How to walk in the light in a dark season

I shopped for light bulbs the other day. What. An. Ordeal. Can I just tell you how confusing it was? And how expensive? Oh, for the days of a ninety-nine cent incandescent bulb and the only choice you had to make was the wattage.

Oh for the days of a ninety-nine cent incandescent bulb and the only choice you had to make was the wattage. Edison would shake his head at it all. Can you imagine his face if he heard us telling Alexa to turn on the lights?

Edison would shake his head at it all. Can you imagine his face if he could hear us tell Alexa to turn on the lights? 

The absolute miracle of a light bulb barely registers a mention on my daily gratitude list, Counting It ALL Joy.  Not until the bulb burns out or the power goes off. I don’t really appreciate the light until it’s dark. 

I don't really appreciate the light until it's dark. Click To Tweet

I’ve experienced days (weeks, months) of darkness, the jet black, can’t see your hands in front of your face kind. I’ve groped around, blindly searching for a switch to illuminate a way out of the deep despair.

Matthew 4:16 says, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light.”

I’d seen and experienced that life-giving light of Christ, but there were times both the light and the life were MIA. Just when I needed them the most. Read more

When counting it all joy feels a little like death

I received a message recently from someone who reads my nightly gratitude post, “Counting it ALL Joy” on Facebook. Here’s what it said: “Your Counting it ALL Joy is killing me.”

I’d been posting a lot of things about my new little granddaughter including an adorable picture of her in her hedge hog Halloween outfit, so I thought she meant it in a nice way – killing her with joy. But then I read further.

“ …we face issues that do not have a shred of joy in them. I stand here in front of your words and beg my Father to help me, in faith, believe it and to live it. This formidable mountain casts a deep shadow.”

Oh my heart. She’d been reading not just the gratitude posts but also the blog series on climbing the mountains in our lives. Her mountain was so vast the shadow was blocking out every bit of light. All I could do was empathize because I’ve been there. That’s how this whole practice started—when I was drowning in the depths of my own darkness. It’s one thing to count your blessings when you can look out your rustic farmhouse window, see the sun rise and the light fall on that patch of glorious sunflowers you planted last spring. I looked out the window and all I could see was the dumpster. I get it.

How do you count it all joy when you’re not joyful?

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My hard-won advice on how to make this the Best. Christmas. Ever.

“Ugh!” I groaned when I read the advertisement for yet another Christmas holiday how-to book, guaranteed to result in the “BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!”

Shaking my head and murmuring to myself, I headed downstairs to spread a little Christmas cheer to my unsuspecting husband.

“Can you believe this?” I fumed. “How To Have the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER?!” 

“The pressure the media puts on women: do more, spend moredecorate more, craft more, bake more... Like it’s a competition!  Like any of that has anything to do with Christmas!” (I might have been just a tad over-caffeinated.)

“Um hum,” he mumbled, without looking up from his coffee.

“You know what? I should write a book about how to celebrate a stress-free Christmas. I could do it with my eyes closed!”

“Do it,” he said.

And so I did.

But I should probably back up a minute.

Hi. My name is Susan. I’m a Christmas-aholic. It’s been eight years since my last “stressed out” holiday.

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Mountain Ramblings and Reminiscing

Last week my friend Lisa did such an excellent job wrapping up our series Packing For the Future that I haven’t been able to shake my mountain mania. I found myself wondering if I’d accurately shared with you all that the Lord had shown me about mountains. Then this video that I recorded on October 20, 2015 popped up in my Facebook memories the other day!

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WOW. 

I just had to share that with you! You don’t mind if we extend our trip one more week, do you? The mountains are so beautiful this time of year, I just want to linger here a bit longer. This will be (hopefully) the last mountain post where I share the random thoughts that keep spinning around in my head. Just think of it as an epilogue. No motivational pep talks or heavy teaching this time; let’s just gather round the campfire and tell some stories. You remembered the S’mores, right?

Random mountain memories:

My first mountain memory is from my childhood when our family made the annual long drive from Ohio to North Carolina to visit my mom’s family. The highlight of the trip was driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains. They were magical to this mid-westerner. My brothers and I begged to stop at every overlook and being the ornery big brothers they were, they actually convinced me that the run-down shanties we saw in the distance were where the Real McCoys lived. Even more magical? The tunnels. I couldn’t then and still can’t even comprehend what it must have taken to blast through those mountains and construct a safe way through.

Another mountain memory:

After living in the South for 18 years, (which to me was like living in the tropics), my husband and I took a trip to the mountains. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when we caught our first glimpse of those rocky cliffs, lightly dusted with snow. Snow! I hadn’t seen in it in almost two decades! 

Seeing snow for the first time

It was February, crisp and clear and I sighed with delight when we pulled in to our mountain chalet, snuggled down in a valley and surrounded by mountain peaks. The view was spectacular! All I could think of was the verse, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people.” We went to sleep that night, cozy and content and woke up to a wonderland of white. Those majestic mountains were totally obscured by the snow. The power was out, but the bookshelves were stocked and we had firewood so we were happy campers.

that speck of red is my husband

That’s not a cardinal, that’s my husband trying to shovel a path.

