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Letters to the Lord: The Tree

 My creative and thoughtful and wonderful mother-in-law, Doris Ann Musser, is back with reflections about a tree that sits outside the retirement home in Richmond, Kentucky that she called home for a few years.    

THE TREE

YOU RISE ABOVE THE OTHER TREES AT THE CURVE OF 

STOCKER DRIVE…..TALLER…BROADER….MORE STATELY…..

….WITH BRANCHES STRETCHING OUT IN ALL DIRECTIONS.

      SOME REACH FOR THE SKY;

      SOME LOOK AT THE UNEVEN GROUND;

      SOME YEARN TO MOVE ON UP THE HILL.

MOST ARE BENT, GNARLED, CROOKED, MALFORMED…..

    …OF VARIOUS SHAPES AND SIZES.

THEY CLING TO YOU TIGHTLY AS

                IF STUCK WITH SUPER GLUE.

EACH HAS SMALL ATTACHMENTS DWINDLING FROM

LARGE TO MEDIUM TO TINY TO NOTHING.

      YOU GAVE THEM BIRTH;

      NATURE GUIDED THEIR GROWTH.

THEY STEM FROM A FIRMLY ROOTED, STURDY TRUNK….

TWENTY-THREE FEET, TWO INCHES.  MY HUG OF LOVE

FAILS TO REACH THE WHOLE WAY ROUND.

 ROUGH CHIPS CLING TO YOUR TRUNK. PROTECTING

 FROM STRONG WINDS AND SEVERE WEATHER. 

ALL TREES NEED ROOTS.  YOURS ARE UNIQUE AND

AMAZING, BREAKING FREE AND PUSHING UP THROUGH

THE SOIL LEAVING AN UNEVEN SURFACE. THE ENDS OF

THE  ELONGATED BUMPY ROOTS WITH RIDGES AND

VALLEYS MAKE WALKING TRICKY.

NOT A SCIENTIFIC FACT, BUT A STRING MEASUREMENT  

SAYS YOU FORM A SIXTY-THREE FEET IRREGULAR CIRCLE

AT THE ENDS OF THE ROOTS.  THEY DARE ME TO GET

CLOSE TO YOUR TRUNK WHILE DETERMINED TO BE SEEN

AS NECESSARY AND APPRECIATED PARTS OF THE WHOLE.

LOOKING THROUGH YOUR VARIOUS SIZED LIMBS AND

BRANCHES IS LIKE SEEING THE BRILLIANT SKY THROUGH

A GIANT SPIDER WEB.

SOMETIMES THE SUNSET FRAMES YOUR BEAUTY.

     SOMETIMES THE SNOW CLINGS TO THE UPPER SIDE

            OF YOUR BRANCHES; A BREATHTAKING SIGHT.

                         SOMETIMES GOD’S TEARS SOAK YOU

                                  WITH NEEDED WATER.

YOU BEAR NO FLOWERS, ONLY HUNDREDS OF HEALTHY

GREEN LEAVES IN SEASON. I WONDER HOW MANY

BIRDS & ANIMALS HAVE SHELTERED IN AND AROUND.

           YOU ARE BEAUTIFULLY BARE. 

HOW MANY RAGING STORMS HAVE YOU WEATHERED?

YOU ARE NOT SYMETERICAL LIKE MANY OTHER TREES.

SUCH AN IMPREFECT SHAPE ADDS TO YOUR LOVELINESS.

I QUESTION WITH SILENT RESPONSES…..

– WHAT IS YOUR REASON FOR BEING?

– ARE  YOU REALLY OVER TWO HUNDRED YEARS OLD,

                  AS I WAS TOLD?

– WHO PLANTED YOU IN THIS SPOT?

– WHAT’S IT LIKE…. A LIVING THING YET UNMOVING?

– WHY DO YOU FASCINATE ME?

– ARE YOU HERE BECAUSE GOD KNEW THAT ONE DAY

  IN NINETEEN HUNDRED NINETY-FIVE THERE WOULD BE

  AN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY  NEAR PLUS CONDO AND

  TELFORD RESIDENTS WHO WOULD FIND GREAT

  PLEASURE IN ADMIRING YOU?

DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE A BEACON FOR US?

WE SHARE MUCH.

       WE, TOO, ARE OLD.

SOME OF US MOVE AS DO YOUR LIGHTER BRANCHES.

     OTHERS ARE MORE LIKE YOUR HEAVIER BRANCHES;

                     .. NEEDING ASSISTANCE.

SOME ARE BENT IN BODY…..LEANING.

            WE HAVE WEATHERED STORMS.

OUR BEAUTY IS NOT AS FORMERLY BUT WE GRACEFULLY

                 ACCEPT AGING.

WE ARE BEACONS FOR THE GENERATIONS WE BORE

            AND RAISED.

OUR WOMBS ARE BARE; WE ARE FREE TO ENJOY

              THE FRUITS OF OUR LABORS. 

I AM ABSORBED, CAPTIVATED AND IN ANOTHER WORLD

AS I SIT ON THE BENCH CONTEMPLATING THIS

MARVELOUS STRUCTURE.

THANK YOU, SPECIAL TREE.

      BE QUIET MY SOUL.

         TURN AWAY FROM DISTRACTIONS.                                                                                                                              

                  SIMPLY SIT, LINGER, LOOK, LISTEN.

DORIS ANN MUSSER has been sharing her creative talents for 87 years, spanning the globe from Lewisburg, West Virginia, to Brazil, France, Haiti, and China, and back to Kentucky where she lives now. She has her one and only, Harvey, waiting for her in heaven, but remains delightfully busy on earth keeping up with her five children, their spouses, thirteen grandchildren, and twenty-two great grand-children at last count. She has friends around the world and loves all things Mickey and Charlie Brown.

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Letters to the Lord: Weeping and Rejoicing

I wrote this over a decade ago, when Chris was home in France during a summer break from college. But it seems strangely appropriate now as we continue to work through all hard, hard things of 2020 and beyond. I am thankful that weeping and rejoicing can coexist in the beautiful paradox of God’s love.

They have come here to grieve.  And to celebrate.  Right now they are four.  Soon others will arrive and by this weekend, our house and yard will be overflowing with youth.  As it should be.  Again.

Beau is barking as he welcomes another student.  Chris is making pancakes.  The house is littered with backpacks and mattresses and empty milk cartons and plates with brownie crumbs.  The kids greet me with smiles and tears.  They do not differentiate between the two because life has caught them off guard.  

