Advent-ures Part II


I have to brag for a moment – I have the best neighbors in the world. I live in this magical cul-de-sac full of smiling people who do kind things for one another. One of those kind things included coming home to two plastic wrapped chocolate Advent calendars one afternoon early in December. 

I’m not sure if you have children in this stage, or remember what it was like to be in this stage, but things don’t get much better than chocolate filled Advent calendars. Each day you get to poke your fingernail into a fresh perforated square, open a never before opened door, and pull out one single perfect piece of molded chocolate candy. What will be today? A trumpet? A teddy bear? An Angel? 

This delicious anticipation also happens to be equally matched with a dizzying sense of loss after the box is opened and the chocolate is consumed. Immediately, you want to open the next day’s door. To eat the next day’s candy. To hoard all of tomorrow’s blessings today.

Luckily for me, my advanced age and lifetime of wisdom keeps me from coveting my future self. I am perfectly content to take each day at a time and not spend my life wishing for the future… 

*oh wait*

No, that’s actually what I spend the majority of my time doing. Wishing for the next piece of chocolate in my metaphorical Advent calendar. Wishing for non-metaphorical chocolate at all times as well.

I think that it is very significant that two of the most celebrated times in the liturgical year, Advent and Lent, are both centered around waiting. We spend our entire lives waiting. Waiting for the next life stage. Waiting to achieve a goal. Waiting for this to trial to pass, or for that far away blessing to come. Thinking that life will truly be happening whenever {fill in the blank} finally happens and you are no longer {fill in the blank}. 

But isn’t it true that we are perpetually waiting? And isn’t it true that its in the waiting that we grow? It is my experience that when things are going smoothly, I seldom feel driven to fully rely on God. When I can see my way out of the situation, I don’t often pause to lift it up in prayer. When I feel in control of my life, I tend to feel like I deserve credit. 

It is in the waiting that I realize this story is not about me. 

It is in the waiting that I remember to turn, again and again, to my Provider. 

It is in the waiting that I am shown my insufficiencies. The areas I need to grow. The ways I deal with others that are hurtful, sinful, unloving.

The waiting forces me to grow. It forces me to turn to God. It forces me to become a better disciple, mother, wife, friend.

Waiting is not a trial, but a gift. And an extremely useful gift – dare I say even more useful than the Instant Pot you’ve been eyeing on Amazon? In this season of Advent, we are waiting for the celebration. For the Messiah that was promised – long waited for. The covenant that was fulfilled in ways unforeseen. 

Even when this gift was given, it was in the form of a baby. The fulfillment of the covenant was happening, and yet still creation waited. For the baby to grow. To learn to eat, to walk, to crawl. To speak, to pray, to change the world. Even when the promise was being incarnated, there was still waiting. And even now, as people of the New Covenant, we wait.

What a gift we have been given. To wait expectantly, fully confident in a God that will not fail us. To realize that we don’t know how the story will play out, but we do know the One who is writing that story. 

As you wait for Christmas day this year, allow the waiting to be formative. Ask God to show you how this period of waiting will bear fruit. And don’t forget to be grateful for the gift that waiting is to you, to me, to all of us.

Isaiah 40:30-31 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

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Advent-ures 

Confession: I had a dream last night where I all of a sudden realized that it was December 27. And I had missed it. I had missed Christmas. In my rush of decorating and wrapping and parties and church services and endless rounds of Christmas traditions with the kids, I had missed Christmas itself. There I was, two days later. And I didn’t remember a single blessed thing. All that work, but no memories. All that effort for my loved ones, but no opportunity to share the love.

Luckily, it was just a dream. And luckily too, I must add, I don’t actually feel that way about Christmas this year. But as the years go by and my kids get older, I see the temptation to get swept up in the tidal wave of Christmas. To drown in sprinkles and tinsel and harried trips to the mall. How, in the midst of all of these wonderful things, can we carve out time and space to appreciate the most essential part?

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit.” It is designed to be a time of waiting. A time when we reflect back on the long centuries the Israelites waited in longing for their Savior to come. It is a time when we reflect upon our need for forgiveness, for redemption, for the new start that is given to us in Christ. It’s also a time of invitation, for us to lean in to the longing for the Second Coming. For the time when “everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.” (quoting Timothy Keller, who is quoting J.R.R. Tolkien)

Advent is a time designed to remind us of our emptiness, of our longing. And just like the humans we are, it has instead been turned into a time of fullness. Of gluttony. A period of days and nights crammed to the brim with parties, and cookies, and chocolate advent calendars, and Christmas cards and wrapping gifts. Which, is absolutely lovely. It is full of feels, full of friends, full of opportunities to say the thing that needs to be said. Which is a gift that isn’t given very often in our lives. 

