But it is worth it!

Christmas day has passed. Most of the world is back to work and the hustle and bustle of Christmas has transitioned to the busy, mundane of our reality. The shepherds left Christmas Day rejoicing and were forever changed the night a little baby was born–God with us. They left the glory of Christmas and embarked on a new adventure. Everything looked different after an encounter with Jesus.  For most of us, our encounter with Jesus was a wonderful remembrance of  His love, mercy, and faithfulness in our lives.  We are watching our older children, grandchildren, and loved ones with enough memories to fill a library.

I remember when…

Thank you Jesus for…

As we prepared our hearts for Christmas morning, we watched a DVD of Louie Giglio called The Twelve Words of Christmas.

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The message rang true. Life is forever changing, chaotic at times, and filled with struggle. No one can escape it. Jesus was born on the night of Mary and Joseph’s most complicated and chaotic day. Tax day. It was no ordinary tax day. Mary had to ride a donkey miles from her home, family, and midwife. To make matters worse, when the baby was due there was no suitable dwelling place for her to give birth.

Make it personal. You are in labor far from home, and you are on the side of the road with no cell, no way to get in touch with your doctor, or mom, who was going to help you in the birthing room. This is not how you planned your miraculous birth with your first-born child. Regardless of all your hopes and dreams, the baby is coming. So there in the cold of the night with just you and your husband, a swaddling cloth, and some animals, you give birth.

Louie reminded us in his message that 400 years had passed and the people “had not heard from God”. 400 years of silent treatment. Was God mad? On vacation? Disappointed in us? He chose the cry of a baby in the midst of insanity to change the world. A small, vulnerable, crying baby broke the silence.

He met us right where we are in the midst of our crazy. I’ve spent most of my days trying to separate crazy from God’s plan. If it’s crazy, I must be doing something wrong, or someone else’s crazy is making me crazy. I think God sent the most vulnerable way to break silence and provide redemption to remind us of our vulnerability and need for Him. He became flesh and dwelt among us.  He gets you, your tears, your cries.

How do we live?

Christmas day, around 1:00 a.m., my husband and I talked about some things going on in our personal lives, and I began to cry tears of confusion. I asked him, “Are we going to make it through this?” He gave me his Christmas cards to read:

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“In this season, we reflect on God’s grace and the great gift that He has given us.  As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we must also celebrate the journeys. Many made a sojourn to meet Christ.  Angels came from heaven to announce the Savior’s coming and His arrival.  Mary and Joseph traveled many miles to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Wise men traveled from the east guided by a star…and shepherds left the fields for Bethlehem, spurred on by their desire to see what the Lord’s angels had told them about.  There was labor involved and effort needed to continue the trek…”

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“…But it was worth it! Each voyager was part of God’s plan and was able to see God’s promises revealed to the world! As we seek God’s plan for our lives…as we journey toward the promises that He has revealed to us…the voyage may seem long, with labor and effort needed….and it may not be easy…

BUT IT IS WORTH IT!

I love you, my Anna. I’m glad to be on the journey with you…

Merry Christmas

Love, Parish.”

I can’t separate the suffering and crazy. It’s part of the God story, and it is worth it.

How do we live?

“If the word of God is the first thing I give my heart and mind to, I see everything as under the control of my all–good, all-powerful, and all-loving heavenly Father.” Sheila Walsh

I read this quote in a devotional and realized the truth and profound implications for our lives.

Be still and know that He is God, and He is in control of your messy life. God is crazy in love with you. Dear friend and reader, we are connected by our love for Jesus and our messy lives. Please know that as I am writing this, I am praying for you. Praying that you don’t see your messy life as failure, punishment, or absence of God. I’m praying that God is present, and His arms are holding you. He loves you. As the shepherds left rejoicing because “It was just as the angel said….”, know that God’s promises “have already been said” in your life. He is with you.

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Chasing Moons

The morning was its usual rhythm. The coffee aroma and my alarm told my ears and nose it’s time to awaken to a new day. What should I wear? Is my middle school girl up, or will she beg for “just five more minutes mom”? Can I get in the shower before Parish? I had an early morning that day, because I needed to fix a bulletin board at one of my schools prior to meetings. The early start allowed me to leave in the dark. How quiet the earth is on early mornings in my neighborhood.  As I rounded the corner, I looked up, and low to the ground was the moon.

I gasped! Tears came to my eyes as my soul quickened.

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This picture was taken by another moon chaser the same morning, Deborah Winn.