He died tragically, in a boating accident on the Lac d’Annecy at 2:30 on a Sunday morning.  A student from their class.  19. A childhood friend.  They grew up with him.  In the early morning hours, as the boat shot through the water in a 5 kilometer per hour zone, it struck a rock, was projected against a cliff and he and the four other young passengers were hurled into the water. Two survived.  Three did not.

All 19, all bright young students, France’s elite, celebrating the end of a grueling year of studies. Too carefree, too sure that life was before them, indestructible, invincible.

Ironically, at that same lake on that same night, a group of 15 young people from our church were camping out, singing praises to the Lord, sharing laughter and dreams and the Bible.  The noise from the impact of the boat against the rocks woke a few of them.  They heard the distant sirens and went back to sleep.

Paul and I had been in Montpellier for the weekend, rejoicing with friends at the marriage of their daughter.  Heading back toward Lyon, Paul driving and I in a semi-sleep, exhausted from a full weekend of visiting friends and the festivities that lasted into the wee morning hours, we heard of a boating accident on Lac d’Annecy.  I was thankful that we had already talked to Andrew on the phone, reassured that he had returned safely from the young people’s weekend there.  I dozed again.

Once back home, I immediately called the friend’s residence where Chris had spent the weekend.  The father answered the phone, speaking softly, almost incomprehensibly.  Finally he said, “I’m sorry.  I’m stunned.  I’ve just learned that one of Charley’s classmates was killed in the boating accident in Annecy.”  And that is how we found out.

Adrien.  Dead.

Years ago, when we first moved to Lyon, and Chris and Andrew started attending their new school, Cité Scolaire Internationale, Chris and Adrien had become friends.  I remember how happy we were when Adrien asked to attend church with us, and I remember the Sundays when we would drive to his house, tucked into the prestigious 3eme arrondissment of Lyon and Adrien would come out of the house, smiling, ready for church.

It didn’t last long.  Perhaps a few months.  He had other interests; life was full for all of our teens.

On other occasions there were parties at his house.  I met his parents, both dentists, so young and successful and kind.  And his two younger sisters.  A beautiful, tight-knit family.

Now they sit in that refurbished manor, with the manicured grass and the sunporch overlooking the pool, in a deep grief.  I imagine them there and I cry.  Life is cruel.

And our young people come to cry too.  They do not want to be apart, alone in their grief.  And so they wade through the heartache together, first at one house, then off to school, then to another home, then into town.  A band of friends, intercepted by death, brought together by death, bonded ever more tightly by tragedy.

Fidji has known Adrien from the time she was a little girl.  Charles, too.  They fluctuate from disbelief to rage to despair.  The students hug each other, cry, share memories and find themselves laughing hysterically at some long forgotten antic in which they and Adrien were involved.
   

Paul and I watch and pray, hold out our arms to hug them, suddenly vulnerable children again.  I bake brownies, I send notes on Facebook and I write.  Writing has always been for me a solace, a way to grieve.

I write because I cannot not write, because I want to remember this.  I want to remember the strength of the human heart in the face of tragedy.  Fresh faces, young, with the world in front of them, ripped in two by the unthinkable, holding each other up.
   

Adrien’s friends will all don light blue shirts on Friday for the funeral.  Held at the thousand-year-old St. John’s Cathedral, the funeral will be for the three young people who perished in the boat accident.  The church will overflow.  The tears will flow, overflow, too.

Last night, when Chris, Charles, Sam and Fidji arrived at our house, they were wearing black pants and white shirts, after having spent the evening serving a meal to the homeless at the Salvation Army post.  They were exhausted but giddy because, although the week was filled with grief, it also held a bright spot.  Fidji and two other young people from church had found out that morning that they had passed the compulsory tests allowing them to proceed from their first year of medical school to the second.  No small feat, basically meaning their grades were among the top 100 out of a class of 700.  Reason to celebrate.  An extremely competitive and demanding year ending with success.

And so they celebrate.  And cry.  And laugh.  And eat brownies.  And talk.
  I watch them there, drained and yet eager to try on life and I am thankful for the words of Scripture, so very concise.  So true.  “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”  Sometimes, oddly enough, life allows us to do that very thing with the same group of people.  Life is like that.  An endless roller-coaster ride.

I am thankful for another verse of Scripture.  “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from whence cometh my help?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Questions?  Oh, yes, they abound.  Answers?  Few and even those are far from appropriate right now.

Weeping and rejoicing and lifting our eyes, we continue.

  ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Jill Steenhuis, an Atlanta Artist in France

We were destined to be friends and soulmates before we ever met.

Our dads knew each other, waving across the golf course at the Capital City Country Club in Atlanta. So I paid attention when my father said, “You need to meet the artist Jill Steenhuis. She grew up in Atlanta, rode and showed horses, moved to Aix-en-Provence in 1980 and lives there still.”

It took a long while to meet in person, but Jill and I started corresponding about twenty-five years ago, writing emails back and forth from Aix to Montpellier and then Lyon. We soon discovered many, many mutual friends in Atlanta and beyond, and most importantly, our mutual faith in Jesus.

And Jill became my ‘go to’ friend whenever I needed to ‘get into’ an artist’s skin in one of my novels. This was especially the case for The Swan House and The Dwelling Place. In the Acknowledgements I wrote: Jill Steenhuis, fellow Atlantan living in southern France and gifted artist, thanks for your thoughtful insights and advice about art and for helping me understand the artist’s inner eye.

For my 40th birthday, my parents gave me what is still one of my most treasured possessions: a painting by Jill.

It hangs above our fireplace in our home in Rochetaillee. This painting still takes my breath away every time I gaze at it. It captures my heart, embodying many things I love: France, nature, poppies, an old aqueduct, life in the moment.

Jill paints ‘en plein air’ like her beloved mentor, the impressionist artist, Paul Cezanne who lived and painted in Aix. In fact Jill’s art studio is designed almost exactly like Cezanne’s. Years ago, I had the privilege of finally meeting Jill in person and visiting her studio.

We’ve prayed for each other and cheered each other on across the miles and countries and years as the Lord has blessed the work of our hands. When Jill asked me for advice about publishing a book of her paintings and essays, I was humbled and delighted to get a sneak peek at this gorgeous book and wholeheartedly endorsed it.

