Monthly Archives

January 2017

0 In Blog

Relationships

I have this nasty tendency to look at God’s gifts as a burden to bear rather than a joy. On a good day I might see it as a joy but as soon as something hurts or feels uncomfortable I immediately look at God accusingly and demand, “Why did you give me this anyway?!” or “Why’d did you ask me to do this?!” Rather than look at it as a gift I only see it as hurtful. I am ashamed to say that this tends to happen quite regularly. Today, however, is one of those rare days where I simply look around me and at this big beautiful world and simply rejoice.

The good days tend to happen as a result of doing the things that I know help my heart, things like being honest with myself, with God and those I love about where I am, how I feel and who I am. I am always in much better form if I have done my journaling and shared my life with God; shared the struggles, my nasty feelings and thoughts and invited God into all aspects of my heart and my life.

This past week has actually been a very difficult one for me. I have felt a heavy cloak of despair and darkness drape across my shoulders and its weight has caused me to feel severely exhausted. When I feel this cloak drape itself across me it is like I am trapped behind a mask, my authentic and and joyful self is locked behind a mask of despair. When this happens I know that going to God is the only thing that will lift the cloak; however, I struggle to go to God because digging into my emotions is a long and exhausting (in a positive way) process. By the time I go I am so worn out it is like I am limping home but as I begin to share what is on my heart and mind, no matter how many times we have gone through the same conversation (God’s patience is never-ending and I am incredibly thankful for that) I find the peace my heart was seeking.

Today, I felt the cloak lift, today is one of those rare treasures where despite everything the world looks a little brighter and I feel the love that is present a little bit stronger. I just finished reading, for the second time, The Shack by WM. Paul Young. A difficult but magnificent read, The Shack, much like Redeeming Love, is a book that I constantly return to and will continue to do so throughout my life. The Shack is full of beautiful little gems of advice about life, love and relationships. This post is not a review of The Shack, I will do one of those at a later time, but this post was inspired by the things which stuck out to me as I read it. A brief background of the book is, the main character, Mack, loses his youngest daughter in a brutal and violent manner and he distances himself from life, those he loves, and God. He receives a letter that is supposedly from God asking Mack to meet at the place where his daughter was murdered, an abandoned shack in the woods. Mack shows up to the shack and meets God in a beautiful, incredibly difficult but healing manner. This time as I read the book I really focused on the themes of love and relationship.

 

I truly believe God has the most wonderful sense of humor, as I am writing a post about relationships I am rewarded with a lovely couple sitting in front of me at a coffee shop. As I glance around to gather my thoughts I keep catching little things this couple does. I am a stranger, an outsider looking in, and yet I can see the affection that each one holds for the other. I see the beauty of a simple hand hold or a loving smile and it touches a part of my heart that feels like it has been locked away for too long.

I am going to let you into my heart a bit and tell you that one of the beautiful gifts that I haven’t really graciously received is the gift of love and relationship. In the past few months something and someone beautiful came into my life and this person and our circumstances challenged me to face one of my biggest fears–letting my walls down and learning to love without expectation. There have been times, sadly not enough, that I have joyfully praised God and wholeheartedly rejoiced in the gift of love but sadly there have been too many times to count that I have glared accusingly at God wondering why would she ask me to carry this burden and tried to shut my heart off to the love (yeah, God really must have a lot of patience to deal with me). Try as I might my heart won’t let me quit, my heart will not let me reject this precious gift that God so lovingly enriched my life with. The gift of a loving, difficult, sometimes hurtful real and magnificent relationship is one that I am thankful for, even on the days that it is hard.

As I read The Shack this little tidbit stuck out to me, “‘It’s simple, Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now–just doing this–and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people, and life is all about relationships. You can’t build it. It’s my job, and I’m actually pretty good at it,’ Jesus said with a chuckle (The Shack, p. 191).

As I was driving over the bridge that connects so many different areas of Charleston I thought about all the incredible relationships that have enriched and colored my life. I have so many people I love who are spread all over the United States and all over the world. When I send my snail mail I send letters to a variety of states, zip codes and countries and that is such a beautiful thing. How lucky I am to live in a world where nurturing a relationship with someone thousands of miles away is as easy as picking up the phone or sending an instant text message or email–I can even see someone face to face who is in a different country and timezone!

