Here’s To The Moments

Goodness, I love the beach! I saw this photo of Kim Lance’s and it took me right back to my childhood.

My family used to go to the beach once a year, and for me, it was almost better than Christmas. We had all these traditions that went along with our beach trip: same general area of the beach, same types of beach towels and sand buckets/shovels.

We took the same kind of food, and went to the same ice cream place. We had the same routine each day: up early, ate breakfast, played on the beach, ate lunch, took a nap, played on the beach, ate dinner, and collapsed. It was so great!

The best part of the whole thing was seeing my dad relax. When I was young, my dad was a high-powered, driven, chemical engineer. He worked a lot. He had to take several business trips over the years. But when he was at the beach, he was a different person.

Dad played with us. He didn’t work on anything. He laughed more, and it was wonderful to see him smile so much.

When I grew up, I often wondered why life couldn’t have been more like that all the time. Not that it was bad. It was just not that relaxed. Sometimes I long for those days. There have been many times when I’ve said, “I want to go to the beach, but I want to go when I was a kid.”

I know we usually remember the good when looking back, but honestly, it really was that good. Sure, I want to go to the beach when I was a kid because I didn’t have to pack anything, cook anything, or be responsible for anything! All I had to do was play.

But that’s not really why I would love to go back there. It was the joy of being all together with nothing pulling us away from each other. It was some concentrated, lovely family time.

Even now, the memory of my dad’s carefree laugh makes me cry grateful tears. To have heard it once would have been enough, and I heard it many times.

I know last week, I wrote about not living in the past or the future, but in the now. And here I am writing about the past. The past is not bad; it’s just not now and we can’t try to live in it. But the past does help make us who we are. And if we think about it, those memories can help turn “now” into a lovely moment.

I miss my dad, and I miss my daughter. But they will never be farther away than a moment when I remember them and the time we had together.

Here’s to the sweet moments of the past that give light and color to today and keep our hearts full of gratitude for every kindness from the Lord.

Phyllis Keels

Song of the Stream Book Launch

 

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We have a book launch! Well, almost.

I tried to get everything ready so the book would be up for sale on Amazon by today, but it may be another day or two before it appears there.

I’ll do a separate post when the book is available. Thank you for all the encouragement and kind words already. I pray that the book will be a blessing to you soon!

Phyllis Keels

Hearing the Music

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Well, I’m a little bit behind schedule on the new devotion book, but I’m close. Really close! The book will be up for sale on Amazon before the end of this month.

As I worked on formatting this book, I was able to experience it the way a reader would. I let the words and the beautiful photographs minister to me. The result was a sweet sense of peace and a fullness of the love of our Heavenly Father. It was wonderful and I really needed it.

This should tell you that the Holy Spirit is all in this little book. How could I write something that would comfort me? Only the Holy Spirit can breathe words that give life after you’ve seen death.

When you lose a loved one, everything changes. The way you thought life would be is no more. The music of the future you once anticipated is dead and suddenly it seems there is nothing left but black silence.

But if you listen you will hear it: the Song of the Stream; the river of Living Water flowing toward you; the sound of life itself bringing hope to your broken heart.

Let the Lord Jesus minister to you, friend. Let Him surround you with refreshing and hope. You probably think you’ll never be able to stop crying, much less smile again. I am here to tell you that you will smile, though your smile will be different. It will be real and it will shine compassion on someone else who is trying to hear the music.

Phyllis Keels

The Song of the Stream, written by Phyllis Keels, with photos by Kim Lance, will be available on Amazon soon.

Walk As If

“If” is one of the biggest little words in our language, isn’t it? If I have enough money, I’ll buy this. If things work out the way I want, then I’ll be happy. If I get time, I’ll do the things on the list. If…

It is the hook on which hangs the thing you want, but you just can’t reach it.

It’s a big word unless you put it in its place.

Faith is what puts “if” in perspective. Faith calls those things that are not as though they are. Faith sees the invisible, not the visible. Anybody can acknowledge the visible. Faith is the infrared glasses that let you see what you couldn’t see before.

The truth is that we’ve been given everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. The Amplified Bible Classic puts it like this:

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). (2 Peter 1:3, AMPC)

He has bestowed, has given. Past tense. These things have been given to us.