From the back cover: To observe and contemplate Jill Steenhuis’s art (and her words, for she is not only painter, but also poet) is to accept an invitation to be inspired by the timeless beauty of nature that she  captures on canvas and in her writing. Returning to the pure and simple joy of daily things—of flowers and villages and budding trees—we taste and smell and feel the truth that is life. Jill is a magnificent artist in every sense of the word. Her work touches my soul. —Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, novelist

With all of our shared history, imagine our delight to have a chance to have lunch together at the Swan Coach House in Atlanta a few weeks ago.

And we are especially ‘tickled pink’ to be signing our books together THIS Thursday at The Swan Coach House Gift Shop. If you are in the Atlanta area, I hope you’ll join us. It will be my first in-person signing in over a year, and I am THRILLED to be there with Jill.

Thursday, April 29, 11am – 2pm at the Swan Coach House Gift Shop, 3130 Slaton Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30305

I’ll be signing copies of The Swan House, The Dwelling Place, The Promised Land, and The Long Highway Home.

Jill will be signing copies of her marvelous Art, Soul, and Destiny.

Whether you can meet us in person or not, be sure to check out Jill’s website where you’ll find her beautiful artwork as well as her beautiful soul.

I am so grateful for my precious fellow artist friend in France (and the US!)

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Pressure-Washed

Oh, Lord, the sun is shining through our big, beautiful, and CLEAN front window in Flintstone, Georgia, and I feel hope. The house has just been pressure washed. And I’m delighted with the result. All the mold and moss, all the green and black stuff—whatever it was—is gone.

The outside of the house sparkles. And it smells. Like bleach.

I find this very humorous because all day yesterday at my father’s house in Atlanta I smelled the familiar and sweet scent of manure. Yes, horse manure. The smell I grew up with. But this time it wasn’t emanating from the barn behind my father’s house, but from the neighbors’ yard which is being completely redone.

But today, bleach. And it worked. I’d wanted the house to be washed for quite a while as I noticed the stains. I am a little in awe that it worked! In less than an hour, it was all done. By professionals. So often I try to get by without paying the money for professionals. Without ‘outsourcing’, as my son calls it.

But today, we paid, and I am thrilled. Even our little Eastern bluebird who is building a nest on the back deck seems okay. She stayed in the little birdhouse, and hopefully she will be content to keep coming back. (editor’s note; she has!=)

I know there are many spiritual analogies to this pressure washing theme. The first, of course, is that Jesus warns not to just clean the outside. Oh, yes, some of Your harshest words are to the ‘white-washed tombs’.

But what I’m thinking about is another analogy. How I cannot clean my own house, my own soul-house. I have to ‘outsource it’ to You, Lord. And when I do, the effect is immediate. You pressure wash my soul, a hard, eternal blast of whiter-than-snow bleach. You clean every part of me with that initial salvation pressure wash.

But boy, do I need to outsource the cleaning on a very regular basis. I need deep spring cleaning. Again and Again and Again. And I can never, ever, do it on my own. That will not work.

When the man came to pressure wash the house this morning, he warned, “We use bleach, so please don’t come outside while we’re working.” In other words, don’t get in the way of the professionals. Let them do their hard work, and then we can enjoy the beauty of it later.

Lord, I think I get in the way of Your work rather often. I try to help You along. I step outside with excuses or rescuing or shame when You are trying to strip it all away with Your Spirit’s blast. It can be harsh and hard, and it can hurt. Oh, yes. Confession hurts. Sanctification hurts. And of course, I have to take the initial step of ‘hiring’ You to clean me out.

But then, I must let You do it. I can’t clean myself, Lord. As my precious mother-in-law says, “Duh.” That’s the whole point of the Gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave…”

You do the hard work, the blasting off of the sin. Then, and only after this, do I do the hard work of accepting Your grace, trusting that what You have done is enough. And walking in that cleanliness with confidence.

It’s like so much else in the Christian life, isn’t it, Lord? So many paradoxes. Yes, You clean us with one harsh and wonderful blast of salvation. And yes, I have to keep coming back to be cleaned again. Not for salvation, but for sanctification. For the daily doing of life.

And sometimes, that’s where I get tripped up. I fall back to trying to figure it out on my own, at worst, or at best, trying to help You along. Instead of accepting that You are God, and I am not and never the twain shall meet.

Except that we do. Another paradox. Somehow, after that first forceful blast, You live inside me. And we meet day after day after day. So that yes, I ‘outsource’ my help from above, and yet, I have the ‘outsourced help’ inside.

I love Your mystery. I love how You so often helped humans see Your truth by using analogies and parables.

So dear Savior and Lord, come again today and pressure-wash my soul for Your glory.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: The God Who Heals

I’m honored to have my friend and artist, Meghan Lacey, again as a guest on this blog. I know you’ll appreciate her devotional thoughts and her art!

Dear Friends and Fellow Travelers on this Journey of Life,

Today I want to share with you what is on my heart, Healing…God’s powerful Healing…the Healing that only comes from Him.

In this difficult chapter of human history, my heart has been heavy, I keep praying for friends, family and those I do not know who I see struggling in so many ways.

Because of a worldwide pandemic that we have been in for over a year now, many of you reading these words know someone who was lost to Covid, I too have friends known to me and even family members who have died in the past year due to Covid.

Each life lost on earth, is a life lost too soon, and Jesus yet weeps with us because He is close to the brokenhearted. Grieving and seeking healing is a complicated process because we start to see ourselves as we really are…that can be pretty scary when we examine ourselves before God. How can we reconcile the difference that we see between ourselves and a most Holy God? How does He want us to respond when we come to the end of ourselves?

By bringing us closer to God through the promises in His word, I too, hope to be transformed and indeed healed by His word. What I want us all to consider, is how intrinsically linked Healing is with Faith. Not just faith in ourselves, one another or in nature or something abstract but indeed, Faith founded in the Living God, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

In Elizabeth Musser’s book, “The Swan House”, after the tragic loss of her mother, Mary Swan Middleton experiences the healing of God through the active faithfulness of the people who come into her life, teaching her what true love is, showing her where she can truly put her trust and hope in for the rest of her life. I love how she starts her journey looking for clues to a riddle, only to find that the artwork she is searching for is quite literally closer to home than she ever imagined. I won’t spoil the whole book for you, if you haven’t read it yet, please do! Atlanta and indeed the world needs to read this story right now, I think yet again we are in a new time of change and healing in our land which does give me great hope!

