All the photos in this piece are generously provided by Photographer/Writer Gary Fultz, Unsplash.
Many companions have joined me along my way—the Way to deeper understanding of the heights of Love. Two in particular, I have named Joy and Peace.
I’ve never traveled alone. But I haven’t always been aware of these companions at the time they joined me on my journey. Seasons change, I change, my companions change, but God never changes. And we’re made in His Image!
Do you find that interesting? I do.
But after I thought about it, my ever-changing self, made by a never-changing God, made perfect sense. He sends companions to help us along as we are being molded and shaped into the never-changing Image of Christ.
Early on as a writer, God sent two women, Sarah and Lynn, a poet and a painter, to accompany me as I wrote in my cozy space. My blog back in 2015 called “Not According to Plan” was the space I moved into after I moved out of my other blog space “Sundays with Dad” and before I moved into my new website.
Sarah and Lynn’s feedback is all over my work as I go back to review the Advent pieces I have written each year since 2017. I realize how present and how important they have been to me. They kept me going when I wanted to quit.
As time moved on, so did they, but God sent new companions. They grew as my work grew. You know who you are. There are too many of you to mention by name, and I do fear forgetting someone were I to try. I know God was and is in you and that’s what matters most.
Throughout these Advent writings, although I have now lost touch with Sarah and Lynn, their words and love and presence remain deeply ingrained in me, and I am amazed at how much I have changed. And how much the world has changed.
For example, my husband has been looking for a car for my son ever since he was hit from behind on his way to work one morning, and his car was totaled. Todd is amazed at how fast and furiously what he finds sells. There is no time to do one’s “due diligence”. The car is available when you make the trek to check it out, and gone before you make your way back home.
It’s no longer about just needing a car to drive, the internet has made buying and selling cars into a commodity. The time or two Todd has made a purchase on good faith alone, it hasn’t turned out too well.
And yet, I can see how God uses it all. Nothing is wasted.
It’s been an opportunity for my son to see my husband’s faithful pursuit on his behalf. I’ve watched how their love and trust for each has grown. Love and trust had let them both down in their young lives, and second families as a step child and step parent can be hard. But it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Their love.
All this to say, I see God working in the small things, even in the irritating small things, turning them into the best things.
I think of the book, “Hinds’ Feet on High Places” and the longing to be led into the deeper love that takes us to the heights of Love. Poor Much-Afraid, the protagonist, who walks with a limp, has two companions on her journey. She traverses through her fears and the dangers surrounding her as the loving Shepherd is always watching over her, even when she feels alone—especially when she feels alone—just as He is watching over you and me.
This past week there were times when I felt such a furious fury descending over and around me, and I found myself asking how to bar the gates of my soul, just as I wanted Much-Afraid to be able to bar hers. I want to follow my Shepherd to the high places. I want Him to guide me and when I lose my sense of peace I lose my sight of him. “Please send a rope, Lord!” I cried out, “My hope is slipping!”
When the storms create white space like that of a Midwest blizzard around us, we can’t find our way through without a good rope. And like a rope, the Word of the Lord came to me then, saying, just as God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He leads us. Just as they were sacred to Him, so are we.
“You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory.” Don’t you find that comforting? “Whom have I in heaven but you? The earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Psalm 73: 23-25.
Those words tie right into David saying, “Away from me you bloodthirsty men!” in Psalm 139:19. And also into Jesus saying, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers,” in Matthew 7:23. And so I say, “Away from me what or whomever is not God’s Will for me.”
So, the Advent journey continues, and God has already sent along two new companions, Nancy and Debbie. I have named them Joy and Peace because that’s what their words were to me following “Hope in Hard Places”, my first Advent 2023 post. Joy (Nancy Erickson) wrote:
“When one experiences the shoots of new growth and a gentler peace and a release of trying to prove I’m someone special, and quietly lets God refinish remaking the masterpiece He has in mind for me—there is hope! When we get a peek at His plan, we get excited. His plans are perfect.”
After reading her words, Isaiah 11 practically jumped off the page at me. I know Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus when he wrote, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” I know Jesus is that new Branch.
But I also know that we are the branches and He is the Vine, rooted in Him we keep growing. As the Spirit of the Lord rested on Him, His Spirit not only rests on us, it dwells in us–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-2)
We do overcome,
We do reach the heights,
We do experience victory
When, like Much-Afraid, our fear turns to reverence.
I’ll finish where I began, sharing what Peace (Debbie Burdick) so beautifully wrote to me:
“I remember your advent posts! I think that might have been our original connection point. Maybe advent is a longer, more time-encompassing season than we realize. It’s defined by dates, true, and observed fresh every year. But the virtues of advent – hope, love, joy, and peace – shine brightest in dark, uncertain times and reveal themselves in unexpected places. The word itself means ‘to come to.’ So it’s a journey far more than just a destination. Keep writing. I think you already have exactly what you need most.”
I will continue to dig deeper to ascend nearer and nearer the heights of Christ’s Love—the steep and narrow stairway that zigs and zags around and up through icy, slippery, hilly terrains where Sorrow can become Joy, and Suffering, Peace. Will you join us?