Winter Trees and the Church: Beautiful Support

This may sound odd to some people, but I see a unique beauty in the naked trees of winter. Many would describe them as stark, drab, or depressing. I, on the other hand, think they have a beauty all their own when winter strips them of their leafy glory.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the leafy glory of trees as much as the next person. Watching trees bud out and turn green in the spring holds a special excitement for all of us. Summer then brings lush, full trees to pleasantly fill our landscapes before autumn arrives and sets them ablaze with color. I delight in each of these seasons and the changes they bring to trees.

But I think trees are beautiful in winter as well. Some might think it’s like looking at skeletons, but I see what looks like arms and fingers reaching for and pointing to God. I love looking out and seeing the intricacies of the branches. Winter allows us a view of the support system of the leaf laden trees we enjoy the rest of the year. Without the drab looking branches, there could be no beautiful leaves.

Winter trees actually remind me of other support systems in our lives as well. Just think about our bodies and all that’s working together beneath the surface to keep us up and running. The same can be said for just about every company, group, or organization we might name.

Consider the church. Many programs and people are highly visible, but there are just as many or more serving behind the scenes. And it’s the behind-the-scenes-type activity that makes it possible for the more visible ministries to take place. Everyone needs to do their part to keep things running smoothly—and more than that, to enable growth.

What role are you filling in your church—or life in general? Are you a part of the highly visible, leafy-glory, or is your role a part of the vital support system that’s needed? Maybe a little of both? Just keep in mind that neither is better. Both are needed and valued.

So take another look at the winter trees. Beautiful, huh?

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

*What support systems in your church, workplace, or organizations are you most thankful for?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out Feb. 1st. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Oakley Originals, Creative Commons License

*I hope you enjoyed this revised encore post from January 2008!

Standing By Our Sides

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . . ” 2 Timothy 4:17

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to need someone by his side. He suffered for the sake of the gospel—for the sake of Christ—unlike anything we’ve ever known.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he lists some of the trials he experienced. He spent much time in prison and also faced beatings and floggings and was even stoned. He faced danger from shipwrecks and bandits, danger from the Jews as well as the Gentiles, and also endured hunger and thirst. On top of all this, he carried a burden of concern for all the churches. Yes, I’d say Paul needed support.

Sometimes Paul received the needed support from friends and co-laborers, but sometimes he didn’t. When he wrote the above words to Timothy (in bold print), it was late in his ministry, and he was once again in prison. He told Timothy, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:16)

Thank goodness that’s not the end of the story. Thank goodness for verse 17—for the love and faithfulness of our Lord: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . .”

Even though Paul had been deserted by those around him, the Lord stood by his side. And that was all he needed. In the last half of verse 17, he goes on to tell Timothy that he was delivered from the lion’s mouth and that he continued to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles. The Lord’s support was enough for Paul.

And isn’t the Lord’s support enough for us as well? Whatever we’re going through, whether anything from desertion to deprivation to depression, our God is enough. He will stand by us and give us strength. He will enable us to go on.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

*Anyone have a testimony of how the Lord has stood by you? We’d all love to hear about it!

*I hope you were blessed by this encore post from Sept. 2011 today!

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Gruenewiese86Creative Commons License

I’ll Be Your Wall

6076879792_800b7d9c5b_zDizziness. Vertigo. An injured foot or leg. Any one of these things can find us reaching out to someone or something for support. I’ve been there before, and I’m sure you have, too.

A friend of mine, in fact, copes day in and day out with a medical condition that makes it challenging for her to walk at times. Not long ago during an outing together, a bad spell struck. The distance to a nearby bench loomed large, but with great effort and the help of the cane she carries for just such times, she managed to make it.

After resting for awhile and taking some medicine to ease the symptoms, she felt ready to attempt the next leg of our journey. I had parked the car as close as to the building as possible, but now it felt miles away. Once again, with concentration and slow steps, she moved forward.