Just today I had a friend say he would drop a book in the mail to me so I don’t have to go out and buy another copy (he lives in another state and we are still going to share his copy of the book), I am going to be doing a long distance book club with a friend who lives in another state, I email and write letters to a dear friend who is a few hundred miles away from me, I Skype fairly regularly with a friend in another country, I communicate with someone nearly everyday via snapchat–the world has shrunk! I have relationships that are sustained in seemingly unconventional ways and yet they nourish my soul and feed my heart. As I drove over the bride that connects Charleston, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and West Ashley all together I just thought about how wonderful it is to be able to have relationships and to be capable of loving. As Jesus said in The Shack, “life is all about relationships.”

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do no just live in a world but a world lives in you” (Frederick Buchner, Telling the Truth but I discovered this quote in The Shack p.227).

As we near one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day, expect more posts centered around love and relationships! I would like to write more for this post but I am afraid I have already rambled on too long!

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

Peace, Joy, Blessings and Love,

Margaret

 

 

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Snail Mail

“Think in Ink: While many revel in the ease and convenience of instantaneous communication, and are addicted to the instant gratification of a text or email, writing by hand focuses the mind. There is no delete button, no backspace, so words must be considered and chosen carefully before being committed to paper, making their meaning more succinct.” (This Quote is from the inner cover of a Debrett’s journal I found in Harrods).

As much as I love typing things out digitally, sending things instantly and how small the world has become–nothing will ever replace a handwritten letter sent through good ole’ snail mail. I think when we sit down with pen and paper we have no other choice but to be careful and intentional with our words.

One of my favorite things is picking out stationery, buying pretty pens and using those supplies for writing out letters or notes to those I love. There is something so satisfying in addressing an envelope and dropping it in the mail! I just bought myself a booklet of stamps today, I am quite excited that my postage stamps say love on them; so now when I send my letters I am literally sending love your way. (Super cheesy, but true!)

I write letters and send them because I know how much it means to me when I receive a handwritten note or card in the mail. But I never write with the expectation of people responding; however, it is a wonderful treat when I am surprised by a response, as I was last night.

This past year, while I was in Scotland, I realized how important it is that we utilize snail mail. One of my grandmothers does not have an iPhone or the newest technology so she would write me letters. When you can’t talk to a person everyday, you realize just how special of a gift a hand written card or note is.

Maybe it is the historian in me that loves pen and paper so much. Come to think of it, I do have friends who have sorted through countless letters for their dissertation. There is just something nice in knowing that these words, intentionally written and heartfelt could still be in existence a hundred of years from now. I love the idea that these words I physically write will not have been saved on some digital server but instead, in someone’s drawer or a shoebox. Isn’t that just a lovely thought?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more letters! So far I have done fairly well with it and with the amount of postage stamps I purchased today, I have hope that I will be sending more! I am also preparing myself for Valentine’s Day! Yesterday I purchased my Valentines and I am way too excited about them. Are you planning on sending any Valentine’s?

Friends, I hope that you will be inspired to take up pen and paper and send someone you love a handwritten note telling them how much you care!

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

Peace, Joy, Blessings and So Much Love,

Margaret

0 In Blog/ Uncategorized

Here is to Hoping

Just a few short months ago those four words, “Here is to hoping,” felt like a slap in the face. What was meant to be an offering of positivity and support instead felt like an expectation of failure. I guess how we interpret certain things is all about the state our hearts and minds. At the time, my heart and mind was in rough shape; I didn’t feel hopeful so the message was interpreted as an insult.

I have yet to publish a post that directly deals with the fact that we have just rung in a new year. I have been pondering my resolutions and have decided that I have a few things that I would like to add to 2017 to help make it a better year and to help me feel like I am really engaging in life. This post crops up from a place of deep longing to feel hope. Hope for a beautiful, loving and joyful 2017.

Currently, I am experiencing some really incredible things in my heart and my life, things that I am not yet ready to share on my blog. I find myself repeating the phrase, that a few short months ago, was nothing but an insult to me. Here is to hoping. It has become a sort of mantra for me in the last few days. Hope. Something so many of us struggle with, and up until just a few months ago, I struggled greatly with.

I can list so many reasons why I shouldn’t have hope for beautiful things to happen but you know what, my heart just wants to feel hopeful. So instead of trying to convince myself of reasons why not to hope I am going to just let my heart hope. I am going to have hope that the love will win. I am going to have hope that even in the midst of so much brokenness, fear and hatred that healing will happen, peace will triumph and love will always win. And do you know why I will cling to that hope? I cling to that hope because I see so many beautiful, hardworking, loving, kind and giving humans working to keep hope alive all over this world.

