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


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

Seeing What He Sees

Photo by Kim Lance - used by permission

“Nothing but blue skies do I see.” Photo by Kim Lance. Used by permission

I am so excited to let you know that Kim Lance is graciously allowing me to use some of her photos on my blog! Some of you may be doing the happy dance right now since I seem to use the same old photos over and over!

Kim’s Facebook page called Aperture of the Soul is full of her talent. I hope you’ll click the photo above and check out her beautiful work.

I’m convinced that Kim is anointed because her photos have that “pull you in” quality that I always look for in artwork of any kind. Most people can take a good photo. Some people can paint or draw a good picture, but few people can touch your soul so that you feel an emotion when looking at their artwork. Kim is one of those people.

One reason I admire that quality in others is because my daughter had it. Her photos were like standing in front of a portal that could take you to another place. So each time I look at Kim’s photos, I think of my daughter Julie and how gifted she was.

You might be reading this and thinking that you’re not gifted. You can’t draw, paint, photograph, write music, etc. You may see only your brokenness, your pain, or your lack.

While I understand that feeling, I need for you to know that you are most certainly gifted in something. I need to know that your Heavenly Father sees something else in you.

How do I know? Because we are made in the image of God. What that means to me is that He put something of Himself in us. Our Heavenly Father is the most beautiful, the most blessed, the most everything that is good. Even the tiniest bit of Himself in us means that we are gifted.

Think for a moment about whether you’ve ever comforted someone who is grieving, whether you’ve made someone laugh, whether you’ve seen a financial need someone had and you slipped money into his pocket.

Gifts come in many forms. Not all of them are visible, but they are all valuable.

If you don’t know what your gift is, please ask your Heavenly Father to show you. He gave you something unique to bring you joy and to bless you, and others. He is faithful. He will show you.

I pray that you will ask Him soon and that just as soon you will be enjoying a brand new connection to and appreciation for the One who loves you more than you can imagine.

Phyllis Keels

When The Waves Come

The following is a previously posted entry titled “Hummingbird.”

Photo by Julie Keels, copyright Phyllis Keels

Photo by Julie Keels, copyright Phyllis Keels

If you’ve lost someone you love, you will understand what I’m about to say. Sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, a wave of missing your loved one knocks you flat, like a wave of the sea does when your back is turned to it.

That happened to me one evening. I was watching a watercolor artist on PBS. It wasn’t his paintings that caused the wave. It was the part about how he photographs landscapes so he can paint them in his studio.

I don’t know if it was the sweet music playing in the background, or his love of capturing the perfect scene in the perfect light, but all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with sadness for my sweet daughter.

Watching that man with his camera was like watching Julie take photos. She was a gifted photographer. Really. Her photos drew you in. They all had a little bit of her personality in them. Even today, I can’t look at them without feeling like I’m being ripped apart inside.

I wish I could share all of her photos with you so you’d know what I’m talking about, but the one above of the hummingbird has Julie all over it.

After I turned the TV off that day, I wept for her again. I got out her portfolio and looked through some of her photos and cried until I had trouble stopping. I guess I needed that, even though it is like going through her death all over again.

While I’m aware that I will grieve for Julie as long as I have breath, I still get knocked down by the grief every now and then. Why? I don’t really know, but it made me remember that other people get knocked down too. So I’m sharing what helps me during those times.

Though, I don’t know why a strong wave comes like that, I do know what to do when it does come. I tell my Heavenly Father in all honesty that I miss my baby. I tell Him that I don’t understand how she can be gone. I tell Him that my heart is broken in this pain beyond my ability to bear it.

Then, I thank Him for letting me be her mother. I thank Him for all the years I had with her. I thank Him, that she will never have to suffer any hardship ever again.

Most of all, I thank Him for showing me how much He loves me, for holding me close all the time, for letting me hear His voice, and feel His presence. I thank Him for letting me know the truth: that He is so much bigger than anything I can imagine, and that He never breaks His promises.

What is His promise to me? It’s the same as His promise to you: He will never leave you or forsake you.

He proved it when He sent Jesus our Good Shepherd. He is still proving it when the wave comes, because He is the One who lifts me up. Then, like the hummingbird photo, He lets me drink the sweetness of His love that strengthens me and gives me joy, even in the waves of grief.

Phyllis Keels