At one point, she paused to regroup and said, “If I just had a wall…” I answered instantly, “I’ll be your wall.” I knew she just needed a steadying influence on her side without the cane. With her characteristic good attitude, she made light of the situation, and I joined in. By the way, no matter what we get ourselves into, it seems we always end up laughing about something. I love that about our friendship.

I was glad to be her wall that day. Happy to be her steadying influence. Heaven knows, she’s been mine time and again. But I guess that’s what friendship is all about, isn’t it?

And let’s not forget, we have another Friend always ready to be our steadying influence, always standing by. Next time a bad spell of discouragement, heartache, or pain strikes you, just turn your thoughts to Him. I bet you’ll hear Him whispering, “Don’t worry. I’ll be your wall…”

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10 KJV

*When has a friend been a wall for you?

*Hope you were blessed by this encore post from Sept. 2009!

*Flickr photo by Jens Rost, Creative Commons License

The Mother of the Bride’s Right-Hand Woman

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Mother of the Bride, every MOB needs one—a right-hand woman. Someone you can call on at any time during your MOB journey. Someone who can offer advice as well as a listening ear. Someone who rides shotgun on your MOB shopping adventures and also helps with any task you may throw her way. Yes, MOB, you need a right-hand woman.

My right-hand woman for both of my daughters’ weddings was my dear friend Teri (pictured with me above as the reception wound down after Kelli’s wedding.) One of your BFFs, MOB, could serve as your right-hand woman, too, but many others could fill the role as well—a sister or sister-in-law, your mom or aunt, a cousin, or even one of your other daughters. As a matter of fact, my daughter Kristin ended up being another right-hand woman for me when Kelli got married.

And MOB, if you’re lucky like I was, your right-hand woman will offer all kinds of support. She’ll have skills in areas where you lack them. She’ll take joy in helping make your darling daughter’s day the best that it can be. She’ll give you honest but gentle feedback and laugh with you at just the right moments. When you’re overwhelmed, she’ll let you be a mess and love you anyway. She’ll be ever-ready to help and always keep you in her prayers. She’ll be your right-hand woman.

So MOB, look around and identify that helper of all helpers, that friend of all friends on your wedding-planning journey. Cherish her. Lean on her. And every now and then, thank her in a special way. If it involves chocolate for both of you, so much the better!

*Thanks, Teri, for being my right-hand woman when my girls got married!

*You might also like to read Make the Mother of the Groom Part of the Team and A Planning Journal for Your Mother of the Bride Notes.

*Photo by Will Flowers

Balm to a Broken Heart

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It’s no secret to most of you that I’ve been dealing with a broken heart the past few weeks. For those who don’t know, I lost my mom unexpectedly a few weeks ago as a result of injuries she sustained in a car accident.

My heart—and the hearts of our entire family—also sustained injury. They’ve been pierced and torn in two by the grief of losing Mom. My poem “Fragile” gave a glimpse into what that grief has looked like in my life and how God is helping me through it.

Today I’d like to tell you how God has applied balm to my broken heart and show you what it has looked like. It has looked like you. It has looked like every person who has reached out to me and my family in love.

Yes, God has ministered to me through his Word and through music, but the main avenue of healing balm has come through caring people—through words and gestures of concern and love.

Every word, every touch has been balm to my broken heart. Some of you came to be with us, to stand with us, to listen to us, to cry with us. Others sent cards or plants or flowers. Some gave practical gifts like food, stamps, and cash. And countless others showed their support and promises of prayer through comments and “likes” on Facebook or here on my blog. Each gesture has given comfort.

Thank you, friends, for showing your love and support. If you’ve ever wondered if a few words or a card or a comment on Facebook can help someone who is grieving, let me assure you they can. Each one makes a difference.

So join me, won’t you? Let’s be balm to the broken hearts around us. Let’s make a difference.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

*When has God used others to apply balm to your hurting heart?

*Flickr photo by Nina Matthews Photography, Creative Commons License

*It’s not too late to receive the new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter. It’s a special Advent issue this time. Sign-up is free and to the right!