April Snowflakes

One way to cope with April snowflakes is poetry. So here’s a little poem I wrote a few years ago for “Poetry Day” in our homeschool.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

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This Day is Golden

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The warm October sun shines vibrantly through our maple tree’s leafy red flags, cautioning me that winter is just a few miles ahead. The season is changing quickly, but I want to play traffic cop. I want to make it park right here next to this red octagon at the end of the street. Stop. Just s-t-o-p. Stop the clock already.

But so many of the other maples are waving their brilliant, glowing yellow flags at me as I drive by. “Slow down!” They cry. “Slow down, pull over, look up and enjoy this beautiful day.”

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The earth keeps spinning, and I suppose time is still going as fast as it always has, from one season to the next.

So why do I feel dizzy? Why do I feel like we are spinning and speeding from one week to the next in a racing blur of activity? In my dizziness, it seems I forget where we are going and why.

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I study my young dancers. These dancers, they spin and twirl and they don’t get dizzy because they fix their eyes on something that isn’t moving. A focal point.

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Yes, Hebrews 12:2. I need to stop spinning in distraction and fix my eyes on Jesus. He’s the steady, immovable One, and His love for me never changes. Colossians 3 says Jesus is seated above at the right hand of God, and that’s where I need to set my heart and mind — on things above.

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Looking up I see that’s where every good and perfect gift comes from. The Father of Lights, He sends these gifts down to us, and unlike the golden leaves on the maple trees, He never changes and He never leaves us.

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So yeah, dancers don’t get dizzy because they know where to focus. And dancers know where they are going because they count. They count the time in each measure of music so they can move with the music. Not way out ahead of it. Not far behind it. With it. To stay with it, they must count.

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So when did I stop counting each day’s gifts? Because counting the gifts from above, the joys, the ways God loves me, that’s what helps me keep in step with Him. That’s what helps me remember where I am going and why. That’s what slows me down.

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Ann Voskamp’s wise words taught me the only way to slow down time.

“Life is not an emergency.

And this, this is the only way to slow down time:

When I fully enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.

Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows.

In this space of time and sphere, I am attentive. I am aware. I am accepting the whole of the moment, weighing it down with me all here. This giving thanks for one thousand things, it’s that too, an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention.” -Ann Voskamp

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Lord, the leaves glow a golden yellow and this day is beautifully golden! Thank You for making this day. Thank You for reminding me that this day is frail and fleeting. Help me slow down. Help me give this day the weight of my full attention and help me love those around me with my full attention.

Thank You for the vibrant fall colors that reflect Your glory. Thank You for these memorable moments with my lively little girls playing in the leaves, dancing in the autumn sunshine and strolling off to their piano lessons. Thank You for Your steadfast love and great faithfulness. Amen.

 

 “This day we’re given is golden; let us show love. This day is ours for one moment; let us sow love. This day is frail – it will pass by. So before it’s too late to recapture the time, let us share love, let us share God, before this day is gone.”  — from Point of Grace’s song “This Day”

 

Winter’s Last Kiss

It’s “Poetry Day” in our homeschool, and it is snowing. Again. In April.

So here’s the poem I wrote after sipping what I hope will be my last cup of hot cocoa for a long while.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

God’s Steadfast Love in Victory

If you’ve been reading my blog this year, you already know that I’m currently enamored with the term “steadfast love” and have been studying it closely over the past few months. What a joy to deeply ponder God’s steadfast love and praise Him for it!

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So today the series on steadfast love resumes with the next ESV verse in which the word appears, Exodus 15:13, which says:

“You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.”

This verse is part of the third stanza in the “Song of Moses” that Moses and the people of Israel sang when God victoriously led them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea.

But let’s begin by backing up a bit to put this in context. Exodus 13:21-22 explains that as the Israelites fled Egypt, the LORD led His people by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. What a great visual of God’s loving and faithful presence!

God is leading His people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. At first they left with confidence, but once the Israelites learn Pharaoh king of Egypt and his elite, specialized army of chariots are pursuing them, their faith falters and they are filled with fear and despair. They complain to Moses, insisting they would have been better off serving the Egyptians rather than dying in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:10-12)

I love how Moses replies in verses 13-14. He says:

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Be quiet, fear not, stand firm and watch God work today. It’s really that simple. Isn’t this what I need to do, too, most days?

