Friday, December 30, 2011

Golden hours come swiftly -

You might think it out of place to put up a Christmas hymn after Christmas, but since this is still the month of December, and really, isn't Christmas in our hearts all year round as well?, then I decided I still wanted to share some Christmas joy. :)

This December was nothing like what I thought it would be. Nothing like I planned. Nothing like I dreamed. Nothing .... nothing. But there was deep deep rejoicing this month anyway.

I didn't throw myself into listening to Christmas carols like I always do, even though I'd been listening to them since Thanksgiving. The last 2 weeks before Christmas, I really only heard about 15 songs in my head. That's really not a lot, for me. :) I played them over and over and over and over, because when something sticks in my head, and impacts me so much, I know that the Holy Spirit is using it to encourage, bless and ground me in the knowledge that HOPE was born in Christ that night.

Hope that we would always always be with Him, that death cannot even separate us from His love, and that all these weary roads are not so weary when viewed in the light of Eternity, and under His very loving and Fatherly gaze.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
~ Isaiah 55:8 - 9 ~

I shared with you The Night before Christmas, and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, and those were two that were stuck in my head, along with this one .... I would listen to this, and tears would fill my eyes, with the way my battered and grieving heart would swell at the last verse. How it feels we are crushed with grief, and falling into our Father's arms so often, with questions and prayers unanswered, and with breaking, sorrowful hearts!! Our steps are painful and very slow, and the weeping fills the night, or nightmares, at least. But in the morning - light breaks through, the sun rises, and His mercies are new again! New mercies! New joy!

For He is always with us, and He goes before us in ALL things. He was born! The Savior, born .... born to fulfill God's redeeming plan to bring us into His loving embrace forever.

Sweet comfort shall fill all our hearts with the knowledge that WE ARE HIS. Forever. :)

There are 2 more verses to this hymn, but I just love how tender the song is, the way that Steven Curtis Chapman sings it, and the lullaby of faith it has become to me.

"Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, comfort one another with these words."
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 ~

because of Christ - this was made possible!!!! Hallelujah! Hope has come!

I love you all so much, and hope you delight in the last day of 2011. :)
~ Jean Marie ~

P.S. And thank you for all the VERY sweet comments on my last post, you made my day! :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011! -

Merry Christmas and much love from Lucy Mae and I to you all!!!
My Christmas present last year, and this year and many years to come. :)

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

"Now we need not fear the grave; Jesus Christ was born to save!"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Night Before Christmas -

A few weeks ago, I bought Steven Curtis Chapman's Christmas CD "All I really want for Christmas", and I've played this song every chance I got since then. :) I just love it. Originally, I wanted to make a music slideshow, because the music is so gorgeous, but I'll just tell you to go buy it on iTunes instead. :) Because I decided sleep was more important than blogging on Christmas Eve. And it is - but you must listen to this song - I just love love love it!!

Merry Christmas Eve, y'all!!!
With joy,
~ Jean Marie ~

On the left: My grandparent's special nativity that stays up year round, and on the right: my Mama's special nativity that she puts up every year, with fresh pine branches all around -

"The Night before Christmas"
by Steven Curtis Chapman

"It was the night before Christmas and all through the world
Everything looked like business as usual.
Shepherds sat on a hillside, looking up at the stars,
While the world fell asleep, unaware just how deep
Was the darkness the night before Christmas.

And the night before Christmas it seemed to be just a night,
But the wind blew like something was coming.
And like children with secrets that they're bursting to tell
The cedars danced in the breeze while all of nature it seemed,
Held its breath on the night before Christmas.

And Hope, Hope long awaited!
The Hope of the Ages
Would break with the dawn,
And the song that all of creation was anticipating
Would start with a baby's first cry!

And on the night before Christmas, Mary laid down to rest,
While Joseph, he paced the floor praying,
And in an everyday stable, in an everyday town,
In the hours to come, God would wrap Himself up
And come down from Heaven, and the world would forever be changed,
After the night before Christmas."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Eve! -

I took these pictures today while Christmas shopping with my dear family .... it may not look like Christmas to you. We might not have snow, or ice, or even cold!, and we don't this year. It's a breezy and warm 75 degrees. We might not have fires in the fireplaces and we might not have warm clothes on, or be bundled up into gloves, scarves and coats. We might sing about snow, but know it's not going to fall ....
but our hearts still sing of Christmas just as long and deep as anyone in this America land. :)

The sky picture was when the light was shimmering through the trees, turning our day into eve - the Eve of Christmas Eve. The night before the night that changed the world forever. Perhaps not the literal day, but the day we celebrate the coming of the One Who would always abide with us.

