Friday, December 18, 2015
I've had that conversation more times this week than ever before. "It just doesn't feel like Christmas." Most people around me are blaming the 60 degree weather. Maybe that's it, but I have other theories.
Maybe it's old age and the magic seems gone.
Maybe it's loss or the memories of loved ones no longer here with us. For my family and so many other people I know, this is especially tough.
Maybe it's the busyness of the season and all the calendar things and lists and chaos.
I don't know what it is, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas.
But I do know this to be true: it's still Christmas, whether we feel it or not.
Jesus still came, even though he didn't come as the people expected. They expected a king, and they got a humble baby who couldn't feed himself much less rule a nation from his cloth diaper. I'm sure some of them didn't feel like He was the king, even when they were told who He was. My guess is that even Mary and Joseph, though they knew what was true, didn't feel like He was their Savior that night after she labored and pushed him out of her very own body. The physical labor had to make it feel so much more like Jesus was her son and not God's.
Isn't it so much like today? I've had the conversation with high school girls numerous times about not feeling close to Jesus, and I've had to explain that our feelings don't dictate what we know to be true. I have to preach this to myself just as well. Just because we don't feel like He is near doesn't mean He isn't. Perhaps it's in those times He's nearer than ever and we let our feelings get in the way.
Just because we don't feel like it's Christmas doesn't mean it isn't. He still came. He's still coming. Maybe it's all the other things we've deemed "Christmas" to be that have taken away our ability to see him or feel his nearness or his coming. This is the very nature of the waiting. The coming.
As we wait, we do in fact feel things, but they aren't always the warm fuzzies. We have feelings, but mine in the past week have been feelings of stress, chaos, frustration, bitterness, anxiety, and everything far from Christmasy. I've also noticed a trend that this happens to me every year at this time. I'm wondering if this is exactly why - so I could recognize this very night that the waiting and the feeling and His coming are all tied together in this crazy, unexpected way that doesn't go with the Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade paintings we have in our minds of snowfall and Santa scenes.
It was a broken world when Jesus came then. It's a broken world that Jesus will come to when He returns. It remains a broken world as we wait until that day, but He is here. And that is as close as He could ever be - here with us.
I hope that will sink in and give us all some warm fuzzy feelings but more importantly the knowledge and peace that comes with His presence even when our feelings cloud our vision.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
I drive over the Kennedy bridge (the one in the background) multiple times a day. Many days 2 times, some days 4 times, and even on rare occasions I will cross 6 times from Kentucky to Indiana, Indiana to Kentucky. It's a pretty necessary part of my life living in one state and working in another. I need it, but I don't know how it got there. I wasn't here to see it being built between 1961-1963.
The bridge in the foreground is the new bridge being built right next to the Kennedy. Eventually one bridge will go northbound while the other will be southbound traffic for I-65. Most of Louisville and southern Indiana residents find it annoying and a constant cause of complaint due to the traffic its construction causes. Traffic routes change constantly, and for anyone passing through that isn't from here: I feel for you...especially if it rains. Heaven help us all with traffic if it rains in Louisville.
As I drive over the Kennedy every day I rarely look at the bridge being built next to it. It seems like just yesterday nothing was there, and now there are giant concrete pillars emerging from the Ohio River. Today it caught me by surprise.
I know nothing about how bridges are built. It honestly scares me a little if I think about it too much, and I don't know that you could pay me enough to be one of the guys standing on an incomplete bridge pouring concrete (or doing whatever else needs to be done to build a bridge). It's one of those things that I don't really want to know...I'd rather just trust the process and the geniuses who figured out how to build it. And then be thankful when it's complete.
Tonight as the bridge progress caught me by surprise I realized I so rarely think about the "being built" that is happening in my life.
1 Peter 2:5 says this:
"You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 2:22 says:
"In him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
Most days we don't even notice it, do we? Sometimes we ignore it. Then there are days when you might not see it, but you can't possibly miss it because all you feel are the repercussions of the construction happening in your own heart - life sends you on all kinds of detours, you get rerouted, and things are not as easy as they were the day before. And then the next day you might get sent in another direction altogether.
