Where Has the Year Gone?

One year ago this week, my home for sixteen years was wrapped up, boxed, bagged, and loaded into a moving van to head half way across the country—back to my childhood home of Texas. It was to be our homecoming. Our empty nest years to enjoy each other in a fun and vibrant city setting—a big change for this country girl married to the traveling boy with Kentucky farm roots. A change we were more than ready to explore.

This move has been the move that keeps on giving…and giving…and giving…until it hurts. Until it hurts beyond all proportions of what should have been the actual stress involved in this kind of move. The pain it has caused has been interminable. The stress of continual workers in and out of a house that should have been finished months ago continues ad nauseam.

The move that should have been a welcoming embrace to everything new and exciting has become a nightmare into the reality that is home building in today’s world of dwindling craftsmen. I could take this written thought in many different directions: the dying art of skilled tradesmen; the ineptitude and apathy of the average worker today; the callousness of corporations unable and/or unwilling to adequately meet the needs of the customer; a housing industry that has lost sight of the basic goal of building solid homes for the homebuyer; the high cost of not doing your work right the first time (or three) you attempt it.

While these are all very worthy topics of conversation—topics which really should be discussed at length, if we ever want to get a sense of “pride in workmanship and a job well done” back in our world today—but these are not the topics I wish to address today.

This is my one-year anniversary to my move “back home,” and the name of my blog, as well as my nom de plume for these past nine years, has been GlimpseJoy; so I am not going down the very slippery, slimy, depressing slope those topics could—and will—take me down.

After one entire year of living within the deepest darkest realms of this nightmare existence, I would like to step just outside and examine it from a slightly different angle. The angle through which I normally assessed my world, prior to this deep invasion of the soul. Trying to glimpse the joy in the midst of this chaos we call life. And this has been a quite chaotic year, to say the least, so glimpses might be all there are to be found. Maybe.

This move has drained me of much of my ability to express myself in the written word so there have been no blog posts about it. Thus my silence during the year was supposed to see renewed activity on this site. However, Brad and i both have shared a few of the shenanigans on Facebook, and if you have not followed along there, I will try to concisely list the facts of these past twelve months, before moving on to the purpose of this meandering of thoughts. I warn you, this is a story difficult to condense—please bear with my lengthiness. It is an entire year, after all.

First, envision three cars loaded with suitcases and belongings heading across the country in convoy—me alone with an extremely distressed cat, then each of our youngest two sons following closely behind. Happily contemplating a short ten days in a hotel before moving into our brand new home. A phone call mid-trip (literally mid-trip in mid-Mississippi) with the builder apologetically announcing that the home won’t be ready in ten days—more like 2-3 weeks…they say. It seemed the stair treads were not ordered in the proper time to install, but all else is on schedule…they say. The dozen or more delays prior to this point left us somewhat skeptical of the veracity of their timeline.

Skepticism was good. Upon arrival we discovered the house was missing way more than the stair treads. Very little had been accomplished in the month since we had last visited. There was at least six weeks of work left to be done before the home would be able to pass any inspections of occupancy. They agreed to pay to store our furniture for a month and find us a furnished apartment so we weren’t crammed into a hotel for the entire month. Well golly, wasn’t that nice of them?!

The apartment they picked was shady, to say the least. A rapid rundown of our days  apartment included a water heater fire—with all our belongings forever smelling of acrid electrical smoke; my car being broken into and Joshua’s car being stolen, inside a gated parking lot.

Back to the house. The first three weeks we were in Texas NO work was done on our house. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. On the house that only needed stair treads but actually needing flooring, and tiles, and cabinets, and landscaping—way more than stair treads—absolutely no work was even started during the first three weeks after we arrived in mid-July. Infuriating is a word you could use to describe it, but it falls way short of the mark.