But, at the same time, it can also be a distraction. Pulling our thoughts and hearts away from the sense of longing, for the craving for a Savior. For the simple beauty of the Christmas story and the great Redemption story that follows. 

So what does one do? It’s not like we can postpone all of our Christmas festivities until after Christmas Day. It seems cruel to deprive are children of the joyful merry -go-round that is Christmas in America. 

I’m not saying we sit out Christmas, pull ourselves up in our houses and sackcloth and ashes and ponder our need for salvation.

But perhaps, we should pair it back a bit.

Perhaps we can be intentional about what we say yes and no to. Especially at this time of year. Take time to sit in front of the Christmas tree. Just sit. Take it in – the light and the smell, and the ornaments that are precious keepsakes. There’s only one time a year that for no apparent reason we chop down a perfectly healthy tree and haul it inside our house. You paid good money for that tree. Enjoy it. And while you do, stop and reflect on how Christmas intersects with your life this year. Where you need space and time and margin. Where you need redemption and unfailing love, a fresh start. What blessings you are grateful for and what things you need to mourn.

This year I chose a non–advent book for my advent devotional. Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist. The title suggests the theme, and for me it has been a gift. A daily reminder to soak it in. To be present and cease trying to be perfect. To stop the madness and savor the people in my life.

If you feel like the Christmas season is a truck that has run you over and is now dragging you behind it, just stop. There are still two weeks left. What do you need to do, or not do, to allow yourself to encounter the living God this Christmas season?

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn… 

What art teaches me about God, part two

So here’s the thing, there are different types of artists, just like there are different types of people. There are many successful artists who sit down and plan things out before they ever put the brush to the canvas. There are authors who write outlines before they type a single word of their story. Epic masterpieces are crafted painstakingly, one precious detail at a time.

That’s amazing. I am not that kind of artist. Usually, when I sit down with a new project, I have no earthly idea where the process is going to take me. Typically (hopefully) I have some sort of color scheme, medium, or format in mind. But that is about it. 

My approach to art, just like my approach to life, usually involves launching myself off the cliff and hoping to swan dive instead of bellyflop. Which one is free to do when your goal is the process and not the end result. Often times, I’m satisfied if I just end up with a decent looking cannonball. 

It is always an option to paint over canvas. To crumple up a sketch and pitch it in the trashcan.  To highlight an entire blog post and simply hit delete. It seems like a waste of time and effort. 

But what if your goal is the act of doing and not the end result? 

Then was it wasted effort?

When I am making something, I often feel discouraged. In the times when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I force myself to ask some questions:  

In the process of doing this, did I learn anything? Did I try anything new? Was there something I hated? Something I want to try to do differently next time? Am I any closer to figuring out what I am hoping the end product will be?  

Sometimes I force myself to press through and finish the piece I want to abandon. Usually, at the end, I still hate it. But sometimes I don’t. 

I wish, I WISH, that this attitude came as naturally to me when it came to living my life. Why is it that we’re all programmed to believe that life is supposed to be about achieving goals, instead of working towards them? Why do we always believe that our problems will magically disappear once (fill in the blank) happens?

 I always find it disconcerting when I achieve something I’ve really been working towards and then I realize that the next day is Thursday. Just another day. The world keeps spinning, life doesn’t stop. I did something – I achieved something great. But time still marches on. 

I’ll never forget the day I left the hospital with my newborn daughter. I felt like there should be a parade in front of us as we took her home. Sitting at a stoplight, I looked at the cars next to me and expected to see them giving me goofy grins and thumbs up. But, I quickly realized that for those drivers, this was just a Friday morning. They were talking on their phones, putting on mascara, eating egg McMuffin’s. 

Didn’t they realize that this was a banner day? Didn’t they understand that things would never be the same?
Of course they didn’t. Because it was truly, just a Friday. And our life is a succession of Fridays. We live life focused so intensely looking forward to our goals that we forget that the majority of our time is spent in the in between. That waiting is how we spend most of our lives. And that that waiting, the process of getting there, has value. God did not create us to have a handful of magical moments surrounded by acres of empty time. 