Construction is hard work. And it can be dangerous. That's why on every construction site you'll see men wearing hard hats and steel-toed boots. When you're building things there are heavy beams of steel and sharp metal rods and plenty of things that might not feel good. And let's be honest--no construction site is pretty. Our ideal picture is not the nails sticking out or half painted walls or a giant hole in the ground.
The finished product is always beautiful, whether it's a new home or a skyscraper or a bridge, but the construction zone is ugly and hard and dangerous. As our hearts are being built into a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, it is sometimes ugly, hard, and dangerous, but the finished product is going to be beautiful.
Here's what I think we need to know as we are being built:
- We have to have a foundation. Colossians 2:6-7 says: "Just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." While the building part isn't all our responsibility, it starts with an active choice to "accept Christ Jesus as your Lord" and then "continue to follow him." Any house being built has to have a foundation. If we want to be built, we have to first have a foundation, and that foundation is our faith in Christ.
- We have to know the builder. Who is calling the shots? Is it God, or is it me? If it's me, there's a good chance the building project is going to fail. But if we allow God to do the building, we should also know Him. If I were building a brand new house, I would certainly want to know the builder and I would probably want to know as much as possible about him. Throughout the building project I would probably want to talk to him every day to check on the progress and understand what He was doing. Because I am the house, I want to know the builder as He does his work in me. I want to stay in communication with him as He does his work.
- We have to trust His plan. Behind every building project there is a blueprint and behind every blueprint is an architect who drew out the building plan. God is both the builder and the architect, which is an amazing combination. He isn't just carrying out someone else's plan - He's the one who made the plan to begin with, so He knows and sees the bigger picture. While we might just see concrete slabs and nails sticking out, He knows what we are becoming. We can trust that even though it doesn't look pretty right now, He is making us into something beautiful.
I think this is why Paul prayed this prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 3:
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.I think Paul had an idea about being built. He endured a pretty tough life on earth, but he had a greater vision for the final product. He knew he was being made into a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit and allowed himself to be built up as he endured all kinds of hardship. He had a solid foundation on faith in Christ, knew the builder, and trusted that His plan was perfect. He prayed the same for the Ephesians, and for us, above.
I pray this for you. I pray this for me. I pray that instead of ignoring the process we will be aware of the being built. And as we are being built, would we get to know the builder more and more, so that we can trust Him more and more and allow Him to reveal a better version of us - one that will be made complete and whole on the day when Jesus returns.
Thursday, March 05, 2015
I was supposed to be driving home to Illinois for his birthday, my mom's birthday, and a couple other things happening this weekend, but because of the crazy snow in Louisville, I'm still here. Normally on snow days I veg out in my pj's and watch movies and whine a lot about how much I hate winter, but for some reason today I felt like moving. (Don't worry, I didn't get out of my bed until almost noon, so I laid around some!) Once I got moving I decided to shovel all the walkways around my house (which is way more exhausting than I thought) as well as shovel all the snow off of and around my car on the street. And then I thought, "hey, it's a great day to take a walk!" Because who takes walks in the snow? Apparently me. And apparently people who live in the Highlands, including a lady named Victoria, who I met as we both walked and talked down the middle of the street since no cars were out and about. The sun was shining and there were blue skies, and I was meeting a neighbor (which I've been praying for to happen), and my heart was just at peace! Even in the snow!
Why do I share all of this? Because if you know me, you know that I hate winter and cold weather. I complain about it. A lot. I'm more than ready for spring, but even last night as it snowed buckets in the dark, I walked out into my street and stood there for a minute listening to nothing but the silence and the sound of snowfall. Right there I just decided to be thankful. It was peaceful. Too often I complain about life and circumstances and things like winter that are out of my control. But one thing that is in my control is the choice to be thankful.
I called my Papa Don tonight to wish him a happy birthday and he cried when I hung up the phone, as he often does when I say goodbye to him these days. My Grandpa has endured a lot of hardship. Being 91, he's lived through the Great Depression, war, the loss of his wife (my grandma), the loss of his middle son (my Dad), and the loss of his oldest son (my Uncle) just this past December. As he has aged he has also lost a bit of his hearing and some of his eyesight, taking away his ability to drive or read. And just after my uncle died, he had to move out of the very home that he built with his two hands and into an assisted living apartment so that they could help with daily things like medicines and laundry and things that are just too worrisome for him on his own. He has lost a lot, and he has so many reasons to complain, but he doesn't. He smiles, and he gives, and he loves.
