Friday, December 30, 2011

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven” Luke 1:78

The sight about caused me to throw up. The gunk that came out of the drain in the shower was unidentifiable and disgusting. A slow drain during my shower that morning was the last straw and I had to tackle the project of cleaning it out. 

As I was finishing up, I was thinking about how we go into the shower with the grime and mess of the day on us, and walk out clean and fresh. It’s a chance to start over and face the day with clean skin and a new attitude.

Isn’t that true about our walk with Christ? Every day, we awake with fresh mercy and a new start. We awake with a chance to walk hand-in-hand with Him and allow Him to lead us through our day. We are fresh and pure as we begin the day.

Some days are better than others, walking closely with Him, sensing His leading.

Other days are a struggle, when I slip and slop my way along, forgetting to lean on Him and feeling miserable as a result. Sin creeps in and I have to stop and ask forgiveness.

At the end of what has been a roller coaster of a year, I look ahead with hope and expectancy. Early in 2011, the “believe” surfaced as my word of the year. I have been challenged to stay focused on believing God – through the good and the bad. Things happened this year that I cannot explain, wouldn’t have planned and never would have asked for.

And yet, those very things have drawn me closer to God, caused me to rely even more on Him and shown me His hand in everything that has happened.

He cares. He loves us. He wants the best for us.

As I look toward a new year, I know wherever it is I am headed, it is with God. I may not know the details, but He does. I just have to “believe.”

What is it that you are believing Him for in 2012?

Happy new year and blessings!

Friday, December 23, 2011

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2: 6-7

Sometimes the best gifts come in unexpected packages. 

I’m not much of a “splurger,” especially when it comes to makeup. My products tend to come from the same stores I buy groceries, dog food and laundry supplies. So, when my daughter and I spent time one day playing on one of those try-it-on beauty stores, we had a blast. I discovered the perfect shade of eye shadow, but decided to hold off – it was a little pricey.

After thinking about it for quite a while, I decided it was worth the money and went back to the mall to get it. I raced in, late for an appointment. I looked for the name on the display, grabbed it, paid the clerk and left. When I got it home, I realized the colors had been mixed up in the display and I got a couple shades lighter than my preferred one.

Making the trek back to the mall was out of the question. I ended up trying the shadow a few times. Guess what? I decided the color was great. My disappointment turned to happiness, even in the unexpected.

I wonder what people thought when, after 400 years of silence, the greatest gift of all came in the form of a baby in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. I would imagine the expectation was that God would come to save the world in a way that was powerful, visible and hard to miss. Because that was the way of the world. Leaders tended to come to power through strength and their ability to defeat their enemies. I suspect in people’s minds, the Savior would have to compete in that arena.

But God.

God, who could have commanded armies of angels to announce his presence, instead chose a quiet night, in a stable surrounded by animals, to enter humanity. It was humble, average and not what anyone would choose or expect. Anyone, that is, but our Heavenly Father who knew the perfect plan.
That silent night was momentous for history. Nothing would be the same after Jesus became human. He was willing to submit to live among His creation. He would submit to the lowest of lows for his chosen people. His gift of salvation included bearing the burden of all our sins, in order that we might be forgiven.

It is a gift that can never be repaid. Unexpected, yet perfect in every way.

Merry Christmas! Praise God!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest posting!

I am honored to have a post running today over on my friend, Shannon Milholland's blog, Jesus and my Orange Juice. Shannon challenged her bloggy friends to write a post from the perspective of one of the characters in the Nativity Story. I was given Joseph's mom. Honestly, I had never really thought about the story beyond Joseph, Mary the baby Jesus and the shepherds. While challenging, it helped me wrap my mind more around the fact everyone involved in the story had to come to grips with the very real need to trust God's plan fully, no matter how unbelievable it sounded. Hop over to join the conversation and I pray you are blessed!

Monday, December 5, 2011

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

All year I’ve been pondering about this big elephant that moved in with us. You see, in early 2011, I lost my job. It wasn’t a death sentence or an awful illness, it was a job. Nevertheless, it has been difficult for our family. 

However, it has also been an opportunity. A chance to get to know my family again. A chance to engage more in the everyday stuff that captivates my kids. A chance to remember to slow down and live every day to the fullest, breathing in the moments as they come, not fly by them in anticipation of the next deadline to meet.

That has been a huge blessing. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Like the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11, being content in whatever the circumstances is key. As time goes on, we have the benefit of hindsight to see how God is working all things together for us. That is the viewpoint I’m seeing this from now.