In fact most of our growth, spiritual and otherwise, happens in the in between. It is then that we learn to work. That we are forced to try new things and to look at the world in different ways. It is in the waiting that we have no choice but to rely on God. To see that the trajectory of our lives isn’t as much in our control as we would like to believe. This is when we grow. This is when we are formed into Christ’s likeness. 

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.”

2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1

And if we swing and miss in life, if we fail, that can be just as valuable. What if I asked myself the same questions and times of discouragement as I do when I feel stuck and the artistic process?

In the process of doing this, did I learn anything? Did I try anything new? Was there something I hated? Something I want to try to do differently next time? Am I any closer to figuring out what I am hoping the end product will be?  

What art teaches me about God, Part 1


This year has been a year of creating for me, and the majority of it has been visual, not written. 

Why?

I’m not sure. I just know that making something, creating beauty, even if it isn’t a masterpiece, feeds something deeply hungry in my soul. For some reason, combining form and color and meaning is a balm for me. It’s one of the few times in my day where I become fully present. Completely immersed in the thing in front of me. My thoughts stop spinning, my hand may ache and tingle from holding the brush, but my heart is in harmony. And for me, that is enough. 

Enough to know that the process of making art is important. Refreshing and life-giving to me in a way that makes me pay attention. I think for me, art may be one of the thin places, a place where the veil between the sacred and the earthly becomes blurry, a place where I encounter God. Because I sense this, I follow that trail. I allow myself to use my brush, my glue gun, my paint and my palette as instruments of worship. Worship not for the thing I am creating, but for the Creator in whose image I am formed. 

I truly believe that we, as men and women formed in the image of the Almighty God, all have a spark of creation buried within us. And when we fan that spark into flame, we bring glory to God and fullness to our souls. 

Does that make us all artists? No. (although I think we all tend to be much too quick to disavow any artistic talent- don’t get me started on art injuries…) But does that make us all creators? I would argue yes. I think each one of us has some God given ability, interest, or activity that makes our soul sing. 

We all have a handful of things that fully immerse us, and, regardless of talent or outcome, bring joy. That thing may be making art, but it also may be making an omelette. Running a 5K. Telling a killer bedtime story. Knitting a truly great sock. Keeping the busy schedules of a family singing like a symphony. You may be enamored with creating spreadsheets or balancing budgets. Perhaps your have created your home to be an oasis of peace, a welcoming place for neighbors. Whatever your thing may be, when you bring it into the world, you bring glory to the One who made you that way. 

Can I just say out loud (well, in print… on screen?) to all of us results obsessed Americans that sometimes the process is of more value than the outcome? So what if you are not the best at something? There is only one best, and guess what- it’s not you. BUT. Does that thing bring joy to you? Does it make you feel? Does it renew you, center you? 

Then do it. 

Unashamedly. 

We all seem to feel a bit abashed when we let our light shine. Yet, shouldn’t we be unashamed to do things that bring us joy? If I create art as an act of worship, then who cares what it looks like? I mean, really? If you run because you love it and it gives you mental space to encounter God, then your split time doesn’t prove your worthiness, does it? 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Who looks at a picture a child draws and critiques it? Who turns their nose up at a home cooked meal made by a loved one because it isn’t haute cuisine? So it is with us. When I really stop and look around me, the main critic I encounter is… me. And why should I dim my own light? 

So what I am saying is… go do your thing. And be awesome. Yay God. 

Be Still and Know

be-still

Today, I was given a gift.

I was given this bible verse, “Be Still and know that I am God.” and 5 minutes to reflect upon it.  For some of you that may seem simple, unremarkable.  But for me, it was a sorely needed respite from the whirlwind of my mind as of late.

My life has been full.  I have been trying to make a discipline of not saying that I am busy, for in this culture busy is a sickness that gets much applause.  However, I have a lot of plates spinning at the moment.  So much so that right now my brain seems to be in permanent overdrive.  I can’t finish one thought before another thought crashes in to take it’s place.  I find madly scribbled to do lists scattered all across my home, my office, my car.  When eating breakfast with the kids I find myself emptying the dishwasher rather than sitting down at the table with them.  While driving to work I find myself thinking of who I need to call, what information I need to impart to knock another thing off my list.  I find myself bringing busywork to meetings, because life feels too full to simply do one thing at a time.

This, my friends, is not healthy.

In fact, I think that God has been trying to tell me this, and I haven’t been listening.  In the past month, I have broken four pairs of headphones.  Perhaps, as my friend pointed out, this isn’t just shoddy workmanship or an annoyance, but an insistent invitation into silence while I exercise? My children have been sick from school 4 days in the past 3 weeks.  Could it be that instead of trying to get work done from home while they sleep I should be resting as well?

