Sunday, December 29, 2013

A New Year Resolution for 2014




This year we celebrated Christmas with my dad's side of the family a little bit differently.  


My uncle and aunt invited all the family into their home. 
It was a night of carols sung together, music filled with the hope of Incarnation of Christ. 


Instead of a juicy turkey or ham roasting in the oven, there was a bubbling pot brimming with with penne pasta and another with oregano, garlic, and tomato saucesuch are the delicious smells of our family's own traditional Italian dinner. But, that wasn't it. Something else made it unique.



There was something special about this night. Sacred.

This year, Grandpa gave a sermon, and we partook of communion together. 


My Grandpa Ernie is not a pastor. He is an elder, but in the real sense of the word. Grandpa is a centenarian, one of the few remarkable people to live to be over 100.

At 102, he still has a smile and a kind word to say to all his dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I don't know how he keeps track of us all, but he does.

According to wikipedia.org, there are many factors that influence the longevity of a person's life, but like Grandpa Ernie, I am a believer that the Bible is true. Every. Single. Word. (Psalm 119:160).

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Psalms. Chapter 139 in particular says a lot about life. And that God knows all the details about each one of us.

Like how long we will live (Psalm 139:16).

Or when we get up and lay our heads down on our pillow at the end of the day (Psalm 139:3).

Everything.

Even all the stuff going on in our hearts (Psalm 139:23,24).

Grandpa Ernie once said that one of the reasons he has remained so healthy all these years is that he hasn't had a whole lot of stress in his life.


But, it's not as if he's lived a life of ease. 


Far from it.


In his autobiography, Flowers for Cina, written in memory of his wife of over 50 years, Grandpa shares that he has gone through many hard things.






So, how did Grandpa Ernie avoid stress?


Moreover, with so much hardship in this broken world, how can anyone avoid it?


We can't.


True, there are outside stressors, but it's what's going on inside...what is inside of our heart that is the worst of our problems. Our pride. Our envy. Our judgement. Our sin.






So thinking on the heart and how out of it overflows the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), I wanted to make a heartfelt resolution for 2014. More like a prayer. For I can't do anything without Christ (John 15:5).


Lord, please give me a heart like yours.


This will be a constant prayer. Especially during stressful times. It is in those times that I will see God work "all things" out for good (Romans 8:28,29). That is when the most change can happen.


A heart like Christ. Full of grace. Full of truth. Full of Him.


Only one resolution.


And, this is one is going to take more than a year. More like a lifetime.


But, if I'm patient, I will see His way in me.


In His time,



Chanda








Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Poem

My twelve-year-old daughter, who I call Bright Girl, is the first guest blogger to appear on Grace Grows Wings. She is a prolific poet and writes a new poem on a weekly basis.  You can find her on www.thepoemgirl.blogspot.com This is her most recent work, inspired by her favorite time of year:

Christmas


Snowflakes  falling down.
Beauty all around.
Christmas tree, with leaves of green.
Presents that I have not yet seen.
Excitement in the air.
Happiness everywhere.
Christmas is ,
My favorite time of year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Re:Connect


Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, Christmas was magical. But, as an older child, Christmas seemed like a big let down. There was so much hype about getting all the gifts. But, when the day finally came and the wrapping on the presents was ripped to shreds and the dried out evergreen was on the curb (or the artificial one back in the box), I just knew there was something lacking about it.

Later on, as a young teen, I came to know the true reason for the season:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14) 

But, even though I knew and believed Christ Jesus is real and came to save me, Christmastime brought about this unmet longing after all was said and done.

What did all of it really mean? The tree, the festivities, the giving and receiving of gifts?

Maybe it's the way we celebrate that has left me wanting?

Or is it something more?

Jean Flemming, author of The Homesick Heartsays something about Christmas disconnect:

"The notion that there is something more to Christmas always seems to tremble in the background."

There's gotta be a reason for the longing in the season.


What is it that I really want, and I'm not getting?

Is there this elusive gift that I have not yet been able to receive?

Looking at advent has shed a light on my problem. I can now see that many parts of the Christmas celebration is symbolic. Christmas is a reminder that we are still in the in-between.

Christ has come, but He will come again.

This must be where the longing resides.

Through Christ, God has given us the gift of salvation, but that is only part of the gift.

He dwelt among us and after becoming a sacrifice for our sins, He went back to heaven to be with the Father (2 Corinthians 5:21, Matthew 28: 18, 19, Luke 24:45-52).

I yearn for the return of the King. Christ. The Risen One.

He is the desire of my heart and my portion forever (Isaiah 26:8, Psalm 73:26).