It soon became abundantly clear we were not going to close at the beginning of August, their new promised date. Whenever we confronted the builders on this reality they continued to assure us it would definitely close the first week of August. Until one day about three days before their August 8 date, when I firmly (and emotionally) confronted them and told them I knew this was not happening and all I wanted was their honesty—for once. They finally capitulated and said it would be more like the end of August. August 28, to be precise. The reality that they actually had a date for the closing led us to understand they had known this all along but were unwilling to admit it to us. Why? Who knows. Apparently, Lying About Everything 101 is taught to all home building employees before they learn anything else. Even before learning how to actually build a house—if they ever learn that remains to be seen.

At our final walk-through the day of the actual closing—the Monday after Hurricane Harvey ripped through the state—it was clear the home was still not ready (no surprise as we had been walking through on a daily basis since our arrival in mid-July) and many things still needed to be finished or repaired, but at this point we were kind of between a rock and a hard spot.

So we agreed to close with the contingency that they would continue to work on our house after we moved in to make it right. This work has continued to this very day, one year after our move from Georgia, as we await the tile installers to come and repair the tile in the entryway, as well as re-grout the guest bathrooms—again.

This past year has been filled with appointments, arguments, and days of workers in and out all day, as well as a five week period where they packed up our belongings and moved us out completely in order to rip out all the flooring, half of the walls in the second floor, a leak in the master bedroom ceiling, and replace an improperly installed support beam—as well as a plethora of smaller items to numerous to even remember, much less list. However, the five weeks were apparently not long enough and while we are now back in the house and trying to once again settle in, we continue to have almost daily visits of workers of one sort and another. Not to mention the fact that their movers scratched, dented, and battered much of our brand new furnishings.

In a nutshell, that seemingly exhausting list is really a mere sampling of what we’ve endured in these past twelve months. Needless to say, exhaustion is the best word to express most of what we’ve been feeling along the way. Mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.

But this really isn’t what I wanted to focus on today. Today I wanted to look back at the mess that has been this past year and try to salvation something from the wreckage of all these “wasted” months. Today I am choosing to glimpse those moments of joy that popped up along the way…and amazingly enough they really were there if we chose to tiptoe tall and pull our head far enough above the chaos and look out over the edges of insanity that surrounded our immediate day to day.

Joy. What joy, you ask?

For one, the endless wide open skies I get to see each and every day. I grew up with these miles and miles of blue as my constant companion, and while I loved the hills and trees of the north Georgia mountain region, my heart sings to be once again surrounded by a daily diet of never ending skies. Even the stormy skies and winter laden grey skies hold endless fascination for me. No trees block my view here. My bedroom window faces the eastern sky and through my solar blinds I am greeted by the Texas sunrise most every morning.

Also, this country girl LOVES living in the hustle and bustle of the city. And while San Antonio isn’t the largest metropolis around, it’s plenty big enough for me—with the ability to walk to the park, the zoo, the botanical gardens, a few shops and restaurants, the riverwalk, the museum, the jazz club, and still feel as if I’m off in a quiet suburb when I’m at home. Downtown, with all it’s crazy tourist chaos and the heart of the riverwalk is just a couple miles away, the airport is a ten minute drive from our door, and most other areas of the city are within a twenty minute drive in all directions.

The joy of being back in my home state is a constant reminder of why we’ve suffered this craziness in the first place. I can honestly say I truly loved the almost six years we were in New Jersey. And our sixteen years in Georgia left us with beautiful memories and amazing friends. But after 21 years away, both of us knew it was time to return and make Texas our home again. It just felt right. Despite all the turmoil, tension, and turbulence we still know this move was the right thing for us. It’s just time to be home.

There is always joy in friendship and we have had this in abundance during these past months. Our little “subdivision” is twenty-two houses strong, and quite frankly, they are all really nice people. We look forward to having more time to get to know them all better. We have taken a special liking to a couple of families who moved in around the same time as us and had similar, although not as extensive, issues. We have had several dinners, outings, and many chance meetings to commiserate, complain, compare, and even chuckle over our myriad problems. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each other and our new community together. 

