Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year

After the presents are finally unwrapped.  
After the food has been prepared, presented, and devoured. 
After the house limps its way back to normal under the few remaining presents and scraps of paper and tape and some boxes and stuff that needs to find new homes. 
When you've shopped the day-after sales and were mildly disappointed that all you found were exactly two rolls of paper for next year (must. replenish. pink. paper. for. the. girls.) 
When you've hugged necks of family far and near and the house is quiet once again. 

Then you look at the new year square in the eyes and wonder what it holds in store for you.  

Maybe this new year holds something exciting in store for you.  

A new job, a new baby, a new home, a new relationship, a new marriage. 

Maybe this will be YOUR year--the year that everything finally works for you.  Maybe this year holds the keys to your future.  Maybe this will be the year that everything finally works together and you repair what was broken. 

Maybe this new year is your breath of fresh air.  

Or, maybe this year will be the year that the wind is knocked right out of your lungs.  Maybe this year holds the diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the end of a job opportunity.  Maybe this is the year you will look back and want to erase.  

Maybe this will be the year that all hell breaks loose. 

Sometimes it can be very scary looking at the unknown.  Wondering if you will choose the best and right things.  I often concern myself with the "what ifs" and can make myself sick with worry.  I know in my deepest heart that I cannot control the future.  I know that I can only take each situation as it comes.  And I know that worrying will not add one more minute to my life.  

I know all of these answers and can recite them to anyone else who needs them at a moment's notice. 

But for me? 

I'm working on convincing my head that they are true for all of us.  

Including myself. 

I don't know what my future holds.  I don't know which paths my family will take this year.  I have no idea what's going to happen this afternoon, let alone this spring.  I don't know if we will all be standing around together this time next year.  Life has a funny way of happening every single day.  

But, I do know Who holds my future.  And I do know that He is in control.  And I do know that it's a lot easier if I let Him hold on to my plans and my future rather than hastily working on them with my worried mind.  

I think about some upcoming things my family will face this year.  I already know some bills that will need to be paid.  I already know some challenges we will face.  I also know to expect the unexpected. 

However, instead of filling my mind with worry and uncertainty and fears, I'm planning to repeat the promises I readily believe for others and start believing them to be true for myself.  

Matthew 6:34: Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (The Message)

reposted from the archives

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lackluster reality.

The holidays were hectic around my neck of the woods this year.  Between being run ragged trying to manage a bustling calendar of events and life happening full-throttle, and several postal delivery delays, and not being on top of my present-game, I found myself merely days before Christmas frantically doing some last minute shopping.  I had a long list of names and was running low on inspiration, and several stores were closed (I'm looking at you, Harry & David) or had moved on and put away all of their Christmas items several days before the actual holiday (cough cough, Restoration Hardware).

I was burned out and tired and ready to be back home.  

Christmas is my most favorite, but expectation was getting on my nerves this year.    

I don't know about you, but when I'm exhausted, shame and judgement tend to creep around my shoulders, whispering into my ears with forked tongues and pushing down all the joy in my life.  They love to remind me how I'm not measuring up again--words I've said, actions I've taken, things I should have done better--highlighting all of my failures and weak attempts, and squashing my peace.  

Maybe you're feeling the sting of a holiday that didn't quite measure up, too.  Maybe your family is experiencing some major changes--moving into a new house or town.  A loved one is deployed.  Or physical issues and surgeries have resulted in putting your holiday season on hold.  Having a baby or preparing to send your baby to college.  Saying goodbye to loved ones, or dealing with the loss of those who have recently passed away.  Perhaps you've had some issues at work, or you're desperate for new employment.  Maybe you are having a spat with a friend or family member.

Maybe you are dealing with a major catastrophe--I know in my own corner of the world we know people who have been diagnosed with cancer and passed away in a matter of days, friends who have lost their 4th immediate family member this year, and friends who lost their home in a fire days before Christmas.  

They don't make those sorts of greeting cards for the holiday season.  

So what do we do when our lives feel like my Christmas tree--a little dark in the middle because some of my twinkling lights have also decided they are done with this season? 

I'm not sure.  

I've spent my recent days low and quiet at my house, anxious to regain order.  I've been gentle to my body and tried to eat, sleep, hydrate, and move more.  I've slept in and tried to take it easier than usual--being thankful for a job that allows me a decent break around the holidays.  My soul has been itching for creative release, but the words have been slow to come so I've been reading words that inspire.  I'm slowly transitioning my home with winter decorations because hygge and Joanna Gaines are my favorite styles.  I'm listening to music and drinking evening cups of decaf and quieting my heart.   

I can't take care of the people around me if I can't take care of myself.  I need these little small victories of getting through that entire load of laundry and running the miles on the treadmill and organizing one drawer of chaos.  I need those small success stories in my days because I can't always fix the major issues all around me.  

I cling to the words of Isaiah during the holiday season, his words reminding us of the promise of a Savior who will fix this hurting world.  I cry when those words are read aloud because this weary world has been hurting for such a very long time.  I find solidarity in the people of Israel, desperate for Someone to save them from the hardness of life.  They were searching for something, too--and the first Christmas didn't meet their expectations, either.  

