Archive | December 2015

2015: Wrapping it up

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While I didn’t actually wrap any presents this year, I really like wrapping presents.  I like the neatness of rolled paper (never folded), straight cuts, exact folds, and of course, invisible tape.  It appeals to my ocds and I experience a great deal of satisfaction in the effort, even in the challenge of the oddly shaped items (which if at all possible will be placed in a box).  I like the idea of a gift presented in a box covered with beautiful paper and a bow.  It’s just so….neat.

While this was the most unChristmasy Christmas I’ve ever had, there were still moments of concentrated busy-ness with a few preparations.  We love Jesus.  Really we do.  We just don’t make a big deal out of the season in the sense of decorating and gift-giving.  (This takes a lot of pressure off, but comes across as a bit Scrooge-ish to many.)  We gather with family for a meal, enjoy a game or two and the conversations and laughter, and if the little ones are with us we watch as they excitedly open their gifts. It’s a simple celebration that suits me fine.

As does the gift bag.  It’s simple and easy and requires very little effort.  It’s supposed to have creases and folds because that’s what makes it a bag, and therefore, acceptable in appearance.  It comes in many sizes and colors, does not need a bow (one less thing), and the gift within is hidden from view by tissue paper stuffed in the top which is intentionally messy.  I don’t know who came up with the idea that messy is how something is supposed to look, but thank you.  I can do neat, but let’s face it, messy is much quicker and easier and seems to come much more naturally.

It’s time to wrap up another year and honestly, it’s been a weird year for me.  Not bad, just different. It’s been uncomfortable in that it seemed to have many a wrinkle that I’d rather not have been there. The corners are still crooked and the end seems unfinished.  The invisible tape that is not really invisible at all simply shows my limited ability to hold some things together so that it will look acceptable to others. It seems I am still tempted to force an oddly shaped life into a standard box.  Somewhere along the line I believed the message that our boxes may differ in size, weight, and contents but they should still look like a box.  It was easy to convince me that the standard is a box because that appeals to my nature. Neat.

But life is rarely neat.  It’s more like the gift bag.  Creases are a part of it.  It comes in many different shapes and sizes and colors and designs and the treasure within is often hidden by something that actually looks pretty messy.  It’s challenging to accept messy in our lives because we feel compelled to fix it and make it look neat because surely that’s how it’s supposed to look.   No doubt there are things we need to fix.  But there are so many things that make our lives feel messy that we simply cannot fix. Our lives have been altered by many a decision and event, good ones and bad ones, and we are left with something that we didn’t expect, some good and some bad.

This year some of us had an empty seat at the table, a seat that will never again be filled.  Some of us had family that were not present in our lives because of hurt or anger or addiction.  Some of us were fighting just to survive, to keep our heads above water.  Some of us questioned our faith and felt as if the waves of doubt would overtake us.  Some of us had difficulties behind closed doors that no one knows about.  Some of us were alone.  Really alone.  Some of us had broken promises and shattered dreams and deep disappointments and unanswered prayers.  And most of us are finishing this year with things in our lives that remain messy, things we cannot fix and make neat.

This is exactly why Jesus came.  He knew that no matter how hard we tried to be good and make our lives neat and presentable, we would still be messy.  He sees the treasure within, He sees us for who we really are and loves us all the more.  He delightedly accepts the offering of our messy lives because just like the gift bag they are reusable.  He can still do something with them.

God has been with me all year.  He never left or wavered in His love and attention toward me.  But it is apparent that I will enter the new year with some things that haven’t changed, things that are still messy. I was thinking again this morning of the serenity prayer and that this is exactly what I need to pray, especially the first phrase, as I begin a new year:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Through Grace accepting with serenity – utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude – the things I cannot change.  My messy life is His to do with whatever He will because when He looks at me He sees what Jesus has done and it is perfectly acceptable to Him.

I pray that you will join me as we enter a new year embracing the lives that we have, full of confident hope that God is working, even in the mess.  Be blessed.

2015:  Wrapping it up” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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Do you see what I see?