Over Christmas my mom and I went to visit my brother and his fiancé. During our visit my brother insisted that we all go see the most recent Star Wars film, Rogue One. I am so glad he insisted we go see it because one of the central themes of the film is hope and the main character, Jyn says one of the greatest quotes: “We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!”–Jyn (Star Wars: Rogue One). *Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen the movie, I suggest you skip the next part*

This quote stood out to me, as I sat on the edge of my seat and watched Jyn deliver a powerful and inspiring speech, encouraging rebel forces to take a leap of faith I found myself inspired! Her speech does instill hope in some rebels (and certainly instilled hope in me!) and it is because of this hope that the rebellion was able to continue. The movie ends with Princess Leia receiving key information and when asked what they have received she claims, “They have given us hope.”

So that, my friends, is what I am trying to give to you–a reason to hope.

I am determined that 2017 will be marked by hope. Hope that the darkness will not overcome light. Hope that love will win. Hope in the people that I love and who are doing brave, incredible and lovely things. And hope in God.

So, Here is to Hoping!

Psalm 39:7:

“‘And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.”

Now my friends, May the Force be with you!

Peace, Joy, Blessings, HOPE and So Much Love,

Margaret

0 In Book Suggestions

Redeeming Love

I have just finished reading, for the third or fourth time, one of my all time favorite books, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. The first time I read this book I was in high school, it was suggested and given to me by a friend. I am so thankful that she gave me the gift, that Redeeming Love truly is. Even now, after reading this book for the third or fourth time (I rarely reread books), I want to curl back up and follow Angel’s story again from the very beginning.

This book is a rare gem that seems to help my heart with something new every single time I read it. I find myself, I find the people I love and I find God in the pages of this book. My heart and soul has been reassured that I am so loved. I have been taught how I am meant to love, the book and River’s beautiful words wrap around my heart and remind me of God’s grace and love. Even now, after reading it again, I am in awe of the beauty that I find within this book and its fictional characters. I am offered hope and I hear God’s promises whispered into my life, through the life of the main characters Angel and Michael. I have seen, every time I have read the book, parallels in my own life and have gained some knowledge and wisdom each time I have devoured it.

When I ordered the book, through my aunt’s Amazon Prime account, it must have peeked her interest because the next thing I knew she was devouring the book. As I climbed into her car this evening she and I gushed over Rivers’ beautiful tale of God’s incredible redeeming love.

The book is based loosely off the book Hosea found in the Bible (where the name Michael Hosea comes from). Set in California in 1850, Redeeming Love, follows the tragic early life of the prostitute, Angel. Michael is drawn to Angel and God calls him to make Angel his wife. Love is one of my absolute favorite topics and this book is built around just that. The book is structured around two broken humans’ relationship with one another and their relationship with God but also serves as a bigger example of God’s relentless, everlasting, ever pursuing, incredible redeeming love. We are all sinful and the book serves as a reminder that none of us are too far fallen for God’s redeeming love. The description on the back of the book reads: “A story of Love that won’t let go–no matter what.”

If you decide to read this book–I believe that you will discover some truly amazing things.  My heart continues to be changed by this book and Rivers’ stunning words.  I must say, there is material in it that is hard to handle but we can’t avoid mess, hurt and difficulty because that is what life is full of and in the messiness, hurt and difficulty we will always
find God. Despite possessing some “hard to stomach” material, this book wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is without this material. I think one gift that this book also provides is the reminder to not judge.

I hope that you will choose to pick up this book and I pray that if you do it will provide some comfort to your heart!

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessing and So Much Love,

Margaret

1 In Blog

Lean In

Last night I went to a Bible study which is held every Wednesday night in a church that just a year and a half ago was subject to a heinous hate crime. One of my very best friend’s dad goes regularly to this Bible study and I am in deep need of some serious time with Jesus, so I asked if I could join him. This church is a true reflection of God’s love, grace and acceptance. These people have all the reasons in the world to be weary, suspicious and unwelcoming towards outsiders and yet, they still lean in. This community of faith still leans in, still welcomes the stranger and clings to the hope that God is loving and that God shows up.

Last night, in the midst of a time of serious struggle, I knew God was surely present in that place (Genesis 28:16). The hurt, messiness and difficulty of faith was there but I saw these people lean in. I listened to words spoken, fears shared, real questions asked and I heard reassurances of God’s love. I will never be able to answer why bad things happen to innocent people. I will never be able to comprehend how people can hate others so much. So I cling with all my might to the things that I have been taught: God is good, God is love and God is present.