There are also friends from our past that we are slowly getting reacquainted with, and a few new friends, too. Overall, people have brought much joy to us in this crazy year. People have also been what has brought so much of the anguish and sorrow of these past months, it’s true; but for each person who has reminded me just how apathetic and selfish humans can be, there has always been multiple people to remind me of the loving goodness that fills them, as well. 

God has been beside us each and every step—even when it’s so dark that it’s hard to realize. This year hasn’t been easy. I haven’t made a very pretty picture of “faith in the midst of…” on any given day during this ordeal. I can honestly say that, for whatever reason, this season has been even more difficult—in its own way— to walk through than the cancer that started my blog nine years ago. But even on my worst days (and there were 365 of those), I do know He has covered us in His love and walked with us through the darkest days. And He will walk with us all the way to the end of this season and into the next—which we pray will be a little (or alot) less chaotic; but even if it isn’t I know He will guide us if we just remember lean on Him.

We also have the added joys of two darling animals to share our days. Alfred has been my constant friend throughout his six years of life, and this past year we have become comrades in arms against the continual onslaught of workers. Now we have been joined by our little Schatzi, an Aussiedoodle puppy we insanely adopted a month ago, while moving back into the house. (Who even contemplates that kind of absurdity?) But in midst of the distraction of housebreaking and puppy antics, she has brought her own brand of comfort to us all. She is a bundle of boundless energy and sweet-tempered love, overwhelming all of us with both from sunrise til sunset.

Finally, and not least of all, there’s the daily joys of continued life and health (definitely tempered by long-term stress, but still healthy enough) to be thankful for each day. There’s a roof over our heads—even though at times we’ve wondered if it would cave in on us if we walked too hard across the room; there’s food on the table; and family. Every breath we get to breathe is a joy to hold dear, and some days we even remember to be grateful for that blessing.

This little post has taken most of the week to get written, and now I must sign off as I am once again supervising the tile guys who have come to fix the tiles they messed up Wednesday while fixing the tiles. I truly can’t make this stuff up.

And the beat goes on!

Balancing Act

I’m writing because I promised myself I would, not because there’s really much to say. I’m currently busy trying to get my thoughts in order to work on a book I’ve wanted to write for a while now–so most other thoughts are kind of getting shuffled out of my head.

As I sit at my desk, my sweet and constant companion, Alfred is taking his morning snooze in the window, and the house contractors are standing in my driveway discussing how best to rip apart the outside framing of my brand new home.

Peace and chaos. That seems to be my world these days. Moments of blissful peace surrounded by utter and extreme chaos. Hmmm. Maybe that’s just life. Maybe all of life is just a balancing act of finding peace and beauty in between the long periods of chaos and craziness. How we focus on the moments of peace, if we allow ourselves the freedom to dwell on those brief interludes of tranquility, this is what brings us joy. This is what lends beauty to our world.

In a world so dark and filled with so much confusion, these moments of beauty can be way too brief to even see–if we don’t continually look for them. I found myself quite guilty of this failing throughout most of the last half of 2017. I want this new year to be different. I want to be able to see those instances of beauty, peace, joy, love, and hope–even in the midst of the craziness of life. So as I look out the window and see the house repair debate going on outside, my eyes choose to focus on a little (well, he’s not really all that little) ginger cat sleeping peacefully in the sunshine. The sun dances in shiny patterns on his fur, and as he squints his eyes shut to keep out the bright light, he has a peaceful grin on that ginger chin of his. His contentment makes me smile–brings me joy.

Peace and chaos. My prayer is that we all learn to find more of the peace than the chaos in this shiny, new year ahead. And now, I’m diving back into my book writing. 😉

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Rest

Did you know that there are 37 definitions for the word, REST, in the dictionary? Thirty-nine if you count the two additional definitions for the idioms, “at rest” and “lay to rest” and an additional four definitions if you include the noun and verb usage that imply “rest” as meaning  the remainder of something. That’s a total of 43 possible definitions for the one word, REST. Who knew?