The gardenias and camellias were blooming. I took one longing whiff, and my heart skipped a beat. I could feel my grandma's hand in mine as we walked down their driveway. I could feel the leaves crunching, and I could remember lightning bugs on the front lawn, and watching the sun set over the pond, I could hear her say my name, and feel Grandpa's cheek against mine for a goodnight kiss. Then my breath left me, and the scent was gone. Sweet fragrance.

Gardenias and Camellias remind me of Atlanta, and my Grandparents who wait ... in Heaven. They wait with some of the most beautiful people I have known. I ache to hold them again in my arms. Surely the most sweet of flowers will bloom in the New Earth, and their fragrance will burst in the air to the song of the Redeemed living with their Redeemer. In beautiful, loving harmony of peace.

For these things my heart sings the song of rejoicing. That my family is alive and well. That when we die, we have gained more than what we could have gained here. That we shall always, always, always be with the Lord. We have peace and rest here, and we shall only have more and more of this. This, this, this - glory and joy. Twenty times three thousand and more - for Emmanuel, God with us, Holy Spirit, God indwelling, High King of Heaven - our victory won!

JOY - for you are redeemed by the deep love of the One who is named JESUS.

Born to save His people from their sins, and to bring us into His kingdom, to abide with Him.

Amen and Amen, and Merry Eve of Christmas Eve .....
With joy,
~ Jean Marie ~

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Heard the Bells -

I love this song. I've always thought it very beautiful, but this year, when much sorrow is so close to Christmas, I've found I can't stop listening to it. I thought you all might like a listen as well. So I took pictures of almost all the bells on our Christmas tree, added a little ringing of one ... and put the song in it. I'll put the lyrics up, so you can start the song, and then scroll through the lyrics. :)

My favorite part is after the "sorrow", when the rejoicing kicks in. "Then pealed the bells - more loud and deep! God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men!"! This is what we proclaim, for Christ came to earth to be Emmanuel, God with us! To be Savior, to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He has overcome all this, and reigns forever - the bells ... pealing more loud and deep with the rejoicing that comes through the depths of sorrow and rises triumphant with shining eyes and face to greet the Lord! Amen! He is here, with us, indwelling, and when we leave this world, we shall spend forever with Him - And so we shall always be with the Lord. Always.

Words written by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat, of peace on earth, good-will to men.

I thought how as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom,
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song, of peace on earth, good-will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, good-will to men.

In despair I bow'd my head: There is no peace on earth, I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!"

"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who HOPE in His mercy."
~ Psalm 147:11 ~

With much, much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

Monday, December 12, 2011

This path of hallowed sorrow -

"Oh, when we are journeying through the murky night

and the dark woods of affliction and sorrow,

it is something to find here and there a spray broken,

or a leafy stem bent down

with the tread of His foot and the brush of His hand as He passed;

and to remember that the path He trod He has hallowed,

and thus to find lingering fragrance and hidden strength

in the remembrance of Him as "in all points tempted like as we are",

bearing grief for us, bearing grief with us, bearing grief like us."

~ Alexander MacLaren ~

(Photo taken: May 2011. TN)
Thank you, Lauren, for sending me this beautiful quote on sorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Reflections (7) -

The Christmas angel hanging from our mantle.

"Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies,
With the angelic host proclaim; "Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heavn' adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb,
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of Earth, Born to give them second birth!
Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

~ Written by: Charles Wesley (1739) ~

Friday, December 9, 2011

Romans 15:13 -

~ Romans 15:13 ~
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

One of my dearest friends messaged me this morning. What she wrote blessed me exceedingly, but what struck me the hardest was her exclamation of JOY in a statement that exudes the knowledge of suffering. She said - "God NEVER wastes pain!"! Wow. Just what this heart needed to hear this morning ....

and it is true! For God has ordained all this to come, for us to walk through these valleys, not because He is unloving, or uncaring, or thinks that we will be greater people because of it, but because HE LOVES US with a deep and unbounding and powerful LOVE.

He CALLS us to suffering. Can't you SEE Him there? With His hand out, like a Father calling His child? Saying ... Come, Walk with Me. Walk with Me all the way to Heaven's glory. It will be better than you could ever have dreamed, even in ALL the PAIN. Because I AM. Because I AM EMMANUEL. Because I am Jesu - "JOY of Man's desiring".