This community of faith is a beautiful sight to behold and it is an incredible gift to be allowed the opportunity to be a part of it. These people do not know me and I do not know them but they wrapped me in warm embraces, looked me in the eyes and said “God bless you.” They prayed for me, encouraged me and accepted me as I came to them. I leaned in and they leaned in.

I keep using this phrase lean in because it is one of the more recent phrases that has been laid upon my heart. When people hurt us, loving becomes hard to do, the world seems too scary to be a part of, evil and hatred constantly seem to win it is the natural human tendency to push back–to go behind walls to protect our hearts. However, the other night when I was faced with the choice to push back and go behind my seemingly safe walls I heard the words, lean in. [ Lean in Margaret and keep your heart open.] An amazing thing happened; I realized for once in my life despite the pain my heart was feeling I was more interested in leaning in than pushing back, I was more interested in watching and waiting to see how God’s love would redeem and I was more interested in keeping my heart open fully to this loving God’s healing hands.

It was a rare treasure to be in a community of faith where those people are fighting the urge to push back and instead choosing to lean in. They don’t pretend it isn’t heartbreaking, they do not sugar coat just how difficult and messy it really is, instead they lean in and ask the hard questions, they do not avoid the messiness and they wonder where God is (all the while still clinging to the hope that God is near).

Nadia Bolz-Weber states that: “…the life-changing reality [is] that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives” (p.9).

I and so many cling to this truth. When all else seems to fail I have to cling to the hope that God is good, God is love and God is present.

I pray my brothers and sisters that wherever you are, whatever you are facing that you are blessed with the courage to lean in. I pray that you choose to keep your heart open to God and to others. I pray that you choose to believe that God is present right in the messiness and brokenness of your life.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and SO MUCH LOVE,

Margaret

 

0 In Blog

Joy

Joy (According to The American Heritage Dictionary): 1 a) A condition or feeling of great pleasure or happiness; delight. b) the expression or manifestation of such feeling. 2: to the great pleasure; rejoice.

Joy is something that has recently been laid upon my heart. Joy, to me, is something more than mere happiness. It is the ability to rejoice and take delight in the simplest of things.

This post is going to be a bit different than any of my previous posts because it is about seeing joy in the faces of those I love. Rather than me rambling on about joy I want to share with you photos of my loved ones where there is such obvious joy. Sometimes joy comes in the midst of the darkness and sometimes it comes in the midst of light–but either way joy comes and when it does it is truly a beautiful sight to behold.

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0 In Book Suggestions/ Henri Nouwen

The Return of the Prodigal Son

First off HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope and pray that 2017 is much better than 2016 for this world and for those who had a terrible 2016.

So today I want to talk about a book that truly changed my life, my faith and my heart. A few days ago I mentioned that I would be doing a mini-series discussing some of the books that I have read by Henri Nouwen. I decided to start with the book that completely shook my faith and brought me into the embrace of God in a way I had no clue was possible. Nouwen’s, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, was suggested to me way back in May 2016 by a dear friend and mentor. I didn’t have time to read The Return of the Prodigal Son then but a few months later in September I found myself still stuck in a really bad spiritual crisis so I returned to the email and read through this lovely human’s suggestions.

The email was long and stock full of incredible author and book suggestions but it is what he said about The Return of the Prodigal Son that stuck out to me. My dear friend wrote, “Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal is among the best books I’ve ever read. Probably had a lot to do with where I was at the time, but it is deep and utterly redemptive.” This dear friend is incredibly well read and for him to say that it was one of the best books he had ever read struck a cord with me. I had dabbled with Nouwen before and found his writing to be beautiful and relatable, so I gave it a try.

In desperate need of some spiritual guidance I downloaded The Return of the Prodigal Son praying that Nouwen would say something my thirsty soul and cold heart could digest. Just as my friend said, I found The Return of the Prodigal to be amongst one of the best books I have ever read (to borrow his words) and it did have a lot to do with where I was. My posts in this last year reflect, on a minor level, a soul that was darkened by discouragement, fear, anxiety, heartache and a heart that was hardened towards God and her call. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with one of my favorite people, at this time I was still only in the first few pages of The Return of the Prodigal, and I sobbed to her crying, “I am just so scared I am going to lose my faith.”

