Where are you looking?

Focus changes everything.  When my grandson and I hiked down a mountain in the Swiss Alps, he took me on a short-cut.

© Jane Foard Thompson
Kyle heading down the mountain

As Kyle jumped on ahead with the beloved family Wheaten, Caitlin,
I concentrated on my footing, on the narrow, untracked pathway.

Kyle and Caitlin on mountain

After a while, Kyle stopped and asked me what I saw. I planted my walking pole, then looked up, to discover a beautiful view of the valley which I had missed, watching my feet, with careful, little steps.

© Jane Foard Thompson
view into village from mountainside

He asked, “What else can you see?”
I noticed the snow on the trees and bushes.

© Jane Foard Thompson
snowy trees in Swiss Alps

Kyle smiled and pointed to a spot near my boot. “Look closer.”

© Jane Foard Thompson
stone marker on mountainside

We continued to work our way down the mountain. (Well, I worked my way down. Kyle hopped, skipped, slid on his little sled and jumped off anything high enough to climb.) He stopped me several times along the way to point out more stacked-stone trail markers. On his fourth stop, I finally found the mini marker without his help.

© Jane Foard Thompson
close up of stone trail marker

Later, when my husband and I scanned pictures from walks in villages near Zürich, I was struck by the different shots taken from the same place.

© Jack H Thompson
wood pile in Switzerland

Hubby focused on a wood pile, then looked up and found beautiful sights off in the distance, including a farm by a lake.

© Jack H Thompson
farm by lake in Switzerland

Absorbed in our struggles, trials and fears, we can easily become stuck, focused close-in. Like seeing the imperfections in the wood, instead of the beauty of trees by a lake, we can feel trapped or overburdened, with no awareness of the greater meaning in our lives, or hope for something new.

© Jack H Thompson
opening in trunk
© Jack H Thompson
tree on landscape in Switzerland

Sometimes we become so intent on a problem or situation that we miss the larger view.

© Jack H Thompson
tree trunk in Switzerland
© Jack H Thompson
pruned trees in Switzerland

Haven’t we learned by now that trying to plan everything in detail, working hard to do everything in our control to make it “right” won’t actually fix anything?

Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.                                                                                                                  Colossians 3:2 The Message (MSG)

Instead, when we seek Jesus, and look at what he is doing and follow him, we get the wide-angle, bigger picture.

© Jack H Thompson
view of lake near Zürich

Seek the Lord and His strength; yearn for and seek His face and to be in His presence continually!                                                                                                                                            I Chronicles 16:11     Amplified Bible

As we watch Jesus, the circumstances may not change, but the scene before us does. That shift of viewpoint can bring peace to our hearts and minds, as well as greater health to our bodies and spirits.

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I’m on the right way.     Psalm 16:11 The Message (MSG)

No fear?

I’ve always fought the constraints of fear in my life. I assumed it was from my childhood, with an abusive father with hands two feet long, and the complete lack of affirmation.

However, after recent experiences, I am questioning that assumption.

In the Swiss Alps with my two grandsons, Middle Daughter’s boys, watching the difference in those two makes me wonder how much is built-in.

The oldest, Jeremy, is more like me. He thinks a lot, projects what might happen before he takes action, and is, therefore, sometimes paralyzed when the prospects of harm loom greater than the benefits.

Kyle, two years younger, seems to have no fear.

They have been taking freestyle skiing lessons every Saturday. Jeremy studies the moves and calculates his jumps and landings. He has wonderful form, and once he decides he is ready, executes the moves beautifully.

On the other hand, Kyle watches the instructor and goes for it, never even looking to see where he will land.

Last night, they spent several hours practicing in a special freestyle gym, with all kinds of trampolines and foam pits, jumps and ramps.

Jeremy awed me with his freestyle moves on the trampoline, naming each move.

Click on the arrow to see Jeremy practicing. (This has several video segments together, so watch to the end.)

I moved on to watch Kyle ride a scooter down a ski jump into a foam pit, and worked to get my heart back in my chest. After several of those, he did flips into the pit from a platform at least fifteen feet above. After a back flip from there, looking for a greater challenge, he scaled the rock climbing wall and did a back flip off of it.

Kyle jumping from the climbing wall

Kyle on kickboard on ski jump doing flip

Kyle flipping over the edge of the wall.

Today, I asked Kyle what he thinks about before he tries something new. He shrugged and replied, “If it seems like it would be fun, I do it.” That simple. When I asked if he was ever afraid before he did something, he looked at me with a puzzled expression.

So if we are born with these tendencies, then God created us that way. Maybe I can stop beating myself up for being so cautious.

And you impulsive ones can rest assured you weren’t made that way by mistake, either.

For the cautious ones like me, Paul encourages us.

