What Are You Expecting For Christmas?

Transition is hard. For me, this transition from Mongolia back to America for an unforeseen amount of time,  has been the hardest transition thus far. YET, it’s been the most joy filled transition that I’ve ever had. Grief and joy…they seem to go hand in hand. Sometimes immediately, other times it may be days, weeks, years before the joy becomes present or is noticed. For me, they’ve been simultaneous…but I’ve mentioned that before.

The other night, I was praying with our youngest son before bed. He’s the one that likes to snuggle. As we were laying there in his bed, huddled up together, he began crying. Crying about his loss of friends here as we move back to the States. Crying about how hard it will be to make new friends. Crying about saying goodbye to our cat here, most of his toys, his room, his bed….and the loss of not traveling anymore like we do. He is in the midst, like we all are in our family, of grieving loss. And it’s sad. It’s hard. It’s painful. And, it’s so needed. We have had several nights like this the past few weeks. For him, this is his 11th move in 9 years of age. For our daughter, the youngest, this is her 10th move. Our oldest son, this is his 14th in 11 years of being born. And for Iris and I, it is our 16th move in 15 years of marriage. That’s a lot-A lot. And almost half of those moves have been international. Putting it down on paper makes it quite sobering.

I was reading through a daily guide through the Advent season the other morning. The scripture that day was Psalm 126….

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him. (ESV)

 

It’s no secret that Christmas time is a time of expectation, right? Whether it be the excitement of what present you’ll receive, or the reaction on someone’s face when they open their present. Or maybe it’s a little deeper, and there’s the anticipation of Christmas morning, the snow, the tree, Christmas dinner or perhaps the reaction from the kids. sigh….I love Christmas. I really do.

Looking back through the Bible, the Jews were expectant as well, looking for a Messiah. They were looking at someone to come and restore the kingdom, God’s chosen people. To regain control, establish the kingdom, perhaps to make them again, the great nation they were instead of the mockery they had become. They had expected a warrior king, not the Prince of Peace, and especially not a king that was born in a stable. How utterly ludicrous….and yet so paradoxically divine. Their Messiah, our Messiah has come, but in a way so very differently than expected. He did do what was promised. He is continuing to do what was promised. And he will do what is promised…bring restoration.

Reading through the book of Job, his story is also one of pain and hurt. The whole book, the whole story is of great loss and pain. From his property, to his children to eventually his friends and his own health. He suffered massive loss.

But then came restoration.

Job’s story, the story of the Jews and of us today, is one of restoration. A fallen world, us a fallen people, a place of hurt, pain, loss and grief that so desperately desires restoration, even when we may not know it. In the last chapter, we read that everything Job lost was restored….not replaced, but restored…and then some.  Jesus came to restore relationship and in Revelation we read how the world will be restored to what the Eden that was.

And that’s one of my prayers for my family, for my children. What great losses they are suffering, we’re all suffering, will be restored someday. We can never replace friends, loved ones who have passed away, even family pets. But we can be restored whole again. Joy does that. Better yet, God does that and joy is a part of that. It makes “Joy to the world” have new meaning to me. I wonder where, or what, needs to be restored in your life. Restoration isn’t fixing a problem. Restoration making it like it was before. And with Christ, his restoration is something far greater than what was before, more fuller than the loss suffered, though unexpected.

After writing last week and reflecting on this today, I believe God has given me these few words for Advent this year-realignment, restoration, renewal, re-establish. These are the words that I need to focus on during this time, this holy time.

What about you? What in your life needs to be restored? What does God desire to do during this holy time of Advent, in your life? Are you willing to take time and reflect on what it is?

be blessed today

 

Photo Credit Here

Sleeping Apps, Time and Expectation

I have this great little sleep app. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to ever own such gadgets (I laughed at those growing up who had “ocean machines” to help them sleep), but I am really thankful for it. It has nature sounds and light music that start off somewhat up beat and then gradually they become mellower and slower. All night it plays, gently. When it’s time to wake up, or about five minutes before, the music becomes a little louder, a little faster. Chirping birds begin to make their appearance as the music gradually becomes more upbeat. Usually it takes about 10 seconds or so for me to wake up once the app makes this transition, but it is so much nicer to wake up to chirping birds than the “EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH, EEH,” blaring in my ear like a normal alarm. I guess I’ve turned into one of those people I used to mock. At least sort of.

