Friday, November 28, 2014

An Advent Resource: finding meaning amidst the chaos

I had an unwanted moment of self-revelation recently… I have begun to dread Christmas.

Really? Ugh! I hate that.

Christmas was always one of my favorite and most meaningful holidays. I have a thousand wonderful Christmas memories from childhood. Candlelight services on Christmas eve. Giddy anticipation. Stockings first, yummy brunch, then presents. Christmas music in the background and the smell of cinnamon rolls lingering in the air.

But, now, things are different. Well, they're actually quite similar; it's just my role has changed. Now, I'm the one buying and wrapping all the presents. I'm the one setting out all the decorations. I'm hosting parties and making the cinnamon rolls and trying to plan fun Christmas activities for our kids.

And somewhere in the midst of making it magical for everyone else, I've lost the wonder of it all for myself.

The dominate emotion I feel is no longer anticipation of Christmas, but relief when Christmas is over. And that's sad to me.

I want to anticipate His coming. I want to remember what a desperate and hopeless predicament mankind was stuck in until that silent night when Hope was born. I want to feel my own desperate need for this baby who split time and swept away darkness and made a way for redemption.

My life is in all kinds of need for Him right now. Some times we feel that more than others, and I'll just be honest, I feel it deeply. I need Him to surprise me with His presence the way He surprised the shepherds. I need to ponder Him in my heart the way Mary did. I need to go to ridiculous lengths to find Him the way the Wisemen did. I don't want to miss Jesus this Christmas.

This is the season of Advent. Anticipating something great. The arrival of something so important and significant that it changes everything. Yes, I think that's exactly what I need right now.

Last year we started a new tradition that I loved but think we will continue to tweak. We did a "Jesse Tree" last year and told a different Bible story each night that led up to the coming of Jesus. I liked the concept a lot, but the thing I want to tweak are the selected stories and how they are told. My goal is to tell Bible stories that all link directly to our need for a coming Savior.

Andy found this Advent resource and so I think we'll start here…with God's perfect creation, how we messed it up, and how He paved a way back.

I'd love to hear ideas from your family: How do you keep things simple enough to enjoy Christmas and meaningful enough that you don't miss Jesus?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Suck it up, Princess

I thought about starting this post by saying that I've been going through a tough time lately…there are some personal challenges in my life that are really weighing me down. But then I thought, I'm pretty sure anyone at anytime in their life could make a statement like that.

The challenges change during different seasons of life.

  • In college, I jammed my schedule SO full with classes, work, practicum, and ministry responsibilities that I could barely find time to eat or sleep.
  • When first married, my whole life got turned upside down with a new husband, new home, new city, and new job. I suffered through an undiagnosed depression for over a year. 
  • When we had our first child…
  • When we started South Bay Church...
  • When we adopted...

Some difficulties undoubtedly outweigh others. And, intermingled with the pain, every season has it's share of joys.

It's the dance of beauty and heartache. The place where laughter and tears merge. When fist-pumping victory in one area is tainted with failure in another. That moment when a breathtaking sunset is interrupted by a swarm of gnats.

We don't get to separate the two. They are always there…together.

And it is up to me to see the artistry in it all. To choose gratitude over pity. To cling to faith over despair. To believe truth instead of lies.

What I say to myself and about my situation can drastically affect, not only the outcome, but also how I walk through it. I have to surgically remove the lies I'm believing and replace them with what I know to be true.

  • I am blessed. (Ephesians 1:3)
  • God has given me everything I need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)
  • His grace is more than enough. (James 4:6)
  • If I ask, He will give me wisdom. (James 1:5)
  • He has a plan and somehow this will work out for my good and His glory is I will stay the course. (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28)

And then, some of the most inspirational words I'm saying to myself right now are: "Suck it up, Princess." 

I don't have time to wallow around in hopelessness. I've got three kids who are counting on me. I'm the only Mommy they get so I better put my hand to the plow and try my best. I've got laundry to do, meals to prepare, bills to pay, and scraped knees to bandage. I have work to do and I am stronger than I think I am. So I will brush the tears off my face (or sometimes just let them flow) and I will keep moving. I will suck it up and believe that when I do what only I can do, God will step in and do what only He can do.

Self-reflection has it's place...But you might as well be sorting the laundry while you at it.

So today, identify the lies that you are believing about yourself or your circumstance and then replace them with truth. You gotta suck it up, Princess. The world is counting on you to show up. To bring your best. Keep fighting through the gnats to dance in the sunset. I'll meet you there.