Monthly Archives: December 2016

Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories

by Letitia Suk

I have a large pile of Christmas books, because I like to read other people’s stories. Usually, they center on a situation with a sticky problem. then a miraculous solution that shows up, at almost the last minute. Do you like those, too?

You and I have our own tales of Christmas, too, like the “Ghosts of Christmas Past.” Maybe not as dramatic, but no less precious. I started keeping a “Christmas Journal” about thirty years ago, as a place to hold all my stories, but the best ones I know by heart.

Some of my memorable Christmas moments didn’t start out all cozy, but more like crazy, or even disastrous. Quite a few, in fact. Sometimes, the solution was a little slow to show up. Funny, how we don’t remember the uneventful ones nearly as well!

Some Christmas memories are almost quirky.  Like my earliest and best Christmas memory is a smell:  the plastic-y smell of a new doll, as every year one showed up under the tree. I still love the smell of new shower curtains, because it is exactly the same scent!

But there are different kinds of memories we can pull up this time of year…

In the great Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, as recorded in Luke, that we read or hear every year, there is one lin, that melts me every time: “For the Mighty One has done Great Things for me, Holy is His name.” ( Luke 1:49)

“Great Things He Has Done,” wow!  I can say with Mary, great things He has done for me, too. I bet you can, too.

What great things are in your storybook? Not just from Christmas-time, but from all times of your life.

The Bible reminds us often to remember. “Only be careful and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart, as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut 4:9)

Do you have memories of God’s power?  His faithfulness?  His provision?  Great things He has done in your family? I hope you are nodding your head.

Can you remember the first thing God did for you? I wrote about my first memory in “Getaway with God.” I’ll give you a hint, it is about a bird.

At an Advent retreat years ago, the facilitator sent us for an hour of alone time, to answer that question: What are the “great things” He has done? Turned out to be one of the most powerful lists I have ever made.

Try something fun this season, and set aside some time to name all the things God has done for you, in this last year, month, day, so far. If you’ve got a little more time, go back as far as you can.  You can even sit by your tree and sip hot cocoa while you compose your list ☺

Maybe your memories won’t end up nicely packaged on someone’s coffee table (they might!), but you can re-read your own favorite storybook anytime. It is always right at hand.

And this story never ends.

Letitia Suk, author of  Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat.          c. Letitia Suk 2016/Letitiasuk.com

Thank you, Tish, for “guest blogging” this week! Merry Christmas, all! May God’s love fill your life to overflowing in this coming year!  Lydia

Stepping Back

stepping backStepping Back by Lydia Floren

There always seems to be a lot going on in my life. Yours too, probably. Until recently I was working on a book project (Beloved Adventure), blogging, practicing medicine, helping to lead a small group, and preparing for a major house renovation. But a few months ago, I felt God leading me to put a few of these projects on hold and take some time for deep healing from some things in my past.

This is not on my five-year plan. Anywhere.

Yes, I have a past. We all do. I’ve dealt with it, prayed over it, experienced healing from it.  I really don’t want to go there again. Ever. “Besides,” I grumbled to God, “I’m too old for this.”

But God kept tapping me on my shoulder saying “You need to go here. It is important. It is your next step forward, for growth and healing. There are things that linger there, that  now you have the strength and understanding to deal with.  Things that still affect you, that cause you to be anxious, to over react in certain situations, to distrust. I want to perform a deeper healing, to give you a new perspective, to bless you with increased joy and freedom.”

It took a few such “conversations,”  before I acquiesced.  I reluctantly set aside (for the third time) the kitchen/bathroom project, the work on Beloved Adventure and a few other things.  And I began cautiously following My Loving Father in a different direction.

It takes a lot more courage and energy for me to step back than it does to step forward. It’s scary. There is rejection and hurt and mistakes and regret back there. It is a place I only dare go with my Loving Father at my side. And He has stayed close, protecting, providing, encouraging.  He led me to counselor that I trust, and a couple of friends I can decompress with.  He has given me a husband who understands and friends who are praying.

So far, It’s been messy and revealing. And yes, freeing and healing. But it has not been easy.

We can always know that God’s way will be one of healing and growth, freedom and joy. But what’s hard to grasp is that, on occasion, His way may also take us in an unexpected direction, a retrospective—even painful—one.  But He knows that difficult past experiences can seep through and stain our current perspective, despite many coats of paint-years layered on top. So, there are times God may (and probably will) ask us to dig deep. Unearth unpleasant memories. Allow Him to reprocess them in the light of His love.

Are you willing, no matter what your age or stage in life, for God to lead you to take a step back?  To set aside some projects, so that you have the time and energy to follow Him there? Are you ready to trust Him to create a new frame of reference, one untainted by past hurts? Even if the healing process will be painful at times?

If/when you are, I think you will find that stepping back can be remarkably freeing.  As God heals damaged emotions from the past, He enables us to claim more fully His loving embrace in the present.

You might find, as I have, that sometimes the best way–maybe even the only way—to move forward is by stepping back.

Those who wait for the lord will gain new strength…” Isaiah 40:31

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-34

sometimes stepping back is the best way to move forward.

Getting Away

12216-getting-awayGetting Away

by Lydia Floren

I  remember first getting away by myself when I was a resident in Jacksonville, Florida.  Medical training was pretty intense, and I found myself needing a true break. So, periodically, I would pack an overnight bag, and head to the nearby beach, where I’d rent a cheap mom-and-pop type hotel room for a night or two. Other than the usual essentials, I would take only my Bible and my journal.  I’d sleep for long stretches, take walks by the ocean, praying to the sound of crashing waves.  It was truly restorative.

A few years later, when I was married and mostly staying at home with little ones, I’d occasionally talk my husband into childcare duty and check into a nearby B and B.  I was amazed at how different a night or two would make me feel—refreshed, renewed, settled. Resting and reconnecting with God (and myself) did that for me. My husband noticed the difference too, and started to encourage me to take some personal time, on occasion. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago he pulled me aside and asked   “Hon, do you need to get away for a couple of days?”

The location and timespan of these little solo retreats has varied over the years, but some things have remained pretty constant.  Rest. Solitude. Silence (including all electronics). Prayer (both talking and listening). Bible reading. Journaling.

Until recently, I’d never met anyone else who did this sort of thing.  Well, Jesus did it.  And while writers such as Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning have mentioned their own such experiences in passing, I had never seen, much less read, a whole book dedicated to this topic.

Until now. My dear (and fairly new ☺) friend Tish just published a wonderful book about taking a personal retreat called Getaway with GodI met Tish at a writer’s conference (Write to Publish) a couple of years ago. I liked her immediately. Tish is a gentle, Godly woman, and her book reflects her heart. It also provides some great resources and insights into planning your own personal retreat.

Getting away with God–the Person who knows you best and loves you most. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Especially this time of year? Maybe it’s time to give yourself a gift.  Mark your calendar and make your own plans for some personal rest and renewal.  (And maybe pick up a copy of Getway With God while you are at it.)

Best. Christmas present. Ever.

PS. For the chance for a free signed copy of Tish’s book, just respond to this post on the blog Belovedlove.org/reflections, message or post on our Facebook page @ Belovedlove, or on Twitter @bebelovedlove!

p.s.  I took the above picture at my friend’s Northwoods cabin. The one below is from another friend’s low-country retreat in South Carolina.

12216-restores-my-soul