Wednesday, December 14, 2016

When Rest is Impossible

They told her to enjoy this time before the baby is born.

They said to ignore the hustle and bustle.  Simplify they said. They said to ignore invitations that come, to rest and keep the season calm so they can welcome their new beginning with rested arms.

Then it came.  A letter commanding them to travel to a different city for a census.

I can imagine how I would have reacted, though I'm sure Mary was much more calm and peaceful.

"How in the world am I supposed to travel on a donkey nine months pregnant?  Why do we both have to go?  What if I have the baby?  Who will help me?"

But travel they did, and the rest, as they say, is history.  He had a prophecy to fulfill, you see.

I think of this, or rather a lovely friend encourages me to think of this, when I feel like I am drowning in Christmas.

Parties, cards, cookies, gifts, wrapping, stress.  I try to cram a lot into the season and was beginning to wonder if I should cut back.  Simplify.  Rest during this time.

Then I remember Mary.

I remember that rest is a Person, not a place.  That sometimes an invitation comes that you mustn't ignore.  That sometimes Joy comes through a long journey on the back of a stubborn animal while your uterus is contracting.

Sometimes it's okay to just embrace Christmas for what it is.

It's a busy season and it's hard work.  We can refuse the work, but then when Christmas morning comes and it's time to celebrate Love come down, we may find we are not prepared.

I think maybe it's time we stop telling everyone to stop, relax, and remember "The reason for the season."

"The Reason for the season" decided to show up in the midst of exhaustion and frustration. Understanding the "reason for the season" means understanding that Christmastime is not necessarily a joy-filled season, long days before the fire, resting and anticipating the Lord.  Sometimes it's long days, full of hard work, thoughtful preparation for the ones we love, so that we can wake up on that fateful morning and proclaim His goodness.  So that we can say, "Do you see what this day means?  What it represents? Do you know His name?"

I like to think, when I'm addressing cards and wrapping gifts, maybe this is what it means to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Mary brought forth the Savior of the world after hours of laborious travel.  Then she spent years raising our King, only to watch Him be executed like a mere man.

Maybe it's time we accept Christmas for what is is - a time of hard work, preparing for the arrival of a Redeemer.  Maybe our kids need to see a month of sacrifice and joy and mess and obligations and then watch us raise our eyes on Christmas Eve and proclaim, O Holy Night.

Weary and run ragged, we take heart - for He is coming.  And on that day, we will bow before Him, filled with hope and exhaustion, and proclaim the Wonder that held us captive for an entire season.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Day the Hummingbird Taught Me a Lesson About Parenting...

I know she thought I was trapping her as I grabbed her gingerly with my gloved hands.  She didn’t know the light she saw was paned with glass.  That she could not break through, no matter how hard she banged her weary head.  Fifteen times per second, they say, a hummingbird flaps her wings.  She thought I was her enemy. She thought I was there to stifle her. To keep her from living her life.  To keep her from all that she loves.  As I walked out into the garage door with her in my grasp, even I was afraid that maybe I had killed her.  Perhaps I was hanging on too tight.  Perhaps her wings could not withstand the pressure.  Just as I began to pry my fingers from her tiny body, she took off, a ray of light shooting into the sunshine.  She flew to the top of the nearest tree…to heights higher than I could ever reach…and sang.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What It Means to be Real

There is a movement.

It's been a gradual descent.  I understand where it comes from.  It makes sense we would get to this place, what with society's obsession with sensationalism.  

In recent church history, a philosophy arose that we needed to make Jesus more relatable.  And perhaps this was true.  The tall steeples and bells and pressed suits weren't really speaking to the average teenager or the wayward son.  So we set drums on our stages, took away the traditional pulpit, and began to speak to people in the same way Jesus spoke to the people.  We became real.  Relevant.  

In the midst of this innocent shift, something happened and we have all snapped.

"Real" has become its own religion.  "Real" has become its own pharisaical form of idol worship.  

It has become something to be heralded, to be revered.  It's as if using the f-word a few times in an article, topped off by a clear damn or two, makes someone real.  It's as if airing dirty laundry, literally, makes someone more relatable.  

It may be fun to read about, talk about, engage in.  But this kind of gospel brings no one to repentance.  

To admit our shortcomings is biblical.  To stay in that place, refusing to move or grow, is sin.

We have built communities of women where sharing is safe - and for that I am eternally grateful.  We NEED places where we can admit that, some days, we feel undervalued, unloved, and want to burn the laundry in a fire pit in the driveway.  I get it.  But what we desparately need, and what these communities are lacking, is for women to follow up their words of empathy with admonishment and even repentance.

The Bible says children are a blessing. The Bible also says not to complain about anything.  So when we complain about our children, and receive only, "Amen, sisters" and "Hell yeahs,"  what have we done but encouraged each other in sin?

We need to encourage each other with a refusal to remain stagnant.  With a call to change.  How can we be more grateful?  How can we learn to love, yes, even the laundry? How can we bless our kids this week?  Spend more time? Read more books?  How can we love our children unconditionally and how can we enjoy their presence?  If the Bible says they are a blessing, then they are.  We just have to treat them as such.

I feel like this isn't happening nearly enough.  I feel like we are throwing our hands in the air, giving up, asking for another glass of wine, and laughing at how we are all so real, we can't even.

And now I'm going to say something harsh.  Because no one seems to be saying it.  

In the time it takes to take a selfie with a messy room, messy hair, and type that long message about how we are keepin it real, that messy room could have been cleaned.  With half the energy spent justifying the disdain we have for our children and how much mothering sucks and is the hardest thing ever and oh my gosh do I have to keep reading this book over and over, we could have repented of our selfish, ungrateful, complaintive "real selves," and be experiencing growth and a new appreciation and love for our children.  And maybe even that book.

Perhaps we can all take a lesson from The Skin Horse about being real.  
He says to the Velveteen Rabbit, "It doesn't happen all at once.  You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

THIS.  Becoming real.  Being willing to be loved to pieces, and letting God work on our shortcomings is the true essence of becoming Real.  It isn't something we choose or something we can force.  It is something that happens to us after years of service and love and gratitude and stretching and growing and loving.  It's years of becoming like Jesus until one day we lay our head down at night and realize we feel truly alive.