Posted in Life, Uncategorized

In Awesome Wonder

 

Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.

~ Psalm 98:8-9


 

In an imaginary dream life, I might have been a naturalist.

 

My love of all things nature often baffles those closest to me, including my husband, who now only shakes his head when I’m frantically rescuing a lizard from the flood, mourning over a dove snatched from our yard by the neighborhood hawk, or asking him to build a warm goat barn for my two little Alaskan goats (true story).

 

Spending the last 13 years in Alaska, we were greeted each day by a certain kind of unparalleled beauty. First and second and third time visitors were always in awe. One of our visitors broke into strains of “How Great Thou Art” as he gazed upon Bridal Falls on the road to Valdez.

 

How fitting.

 

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made.
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed.

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee,
How great thou art!
How great thou art!*

 

It was Alaska that confirmed my insignificance in relation to the cosmos. Dwarfed on all sides by her ice-capped peaks, waking each morning in the shadow of Mount Drum (12,000 ft), we lived at the actual top of the world.

 

In midwinter’s 40-below nights, we looked out at a billion crystal stars, the Northern lights dancing overhead.

 

I felt so small.

 

Every day God reveals His awe-inspiring power in those stars that He simply spoke into existence, in the mountains and valleys and streams He declares good. I am allowed to see Him as the master Designer in His creation – in its microscopic perfection, its uncontainable power, its symbiotic nature and its fluid rhythm.

 

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  ~ Psalm 19:1

 

This week, take a few moments to notice His creation. The unblemished perfection of His flowers. The complex life of His pollinating bees. The unstoppable rushing of His rivers. The invisible potential of His wind.

 

We are so small, a part of something so big; and, yet, He cares for and loves each and every one of us individually.

 

Thank you, Lord.

 

How great Thou art!

 


 

Isaiah 44:23

Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.

 

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

 


 

Today He declares throughout creation: it is a GOOD day!

Natalie

* “How Great Thou Art” – Carl G. Boberg (1859-1940)

 

 

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Everyday Beautiful

“’Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.’”

~ A. Milne


 

Our holiday this year was great . . . amazing actually. Many of you know what it’s like to have your children away at college and then, suddenly, at Christmas the whole gang is together again. Quite frankly, it’s magical.

 

For me, the pain of separation feels especially sharp because our family situation – living in rural Alaska and homeschooling for so many years –  knit our family closely together. So when I knew our middle son was finishing that last day of school, our youngest was closing his books, and our daughter was on her way shortly on a flight from Virginia . . . well, I could hardly sleep.

 

We had such a great Christmas Eve and Day, filled with the traditions we embraced those many years in Alaska. But as the boys now start school again and our daughter flies back to her college life, I realize the memories I’ll treasure most from this Christmas aren’t the perfectly planned meals, the opening of thoughtfully chosen gifts or the addition of our decorations to a new-to-us house.

 

I’ll treasure the everyday times.

 

Watching “The Polar Express” in our PJs, eating homemade pizza. Picnic-ing after a trip to the zoo. Watching nonstop football together on New Year’s Day, everyone cheering for their favorite team. Playing switched-up teams of Taboo around the kitchen table.

 

Talking and talking . . . and talking.

 

I think Jesus and His disciples must have felt this way. While we read about Jesus’ divine miracles and the profound truths He taught, I have to believe that, in His fully-human state, He did lots of everyday things, too.  Did He experience joy as He sat down for a very everyday dinner with His disciples? Did He look around the table and think, “Ahhh. . .this is happiness.”? Did He feel sadness when one of the disciples was missing for a meal or was absent from a discussion?

 

We are told that He knows our joys – our everyday being with the people we love. And He knows our sorrows – when the everyday changes and we don’t want it to. He understands.

 

So enjoy the quiet dinner with your spouse. The walk with your grandchild. The call from your mother. These are the everyday moments.

 

And I’ll store up my Christmas moments, treasuring them as my everyday changes yet again. And then I’ll treasure the new everyday moments too.

 

Because it’s all everyday beautiful.

 

 

Posted in Life, Prayer, Uncategorized

Harvey Imprints

Images imprinted on my mind forever:

Volunteers bringing their boats to help with rescues – asked to write name, social security number and next of kin on their arms in case they are lost in their rescue attempts;

A nursing home living area full of residents – one sitting in a recliner, submerged in water to her waist, awaiting rescue;

Signs posted on every bridge and flashed across TV, social media, and on radio announcements throughout the storm:
TURN AROUND. DON’T DROWN.

A middle-aged lady in a just-reopened Kroger saying she waited until the end of the day to come for her few necessities, “Mamas with their babies should be in line first.”

A rescuer coming in on his boat carrying a small fawn – It had gotten on a roof and I couldn’t just leave it there.