Christmas doesn't have to be a let down for me. For I know that because Christ was born, God in the flesh,  Emmanuel...I can celebrate and wait. This can be an exciting time because I have connected what the birth of Christ means for us now and in eternity...

Salvation and restoration.

God, the Son, came to earth, as a little baby born in a manger, grew up to die on the cross, was raised back to life on the third day, was taken up to heaven, and will come again in glory.

The next part of the gift has not unfolded. Yet. Christ is yet to come, and He will restore all things that were lost after the great fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. He will truly make all things new (Revelation 21:1-6).

It all connects.

And, when we see this, we can't help celebrating the full meaning of Christmas!

Until He comes again,

Chanda


Friday, December 6, 2013

Because of Love: Montage of a Short Life



"Why keep a baby that you know is going to die?"

My children's former pediatrician posed this question. She didn't wait for my answer. She looked down at the clipboard and flipped through the documents which held my children's medical history.

This was after the pediatrician informed with me that her sister had chosen to abort her child with Potter's Syndrome--the same abnormality that my infant son, Luke, died from in 2003.


"I'm sure your sister is still sad," I told her. I would be. I still was.


She paused, looked up at me, furrowed her brow and wrote something down on her clipboard.


"Some of your children are not fully up-to-date on their immunizations," she said, changing the subject.


When I left the doctor's office, my head was spinning. Luke lived. I held him for eight hours and then he fell asleep peacefully in my arms before he stopped breathing all together. Those were precious moments that I would never take back. Not for anything.


Why keep a baby that you know is going to die?

Because...










































Because we loved him.


Missing you, sweet little Luke. Happy 10th heavenly birthday.



Until we meet again,


Mommy

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Grace: How I Discovered My Writer's Voice


Now that NaNoWriMo is over, or at least my own version of it, did I write that great American novel?

Not yet.

But, I did write. And, I've learned a valuable lesson from the experience that will impact the quality of my writing from here on out.

For starters, it was bothering me that my writing was missing something. Something that would make it, well, readable.

It's kind of like when I learned to play violin. For the longest time, I couldn't read music and play at the same time. I just couldn't do it. I found a way around my problem by writing out the letter of each note on the sheet music. It worked, but it slowed me down and interrupted the flow of my music.

I remember clearly now, the first day that I could to play a piece before writing out the notes. I was in seventh grade, and thought I would give it one more try.

I opened my violin case, took out my rosin, and rubbed it all over the hair of my bow. The sweet smell of amber tickled my nose. Standing up straight, I held my violin under my chin and focused on the sheet music. No letters this time. Only notes.


Page de Camara on violin playing Canon in D

To my delight, as the bow slid across the bridge, I could decipher the notes on the sheet. I could play and read music simultaneously. It's as if something inside of me finally clicked.

It was the same way with writing. I kept reading others' works, good books, hoping that some of that awesome talent would rub off on me. When I went to write, the story made sense, but it didn't flow. It's like I couldn't tell a story and make it come alive for the reader at the same time.

But, despite my sense of failure, I didn't give up. I kept writing hoping that one day I'd get it.

Well, toward the end of NaNoWriMo, something clicked. It wasn't when I was writing. It was while reading a children's book (sometimes they're the best). The book was called, Stay!, Keeper's Storya novel about a dog, from the dog's point of view.

Leave it to Lois Lowry to teach me the art of voice. I love her books, especially The Giver series. Yes, more of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic genre, but the authenticity of the characters in these books is what makes them so readable.

In a good book, with strong voice and a steady, rhythmic flow, you can immerse yourself in the writer's world, even a world where a dog thinks like a human.

It's true. I was inside Keeper's mind. I needed to learn how to do that. How to play with words in such a way that I can create a whole new world.

Since that moment, I've been writing in a way that enables the reader to get lost in the words, in the world of my story. It was truly a turning point for me.

Now, I just have to go back over all that I've written with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

In the song Amazing Grace, written by John Newton, the words

"I once was blind, but now I see"

have taken on a new meaning for me.


There is the grace of knowing that in my sinfulness, frailty, and flaws, God has written a new story for me, a story of redemption. His death for my life. My life for His glory.

Every grace is a gift from the good heart of my Father in heaven,
from the grace of understanding muscial notation to the grace of discovering my writer's voice and the little graces in between.

Thanksgiving can become not just a once-a-year event, but an everyday occasion, from sunrise to sunset in this crazy short time we have to experience God's grace and give back the gift of praise.

Gives me hope to think about the next grace and the next...


His By Grace,


Chanda