Point being, of the 37 definitions of the primary usage of the word REST, there is one prevailing theme—tranquility and refreshment.

For instance, definition one of the noun form is “the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep.” Then there’s my personal favorite: “relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.” Now who doesn’t want that, right?

Rest has been on my mind a lot these past months—often as a cry for someone to give me a month alone on a deserted island—yet never quite so much as in the past two weeks, as I’ve struggled between the joyful chaos of a full house during the holidays and the personal immobilization of two illnesses in rapid succession—literally the bread for the sandwich of my holiday fun.

Lying in bed nursing the flu this weekend, I thought of the coming new year—the year that is now upon us. 2018. Each year for the past several, I have chosen a word to focus on. Sort of my guiding thought for that year. An area I want to grow in, learn more to be like, learn more what it means to have. I have chosen such words as joy and accept and grow and hope. The final half of 2017 has been so crazy that the thought of even thinking of a word to focus on seemed like way too much work for an already overloaded mind. And then I found myself in bed during the final week of 2017, with nothing but time. And my word for 2018 just seemed to fall in my lap. REST.

It’s what we all crave, isn’t it? Even when we aren’t sick. Refreshment, repose, tranquility? Relief from the things that weary and trouble us?

Remember, there are over 37 definitions for the word, REST. Should be plenty of food for thought for the next twelve months. Right off the top of the list, I see several definitions that have to do with shelter and support. Take definition 10, for example: “a place that provides shelter or lodging for travelers, as an inn.” Or 11, which states, “any stopping or resting place.” This is where my new word takes direct aim at my weary heart.

What is our faith for if not for that? A stopping or resting place? A place to find refreshment and repose…tranquility of soul and mind. Jesus offered this to us when He offered to carry our burdens. (Matthew 11:28) But how often do we really lean into this promise? Really?!

I know for myself I have tried way too hard over these last many months to fight the battles life has dished without leaning on His guidance and peace. Without stopping to seek His rest, His refreshment.

I am not sure what kind of year 2018 will be…I learned enough in 2017 to not try and guess the temperature of the year by the heat of my own hopes and desires (you might rightly guess that my toes are currently freezing underneath my desk as I type these references to temperature—sorry, my new home is poorly insulated). After all, I thought 2017 was going to be a stellar year. Well, it was stellar, as in brilliant, but not necessarily as a shining beacon of joy. More like a flaming meteor barreling down to explode all over my universe in a cosmic display of discord. I digress.

So what will 2018 bring? The one thing I know it will bring is more confusion and chaos in my home—while the builders try to right all the many wrongs they managed to build into one small house. That thought does not make my flu-fighting, world-weary body any less tired or rested. In fact, quite the opposite.

So REST is the word I choose for 2018. Because I know I need to constantly recenter my eyes, my heart, my focus on the One true source of rest in the crazy, chaotic, world I live in. I need to fully understand what rest is and how He provides it for me…for all of us. And most importantly, I need to fully surrender that part of myself that refuses to let go and let Him handle the stress of the cares of the world, while I get on with the day-to-day living. REST.

While the world is building castles out of sand, creating mountainous to-do lists with their New Year’s resolutions, my resolution is simple. REST. Find refreshment in the arms of Jesus. And hold tight and close to that refreshment, even during the storms that come. Because storms always come. Even when you don’t expect them. Even when the skies are clear. And rest is always needed in order to be strong enough to weather them.

And now, I’m going to sign off…and go rest. Happy 2018!

The River Jordan and the Cleansing Rain

So this past month hasn’t exactly been an easy one. Who am I kidding? This entire summer has been quite a rocky adventure. This past month, however, has been one mishap, misadventure, fearful excursion, disappointment, and frustration after another. Culminating in my total emotional and mental meltdown yesterday morning, stomping out of one apartment, trudging uphill to the other still-smoke-filled apartment and then storming back downstairs and into my car to drive—somewhere, anywhere other than here. Funny how you can’t really leave yourself behind.