And last night, I saw the culmination of this revelation in a span of 90 minutes with my 8-year-old daughter. We had finished up dinner and the dishes. She decided to pull out about a dozen photo albums, pictures mostly of when she was a baby and toddler.

“Mommy, let’s look at pictures,” she declared! And, because I’ve been able to slow down and recognize those opportunities to do something unplanned, we did. And it was memorable! We laughed, told stories, cried, and laughed some more. Somewhere in the middle of it all, my son, 11, came upstairs to see what was going on. Sure enough, HE joined in and we spent more time looking back through the precious books together.

Later, when they were going to bed, my daughter said, “that was fun.” I knew it meant something to her. It definitely meant something to me.

Years from now, when they are off at college and I’m doing whatever it is I will be doing, I’ll be able to look back on this time and remember the nights like that one. When we made memories because we had the time, and took the time, to do so. You know what? They will remember them, too.

That’s what makes family a family. Not a house, not a job, not some other “thing” you can name. It’s time, love, attentiveness, laughter, tears and togetherness.

This year may not have been anything like I would have planned it to be. But it was truly a blessing. And, with that,  I am very content.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

The ringing of the phone was a jolt out of a dead sleep. Heart pounding, I raced to the kitchen to answer it. It’s never good news when the call is in the wee hours.

False alarm. Wrong number.

Whew. Breathe.

Heart still pounding, I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t.Doesn’t that happen sometimes when life hands us false alarms?
·         Unjust accusation
·         Undeserved criticism
·         Unmerited suffering

Dealing with it can be so difficult. Especially when the situation doesn’t change fast enough for our liking. When issues continue to drag on, even though they were never deserved or warranted. When the end doesn’t seem to be in sight. When we can’t seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have a tendency to be strong initially. I can even maintain it for a while. But after an extended period, I want to retreat. Crawl into a corner and have a pity party for myself. Ask God, why? Sounding like a toddler, I cry out, “it’s not fair!”

No, it isn’t. But, Jesus never promised us fair. In fact, we are to expect troubles (see John 16:33).

This morning I woke up with the words to a popular song in my head. “You put the light in me,” was playing in the iPod of my brain. Brandon Heath’s words were running around in my mind as I clicked on the radio and made a pot of coffee. Sure enough, the song came on the station I had tuned in to. I went to my Bible.

In Matthew 5, Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. In verses 11-12, He tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted in His name. Blessed! There are rewards we will not see until we reach Heaven and this is one of those times.

In verses 15-16 , Jesus goes on to talk about light. We are to be the light for Him in this world. The light that shines “before men, (v. 16)” pointing others to Him. Even when persecuted. Especially when persecuted. The only way that is possible is through His light in us.

Just like the song said.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Winter has arrived. Well, sort of, anyway. We got our first big snow storm and it was a doozie. After raining much of the evening, it turned to snow overnight, greeting us with about six inches of wet, sloppy white stuff the next morning. After spending nearly an hour shoveling and knocking the snow off the trees, I thought I was done. But, the snow kept falling and those spots where I spent all that time and energy shoveling quickly covered back up again with snow.
  • ·         It makes me crazy.
  • ·         I don’t want to deal with it more than once.
  • ·         A quick fix and then move on to the next thing, that’s my M.O.
It got me thinking. Do I sometimes approach my “stuff” that way? You bet, I do.

I want God to fix me, tidy me up and send me on my merry way. But that isn’t how it works. Some things just take time and impatient little me doesn’t like it. 

Those things we continue to struggle with, making progress one day and slipping the next:
  • ·         Bad attitude
  • ·         Impatience
  • ·         Lack of self-control
  • ·         Envy
  • ·         Doubt
  • ·         Anger
What I’m learning – the hard way, I might add – is that I cannot overcome these struggles on my own. If it were possible in my own strength, I wouldn’t need God. And, boy, do I need Him! I’m praying new words these days. Instead of “help me handle these temptations in my life,” I’m asking Him to step in and be what I can’t. I need to surrender and let the Holy Spirit lead. 

Trust me, it isn’t easy. But, it is possible. The Bible says with Christ, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). I may not be where I want to be with respect to my “list,” but I am nowhere near where I was when I started this journey with my Savior. I am thankful and grateful for the progress He’s made in me and I anxiously wait to see where He leads.

When I look at the snowy driveway, what He’s showing me is that the initial cleanup is the hardest part. Surrendering it to Him means letting go of me. The subsequent cleanings during the storm are far less painful because He’s holding the broom.