“Gratitude, Joy and Revival”, from L.Willows (loss & gain, our hearts, God’s Love)

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Gratitude, Joy and Revival from L.Willows

As the month of June began to speed by, I watched trees and gardens blossom to fullness. Just a short time ago, the parks in my area reopened. I remember on that first morning I drove to my favorite garden park and crept past the gate. I could not believe that it was open. I drove slowly in as if I was doing something alien. I felt like a child that was sneaking into a forbidden zone, even though I had been entering on foot during the pandemic! When I entered, this time, everything felt new and filled with hope. As I took those first steps on the dear and familiar path, tears of joy ran down my face. My mask got wet. There were no other people near by. I took it off. That was when I stopped being afraid.

That soaking of joy was gratitude for many things. It wasn’t only that the gate to the park was open. After months of being isolated at home alone and navigating the heart trials that we have all been faced with, I was grateful that this had been a time when the Lord had felt so close. Every day caused me to seek God.

Going back to that sense of restriction vs freedom, it was a discipline to follow the strict guidelines and learn to live “the new way”. For me living alone, I felt like I was in a new frontier.  Shopping in the supermarket was like going to into battleground at first. I remember panicking in the beginning with anxiety that I would catch the virus from gathering groceries, or getting gas for my car or other necessities. Friends called and instructed me in lengthy new ways of taking precautions.

New Life Lessons

We re-learned “life”. Then there were ways of speaking.  We had new phrases like “New Normal”. It included restriction and a lack of the cherished freedoms that were taken for granted just months before. As I took it all in at lightening speed, I think that a part of my heart must have constricted into a ball of stressed fear and anxiety. Part of me was saying, “No, I don’t want this. It is a frightening world to walk into. I want yesterday back!” It was very difficult to assimilate the changes so rapidly. I think that my heart, at least may have needed some time to go through some stages of shock, grief, loss and acceptance. Fortunately, as a Christian I was prepared to walk through this with God at my side.

I confess that did have a difficulty with having no control over circumstances. It  is an ongoing lesson in life. I realized that I love to hope and anticipate the future, to dream of a wondrous “next”. Living in a complete not knowing with all connections seemingly severed threw my heart into chaos. As much as I thought that I put all trust in God I saw that I was trusting something in myself, in others and leaning on many sources other than The Lord for security and peace in my heart.

My mortal heart interpreted it all as fearful environment even though everything that I have been taught tells me that circumstances should not rule my perspective or my peace. I went through grieving for what was lost. I longed for the “world” that we may not see again.  At one point in the beginning I could not even watch an images of people being in happy gatherings on television because it caused me mourn that we could not all be together now and worry about our future. I had stages of a lack of hope in the world that we live in. I questioned everything and everyone. In stages I worried about other countries as they became afflicted. The news buried me. Then I climbed out and learned to filter what information entered in and how and when.

Hope and Encouragements

I was fortunate because I was in two Bible Study groups from my Church and also attended two weekly prayer meetings all on zoom. The sermon was also online with a mid-week encouragement. Did I describe myself as alone? That was wrong. I have been actually carried by the body of Christ, by the Church that I belong to. This journey has be filled with God’s protection, Love and Grace. I was never alone.

I also experienced a deepening of love and concern for others. My heart turned outwards and thought less about myself. Community and the body of Christ became palpable as the church without walls was a true experience to me. Prayer intensified and was the first and most important activity of every day and night. Groups that prayed were my lifeline and remain so. Connecting with Christians and loved ones is a heart activity that can’t be stopped by any restriction. It is intensified by adversity.

The church was my real home during the most difficult months of the pandemic and it all continues. We don’t know for how long. The next unknown is when and how Churches will reopen. But my sense was that God will surely lead this. It is His Church. I trust this. I believe that we will worship together again. But, I am not like a child waiting with impatience or fear of the unknown any longer. Somehow, my heart has developed patience. That amazes me. I don’t need to control what happens next month or even three months from now.

Overcome with Gratitude

Lately at the end of each day, I tell The Lord all of the things that I am grateful for as I review the day. There is much that I am grateful for so far from this time in self isolation. I am grateful for the measure of patience that has been born in this heart of mine. I am grateful for Church. I am grateful for Christians that reach out generously to others. I am grateful for those that have a heart for fellowship, for those that teach and mentor others in these times. I am grateful for prayer and prayer groups everywhere and for the lone prayer warriors that pray consistently for others. I am grateful for the kind ones that work in the supermarkets that have been an encouragement throughout these seasons, sometimes the only other people that I saw. I am grateful for family and sweet supportive friends that can listen to your heart when you are feeling sloppy feelings and love you still. That is the love of a True Heart.

We have all been through many trials, some much more difficult than others. Many, in the afflictions of the illness itself. We don’t know if it will be in our own path. We don’t have that complete control even taking every precaution. But, God is with each of us and He sets the days before us for good. I am certain of His Love and of His Leading. My gratitude is to The Lord. He is the Gatekeeper and the only One that can free us regardless of our experience.

Revival. God’s Love is in His Holy Presence. It sets us Free.