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It was a good service.  I think.  I have to admit I was more than a little distracted.  It’s almost Christmas and deadlines are pressing.  I have orders to fill and it will take working every day this week to get them done on time, even working this afternoon.  Focus is easier as we lift voices and hands in praise but once my body is still the after effects of a rushed-because-my-alarm-didn’t-go-off-morning set in and my eyes long to close for just a few more minutes of sleep.

All is completed in the order of service except for the final act of passing the offering plates.  It was in the stillness of waiting our turn that I saw them.  Just a few rows in front of me I could see a father holding his young son.  The boy looked into his father’s face as he quietly stroked his beard and patted his cheeks.  It was a precious moment, one that caught me off-guard as sorrow engulfed me without warning and I began to weep.  It would not be stopped and it took every measure of self-control I had not to give it full reign and wail loudly as I imagine our forefathers did when they ripped their garments and donned sackcloth and ashes.  My mind quickly assesses how this must look, a very odd time to be overcome with emotion, but the heart would have its way whether understood or not.  It would be hard to explain how in that moment I felt small hands on my face.  I suppose it’s something a mother never forgets.

She was just a young girl when the angel came and proclaimed to her and over her that she was one blessed and highly favored.  It must have been wonderful in that moment to know that God’s plan for her life was so important that He sent an angel to announce it.  I wonder if she expected that to happen again.  I wonder as she walked down the streets where her friends and neighbors turned away, embarrassed at her shame, did she look for another word from God?  I wonder as she and Joseph struggled with the newness of married life complicated by her “situation” if she spent time alone waiting for another angel to tell her they would make it through the learning how to love each other?  I wonder as she waved goodbye to her mother, climbed upon a donkey, and journeyed farther from home than she had ever been, was she watching the sky for a sign as the homesickness quickly set in?  I wonder as she cried from the pain of childbirth and fear of the unknown, did she beg Him to speak, to reassure her that this is exactly where He had planned for her to be?  I wonder if the angel’s words rang in her ears as she wept at the foot of the cross?  Sometimes this is what blessed and highly favored looks like.  Do you see?

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Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one who sacrifices time with her children and grandchildren, friends and activities, as she tenderly cares for her elderly mother, wondering where she will find the energy for tomorrow.  

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one who rises every day with new resolve to stay clean, determined to rebuild what was torn down, resisting the constant temptation to give up, wondering when God will bring complete deliverance. 

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the one with no new goals or plans as she sits in the discomfort of the stillness, wondering why God is silent.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like the young mother with toddlers at her feet, another baby on the way, trying not to be completely overwhelmed in this life she dearly loves and wondering how she will get it all done.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks like a woman crying as she touches her own cheeks, enveloped in memories that overwhelm with both joy and pain, wondering what it will be like to see him again.

Sometimes blessed and highly favored looks more like dark, thunderous, lightning-filled skies than sunshine and rainbows.

It’s tempting to believe the message that to be blessed and highly favored is evidenced by our positions, our promotions, and our pocketbooks.  To proclaim it often to ourselves and over ourselves in hopes that our lives will be easier and more secure through our loud and upbeat proclamations of faith.  And as that may happen to some, it is still the least of it.  As I consider Mary and what it meant that she was blessed and highly favored above all women, I believe we have trivialized it and made it something it is not.

It’s been a year of getting real with God.  It’s been a year of examining faith and finding again the simplicity of the solid foundation and ridding myself of self-imposed boundaries and unrealistic expectations and mechanical worship.  I am not blessed and highly favored because all has gone well and my life has been spared the dark nights and the weeping and the difficulties and the pain.  I am blessed and highly favored because I have loved deeply enough for my heart to be broken.  I am blessed and highly favored because I have risked my heart and given my energies and failed miserably. I am blessed and highly favored because He has noticed my sorrow and saved my tears.  I am blessed and highly favored because He lowered Himself to be housed in me, never to leave me or forsake me, especially in the dark moments.  I am blessed and highly favored because I am no longer dependent on outward circumstances, people, or events to determine if I am blessed and highly favored.

Do you see what I see?

 

Do you see what I see?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com