The Work of Christmas


As Christmas Eve waited on deck this week, I found myself apologizing to my husband. Apologizing that our Christmas hadn’t been more special, more meaningful, more full of sweet, reflective moments. He just cradled my face, kissed me, reassured me that it had been just fine, and, more importantly, my pastor/husband reminded me that Christmas had not even begun yet. And you know what? He was right. Christmas hadn’t begun yet and neither had its work. The work of Christmas starts with Christmas Day. It is literally the first day of Christmas and its work continues on from there.

What does that mean, though: the work of Christmas? Jesus came to live, see the unseen, love the unloved, give His life for all, and offer a place to everyone. His work was love, and that work began with His birth. So how do we do the work of Christmas? We love. How do we love? We love by encouraging. We love by defending. We love by not giving up. We love by not giving in. We love by respecting. We love by swallowing our opinions and listening to the drop and opening of others’ hearts.

We do the work of Christmas by loving, by forgiving, by standing in the gap, by hearing, by listening, by speaking up when necessary. Christmas began yesterday, the old year is on its way towards the door, and we have an entire new one coming in which to do Christmas’s work. Will you join me in carrying Christmas throughout the whole of the year? No matter what you celebrate, what you call it, will you help me do the work of love this year? Will you help me set the world on fire with it in 2019? I could use your help, dear friend. Thank you.

Advertisements

BloPoMo Day 4: “Choosing Grace in the Hard Places”


Grace is not some beatific blessing borne down to us on angel’s wings. No. Grace is and will always be a choice, just as love is a choice. Every. Single. Day. We have to choose grace over bitterness, and sometimes that is hard. Very hard. Some days, grace, forgiveness, love…these are all hard. Sometimes they really are choices: grit-your-teeth, determination-over-motivation, lace-up-your-gloves-and-punch-above-your-weight choices.

When we are hurting, when something has bumped into our happy (or outright shattered it), that choice can be the hardest to make. We want to feel angry, we want to sit and stew in our hurt and bitterness, but choosing to give grace requires us to act outside of our feelings. As Lysa TerKeurst so wisely put it, “Our feelings are indicators not dictators, child.” We can definitely feel a particular way and do no wrong in the feeling of it but that in no way means that we have to act out of those feelings.

I was once in a situation where it would have been ridiculously easy for me to allow myself to be cold, unkind, and resentful towards some people who (had I allowed my view to skew this far) I could have looked at as “furtherers” of my misery. However, I stopped and thought about them, about the reality of those feelings and ideas. Those poor people would have had no idea as to the cause behind my attitude change towards them. They would have been confused and most likely hurt. The truth was that they had not wronged me in any way; they just happened to stumble into a difficult situation that I was experiencing at the time. These people had never been anything but kind to me and I knew, in my heart’s core, that treating them in any other way would have been wrong. They had not wronged me and so I would not treat them though they had. I would not come unglued and let irrational emotions boss me out of grace. I made a choice. In thinking through and choosing my actions, I then found it a little easier to extend grace to the actual people with whom I was in conflict.

Grace can be hard. Grace can go against every tenet of self-preservation that is built into our cells. That’s why it is a choice. And choices are not made for the easy moments. Choices are made for the challenging times. For the times when we ground ourselves in what we believe and act out of that belief, whatever it may be. Choices are made for those times when situations are difficult, people are stubborn or just downright nasty, and when our hearts are breaking and anger swells. That is when choices are the most important. When we determine to look past what we feel and decide how we will act. When we choose to consider the probability of another’s pain out of which they may have acted. So often, pain is inflicted by those who are in the midst of it rather than it really having anything to do with the person on the receiving end. This is where grace comes in. Grace for the hard times. Grace for the hard people. Grace is ever the better choice than bitterness. We can choose loving grace, even when anger makes us want to lash out in cruelty or when fear makes us want to cower. But it will not be done for us. We must make the choice.