Today I remembered that I have several videos and voice memos I recorded in December as we listened to him share stories about his childhood. I didn't want to forget what he has been through. He shared of growing up in a time when no one was jealous of anyone else because they were all in the same boat. No one had more than you. They had an outhouse for a bathroom that you had to go outside to use - even on snowy days like today! They didn't even have rolled toilet paper but they used old magazine pages. He talked about buying day old jelly donuts on his way to school as he walked every day for a couple miles to get there. You could get 3 for a nickel. He talked about the war and how he lost friends to the Japanese. He still has a hard time talking about that.
So I felt it necessary today to share words that honor my Papa Don and his 91 years of life and how I'm just learning to be thankful. While there are circumstances in my life I'd love to change, I will choose today to not let them take me down. Instead, I will choose to be grateful and make the most of the life God has given me like my Papa Don has.
Over the last few weeks I've fallen into the dreaded winter depression. A very "poor me" kind of attitude, wallowing in silly little things that should not steal even a second of my joy, but I have let them. Jen Hatmaker shared on her facebook status something similar today that I've been feeling:
Onward. Ain't nobody got time to get all squirrely over every little thing. WE GOT STUFF TO DO, right sisters? You squirrely over something? ONWARD I SAY. You're too awesome for nonsense. Drop it like its hot.AMEN, right? I'm pretty sure I've never said Amen after saying/reading/writing "Drop it like it's hot" but I sure am. Thank you Jen, and Snoop, for those words today.
And thank you Grandpa for reminding me that there is joy in life even in the hard things, and that every life is valuable.
And thank you Lord for teaching my heart to be at peace today. And I guess, for the snow. :)
Thursday, September 25, 2014
That saved a wretch like me
I often sing those words without a second thought, but when you really stop to think about his grace, it really IS amazing. After reading through the IF:Equip devotional (if you're not following this, start today!) going through Genesis today I was reminded by Kelly Minter how God clothed Adam & Eve in the garden and how he clothes us still today with his righteousness and grace through Jesus. I so often choose to clothe myself with my own sin, guilt, and shame, and I forget to put on the righteousness of Christ.
It reminds me of my closet. I have about a billion things in there...it really is much too big and full. I need to simplify. To my credit, it's big enough to keep all seasons' clothing out without having to put winter clothes into storage during the summer, and vice versa. However, it just means that there are more options than an indecisive girl like me needs in the morning to get ready. I tear through my closet some mornings, putting on options and throwing them off and onto my bed or the ottoman in my bedroom. Rather than putting things back where they belong, I throw them around and cause myself more trouble later having to clean them up.
It creates more of a mess when I constantly put things on and take them off.
I realize this analogy is a big of a stretch, but it finds its basis in Galatians 3:27, which says: "All who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes." (NLT)
You know how when you get brand new clothes you want to wear them right away? I do, at least. But then eventually they get worn out and I get tired of wearing them, and I constantly want something new...thus the closet full of clothes. And my daily indecision. And the mess I get to clean up.
It's the same way when we put on Christ. Sometimes the longer we wear Christ we get weary of how exhausting it seems to follow Him daily (which isn't true, because Jesus tells us "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" in Matthew 11:30). What I think exhausts us more than anything is the constant trying and putting on and off of Christ himself. When we try to switch between our flesh and life in the spirit, of course it's going to be exhausting! But when we remain clothed in the righteousness of Christ, there is FREEDOM and it is light! We can run and dance and sing, and you know that the clothes you can do that in are the very best kind!
So why do we constantly clothe ourselves in so much else? It is already promised in Romans 3:
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.We're all even here. God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous! How amazing is that grace?! We do not deserve it, but it is a daily gift - like a brand new outfit - that we get to put on every single day!
I'm all about new clothes, so I'm grateful for the fact that every day I get to put on brand new grace through Jesus.
Oh praise to the One who has ransomed my soul
Calvary COVERS it all!