Yesterday morning was a pretty awful exhibition of my own personal immaturity. I drove, allowing my mind to concentrate on the roads, the traffic, the changing scenery, and letting bible stories drift in and out of my consciousness. The one that kept replaying in my head was the story of Joshua preparing to enter the promised land. The part that kept playing over and over was where the Lord tells Joshua to send the priests forward with the Ark, in front of the Israelite people to lead the way across the Jordan River. God tells him, “When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river AND STOP THERE.” The water is high. The water is fast flowing. But unlike when Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea BEFORE they crossed, God wanted Joshua and the priests to step INTO the water, letting the water touch their feet before the waters would part to let all the people pass safely across behind them.

Crying and praying and driving across the backroads of central Texas, I asked God why. Why did I have to step out in faith BEFORE he’d part these waters for me. And anyway, I had stepped out first. We knew this move was the right thing to do. We didn’t know why, but it was right and we knew it. So we stepped forward. And yet, every step of the way, the waves of the River Jordan flowed further over our heads with each step. When were the waters going to part? When would the way be clear? I had taken the steps of faith, and now I was standing in a raging torrent of river water rushing over my head—and not only am I not a strong swimmer, but I never learned how to float.

And as I prayed to God to tell me why, I remembered rule number one to the art of floating. The one thing I’ve never been good at doing in the water—relax. Let go. Relax and let the current lift you. Have faith that the water will buoy you up. I got it. I understand. It’s the one thing I have yet to do in this move. Relax. Let go. Let God. Have faith that HE is able. Not me. Not Brad. Not the builders. God is able…and in His time, He will be willing to part these waters that seem to be so high right now.

After driving all the way from the northwest corner of San Antonio out to Bulverde, TX, by way of only backroads, I decided to pull up my big girl panties and grow up and show up for the builders’ meeting I was supposed to be attending, but was now 20 minutes late for—except they had had to delay the meeting due to unforeseen events (nothing new there). So I went and had lunch, called my hubby and apologized for my childish shenanigans, and then headed back to the new house for the rescheduled meeting.

Nothing was really accomplished, as usual, but the sales agent did manage to “unmask” the kitchen/living room so I could actually see what it was I was striving toward. There was a little emotional blackmail in that tactic and I was fully aware of it. But both the sales agent and I were teary-eyed standing there and looking at the fruits of our hard labor—yes, she has done way more than her job description entails in order to help us get this baby birthed—in all its glorious beauty. Over dramatic, maybe. How we all felt, definitely.

Then it was back to the apartment to move back into the now-fixed-old-apartment-with-the-new-water-heater-and-hopefully-no-more-electrical-fire-smell from the new-temporary-but-only-one-bedroom-but-not-stinky-apartment. Except wait…my two youngest awesome sons in all their awesomeness had already moved us back—complete with cranky cat and all his smelly accoutrements. What a blessing it was to not have to trudge up and down two sets of three flights of outdoor stairs to move what few belongings we have, yet one more time!

So on to dinner. No, the “furnished” apartment doesn’t really have a fully stocked kitchen in its “fully stocked kitchen” cabinets. But somehow, even cooking in “primitive” conditions can be a cathartic endeavor. I do truly enjoy making a meal—even a simple one—and sharing it with loved ones. And in the act of cooking some of the tensions of the day, the week, the month, began to pass just a little.

After we cleaned up, I stood outside on the balcony and watched the summer rainstorm. Not the 15-minute downpour of the past weekend—ripping a river in the dried ground, blowing the leaves from the trees, scaring the birds into hiding, and leaving no trace of its own existence within an hour’s time. A slow, steady, ground soaking, stand in the rain and sing, enjoy the glory of nature and its Creator, kind of rain.

