A gift. A joy. And a challenge.

Today has been a day of joy and reflection ... and both were needed for the hurting and weary heart that beats in my chest.

This morning I was given the glorious gift of an entire hour to myself!  My children were gone, my tennis shoes were laced, and I embarked on the long walk I had been dreaming of for days.

It had just stopped raining, so the temperature was crisp, the streets were wet, and the air smelled fresh and clean.  For this rain-loving girl it was the perfect setting for my time alone.

The streets in our neighborhood are lined with trees, and the leaves are falling at a rapid rate.  I collected a few as I walked - favoring the deep red ones - and brought them home as a memento.  I love seeing them in my kitchen ... not just to remind me of a wonderful morning stroll in God's creation, but because they remind me that things change all the time.  Nothing can stay the same forever.  No one can live forever.  And everything we are ... everything we have ... comes from the Lord, so I must praise Him - and live for right NOW - because 'now' is the only thing I am sure of.
My life, and the lives of everyone I hold dear, are securely wrapped in the hands of the Father ... never to be let go ... never to end one moment before He decrees.  The question is - do all I hold dear love Him?  If not, am I praying for them?  Telling them the beautiful story of our Savior? And if they do profess Christ as their Savior, am I encouraging them in the faith?  Am I stirring them up for love and good works?

We recently lost a brother in Christ, and at the memorial service, two of our dear young adults videoed the memories and thoughts of those in attendance.  They asked several different questions, including, "If you had to describe Virgil in one word, what would it be?"
And it made me wonder ... what word would people use to describe me?  Would it be a word that reflected Christ?  Would it be a word that produced thoughts of eternity?  Or would it be an earthly, temporal word that bears no fruit?
I asked Dennis the question, and he was also stopped in his tracks.  One word?  One word to sum up a person's ENTIRE life?  Wow.  That word would be our legacy ... what do we want it to be? Because honestly, we cannot be described in a way that is not lived out - day by day - with passion and purpose.
Lord, may my life be a reflection of YOU so that when I am gone, others remember more of You than they do of me!

Rain, beautiful leaves, a prayer walk, and ... candles!  My sweet groom purchased these fun candle holders for me last night, and today's blustery weather was the perfect atmosphere to light the candles for the first time.  There is something so soothing about flickering light ... 

Josiah and the littles were still gone, and the older boys were quietly working on school projects in their room.  The house was peaceful. And I - had nothing to do! Laundry, dishes, dinner, bills ... everything was done.  After standing in the middle of the family room wondering what in the world a person is supposed to do with herself in the middle of the day, I looked over and spied my collection of note cards.

The Lord took me through a time of "remembering" a couple of months ago after studying a Psalm of David in church.  In the quiet of the evening, I read the Psalm again and filled pages and pages with memories of God's goodness and provision in my own life.  It was such a sweet time!  As I wrote, He brought to mind specific women who impacted my life as a child, and prompted me to write and tell them so.  As a child I knew they loved me and I knew they were good to me, but the full impact they made was never as clear as it was that night.  I could not rest until I placed their sealed envelopes in the mail box, knowing that within a few days they would know the depth of my gratitude.

I asked the Lord to remind me of more people - more moments - that I need to acknowledge. Specific moments that people touched my life, encouraged me, or challenged me.  And He has been faithfully bringing them to mind for weeks now!  It is actually kind of fun to see what He comes up with ... some are so random and vague they make me laugh, and some things I have not thought about in years.

And then, about a week ago, I received an unexpected note from a young woman in our youth group.  She was not thanking me for anything I did - she was thanking me for being me.  I have to admit, I stood there staring at the letter for quite some time, letting her thoughtfulness and the emotion of the moment wash over me.  How often do we hear words of praise and affirmation just because?  Not nearly enough I fear.

And that is why there is a stack of note cards on my counter, with stamps and a pen close by.
I want to be ready to write a note of thanks or appreciation the moment the person comes to mind. No delays - no "I'll get to it" - just ACTION!

Sometimes the Lord is just asking me to tell someone why I love them! Why I call them my friend. Why they are valuable to me.
We need to acknowledge the value and importance of the people in our lives!  We need to be specific - descriptive - genuine.  When we shout, "I love you!" as they are leaving our home, what does that mean?  I love mint chip ice cream too!  How is he/she different than my favorite snack?

When someone dies we are so good at waxing eloquent about the life they lived, their impact on us, their influence in the community, and their love for others.  But the person is dead.  They cannot hear such words of praise.  They are not enjoying the fruit of their obedience after thinking of others as more important than themselves.  They are not hearing the gratitude of those they served faithfully for decades.  Beautiful, glowing tributes at a funeral are a delight to hear for those present ... but they serve no purpose because the person who needed to hear those words ... the person who was longing for affirmation and acceptance ... the person who wondered if she had any impact on the world - is gone.  We need to tell those we love why.we.love.them. NOW.

It does not have to be a twelve page hand-written letter expressing deep emotion and affection.  It can be as simple as a few words scrawled across the note:  "Thank you for always smiling when I see you."  "I love that you are always focused on me when we are talking to each other."  "I appreciate the way you ask me how you can pray for me whenever we are together."  "You make me laugh more than anyone else I know!"  "I appreciate your love of beauty and color."  "You are a talented musician."  "I always enjoy our deep conversations."
The options are limitless!!!

You do not have to be best friends.  Soul mates.  You can even be estranged from one another in some way.  But EVERYONE God created was made in His image, and therefore, everyone God created has something beautiful and wonderful to notice, and enjoy.  Sin entangles us all ... but the mark of the Creator still shines forth from those He designed with purpose - and pleasure.

Will you do this?  Will you ask the Lord to bring to mind people who could use a word of encouragement?  A word of praise?  A specific verse to lift their spirits and set their eyes back on their Savior?  A note of thanks.  A note of appreciation.  A note that takes you three minutes to write, but will stay in the mind and heart of the one who receives it - forever.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24,25

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