This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Month: January 2017

It Is Well

Last night I said goodbye to the man who taught me what love is, as my father gently stepped out of this life and into the loving embrace of his heavenly Father. He has always been my rock, my anchor, my safe harbor in every storm. In times of sorrow, in times of joy, my father’s faith was unshakeable, as his spirit would declare, “it is well with my soul.” 

 

 Through his love I discovered the love my heavenly Father has for me.

 

Wave after wave, my tears rise up and flow down, salty on my lips. Soon the tears will mingle with joy, knowing my father is with his Father, with Jesus his Savior. But tonight, I let the tears flow.

 

Tears of sorrow, for the ache in my heart.

 

Tears of thanksgiving, for the man who was my father.

 

Tears of joy, for the eternal life he now experiences with his Lord.

 

Tonight it seems fitting to share again this post from October 2015, which captures just a small glimpse of the godly man I was blessed to call my father.

 

I’ll love you forever Daddy. 

 

With inspiration from Psalm 106:1-5 and Psalm 71

 

I visited my parents today. My mom is 93, my dad 95, and they are both wheelchair-bound and exhausted. To say they have slowed down is a vast understatement. Our times together these days are filled with more quiet spaces than words; it’s hard to have real conversations with those who can’t remember where they were going with a sentence about ten words into it. I feel like I am a little girl again visiting my grandparents and not my once vibrant parents.

 

Just before this visit today, I was with a dear friend as she laid to rest her step-dad, also 95. The refrain I heard several times at his viewing was, “He lived a happy life.” A comforting epithet for his family to remember as they mourn his loss.

 

As I was driving home from these two events, my mind saturated with thoughts of life and death, I realized that my dad has his own constant refrain, one which he repeated several times to me again today. “The Lord has been very good to me. He has blessed me and our family tremendously.”

 

And it struck me afresh that my father never dwells on the adversity he has experienced, but rather, like the psalmist, declares, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to Him for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

 

My parents are no strangers to heartache and adversity. Childhood and adolescence for them was not a carefree time, but a time of poverty as my father’s father endured years of unemployment during the Great Depression and my mother’s immigrant family struggled to provide her with basic necessities like shoes. Both experienced great loss in World War 2—my dad in Patton’s army losing many friends and witnessing atrocities no young man should ever be exposed to, and my mom suffering the death of her younger brother while he was serving in Italy.

 

But by far their greatest loss was the death of their firstborn and only son to type 1 diabetes at age 8.

 

And still, my father’s refrain is, “The Lord has been very good to me.”

 

I want to be more like my father.

 

My father has learned that the goodness of God is not dependent on the condition of his life. And he has learned that God’s blessings don’t always look like “good things” in human eyes.

 

Like the psalmist, my father can declare that God is his rock and his fortress. It’s not that he has been spared his share of troubles and distresses, but through the hard times he has found God to be faithful.

 

Like the psalmist, from the time of his youth, my father has made a practice of continually coming to God for shelter in the storms of life. And so he can declare that God is his hope, his confidence, his rock of refuge. There is no storm so great that God will not be for him a rock of refuge, nor any situation so grave that he will cease to praise the Lord and tell of His righteousness.

 

Oswald Chambers asserts, “Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.”

 

If I’m honest with my response to Chambers’ statement, some days I think I barely know God at all. Isn’t it all too easy to tangle up our pain, adversity, and disappointments with what we think about God’s character?

 

My father knows his Father. He has looked many dark, black facts full in the face and lived through many dark, black seasons, and none of it has damaged my father’s view of his Father.

 

Today I visited my parents and my father struggled to put a children’s puzzle together. The man living in the shell of an aging body is brilliant and overwhelmingly kind. Valedictorian of his high school, he was top of his class at Penn’s Wharton School, where he had a full scholarship. He led men in battle, and led organizations to growth and success. He knows full well what his mind has lost and he lives daily with that frustration.

 

And yet, through it all, his constant refrain is this: “God has been so good to me, and has blessed me exceeding abundantly.”

 

Oh how I long to be more like my father; I have so much more to learn from him.

 

Days Like These

 

Today was one of those double-whammy, two-fisted, double-doctor appointment days. The kind that sucks all the life out of you, leaving a mama spent and wondering what happened to her plans for the day.

 

Still, I guess it’s better than last week’s triple play, three-doctor appointment day.

 

Five medical appointments and two small surgical procedures for two of my kids within two weeks left me with enough medicines and potions to take over an entire section of my kitchen and enough post-visit printed summaries to paper a small bathroom.