By examining scripture there is much we can learn about healing and how the power of God through faith can heal us.

Imagine this promise: Jesus is the Healer of bodies and souls!

By His Wounds We are Healed:

“But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds we are healed. For you were like straying sheep, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your Souls” 1 Peter 2:24-25

Praise God! We serve Jesus Christ who died and was literally pierced so that we could be healed! How does death on a cross equal healing for us? What a miracle it is, what a blessing and a gift. We have been given this gift of grace to live in God’s love and his righteousness but it was bought by the blood of Jesus Christ for us.

Another truth to consider:

We are Healed by touching the fringe of God’s Garment and placing our faith in Him.

“And when the men of the place recognized Him, they sent around to all that region and brought to Him all who were sick and implored Him that they might only touch the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Matthew 14:35-36

I love the theme that emerges, simply touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment, those who, in faith of God’s power, believe and they are healed by Jesus! Simply touching the garment of Christ in faith that they would be healed…and they were healed!

One of my favorite stories in the Bible, a woman who healed of a twelve-year long illness by touching the garment of Christ in faith illustrates this point further;

“And behold, a woman who had suffered from chronic bleeding for twelve years came up from behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.’ And instantly, the woman was made well.” Matthew 9:20-22

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:48

“Your Faith Has Made You Well…”

In the next story, it shows how important the body of Christ is for our lives – indeed, it is instrumental in our healing! A group of friends, in faith of the power of Christ, believed that Jesus could heal their paralytic friend. They literally carried him to the feet of Jesus because they knew their friend would be healed if they did.

The Paralytic is Healed:

“And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

And in the face of the scoffers who said Jesus didn’t have the power to forgive sins, Jesus spoke to the paralytic with the authority of one who could indeed heal both body and soul:

“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” Mark 2:10

Powerful, that Jesus could both heal and forgive the sins of a man, but not unrelated at all. In fact, the faith of the friends of the paralytic was the faithful witness to God’s healing power in this man’s life. Find yourself friends such as these, and you will be blessed.

Two Blind Men Receive Their Sight:

“When He entered the house, the blind man came to him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened.” Matthew 9:28-29

The faith of God’s people has the power to heal the sick and help one another to be forgiven from the snares of sin. The gathering together of the people of God has the power to save, we must not stop praying together as the body of Christ for the healing of one another and for the brokenness in this world.

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:15-16

Perhaps, all God wants from us is our whole heart’s devotion, faith and trust in Him alone and not at all in ourselves, what we offer or what we can bring? Childlike faith and reliance upon Jesus, the Great Healer and Great Physician of both body and soul. Do we believe that God is able to heal? Is a doctor’s diagnosis the end of the story for us? What if we see yet another violent act committed on earth against the defenseless? Injustice against the poor, helpless, orphan, sojourner or widow? Do we look at death of a friend or family member as a failure for our lack of faith? I have asked myself this question, “If I had more faith, would this person still be alive?” I don’t know. I know that to be with Christ in eternity is best and sweetest to the Christian who longs to gaze at the beauty of Christ. This earth is not our eternal home. His time is not our time and His ways are not our ways. Honestly, I have struggled with this during the last year acutely. However, despite my doubts and questions regarding the healing power of God and his choice to heal illness or infirmity I know that to place our belief in Him is the safest place I can put my trust.

We can place our trust in our God, He will certainly heal us both in body, soul, mind and spirit, if not fully here on earth, one day in eternity because that is what he has promised to do, and we serve the God who keeps His promises. Praise God!

And God will Heal the Nations:

“Through the middle of the street of the city also, on either side of the river [of Life], the tree of Life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Revelations 22:2

As for now, I think the charge is clear, we have been given a gift to stand up for Christ in the time in which we live. While the questions still remain, I realized some powerful things after looking at these scriptures; according to our faith in Christ, we will be healed, if our faith is weak so may be our healing. In humility, if we recognize ourselves as unable to live without Christ’s sustaining power, he will lift us up and hold us together. Prayer together and in our own quiet reflection seeking the face of God will turn our hearts towards Him and away from the snares of sin. He is so good and kind, He will forgive us and then He promises to heal us. Indeed, though this is not a new thought, not at all, dying in Christ is the ultimate healing of body and soul because the soul in glory with Christ is 100 % free from affliction and pain. On earth, God does sustain us day by day in his healing power and this is our gift of life which we must never take for granted. We need His presence, our daily bread (both literally – we must eat each day! And spiritually in God’s word.)

I hope that as we all continue towards a path of healing in our lives, both in body and in soul, we will remember the promises of God in His word. It is ok to struggle, but don’t ever forget the faithfulness of Our God. His perfect love casts out all fear!  (1 John 4:18)

He is Able. He is willing. He lovingly pursues us.  He is Near. He is Good. Praise God!

Blessings in Christ,

Meghan Lacey

Meghan Lacey was raised in sunny and warm climate of Central Florida and has spent the last ten years living in the beautiful foothills of Georgia. She credits her mother, Lyn Lacey, as her inspiration for her artistic endeavors. While still in high school, Meghan received classical drawing and oil painting instruction from Chris DiDomizio from 2008-2012 and watercolor painting instruction from Dylan Scott Pierce from 2009 until 2012. From 2014 to 2015, Meghan took private lessons from portrait artist Leah Burchfield Mantini. She has taken workshops from renowned artists such as Don Sondag, Jordan Sokol, Amaya Gurpide, Mia Bergeron, Anne Blair Brown, Dylan Scott Pierce, Brett Weaver, and Suzy Schultz. During the fall semester of 2016, she studied abroad at Oxford University through the Scholars’ Semester at Oxford, where she studied History of Art as a registered visiting student. Meghan graduated with her B.A. in Art and Design, with a Concentration in Painting and a Minor in Art History at LaGrange College in May of 2017. During the growing season of 2020, she learned the art of organic farming at Serenbe Farms, GA. As of Spring 2021, Meghan is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Painting, through the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco, CA. She recently was privileged to have her artwork featured in British Vogue’s April, May and June 2021 print and online issues.

Website: www.meghanlacey.com

Instagram: @meghanlaceyartist

Email: meghanlaceyartist@gmail.com

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Letters to the Lord: The Day After Easter

It’s the Day after Easter, and I’m so thankful for this day, Lord. And yesterday. Oh, yes. Yesterday.

