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

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

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

Another Chance to Meet the One

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Whenever I have a book table at a craft fair (almost always it’s with my friend and fellow author Sandra Ardoin), I’m on the lookout for “the one” the Lord brings near me.

“The one” is always that person the Lord wants to bless, encourage, or comfort through me. It really has nothing to do with me. I’m just a pipe and I am very grateful for that. What He does for the loved one He sends to me is absolutely beautiful to watch.

A couple of weekends ago, I was at the First Baptist Church Holiday Faire with Sandra and I never did see the one. I kept looking, kept expecting, but never did see who it was.

No matter. Sandra and I will be at another craft fair this Saturday. I’m praying “the one” will be there.

That interaction blesses me more than you can imagine. It’s the place where my dearest Lord Jesus fulfills this for me:

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

The oil of joy instead of mourning,

And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

When He pours out His Spirit through me and gives hope to one of His loved ones who is hurting, it feels like life itself is flowing and shining all around us. It is beyond description.

My friend, if you are hurting today, if you’ve suffered loss or disappointment, or you are just tired from the stress of life, do this one thing: ask the Lord to bring you someone else who is in pain. Tell that person about how beautiful Jesus is, and what He has done for us.

Then let me know how the Lord blessed you when He poured out His Spirit through you.

And if you are “the one” I am going to meet this Saturday, I pray that you are already feeling your Heavenly Father wrap you in that warm garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.

Much love to you – the love of Jesus, the perfect love that casts out all fear.

Phyllis Keels

A Gift of Hope

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Recently while on my way to work, I noticed a new memorial cross on the side of the road. It was where someone’s loved one had died from a car accident. I remember the aftermath of that one. I remember most of them.

I notice them because almost every day for the last five and a half years, I’ve driven by the place where my daughter Julie wrecked. Not by choice, but because it’s not far from my house and to get anywhere, I have to go that way.

Not long after Julie’s death, my son built a beautiful wooden cross and placed it where his sister wrecked. It stayed there for a long while. It was a precious gift of love in her memory.

So when I passed by that new memorial crosses I mentioned earlier, I had a thought. Whenever I come upon one of those memorials, what if I leave one of my devotion books for the family of the loved ones? I have plenty of books. I could leave one as a gift. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.

I think I’ll put a stash of them in my car, along with some zip top plastic bags so the books don’t get wet in the rain. Maybe the gesture will give the family another memory to hold onto when they pass by the place where their loved one died.

Maybe instead of the claws of grief, they will feel the warm rays of hope.

Maybe the book will remind them that their Heavenly Father knows how much they are hurting, and that He wants to comfort them. Maybe it will help them heal, knowing they are not alone. Maybe, they will receive the love the Lord Jesus wants to give them.

Maybe they will feel the Lord’s strong arms upholding them like He has done for me all these years. Maybe, just maybe, they will get to see a glimpse of how beautiful their loved one is now, in the presence of the King of Kings. And maybe that will turn their mourning into joy.

I hope so. I most definitely hope so.

Phyllis Keels

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 titled “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 think of it when something reminds me of that song.

The photo above 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 the valley of the shadow of death.

Memories of that valley 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 – just 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.

Phyllis Keels

See You Again

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

In the family of God, we use the terms “brother in Christ” and “sister in Christ” a lot to describe fellow believers. Sometimes we say this without thinking. Other times, we know exactly what that means.

Often there are “brothers and sisters in Christ” who truly live that role.

Like a physical family, we may not always agree with each other. We may even butt heads at times, and we may not see each other every day. But when we need Godly counsel and insight (wisdom from the Lord), these people are often the first we go to for help.

When we ask them to pray for us, they stop right there and pray with us. When we need guidance, they patiently listen while we “vent” our frustration or anger. When we need to cry, they hand us the ever-present box of tissues on their desk for just such an occasion.

These brothers and sisters are more than just people who believe like we do. They are kindred spirits, they are under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, and they take care of their “family.”

Last week I said goodbye to a true brother in Christ. Two days ago, he went home to be with the Lord.

For fifteen years he listened while I “vented.” He laughed with me, prayed with me, and shared the storehouse of wisdom the Lord had given him.

He taught me what it means to be a caring leader and a servant of Jesus. He did this by his actions and his behavior, and by his unwavering faith each day.

While I know that my brother in Christ is now with the Lord, and is whole, fully alive, and leaping in joy – I will miss him so much.

I will miss his ready laugh, his minute attention to order and neatness, his wise counsel and his caring heart.

Most of all, I will miss his friendship. But I rejoice that he is free, he is complete, and he is basking in the shining love on the face of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And I rejoice in my last words to him, which are the truth that comforts my sad heart: I will see you again, my brother. I will see you again.

Phyllis Keels

The Ministry of the One

My mom has been in the hospital since last Friday and the Lord sweetly reminded me of this post written last November. I think because right now, my precious mom is the “one” I can minister to.

