Unplugged

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalms 37:4

For the last couple of weeks, I have spent most of my time unplugged. My family took a brief getaway to the beach, staying in a quiet residential neighborhood with no Wi-Fi.

Although I love many of the bloggers I follow, it was nice to take a holiday from the digital noise and to spend time reflecting on God’s Word surrounded by His creation and my family. Perhaps ironically, one of the most refreshing portions of the vacation included a little bit of conviction.

On the Saturday that we began the 7-hour drive to the nearest beach, the forecast for the 3 full days we planned to stay called for rain. A lot of rain. I confess that I was somewhat dissatisfied. As I expressed my disappointment on that first rainy day, He began to remind me of my own words written just a couple of weeks prior; words that spoke of finding contentment in Christ alone.

While we were at it, He also brought my attention to places in my heart where I had harbored jealousy instead of the satisfaction and gratitude that are appropriate for a daughter of the King of kings.

Grieved at my own hypocrisy, I repented,  thanking Him for His chastisement, and I began to intentionally offer Him thanks, reminding myself and my family of the abundance of His mercy and love manifested in gifts we have done nothing to deserve.

In my heart, I determined to satisfy myself with the Lord alone, yielding even a long-held desire to see a particular stretch of protected dunes sandwiched between high-rise vacation rentals and walk along the boardwalk that threads its way there from the road to the beach.

Yet now that I was truly and fully content in Him alone, He had something to show me.

On Monday morning, I rose around 7:00 to find that the rains had ceased, leaving behind only clouds. My mom and I headed to a nearby trail in the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, leaving behind my sleepy teens and my husband who was recovering from a cold.

The weather could not have been more perfect as we walked through the shade of live oaks and around a salt marsh and a lake.BeachNature003

As we walked, I stopped here and there to capture some of my Father’s artistry while at other times I merely savored the beauty.

To my great delight, we found that the trail we followed was intersected by another trail featuring a trek through natural sand dunes dotted by scrubby plants and low-growing vegetation.

GulfShores055Also along this trail was a ruin of some sort; a foundation of some small home and posts of unknown purpose that were gradually being reclaimed by the natural vegetation.

 

 

 

As we walked, the vegetation thinned, giving way to sea oats and the shore. GulfShores057BeachNature016

When I delighted myself in God, He took one small desire of my heart and returned it to me sevenfold. I absolutely adore natural places, and instead of settling for my small, cramped space of untouched dunes, He gave me a four-mile stretch of trail that encompassed even more than I had hoped to see. GulfShores059

Other gifts were more intangible: a genuine smile from my moody 12-year-old, a few moments of silliness from teenagers who are often irritated with one another.

Indeed, I am refreshed.  Sin has been brought to light and addressed, my family enjoyed some time together, and God granted not only the fullness of joy that comes in His presence, but many breathtaking glimpses of His creative genius as well. Oh, how great is my God!

 

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great….

…May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works… I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.   Psalms 104:24-25, 31, 33-34

 

 

Morning Meanderings

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Job 2:10a

Today as I walked with my Father in the cool of the morning, my heart was filled with adoration for Him and gratitude for all He has done and continues to do all around me. Tennessee is so beautiful in spring, and I was acutely aware that living in such a gorgeous place is a blessing – one for which I am very thankful.

Walking through the neighborhood, exulting in God and in the beauty of His creation, my thoughts roamed to the various stages and seasons of life. No wonder, for even as I type these words, a friend and neighbor is in the hospital in labor with twins. Though her labor will truly be just that – hard work and travail – and though the future remains unclear, still we all look forward to the joy of two new lives.

On the same street, another friend battles physical and emotional pain from a diagnosis of cancer and from complications from surgery. For this family, the road ahead is not so sunny, for his battle will be a battle against death and despair. Yet even here, there is the possibility of new life, for it is sometimes in anguish and suffering that we find a keener, sweeter appreciation for what our Lord suffered on our behalf.

Nearby, another precious friend recovers from a recent heart attack and stroke and still greets each new day with a smile. Though her nine and a half decades have left her body frail, her spirit has grown strong under the loving care of her heavenly Father, and she shares the joy He brings with all who are around her. For her, the road is nearing its end and she rejoices in her brief stay on earth and in the promise of eternity with her mighty King.

Another house in the neighborhood stands quieter than in previous years. In it, yet another friend has already finished her race, leaving behind both sorrow for her loss and a lifetime of delightful memories for her husband, children, and grandchildren.

As I walked and prayed, traces of what (I hope) is a waning migraine flared and receded. Spikes of pain shot through the ball of my foot, reminding me that with arthritis, every walk has its price.

The cool air wafted around my bare arms, and the birds lilted and trilled their various songs from the trees above as they darted about preparing nests or feeding their young. The fragrance of honeysuckle was swallowed by the pungent odor of a dead skunk. There, too, one death serves as a continuance of life for a pair of black vultures.

Over by the laNestingGoose008ke, a family of geese honked a warning and a great blue heron winged his way toward some other destination.

All around me is life and death; all around are reminders of the beginning of the race and the finish plus all the long miles in between. Life mingling both the bitter and the sweet, the poignant and the mundane; and death bringing a finality to all.

And yet…

For those who are in Christ, even death is a victory. Even suffering can be sweet. There is nothing wasted; nothing broken that cannot be restored; no error or tragedy that cannot be redeemed. Through the work of the Messiah, even the most heinous sin can be forgiven, and in Him, there is a gleam of light even in the darkest and most terrible regions of the path.

Today, I am thankful for my life in its entirety; for migraines and for seasons of respite from them, for suffering and blessing, for triumph and tragedy, for times of repose and seasons of toil, for all that is bright and beautiful and for the times of darkness that bring a greater hunger for and appreciation of the Light.

Today, I am thankful for the entire journey.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  … But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:55, 57-58