Yesterday we awoke early to attend the sunrise service at Point Park. We joined with over 300 other believers, masked and bundled in the near freezing chill, to worship our Risen Savior as the sun rose in bright splendor to our right, off the side of Lookout Mountain.

The brass ensemble trumpeted Your victory over death and then the pastor shared words of hope. After a year of darkness, doubt, and death, we strained to hear Your comforting words.

Mary heard Your voice at the tomb and all of the sudden, despair turned to hope and overwhelming joy.

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). John 20: 14-16

Peter heard Your voice on the beach, Peter who felt like a failure, who had denied You. And You not only restored him but gave him the highest calling.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21: 15

Where do you feel despair? Where do you feel like a failure? Where do you need to go back to Easter with the promise of God’s grace and forgiveness? Once for all, and yet again and again and again. Sweet salvation. A message hand-crafted for you, for me, for all the oh-so-very-human saints.

Easter morning and the days after Easter are once again Your gentle voice saying, “I know your fears, I know your failings. And it’s okay. You’re loved; you’re forgiven. I am with you, and I will NEVER leave you. I know right where you are right now.”

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18

May His words seep into our souls, these words of assurance, as the Lord peels off another layer of pride, of fear, of wondering, calling us to love much because we have been forgiven much.

I am oh, so thankful that the sun rose around us and announced the victory of Jesus yesterday.

And Lord, I am so thankful that today is the day after Easter.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: My Personal Triumphal Entry

It happened again, dear Lord, as it so often does. You winked at me.

A few days ago, I was reading along in Matthew, a chapter a day, as part of my Lenten journey. I’d finished reading Matthew 20, with Jesus’s parables about the workers all getting the same pay, no matter how long they worked. And then the first shall be last quote. And Jesus predicting His death as the disciples head with Him to Jerusalem. And James and John’s mom asking for them to sit by Jesus in the kingdom and the ensuing jealousy. And again, Jesus says, the first will be last and the last first.

I was tempted to read Matthew 21—the Triumphal Entry. But I thought, “No, I’ve got all this next week to slowly absorb my Lord’s last days on earth. Tomorrow I’ll read Matthew 21.”

A little later, as I opened my computer, I saw that I had an email from the church secretary about the passage I would be reading in church on Sunday. And when I opened up the Word document with the Scripture printed on it, I read:

Matthew 21: 1-11.

Really, Lord? Really? The emotions swirl, joy, awe, humbling, a little holy fear, gratitude. Your Wink. But this one feels like You’re shouting at me: “Lizzie, I know there is a lot of stuff going on in your life right now that is disturbing. But remember, I’m right here with you. You can never get away from Me. I promise you that.”

I need that reassurance, even though I have that reassurance. You. Are. Here.

You hold all the messy stuff in my little life, in the Covid world, in books and workers and beyond.

Matthew 21 is Your Triumphal Entry.

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

On that day as I sat with all that was swirling around in me, I thought, “Here is another of Your triumphal entries, Lord. In my life.”

As I read about You on the back of that young donkey, I thought about the novel I am penning which has horses in it, which takes me back to my youth when I was an equestrian.

You know these things. You are the One who shows up, and I wave enthusiastically the palm branch and then fall face down before You, awed and humbled.

I often think about the seasons in our lives as believers. So many changing seasons. But sometimes, sometimes, as we change seasons, there is another triumphal entry. You barge into our day in a way we can’t miss despite our worries and fears and temptations and failings.

You show up in an astoundingly personal way, simply because You can. And You know that this is what I need. A very personal triumphal entry, just for me.

You know, Lord, that I in no way am trying to take away from the Real Triumphal Entry. I am simply awestruck at Your timing. In my life, You knock down all the ‘it’s just a coincidence’ arguments again and again, by showing up and showing me that You know. You know exactly where I am in my life, exactly what I reading (or not reading) in the Word, exactly what my next day and week will be.

I don’t know.

But You come in, again and again, humbly, figuratively riding on that donkey, that look of love and compassion in Your eyes, and say, “I know where you are, dearest daughter, my Lizzie. Fix your eyes on Me. Keep them fixed on Me. You won’t always ‘see’ Me as clearly as today, when I invade your life in a such a personal way. But I’m here. Always. You have known it, but today I thought I’d shout my whisper and wink a little ‘louder’. Just because I love You. And I can.”

Where have you seen Jesus’s triumphal entry in your life lately? It might be a pink blossom on a cherry tree or the sweet kiss of a child or a little coincidence that isn’t a coincidence. Take time and praise Him for it right now.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Hope For Times Like These

Easter 2021 Multi-Author Giveaway – Hope For Times Like These

This time last year we were entering a time of real uncertainty and this year that uncertainty continues. These are good times to remind ourselves to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. 14 authors have joined together to offer stories to help us do this.

I’ll be giving away copies of The Swan House which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in June!

It’s a privilege to join with these authors, several of whom are close personal friends.

I hope you’ll join the Giveaway here.

And I’d like to leave you with a little bit of Spring.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Love Letters from the Lord

Once again, I’m delighted to welcome Margaret Kirby as my guest blogger this week. May you be blessed by her words as I have been.

Have you ever felt like you’re living in a book? I mean those moments when some small detail comes to your attention and you take a step back to look at it and you realize it’s somehow a symbol for what’s going on in your life in that very moment? I tend to think there are little details left along the pathways of all of our stories by an Author, trying to leave us hints and draw us back to Him. And part of living in the kingdom is walking with open eyes and open hearts, waiting and watching for those moments when His hand peeks from behind the next page over and we see Him touching the heart of our stories in the here and now. “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalm 139:5-6).

Some things are so wonderful and so lofty that they require looking up or else we’ll miss them. There is so much in the here and now, so much that we can easily close ourselves off to, if we’re not careful. I’ve been noticing how my busy schedule closes me off from noticing these details, and not only that, but the way I can easily spend a whole day thinking about my own affairs and business without ever really looking up– that closes me off. Sometimes I feel like the shoulders of my soul are hunched and overburdened and my entire self is fixated only on the ground in front of me. But “when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:18). When one of those little details comes into view like love notes left on my path, then I can finally expand my lungs and breathe again; it’s a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, a waking up and I look upward with all my might, searching for the face of the One who left me that little love note on the ground. “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Psalm 139:17-18).

