Christmas, where are you?

 (originally published December 21, 2007)

I’m usually very transparent on my blog. I figure, if I can’t tell it to a group of strangers who I probably won’t know this side of Heaven, who can I tell? It is harder, now that I know some of you and have established friendships with many of you.

That’s my round-about way of saying that I’ve gotten a little more opaque lately and good at keeping things more fluffy.

Not today. Today, I am hurting and trying to work through some things. I know that as I write this, I will keep wrestling with myself, telling myself to just delete it, once I write it and get it off my chest. But I wonder if others can relate?? So, I’m rushing through it, misspellings, poor sentence structure and all… before I can change my mind.

The best way to explain, is to sum up how my morning went:

Abbie was allowed to not wear her standard school attire to school today because she has had no violations in her dress this year. The note home said “jeans and/or a holiday shirt”. Abbie had no holiday shirt. She was upset, but she worked hard to get over it. I was frustrated because I would have loved for her to have a holiday shirt. But, even a cheap one wasn’t in the budget. I raced her to school. She got out of the car and ran towards the school.

Suddenly, she went down. And landed in thick gooey mud… I got her to the door and then raced home to get her clean clothes.

In the meantime, her teacher called and said that Abbie was crying and embarrassed. My poor, sweet, forlorn girl.

And I barely had enough gas in my car to drive back over.

I started crying because of the frustration of the gas, the no-holiday-shirt, the mud and the child trying to be okay with it all.

But I wasn’t okay with it.

Why? Because this Christmas we’ve struggled with getting presents, let alone extras. We’ve got medical bills that have to be paid and we are still trying to take care of bills that went to collections when we lived in Maryland. We’ve been poor stewards of our money in the past. We’ve been trying to catch up from our year of constant errors and times are especially lean. When we do have extra, it’s like a gorging feast that gives you indigestion when it’s all over. It’s not frivolously spent – but in the lean times, our list of things we need when we have extra money grows longer and longer.

So I’ve cried this morning. I’ve cried for my daughter who is so sweet and tender and wants to be wearing a cheery Christmas shirt at school today, but isn’t. I’ve cried over the fact that were it not for other family members thinking of us and sending gifts, the tree skirt would be showing all of its un-hemmed glory. I’ve cried over the simple frustration of day-to-day life.

And then I remember Jesus.

And I remember His words.

And I remember what He gave me and what He did for me.

And I remember that Mary and Joseph and the shepherds didn’t have festive holiday attire at that first Christmas.

Rather, they were in a smelly, cold stable. And it was still the most perfect Christmas in the history of the world. No festive lights (other than that shining star), no shiny bows and trimmings, no Ho Ho Hos… 

The Gift that was laid in that manager so long ago is still my gift. It is far better than anything that could be under our tree or that my daughter could be wearing to school. Because of Him, I am redeemed and justified. And no one can snatch me from His hand.

Not bill collectors.

Not grumpy holiday shoppers.

Not advertisers that tempt me with all of the things they say will make my holiday perfect.

I am beginning to remember the real reason for this Holy day. The reason my home is decorated and presents are wrapped.

And I’m praying my heart will be filled with His peace and love.

And I pray the same for each of you.

Merry Christmas, friends!

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

~ Luke 2:8-14 (the Message)

Faith Like a Child

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There is nothing like watching children worshipping. Completely uninhibited. Arms up. Singing off key at the top of their lungs.

I’m so grateful that our kids were able to attend our churches VBS this past week.

615 school-aged children

$3300 (!!!!) given in offerings to build FOUR wells in India (their goal was $1500)

50 children making a decision to follow Christ

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Their eternity is now on a totally different course. Forever changed.

For more info: I’ve written a post on how to pray for your children, with resources listed.

There is a time to avert your eyes. And a time to take notice.

(*this post was originally posted November 19, 2007)

This past weekend I had several errands to run, so Saturday I loaded up the kids and we headed to the stores.

We first went to lunch, because frankly, it was like Old Mother Hubbard’s house around here. The cupboard’s were bare, short of a bag of leftover Halloween candy. That would have been a viable option for me, except that I had already eaten all of the candy that I like…

After lunch we hit some of the local stores. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and what I needed to get.

When we lived in Wisconsin, this would have been no quick trip. We lived in a very rural town and had to travel 2 hours to the nearest mall and 45 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart. (but no walking barefoot through the snow uphill both ways…) Any shopping had to be planned or done online.

The lovely part of this was that I learned to be content with what I had. Honestly, there’s not much I can think of buying that a 2 hour trip in a car with kids won’t cure me of. I did most of my clothes shopping online.

When we moved to Maryland, I stayed away from the malls because we didn’t have the money to get by each week, let alone do any extra shopping.

