I love EVERYTHING about Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. I prepare for Christmas morning like a child. I get wrapped up in the excitement, the decorations and the giving. In the past I have gotten caught up in things that didn’t really matter. I quickly moved right through my favorite season without really being in it. It’s easy to go through the motions during busy times and the distractions are bigger than ever these days. Satan loves to keep us distracted. If we are preoccupied with meaningless things, we are sure to miss out on the most meaningful.
This year, I don’t want to miss anything. We can be present and still miss it all. I want to pay attention. I don’t want to miss their faces. I don’t want to miss the magic. I don’t want to miss the moment. I want to soak up so much wonder and love that it will fill me till July. Life is too short. I can’t afford to miss it. And above all, I can’t afford to miss Him. Because sometimes I think we miss everything, even when we think we are doing what we should and what’s expected. Always doing…
And inevitably, we will miss it completely.
In the busy.
In the stress.
In the gifting and celebration.
In the traveling.
In the scheduling in place of rest.
We will miss Him.
The shimmering tree is beautiful, the gifts are lovely, the traditions are important, but it’s not Christmas without worship.
Fall on your knees.
In the snowflakes.
In the twinkle of her eye.
In the lights.
In the thankful heart.
In the embrace.
In the song.
In the peace that comes with rest and true worship.
I don’t want to miss the beauty of Christmas. I can’t afford to miss the opportunity Christmas gives us to fall at the feet of my Savior and thank him for humbling himself to save a weary world.
He was born to die. The baby wrapped in rags that Mary clutched to her chest and placed lovingly in a manger, the king the wise men worshipped, the man that Herod feared, the God who performed miracles and turned the world upside down, my redeemer who was destined to die a painful death on the cross…
He was born so that we might live. That alone should make the whole weary world rejoice.
Jealousy can be a strange thing. It creeps up on me in the middle of the day, while I’m doing laundry or making coffee. I’m minding my own business and boom. Freaking Facebook! Why haven’t I learned my lesson? I know social media has many positives, but it also can be so damaging when we play the comparison game.
I have written before about my struggle with wanting another baby and how I let that dream go because of this disease. I tried for years after my second little girl to have another baby, to no avail. I got really sick around that same time. After being sick for a few years, I finally found out that I had three Tick-Borne Diseases and I have struggled with it ever since. My body is broken. It hasn’t been working in so many different ways and Lyme was the cause for my sudden infertility. I had to say goodbye to wanting another baby – not only to focus on my health, but because I was tired of living with the weight of unfulfilled expectation. I chose to be thankful for my girls and learn to be content without the big family I had always pictured.
Is it just me or does it seem like everyone and their sister is having babies lately? It’s awesome and I love it. I get my baby fixes from my sweet friends who let me drop in and hold their precious ones and get a whiff of newborn baby smell. I love seeing friends become a new mama for the first time or after years of trying for another child. It’s beautiful and I’m sincerely happy for them.
Then it happened. Several Lyme friends and acquaintances posted their joyful news of being pregnant. People I have struggled alongside. I am thrilled for their health, remission from Lyme and their babies to be. I truly am. I’m also human. (Here comes the jealousy part.) One of my friends is pregnant with her third. She prayed and wished and dreamed of having one more chance to be pregnant. Even in the throes of disease, she voiced her desire for another baby and she is pregnant.
When I saw one of the posts, I put my phone down and cried frustrated tears. I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth and for some reason, being vulnerable is the only way I know to write. I can say “I let go” as much as I want, but when it comes down to it – I’m a momma who wasn’t ready to say goodbye to having babies. Seeing this mama get her wish made me so happy, but so sad at the same time. I had prayed the same prayer. I wanted another one. I begged God to take this disease away and give me a baby. I finally surrendered my will, but my human nature wants to question and wonder if God truly has my best. It’s silly when you think about it. Sinful, human, jealous me – questioning my amazing, omnipotent, all-knowing God. I wrestled with him for a few days. I had fits of tears and fits of anger – just me and God… duking it out. It was a soul-searching, exhausting battle. And when all was said and done, I came to the end of myself.