Why is it that we are so resistant to stillness?  Why do we fill our lives so full, cramming our schedules as full as our plates at Thanksgiving dinner? To be fair, I have felt fairly in balance. I feel like I am attending to my soul, my marriage, my family.  But I am also increasingly aware that I am just one hiccup away from letting those spinning plates all crash to the floor.

And guess what?  Next week is even busier.

I can race into it as a multitasker, putting together Christmas cards on my laptop while baking pecan pies in the oven.  Or, I could embrace my finitude.  Do one thing at a time.  Be fully present where I am.  Allow silence to replace the radio.

What do you think is the better choice?

What’s next

“What’s next?”

It’s a question were faced with all the time. From parents. Significant others. Casual acquaintances… And most often, from ourselves.

When are you going to have another baby? Is your family complete? Where are your kids going to kindergarten? What do you want to do next in your career? Are you going back to school? How well are you saving for retirement? 

We live in a culture where the expectation is that there is always a Plan B. A second phase. A five-year plan. A direction and a goal you are always working towards. And if not, you feel incomplete. Like you’re living a life not fully examined. 

If you are like me, ‘what’s next’ is the question that keeps you awake at night. The reason that you sing in the shower, to drown out the niggling voice in the back of your head. It’s a question I have agonized over, wrestled with, and prayed through for years. I felt stuck, I felt directionless, and at the heart of things, I felt like a failure because I did not have an answer to this question. I could not see what was around the bend.

But recently, slowly, I have begun to realize that that question itself has a startling lack of faith built into it. We serve a God of daily bread. A God who promises to take care of us. He asks us to cast our cares on Him. Tells us He will feed us, clothe us, and lead us to fullness in Him. The God of scripture isn’t one to respect a five-year plan. In fact, often times He seems to be the God of the hard left turn. Of the startling leap of faith. Of the surprise encounter that changes a life. 

Now, before I go further, if you are a goal oriented person, someone for whom plans and goals come naturally, don’t be offended. I’m not talking to you. God created you that way. Hooray. If you are a person who has a plan because they are feeling called by God into something, go get it. Awesome for you.  I can’t wait to see what God does in your life. But, for the rest of us, those of us who feel vaguely guilty or actively anxious because we can’t figure out what we should be doing next… welcome to my brain. And here’s what I think… 

Does God ever reveal his plan and scripture? Yes. Of course. The entire book paints a picture of the overarching plan for creation. And there are times, prophecies, where God does tell someone how their life will unfold. Yet it seems to me that this revelation is always unexpected. Counter to plans. God seems much more concerned with us finding fullness in Him rather than finding our security in our plans for the future. 

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

Luke 12:16-21

A few weeks ago I was perusing Facebook when I read a quote from Shauna Niequist that stopped me in my tracks. It’s settled in deep. It’s worked it’s way into my brain and my heart, and it’s shouting to me that it is true:

“It’s okay to not know right now. 

That’s sort of the theme of this season for me–letting myself not know the answers to some very important questions. I have a couple questions I need to answer–largely questions about work & time & what to do next & what to carry & what to put down. And I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to KNOW. But I just don’t. I just don’t know….
Here’s what I’m holding onto right now: it’s okay to not know right this second. It’s okay to live–and even live well–in the uncertain in-between…because when it comes down to it, most of our lives are lived in the in-between. ”
This is what I’m holding onto. This is a divine permission that I needed. In my mind, allowing myself to not know is a bigger leap of faith than just making plans and decisions to feel comfortable that things are settled. Do I know where I will be or what I will be doing 12 months from now? Two years, a decade?

 No. 

Do you?

 Let’s face it- not really. 

And, I have decided to declare that okay. In fact, I think it’s a breathtaking act of trust to get out of bed in the morning. None of us know what that day will hold. Yet we do it – every day. We bump around like children walking in the dark and find our way hour by hour. Whether we recognize it or not, we are all receiving gifts of daily bread. Just what we need for the task right in front of us. We can either take that for granted and make provisions for the future, hedge our bets and wall off our hearts… or we can sit back and marvel. Worship a God who always, always shows up- right on time. 

Does this mean we stop planning at all – chuck our day calendars and meal planners out the window and live a life of whatever comes up? No. That’s living a life full of reacting, not acting. But, I think we all could be challenged to unclench our fists just a little bit. To examine our lives and ask what areas we are resting in our own efforts instead of God’s grace. 