As the tears fill our eyes at the prospect, He scoops us up and holds us close to His heart. Trusting again, we JOYFULLY hold tight the hand of God and ... walk on.

For in the suffering, we meet Jesus there.

With love and HOPE,
~ Jean Marie ~

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bobby Jo's birthday -

Ya'll look confused. You are thinkin' "Who in Sam Hill is Bobby Jo? It really doesn't ring a least....not any bells that make sense....except for that one! HAHA. The Muppet one! When....Animal! He....and.....DONG. BWAHAHAHAHHAhahahaha!!!!!". *blink blink* At least that's what it sounds like in MY head.

Sorry. I get a little carried away sometimes. But I'm not really sorry. hahah.

Well, Bobby Jo is Becs. Just to clear that up. Becs is....well, Becs. If you haven't been reading this blog, then you will have no idea. If you have been reading this blog, you know who she is. ;)

and today was her 18th birthday. :)

Here's my birthday letter to her .... and please leave a comment at the end!!! :D


Dear Becs -

It doesn't seem right to start off sad, or melancholy, but I ordered these by date, and this was the first one up. But I start to get tears in my eyes just looking at it. It was one of the best evenings of my life, at the rollout of Atlantis to the pad. It was incredible, and I'll treasure those memories forever....but you know how hard it is for us that they shut down the program.

But it was such a great night of pride, joy, honor, and those songs are always playing in my head when I look at these pictures....remembering our hands over our hearts as Ray Charles sang "America the Beautiful" for one more time, as Atlantis moved past us on the crawler.

Some things can't be described in words, they can only be captured in shining eyes filled with proud tears. Good thing that doesn't bother you, because you see that a lot in me. I'm so thankful to God that you and Cam and Momma were able to come with us. How sweet it was!

I just love this of us. :) NASA brats, and proud.

Relaxing in the May breeze, as we waited for the sun to set, and Atlantis to come out of the VAB. It doesn't come out as often as joy and crazyness with you, but you have a deep, abiding peace flowing in you - that is Christ. I have seen you deepen in Christ so much this past year. We both get a lot less stressed over stupid stuff, because we realize it's not worth it. :)

We are both allowing ourselves to let go .... and let Christ reign. Onward and upward, my dear.

and we seem to have this crazy mutual obsession about having to shop with each other for shoes. I had NO IDEA how fun it was to try on heels. OH. MAH. LANDS. We so should have bought them. Even though I could barely walk - they were the best pair of heels I've ever laid eyes on. And then in typical Jean and Becs fashion, we ended up giggling and trying on more and more, and talking with the lady who was a teacher and wore heels every day in the 60's. Wow....but man, someday, we will buy heels and do a photoshoot, and it will be ALL VINTAGE. heh. :D

Top: Becs' pair of 5 inch heels, and Bottom: My pair of 4 inch heels in coral/pink/orange.

On my birthday ... we went out to our secret spot, and it was wonderful. Except we about DIED from blood loss due to the skeeters. And you kind of wrecked your Toms by walking on rusty iron and steel - but I never heard you once complain. You are so giving that way.

and here - you and Tricia seem to have found treasures. HAHA. TRICIA's face!

You are always up for anything with me....even going the 4th time down the ice slide. ;) I've always had the best time with you, doing nothing, walking the beach, eating ice cream, bowling, laughing ourselves sick over practically nothing that struck us the wrong way, being freaked out by seaweed, getting stung by jellies....the list is endless. :) I just flat out LOVE BEING WITH YOU. :D

When I thought about what I wanted to write, I wanted especially to say a huge thank you for always being up for listening to me. Even if you barely have any time, you listen, you say you are sorry, you say you will pray for me, and then you ask how I am the next time. It could be nothing, or it could be heartbreak. You have walked alongside me in my grief and in my joy, and I have been immeasurably blessed by you and your family. You listen, and you care.

and sometimes you don't come out with any great wisdom or insight, and you just sit in the sadness with me. It has meant the world....and made us much closer as friends. :)

Love these two of you -

You will pretty much squeal about ANYTHING that I'm excited about. Or that you are excited about, and we can just talk for HOURS. After all - that's what best friends do, right? :)