A mandatory curfew imposed on the city – no tolerance for looters – a handwritten neighborhood sign: You loot. We shoot.
 

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These images on television, my own rising water out the back door. Even as the water began to recede in my backyard, it only rose in others. We went to a sweet friend’s house to help pull soaked mattresses and soggy clothes and waterlogged toys of out of her home – 3 1/2 feet of water, possessions already molding – they lost everything except each other. Their street was piled with the accumulated belongings of every house . . . heaped mountains of personal effects.

I said to Steven on our ride back from her house (12 miles that took 2 hours because of road closures and flooded streets), “Will life ever feel normal again?” At Home Depot we were buying masks and coveralls and bleach when we should have been buying rakes and autumn yard flags. The huge display of fall mums looked out of place – who could buy flowers when your neighbor didn’t have a place to live?

When the emergency alarms went off post-hurricane on Thursday, my heart stopped and I burst into tears…it was only a test of the system. I’d heard those alarms simultaneously on the TV and every device we have, every few hours for four days: hurricane warnings, flash flooding, tornadoes.

I do believe that life will one day return to some kind of normalcy, but it may be a while and it may look different. God will heal the fear, the hurt, the loss because He cares. He will allow us to again see the beauty of fall mums and gentle rains and neighbors helping neighbors. He is teaching us what we value most: how quickly we can let go of things and hold tightly to people. He sees and is working in each and every circumstance.

And so He calls us to trust Him in the recovery . . .

He is God – in and out – of the storm.

Stand firm.
Today is a GOOD day!
~ Natalie
Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Evidence Not Seen – a book review

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War I

A book review

 

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“More than ten years ago I began to write the story of my experiences during World War II for Bruce and Brian, my sons. I wished them to know, if ever difficult circumstances came into their lives, that their mother’s God is still alive and very well, and His arm has never lost its ancient power!” – Darlene Deibler Rose


 

In 1937, Rev. Russell Deibler and his new wife, Darlene Deibler, landed in New Guinea to begin their missionary work there. But their service together was short-lived. When World War II reached the island, they were sent to separate Japanese work camps.

Darlene Deibler Rose (she remarried as a widow) shares the story her life during that time in Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. For almost four years, Rose suffered in the labor camp at Kampili: disease, bombings, torture, terror. She endured unspeakable things, yet she chose to share them with the world, not as evidence of the cruelty of people, but as a testimony to the faithfulness of God.

I found the book both difficult to read (because of her honest retelling of the cruelty) and difficult to put down (because her story is so compelling). Many are familiar with Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. And while I expected this book to be similar, I found that it was mostly not. Rose has her own story to tell and it differs from Ms. Ten Boom’s in both setting and experience. However, like The Hiding Place, the reader gains much, feels much, when reading Rose’s account.

Rose affirms God’s faithfulness in the darkest of circumstances and leads us down a path lighted by forgiveness and unconditional love for all people. She does not treat her trials lightly; to do so would minimize her dependency on the Lord. But she has her sights set on eternity, and through her story so honestly told, she offers glimpses of eternity to her readers.

And these glimpses are a most extraordinary offering to the world.

Evidence Not Seen is a wonderful read and highly recommended.

Today is a GOOD day!

~Natalie

Posted in Life, Prayer, Uncategorized

Feel the Wonderful

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. ~ Psalm 65:8

When did I stop noticing?

What are the tiresome distractions that pull my gaze down, preventing my attention from being captivated by the wonders He puts on show day after day after day…

a spectacularly radiant sunrise;

trembling green leaves on the aspen’s branches in my backyard;

the cheerful call of a song sparrow on the front porch swing;

the clean, fresh smell of my neighbor’s just-mown grass;

the laughing blue eyes of a mischievous child…

It’s easy to push these aside as everyday occurrences. We forget that every single sunrise is a miraculous visual symphony we could never conduct; every intricate snowflake an impossibly complicated design.

God spoke the living world into being, everything untouched and true, a never-before-seen mystery of astounding originals. One day on the Creator’s earth, the very first whale breached in the cool saltiness of the very first watery ocean in the light of the only sun that ever was or has ever been.

Wonder of wonders.


There is little need that I should tell you of God,
For every thing speaks of him.
Every field is like an open book;
every painted flower hath a lesson
written on its leaves.
Every murmuring brook hath a tongue;
a voice is in every whispering wind.
They all speak of him who made them;
they all tell us, He is very good.
We cannot see God, for he is invisible;
but we can see his works,
and worship his footsteps in the green sod.

~ From Hymns in Prose for Children by Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Today is a WONDER-FILLED, GOOD day!
~Natalie

Posted in Life, Prayer, Uncategorized

Beautifully . . .

Do you think of yourself as an artist? If not, you might reconsider. Made in the image of God, we are indeed, artists. Not of His capacity, of course. He created all original, astonishing things. Light. Armadillos. Wind. Kiwis (the bird and the fruit). Purple.

