What Can We Learn From The Autumn Leaf?

I think there is a message in the falling of leaves in Autumn.   I was out with my camera yesterday, and saw a leaf that was hanging on to the branch.  It was the only one that had turned autumn color, but still remaining on the branch.  The wind was blowing it around, up and down, and sideways.  But still it remained.

We can be a bit like that leaf.  We know a change of season is upon us, and we also know that in a change of season, we must change.  We can sense that still small whisper that tells us to move forward, and that He will take care of it and be there.  But we are like a leaf that hangs on for dear life to what it knows.  In our case it is what we have come to be comfortable with.  The leaf knows that it can sustain itself on this branch a little while longer, so its hanging on.  However, we all know what happens.  As the season moves forward, it becomes colder, and that leaf will no longer receive what it needs, because the tree itself is going into a season of rest.  The good thing?  We don’t have to be afraid of change.  We don’t see a leaf that let’s go only to fals like a brick to the ground.  Nope.  That isn’t like God.  The leaf will just float on down to the ground with a beauty all its own.  It allows the season to change its color, and then gracefully drops from the branch.

We can learn a lot from the leaf.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Change is good because it moves us forward.  We aren’t the only leaf on the tree to fall.  They will all fall at some point.  So when we feel the squeeze of change upon us, know that there are others around you sensing the same thing for themselves; that is, if they are tuned in to God and what He is doing.  You can be a support and prayer partner with those who are experiencing what you are…a step toward the unknown.  I have found when I share that with others through a prayer request, I will find many who are in the same place.  Remember as a child when the all the leaves would be swept together and you couldn’t resist falling into the pile, or throwing them up in the air?  We can rejoice with others the same way.   As we begin to recognize others who are in the midst of a move of God, we can rejoice together as we move toward a new thing. It can be a fun journey when shared.
  • We also don’t have to worry about God dropping us.  Just as the leaf gracefully falls in the wind or just floats to the ground, so God will catch us in His arms and set us on our feet on new territory.  He won’t leave us alone.  He will feel joy at our willingness to step forward into something new, give us what we need to walk it out, and lovingly walk with us along the way.
  • It will definitely change how we look. The leaves are most beautiful when they fall off the branch…they are vibrant, in fact.  Do you know that the color of yellow, orange, or even red, is present in the leaf all through the growing process?  This means while the leaf is green, the colors are still there…BEFORE it turns color.  The color has been there all along!  That could preach right there!!!  That means that through the process of letting go, our true colors or gifts or talents or passions, can show itself in us!!  We will become vibrant with new life!  I love that!  When we allow God to move us and change us, we are best using what He has given us for His purposes.

We will begin to look more vibrant, when we are willing to let go, and let God take the lead in our journey.  We might even begin to notice a more colorful world in the new place He has taken us.  New found color = new found passion.

So…let the winds and the waves come.  I know the Master of the wind.  We know Who is in charge of the winds and the waves.  We can weather the change together.  You may be the first to let go, but we will all come to a time in our lives where we too, have to let go of one season to walk forward into the next season of our life.  We can throw up our hands in the air just like we did with the leaves, only this time, it will be to receive the blessings of obedience flowing down on us like rain.  It’s like a song lyric I listened to yesterday that goes along with this thought…He brings us out, to bring us IN!

Until next time…

~JoAnn

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Sojourners to Norway, Part 2

First I must apologize for taking so long to put this post together.  So much as been going on in my mind and life since then, that I found it hard to focus on writing.  I also found it difficult to decide on the subject of this post.  However, sometimes unexpected events in our lives, have an effect on our lives.  Last week was one of those.  My niece’s fiancé was killed in a motorcycle and pickup accident.  When you have someone taken so unexpectedly, the shock of it is hard to deal with.  It also makes you think of how quickly our lives can change…in a split second.  How that day will forever be etched in our minds and hearts.  My niece’s sorrow becomes my sorrow.  We realize how short life can be, and that we are never guaranteed a tomorrow.  Once again, I am reminded of the importance of living in the moment.  It could be my last minutes with someone I love.

God isn’t afraid to take us to school when we need it.  So what are we afraid of when we hear living in the moment?  It almost sounds irresponsible, or flying by the seat of our pants, doesn’t it?  But really, that is not what it means, or at least not what I refer to when I talk about it.  What makes us so afraid of it?  And…why is living in the moment so hard for us?  It could be that if we stopping running, or stop our hurried steps, we might FEEL.  We don’t want to feel.  So we keep so busy with life and responsibilities so that we don’t have to reflect on our true feelings or hurts.  All our “tries” never seem enough.  We may feel that we don’t measure up or we don’t feel worthy enough.  But all this running is keeping us from dealing with the fact that it is a heart issue.  We don’t want to deal with the feelings or the knowledge that comes from understanding that we really do know that we need to change something.  So to keep from doing that, we keep busy, put a smile on our faces, and keep pretending things are ok.  My hubby and I made a “live in the moment” decision for me to make the trip to Norway, and take my son and grandson with me.  I called on ticket prices, asked my son if he would want to go and if my grandson could go, and booked the tickets.  That all happened in one day’s time.  If God gives you an idea, let Him work out the details.  He put this opportunity to go on my hubby’s heart.  God will work it all out when it’s His idea and His will!