Whether we feel or see these things or not is irrelevant. We have them in Christ Jesus. This is where we walk “as if.” This is where “if” really belongs.

Walk as if you already have what you need because you do have it. Walk as if you are able to do (already) the good things you want to do, and have the good things you need because you already have what you need. Walk as if…

Six years ago today my daughter died. Today looks like a terrible reminder of the loss of my firstborn child whose life was cut off in her prime at 28. It looks bad. If she had not died…

But today (like yesterday and every other day) I will walk as if. I will walk as if she is whole and alive and breathtakingly beautiful. Why? Because she is.

She lives. She just doesn’t live here anymore. She lives somewhere else, and in that place she will never suffer again. She is full of joy and peace and real life.

The eyes of faith don’t deny the difficulty. They just look up and see beyond the difficulty to where reality is clear. They look through the window knowing that there is more out there than can be seen through that little window.

Walk as if you are loved – because you are. Walk as if you have strength – because you do. Walk as if wonderful things pave your way – because they do.

Walk as if the Good Shepherd Jesus holds you hand – because He does dear friend. He does.

Phyllis Keels

A New Devotion Book

I’ve been working on a new devotion book called The Song of the Stream that will feature Kim Lance’s beautiful photography. I’ve finished the final draft and hope to have it available for sale on Amazon by the end of this month or the first of next month.

It’s a compilation of thirty of my blog posts over the last few years – the ones you shared the most, the ones you said encouraged you, comforted you, or gave you hope.

It is designed to help you hear that lovely song of the stream over your grief.

I’ll write a post when the book is available. Until then, here is an excerpt that I hope will bless you:

Brighten the Corner

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Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

The first time I heard the chorus of the old hymn “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” I thought the line was, “Right In the Corner Where You Are.”

I was just a kid, and I remember thinking, what? Right in the corner where you are, what? What happens?

That stuck with me over the years and I still chuckle when I think of it.

The photo here reminded me of the song. The little flower, with its “arms” held wide is brightening the corner where it is. It looks like it is dancing in the sunshine. It made me smile and the day I saw it I really needed a smile.

Shortly before seeing this photo, I heard about a young person who was in an accident over the weekend. As I prayed for the family, imaging what they were going through, suddenly my mind was back in ICU watching my 28-year-old daughter take her last breath.

When tragedy strikes someone we know, we try not to make it about us. We try to be there for others, to pray, to comfort, to minister. Even so, we can’t help but feel what we felt when we went through that dark valley.

Memories of the tragedy will sneak up on you. I was in a grocery store recently and saw a mother fussing at her teenage daughter. The mom was frustrated and said some hurtful things. I could see the daughter’s soul shrivel up. It broke my heart.

I wanted to tell the mom, “Please don’t – be gentle and help her. Enjoy every moment you have with her.” But I didn’t. Instead I prayed that the Lord would give them both what they needed in order to love one another.

If I’ve learned anything from the shattering pain that still pierces my heart each day it’s this: use everything in you to do good. Use your gifts, talents, weakness, strength, faith, and even your grief.

Take your stand and plant your feet, let your roots of faith grow a little deeper as you tell the Lord you need Him today. Trust His kind heart and know that all the riches in glory in Christ Jesus are at your disposal because of what Jesus has done for us.

Your corner may be dark today. It may be devastating to look at, but spread your arms and welcome the sunshine of your Heavenly Father’s love. There will be someone who sees and they will say that you’ve brightened the corner for them, dear friend.

The Word you can hold onto today:

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1, NKJV)

Phyllis Keels

Rescued

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Recently I was watching a PBS special about the wild side of our pets. It was so interesting. One section showed thermal imaging of a mother cat with her many nursing kittens.

The narrator said that when the kittens are very young, they can’t generate enough body heat to survive, so the mother keeps them close to her.

One kitten wandered off around a corner. Even within a few minutes, the kitten’s temperature started dropping. Finally, the kitten cried out.

The mother’s head came up, her ears perked. She stood up and went toward the lost baby’s cry. When she saw the kitten, she meowed so it would know she was near. The kitten was rescued by its good mother.

I started crying. The whole time I was watching this scene, I was thinking two things: first that nothing bad had better happen to that kitten or I would never watch PBS again.

