Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Grace

My husband has been listening to Christmas music in his truck and at home ever since they began playing it a few weeks ago.  Last year, I decided to jump in with both feet, at the beginning of November, and commence all of my traditional celebratory acts of the holiday season.  I personally don't have a problem wrapping Thanksgiving and Christmas together; to me, it's all about God's grace and blessing and I'm thankful for that at Thanksgiving and don't cease being thankful when the Christmas season begins.  

However, this year has been different.  I hate to admit that I've been almost grinchy already!  Sure, I've allowed the music...I've even tried to enhance my holiday spirit by listening at times.  But, I haven't felt the usual joy at all.  Up until this morning, I have felt a sense of overwhelming stress concerning almost everything that the holiday season has to offer.  I strongly dislike the commercialism of it all (well mostly...except that I love the "Red Cup" with a decaf peppermint mocha on occasion...and all my fellow coffee drinkers said "amen").  But yes, I've been grinchy!

So much of the holiday duties fall on me, as mama, in this home.  Okay, with the exception of decorating the tree and wrapping gifts, it all falls on me!  Not because my husband isn't a helper either.  He's an amazing helper!  It's just that I'm the one here.  I'm the one who compiles the lists; shops online or in the stores; bakes; sends cards; gathers hats and mittens to donate; distributes the teacher and bus driver gifts...  It falls on me.  The other part of it that (I feel) falls on making it all happen.  Year after year, I feel more and more that I need to turn into some kind of a miracle worker to make it all happen.  I've even shaken my fists at God in times of frustration and stress and declared, "I'm not the are!"  But am I relying on the truth of who He IS??

The reality is no.  I'm not.  I've been reading these Pioneer Christmas stories lately; I could get lost in them for hours.  Truly, it's that simple Christmas that I crave.  I'm tired of the overabundance.  I feel like my insides are screaming "ENOUGH!"  But the reality is that I'm simply not relying on who God is during this time.  The reality is that I don't live in Pioneer days because God put me right where He wanted me to be:  this time, this place, this family!

This morning while vacuuming...and being close to tears about it all, again, I felt a nudge from God to shut up and listen to Him.  That may sound harsh, but I'm a communicator and God knows it all too well.  Sometimes if I'm not reminded or urged to shut up...I won't!  Not even in my own spirit.  So as I quieted myself, He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Grace is defined by the Free Merriam Webster Dictionary, as "unmerited divine assistance".  Wow!  I can honestly say that my heart was moved to complete repentance while vacuuming cereal under the table.  I have been trusting in myself alone to get through this holiday season.

Whether or not my husband and I make big or small changes about how we do the holidays, some things won't change.  Some things I don't want to change!  Only, I don't need to rely on my own strength to make them happen!  God lovingly reminded me this morning of my sinful nature, which wants to go at it alone, rather than trust in the divine assistance of a Savior.  I think this is true all the time, but it seems glaringly true during the holidays; it's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle!

We won't have an old-fashioned Pioneer Christmas, now or ever!  I like baking too many batches of cookies, muffins, and bread!  I like sending cards to loved ones.  I enjoy buying gifts for my children's amazing teachers and cupcakes for the school administrators.  But I need to stop shaking my fists at God, expecting Him to work miracles.  Rather, I need to open those fists and receive, with open hands, whatever daily bread He has for me this holiday season.  And with the daily bread, I will also thank Him for His grace--His unmerited divine assistance--to accomplish whatever I need to accomplish during this season.  Relying on His grace and His power alone, is what will give me strength with each holiday task.  Relying on His sufficient grace is what will turn these tasks into joy!  I'm so thankful that He doesn't give up on me when I'm selfish and stubborn!  I'm so thankful that His Word reminds me I don't ever have to go at it alone!  I'm so thankful that His grace truly is sufficient for me today and every day.

I'm having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

He Loves the Waves

Last week our family was in Destin, Florida on our first-ever family vacation.  What a beautiful beach it is!  We learned that this has been voted the number one beach in America.  It was easy to see why.  The water is so crystal clear.  At any point during the day you are able to see so many different shades of blue and green.  And the sand is clean, soft, and white...perfect!  The first two days we were there the waves were so calm; we assumed this was how it must always be.  But the third day, the waves were very strong and coming in differently....with force!