Yet even within our human limitations, we are artistic. A synonym study shares that “art implies a personal, unanalyzable creative power”. So maybe you’re not a painter or a sculptor or a photographer, but what are you doing beautifully . . . artfully?

Some of us are:

Organizing our offices and homes

Molding Play-doh with our children or grandchildren

Preparing meals for shut-ins

Teaching 8-year-olds to swing a golf club or throw a pitch

Serving lunch in our local soup kitchen

Maybe we’re building a deck or making a casserole for our neighbor next door. At our best, when we make our way through our work artistically, we reflect in our own limited way the Creator’s commitment to excellence. And while we fall short of His perfection, our whole-hearted attempts glorify Him nonetheless.

Mother Teresa said, “There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.”

“Do it as beautifully as possible.” 

The way I spend my time here on earth is my creative offering to God.

So grill the steak and arrange the flowers – beautifully. Visit your friend in the hospital and pick up your grandchild in the carpool line – beautifully. Hold the hand of your dying parent and make up your toddler’s bed and ask the elderly man standing in line at the deli counter how his day is – beautifully.

Because today you have creative moments to live.

Live them . . . beautifully.

~ Natalie

Today is a GOOD day!

Posted in Life

Waiting

Waiting.

We do it in the grocery store. We do it in the carpool line. We do it at the four-way stop.

We wait in the morning, at noon, at night.

We wait for the next step, the better life, the greater good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m doing with all of this waiting.

As my life continues its unfaltering pace, I often overlook the perfect opportunity right in front of me . . . because I am waiting. And, to be honest, I’m waiting for what is really an unknown future. And when this future comes, I’m pretty sure I will have moved on to waiting for the next thing.

If time is endlessly pressing forward, why do we so often shut down, stand stagnant…and wait?

I believe God insists that we use our waiting time wisely. His plans are unfolding not just in the future – but right NOW.

Every morning we wake up and, not knowing what will actually happen that day, we actively make this decision: we can live expectantly for the next 24 hours taking advantage of what God places in front of us, or we can do nothing, stuck waiting for the future. This day may bring great joy, great sorrow, great wonder or great confusion. But present in these circumstances are God-given opportunities that will not be the same tomorrow. How sad that I might miss my today moments – possibly the chance to make a difference in someone’s life – because I’m too busy waiting!

For sure, the future belongs to God – our future is His. But today, He calls us to be in the present, expecting Him here, too.

Let’s live out our waiting . . .

~ Natalie

Today is a GOOD day!

 

If you’d like to receive my weekly A Simple Note in your inbox, subscribe here:

Posted in Life, Prayer, Uncategorized, Writing

A Simple Note

Thank you so much for visiting my site! As I settle back into some writing after a short break, I’ve thought about ways I can connect with you.

Would you like to receive a short weekly e-letter of encouragement?

Currently, I am sending out a personal letter each week A Simple Note –  to those who’d like to receive it.

 This short, weekly letter includes:

  • a brief and sincere reflection – a thought for the day
  • a prayer focus to think and pray about
  • and sometimes a small tidbit that’s of interest

It’s short and sweet, a bit of encouragement for the day.

If you’re interested, you can subscribe here: 

 

Thanks again for visiting – it means so much!  And, as always, I welcome your questions and comments!

~ Natalie

Today is a GOOD day!

 

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Our Mission Today . . . And Every Day

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Our church recently adopted the slogan “Life is Mission!” I love this, because it speaks truth. If we follow Jesus’ example, our life should be missional every single day.

What is it to live missionally? It’s really not that difficult. It’s simply this: sharing the love of Christ.

Mission happens in our everyday coming and going, working, conversations, meals around the table, running errands. It’s not a special permission field trip or an icalendar reminder to “do missions.” It’s how we live our lives.

Daily mission is the teacher listening with full attention to a child who has an uncaring home life . . . the teen boy rolling a cart of groceries over unsteady gravel for an elderly lady . . . the young couple buying a cup of coffee for the man outside Starbucks asking for change . . . the empty nester calling the shut-in just to talk and encourage for a few minutes.

Loving others is our life’s work. Everything we do in life either positions us to this end or just makes noise.

It is true that living on mission will most likely cost us: time, money, popularity, personal space. Some days we’ll want to throw in the towel, questioning our life’s purpose. But eventually the light of living in the fullness God intends will shine so brightly that the cost will grow increasingly dim.

If you choose to live on mission, your life won’t be satisfied with a single unselfish act. Your missional life will ask more of you, as it builds and grows. Your mission mindset will gain purpose and vitality; it will become persistent, day in and day out, until finally, it will be your life . . .

And then you will know: Mission is your life; life is mission!

Today is a good day!

~Natalie

(article also posted on The Arctic Travelogue)