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.Ephesians 6:10 The Message

More than encouragement, Paul tells us the real battle is the spiritual one, and we are all fitted for that.

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.Ephesians 6:11

So perhaps we are made so different in order to band together, in marriage, families, friendships, churches, small groups, wherever we find support. It’s the body of Christ thing. Together, we have the courage to move, as well as the forethought and planning to take into account what might come against us.

And God gives us all full armor for protection, and for the weapons we need for the battle before us.” Ephesians 6:12 The Message

What’s your tendency, too much or too little caution?

How are you growing with the bent you are created with?

Lavish gift-giving

manger scene
I had a dream, so real that it felt something like what I imagine Joseph experienced when the angel told him about the baby Mary was carrying. In the dream, God said we would have a son, and we were to name him Jeremiah.

Not long after the dream, I began having serious “female problems.” My gynecologist ordered an ultrasound, which revealed massive ovarian cysts and endometrial tumors. He said there was no way I could get pregnant. So certain the dream was real, I went for a second opinion. That doctor said not only could I not get pregnant, but if, somehow, I should conceive, with the pregnancy hormones the tumors would grow faster than the child, causing his death, or severe deformities. I rushed out of his office in tears, and cried for hours.

Finally I surrendered and scheduled the hysterectomy.

The day before surgery, I went in for routine pre-surgical blood work. The next morning, the nurse called.

“Don’t come to the hospital. You’re not having a hysterectomy. You’re having a baby.”

I was ecstatic, but, recalling the doctor’s warnings, fearful at the same time. At the end of the first month I began to cramp and spot. The doc said I was probably losing the baby, to just go to bed. A crowd from church arrived and prayed. Within two days I was fine, and back on my feet.

At twenty-two weeks I went for my first in-office ultrasound, a brand new gadget at that time.

Instead of all my fears, there was a beautifully formed little boy with ten fingers and ten toes, all a-wiggle, and a four-chambered heart, beating regularly. No cysts! No tumors!

The rest of the pregnancy was normal. When our boy was born, I couldn’t stand to name him after Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. (Silly me, as if a name could change God’s design for him. You’d think after those miracles I would be obedient!)

More than twenty years later, my youngest daughter (YD) and her family decided to adopt, to do their part in saving one child from a life of poverty, neglect and/or abuse. When the call came that a five-week-old boy needed a home in two days, they had to make a quick decision and arrange work schedules. YD was still recovering from hospitalization with a serious kidney infection, and their lives were already stretched to the limit with work schedules and their two children. I admired their hearts, but didn’t think it was the right time.

Nevertheless, when they left for another state to get him, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on adoption, cross-cultural adoption and bonding issues. I read about the children who refused to allow their adoptive parents to give them the love they yearned for, how they would back into a hug, never trust, never let go of some little rag they had brought with them, rather than receive from the parents trying so hard to give them what they really needed.

While I read, I felt God whispering to my heart.

“This is how you’ve been. All the years of struggle, wondering why you haven’t made progress, or why I haven’t changed your circumstances, you’ve been trying to do it yourself. And the times you have come to me, you’ve only backed into my arms.”

I learned that adoption is expensive, and marveled at their faith to borrow money to pay the fees, facing sacrifice for a year or two to pay it back.

God whispered, “I counted the cost, and paid with the life of my Son, so that I could make you my child. Will you let me love you?”

When I considered the choice my daughter and her family were making, purely out of the love of their hearts, with absolutely nothing to do with what the child would bring, I again felt God speaking.

“That is a small glimpse of my love. I love you because I AM LOVE. You cannot earn it, and you cannot lose it.”

Early in the afternoon, YD called to tell me the birth mother was on her way with the baby. “She only asked for one thing.” I waited. “That we keep his first name.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Jeremiah.”

We had our Jeremiah, after all.

Now certain that God was in this, tears coursed down my checks. My heart swelled with love for the child I’d have to wait several more weeks to meet.

When they came home, as my daughter put him in my arms he began to fuss. “Jeremiah,” I whispered.

He turned and looked in my eyes, drew in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. He snuggled against me with a look that said, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you?”
Grammi and Jeremiah

Talk about love at first sight!

Jeremiah is three now, with dimples that could charm the spots off a leopard and a smile that lights up a room.

And when I hug him, I am reminded of the God who loves me, just because it’s His nature to love. Who had been trying to love on me for years, and I wouldn’t really let him. Who paid a high price to adopt me into His family, even when I was pushing Him away.

So I light the candles on our Advent wreath and move the statues of Mary and Joseph and the donkey closer to our little manger. The child whose birth we are preparing to celebrate made it possible for his Father to adopt me into his family.

I sigh and snuggle into my Lord, so glad I’ve finally run, arms wide open, into His warm embrace.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1: 4-6 (MSG)

Won’t you come?