When He tells Moses to lift up his staff and part the waters of the Red Sea, the Lord says, “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:17-18)

Oh, let’s give Him glory today, too. The crossing of the Red Sea is epic. Moses simply stretched out his hand over the sea — and the Lord worked. All night the Lord drove back the sea back with a strong east wind, dividing the waters and making the sea dry land. With walls of water on their left and their right, the people of Israel crossed over with no need for any sort of swimwear.

The Lord did indeed receive glory over Pharaoh and his men, his horses and his chariots. As the Egyptian forces chased after God’s people, the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on them and threw them into a panic. They acknowledged that the Lord was fighting for Israel, and they began to flee. Again, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, which returned to its normal course that morning. The waters returned, covering the Egyptian forces and leaving them all dead on the seashore.

Seeing the great power the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people of Israel  feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in Moses. Then Moses and the Israelites sang a song of victory. The words of all four stanzas of the song are recorded in Exodus 15:1-17. Let’s look at the third stanza, verses 11-13, which begins with a few questions.

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like You, majestic in holiness,

awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

You stretched out Your right hand;

the earth swallowed them.

You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed;

You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.”

Imagine the Israelites singing these words as they stand on the shores of the Red Sea, having just crossed it safely on dry ground and having just watched the Egyptian forces sink like lead in the mighty waters.

This song paints a powerful picture of God’s steadfast love for His people as He guides them out of Egypt. His love for them is resolute, determined and devoted. It is reliable. It is not deterred by the fear and hopelessness of the Israelites. It is not deterred by 600 chariots. It is not deterred by the waters of the sea.

What an amazing love, and what a song of victory and triumph!

 

When the Snow Seems Steadfast

The giant snowflakes started falling around lunchtime. They came down slow at first, but then fell heavy and steady. I sent my 11-year-old out to rescue the wooden parts in the remnant of her dilapidated, mostly buried snowman.

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You know it’s deep when your snowman gets swallowed up by the snow.

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Hovering over a bowl of macaroni noodles, my 8-year-old teased about eating lunch on the deck but then worried about snow tornados. “Snow-nados,” she called them. “Could there be such a thing really?” she asked, troubled by her own imagination.

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Outside, the snow kept flying and flying, and inside I admired my Valentine’s Day tulips and marveled that somewhere beyond this wintery, white, frozen world was a place warm enough to grow flowers.

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The snow looked so heavy as it fell from the sky, and yet it looked so light and delicate as it laced the tree branches.

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As the snowy afternoon wore on, the white thickly coated the branches of my favorite maple tree, visibility grew more limited, and the wind picked up.

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Snowflakes mixed with sleet hit the warm window and slid downward in strange crowds.

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The snow kept falling, piling up deeper and deeper. I shoveled four inches off the driveway while dinner cooked in the oven. I came inside with my coat completely soaked by the snow. Less than an hour later, the driveway needed cleared again. After dinner, my husband and our oldest daughter went out to shovel more and fix the belt on the snow blower. The belt was shredded. No snow blower for this storm. So on and on they shoveled.

I read princess stories to our youngest, watched over the banana bread in the oven and fixed hot cocoa for the shoveling crew. After we tucked the girls into bed, my husband and I headed outside again to shovel for another hour. We shoved and lifted, heaved and threw snow high above our heads. The snow piles along the driveway grew massive — higher and deeper than I ever remember such piles growing in past winters. On and on we shoveled until we found part of the driveway and part of the mailbox.

Now it’s dark. I just finished washing dishes, and as I type the howling wind is blowing small chunks of ice onto the windows. It sounds like bits of glass breaking, and the lights keep flickering and dimming.

My 11-year-old, she is sleeping with her flashlight nearby — just in case. I lit a candle in the kitchen, a big candle with three wicks — just in case. And my mind, oh it wants to worry.