What if the next thing isn’t more, but less? What if your plans for the future included letting some things go instead of adding to an already stretched schedule? What if next year’s resolution had more to do with quiet and simplicity and less to do with adding something to your personal bag of tricks?

What would life be like if we asked ourselves each day if we were living a life we want to be living? What if each night we counted blessings to lull ourselves to sleep? I have a feeling our lives would begin to feel more full, more meaningful. I have a feeling we would begin to see the direction of the path we are traveling, and realize that Someone else is navigating. And that this wouldn’t seem like such a bad thing…

I Like Big Buts…

 

Psalm 13
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?

    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

The words of this Psalm seem so tender to me.  I can think of months… years… when my prayers sounded just like this.  Hard times find us all.  And when we are in the midst of them, it seems as if God is so very far away, that he has forgotten us.  Psalms of Lament (like Psalm 13) make up almost 1/3 of the Psalms in the Bible.  Clearly, God wants us to know that it is ok to come to Him with our pain.  To cry out in the midst of the situation, to bemoan the hard place you have found yourself in.

I love that we serve a God that gives us permission to be in pain. I love that we serve a God big enough to handle our heartbreak, our fears, even our selfish concerns.  I love that in the Psalms, He models for us what it looks like to lay yourself out before God, exactly how you are.  No artifice, no pretending.

However, in the times I have spent in this place, I have noticed that I can become myopic.  We get so stuck on our story and our situation that we lose the greater picture.  Our prayers become smaller, and, eventually, lose focus on God and become completely focused on ourselves.

It is in this, too, that the Psalms of Lament can be our example.  Because, in their formula, there is always a common thread…

a big BUT.

But I will trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.  

Remember.  The Psalmist is still in the midst of the pain.  There is no rescue in sight.  And still, the ‘but’ remains.  In the midst of the darkness, he is affirming what he knows to be true.  That we serve a powerful God.  One who loves us with unfailing love.  He celebrates a rescue that seems far away and still incomplete.  He chooses to sing of the Lord’s goodness in the midst of the darkness.

That’s one pretty big but.

What is the difference between a lament and a complaint?

That is a question that was posed in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago.  And, truly, I think that the primary difference is the presence of a but.  We can lament, while still affirming God’s sovereignty.  We can mourn, while still acknowledging a Plan that is at work.

When we complain, we forget to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, and we get lost in our own pain.  We are limited by our own perspective. Our story ceases to be The Story, but becomes our own story, smaller, diminished.  We don’t choose to believe in the redemption that is coming, both for us as individuals, but also us as a People of God.

Buts are important.  Crucial even.

 

 I like big buts.  And I cannot lie.

{take a} Leap Day

All day yesterday I had an idea for the perfect Instagram.  Me, jumping (15 year old girl style) on Leap Day.  Perfect, right?  Unfortunately, it is hard to take a selfie of oneself while leaping in the air.  And then…. I forgot.

As I got in bed last night, I thought to myself- DARN IT!  I lost my one chance for my leap day picture, and now I have to wait 4 more years for it…. will Instagram still be around in 4 years?  Will I be too old to be able to jump in 4 years?  My 4 year old will be 8 in 4 years- EIGHT!  What grade is that, like fourth?  He’s going to be going to college like tomorrow… (and on and on into my typical mom brain existential crisis)…

Then, I realized that, even worse than not taking a leap day picture, did I take ANY leaps yesterday?

When was the last time I took a leap of faith?

When is the last time I did something that scared me?  Tried something when I didn’t know if I would succeed?

I couldn’t answer.

Over and over in scripture, God seems to be calling people out of their comfort zones.  Into a place where they don’t know what to do or how to do it. That is the model set before us by the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, the exhortations of Paul.

And yet here I remain, in my comfortable cocoon, upset because my leap day wasn’t Instgram-tastic.

Oops.

For we have not been given a spirit of timidity or fear, but one of power, love and self control.
-2 Timothy 1:7

Power. Love. Self Control.  Not fear.  Yet fear is the way I am operating in my life.

So, time to leap.  Into what?  I am not sure.  But I think it’s time to loosen up my tight grip on control and see where God leads me!  Care to join?

 

My Dark Secret Story

As Christians, we have this whole set of practices embedded in our culture that seem pretty bizarrstorye if we step back and look at them.  Things like… fake cussing.  “Holy Toledo,”  “Mother of Pearl,” “No effing way,” and, worst of all, “Bless Her Heart.”