The app, or more like sleeping and the night,  resets my internal clock, realigns me with the stillness of night and the on coming day and reinstates my daily routine. It puts everything back in sync which I’m thankful for. It also gives our hearts and minds a break from whatever chaos may have been the day before. We may still be angry with whatever happened a day prior, but we’ve been able to step back from the midst of it and gain some perspective (which is simply a way of saying that we are able to more clearly see our perspective and hopefully begin to see the situation from the “others” perspective). In a way, that’s what the seasons do. Calendars are simply a way of marking specific days, but the seasons and change of them, do the same thing a night does.

Spring is the dawn of a new day. Summer is the heat of the afternoon. Autumn is the coolness of the evening sunset, and Winter is the dark, sleeping of night. God seemed to have thought of everything (I say with a smirk), but it’s true. The Hebrews recognized these seasons and the Early Church also recognized them bringing in the Messiah’s arrival, life and sacrifice and resurrection.

Now, we are at the beginning of Advent. There are really only five major sections of time in a year-Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. These seasons, blocks of time, are meant to do for our soul, just what a good night’s sleep does for our physical bodies. Renews our understanding of Christ, refreshes our weary minds and hearts from life, resets our routines, realigns ourselves with Him and reestablishes God’s leading in our lives. Of course, I could go on and on with “re-” words, but let’s just stick with those for now.

I’m not saying that we need some major overhaul of our traditions and daily rhythms for this season (unless of course you do need to). But simply taking time to acknowledge this season we’re coming upon, Who it is that was born and why He was born, and the earth moving impact His birth had/has. It really is not just holy ground, but holy time. Moses took off his sandals when he was in the presence of God in the burning bush because he realized he was not worthy of even the ground he was standing on. Yet God chose him. And here we are, immersed in a time that is set apart for recognizing Him as the chosen one to come in the form of a baby.

As much as I desire to do nothing but listen to Christmas music, bake all kinds of Christmas goodies and watch Christmas movies, it seems that this time of year is insanely busy. Christmas programs, parties, get-togethers, special services, gift shopping, traveling…whew, the list is endless. But I’m fairly confident that God did not intend for life to be a life of busyness…especially during those special set aside times of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.

As Moses removed his sandals, I wonder what God is inviting me to remove during this holy time. What might He be inviting you to remove during this holy time? Not that we have to. But what might be waiting for us if we did? What special gifts are awaiting us if we pause and recognize this time as a holy time? Perhaps, it’s a question worth pondering as we head into Advent this year. I’d love to hear your answers…..

be blessed today

 

Photo Credit: The BBC

Waiting, Part 2

So, what if we took the Advent season as a time of becoming more aware of God’s presence in the waiting? It’s an interesting thought.

When I was young, I would put together plastic models. Mainly classic cars. I never wanted to do it as a serious hobby, just a way to pass the time. I would be all excited as I opened the $6 box of plastic parts, some covered in chrome others were the rubber tires. It didn’t take long to figure out that no matter what I did, I couldn’t make them look exactly like they were on the box cover. In order to do that you needed a hobby knife, special paints and an expensive airbrush system. It just wasn’t going to happen.

The other reason why they would never be featured in a museum was because instead of waiting an hour for the glue to dry and take hold, I would wait…five minutes. My fingers would get glue on them and then I would have glue fingerprints all over the model. Of course, I wouldn’t wait for the paint to dry either, so it would be glue and colored paint fingerprints on the windows, the sides and on the shiny chrome parts.

I’ve noticed for me that when I think life is moving too slow, when the waiting is longer then it “should” be, that is when I start to fall back into the habits that can be destructive. Controlling, manipulation, passive aggressive behavior..it all comes back. Sometimes subtly, sometimes pretty strongly. Some things really do need to be moved faster, but others don’t. I know especially when I start falling back into those habits, that I need to go back into the waiting. It comes down to a lack of control.

What else requires waiting….ah, great waiting. There is great waiting in pregnancy. We don’t want to rush it as some major damage could come to the baby as well as the mother. Pregnancy is meant to take nine months. It is the way God designed it. If we tried to rush it, took some super pill and the next day had a baby, that could have some serious implications. And, would that baby be as cherished if it was instant gratification? In the past few years, several of my friends have adopted. Based on their experiences, it seems that adoption processes take a long time. Most take longer than a pregnancy, especially international adoptions. But as each day goes by during that process, for those parents, the longing for their future child grows by leaps and bounds. There is a determination and longing that grows by the moment.

And, let’s be honest, if the pregnancy part was instant, then we would want to find a way for the baby to grow from infant to adult overnight, right? Skip the diaper stage, maybe skip past the spilling, clumsy stage. Oh, and while we’re at it, we might as well skip the 13 going on 30 attitude stage, and just have them go straight off to college—-check that, we don’t want to pay for it, it is expensive, let’s just move them onto their first career.