However, instead of getting bogged down in the mire, we would instead start noticing what is RIGHT in our lives, we can begin to see the blessings that are before us.  On my trip to Norway, as is always the case when I get alone away from the daily life, next to the water and beauty of nature, I find God settling me down.  He positions me to listen.  When I listen, He will gently remind me of areas I need to change and clean up.  Some are easy to do and others are a struggle; either for me or for me to deal with issues with another person.  He brought to mind some of the old carpenter tools I saw in my Great Grandmother’s house in Norway, and what a carpenter’s tools do in the hands of the carpenter.  The tools of the trade are used to mold and shape wood into a piece useful and purposeful for the house/project they are building; a little like our lives.  Sometimes chipping off those old chips can be painful…you think you have endured enough and there won’t be much left.  But the Carpenter knows what He is going for, and after all, we ARE His masterpiece.  So just like that example, I ask God to reveal what is keeping me from happiness or joy when I have those feelings.  He will then tell me and start the whittling process…chipping away at those things in my life that need to fall off.

Some of the path’s we go on, can be oh so painful…and lonely.  He may separate us from people we love and care about.  Our circle of friends may change because of what is happening in our lives. But the one thing that I took back home with me from my trip to Norway is the connection with family and friends.  How important it is for me, and for those around me to stay connected.  It makes my soul happy and contented, even when life gets hard.  Sharing life together.  We need it.  Dinners together, drives to do something as a family, and even putting down our phones long enough to really listen and share with each other.  Making the effort to drive several hours two times in a week or so to be with your niece to love on her in a most difficult time in her life.  God designed it that way.  When we are running so busy that we don’t have time for stopping to comfort a child who is having a bad morning because we have things to do, or when we listen with our ears only instead of listening with our hearts to someone who is hurting, we are not living in the moment.  We are too busy to even notice when God gives us an opportunity to minister to someone who needs it.  Maybe not even with words, but just a hug or holding a hand.  It can unlock the heart of the one who is needing a listening ear.  That’s what slowing down our lives can look like.  I saw those examples of support and listening when I visited Norway.  They make an effort even when they may live further away from each other to stay connected.  Connection is important to them.  It is to me too.  I take every opportunity to stay in touch with friends and family.  One never knows when your call or text, or not in the mail, will be the one thing that gets them through the day.

There is a saying we have all probably heard that says to “live your one life well”.  That means that where ever you are, be right there.  I think the Norwegians have things right in that they work hard, and relax, and play hard.  They know that the balance is needed for them to have joy in their lives.  They balance the long, dark winters with being out in the light and sunshine as much as possible when Spring and Summer come.  I saw a man in a large city in Norway sitting on a bench on a busy street with his shirt off just taking in the sunshine while it was there.  Eyes closed, soaking in the sunlight.  He lived in the moment.  They make the coziness of their homes a priority so they DO enjoy the those long nights during winter…warm fires, candle light, and coffee or hot chocolate abounds.  Knitting cozied up by the fire.  They plan and do the things that prepare them for the winter months.  They also look forward to the Holiday of Christmas and all being together.  Balance…the key to joy.

Here is another piece to my trip that surprised me…my photography.  When you are going on this type of trip where you are trying to get in as much as you can while you are there, it can be difficult.  You want to meet by relatives to have connection, and THAT turns out to be priority.  However, it took me some days to get that message.  I was mad at myself for not getting better photos when I took them.  I mean, who doesn’t want to come home with fantastic photos from such a beautiful country????  I missed some, and others were like on tours where you are moving through an area, and spending time setting up a photo isn’t necessarily what you have time for.  I got pretty upset with myself.  As I prayed about it, God showed me that the pictures I was taking were to remember.  I’m not in a contest for the best photo.  The connections are what is important and remembering them.  So even though many of my photos were from a car window, that was ok.  Because I had that memory.  It also transferred to when I am at home.  It isn’t important for me to be some great photographer.  What is important, is that I DO hone my skills, but it is to take better photos in what ever circumstance, not to be in any competition for the best photo of the day or to BE the best.  I love photography and I want to keep enjoying it.  When I start putting undue pressures on myself to do it differently, that is when I realize, that I’m getting off course.  A person could see my whole life through my photos.  That is what I want with my photography.  That others will see how I live and my philosophy and maybe be encouraged to take some of the steps I have taken to have joy in living.