I’ve watched many different moon cycles and moon occurrences– harvest moon, new moon, etc…  This moon seemed to stand alone in her quintessence glory!  I’m sure if I were to go look up the reason for its occurrence, science could share all the reasons why the glory of the moon existed that morning. The moon was so low it beckoned me to chase her. I tried. I had my cell phone camera on and ready. I took this road, this street, this path, but she was so low, the trees hid her from view. Disappointed, God spoke to my heart.

My glory and bountiful blessings never need to be captured. Like me, they exist in abundance and never are hidden from you.

God’s glory.

His glory is best described through light. Christmas is a reminder of how God uses light to captivate us.

The shepherds saw a great light. They were going about their typical day when God shouted and beckoned.

The wise men studied and followed a star. They were comfortable with riches and intellectual pursuits when God beckoned them to a greater purpose.

God’s activity around light is profound and extraordinary. I had this post in my heart since my moon morning. Yesterday, Pastor Mark Jordan added to my light experience.  He reminded us that Jesus, in John 8:12, told us that “I am the light of the world.” Jesus assures us that “we don’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life”.

His light showcased in the world around me, exists in me. Matthew 4:14 proclaims, “You are the light of the world!”

Me? The light of the world?

I don’t know about that God. I am ready to worship and adore You as the light of the world; but, I don’t think I could ever live up to walking in the truth of Matthew 4:14. That seems impossible and exhausting.

I pray this message for all those who come to Christmas thinking they do not have enough to give. Caught in a consumer culture that shames them if they cannot afford to buy all they feel they should. Hear the healing word of God: what you have to give cannot be bought. Your most precious gifts are the same ones Jesus gave to you. Give your time to those who need you. Give your forgiveness to those who hurt you. Give your love to all around you. You are the gift of God. You are the reason God came, and was born a poor child, and gave not as the world gives, but as only a generous spirit can give, the true spirit of Christmas. by Bishop Steven Charleston (From December 2011)
A dear friend of mine sent this message above one morning over text. A beautiful reminder of the light inside of me is the best gift. I’m not responsible for perfection; I’m responsible for acknowledging the light, and believing that, created in the image of God, and bought with a price through Jesus, I am a gift. You are a gift.
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Bountiful blessings
Boldness to believe

Where is God calling you to leave in order to experience His light in greater boldness? Do we wait for a choir of angels, a bright light, or miracle? May it not be! His glory has come! We celebrate “God with us”–Emmanuel! We are not a people of lack or a hidden God. Every morning is an opportunity to rise and go! You are a gift! God put you here, in this world, at this time to fulfill His purpose in your realm of influence. He will always expand your tent and move you. God is not stagnant or

blasé (apathetic to pleasure or excitement)

You may look at the moon, the stars, the seasons and become apathetic, but God, in all His glory, awakens you to a magnificent display of His glory. You may wake up to your spouse breathing next to you, but that breath is a reminder of life and one more day together. You may be angry with a coworker, frustrated with a child, or wondering about a diagnosis, but God’s love is greater, and He will walk with you through it all. All of it-lost keys, diagnosis, rejection, disappointment, and ridiculous irritability.  I marvel at my ability to be irritated over the small. But God reaches down..God with us…remember…..sweet child….YOU are a gift…

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Christmas lights, 2016
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Headed to work…
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My youngest’s view from her bedroom in the morning. She took this picture. How awesome her heart and soul are noticing God’s light around her.

Bird’s singing at my oldest daughter’s home. She sent this to me and said, “A beautiful message from Jesus.”

 Put down your ordinary, and run to see the Savior who has been born.  You will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager.
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God’s glory in you can be overwhelming!  The shepherds’ first response was fear. It’s okay. Run, with your fear, toward God, and believe wholeheartedly that you are a gift.
Our pastor left us with the question below.
As you begin to see yourself as a gift, how will you share the gift of you in your adventurous life? Live boldly and step out! RISE! SHINE! THE LIGHT HAS COME!
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Part II
If you’ve read the post already, you’ll miss this.  God reminded me through the life of a 96 year old man, how precious life is. What touched me most was his comments at the end–“It all seems like a dream…but it was real….”
I understand.  I look back and wonder, and I look forward and realize with great joy and humility….”It was real….”  I hope you can take the time to watch this beautiful story on video.  After the video, read this marriage prayer from today:http://marriageprayers.today/todays-marriage-prayer-to-let-our-light-shine-2/
God is so good to keep reminding me.  This post has a life of its own.  🙂

End of Self

You try to make sense of this new way and the expectations that are evident. There is no going back. You can’t be the same once you’ve crossed over into new territory. To go back would be impossible. All has changed around you, but the struggle becomes rooted in the fact that you have not changed. You still have your same expectations, thoughts, coping strategies, and written out plan.

Your financial plan….