Recently, his precious-love-note-thought came to me in the form of a song. I was washing the dishes, thinking about a good conversation I had had the previous night with a dear friend, and the words came to me then, and with them the sense that I had been singing them in my head off and on throughout the whole day without really catching hold of them, without really seeing them for what they were: a reminder from the One writing my story to look up. And I held those words in my soapy hands, looking at the way they shone rainbow glints in the kitchen light as I stood there and gazed at them. It was the text of a song, “Fill this Cup,” that was resting in my mind: “I don’t know how long it’s been. I won’t step so quickly over this. Waltz across the universe, beauty more than I deserve. It’s right here, breathe it in, I’ve been missing all of this. Let the laughter sound again, let the light come rushing in. Catch the sun, raise it up, come and fill this empty cup” (by “The Dailys”).

There have been so many wonderful things happening in my life, but the busyness of everything has made me skim over some parts far too sweet for skimming. In that moment, I didn’t know how long it had been since I last looked up, and I didn’t know how long those words had been floating in my mind, but that was okay, because all that mattered was that they had roused me to breathe and to be, to watch and to waltz. And it did, it felt like stepping into a dance, stepping into a rhythm and almost a trance. I looked around me at my life, I got beyond myself to peek over my own shoulder and finally see what was truly comprising my life– not myself, but the dearness of sweet friends and family, the joy of good conversations and seeking to understand one another, the quiet silence of a moment in the woods looking at buttercups, and finding I was understood in full when I least expected it… and always the presence of the One leaving me love notes. Always. Beauty more than I deserve. It’s right here– breathe it in. I don’t know how long it’s been, but oh, I won’t step so quickly over this. Let me not step so quickly over this, sweet Lord.

Margaret Kirby is a junior at Samford University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a double-minor in Classics and Philosophy. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the Wide Angle editorial staff, and she sings in the A Cappella choir. Some of the things she loves most are the sky, old books, the smell of coffee, and the way food brings people together. She especially loves her Southern authors (mainly Sidney Lanier and Eudora Welty), and she also considers George MacDonald to be her grandfather in the faith. Her main purpose in life is to re-discover the magic of being a little child in the kingdom of God. So when she isn’t reading, writing, or singing, you can probably find her out gazing at clouds, wandering through forests, or looking for fairies.

You can find her on instagram @margaret.kirby.writing

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Letters to the Lord: Bearing Fruit in Its Season

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of young mothers about faithfulness as a mother. I shared different ways the Lord has encouraged me to be faithful throughout the years. One of the most encouraging things I learned early on as a mother has stayed with me and is still so relevant.
 
Here is the essay I wrote almost thirty years ago. May you be blessed by it and remember to give yourself grace as you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus IN YOUR SEASON.
 
 
 
“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in its season…” Psalm 1:3a
 
I opened my Bible to Psalm 1, ready to start my devotions with a time of praise to the Lord.  My moments with Him had seemed rushed and a little routine lately, but I knew if I went back to the Psalms, I would find songs of   praise.
I really didn’t need to read the first psalm.  I knew it by heart.  Still my eyes  devoured the words hungrily, so familiar, so refreshing.  I loved the metaphor of the tree firmly planted by streams of water.  I wanted my life for Christ to be strong and firm, but I felt like I wasn’t seeing many results in my ministry as a church planter in France.  
I had recently told my mom on a long-distance call, “What do I do?  And yet, what do I not do?”  
I cared for my two small sons and my husband, I discipled a new Christian, I held evangelistic get-togethers for women in the community, I offered hospitality to many who came through our doors, I corresponded with 300 financial and prayer supporters, I battled with another culture and language, and I felt the burden of responsibility for the fledgling church we worked with.  The list seemed endless.  Yet where was the fruit, Lord?
Often I found myself crying out to Him in despair, “Give me fruit for Your glory or I shall die.”  My personality type, which cultivates relationships easily and sees them as of vital importance, combined with my spiritual gifts of evangelism and exhortation gave me a profound longing to produce visible fruit in the lives of others for the Lord.  But caring full time for two little boys while laboring in a country which is renowned for its spiritual apathy often left me feeling empty handed.  All this work and no fruit to show for it.  No juicy reports to write in our quarterly prayer letters.  No sweet tasting words from the nationals.  Only criticism and skepticism and diapers and runny noses. 
My eyes continued down the page in my well-worn Bible:  “…like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season–“  Suddenly I stopped in mid sentence.  Three little words screamed out at me, begging for attention like my sons do before mealtime.  I reread them and reread them, and gradually a smile of real joy came onto my face, erasing the worry lines.
“In its season.”  Three simple words that I had read hundreds of times before.  But today the Spirit whispered to me in a new revelation.  
“Elizabeth, the tree bears fruit in its season, the season which is appropriate for that particular type of tree.”
Of course, Lord!  I could understand that comparison.  We had recently moved into a townhouse with a tiny back yard crowded with an apricot tree, a plum tree, raspberry bushes and black currant bushes.  It was summer now and we were enjoying the raspberries.  The young apricot tree was so laden with her fruit that all her branches bent to the ground.  But the fruit was not yet ripe.  And the plum tree did not have any visible sign of fruit.  Each tree and bush was producing in its season.
 
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I was ecstatic with the thought.  I had often heard about the seasons of a woman’s life.  I had even spoken on the topic.  But now I saw a larger frame of reference–“the fruit in each season of a woman’s life.”  Ah, yes!  This was my season for sowing.  Planting seeds of love in my sons’ lives, spreading fertilizer on the skeptical terrain of my neighbor’s heart, tilling the newly sprouting seeds in my critical Christian friend.
Perhaps as the Lord looked down on my weary tree He saw my branches over laden with apricots which were not quite ripe.  Not quite, but soon.  In its season.  Or perhaps He saw me like the plum tree which right now only offered its branches for shade and swings.  No fruit yet, but someday!  Someday the fruit would be there, delicious and welcomed.
 
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Each true tree of Christ would indeed produce fruit, again and again, but only in its appointed season.  How tempted I had been to look at the masses of fruit produced by missionaries in other countries.  If only…I had thought.  But God had called my husband and me to France.  Mine was a different tree with a different fruit.  Nonetheless, it was fruit for Jesus, and it would last. 
I left my devotions that day jubilant, carefree, happy.  Three simple words, spoken with the depth only God’s Word can provide, had lifted my burden and filled me with praise and hope.  I laughed to myself from my kitchen window as I watched the boys pull off raspberries from the bushes.  Then they headed to the apricot tree, little fingers easily reaching the low draping branches.  Quickly I opened the window and yelled out to them, “No, no boys.  Don’t pick the apricots.  They’re not ripe yet.”  Then, before closing the window, I added, “But they will be soon.”
 