Friday, April 18, 2014
But I cannot fathom the waiting that the disciples endured from Jesus' death on the cross to the moment he walked among them again.
3 days. Waiting. Wondering. Questioning. Doubting.
Was it really all true? Was he really going to come back like he said he would? What was life going to look like after this?
We all ask questions in the waiting. Like an ellipsis leaves us waiting for what's next, Jesus dying left so many, in addition to the disciples, waiting to find out what was going to happen next. In some ways I can relate with the waiting concept, but it's hard to grasp what must have gone through their minds that weekend.
The disciples had spent so much time with Jesus. They basically gave every day to follow him around, learn his teachings, learn the way he did life, and then they watched him die. He had given them clues. He told them it was coming. But just as they fought over who would sit closest to Jesus at the dinner table, their minds were not always mature enough to understand the weight of his words.
Maybe then, sitting at the Last Supper, they believed him. But if I were in their shoes watching him be handed over to the soldiers who would torture him and nail him to the cross, I'd be questioning things. And when he breathed his last, I'd surely wonder to myself "Why didn't he stop this?"
The 3 days after that had to be awful. Filled with the darkness of depression, covered with a cloud of doubt, heavy with the weight of grief. I also imagine that they replayed every miracle, every conversation over and over in their minds...trying to remember what Jesus had said, wishing they'd paid more attention along the way. If I were one of the disciples, I'd be wavering between depression and curiosity.
He promised them he was coming back. But we know in human terms, promises don't always carry a lot of weight. Sometimes they're thrown around with little meaning, so did they really truly believe the promises Jesus made? I'd like to think so, but they had to have their moments of doubt.
I know this: in those 3 days those disciples probably dealt with their grief in very different ways, just as we all grieve in very different ways. Some with anger, some trying to repress it and pretend everything is ok, some still hopeful for some kind of turnaround, some in disbelief, some just wanting to be alone, and some just wanting to be in community with each other. After all, they were used to being together, but did Jesus' physical absence mean their so-called "group" was breaking up? What did all of this mean?
Did the disciples just sit in the upper room and pray together as they waited? Did they sit there and talk about their sadness? Did they cry together? Were they fearful?
While those 3 days are yet a mystery to us, we know how the story turned out. The disciples may or may not have even realized at the time what they were waiting for, that it was going to change the world. That it was going to change their eternity. I don't know what they thought, realistically, in the 3 days of waiting. Maybe they didn't even know they were waiting. They may have thought, "this is the end."
I pray that in our waiting, no matter how long or how hard it may seem, we recognize that this certainly is not the end. Whether it's 3 days or 3 years or 3 decades, the story ends in victory, because we know our Savior came back once. And while we wait for him to come again once more, we wait with eager expectation.
Monday, March 24, 2014
One reason is this: I've been lazy. Spiritually speaking, for some seasons, but emotionally, mentally, and physically as well. I believe God has made me with a "writer's brain", in some aspects, but not all of it is meant for public sight. Yet I've hidden that gift, not only from you--also from myself. In the last two years I've hardly spent time writing, which in turn means that I've spent little time practicing and professing and processing by expression what God is teaching me. I have in other ways, but writing is one of the ways I express best, and so I've failed to use the gift of words He has given me.
Another reason: what other people think. I care too much about it. WAY too much. And it's time that I stop. I know people who don't get the whole "blogging" thing. They think it's weird and dumb and narcissistic and pointless. And I know people who do love it, but they write because they want affirmation from other people. And I have been in both of these camps until I realized this: Writers don't write for the readers. They write because they have to. They can't not write. And by nature, I'm a writer. My thoughts are in streams of words tied together, and so many of them come so quickly that I fail to verbalize them and they disappear. I have to write. And so I will. You won't see all of it. There will be posts I don't publish. And there will be some that I will and probably shouldn't. And there will be posts that people think are dumb, but I don't care. (I probably will for a second, but then I'll try not to.) When you write publicly, you become vulnerable. And that's a little bit scary. A lot scary.