Your marriage expectations….

Dreams and hopes for your future….

Prayers for your children….

Job satisfaction, or career goals…

Long-term relationships….

Your health…

This time of year, we reflect on the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In her day-to-day travels–the mundane–an angel appeared, and her life changed dramatically. She no longer was solely the bride to be, but she was also the mother of the Savior. Her womb became the birth place of God in the flesh who would eventually travel the way of suffering and conquer death. God did not give her a plan, or a glance into the future, so when hard times hit she could feel confident in the outcome.  Although she rejoiced and proclaimed to be God’s servant, God also knew how difficult this change would be and gave her a time of mentoring and rest with her elder, family member, Elizabeth, the mother of John. God is so good to us.

Give yourself time, and in that time trust that God’s sovereign hand can be trusted even when it all seems impossible and painful.

God speaks to us over and over again.  He is so patient with us. The simplicity of a glowing light on your Christmas tree, the sun peeking through the window, and the cold morning breeze that fills your lungs and brings energy to your step are all reminders that He is there, and He is in control.

I know you want to be in control. I want to show up and be guaranteed that when I leave this place no one is hurt and healing took place. No tears, no grudges, no shame, no sorrow, no indifference…. In our efforts and anxiety to control outcomes, we glorify self.

Have you come to the end of yourself,
do you thirst for a drink from the well,
Jesus is calling.

Elevation “Come to the Altar”

I listened to this worship song in my car, and the line “have you come to the end of yourself” was a neon sign. As I was singing, I felt impressed to ask myself, “Anna, have you come to the end of yourself in this situation?”  “Are you done, Anna?” Then I began to think of those outside myself who are wrestling with new territory, a new way of life that was not expected. The miracle came in the moment. “Yes, Lord, I am your servant. May your will be done.”

What does it mean to come to the end of yourself? Jesus taught his disciples not only through teaching of the Word, but also through His very life.  Matthew Chapter 16

You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat

21-22 Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”

23 But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

I can’t imagine hearing Jesus say to me that he was choosing to leave and submit to suffering and death. Peter was so shocked that he missed the part of Jesus being raised from the dead–ALIVE! The dreadful overshadowed the promise. Jesus reminds Peter and us, that we have no idea how God works.  We must allow God to lead and embrace suffering.

Embrace suffering?

Yes.

Therapists work with clients to acknowledge feelings and thoughts, to reframe, and to discover healthy strategies to move forward in the new reality of God’s plan. When we numb with addiction, embrace revenge or bitterness, excessively blame ourselves and others, or live years in denial, we are saying, “I’m in control!”

Jesus is saying to follow him, and he will show you how to live. Self-sacrifice is asking God to give you the strength to come to the end of yourself and relinquish control.

Jesus asked, “What could you trade your soul for?”

You would be surprised. In our controlled state, we over compensate to the point of health issues, dance around issues versus asking God to provide a way through the pain, we drink, eat, shop, stay busy to numb and forget, we develop unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves, and we apathetically go through the motions and long for relief that never seems to come.

God will always prioritize your spiritual life. In the waiting, you work.  He works.  If you feel stuck, you are probably right in the middle of a God work. Stop and take notice.  He never lets us go. You can’t control your children’s lives, your spouse’s behaviors, your job, other people…..I know I’m stating the obvious, but this is hard stuff. How do you live in this new territory?

You come to the end of yourself.

  • Instead of expecting and controlling, you pray and trust.
  • Instead of demanding, you set healthy boundaries (without guilt) and trust the process (God’s plan that has not been revealed).
  • Instead of lamenting, you take notice of the blessings and beauty with a grateful heart.
  • Instead of avoiding, you ask God to walk you through the event and provide direction.
  • Instead of blaming yourself and others, you ask for God’s grace to be sufficient.
  • Instead of silence, you hug, speak kindness, and be the first to apologize.
  • Instead of rehearsing events, you read God’s Word and acknowledge the frailty in those you’ve trusted most–they are human with their God journey.
  • Instead of comparing, you look straight in the eyes of Your Savior and say, “God, you are enough. Thank you.”
  • Instead of believing that suffering is bad, embrace the change and ask God. What will I gain spiritually from this, Lord?  I am listening.”
  • Instead of waiting for the next foot to fall, live in power and promise of His Resurrection.

This sacred space is found in the pause between event and reaction. It’s in the aftermath of an event when you are confused. I find God to hang out here.  It’s like He was waiting for me to show up so we could have a little chat and try something different–His way.  He is so kind, inviting, and right on time. He understands this is a life long journey.  I’ll never totally understand this side of heaven, but it’s the food that sustains me and guides me home.