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Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1992

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Never Let Me Go

I find it almost impossible to believe that exactly one year ago, Paul and I were heading out on a Trans-Atlantic cruise, to celebrate my 60th birthday and our 35th anniversary. Little did we know all that awaited us in 2020 as Covid-19 struck the world. For today, I want to look back on a journal entry I wrote while I was on that floating city.

Lectio Divina: Jeremiah 20:7-8

So this happened, Lord, which of course You know because in a sense, You MADE it happen. It is one of those hugely mysterious, almost scary, and yet comforting things about You.

I’m on the ship, the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s crown jewel, and she is a jewel. We’ve been at sea now for 7 days, changed time zones four times and seen land zero times since we set sail.

And it is absolutely perfect. I’m sitting on our little balcony deck on the seventh floor of this humongous 18 story ship. A city on water.

I have loved every minute of this cruise and often, I’ve said to myself, “I imagined it right. Just right.” Throughout each day, I’ll turn to Paul and say, “Have I told You how absolutely tickled I am to be here?” He’s heard me chuckle and giggle and laugh more in these past seven days than in many, many months. It is perfect.

This is what I imagined and hoped and prayed for. We’ve not had any internet in a week and that’s been amazing. There is no lack of activities in this floating city! And the food! Yes, abundant and huge variety and so many different places to eat.

Anyway, I could write for hours about all this cruise is for us and for me, but right now, I want to write about the Lectio I did this morning. Days are long or short on board, but they are all mine, all ours! But really, they are all Yours, Lord.

And that is what the Lectio is about.

So I’m reading in Jeremiah and have just finished the chapters about the Potter and the Clay and the Clay Jar. Now those, I am sure I could do a great Lectio on. That was my thought. But I, like my dear Abbie in The Promised Land, am an obedient pilgrim, and I will keep reading as is the plan. I remembered all the other Lectios I’ve done in rather obscure places and always, You spoke to me as I followed the reading I was already doing.

But chapter 20 of Jeremiah starts off really, really grim: Jeremiah beaten by Pashhur the priest. And it’s all about Terror on Every Side and then the punishment Pashhur is going to receive and all his household too because he prophesied lies. Ugh.

Those are the first six verses, and as I read them, I literally thought, “Lord, bummer. Every time up until now when I’ve done a Lectio, well, it speaks, but this seems like divine wrath and judgment and it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t stir my soul but makes me disappointed in You. That You really can’t orchestrate my life so that wherever I am You invade.”

Stupid, silly reasoning, but those were my thoughts, Lord.

And then I turned the page.

Because I was at the bottom of the page and the next page starts with this header: Jeremiah Compelled to Preach. And I draw in my breath and read the next six verses, 7-13, and I feel Your presence and Your power and Your might, Lord. Like the rolling ocean just below me, so vast and unbelievably wide with the sky touching the ocean and the shimmering crystals of life dancing on the surface as it is kissed by the sun.

I felt You saying, “Ah- hem, Lizzie,” but in a loving yet stern voice. “Don’t ever doubt, don’t ever question, dear, my presence and my power. Just don’t.”

So timidly, tail between my legs, I read those verses, three times, out loud. Slowly.

And here are the things that pierce my heart, as Jeremiah speaks: “I say, ‘I won’t mention him or speak any longer in his name.’ But his message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” V. 9

And that’s exactly what Paul and I were talking about last night. I can’t get away from my writing because, Lord, every time I try, this is the message I get. It wells up inside of me, the stories, the inspiration, the absolute inability to not write. I have to write! Even when I say to You that the journey is rough and unpleasant, filled with potholes, filled with disappointments, I have to write.

And goodness, at least I’m not poor Jeremiah with real enemies who want to stone him and exert all kinds of other violence on him!

His message is gloom and doom, but it always encourages repentance.

Sometimes, You know, Lord, that I wonder if I water down the Gospel. If I don’t shout it loudly enough. But I feel You saying again, as You have said umpteen times before, “Just keep doing what You’re doing, Lizzie. Just keep it up.”

So Lord, as Jeremiah said, “I have become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.”

You prevail, You always prevail. At least, I want You to always prevail and how thankful I am when You remind me again of Your absolute infinite knowledge and power. And love.

Another thing that stuck out to me was when Jeremiah said, “But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior.”

I don’t usually think of You this way, Lord, but it’s true. And today, as I was first lamenting my Lectio, first thinking that You aren’t predictable, which You aren’t, but I was seeing it as a disappointment, You show just how unpredictable You are by hitting me over the head with a message straight from Your heart, IF I WILL ONLY TURN THE PAGE! That’s it, too, isn’t it, Lord? You ask us to keep turning the pages in our lives and trusting that You will keep showing up, page after page after page. Sometime in a mighty, almost violent way, sometimes in a still small voice, and sometimes in the desert, the silence.

But You are always there. You are always with me. You. Never. Let. Me. Go.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.

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Letters to the Lord: Mozart, Billy Joel, and Jesus