I love your incredible smile, and the way you can trip over nothing, and still manage to look halfway graceful, due to all those years of ballet. You manage to bust a move pretty much anytime there is music playing, while I look like a total white girl with no panache. Which - I am. But that's beside the point. You are a smooooth dancer, unless you are dancing with ME. HAHA! :D

We love the same food, and we love it so much we will talk about it, and then we will start doing the "Om nom nom nom" thing, and then we will suddenly start singing like Beaker. It amazes me that our brains have the same sort of awesome track. hahaha. ;) You are so laid back, easy going, aaand you know what to do when my heart stops working right. Thanks. :)

You are tender-hearted, compassionate, giving, and patient. You manage to also find time to play fiddle and sing, and dance until the cows come home (not our cows, just figurative cows), and then will even sing on the way home to keep me awake. You love the beach almost as much as I do, and you love your family and extended family deeply. You are grounded. You are special, you are treasured, you are a beloved Child of God, which, happily - makes us sisters. :)

... at EmilyBrower's wedding shower ...

You graduate this year. In just a few short months, actually. And if you move away, I will track you down and .... throw strudel at you. The kind with icing. And I'll sing lonesome Country songs outside your house until you move home just to get away from me. *nods firmly*

But seriously - I know God has His mighty hand upon you, and your life. I fully trust Him to lead you - so trust Him with it all! Seek Him in all things, for He is there. He is always near. He will never lead you to a valley or mountaintop without a reason, or a punishment, but always for a gift. He is the giver of every good gift.....

like when He gave me you - for the ups and downs of my life here. :)

Happy 18th birthday to you, my dear friend, my heart-sister, my funny, hysterical, amazing friend. :) Have the most sweet, blessed, tender year of drawing closer and closer to the One who loves you BEST.

Thank you for being YOU. :) God made you beautiful, dearheart.

and don't you ever, EVER forget that I love you. 'Cause then I'll start singing our song, complete with angry hand motions and waving arms and fake sobbing in the car. HAHa. You know I wiiillll.

"Don't you call me no mo', don't you knock on mah door! ... 'an she said: You're just a Cocaaaa ~ Colaaaaa Cowboy!! You got a Eastwood smile and Robert Redforrrrd haaaaaaiiiir! But you walked across my heart like it was Texaaasss, and you taught me how to say "I just don't care!"!"

*snicker* I have so many great memories with you. *bursts out laughing*

I love you, Bobby Jo. :) Happy birthday!!!!
~ Bodean ~
(Jean Marie)

... for those of you that are confused from the top of this post to the end, well - You'll understand if you ever see the two of us joyful, crazy-excitable, outgoing selves together at the same time. ;) ...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The One who goes with you -

The cold rain in the NC mountains. A shot from earlier in the day (from this post). Nov. 2011.

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you."
~ Deuteronomy 31:6 ~

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them
afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers
and pilgrims on the earth.

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.

And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out,
they would have had opportunity to return.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them."
~ Hebrews 11:13 - 15 ~

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." ~ Hebrews 13: 8

"Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood,
suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go to Him, outside the camp,
bearing His reproach.

For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is,
the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
~ Hebrews 13: 12 - 15 ~

He is the One who goes with you. Even if we tread the Valley of the Shadow of death, He goes before us, every step of the way. He is there, in the slow breath of night, and in the first dawn appearing, and in the long aching of the weary day. He is here, and He goes with us.

He is the SAME yesterday, today, and forever.

I openly seek my Heavenly Country. I strive toward that goal, knowing all I store up there will be the sweetest place to be. Not making huge plans for here, but huge plans for there. :) A city, dwelling with God, in all FULLNESS of the coming of Emmanuel - God with us. We desire better, because we know that when death separates us, we feel the wrongness of it. We push on in Hope, because we know His promises will NEVER run dry, nor will they ever fail. Death only keeps us apart from those belonging to God ... for a little while. This slight breath of life here is nothing compared to eternity with our Lord, and death can never take us from God's side, because we are God's, we will never be apart. He goes before us, and stays with us.

Our goodbyes are not the end, because Heaven is our Home. Our Heavenly City and Country.
Where the Lord and King and Savior abides with His people .... in joyful rest.

We beg before the throne of Mercy for joyful steps onto those Heavenly shores.
For some, much sooner than we could ever have wanted or understand, and for others, we have yet a little while - but we shall all SOON be with our Lord. Soon and very soon!!

With Hope in the One who makes it so, Who goes before us, Who abides with us, our Abba.
~ Jean Marie ~