Embracing Christmas …when it’s less than perfect

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I am all about traditions, routine, order, and knowing what to expect.  When plans change, it can be very triggering for me. Even something as lovely as a vacation can set me on edge and make me feel vulnerable. As much as I smile and delight in the fun on the outside, on the inside I am fighting anxiety and panic with both fists. It is a weary battle.  

Bring on the holidays, and that is a recipe for pure angst. 

There are:

  • Fewer lights on the tree than the many strands I envisioned.
  • Explosions of emotion and memory from opening the boxes of ornaments.
  • Eleven destroyed ornaments so far from our sweet puppy, Maisy Jane.
  • Professional family photos that haven’t been scheduled.
  • Christmas cards that haven’t been created or ordered.
  • No pictures on Santa’s lap.
  • No long lists of oh so fun to find “hot toys” – instead, “just get me this one big item”.
  • Fewer gifts, which means less hiding, less wrapping, and less opening.
  • Painful aches for those who are absent.
  • Tears for the friend who received the awful diagnosis.
  • Sleepless nights tossing and turning in prayer for the heart of a child.
  • Changes in friendships, relationships, and traditions.  

In all of the dazzling merriment, there are disappointments, frustrations, and unmet expectations. 

How should we respond?

Mary was pregnant and traveling on a donkey with swollen feet and an aching back. She did not have a reservation at the Hilton. There was no guest room available for her.  She was going to give birth in a stable without an epidural. 

But in the smelly, messy, and painful circumstances surrounding Mary, light burst forth as she delivered a Love like no other.  

That same Love exists today in your smelly, messy, painful circumstances.
Do you see Him?  Can you find Him there? 

Just this week, I found Him in a powerful therapy session, a gentle rebuke, and an encouraging lunch.

He is with us always. We are never alone.
Like Mary, we can sit in the mess and hold onto to Jesus. 

Whatever this season brings, take the time to embrace Jesus especially when its messy, disappointing and even confusing. Be still in His presence and embrace His Love.  

Embrace Emmanuel, God with us.  

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23 KJ21

Pause in His Presence

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I took a break from social media.  It was not planned. I just stumbled across a post by Pastor Laura Lee that said “Social Media Sabbatical – 21 Day challenge”.  

Just reading the word Sabbatical sounded like a vacation on a shoreline to me.  I scrolled on to the next post, but I kept coming back to hers. I am a big fan of social media. I love it and I use it personally, professionally, and in ministry so stepping away would be a big deal for me. 

Reluctantly, I took the plunge and removed all of the apps from my phone except the Bible App.

Besides the obvious benefits of having more time and being fully present and engaged, the one thing that shocked me the most was feeling my anxiety levels decrease.  

Who knew?

I felt lighter, slept better and was able to breathe easier.  

I had no idea how much being on social media caused me to worry. 

I worry about you.  

I genuinely care about your crisis, your online business, your milestones, and I especially worry about what you think of me. 

None of this is bad, but when it all piles on in 30 minutes (which easily becomes two hours), it makes my heart feel a lot heavier when I finally x out. 

The tape in my mind starts playing on repeat, “People are hurting. They are offended.  They need to sell just a little bit more. There is a birthday, an anniversary and more.”  As the tape continues to play, I worry did I miss someone’s birthday? Did I say enough? Should I comment? I don’t even know which emoji to add because I am not even sure how I feel.  The pressure builds and it is overwhelming at times.  

I worry about myself. 

I wonder if I said enough, or did I say too much.  Now that I have teenagers, they read what I post and they don’t always like the pictures I share of them so I am more sensitive to their eyes and hearts. I start to doubt my calling and it slows me down. I see others celebrating huge victories and I am thrilled for them!  It encourages me at first, but then comparison creeps in, followed by insecurity and ultimately I am filled with doubt. I worry about what I think of myself.  

The tape in my mind starts taunting, “Did God really say? It will never happen for you. Why bother? Who do you think you are?” Am I saying enough? Am I doing enough? It is too much? 

But there is One… 

When I was able to escape the awkward high school halls of social media for a bit, I was able to pause in His Presence. It was there that I discovered this truth: 

There is only One whose opinion of me matters. Just one:  Jesus

My word for the year is Joy, and the verse is Psalm 16:11:

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” 

Taking a break from Social Media helped me to see the Bigger Truth in that verse.  

Joy will come in His Presence.  He will make known to me the path of life in His Presence.  

When I am in His Presence I am fully aware of who He says I am, and what He has called me to do. I am fully aware of His strength, His power and His healing.

When I am in His Presence, it is not about me.  

In His Presence, I believe all things are possible. Doubt, panic, worry and anxiety wither away in the fullness of His Glory.  

When I reached day 21, I put my little toe back in the waters of social media and I quickly retreated. I wasn’t ready. So I took a few more days and I waited a bit longer.  When I went in, I stayed in the shallow end for a bit but it didn’t take long for the waters to rise and the tapes to start playing.  

So, I am stepping away again. 

I have tasted.  I have seen.  I believe.  

He will show me MY path and fill ME with joy in His Presence.  

I want to be intentional to meet Him there.  Join me? 

For he alone is my safe place.
    His wrap-around presence always protects me
    as my champion defender.
    There’s no risk of failure with God!
    So why would I let worry paralyze me,
    even when troubles multiply around me?
God’s glory is all around me!
    His wrap-around presence is all I need,
    for the Lord is my Savior, my hero, and my life-giving strength.
 Join me, everyone! Trust only in God every moment!
    Tell him all your troubles and pour out your heart-longings to him.
    Believe me when I tell you—he will help you!
Pause in his presence 

Psalm 62:6-8 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Expecting God’s Peace in Anxiety

The Lord is Near.

Philippians 4:4–7  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I wish I could tell you I discovered my one word (Expect) for 2017 as I sat in a rocking chair reading my Bible by the glow of the fireplace.

Nope.

It was chosen in the middle of a full-fledged panic/anxiety attack while I was on vacation with my family. This used to happen often and while it is hard to even admit, I am sure I am not alone.

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