We were discussing the waves, the beach, and the tides as we took one of our daily early-morning walks, when my Tessa said, "Jesus loves the waves!  They're familiar."  Ya know, sometimes your child says something and you think How did she come up with that?!  Not one of those quirky kids-say-the-darnedest-things.  And not even something that she is parroting from a classmate, teacher...or parent.  No.  Once in a while, one of my children says something that stops me dead in my tracks.  Something about the innocence of her stance and the deliberation of her tone tells me I need to take heed.  And I did.  I have.  I have chewed on this one declaration over and over since it came from her sweet lips:  Jesus loves the waves!  They're familiar.

And you know what?  She is absolutely right!  Jesus lived and traveled by the sea.  Jesus was never nervous on the boat when the storm was present and the waves enormous.  He slept while the disciples fretted.  And what's more, metaphorically speaking, Jesus came to make waves.  He was very familiar with that.  He made his parents nervous at the tender age of twelve when he stayed behind at the temple; he said "didn't you know I'd be about my Father's business?"*  Jesus overturned the money changer's tables in the synagogue and he overturned their theologies too.  He was always about His Father's business!  Incidentally, His Father's business was so often about making waves!  Familiar? Jesus.  Predictable or safe?  No.  Just as we warned our children about those strong waves:  you can't trust yourself or your own strength in those waves....even if you think you can.

In our own lives--and with the many waves that come--we can't trust ourselves!  We need to put our trust in the One who is familiar with the waves.  He can handle them.  He allows them.  He is the Creator, Author, and Finisher and He alone can handle the waves.  He can calm them or He can hold, protect, and remind us gently of His presence while they roll and roar.  Although I don't always understand why He chooses to allow some waves in our lives to grow so strong, I'm learning to trust.  When the disciples were fearful at sea, in the midst of the storm, they finally called on Jesus.  They had Him with them all along.  They could have been at peace, while the Prince of Peace was with with their Savior!  But they didn't trust or choose peace.  At times, neither do I.  

When the waves in my life grow strong, so often I cower in fear and trust in my own knowledge or feelings, rather than lean into the arms of the One who can handle the waves.  He loves the waves.  As I have contemplated the words of my 5 year old, I think I understand.  When the waves get stronger, I need Him more.  And when they become fierce--though my soul may be in anguish--I lean on Him like never before.  After I come out of the storm and the strong waves, I look back in reflection and realize that those have been the times when I've pressed into Him the closest.  I may be fearful alright.  I may feel tossed and shaken.  I may have desperately cried from deep within.  But without the mighty and unpredictable waves--those ones that are familiar to Jesus, I would not cling so strongly to Him. 

At first, when she said "Jesus loves the waves!" I felt a bit uncomfortable with that statement.  The audacity of it!  How can he?  How can He love something that shakes and whips me about?  How can he love something that creates such desperation within me?  But if I'm honest, I get it!  He wants us to need Him.  He wants us to cling to Him.  He doesn't want us to ever get so confident on the waters that we forget to depend on Him....the Creator of the tides.  And I'm learning this.  Day after day after day.  Just when I think I'm capable...He allows the tide to turn.  And the tide always turns.  I have to learn complete and utter dependence on Him!  Sometimes the tide turns in my favor.  Sometimes it whips me in a direction I never thought I'd go.  Sometimes it wipes me out and flips me upside down, gasping for relief.  And at times, the waves are hardly more than ripples.  He allows the calm too.  That's just it.  He is the Creator of the tides.  He loves the waves and yes, they are familiar.  He knows the end from the beginning.  The test is in the middle of the waves.  But the answer is always the same.  He is familiar with the waves.  He alone can allow the tide to turn.  He alone can calm the sea.

Father, help me to trust and hold onto you in the midst of the ocean waves of my life.  Calm or fierce.  Strong or small.  Let me cling to You and depend on you alone.  You love the waves because they create in me a dependence on You alone.  You are my source and my  strength.  Help me find my rest...riding out life's waves with You.  

*Luke 2:49