year, Valerie! Thanks for the lovely ways you've poured into my life, friend ...

      Happiest new year to you.

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  10. Trying to comment for the third time. Third time's a charm? What a beautiful writer you are! You touch the hearts of many - now my own included. Peace to you in this new year ahead. http://onehopefulyear.com/

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    1. Thanks for hanging in through the glitches to connect with me, Barbara! Welcome! And happy happy new year to you and yours ...

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  11. I think about you and your family this year, and I think quiet strength. You don't need flash and you prove it by being you. I see you clinging to Jesus and following where He leads. May you be blessed this year for your faith and strength!

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    1. You've encouraged me greatly by your heart-words, Sarah. And not for the first time, I might add.

      Blessings right back at ya', friend, from the One from whom all blessings flow!

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  12. Happy New Year, Linda! I've thought of you often over the break, my friend. I know it's been quite a year for you and your precious family. I'm sure there was some mourning moments during the holiday festivities.
    As always, your words here are beautiful and meaningful. I can so relate to the community part. I believe it would be my answer to what saved my life this year as well. I was such an introvert before I starting blogging, but it truly helped me trust people again and develop true relationships. I've really started letting people in which has been an incredible blessing.
    Much love and many blessings to you and yours in 2016 :)!

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    1. Dear Candace ... I hear said that blogging and introverts go together like a hand in a glove which might be why you and I love it so!

      I can't begin to imagine where I'd be without the sweet encouragers {just like you!} that hung with me through all the ups and downs this year. Blogging was made for such a time as this, yes?

      I'm expectant about the days ahead! And oh so grateful that we travel together, friend.

      ;-}

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  13. Beautiful! So beautiful, Linda! Wishing you a beautiful 2016! You always make me think!

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  14. What a beautiful post! My family, my quiet times with writing and Bible study.. boy, I dont know how I could get through the year without all the tiny blessings along the way!! - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. I like how you put that, Gingi ... tiny blessings! Too often we're looking for only the best and the brightest signs and wonders ... and miss the daily marvels along the dailyness of our path.

      Thanks for your gentle reminder. And a happy new year to you!

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    2. Have you ever heard the song Little Wonders by Rob Thomas? It pretty much sums up the concept of tiny miracles.. its my reminder that the small hours, the small moments, are what its all about! <3

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    3. I'll check it out, Gingi! Thanks!

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  15. What a wonderful post, Linda! Your words here are so precious, yet so powerful. Thank you so much for sharing, Love! Happy New Year and GOD bless you, beautiful friend! :-)

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  16. Happy New Year to my beach friend---what saved my life this past year was adjusting to part time work and being semi retired. The ol grey mare ain't what she used to be. I did not know where I would get the energy to continue working full time. Having time for things I like and need to do to keep me healthy, and challenged without being drained from it seems to be a new thing for me. I am learning to nap, just sit and color or even drop everything to hang out with family or friends (like bike riding with my eldest son, wow or coming to my best friend's dad's funeral). Because I don't have to make a living anymore or take care of anyone is an extreme new direction for me. You have added to this adjustment by introducing me to leisurely things and always making the effort to interact and maintain our friendship.

    So my prayer is that we sense God's presence and care with whatever 2016 brings

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    1. You make bike riding look so easy, Carol! I love that you get to connect with son #1 in this way. I especially like your distinction between being challenged yet not drained. That sounds like good health and sanity ...

      Know that I miss you, dear friend. And let's be sure to bring our coloring books when we connect in February, ok?

      ;-}

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  17. What saved me this year were words spoken, action taken, help received, all God's working through the community around me. These were all teachings I realize I also need to take the next step in this journey of life. My hope is I let go of the steering wheel so He can guide me more this 2016. Thank you for sharing your 2015 journey.

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    1. And this I love, Lynn -->'let go of the steering wheel so He can guide me more ...'

      Yes, yes! So wisely said!

      ;-}

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  18. I don't know that I can adequately answer the question that the pastor and you have asked us here, Linda. It seems like more of an ongoing conversation and unpacking that might take me from my home here in Illinois to your new cottage in New England to really explore. ;) But I'd say you are an a part of that saving grace woven into the fabric of my blogging community, my dear. Even though you are miles away, I have felt your encouragement close on many occasions. For that I am so very thankful! And I'm so glad to hear that you are feeling a bit more at home in your new little nest. I've prayed for you and your adjustment every day in my prayers. God is good to listen and use my little bit of intercession as part of, I'm sure, a much bigger network of prayer warriors interceding on bringing you closer to that place of comfort. Hugs to you and Happy New Year to you and Tim!

