A Survival Guide to Christmas for Singles and Those who Love Them: Part 3

IMG_0651I love Valentines Day. I know, this post is actually about Christmas, but just go with me on this one.

I. LOVE. Valentines Day.

It is one of my favorite holidays. And, it is a day where most, at least in the US, are focused on romantic love. He thinks about the significant other in his life and she dreams about the outfit she’ll wear for the overly anticipated, highly pressured date. It is a day where romantic relationships are at the forefront and it is day in which, though I have only been in a romantic relationship one time on the holiday (excluding of course 1st grade where I checked the box for YES I will be your girlfriend on every manila valentine I received) I thrive.

The same quality that gives me an incredible delight in a day where Cupid is King and Hallmark sells more movies about love and the pathetically single finally finding their soul mate, is the same quality that allows me to not only survive but thrive during the Christmas season:

Perspective

Perspective is key.

This is true in all circumstances. Perspective is choosing to believe that God is good in all things, that he is in Charge, that His love for me is beyond comprehension, that He knows me, and He cries with me. He endures along my side. He is for me and beside me. He will always be my rescue. He is always for my good. And, He will always be ready to bless me, even when I am in the presence of my enemy.

There are all kinds of enemies presented during the Christmas Season. Loneliness. Self-hatred. Regret. Disappointment. Despair. Worthlessness. Shame. Rejection. The emotions felt are not the enemies, but the lies told within the feelings are invitations to agreements with the enemy of truth.

When we make an agreement with the lie often whispered in our feelings, our perspective follows.

For instance, when I feel sadness because I have a desire to be married or be a mom and that sadness turns to self accusation, comparison and blame it begins to nudge me to believe, “You are alone. No one sees you. You are worthless. No one will choose you. God isn’t good, He is holding out on you!

When I make an agreement with these phrases, my perspective shifts and I turn inward. I hide or I begin to resent others who have what I want. When I make agreements with the enemy of truth, the enemy of life, I turn away from God, self and others and risk becoming isolated and brittle. 

But, what happens when I choose to feel the sadness and hear the invitation of Jesus?

When I do not allow my circumstances or feelings to dictate my belief, perspective or behavior I can engage the story I am in, holding the truth of God and His good in my life. He is not holding out on me. He is not against me. He has not abandoned me. I was made in His image and my life, right now, has incredible value. I am strengthened by the truth and I know joy. 

It is when I am able to say, “God I am sad, Yet you are good!” that I am able to walk through whatever circumstance and felt emotion with joy, strength, grace and mercy. It is here that I receive the love of the Father, instead of trying to outsource it to someone or something else.  And it is here, where the blessing of Jesus enfolds me and the Holy Spirit reminds me that I get to be a conduit of His blessing in the lives of others.

This is why I love Valentine’s Day and this is why I can love and thrive during the Christmas season. My perspective shifts from being focused on my own felt lack to a perspective of abundance.

God is a God of abundance, not lack.

He gives out of His abundance.

He loves me out of his abundance and he invites me to love others out of the overflow of my connection with him. (read that again)

Because I believe that God is good

and I believe that I am His

and I believe that He has given me the ability to live as a person of blessing in the world,

these days are filled with opportunity to live the Royal Life of a Son or Daughter of a really good King, and, like Jesus, bring his blessing as far as the curse is found. 

This perspective has catalyzed adventure, created in me a sense of belonging and has spread the love of the Father.

Adventures like, On Valentine’s Day I have taken my niece and nephews out. We would go to the store, buy candy, write on Valentine’s Day cards and pass them out to strangers in parks, coffee shops, drop them off at friends and deliver them to neighbors. As we shared a small act of love, I knew joy.

It is simple. When my perspective is based on God’s goodness and my belonging to him, I treat others as I would like to be treated. I do for others, what I would want done for me. 

During the Christmas season I do the same. I take my lack and I ask God to bless it and I step with him to live in His abundance.

This year it looks like this:

  1. I would love to have tea parties with my own children. A little cheesy, yes, but I am cheesy. So, I am hosting a Christmas tea this Saturday for many of my friends’ children. I think there will be close to 30 of us. Shepherds are going to come and tell the story of how they met baby Jesus, we will do a craft and have a snow ball fight with newspaper.
  2. I want to host Christmas parities with someone and fill tables with people. So, a friend and I rented a mansion and are having a dinner for nearly 80 people, to remember, break bread, and reflect on the One who invites us to be Still. We will all get fancied up and I do not have to do it alone. We invited people who might also want the same thing. I think many of those on staff at my favorite coffee shop might join us.
  3. I want to be remembered. So every time I think of someone during this season I do something about it. I write, call, text, comment, tweet, or simply stop by.
  4. I want to feel seen and a sense of belonging to someone. So, I bake for my neighbors, write them each a card and let them know that they are seen and they belong.
  5. I want to go get a Christmas tree with my person. And, I actually get to go cut down a tree with my people. I’m not afraid to be a part of my married friend’s lives and traditions. I participate instead of opt out. (If you want to have a tradition! Create it! If you don’t want to do it alone. Ask someone.)
  6. I love to create experiences for people, because I love to experience things with people. A friend is coming into town and will be doing a home Christmas Concert at another friends home.
  7. I don’t like wrapping presents alone, so I ask others to come and wrap with me.
  8. I am not always a fan of decorating alone and I’ve asked a friend to decorate my tree with me.
  9. I have Christmas card parities, friends over to bake, people over to watch the cheesy Christmas movies and I give myself permission to create the traditions I need, even if my whole biological family isn’t involved.
  10. I go to a midnight carol service, usually alone.
  11. I drive around and look at lights and put on music often alone.
  12. I sit in my favorite leather chair and feel all the feelings, listen to the music, cry the tears the need to be cried and receive the abundance of the Father’s love for me, who so lovingly gave his son to meet us with blessing.