One last reason: ME. Sometimes I don't think people want to hear what I have to say. Or sometimes I think everyone should hear what I have to say. And there are days when I don't get the balance right between those two. While this is certainly not a platform for my opinions, it's a good place for me to work out and process the truth of who God is and who He made me to be and what my purpose is. My purpose is not just to write, but to tell my story, which is part of the greater story of who God is. And sometimes that means getting over ME. It's not about me. So I'll do my best, through words I'll piece together carefully (and sometimes probably not carefully enough) to say what I need to say to point to Jesus.
So here I go again...I may be the only person reading my own words, but I'm writing because I finally believe it's essential to who I am, but it is not about me.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
You might have to be looking for it to find it, but it’s there. I heard it in two movies in a row the other night, and saw it in the preview for another. I heard it in a song on the radio. And I now see it in a tattoo on my wrist in Romanian.
Here are some of the reasons why...
One of those reasons, small as it may be, is because I come home to an empty apartment, night after night, longing to feel known and loved. I just drove home, passing hundreds of houses, filled with families inside and probably lots of love too, and all I could think was, “I wish I had that.” I know my envy is wrong. I know the life I have is enough. I know no one’s life is perfect. I know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But try telling my heart that, and it might just slap you back in the face with its deep desires that say otherwise.
And yet I have hope.
It doesn’t make sense. I’m not talking about hope for a spouse or a family or a cute house with a seemingly perfect life & Pinterest-inspired décor inside. But I do have hope that outlasts my longings and desires. Let me go on…
Another reason I’ve tattooed the word ‘hope’ on my wrist is this: I’ve seen countless people living with much less than I have, and I think they get it more than I do. They have more joy, and have taught me much more joy, than I could have known without them. My tattoo is in Romanian. But why Romanian? Because in the 3 times I visited Romania, I was reminded that in the midst of hopelessness, there is still hope. I visited homes made of tarp and scraps of wood filled with more bodies than can fit on the unpaved dirt floors inside, and I cannot forget. As Brooke Fraser’s song “Albertine” goes, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible.” I heard those words for the first time in a car driving down an unpaved road in a gypsy village where shack after shack was before my eyes. I know hope exists, even if sometimes it appears in a house made of scraps.
I don’t just have hope for their well-being, for real houses made of cement and siding and with cute décor inside, or even hope for just their basic needs to be met (though that is one desire I long for). My hope is for these people, the Roma people, and ALL people, to be known and loved and to know and love Christ. They are mistreated in the Romanian society and looked upon as dogs. But there is hope for them…I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I know Him.
5 years ago, my amazing dad was taken from this earth. It was a shock to all, as he had just come home from the hospital that day, hoping to be on the road to recovery just 3 days before Christmas. He was home just in time to see his 3-year-old granddaughter, the love of his life, open her presents. And for reasons unknown, an aneurysm instead took him from our world. Too early. Too young. Too much yet to be done. Before he could ever walk me down the aisle and gain another son-in-law, he was gone.
It’s hard for most in the stages of grief to find hope. But in the case of someone who knows, or knew, Jesus, it is different. A year after my dad’s death, a friend’s grandfather passed away and I sent him a sympathy card that spoke more to me than it probably did to him: “Thankful that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.” That card has reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 many times since then, and I cannot imagine how anyone grieving the loss of a non-believer can get through life beyond that death. The only thing that gets me through this life beyond any death or trouble or hardship is this: hope. It remains.
When all else passes away, hope remains.
Lamentations 3:21-26 has been one of my favorite passages for some time now. It says this:
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
What is it we hope for? What do we wait for?
New life in Christ promises eternal life beyond death on this earth. An eternity in the presence of God. A seat at His banquet table. A mansion on streets of gold. A place where there are no more tears and there is no more pain. All these things are promised to those who have hope in Him.
And that’s why I hold onto it.
Amidst anything I could wish for in this life, any darkness I’ve seen, any loss I’ve experienced, there is nothing worth holding onto more than hope.
When you’re gasping for air, or life slithers through your hands like grains of sand, it feels like nothing is within reach. You can’t control anything, and that’s exactly the point. That’s why hope is there. You’re not meant to control it. It’s meant to control you.
Let. hope. lead.
But hold on tight, because it’s a crazy road, and it’s probably not paved.