Last week, I was looking up a specific verse and accidentally stumbled onto this one. I’m sure I’ve read it at some point in my life, but it had a new meaning for me.
The words glared out at me like new, shiny objects I had never seen before. I studied the verse, memorized it and let it sink in. I stared at it forever and read it out loud after writing it down. It’s sitting on my desk, so I can see it every day and be reminded (in my own handwriting) that in the midst of my human suffering, worries, doubts, fears and yes – even jealousy – He is there for me. Even though it can feel like it with this disease, I am not alone and this is not the end. When this season of suffering is over (whether that be on this earth or in the one to come) He has promised me that He will:
Restore. (Heal, renew, redeem)
Confirm. (Validate, support, justify)
Strengthen. (Build up, sustain, empower)
Establish. (Create, provide, stabilize)
Those words are for me. That’s all I need to know. I don’t need to hold onto jealousy or doubt. I have a promise from my Father… I’m clinging to his purpose for me and no matter what that means or doesn’t mean…I will trust Him.
Several years ago I read an amazing book. The book camped out in my mind for months after I finished it. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and the story. Certain lines would flash across my mind at different times and I would stop what I was doing and take a deep breath. It’s not everyday a book grabs your heart like that. There was just something real, raw and so true about it. ‘The Book Thief’ made me see life a little differently. It is by far, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read and tonight I got to see it. A movie was made of the book, as it is inevitably done with all good books – for good or bad.
I cried from the first scene all the way to the end. I remembered the way I felt the first time I read it and how it moved me. What was happening on the screen was wonderful and the actors did the book justice. But what made it even more meaningful was the part that wasn’t shown on the screen – the parts I knew that lay beneath the actors eyes, the parts that can only be captured with the written word. I had been in this story before and I already loved the characters. I had breathed in the words and they meant something to me because I was familiar with them – I was connected on a deeper level. That’s just what stories do.
I think the book got to me for a number of reasons – it’s a story that reveals the fragility and beauty of life and how important words can be. It deals with injustice, how the human spirit can prevail over evil, and true friendship. As I left the theater tonight, I realized that the main reason I feel so connected to this book is because it highlights how important it is for us to tell our own stories. No matter what you have experienced or what struggle you have endured, you must – in some form – tell your story. Words are a powerful tool that can connect all of us. The main character in the book lived through so many heart breaking, life altering things, but the power of the written and spoken word is what carried her through with grace and the will to keep living.
“When she came to write her story, she would wonder when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Tonight, Ryan and I sat down in an auditorium we have been sitting in for over 6 years and said goodbye to that space. It wasn’t a final goodbye, but a welcoming of change. Next week, we will be in the new area that will accommodate our growing church. A few years ago, our church made a promise to give generously so that others would find a seat here, like our family did back in 2007. That promise was carried out the last couple of years with the completion of two multi-site campuses and now the expansion of the main building. We celebrated by remembering the past and worshiping Jesus, who is the only reason for any of it. Stories were told of all the great things God has done in that auditorium and in the people who call it their church home.
Our pastor said something that reminded me of why I write. He said, “We mark moments by remembering and retelling our stories.” I think that’s what life and faith is all about. Through our joys, celebrations, love, and even tragedies and failures – our connection to other people comes when we tell our stories. It makes us feel less lonely in the world. We realize we are all the same screw ups with a common need for a Savior. Our connection with our Father comes when we retell what God has done in our lives. He is changing lives one story at a time. I am thankful to be a part of a church that sees the importance of telling our stories, so that THE ultimate story can be told and heard by as many people as possible.
As my friend and fellow writer so eloquently wrote, (go check out her blog here: My Life in Words and Pictures ) “Goodness and grace gets the last word in our world and in our lives and I am determined to remember this truth. My writing about these moments and taking these pictures is a testimony of God in my life. A witness to the truth that is all around me.”