Hot coffee on a cold day

Favorite Mountain Getaway

Sourwood Inn, just off the Parkway outside Asheville. It’s not easy to get to; the first time we visited it was a little scary with all the switchbacks and narrow dirt roads. Then we came around a curve and saw the stunning Arts & Crafts Inn perched down in a holler. It’s become an annual trip for us. We love the in-room fireplaces, the trails, the porches and the oatmeal pancakes in the morning. 

Our favorite place

Mountain Quotes

First, a couple of quotes from Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon, Climbing the Mountain, delivered on Sunday morning, June 6, 1861. If you want to read more, the entire sermon is available online.

“… in climbing a mountain, it often occurs that the path winds downward for a season, to enable the traveler to avoid a precipice, or comb a beetling crag, or reach another peak of the range. It is a strange paradox, but I do not believe Christians ever mount better than when they descend.”

“But even with a guide, that man will never gain the summit unless he marks the way. And what is the way? The way to the hill of God, you know, as well as I can tell you, is Christ himself. “I am,” saith he, “the way.” We begin in Christ, we must go on with Christ, we must end with Christ.”

“I like the mountains because they make me feel small. They help me sort out what’s important in life.” Mark Obmanscik

“When life brings you mountains, you don’t waste your time asking why; you spend your time climbing over them.” A.J. Darkholme.

“To see what others can not…You must climb the mountain.” Ron Akers

“To be a climber one has to accept that gratification is rarely immediate.” Bernadette McDonald

Mountain Pics

Rocking chairs at Sourwood Inn

Thundering waterfalls

Sheer power

Mountain Cooking

You’re going to work up an appetite with all that climbing so you might want to check out Ronni Lundy’s award winning cookbook, Victuals, which explores the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia. 

Mountain Cooking

Mountain Book

This book launched me on a whole new genre of reading: survival/adventure books! ‘Touching the Void’ awakened something in me: a hunger for adventure but also the knowledge that we are able to endure way more than we think we can. Truly inspiring.

Here’s Amazon’s blurb about the book: “Touching the Void” is the tale of two mountaineer’s harrowing ordeal in the Peruvian Andes. In the summer of 1985, two young, headstrong mountaineers set off to conquer an unclimbed route. They had triumphantly reached the summit, when a horrific accident mid-descent forced one friend to leave another for dead.With his partner, Simpson, dangling helplessly over a 3,000-foot cliff, Simon Yates was forced to cut Simpson’s rope just seconds before his own snow seat would have collapsed, pulling him to his death. Consumed by grief and guilt, Yates struggled back to camp, only to find…

You didn’t really I’d give away the ending, did you?!  It was also made into an amazing movie!

Mountain Music

In this moving TED Talk, folk musician and storyteller David Holt plays the banjo and other unusual instruments like the mouth bow, shares stories and offers old-timey wisdom from the Appalachian Mountains. He also demonstrates a crazy electric drum kit he calls “thunderwear.” (Think musical romper but you have to see it to believe it). Holt is a four-time Grammy Award-winning folk musician and a born troubadour. This is a guy who was born to entertain, both with his music and his stories.

Mountain Scriptures

Those who trust in the Lord are as unshakeable, as unmovable as mighty Mount Zion! Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord’s wrap-around presence surrounds his people, protecting them now and forever. Ps 125:1-2

Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong… Ps 30:7

And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in this paths; for the law shall go forth out of Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. Luke 3:5

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. Mark 6:46

Final Mountain Thoughts

Lisa and I had a conversation this morning and she reminded me of all that awaits when at last we reach the summit of the mountain. We will have perspective which we tend to lose when we’re in the midst of the climb. The beauty of the views will be astounding; the air will be cooler. We can rest from our labors and enjoy the quiet. It will be worth all the effort, pain and sacrifice we made to get there.

Spurgeon said it best:

Oh! remember the summit will repay you for the toil in climbing it. Click To Tweet

My prayer is that you would not lose heart. Set your mind on the things above, lock arms with your fellow climbers and proceed up that mountain, singing as you go! And take lots of pictures! 

I’d love to hear your mountain stories. Comment below! 

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (if you’ve got the right guide)

[Don’t miss the giveaway at the end!]

If you’re new to this blog, this is the final post in a series based on Psalm 24 verse 3: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?” It’s comparing the entire life of a Christian to ascending a mountain.

The past three weeks have been all about preparation. We’ve identified our mountains, gathered our provisions and scouted out some traveling companions. I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to start my climb. Now all we need is a trail guide, someone who’s walked this path and is familiar with the terrain. 

I’ve asked my “sticky Velcro friend,” Lisa Morgan Moore to introduce you to our guide. Why Lisa? She’s a tough, seasoned climber who knows that without a guide, you’ll never make it to the top! 

Lately, during my prayer time, I’ve had this huge ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It didn’t make sense; life was good! Fall weather had finally shown up in my hometown of Wilmington, NC. Hurricane Michael (which we survived!) swept away the last of the humidity and cooler, more pleasant temperatures had arrived! I’d been relishing my coffee and prayer time on the back porch while enjoying the view of my cottage garden. So I asked God, “What’s with the anxiety?” 

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