But recently, I’ve had to go into REAL stores, with real items I can touch! and smell! and they are displayed so lovely. And the desire for “things” has had to be stuffed aside repeatedly. I was amazed at the things that I began to think that I “needed”… things that before Saturday, I didn’t even know I could buy. I went into BabiesRUs to use a gift certificate that we received for Declan’s birth. I knew just what I wanted… but walking to the right aisle led me past digital baby scales for making sure your baby is the perfect weight in between doctor’s visits. Sterilization kits. Gadgets for increasing your baby’s IQ in utero. Luxury strollers. I had to keep my eyes averted just to keep from passing out from the panting.

Even our local Wal-Mart is fancy, with its wooden floors and track lighting. Shopping at Wal-Mart is hard enough without having to deal with every thing screaming from the racks for you to take it home.

It is hard to be content.

There is so much that we think we must have.

That we think will make us happy.

That will fill a void.

That we think will make us popular and well-thought of.

If only we had could have it.

Then life would be be complete.

But that’s not how its supposed to be. Not when there are people who have to do without basic necessities each and every day. When people are suffering from diseases that are treatable.

I love beautiful things. And don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with beautiful things. But there is when we ignore the suffering of others while we bask in “OUR” things.

My prayer for each of us is that we will be content with the things we’ve been blessed with and that we will remember and help take care of those who have been blessed with little.

Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
~ Deuteronomy 15:11

Break My Heart. Please.

broken heart

When I started this blog, we were coming off of a life-changing year. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, my blog became a place for me to sort through it all and try and make sense of it. I also wanted it to serve as a reminder of where I was at that place in time so that I would never forget the heartache and the restoration that followed.

I’m so thankful that I did, because recently, I went through a very troubling time. One that left me feeling used, emotionally battered, drained, overlooked, angry and resentful. Emotions stirred in me that I had long forgotten about. I had probably even fooled myself, on some level, into thinking that I was beyond those feelings.

As I’ve reread through my blog recently, I’ve been convicted of how far I had come and how many steps I took backwards during those recent months.

It’s not easy to admit; it’s not as though I was acting out. But I was allowing these emotions to dictate how I thought, and as a result, I was left feeling distant from the Lord. Because part of the ministry that I feel called to is sharing the message of the Lord’s restoration and redemption, it is not something that I feel that I can or should try to hide. As a Christian, I can just as easily forget about the muck I was pulled from, as the next person. And I can just as easily step back into it if I’m not walking with my eyes open.

I had temporarily forgotten who I was and where I had been.

As I’ve felt myself falling back into the sweetness that comes from being completely surrounded by the arms of Christ, I’ve found myself praying one thing over and over: “Break my heart, Lord”.

When I look at where I was, what I was saved from, and what I have experienced through His grace, I am ashamed at the lack of action I have taken to share that redemption and hope with others. I want my heart to be broken for others. I want to remember and never forget those who are struggling and suffering.

I don’t want to be held back by those emotions.

At church a couple of weeks ago, the pastor was talking about some of the things that hold us back from saying “YES” to the Lord. He referenced the story of Gideon and the defeat of the Midianites (Judges 6 through Judges 7), particularly Judges 7:1-7. While there is a much bigger story to this chapter, one of God’s glory, these verses give us a lesson on what can hold us back from going where God is sending us:

The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.‘ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. (emphasis mine)

Lack of courage. These men who loved God and wanted to go where God wanted to send them. But they wanted to place their “yes” on the table and keep their hands on it so that they could pull it back if it frightened them too much. (thank you to my pastor for that great concept). This isn’t about not being afraid though. It’s about trusting God.

4 But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” (emphasis mine)

Living carelessly. These men loved God and weren’t afraid but were living carelessly. A man bending down to lap the water rather than scooping it up with his hand was putting himself and others in danger. He was careless. And this put him on the bench rather than in the game (again, thank you to my pastor for that great concept). This isn’t about being perfect, but about being spiritually careful.

I had allowed myself to be benched over the last year by not being spiritually careful – by being involved in something the Lord hadn’t blessed or directed me towards. I had tried to fit the Lord into the situation rather than being where He wanted me. There was no blessing and no growth within it, because I wasn’t where I had been called to be. It took me away from where God really wanted me to be moving and working. And there continued to be a lack of growth as I struggled with the emotions after resigning/removing myself from the situation. I was angry that I had wasted all of that precious time with absolutely nothing to show for it. I had been living carelessly.

restored heart

I was careless and that caused me a lot of grief and pain. My heart was broken, but I found comfort in the One who can put a broken heart back together and bring hope to the brokenhearted. Now, I want my heart to be broken for others, so that I might point them to the One who heals.

(top photo source: TimOve)
(second photo source: CarbonNYC)