Tomorrow’s high is only 16. What if the power goes off. Tomorrow’s low is -2. What if the water pipes freeze when the power goes off? What if the power outage makes the smoke detectors go off again? What if…

If left to my own imagination, surely I’ll be the next one worrying about those mythical snow tornadoes.

So I fight the wild imagination, the what-ifs, the fear. It fight it with words.

Our dear friend Paul, his words rescue me from myself. He tells me in Romans 8:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ah, yes. It’s that steadfast love I’ve been writing about. The snow, it can threaten. It can pile up so high and so deep that most of the driveway disappears, along with all but the door of the mailbox. It can even swallow up the snowman entirely. It can fall and fall and threaten to never cease. But neither the snow nor the wind nor anything else in all creation can separate me from the steadfast love of the LORD.

Soon enough the snow will cease, but His love never will. And in the morning, His mercies will be new again. So to bed I go, resting in the shelter of His great faithfulness.

God’s Steadfast Love for Joseph

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Let’s continue the steadfast love word study with the next ESV verse that uses the term — Genesis 39:21.

“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”

God’s steadfast love for Joseph, the grandson of Isaac and Rebekah and son of Jacob and Rachel, is certainly hard to miss in Genesis 39.

The LORD was with Joseph in Egypt as he worked for his master, Potiphar. And Potiphar noticed this uniqueness about Joseph because the LORD caused all that Joseph did to succeed. The LORD had even blessed Potiphar’s house, field and all that he had, not for Potiphar’s sake but for Joseph’s sake.

Potiphar put Joseph in charge of all he had, but then Potiphar’s wife entangled herself in lustful sin. Joseph never compromised his strong conviction to refuse this married woman’s adulterous requests day after day. But feeling rejected by Joseph, she falsely accused him of harassing her, causing him to be unjustly thrown into the king’s prison.

This event is unfortunate. But it does not signal “even a temporary loss of divine superintendence of Joseph’s life and God’s purpose for His people, Israel,” John MacArthur notes.

Joseph’s circumstances were grim; imprisonment alongside the king’s prisoners was surely painful. Psalm 105:18-19 says, “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.”

He was tested indeed but not abandoned. God’s steadfast love for Joseph never ceased.

“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Genesis 39:21

Even in prison, Joseph is put in charge — of the other prisoners and of whatever work was done. Verse 23 says, “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” 

John MacArthur notes that Joseph yet again “rose to a position of trust and authority and proved to be trustworthy enough not to need any oversight.”

In fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham, the LORD blessed Joseph and showed steadfast love for him. Yet right along with God’s steadfast love for Joseph came affliction: a storm of false accusations, loss, imprisonment, pain and suffering.

J.C. Ryle sums up the lesson for us so clearly:

“Let us mark well this lesson. If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other men. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory at the end—all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that. By affliction He teaches us many precious lessons, which without it we should never learn. By affliction He shows us our emptiness and weakness, draws us to the throne of grace, purifies our affections, weans us from this world, makes us long for heaven. In the resurrection morning we shall say, ‘it is good for me that I was afflicted.’ We shall thank God for every storm.”

Praise be to God for His steadfast love and for all the lessons we learn by affliction.

 

Steadfast Love on Valentine’s Day

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I’m still working on the next post in the steadfast love series. The next passage we’ll study is another one from Genesis — featuring God’s steadfast love for Joseph.

But in the meantime, Valentine’s Day is upon us — and if ever there was a time when the world tried to paint a colorful picture of what love is — it’s now. Love is all sparkly diamonds and red roses and pink candy hearts, the world says.

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But sometimes these things — or the lack of them — leave our hearts feeling unfulfilled, disappointed or deflated on Valentine’s Day. The ladies over at the Girltalk Blog have these wonderfully encouraging words about redirecting our hopes on Valentine’s Day. Be sure to read it!

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Also, I just had to pass along this great prayer about feasting on the steadfast love of Jesus. The prayer, written by Scott Smith over at the Gospel Coalition, references Psalm 143:8, which says, “Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You I trust.”

Click here to link to the prayer.

Today I am praying God reminds you of His unfailing, never-ceasing, steadfast love for you, a love that endures forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day!