I stood at the edge of the balcony, and watched the grackles scramble their way up to the tip top of the live oak trees and spread their wings wide to bask in the fresh, cooling, cleansing rain, letting it wash away the dust and heat of a long, hot and dry summer. I too, stood with arms extended wide into the downpour, and let the cold drops of rain wash away some of the tension of a summer filled with disappointment, confusion, and chaos, letting the tears fall on the railing like the rain falling to the thirsty ground. And as I let the soft, cool breeze kiss my wet cheeks and arms, I realized…even in my advancing years, I may not yet fully grasp the ability to relax and float into the waves of my own River Jordan, but I am slowly learning the art of dancing in the rain. One step at a time.

Affirmation of The Journey

This morning as I was doing my devotionals and catching up on some blogs I read, this amazing post showed up–affirming just what I said yesterday about moving through the pain of the past, instead of trying to just forget it and move forward.

I love how Bonnie always knows the exact right thing to say to hit me right in the heart and remind me of the path I know I need to be on, but don’t always want to go on.

Maybe this 15 minute video conversation is for you, too? Maybe you need a little reassurance that the feelings and memories you are in the midst of, are actually right where you need to be?

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Why We Shouldn’t Move Past What Hurts Us, by Bonnie Gray

 

 

It’s a Brand New Day!

Brand New DayWow! It’s been over a year since I visited this place. My blog site. The place where I open up and share my world with…the world. Where I explore the inner thoughts and emotions of life after cancer. It almost seems silly in some ways to say that. It has, after all, been over 5 years since my cancer diagnosis, and almost 5 years since the end of treatment–and the beginning of a new life. Long enough that the new life is no longer all that new.

And anyway, it’s the same old life, isn’t it? Still me. Still married to same wonderful pilot. Still mom to the same four amazing sons. Still live in the same house in the same town. Still friend to many of the same people and attending the same incredible church. And still have the same faith in the same Heavenly Father.

But in many other ways, I am not the same. Life truly is a great big adventure–each day is a brand new moment. I do sometimes–way too many times–fall back into the old routine of taking each day for granted. Each relationship as a mundane, same-old-same-old experience. But when that attitude creeps in now, it is rapidly followed by the amazing thought that I could be not here. That this day could have not been given to me, after all.

When that reality hits, I try to weigh the things I do against this one thought: what good is this day doing me or someone else? Am I growing as a person/mother/wife/friend/daughter of God? Am I making a difference in my own life/the life of someone else/the world? When the things I’ve been doing no longer rank high on this scale, I try to take note of that fact and change the course I’m on. Because in the giant scheme of things, life is really all about relationship and growth. And if you’re not building relationship, if you’re not making the world/yourself/others better by the things you do, then you’re helping them to rot. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing to be doing with the days we’re given. I know that it’s not the course I want to take.

One thing I’ve realized during this year off from blogging is that you sometimes have to look backward in order to grow forward. What?! I’ll try to explain. Sometimes you reach a point in life when you have to open up your life, take a deep, long look at what’s buried underneath in order to move past and fully live the life to come. Or even just to fully live the life you have at this moment.

I know that many people today–and always–have felt that looking at the past is needless and unnecessary. That it’s all in the past and you should just move forward, look ahead, and keep moving on. But I’ve now lived almost 51 years and I’ve discovered that sometimes there are things hidden deep within, buried deep beneath the surface of our thoughts that fester. We don’t always know they’re there, but they are. And just like a splinter broken under the surface of the skin, they begin to rub and irritate and infect everything we do and think, even though we can’t remember them.

This is the place I’ve found myself these past months–sifting through hidden splinters of my life. I’ve tried to keep them buried, but they finally began festering and infecting my world to the point that I must dig deep beneath the surface in order to lift them out and heal the wounds they’ve caused. If I don’t, my entire world will become septic.