Take it from a courageous woman who ran off with a crotchety Scotsman in a blazing blue police box:

94cbba93eaa638eaee941da0983d3ae0

 

A Long Way From Home – Day 5: Taking Care of Me


Total honesty right now: the thought of this trip honestly terrified me for the better part of a month. Ten days away from home, sans my husband, my partner, my helpmeet? But, while I miss him deeply and dearly, I have made a discovery this week. Well, a re-discovery.

Self-care feels amazing! I am a better me when I do it, when I take care of me.

I have taken time every day so far this week to do something just for me. Something that I want or feel called to do. Whether it’s to take a walk, sing, sleep, write, read, script emails or letters, whatever. And it feels just grand! It has been a long while since I cared for myself, despite the many, many, MANY admonitions and insistences of loved ones. It is not for lack of support or help but usually out of a stubborn inner-thought that I need to handle this by myself, pull my weight, that I need to take care of everyone. This became starkly apparent to me when, on a Sunday morning, as I rushed through combing my hair for church as my husband was putting our daughter into her car seat for us to leave, I had a brutally honest thought:

I take care of myself the least.

It has reverberated back through my mind over the past few weeks. I’m not saying it to brag or to make it a point of pride. It’s the way I am, for the most part. The way I have always been. But this week is reminding me of the importance of self-care and the lessons that I have learned from such women as Jessica Turner (The Fringe Hours), Lysa TerKeurst (Unglued), and Emily P. Freeman (Simply Tuesday) about embracing the small moments and giving myself time to recoup and replenish. After all, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Self-care not only refreshes me physically and helps to balance me emotionally and mentally, but I also find myself more spiritually attuned, more ready to sit and listen for and hear and see God in the everyday, in the small moments, and the fringe hours hidden within each day. That is just amazing and uplifting and challenging all at the same time. I am hoping that and working to make this a habit for when I return home, to my everyday Tuesdays. That I will continue to take time for self-care and soul refreshing/replenishment. It really does do wonders!

self-care-is-a-divine-responsibility

(Art) Today’s Heart-Speaker: Lisa Congdon


A few days ago, I was gifted with a beautiful book by a dear friend: Whatever You Are, Be a Good One: 100 Inspirational Quotations, hand-lettered by Lisa Congdon. This book is simply gorgeous and full of so much wisdom and encouragement and spiritual beauty. I have taken to flipping through it daily since I received it, looking for something that might be that day’s heart-speaker and lay itself alongside the rest of the good that I have been gifted with. This, the second quote in the book, is one of today’s heart speakers:

a7cf97b83d7ac5f9a8e8eae775d7f5f9

 

Sometimes, all I am called to do is to be still and love. Especially when my happy is bumped, my attitude is in funk, or my uglies want to come out, those are the most important times for me to be still, to be thankful, and to love. Who knows what miracles God will work in my heart when I do this? I could be kinder. I could be gentler. I could be more joyful. I could be better. Better than my bad attitude, better than my uglies. Better at loving.

Be still and know. Be still and be thankful. Be still and love.

I Choose…


Today has been a bit of a sucky day. It’s rare that I want to admit that in public because, to me, it sounds suspiciously like complaining, whether it actually is or not. But today has been one of those days. I haven’t had the motivation (though I have had the desire) to do any substantial writing (even journaling) over the past few days. I know that, sometimes, you just have to treat things like a job: do it, get it done, get off your desk. But even that couldn’t persuade me to put fingers to keys or pen to paper the past few days or encourage me when what I did try to write fell flat and lifeless. Add into it that I haven’t felt my best the past few days, and it sends the rest of me spiraling down.

I’m weary, unmotivated to do the housework that needs doing. I want to be sleeping but can’t bring myself to climb into bed alone. I want time to myself but, at the same time, I am lonely. I want to be cuddled and comforted, but I cringe to have my daughter right at my hip or using me as a tumbling mat as she did all morning. I want to sit in a quiet, dark room, but I feel like, if I do, I’ll burst into tears.