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    1. You still amaze me, Beth, that you'd be so faithfully praying for me. It knocks me over. Fills me with gratitude. To have a prayer warrior with that kind of faithfulness has been an incredible gift to me.

      Thank you, thank you.

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  19. Hi Linda! Welcome back to your beautiful space here! I'm so glad you took some time off to just rest and pray...and think about what saved you this past year. What an interesting question that is...
    I look back a year ago, and I had just broken my leg, and was looking at major surgery and a long rehab. What saved me then? My family. My faith. My desire to never give up. I think those are the same things that will carry me into 2016. At least I hope they do!

    I look forward to following your thoughts and events in this brand new shiny year. Who knows what God has in store?
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Happy new year, and welcome back, dear Ceil! I've missed you so ... yet hope you had wonderful gatherings with your family ... the girls, the babies, your sister, your dad.

      Your desire to never give up when you broke your leg last year was an inspiration to me ... and others, I'm sure. I pray that God will restore that time by enlarging your writing and speaking ministry, so that you'll be able to share the grace given with those who need it most ...

      Brand new shiny year. Absolutely yes!

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  20. lovely post...so much to reflect on, especially after i too was on a two week blogging/work hiatus due to christmas & new years. it's nice to get back into the swing of things while reflecting on the past year!

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    1. Sarah ... wasn't it great to have that break from all things routine?

      ;-}

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  21. I love your approach to this topic. while the pre Christmas season was fairly busy for me having just moved into a new house, I've taken the 12 days of Christmas seriously this year and made room for reflecting on the Lord in my daily life. It's a practice that is hard to even express because He's in everything! anyways, I believe what saved my life this year was a break from my achieving self through illness. merry christmas.

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  22. Yes, Michaela, yes ... illness has a way of leveling the playing field ... it can be a rough season for sure.

    So grateful, with you, for seeing the Lord in every good thing. And I'm glad you're here with us today!

    Blessings ...

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  23. Linda, I've been mulling over your question since I first read this post last week, and I think I've finally found an answer.

    What saved me last year were two completely unrelated things: praying for the fruit of the Spirit every day, and encouragement from people who are further down the path. Moms with grown children and older teens. Women who have helped their parents navigate old age. Blogging friends (such as yourself) who have been at it a lot longer than I have.

    All these people have shown me that I CAN do what I need to do (even when I think I can't), that how I'm feeling about it is normal, and that a friend who understands me is a true gift.

    Speaking of gifts, your ability to summarize your thoughts and experiences the way you do certainly qualifies! Many blessings in 2016, dear Linda!

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    1. You've hit the nail on the head, Lois. There's a reason why God's Word tells us to encourage one another daily! We need that kind grace so much! It's one of the things I love most about blogging and the conversations that follow each post.

      Thanks for sharing your life with us here, friend. What a difference you make!

      ;-}

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  24. What Saved my life in 2015? Good question. Rest, Acceptance and the wise words of a friend who told me to allow myself grace. Thank you. And, oddly enough, watching 7th Heaven. I always enjoy reading your words.

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    1. Rest and grace. They go hand in hand, those kindred spirits ...

      Love that you're in community with us here, Teresa ...

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  25. I would say that community - old and new, gratitude, and surrender/openness were what saved me this year. I so enjoy your posts; they are so transparent and sweet and always give thanks to the One who holds you in His hands.

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    1. Dear Pary ... surrender / openness. What a powerful combo!

      :-}

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  26. I enjoyed reading your post. I especially liked the idea of an UNword. Never thought about it that way before and I am one who's trying diligently to cut back on "complaining," so that may work for me. I've penciled in "healthy" as a word I'm considering, but given my lack of decision-making skills, only in pencil as I may change my mind as my life changes and needs ebb and flow. I've also thought about the idea of a monthly word - even weekly, or daily - all of which would allow me to be more responsive to what I need to reflect on or honor - or where I need to grow next. I think it's great that you're tucking that red planner away but within reach. Good ideas, all!

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    1. A pencil's a very good thing, isn't it, Barbara ... ESPECIALLY one with a great big eraser! Each day brings unexpected ebbs and flows ... I love the idea of a monthly / weekly / or daily word! That really has intrigued me as I've mused on that today.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation big time!

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda