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

Remember His Words

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Then they remembered his words.  Luke 24:8

When I finished the last post for Baby Steps, my plan was to continue writing my story.  Instead, I took a break and I have barely opened my laptop.

Sometimes, when I put it down it is hard to pick it back up. 

Truth be told, there are times when I would prefer to just live in the “now” and never look back.  

But God.

When I was writing the Baby Steps series, I saw His faithfulness intertwined with my tears. Yes, I would remember the pain. But, I would also remember the promises He brought to fruition.  

You see, looking back helped me to remember His words. 

In Luke 24, when the women went to the tomb they found it empty.  It wasn’t what they expected and at first they were shocked and confused. The angels appeared to them and said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”
Then they remembered His words.  
They went back to the share it with the disciples, but they were not believed.  Their words seemed like nonsense to the disciples.  

Jesus is always speaking.  

His still small voice causes my heart to burn inside of me. 

Am I listening?  

Life is loud, and the noise can drown out His voice. My best time to listen is in the morning under the safe hum of the shower and hairdryer. My eyes are closed and my mind is quiet enough to hear. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.  

Then in the noise of life, the lies grow louder and take me under.  Suddenly, I feel sad. Defeated. Discouraged. Hopeless.

It will never happen for you. 
It is impossible.
Did God really say?
Who do you think you are? 
You are crazy.
You are worthless. 

It is an old mean voice that spouts the same lies that have taunted me for years behind my smile. Instead of delighting in the hum of the shower, I am now drowning in the pit of despair.  

The Word is Alive.  

As I was reading in Luke, I came across those five words: Then they remembered His words.  

It was as if that sentence was a neon sign on that page and suddenly His truth overpowered every single lie, one by one.    

Do you remember my Words? 

It’s going to happen.
I really said it. 
You are my child. 
You have a sound mind.
You are worth more than many sparrows. 

His truth ushers in hope.  

Do you remember His Words? 

What has He whispered to your heart? 

Was it about healing? Your marriage? Your child? Your job? Your calling?

Maybe right now the circumstances look bleak. In the weariness, the lies begin to fill your tank with doubt.  The old mean voices start to pound in your head. 

What did He say?  What does His Word say? 

Write out that truth. 
Say it out loud. 
Write it on a notecard and carry it with you.
Sing it.  

Look back and remember His words. 

Believe.

Baby Steps: His light breaks my chains.

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Something really big happened in me during that facedown laid flat prayer time.  He lifted me and He gave me a voice, but He also filled me to the top with courage, boldness and passion.

Something shifted inside of me. 

In my group therapy session, she gave us each a small box, magazines, scissors and glue. Our assignment was to cut out and glue words and images on both the inside and the outside of the box.  

The words and images on the outside of the box displayed what we were comfortable with others knowing about us. The outside of the box represented how others see us and what we are willing to show others. This was mostly public information. 

 Whereas, the inside of the box was private information.  The inside of the box was how you saw yourself and what  you did not want others to see or know about you. The images and words inside of the box made us uncomfortable especially if others knew about them.  

The room filled with the noise of the magazine pages flipping, scissors cutting, and pages ripping while music played softly in the background. 

Words started to pop off of the pages.  Some were just seemingly harmless words but they were very significant to me.  

We took the boxes home to finish them, and I continued to cut and paste away. I found a slightly bigger box to hide my box in, because I didn’t want anyone to see it.  I decided to cover the outer box with words of healing and truth.  These words represented what I truly wanted for myself and this truth covered all of the messiness that was inside.  

 I was afraid to share my box with the group. I shared the outside, but not the inside. I brought the box with me to my individual session and showed my counselor the inside and explained what each side represented. 

Creating this box was so powerful. I continued to bring it to my sessions and it helped me to find words to share how the abuse had affected my body, mind and soul.  

The inside of the box was filled with shameful secrets and it was all so dark and dirty. All of those words and images kept me chained to the darkness. I desperately longed to be free.

The box was open now, and His light was shining into the darkness.

His light broke through the darkness and
he led us out in freedom from death’s dark shadow
and snapped every one of our chains. Psalm 107:14 TPT

This is post #26 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.

Baby Steps: God orchestrates everything to make something good and beautiful.

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If IT could be used for good. 

I didn’t understand the mystery of God. What could the mystery of God be when it felt like a Horror Story.  How do you find the mystery of God in horror?  This mystery was starting to gently and tenderly nudge my heart. 

I knew He was not the author of evil. He did not orchestrate it, and it was simply not of His doing. I knew He was the ultimate and the supreme, the beginning and the end. No matter what had happened in my life from evil, God was still in control. 

I can’t say exactly why, when or how, but somehow I started to realize He never left me and He completely and overwhelmingly protected and blessed me.  

My sinful experiences of my own doing, while painful, allowed me to relate to and encourage others knowing full well how much grace He had extended to me.  

Maybe I could help others? It was just a quick thought.  

I wasn’t sure if anything would ever come of this, but if just one person could be helped and it was for God’s glory then that alone was big enough for me. I had this desire to write, and as much as I wanted to write or help others, my pride and fear were screaming “NO WAY!”

I didn’t want the label, the attention or to be defined by it in any way. No thanks.  

And yet, I was starting to see the mystery of God. Many things were happening where I would relate, find or see God in the circumstances. I called them slivers, glimpses of God, hope, God-winks. Sometimes they were even bad or hard and made me cry, but I would look for Him and look for good and He would tenderly reveal it to my heart.

It helped to take walks in nature. I called them prayer walks. I prayed, listened to music, and tried to process all that was happening in my life. I would pause and take pictures of beautiful flowers or birds. I looked for beauty and it made me smile. I’m not even sure I paid attention in the past, but now I took the time to slow down and notice.  

I started asking questions. “God, what are you doing? Why is this so hard? Why me?”

I knew there were others out there just like me hiding awful secrets. As much as I wanted to protect myself, I wanted to help them. I wanted to get to a place where I could say a little without saying a lot. 

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.  Romans 8:28 VOICE 

This is post #12 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.