And yet, in all of this and sundry other things that have gone on this week, I find myself brought back again and again to the idea represented by these quotes:

“Feelings are an indicator of where we might be in a moment but they DO NOT need to dictate our actions.” – Lysa TerKeurst

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

I can choose my next moment. I can choose what I do next, and I can choose the attitude with which I react to the moments that threaten to unglue me. I might feel low to the ground right now, but I do not have to act like it. I might feel sucky and lonely and irritable, but it doesn’t mean that I have to lash out and be vitriolic to those around me. I have been blessed by friends and dear ones who have endeavored to give me smiles and encourage me today, even amidst their own lives and difficult moments, and, for that, I am extremely grateful. Thank you, friends.

No, today is not the best day. It’s tiring and hard. I want to do something good for my soul, however, so I am going to go and find what that is and do it. Thank you for reading.

Building Up to Victory – #MadeToCrave


Here we are, nearly three full weeks into 2015 and I am reminded of how hard it can be to achieve victory in our goals, whether they be physical, social, emotional, educational, or personal. Sometimes we wonder if we will EVER get there, if we will ever achieve victory in our goals. And, this morning, the below passages were JUST the reminder that I needed

“Sometimes victory seems so far away because we measure it only by the end goal. And end goals can seem overwhelmingly huge, daunting, and just plain hard to reach. But if we start measuring our victories by the smaller choices we make each day, victory won’t seem so impossible.

Practice this not just with your food choices, but in other areas of life as well. The more we experience the blessings of self-control, the more disciplined we’ll become. We’ll start to develop discipline confidence and stop buying into the lie, “This is just the way I am.” ” – Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave Devotional, page 89, emphasis mine.

I have been going to the gym at least twice per week for the past four weeks. I have a goal of losing at least 10 lbs. (one dress size) and regaining the strength and tone that I once had. I have lost 2.2 lbs. so far. Honestly, this goal is starting to feel quite difficult to reach. Victory feels very far away.

Elizabeth is 2 years and one month old and I am trying to gauge whether or not she is ready to start potty training. I feel helpless to even know how to start such an important (and possibly frustrating) process. She shows only the barest interest in the toilet; she is far more interested in the sink. Victory seems like it could be a very long way away here.

So this reminder today was quite apropos for me today:  “Big things are built one brick at a time. Victories are achieved one choice at a time.”

When I choose to go to the gym, that is a victorious small success. When I choose to try a new machine or push myself to a higher level on the elliptical, that is a victorious small success.

When I choose to have my devotion/quiet time before anything else in the morning, to spend those few minutes with God and setting my soul for the day, that is a small victorious success.

When I choose not to snap at my daughter and, instead, respond tenderly and patiently, that is a victorious small success.

When I choose to listen to a heart-nudging and reach out to someone instead of locking myself away in my loneliness/fear, that is a small victorious success.

When I choose to give myself grace and not expect myself to be a perfect woman, wife, or mother, that is a small victorious success.

Step by step, brick by brick, choice by choice, victory gets closer. We need making every effort we can, every choice that can lead to a small success and, ultimately, victory.

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance.” – 2 Peter 1:5-6

 

Reflection: Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst


“My Creative Best” – page 132

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” – Proverbs 14:30

“We get empty when we park our minds on comparison thoughts and wallow in them. […] No jealous thought is ever life-giving. Wallowing in jealous thoughts actually leads to death. Death of contentment. Death of friendships. Death of peace. And certainly death of joy.” – page 133

I really appreciate Lysa’s take on jealousy. Jealousy can cause emptiness in my soul through wanting “it” – whatever I think will make me happy or satisfied at the time – and when others get “it”, it causes my heart to hurt, which can easily lead me into a trap of jealousy. In response to jealousy, though, Lysa notes Galatians 6:4-5, which admonishes:

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

This means that I should focus on reasons to celebrate what I have and what I am doing right (page 134, emphasis added). God has a creative best for my life, a plan for me to accomplish. I don’t want to waste my life and energy wishing for someone’s else’s life or blessings. As Lysa reminds herself when she feels jealous, I am not equipped to handle the good and bad of someone else’s life, and it is always a package deal with both. My life is what I have been equipped to handle. “All the things I have and don’t have are what make up the unique load I have been assigned. (page 135)”