Second: that what I had just seen reminded me of Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep. …Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Even in the animals, God has put beautiful reminders of His loving nature. He has put pictures of His Word.

I know that this parable (found in Matthew 18 and Luke 15) is used to talk about salvation in Jesus, but I think it has an additional level we often miss.

How often have you felt all alone, forgotten by God, crying out to be restored, rescued, and brought back into the warmth of the fold? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt like that.

My friend, the truth is that Jesus always knows where you are, and He is always close. We may feel like we’ve wandered off, but one cry to the Good Shepherd is all He needs to scoop you up, put you on His strong shoulders, and rejoice carrying you back to the warmth of His other sheep who care about you too. Simply allow Him to carry you.

I know what it’s like when your grief is so horrible you can hardly breathe. I know what it’s like when you wonder how you’ll make it through the next hour. And I know what it’s like to look at a black storm of swirling hopelessness around you.

Yes, that’s what it feels like, but the truth is you are loved beyond all knowledge. You are treasured beyond all treasure, and you are protected by the fierce devotion of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who laid down His life for you.

Just let Him love you, friend. Let His perfect love rescue you.

Phyllis Keels

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30 Days of Hope devotions by Phyllis Keels

Invisible Beside the Beauty

This is a revised, previously posted entry that I hope blesses you today, dear reader.

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Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

My sister, my best friend, and I used to joke that if we went anywhere with my daughter Julie, we three would be invisible next to her. It was true. Julie was so beautiful that when people saw her they didn’t even know we were there.

That was a little depressing the first time I realized it, but after a while it was funny. Actually, the funny thing was that Julie never thought she looked good enough. Good enough for what, I don’t know.

I always thought she was completely lovely. She was a rare beauty. But before she went anywhere, she would change clothes many times in order to feel all right about the way she looked.

There was nothing wrong with how she looked in any outfit that she chose. I know her anxiety was from the turmoil on the inside. I know this because she didn’t fret about it after the Lord healed her anger and gave her peace.

I was thinking that it was kind of nice to be invisible beside Julie’s beauty. It reminded me of the freedom of standing in the presence of the beauty of Jesus, the holy Lamb of God.

He is more beautiful than anything we have seen on this earth. One day we will kneel before that beauty and be able to praise Him face to face. But in the meantime I see glimpses of His lovely face each day as He walks me through this life since Julie went to be with Him.

He keeps showing me that He is actively working for my good every day. He never stops laying the stones of the path for me to walk. I never have to worry that He has wandered from me. He is always right here with me.

Being invisible beside Him is a joy. The more I’m with Him the more I want to look at Him; the more I want to stay as close to His beauty as I can get.

Besides, He is the One doing the work. He is the One I want people to see. Yes, He is beautiful One, and I am grateful to be in His presence. And like King David, I say,

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, KJV)

Phyllis Keels

The Most Favorite

This is a previously posted entry that I pray blesses you, dear reader.

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Image by Phyllis Keels, copyright 2013, from “When I’m With Jesus” written by Kimberly Rae

I have a dear friend who sometimes has four big dogs at her house at once. Two dogs live there, and two often come for “doggie daycare.” When I visit my friend, I love it if the dogs are in the yard when I drive up.

They crowd next to the door and all want to get to me. It is several moments before I am able to get out of the car, but I don’t mind at all. In fact, I love it!

Nothing makes you feel loved like the nose-wrinkling smile of one, the full body wag of the second, the tongue hanging out of the third, and the “I can’t get close enough to you” of the fourth.

Each time they greet me, I can almost hear their thoughts. “You’re here! You’re here!” I imagine them saying.

I wouldn’t care if they were all covered in mud. I wouldn’t care if there were twice as many of them. What they display is unbridled joy. And it’s all for me.

Sure, I know they greet everyone like that, but when they are greeting me, I feel like their favorite person in the world. They are a beautiful extension of my friend and her family and the warm welcome I always receive whenever I visit.

I can’t help but think that when the host of heaven welcomes someone who has died, the joy must be like that. “You’re here! You’re here!” they will shout.

Surely they surround the loved one we are grieving for, and give him or her the warmest welcome, making them feel like the most favorite person in the world.

Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven over 1 sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance. I imagine this is due to one thing: the sinner acknowledges his need for a Savior. The “righteous person” does not.