We sing in groups.  In what other area of your life to adults get together once a week and sing?  Don’t get me wrong- I love it, but, outside the church (and community chorus) it’s not a normal activity.

Then there are the essential parts of our faith.  Things sacred and beautiful to us, but probably seem bizarre to outsiders.  Baptism (dumping cold water on babies).  Communion (eating bread and juice and talking about eating the Body and Blood of Christ).  Confession (telling our deepest darkest secrets to our friends).

As part of my job, I recruit one person from my church to share their faith story with the high schoolers monthly.  I am always surprised to hear how many people don’t feel as if they have a story to tell.  I hear over and over that their story is boring.  That they never really did anything ‘worth’ giving a testimony about.

We seem to have a misunderstanding in the church.  We believe that unless you have some horrid history to share, that you don’t have a story to tell.  If you weren’t a former alcoholic, scam artist, or motorcycle gang member, then you don’t have a testimony others want to hear.

In terms of testimonies, my story is pretty basic.  Sure, I made some boneheaded decisions as a teenager.  I got my heart broken a few times.  I wrestled with forgiveness.  But all in all, my story is pretty vanilla.  But here is the thing- it is my story, which makes it precious.  As I tell my high schoolers each month, the reason we tell our faith stories is to remind ourselves that God is doing something in the lives of everyone we see, including our own.  The more of other’s stories we hear, the better we are able to recognize the love story God is telling in our own lives.

Here is the truth.  No matter how boring our story may seem to us, it is actually epic.  Here is how your story goes:

You were lost.  Unredeemed.  Guilty and sentenced to death.  Living a life utterly without hope.

And a hero came.

He swept you off your feet.  Loved you without fear.  Delighted in the things that make you utterly unique.  Reminded you of your worth and your beauty.  And then, this lover of yours did the unthinkable.

He dove in front of the train.  He sacrificed his life, without a second thought, took your punishment upon himself, so that you were rescued.  Because of His sacrifice, you have a second chance at life.

Your faith story is SO much less about you, and MORE about Jesus, than you could ever imagine.  And because of that, we all have a story to tell.  One of the greatest love stories of all time.  One that includes drama, suspense, tragedy and triumph.  And your story is yours alone.

So you don’t have a shameful, dark past to tell?  So what?  You still have so much to share.  And your testimony can be told forwards as well as backwards.  What adventures are you living now, as you walk hand in hand with your Savior?  If you think your story is boring, stir it up!  See what adventures you can live today, next week, in your next decade!

 

Fake Busy

You know what I am tired of hearing myself talk about?  How busy I am.  Yes.  I do a bunch of stuff.  But yes- I have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has.  And, just like everyone else, I get to choose how I spend it!  So why do I get stuck in this cycle of complaining about how little time I have like my own schedule is something that is happening TO me?

I chose this!

Half the things I find myself racing around to do are things that my husband calls ‘fake busy’… burning items on my to do list that I just made up out of my head that I need to get done.  Since when is buying a new pack of athletic socks an emergency?  It sure seemed couponthat way to me last Thursday!  Just because I have $10 loyalty rewards and a 40% coupon at AC Moore does not mean that I am required to go to that store today.  Whether or not I have painted my fireplace is actually not a life and death situation.  And yet, that’s how I live my life!  80% of the things I feel stressed about are things that I made up for myself to do.

How about you?

How often are your days filled with ‘fake busy’ items on your to do list?

How much time to you spend in front of the TV?  On social media? Disengaged with your life?

How many hidden pockets of time are being lost in your day?

I have a lot.  And as I am reflecting this Lenten season, I wonder what would happen if I invested that time more wisely?  If I lived my life intentionally, prioritizing people over things?  If I spent the hours entrusted to me engaging with my kids, calling an out of town friend, or just savoring the sweetness of my life, instead of rushing headlong into the next project I created for myself?

    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
We are merely moving shadows,
   and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
-Psalm 39:4-6

We have a choice.  Even on the things we have to do.  Yes.  Humans need to eat, with shocking regularity.  But what if cooking a meal was an invitation into presence?  If we enjoy the scents, the smells, the colors of cooking our food, instead of rushing it onto plates?  What if time spent in the car was seen as an opportunity to pray blessings on the strangers we pass along the road?  Or to marvel at the beauty of a sunset, a tree branch, a backseat child’s laughter?

There is a difference between surviving and truly living.  We all have 24 hours.  How we spend them is an attitude of the mind.