 

Some of the appointments were expected and had been scheduled far in advance; others were surprises, interruptions in a carefully scheduled life.

 

This morning’s visit with my son to see his endocrinologist was one of the expected visits. But the crashing low blood sugar just as we arrived at the physician’s office wasn’t expected.

 

Nor were we prepared for it.

 

You do have glucose tablets, right? Because you know I no longer carry them with me since you went away to college…

 

Unlike most days, today, my usually prepared son forgot to stuff his bag of tabs in his pocket. He quickly ate the snack he had brought with him but it was ineffective at elevating his rapidly falling blood sugar. Twenty minutes before, his blood sugar had been super high, too high to eat that snack. It makes no sense that his blood sugar could swing so wildly in twenty short minutes.

 

Unless you have type 1 diabetes. Then all bets are off.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

I remind myself of King David’s words from Psalm 118:24 and know that God has made this day for me. Including all the curve balls, the mini crises, and the unexpected events that come with this day. Will I rejoice in it or give into anxiety because the day is not going as I had envisioned it would?

 

Rejoice, oh my soul, rejoice. Trust and rejoice.

 

I reach into my bag and hand my son the partially eaten sandwich that I had started eating during our car ride. I quickly stopped eating it when he discovered that his blood sugar was too high to eat his own snack, so I quietly tucked it in my bag for later.

 

When it would be safe for him to eat. When it wouldn’t be rude to eat in front of him.

 

But now, he is in trouble, and I don’t care that my tummy is rumbling and that it will be hours before I can stop again to find food.

 

That’s what mamas do. We gladly hand over our partially eaten sandwiches to our children in need. Because crazy, unpredictable days aren’t always kind to those who have little control over how their bodies respond to the unpredictable.

 

We live in the tension between wanting to control all of life’s circumstances and knowing that we simply cannot control everything. And right there in that tension we discover the source of much of our discontent and grumbling. Many days there is simply far more that we cannot control than we can control.

 

But we can decide how we will respond to the unforeseen circumstances of life. Will we let go of what is beyond our control and choose to trust in the One who gives us and those we love our very breath? Will we trust Him enough to rejoice even amidst the dark, uncontrollable moments of life?

 

And I smile just a little bit, realizing that while I had thought myself so clever to think ahead and make myself a sandwich, I was not actually making it for me, but for my son.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

 

Today’s other appointment was not expected and I certainly had not planned for it to consume the bulk of my day. It began early in the morning, involved two hours of phone calls with nursing and scheduling staff at two different offices, the pleading voice of a mother saying, isn’t there just a small window of time in the schedule with one of your doctors, and the surprising kindness of the one who ultimately arranged for one of those squeeze-her-in-where-there’s-not-really-any-room appointments.

 

The knot in my stomach builds as my mind races to sort out what must be done.

 

Do not fear, for I am with you.

 

These words of the prophet Isaiah remind me to invite God’s presence right here in the midst of the storm. Deep breath in. Savor the opportunity for silent prayer during the long waits on hold with the medical staff. Deep breath out.

 

Two hours have passed since I began trying to schedule this appointment. Finally I hear her voice again on the other end of the phone. We have the appointment. Arrive 15 minutes early. Yes, I know the drill.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

The knot in my stomach loosens. I mentally review the schedule for the rest of my day, half-listening as the woman reviews with me more details about the appointment. I must leave home in 10 minutes to take my son to his appointment. I will have just enough time between the two appointments to take him home and pick up my daughter at school. Better pack a sandwich; it will be a busy day.

 

The conversation draws to a close, and yet I can’t hang up the phone without telling her how much she has blessed me today by her efforts to help me. She looked for the needle-in-a-haystack appointment when it would have been so much easier to say, I’m sorry lady, but there just isn’t anything available.

 

Comfort others with the comfort with which you have been comforted.

 

I speak my words of thanks and blessing. There is a pause. Then I hear her voice. It is changed. Lighter somehow. I think I hear the smile on her face, knowing she made a difference in the life of a stressed-out mama today.

 

Days like these are, unfortunately, not too unusual for me.

 

But they’re never expected.

 

And I rarely welcome them into my tightly designed vision of how my day should unfold.

 

I remember that these days never catch God by surprise. And I am comforted by the knowledge that He is right with me in the midst of the firestorm. These are days to practice letting go of control and of my need to have things go my way and to choose instead to look for the blessings that are all around me.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.