The truth is that we all need a Savior. Receiving Him is simply a matter of acknowledging that need. When we think we are good, or not as bad as other people, we fall into the ranks of the 99.

My friend, there are no “righteous people.” I am convinced that Jesus spoke of those who think they are righteous.

Instead of us trying to deny how much we need a Savior, why don’t we admit the truth – there is only One who is truly righteous, and that is Jesus. He lived the perfect life so that He could give us the gift of His righteousness.

For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Romans 5:17 (Amplified Bible)

Receiving it makes you the 1 who stirs up more joy in heaven than for the other 99. It makes you the most favorite person in the world. It makes you the most welcomed.

Phyllis Keels

Then Wait a Moment

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Photo by Kim Lance (Used by permission. Click image for more of Kim’s work)

I like being at the beginning of a new year. Feels good. Having a fresh start and all that. I think I’d like it better if it started in the spring though. It’s kind of hard to get excited when everything is bleak and dreary and gray, you know?

Springtime is when everything really is new. Color comes out of hibernation and washes the earth with beauty. Yep. I think we should move the start of the year to the first day of spring.

I go through this every year because I hate winter. After the holidays I’m ready for spring. This stretch between Christmas and April is brutal. It’s cold, and everything looks like death. Gray sky. Gray grass. Gray trees.

Maybe that’s why I hate it – because it is like death. And I really hate death. It has robbed me of loved ones, even loved pets.

But you know what? Even in the dead of winter there is something new, and it might not be what you think. The Lord’s compassions are new every morning. Look:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

(Lamentations 3:19-25, NIV)

My friend, if you’re in a place where the New Year doesn’t feel new…

If you’re thinking that the bitter gall of your life will never turn sweet…

If you are without hope…

Just remember that Jesus suffered the bitter gall so that you can have the Lord’s mercy and compassion and comfort.

Then wait just a moment for the Lord’s compassion on you. He longs to shower you with the warmth of His love. He waits only for your permission to let Him love you.

Tell your Heavenly Father what you need and wait just a moment. Every single morning remind yourself that His compassion on you is new and fresh and exactly what you need for that day. And tomorrow? It will be brand new again.

Why? Because the One who loves you is faithful.

Phyllis Keels

A Word of Hope

At the suggestion of a friend, I joined a Facebook group for grieving parents. When I looked through the posts of the hundreds of people on the page, my heart broke. Post after post of terrible pain… I am so very sorry for their losses.

Many of these precious parents have recently lost their children. Their grief is very raw – just like a new physical wound. They can’t touch it, can’t move, and are frozen by it.

Not long after my daughter died I remember someone saying to me that my grief was new, raw. I didn’t understand how they could think that my grief would ever be any different than it was then. Now I understand.

No, it never goes away, but it does manifest itself differently. It always hurts, but as the years go by, you get relief here and there and you even begin to laugh again. This is unimaginable during the first months after your loss. You can hardly breathe, much less see any joy in the black hole of long, terrible years stretched out before you.

For those of you in that dark place, I want to offer you a light to warm you. I want to give you a glow of hope, and the knowledge that you are not alone.

Not only are there countless grieving parents, there are grieving spouses, and siblings, and friends. Cling to those around you who understand and can hold you up.

But more than that cling to your Heavenly Father who also had to watch His child die. He is the One who knows exactly how you feel and He is the One who can help.

My friend, the best thing you can do for yourself, and for the memory of your loved one is to keep on taking that next breath. Keep on going to the grocery store, keep on doing laundry, playing golf, whatever the next thing to do is.

Keep on doing it knowing that your Heavenly Father is taking the best care of your loved one. You see I know that my daughter is happier now than she has ever been. I know that she is shining in the love that God is showering on her. I know that she will never, ever have to suffer any pain or anguish again.

Just keep reminding yourself that your loved ones are not gone. They just live somewhere else now. That’s the truth.

You will see them again and it will be a joyous reunion. Until then, let someone comfort you. Let someone love you, and reach out to someone like you who needs a friend right now.

I love all of you who read this blog, and I pray for you often. Today may you feel the love of your Heavenly Father in Christ Jesus, and may you be comforted through and through by His Word of Hope, dear friend.

Phyllis Keels

PhyllisKeels.com