My deepest gratitude is that God is making His Presence known to our hearts with His Love. His Spirit moves us in Prayer and lifts us to face Eternity in ways that cause us to review everything in our hearts and renew our perspectives. We are to join in revival. His Gate opens for us by the power of The Holy Spirit. That is a garden to walk in with Holy Joy and complete fearlessness. We can place our trust in God, we are His Beloved Children.

© 2020 Linda Willows

“Walking Towards Hope”, from L.Willows (Revival, God’s Goodness, His Glory, Believe)

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Walking Towards Hope, from L.Willows

The other day, I went to a nearby garden park that has been closed due to the pandemic. The loosely gated entry has not prevented locals from wandering in for private walks.  It is like a paradise inside.  Beyond the gate are gardens that volunteers lovingly tend to on a usual year.  The crews were absent but their labors from so many years past were still evident. That day was a real gift to me.

I  had been praying for a “second wind” in this journey of endurance during home isolation in our region. My heart felt heavy. I was deeply missing loved ones. I felt distant from all that I loved.

Then I stepped beyond the gate of the park. My heart lifted with gratitude that fell over me. Nothing of the world and its concerns seemed real in the gardens. Life seemed to be continuing without knowledge of the news or any updates of what tomorrow might bring. This was an isle apart. I smiled as I listened to birds singing to one another and stepped towards the largest fushia petals that I had ever seen.

Then I stepped amongst delicate yellow buds that reached up to feel the warmth of the sun. My heart melted and I became like a child walking in God’s open green, breathing His sweetened air.

I said to myself, “I am willing to believe that at this moment, everything is new. The bluebells tell be so. The lavender pearl buds on the bushes that run through the field tell me so. The lush green grasses that are dancing in the breeze are telling all that life is moving. A red cardinal flies majestically by.  The deep blue of the vast sky lives like the freedom that I long for. I walk but my heart is dancing. My soul is singing to God. I am praising Him.”

He is the Good Gardener. Nothing can prevent or delay God’s Goodness from rising. The Hope of His Presence and the beauty of His Creation lifts our hearts, from wherever we are.  I understand that there is no time, but the one that He sets. In the beautiful sky that I gaze at, my heart is set free, I am reminded of the vastness of God Himself. That freedom, which is the Altar of His Presence dwells within each of our hearts.  The Gateway is Jesus who is the Door .  My prayer was anwered. I had been revived by the sweetness of His Spirit. He led me to these Green Pastures.

John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

I had been free all the while. Because of the isolation, I allowed my heart to believe that the “walls that I saw” were real. They were really only walls within my own heart. I allowed myself to believe that the limitations of life during home isolation though they were tangible and physically confining did not have to confine by heart and soul. The Good Shepherd, Jesus was leading me once again to the truth of His Kingship and most especially of the gift of salvation.

The Lord, my Good Shepherd had led me to His Green Pasture. There I was, praying for renewal and revival. God sees our hearts, each burden, each care – wherever we live and wherever our walk takes us, He is there. I am so encouraged as I write, yet there is no tangible evidence in life, except that I had the great privilege of this walk. Yet, I realize that the great Glory of our God displays in intangible ways. I am reminded that we can’t always ask to see and have or even feel what we want in a mortal way. The goodness and Glory of God are beyond the gardens of this world, they are only “sighted” by the eyes of our heart when they have been opened by believing.

 

John 11:40 -Jesus said to her, Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?

That evening in my home, I did not feel enclosed by any boundary nor did I feel isolated. I looked out to the sky and I felt hugged by everything that is good. I felt wrapped in the Presence of God. He is beside us each and with us wherever we are. The paradise that I longed for is a blessed eternity in His Kingdom that is promised to all in His Care. For some reason, the words to a familiar song that we used to sing in Church comes to mind as I write:

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one…

and we will sing together again!

Hebrews 1:3 -He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

© 2020 Linda Willows

“Breathing Hope’s Gratitude”, from L.Willows (Prayer, Hope, Burdens to the Lord)

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I walked back and forth in a seemingly short space that was allowable on that day during the pandemic. Breathing much of my own breath through the face-covering created an awareness of the boundaries between myself and what was “outside” of me. Honestly, I did not like the environment. I longed to be in a beautiful garden- to see what I remembered from years past, most especially, to be reunited with friends and family. I longed for what I loved but could not see and to be where I could not be.  I wanted to embrace life again.

Quickly, I realized that sorrow was filling up my heart and my airspace. The longings had no place to go. Then I remembered that they did. Everything that was on my heart always had a place to go.

Everything on our hearts can always be told, given and healed by the Lord Jesus.  I had been bringing my heart to God in prayer for many years. So I walked and I prayed.

As I gazed before me, I no longer saw the long hallway. I acknowledged that everything in this world and in the eternal was made by God – that all that came into my own view was by His will and in His timing.

I began to praise Him for the goodness and for all of the beauty that was everywhere both in my life and for what came to my heart. Many steps later my heart was lifted. In an intimate discourse with the most loving Lord, I brought all of my burdens.  I asked for help and was needful in supplications.

I felt thankful that God was so close and near. Hope was restored.

As I returned to my doorway I was grateful for the nest of my home. Entering, I took off the face-mask. Breathing is such a gift.

I opened the window wider and let in more fresh air. I looked outside and felt grateful.

Matthew 11:28-30Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 55:22 — Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Philippians 4:6-7–Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

© 2020 from Linda Willows