These words were uttered by a woman who was tired, hungry for God’s redeeming love and nourishment. I wrote a post not too long after that beautifully difficult conversation, this post reflected the hurt, fear, confusion and anxiety I was experiencing and it caused a lot of wonderful people to worry about me. (The post is ‘The Prodigal Son’ from September 2016, if you feel you need to go read it). That post was my first in months, inspired by Nouwen’s beautiful and honest words, my heart was able to admit to myself and my readers that I was struggling and in desperate need to go home to God. I described it as a “deep sense of homesickness for my God and for the easy communication we always had.”

As I wrote and put into words the state of my heart and my feelings I read Nouwen’s reassurances that I am God’s Beloved and God’s favor rests upon me. As I let Nouwen’s words and reassurances wrap around my heart I found that God was healing my heart.

The Return of the Prodigal Son was inspired by Rembrandt’s painting which depicts the famous scene in which a son who has strayed and become lost returns home and embraced by his loving and grace filled father. Nouwen was deeply affected by this painting and he spent time meditating upon it and ended up crafting a stunning book about returning home, returning to God.

The book is divided into three parts: The Younger Son, The Elder Son and The Father. Nouwen goes through the parable in stages. He uses the painting and the parable as overarching themes in which he connects his experiences, Rembrandt’s experiences and the younger son, older son and the father’s experiences. The heart of the parable is love. The parable reminds us that God continues to pursue us and will always welcome us home, no matter how far we have strayed. Nouwen’s words, his descriptions and his analysis wove an image in my heart and my mind. After the post, which revealed how torn up my heart was, I suddenly found myself limping home.

All I can tell you is that God used Nouwen and his beautifully crafted words to bring me home. As I turned the corner on the street I saw God waiting on the front porch to smother me in an warm and loving embrace. In my most vulnerable moment, the moment I sobbed that I was afraid I would lose my faith; God came, rescued me from the depths of despair, took me home and smothered me with love and grace.

My friend put it best, “Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal is among the best books I’ve ever read.” It may be such a fantastic and faith changing book due to the time, place and state of my heart in which I read it– but I don’t believe it was an accident that I picked up The Return of the Prodigal Son. I believe whole heartedly that it was a gift that could only come from God. Whether Divine intervention or not, I praise God for Nouwen, Rembrandt, my mentor, the parable and the incredible healing that came from this book.

If you are lost, scared and unsure of whether you can return home I strongly suggest this book. I am sure that Nouwen’s words and his reassurances will remind you of who you belong and who says, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests” (Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son p. 37).

Describing what true homecoming is Nouwen beautifully states that, “‘coming home’ meant, for me, walking step by step toward the One who awaits me with open arms and wants to hold me in an eternal embrace” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 6).

My beautiful friends, I hope that you are able to go home this year. I pray that you turn that corner and see God waiting with arms stretched wide open, welcoming you home into her loving embrace. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and ALL MY LOVE,

Margaret

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

0 In Blog/ Uncategorized

Joy Comes in the Morning

Well 2016 is coming to close in a way I did not plan. But I guess that shouldn’t really come as a surprise because when do things really ever go as planned? This ending to 2016 hasn’t really been the best, but if we are being honest at least the news I received happened an hour before the ball drops, before I am fully into the New Year.  At least I still have a few minutes to ponder this and to see God’s hand in this event and glance back and meditate over God’s hand throughout this past year.

2016 has been a beautifully difficult year. A year filled with struggle, strife, heartbreak, fear, anxiety but it has also been a year of success, healing, joy, peace and so much love. This year has seen me question everything and wonder who I am, who God is and where God is. It has also been a year where I learned a bit more about myself and who I want to become. I met God in new and incredibly wonderful ways, touching the living vein of love.

2016 was full of ups and downs, not only in my life but in the world as well. I guess the thing I am going to take from all I have experienced this past year is that God is so good. No matter what has happened, no matter how many things seemed to fail and not go according to plan, God’s love brought healing and made things beautiful. So as I enter into 2017 I can only hope that I am blessed with as much love as I have felt this year and that I am continuously surprised by God.

Psalm 30:4

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night but joy comes with the morning.”

My sisters and brothers: May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. I am sending you, your family and friends all my love and well wishes for this New Year! If you find yourself weeping tonight remember that joy comes in the morning

Peace, Joy, Blessings and SO MUCH LOVE,

Margaret

HAPPY NEW YEAR!