I pray this blesses you, dear friend.

(Written November 18, 2015)

On November 7th, I was at my church’s Holiday Faire. A dear friend (who is a fine author and has been a mentor to me for many years) and I rented a space together to sell our books.

During these types of events, I know by now that the Lord brings one person to me – the one I’m there to bless, encourage, comfort. Sometimes He brings many people, but there will always be “the one” who needs His touch more than all the others.

Please understand this is not about me. The Lord can minister to anyone without having to go through us. He graciously allows me to be present when He does this, and that is a great joy to me. It is like a sweet fragrance to my broken heart and I am always grateful for His kindness to me in this.

I kept looking for “the one” throughout that day. Then, just about the time I remembered that sometimes I don’t know who “the one” is, (but He knows) she showed up.

Ten minutes before closing that day, a young woman came our table. She picked up my children’s book “Emma and the Paper” and asked if it had anything about Jesus in it.

It was all I could do not to jump out of my chair. There she is, I thought. After I answered her question and told her about the book, she pointed to the children’s book Kimberly Rae wrote, the one I illustrated for her: “When I’m With Jesus,” written for children who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

That’s when this young mother shared with me that her 3-month-old son had died in a car accident earlier this year. That’s when the last shred of wondering whether she was “the one” disappeared like a mist in a summer breeze.

The brokenness was all over her. The terrible, consuming, terrifying grief… I wanted to wrap her in a warm blanket of God’s love and let her sleep peacefully until she can breathe again.

I shared with her that my daughter also died from her injuries in a car accident, so she would really understand that I cared about her grief. I was able to give her a devotion book for her, and the “When I’m With Jesus” book for her 3-year-old daughter who is still grieving for her little brother.

I gave her my contact information and told her I would pray for her, and that she could call me or email me anytime. She may never want to, but often just knowing that you can is enough.

I left the Holiday Faire that day thanking my Heavenly Father for bringing “the one” near me – the wounded lamb who just needed to know that the Good Shepherd has not moved from her side, even though she can’t see Him.

That lamb is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but she is no longer alone, nor will she ever be again.

Soon I will be with my dear friend, sharing a book table at another church’s craft fair. I’ll be watching for the next “one.” I may not know who you are, but the Lord knows.

So come, whoever you are. Jesus will walk with you though it, friend. He will walk with you through it, because He is all about “the one.”

Phyllis Keels

This Little Drop in the Ocean

My best friend spoke at a conference last Friday at the beach and she invited me to spend the weekend there with her. It was such a lovely time, and it reminded me of another time that she, my sister, and I spent at the beach the year my daughter died.

Here is the post from that sweet weekend. I pray this blesses you, dear friend.

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My sweet best friend took my sister and me to the beach this weekend. My sister said it best when we were coming home. She said she couldn’t remember a more pleasant weekend. I agree.

I needed to get away for a few days. Not from anyone or anything, but somewhere I could just be. It was really, really nice.

I went out on the beach early Saturday morning and got to see the sunrise. It made me think of Julie. Everyone on the beach was taking pictures of it. I did too. But come to think of it, Julie never did like to get up early. She was a night owl.

But she did like the beach. My sister and I made a sand castle for Julie. We make the kind where you let the wet sand drip from your fingers and create spires of different shapes. Julie called them drippy castles. It was one of her favorite things to do at the beach.

I really missed her this weekend. I missed my dad too. My first memory of the beach is of him helping me bring a bucket of sand up to the beach house we were staying in. The sand had little butterfly clams in it and I wanted to keep them.

I remember once walking behind him on the beach and I had to jump to be able to walk in his footsteps. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped wanting to walk in his footsteps. He was such a wonderful dad. I miss him so much.

When I stepped out on the beach this weekend, I felt the same way I did the very first time. The memories of all the times I’ve had there came rushing over me like the salty breeze. They were not harsh though. They were as soft as the sand under my feet and as cooling as the ocean water.

It was sad and I missed Julie and Daddy. You can’t go back no matter how much you want to. I couldn’t go back even if they were still alive. I couldn’t go back to when I was a child running after my dad. I couldn’t go back to when Julie and Alan were running after me and their dad.

But I did thank my heavenly Father for giving me the time this weekend to remember sweet moments, for filling my senses with the sounds and smells that make memories come alive. I did thank Him for giving me such a loving father and a loving daughter, and for all the times we had together.

I thanked him for my family and friends who take such wonderful care of me, who help me while I grieve, and love me no matter what.

Most of all I thanked Him for being so kind to me. When I look out over the ocean and see again how small I am, I can’t help but fall on my knees in gratitude. Of all the things He could love, why on earth does He love me?

I don’t know why, but I know He does. And He does so each moment of my life. Me, this little drop in the ocean.

Phyllis Keels