Ten years ago this month, Paul and I visited Vienna and got Mozart and a whole lot more. Here’s the story:
I wanted Mozart in Vienna.  For the entire week of visiting with missionaries who do refugee work on the outskirts of Vienna, I had thought of Billy Joel whose song ‘Vienna’ had captured my heart 30 years earlier when I was a Freshman in college.  Slow down you crazy child… when will you realize, Vienna waits for you?  I was that young overachiever for Jesus, the girl who hadn’t quite figured out about the Holy Spirit empowering me—the gal who was doing her best for Jesus on her own strength and being worn out.
But the Spirit had blown through my heart in college and I had started to understand.  And Billy Joel was right—I could slow down, from time to time.
All those years ago, I had traipsed through that magical city with two college friends.  We ate a sacher torte on the sidewalk in front of the Hotel Sacher, we snuck into the stables to see the Lipizzaner stallions.  We stood breathless in front of the works of art in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, amazed to see in real life the paintings we had studied in our art history class.  We peeked into St. Stephen’s and St. Peter’s.  But I had not gotten Mozart back then.
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And on this day in Vienna, with my husband, celebrating (six months late) our 25th anniversary, I wanted to hear his music.
The week had been magical enough already.  Something about our new job—pastoring missionaries in Europe—felt so right.  Time after time in the past week as we’d listened to dear, brave missionaries share with us—their joys and victories, their defeats and fears—I had thought to myself, “Oh, Jesus, now I see why I had to go through those things—through depression and chronic pain, through the betrayal of close friends and the heartbreak of a friend who decides not to follow You and the rip-your-heart-out pain of watching my children suffer, through walking with others after tragic deaths of loved ones and learning deep dark secrets of godly people.  Oh, okay.  Now I understand.  It was so that You could prune me and teach me, of course, so I would learn to hold on tight to You, to surrender to Your will, to believe You could keep me where You’d called me.  All that and so much more, yes, but it was also for this.  So these missionaries could see in our eyes and hear in our voices and feel in their hearts that somehow we got it.  We got them.  We understood.  And we cared.”
This was what Jesus had been preparing for us for so many, many years.  And we’d had the privilege of coming to Austria and meeting these missionaries, many of them for the first time, and being in awe of their lives and work.
And we kept mentioning two little words: ‘boundaries’ and ‘permission’.  Like all good missionaries, we’ve had a hard time figuring out if and when we need boundaries and how to give ourselves permission to rest.  We have so many good excuses—we owe it to our supporters to work hard—they are giving sacrificially—and to those to whom we minister who truly need us.
We saw that these missionaries, like ourselves, needed permission.  ‘Come away with me and rest,’ Jesus says.
So I thought we should be a good example of this principle.  Before we embarked on this trip, I had begged Paul to let us have this one day in Vienna, alone, to soak up His goodness.  We’d need the time alone after a full week, I had reasoned.  And Paul, after lengthy mental debate, had agreed.
So we’d had our day alone in Vienna.  We’d climbed 337 steps up the steeple ‘Steffi’ in St. Stephen’s, we’d walked down Karntner Strasse and Graben, we’d toured the opera house.
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After our opera tour, a red-caped young man with a non-German foreign accent had approached us, offering to sell us tickets to attend a concert of Mozart and Strauss that evening.  I’d read about this tactic on the internet.    I had almost ordered a ticket on line.  Surely I could have Mozart this time.  But it was very pricey and some of the comments online were not so positive.  Was it worth it?
So I had waited and hoped.
I’d written down the price for the cheapest tickets, and I’d prayed, “Lord, I know it’s impossible, but if I could get the cheapest tickets for half price, could we have Mozart?  That would be a good missionary price, wouldn’t it?”
One of the missionaries said that I might be able to bargain with these young salesmen. 
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So I’d tried to do just that with the young man.  Paul is the bargainer, but he didn’t look up for it.  I spoke to the young man in English and then in French—he was happy to hear we lived in Lyon.  He also came down on the price some—not half price but a good bit.  All part of the salesmanship plan, I knew.  We were playing a game.  But we didn’t have enough cash anyway to pay right then, and he didn’t take credit cards. 
“I’ll be here until 6,” he told us. 
We walked away, me humming that Billy Joel tune and hoping for Mozart.  But I could tell Paul wasn’t enthusiastic.  He was worn out from sightseeing.
So we escaped to a beautiful little park behind the Hofburg Palace and sat in the sun and relaxed. We even ordered a Sacher torte and Earl Grey tea, sitting at the Palmhausen café in the Burggarten.  And, as a final blessing in the week of seeing missionaries, Terry and Donna Jeanne came for a short stroll in Vienna.  We hadn’t seen them in 16 years, and I could still remember the fierce tug on my heart when Donna Jeanne and I had waved good-bye in Crete all those years ago.  We’d grown close, sharing our hearts during three different IT conferences in the ‘90s, talking about our kids—she had five at the time and I had two.
Now she had seven and mine were grown and we sat in the sun and it had only been moments, not 16 years. And as I sat there with that precious couple, I said in my heart, “Lord, I don’t need Mozart.  This is enough.  This day with Paul and then time with dear old friends.”
But I did mention to Donna Jeanne about Mozart and the concert and our 25th anniversary.  Her eyes lit up and she said that when she’d attended a Mozart concert years ago, she felt like she’d died and gone to heaven.
So Paul smiled and we walked back to the red-caped salesman.  He was surprised to see me.  “I didn’t think you’d come back.”
We talked about the tickets.  Seeing Donna Jeanne, he asked “Are there four of you?  If so, I can give you one ticket free.  I’m allowed to do this once a day.”
Donna Jeanne smiled her sweet smile and said that unfortunately she and her husband couldn’t stay for the concert.  But eyes twinkling, she added, “But this woman is a famous author.  She’s from France.  You should give her the free ticket!”
I was shocked.  So was the young man.  He looked at me, and I nodded that I was an author, albeit not famous.  “Oh, she didn’t mention it,” he said sheepishly.  Why would I ever mention that?  But Donna Jeanne is like that—she mentions things.
To break the tension, I asked him where he was from, and he said Algeria.  Algeria!  I told him that some of my novels were about Algeria’s war for Independence from France.  His eyes lit up and he said, “You get the free ticket.” 
A free ticket!  And he bumped us up to VIP status for the cheaper price.  I was laughing, as were Donna Jeanne and the young man.  I had prayed for tickets at half price, but never had I imagined that the way the Lord would answer that was by giving us one that was free!
When God shows up in such a fun way, well, I’ve learned that this is His hug to me, but that’s not all He’s up to.  It’s much bigger than that.  I asked the young man his name.  
“Riad,” he said. Then he told me he was from Kabyle.  I know about Kabyle—it’s the part of Algeria where a revival is going on for Jesus.
I promised him that I would send him one of my novels if he left me his address.  He enthusiastically agreed and scribbled it for me on a piece of paper.  As we thanked him for the tickets (he almost forgot to ask Paul to pay, so happy was he with the conversation), I imagined that one day perhaps Riad would be talking with Terry or Donna Jeanne or another of the missionaries about this Jesus that he would read about in my novel.  
As Donna Jeanne and I left Riad, we whispered to each other, “This is so like the Lord.  He gives more than we ask.  He surprises us with good things.  He wants us to give ourselves permission to enjoy His love to us.” 
Even Paul seemed pleased.
The missionary life has so many challenges.  But every once in a while, and more often than we’d expect (sometimes more often than we accept), God just blesses us with something more, something delightfully extravagant.
So I got Mozart in Vienna.  And it was heavenly.
~Elizabeth Musser, March, 2011