When a localized infection invades the blood stream and spreads the infection throughout the entire system–a state of sepsis–this is to be septic. And it can be deadly. This is also what happens when a tiny–or not so tiny–fragment of memory is allowed to lodge within the mind for long periods of time, without being dealt with properly. And after fighting breast cancer five years ago, I decided that my world would no longer be filled with infection or inflammatory components; it will be filled with growing things, healthy things. Thus, all the septic-inducing splinters must go.

So once again, I find myself on a journey. Once again, it is the journey of discovering wholeness–this time of the mind. I once again need the comfort and assistance that writing brings–join me if you want. I welcome your company. I guarantee it will be an adventure. Not always pleasant or sunny, but my heart is always filled with the ultimate joy that comes from my faith in God and His loving guidance; so I know that even in the midst of the roller coasters ahead, there will be moments–glimpses–of joy along the way. Join me and we’ll glimpse them, together.

Home…Is Where the Heart Is

Home. A thought that’s been heavy on my heart and constantly on my mind of late.

This is my first holiday season, my first Christmas, without either of my parents, and I have been feeling the loss of home. But what exactly is that?

The dictionary actually has eleven different definitions for the word “home,” but the one that most closely applies to what I’ve been feeling is: any place of residence or refuge. A home is a place of security, safety. A place where we feel free to just be. A place of comfort in times of illness or tribulation, a place to find refuge from the storms of life.

Our first homes are the homes of our parents, whether biological or adopted. No matter if our first home was happy or turbulent, stable or dysfunctional, our first feelings for the need for refuge began here.

If there was any goodness at all in the parents you were raised by, there is some small feeling of security and peace associated with the home of your childhood. My parents were far from perfect, but most of the mistakes they made were because of the love they felt for us and their own family of origin.

Which leads me back to my feelings this Christmas season. I am missing my father, my mother, my home. My refuge from the storms of life. But the loss of my parents—the loss of home—IS the storm of my life this season. So where do I run?

As I stepped out of the car this morning after driving my youngest to school, the sun was peaking its timid head through a blanket of clouds—the first peak all week. Instead of rushing inside (after closing the garage door) to begin my hectic pre-Christmas day, I chose instead to leave the door open and step back outside in the cool morning air and lift my fact to the bashful rays of light breaking through the bare trees. And as I looked up, I saw them.

homeFive or six simple clumps of leaves and debris nestled snug in the branches of the tallest trees. Squirrel nests. Bird nests. Home to the woodland creatures. In my own backyard, these tiny creatures of God have chosen to make their home, to seek their refuge from the storms of life—and poor little things have been barraged by storms this week filled with rain and wind.

The vision of these tiny, fragile little homes reminded me of what I have been missing most this year—but they also reminded me of the One who seeks to be the real refuge for my heart, my forever Home.

My parents, for all their mistakes and misguided dysfunction, tried to provide my brother and I with a home filled with love and safety and freedom to grow—just as my husband and I have tried to provide for our four sons, in our own inept way. But the real source of refuge, the true source of security and love, is not found in a building of brick and mortar, or even in the love—however imperfect—of a loving family. The real source of Home is our Heavenly Father, filling our hearts and minds with His perfect peace—the only real safety in this world.

Storms will forever bombard our lives, both real and figurative ones. Only God’s peace filling our hearts will give us the strength to withstand the onslaught. As I have had to struggle this year with the reality of grieving for the loss of my mother, the loss of my childhood home, I have felt His presence quietly waiting in the wings for me to turn around and run into His home, His arms, His love, yet never quite understood what it was He was truly offering.

Grief must be felt, must be dealt with, must be lived through; God’s presence does not remove the reality of harsh storms in this life. But I can hold fast to the truth that He will always be there, He will not die or leave me alone in a turbulent world, He will not leave me as an orphan to find my own refuge—because He is my refuge. He is my Home.

May we all find the true source of Home this Christmas Season. The Father that will be there, no matter what. The Son that chose to humble himself—first by being born in a weak, human baby’s body, then by pouring out His blood, His life, to give us our own forever home.The Holy Spirit that is waiting to fill your heart with His love and peace this holiday season!