If we did that, where would the memories of watching their first footsteps come from? Where would the memories be of standing before the court as they declared you the rightful parent from this point forward? Where would the memories of learning to ride a bike, walking through the pain of a friend hurting them, their first day of school, or the first time they read a book, when they learned to drive, walking through the pain of their first breakup?

There is great purpose in the waiting. We learn. We grow. We learn about ourselves, about others. There is also great pain in the waiting. Pain is just that, painful. At times we may chose to run from the pain and that only causes us to fall back into habits and hangups that we have suffered or been addicted to in the past. When we try to avoid the waiting that we need to go through, it only ends up hurting us, costing us more. Even if the waiting is painful, through it we will grow. Think about Jesus. Especially the week leading up to the crucifixion, there was great pain in knowing that He would be crucified. There was pain in the three days after his death. There was pain in the days He was on the earth before he ascended into heaven. And there is much pain now as we wait on His coming again.

But in that pain is where trust in God comes from. In the waiting is where dependence upon Him comes. In the anticipation is where we are emptied of the fallenness and layers of things put on us wrongly begin to be stripped away, albeit painfully, and become the person God is calling us to be, more and more.

Perhaps this Advent is a time where we we simply sit in the waiting. Maybe this is a time where He is inviting us into where He is working right now, in the Land of the Living among the chaos and destruction happening around us. What a joyous Christmas present-realizing and seeing where He is at this very moment! Will you join me?

I would love to hear of your experiences in the waiting-the pain and the joy, the lessons learned. Us sharing our experiences with others encourages us and grows us all. I know I would love to hear your story, please comment below. And, would you be willing to join me in the waiting?

Waiting, Part 1

This past weekend, we celebrated the birth of our daughter. She turned six and spent the whole day in the costume from a blockbuster children’s movie. We spent the day singing the soundtrack from the movie in the car going to preschool and on the way home…and at her party…and while she went to sleep that night. She has brought a massive amount of peace, laughter and sensitivity to our family. I am so thankful for her.

I was sitting here remembering the months leading up to her birth. Iris’ baby bump started to show, then there were the several stages of maternity wear and as the days got closer there was the anticipation of seeing her little body wrapped up in blanket. She was the first girl on Iris’ side of the family after four boys. So, our daughter, Emmi, had an entire closet full of clothes before she was born. From cheerleader onesies to footie pajamas to cute little skirts, she had them all.

There was a ton of anticipation for this little girl. And, of course, as any pregnancy goes on, it becomes more painful (from what I’ve been told). Though Iris loved carrying this little girl, she was ready for her to come and meet the world, too!

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.-Psalm 27:14

I’m going through a pamphlet with meditations for Advent that I purchased online and had sent to me. I just got it (the excitement of a real book-paper and all was almost too much to handle!). Simply some reflections as we walk through the advent season up to the birth of Christ in our celebration of Christmas. On Emmi’s birthday,  it had this verse from Psalm 27 written at the top. “Be strong and take courage.” Those are good words, great words to be exact. But….waiting on the Lord…….ya, not so much.

I know that I rush things. I know that I try to get things done quickly to move onto the next step, level, next adventure or project. It happens with work, it happens with my family time and it happens with the time I have set aside to meditate on Christ. Waiting is a part of life. Some things I hate waiting for like standing in line to pay a bill. Or, ugh, sitting in traffic. But there are other things that are worth the wait, like the birth of our children.

It’s almost as if the waiting was creating more excitement, creating more desire and longing, building a deep a treasure to be cherished, becoming more valuable by the day. They were worth the wait.

I have grown to become more aware of God’s presence in the waiting moments of life. Not always (I am only human after all), but I try to be more aware of His presence around me. Right before verse 14, David writes this-

“I would have despaired unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

In actively  becoming more aware of God’s presence, I have been able to see the goodness of the Lord. I’ve been able to see the land of the living unlike any other time in my life before. I can see that He is here, in the waiting, in the anticipation. I have seen Him here, therefore, the despair is no longer the first thing I go to. Peace, often times, is now what I go to first when I’m in that time of waiting. Even when that waiting comes pain.

It is the Advent season. What is that? It’s simply a season of waiting. Anticipation of when the Savior came to this earth. When He came in the form of a baby, not an adult. Not only was there waiting in his birth, there was waiting until His anointing when He began his ministry. There was pain in that waiting, but it was worth the wait.

What if we looked at Christmas with such anticipation? What if we looked at this waiting through the lens of the land of the living? What would change? What has been wroth the wait to you? Let’s commit to doing this together…