I believe, I’m in another chipping off season in my life, and that is ok.  He gave me a trip to Norway to show me what is important in the way I live MY life.  So I leaned in close in Norway.  I learned about the ways of making coffee can be an art.  Now I know that from coffee shops, but it can be like that at home also.  I don’t like coffee that much, but I learned to like it the way my cousin made it.  So I asked how she did it.  I loved many of the foods I ate, and I asked how to make it.  I wanted to absorb as much of the culture as I could.  Not just BE there, but to live in the moment of every day there.  I learned about the history of the immigrants, like my grandparents on both sides of my family and why they made the decisions that they made to move away from everything they knew to come to the unknown in the U.S.  How those that were here in the U.S. would work so hard so that they could send money home or tickets home for their family to come to the U.S.  I learned how some couldn’t stay in the U.S. because they missed the beauty of Norway and they came back home.  Some were so destitute living here that they took their lives before admitting to family at home of their despair.  We as kids who grew up around our parents talking about the depression, and all the fun many of us made out of them walking to school with holes in their shoes and walking miles to school, isn’t so far of a stretch.  I know it to be true of my father’s parents and even his older siblings.  I have found a new respect for each of them searching for a better life, and their tenacity to keep going.  It’s amazing, actually.  I don’t take that for granted and wished as young child, I would have known more about what they went through.  I think I would have been a much more attentive granddaughter.  But they didn’t talk about it at all.  Neither did my parents.  As children we missed so much.  I don’t want my kids to not know about them.  Thus, I took my two sons and my grandson with me the two times I have gone.  I want all my ancestor’s hard work to make a life for their families, to survive as a story and testament to their courage.  I am here because of the hard work of all who came before me, including my parents.  What work ethics they had!  Families stuck together through thick and thin, and helped each other.  That is legacy.

I hope this last trip is not my last.  I have more to learn…more to experience…more time on the beach in Norway with neighbors and relatives around a bonfire!  More letters to read.  I copied  some of my mother’s letters to relatives in Norway that were written to my cousin.  Sometimes I find out more about my mom through reading them.  I took pictures of old pictures so that I can share them with family, and they will know who they are.  I have decided that writing on as many of the pictures I have, is important, since many of my parents’ pictures did not have names on them.

Yes.  When we open our minds to what we can learn by not just talking about doing something, but actually doing it, we will find our lives changed forever.  Mine sure has….to the point of teaching myself Norwegian.  Not easy, but exciting to see when I actually understood a few words or recognized at least the subject of the discussion when I was there.

So I ask you, do you want to have more time with your family?  Make a trip somewhere?  A drive down the coast?  A get-away with family?  Family gathering or reunion?  Don’t put it off.  Plan it.  Do it.  Change what needs to change to make it happen.  But above all?  Let it change you in the process.  God can do amazing things with an open and willing heart.  Open the door to His leading…it just might be to your homeland.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

 

 

White As Snow

What is your understanding of your salvation?  Have you ever thought about what it really means for you when you accepted Christ as your Savior?  Or, if you haven’t accepted Him as your Savior, have you ever had thoughts about what you think it means for you and your life?

Recently at our home, we had a beautiful couple days of soft snow fall.  I loved looking out my cabin windows, which run all the way around my cabin, and watching the snow.  Everything is covered in a blanket of clean, white snow.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of how Jesus covers our sin through His death on the cross, and we are washed as white as snow.  I had just been reading something that came to mind as I watched that falling snow.  The thought was that our life changes at the moment we accept Christ.  It isn’t just about sin.  It means, that as an example, a new JoAnn is created at the time I accepted Christ, and now God has a relationship with that new JoAnn.  So.. it isn’t just about being forgiven of sins.  It is also about a brand new relationship as this new person.  As this new person, I now have a relationship with Him; not as the old me, but as the new me.  He relates to the new me!  

I love the snow. Always have. But the snow is temporary.  His love for me is eternal.  What a great reminder for me as I looked out my windows to watch the falling snow, and have it teach me a lesson at the same time!  Hearing Him speak to me brings a whole new level of excitement for me in my relationship with Jesus.

Along these same lines, I have been leading a study on prayer.  Boy!  We are seeing some great changes happening in the lives of those taking part.  We have been given nuggets of knowledge that we grab onto as life rafts in what can sometimes be choppy seas.  I am constantly amazed at what God will teach us through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, IF we are willing to spend time in His presence.  It’s kind of like looking in on a genealogy of relationship, and seeing answers to prayer.

  • If we are in His presence,
  •      we are in His Word,
  •         then, we are learning to know Him better,
  •              which means we are learning to discern His voice,
  •                   which in turn means we trust Him more,
  •                        and that means we will become more obedient,
  •                             and we WILL see big prayers answered.

We have also talked in this study about taking steps of faith.  I have been thinking about the idea of stepping in to the water before I see the waters part.  We want Jesus to part the waters so we can go in.  God wants us to step into the water in faith, and then see Him part the waters and bring us through.  

It is my hope that you are beginning to change the culture of your life with Jesus through some of the posts here on the blog.  This certainly isn’t me writing about these topics.  This idea of snow and relationship, and what prayer will do, along with stepping into the water, are all thoughts I believe God wanted me to share with you.  Challenge yourself to make the changes you need, to have the results you want.

May God help you to this end.

To your place of heart and soul escapes…

~JoAnn