They were hoping for a King and got a baby.  

We know now that this Baby saved the world, but we have the luxury of hindsight.  But we don't have hindsight when we're dealing with the present--we want remission but we get a funeral.  We want resolution, but we endure hot tempers.  We imagine greatness and are given a life-sized lump of coal.  

These days shall pass, and one day we will look back upon these times and have the ability to understand why and how this season will be used for His good.  We will understand why weary hearts have endured such pain.  We will see how our stories have been woven together in such a way, much like the Old Testament leads to the Resurrection.  

This is the Truth we must cling to in this season of lackluster reality.  

For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn. . .


Monday, December 5, 2016

The weary world

After a particularly hard day last week, my restless toddler was not feeling the need for sleep at bedtime.  She was out of sorts and after several requests for extra hugs and discussions, I finally went into her room and got down on the floor next to her bed to help her relax.  I needed her to go to sleep because bedtime begins the two hours of quiet in my day.  I had already changed into my pajamas, and I wanted a mug of hot chocolate and time to sit down.

I waited and listened for her breathing to slow.  I closed my eyes and went through my enormous to-do list and mentally ticked through all of the items I needed to take care of in the coming days.  December is hard on folks and moms and music teachers and my skin and my heart was feeling a little thin.  I felt like I wasn't doing anything well at all, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  I was exhausted and weary and just needed a good cry.

I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders.  

I asked Him to meet me and show me what I needed to see in this. 

My toddler finally settled and I tiptoed out of the room.  My husband told me my friend, Kim, had called while I was in O's room.  Kim shared the news that one of my dearest friend's father had suffered an apparent heart attack while at church here in town, and that it was not looking good.  I felt urgency immediately rise and I knew that wherever my friend was going to meet her father, I had to go to be with her.   

I knew I had a thousand things to do, and I knew I was probably in for a late night, I knew that I had a huge day at work ahead of me, but I just wanted to be with my friend.  My husband suggested getting dressed and texting Kim, who alerted us to the news, for any updates because she was still at the church.  While I was pulling on my sweatpants, Kim replied that it was extremely serious.  I flew out the door and willed my town to change all of the speed limit signs to greater than 35mph and drove as quickly as I could without risking a ticket.  

I rebuked Satan and pleaded with God to intervene.  There was no reason for this man to have a heart attack.  He was healthy as could be, active in the community and in his church, and the other half to a sweet lady.  And to make matters worse, my friend's husband had lost both of his parents earlier in the spring.  Three parents in one year would be too many.  It was not fair that it looked like another loss was coming.  

I was less than a block away from the church when Kim texted that the man had passed away.  I pulled into the parking lot and it was ablaze from all of the rescue vehicles' flashing lights.  Kim met me at the front doors of the lobby and we waited outside for my friend and her husband to arrive.  I felt sick all over and I saw the many people standing inside crying and looking distraught.  This man and his wife are much loved by their church, and it was evident on everyone's faces.       

My friend and her husband arrived a few minutes later and some of us moved into the sanctuary to be with them and her mother.  There are moments in your life when it feels like your heart cracks down the middle like the drawings.  I was wrecked with grief for my friend, and I would have done anything in that moment to make it all better for her.  

But there was nothing to be done. 

The next morning I walked into school and the weight of my day felt a little lighter.  Even with all of the things facing me for the day, I knew that none of them were life and death matters.  I would not suffer if things didn't go exactly to plan, and none of it really mattered in the grandest scheme of things.  I had prepared, it would all happen, and then it would pass and my life would move forward.

Meanwhile, my sweet friend's world had suddenly stopped.

When I prayed the night before for perspective, I was hoping for a gentle Voice or insight from a friend or devotional.  I was not expecting the Lord to show me through the loss of a great man.  I was not expecting to see it on my friend's face when I met her at the church.  I was not expecting to find it with news of another family facing cancer and babies in the hospital because suffering is always right around the corner when you look past your own troubles.

I was just not expecting perspective to come wrapped in a life-shaped box.

My heart has been feeling very tender towards loss.  There is a profound weariness that comes with this holiday season.  We enter this time of year with great expectation, but it also magnifies of how imperfect our lives really are.  We beat ourselves up over getting all the things done, and there are families wondering how in the world they are going to make it through the next moment, let alone the season, without their loved ones beside them.

I've come to believe that this season is all about Life and Death--the promise in a baby who came to the world to save us from our sins and to later die on a cross.  The baby grew into a Man who preached loving God and loving and serving others--but He did not say a word about the many things we fuss and worry with during this season.  No one is going to give you a sticker if you have the most beautiful decorations or the best parties.  No one really cares if your kids sing perfectly in tune and know all of their lines in the program.

What is important is how we interact with others.  How we show them we love them.  How we treat the people we come into contact with during this season and every day.  How we open our eyes and recognize the true troubles and hurt in our community.  How we honor others with attention and service, and how we give the weary world a place to rest in its brokenness.

If we all move forward and survive--that is more than enough.



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