 

Kings Cake and Other Reasons to Embrace Epiphany

(I had intended on posting this last week, on January 6, but ran into delays as I was switching my web hosting.)

 

 

When my husband and I were living in France, one of our favorite new traditions was the celebration of Epiphany, the Church’s appointed day to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. Epiphany falls the day after the twelfth day of Christmas – yes, the same twelfth day of Christmas that brings us the 12 drummers drumming – and signals the official end to the Christmas season.

 

While we enjoyed learning about the spiritual significance of both Epiphany and The Twelve Days of Christmas, what we really liked about Epiphany was seeing all the bakery windows lined with les Galettes des Rois. As if celebrating and eating our way through the entire month of December weren’t enough, there we would go, carrying on feasting on Kings’ Cakes right through the whole Epiphany season as well! From January 6 through February 2 we would look for any excuse to make an extra stop into the boulangerie, just to buy a fresh galette.

 

The Christmas my first son was born, my parents came over to Paris to care for us and stayed most of the month of January. My father, who has a special affection for the French, undoubtedly due to having participated in their liberation in 1944, was particularly captivated by these round almond pastry cakes.

 

As soon as we would finish one cake, he was sure to visit our neighborhood boulanger and purchase another one.

 

Despite the frequent rains of January.

 

Despite the chill of winter.

 

Despite his fading memory of high school French.

 

Down the street he would walk until he reached the boulangerie.Monsieur, je voudrais une galette, s’il vous plait…”

 

You see, this was not just your ordinary almond cake. The galette des rois is a perfectly round almond paste-filled puff pastry dessert that contains a hidden feve, a little trinket made of china. When the cake is cut into pieces, the person who discovers the feve contained within his or her slice is given the honor of being king or queen for the day. Since the slices must be eaten slowly, so as not to break one’s tooth on the china feve, the suspense of who will discover the trinket builds and builds until the lucky winner spits it right out of his mouth and onto his plate. But of course (said with thick French accent) the galette is sold with the most ridiculous shimmery gold paper crown to adorn the winner’s head, and (but of course) the winner is allowed to pick his or her queen or king for the celebration.

 

Like little children who thrill with pounding heartbeat at the suspense of a treasure hunt, we would play the Kings’ Cake game with great anticipation, and not a small amount of competition, to see who would discover the hidden feve and be crowned king for the day.

 

There is a certain joy in revealing what once was hidden.

 

So too do we delight in the revelation of the hidden Christ.

 

Revealed to the shepherds on Christmas as Savior, the Lamb of God. Revealed to the Magi on Epiphany as the King of kings.

 

This Savior King, who was once seated on heaven’s throne beside God the Father, condescended to become man, discarding his splendor and luminescence, to be hidden deep within Mary’s womb.

 

Like the feve hidden within the galette, it seems being hidden was a frequent experience for the God man. No sooner had the Magi left them than Joseph, prompted by a dream, fled to Egypt with his little family to hide baby Jesus from the blood-thirsty reach of King Herod.

 

Even during his ministry, Jesus often instructed those he healed to keep hidden the news of what he had done, to protect him from the press of the crowds and from his enemies.

 

 

And I ask myself, how have I hidden the living God this past year? By this I don’t mean, in what ways have I been afraid to reveal him? But rather, how have I protected the sacredness of my Lord this past year and treasured him deep within my heart?

 

King David’s words help us ask the right probing questions…

 

Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.

 

How much of God’s word have I hidden deep within me, taking it in as my very sustenance, digesting and absorbing it, so that his words have become the source of energy that fuels my every thought, word, and deed?

 

Thy word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

 

Have I made a practice of taking God with me everywhere I go? Of consciously being aware of his presence with me, allowing him to lead me, guide me, and illumine my every step?

 

You are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.

 

Have I cultivated the habit of trusting that it is safe to yield my will to the goodness, the holiness, the gentleness of my righteous king? Or do I reassert my right to the throne every time life gets messy and unpredictable?

 

The journey of Advent to Christmas to Epiphany reveals to us the mystery that Jesus is our long-awaited king. But he is not just the king for a day, wearing a shimmery gold paper crown. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and his reign and the peace his kingdom brings will know no end.

 

This is the hidden one revealed.

 

 

PS- If reading this post has made you want to make your own galette des rois, I can recommend this recipe. I made it for the first time this year, and it is by far prettier and easier than my usual recipe. And the added bonus: it doesn’t have to be translated from metric to our American imperial measurements! Bon appetit!

 

 

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