Saturday, November 26, 2011

For My Family

This week, I (Amy) have been thinking back over the happenings of the past year. Last fall, my mom made the difficult decision to stop doing part-time childcare due to her health challenges and resulting lack of energy. Then in November, on the day before Thanksgiving, my dad and his business partner had to shut down their lumberyard. Since Julie was working for them at the time, she and my dad both became unemployed. Throughout the year, my mom's doctors have prescribed several treatments and procedures in an attempt to ease her ongoing back and abdominal pain. Most of them have just made her nauseous or induced headaches, and she has spent many days sick in bed, as well as a few days in the hospital.
Our family has shed its share of tears and endured some sleepless nights this year. Together, we've walked through some of the darkest and scariest days we've ever faced. And God has walked with us every step of the way. He provided for us financially when we had no consistent income, and then He provided new jobs for my dad, Julie, and I.
But most precious of all, He provided a family of believers to surround us with tangible expressions of His love and mercy. Our extended family, friends, and church body have blessed us in countless ways. Some gave generous financial gifts when they knew money was tight, while others shared "extra" groceries. Some volunteered to go to doctor appointments with my mom so we wouldn't have to take work days off, or visited her in the hospital to show they cared. Some have sat with us while we talked through our tears, and wrapped us in hugs when words weren't enough. Many have called just to see how we're doing or sent emails and cards to offer encouraging words. Even more have lifted us to the Lord in prayer and pleaded for God's provision and healing.
I said before that this year has held some dark days. But because of the love of this precious family of ours, this year has also held some of the most joyful and peaceful days we've ever experienced. At times, we have been absolutely overwhelmed with the blessings the Lord has poured out on us through His people. I wish that I could tell each one of these beloved family members just how much their kindness has meant, but that would take an eternity. I know that many of you reading this post have blessed us through your love, and I am forever grateful. You've rejoiced with those who rejoice and mourned with those who mourn as you've shared life with us this year, and you have reflected the compassion of Christ so accurately.
Overall, this year has been messy. It's been raw. It's been real. It's been painful. But at the same time, it's been beautiful. It's been good. And we have much to be grateful for.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Hoarding and the Power of Words

Hello friends! It's been a long time, hasn't it? I think I'm losing the enthusiasm for blogging that I once had. Bet you hadn't guessed ;-). I still love reading other people's blogs, and I often think of things I'd like to write about on our blog. Yet, I rarely feel like setting other activities aside to record those things here. Maybe it's just because I'm in the final month of a busy semester. Maybe over Christmas Break, I'll post a novel. Time will tell, I suppose ;-).
Today I checked my personal email account. There were nearly 400 messages in my inbox. No, they weren't all new. I'm not that popular! Many of them have been in my inbox for years. Some have only been read once, but there are others I've read over and over again. As I read through the subject lines in my inbox, I started wondering if anyone's ever been diagnosed as an email hoarder. Maybe I'll be the first. What a claim to fame that would be!
On a broader scale, though, since I seem to save just as many cards, letters, notes, and text messages, maybe I could be diagnosed as a word hoarder. I just LOVE words. I save words of affirmation, words of encouragement, words of honesty and openness. I even save words of criticism, hurtful and confusing words, and words I wish had never been written. Is that weird? Probably. Am I the only one? I'd love to find out! Leave a comment and let me know. (If there is enough interest, we could start the first chapter of Word Hoarders Anonymous ;-).
From time to time, I sort through emails and cards and get rid of the ones that are no longer important to me. (You'll be happy to hear that I've done some deep cleaning and there are now only 232 messages in my inbox :-). As I sort, I read through the messages. Some bring smiles to my face, and others bring tears to my eyes. All of them remind me of the power of words. They bring to mind times when I was scared to death, and a word from a friend gave me the courage I needed to step out in faith anyway. They remind me of times when I hurt someone I loved, and they had the guts to tell me and to give me the chance to repent. They tell stories of people who have stood beside me through thick and thin, faithfully urging me to press further into a life of righteousness.
When I read them, I get to thinking about my words. Proverbs 15:4 says that "the words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Have my words brought pain or healing lately? I'm afraid that in all honesty, they have brought some of each. I have been blessed with opportunities to speak encouraging words to some deeply hurting people this month. But at other times, I've recklessly let my anger and emotions get the better of me, and have pierced others with my words. I've got some things to work on. Thankfully, I've also got the power of the Holy Spirit at work within me.
Every mouth is like a fountain, spewing out words every day. Is your mouth spewing out hot lava, burning the hearts of people around you and suffocating your relationships? Or is it overflowing with the waters of life, washing over those around you with truth and love?
"The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life" Proverbs 10:11
Go ye, therefore, and flood the nations with words of life! What are you waiting for?