The lie and the curse want to be the reality of my, of your, story and perspective. When I choose to receive the love of the Father for me, when I receive Jesus, my lack becomes an overflow of His abundance and his blessing comes to me and through me as far as the curse is found

Joy To The World

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

Read more: Christmas Carols – Joy To The World Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

 

 

Day 5 of truth telling: I’m in love

heart_of_sand-1824My truth today: I decided to write today’s post with few and simple words, to express even in form, a truth I’ve known since I was only able to express things in simple words.

My truth: I love Jesus.

That isn’t a simple phrase nor is it a nice sentiment. It is the deepest truth I know. I love him. I fell in love with Jesus when I was four years old and have never stopped.

My life has been molded and shaped by this reality in ways that I have no words to describe. When I was four all I understood was that he loved me and I loved him back. Since that time, my understanding of his love for me has deepened. It has been challenged. It has been questioned. And it shapes everything that I do, think and believe. His love for me, is the basis on which I am able to love him.

I love him, because he first loved me. He gave his life for me. He proved his love over and over and over again. He continues to prove his love for me. It is life altering. It has changed me.

With every ounce of my being, that I see and know, I love Jesus.

This love continues to grow as I grow and deepen and develop.

This love is powerful. It is whimsical. It is overwhelming, heartbreaking, breathtaking and renewing all at the same time.

I love Jesus so much that I want every person I meet, everywhere, to love him too.

I love Jesus.

I do.

My life is shaped by this fact, more so than any other and it has led me on journeys that often surprise me. Today, I’m thankful that this is my truth. May it be yours as well.

Day 3 of telling my truth: Thoughts on music

483434-usb_cd_rock_mini_jukeboxToday my truth is:

I am not writing this on Saturday. I am writing this on Friday. Today I’m in the mountains on a retreat. Currently I’m in my bed, writing while the day is getting ahead of me.

A bit of silliness today. I have very bad internal juke box. Well, I should rephrase that, to those around me I have an awful internal juke box, but I confidently own it. Though at times I can be a bit of a foodie, I am in no way a music snob. I love some good bubblegum pop and broadway hits. I sing hymns, old Amy Grant and 80’s hit music continuously. I love the song “Get Lucky” Yes the words leave you wondering if the man who wrote them had a mother, but the beat gets going and I can’t help myself. I turn the music up loud and dance around in my car as if no one is watching.

I also love working out to Maroon 5, Adam Levine can sing to me any day of the week. Sometimes, I pretend I’m really cool and hipster and listen to the playlists of my musically sophisticated friends on Spotify, but then somehow, magically, I’ll end up listening to Katy Perry or old Amy Grant.

My musical tastes change with the seasons as well. In the summer I will listen to country and pop with the windows down. During winter I will listen to classical, choral (Okay, in all honesty, I don’t want to tell that part of my truth, but sometimes, I love a good choir singing classical music or old hymns. The truth is out) and of course Christmas music when appropriate. When Spring comes around I love to listen to pop, top 20s music and when fall, falls upon us indie, folk, jazz and like beckon me.

Music has been a big part of my life since I was a child and it has accompanied me through every season of my life.

At times I think I need to be more cool than I am when it comes to music. It’s funny the things we think will add or take away something of our likeability, but the truth is, I like my musical taste and I don’t really need anyone else to like it along with me. Although it’d be great if you also secretly dance to “Get Lucky” in your car. Please leave a comment telling me so. Maybe today that will be your truth to uncover.

 

 

Parties and Freedom

1044783_10200841588753834_1389747617_nTo be honest I don’t know what to type today. My thoughts are full and rambly. Maybe, just maybe that is what I’m supposed to write about… my random trail of thoughts?

Yesterday we hosted our first party. I loved watching the students transform as the night went on. We welcomed 10 people into our home. To the students these men and women were strangers who did not speak their language. The discomfort was palpable. As the hours passed on the discomfort turned to ease. The fear of speaking Spanish turned to comfort and risk combined. Friendships were established, future plans were made and people lingered for well past 5 hours. It was incredible in every way.

I love watching the students. I love  listening to them. I love hearing them. It is a pleasure to serve them.

Today we hosted a dinner (which is our lunch) for a local artist, his girlfriend and he also invited another friend to join us. Both artists showed us their work and as they did, we were invited into their stories. It was powerful. The artist who was invited by his friend, I believe, was truly invited by Jesus to join us. His art displayed a deep sadness. This struck the students and their desire for him to know freedom is beautiful to see.

Our conversations about mission and being in people’s lives have been rich and full and already transformational.

 

On to another subject:

My year has been challenging. Quite actually. When I received the invitation to come to Spain, it was almost as if Jesus himself were inviting me. I knew I had to go. I packed my bags and without much knowledge about “the what” to my trip, I knew I was to go. Since coming I’m even more certain that this is a time for me to live into the freedom that has come from my months of darkness. (The darkness actually was a catalyst for freedom, so in many ways I find myself thankful for the season.) The freedom I felt as I got on the plane was almost as though I stepped into the passage: The old has gone and the new has come.

Living into new is not all that easy. My life was filled with patterns, coping mechanisms and ways of living that kept me from truth, learning and freedom. I now find myself unwilling to participate in those habits and am unwilling to step back into the old. It is truly gone. But …. new has come. This passage for me almost always was this happy, chipper almost euphoric idea. NEW! New has come.

And at the same time… New has come. New. Not old. Not familiar. Not comfortable. But NEW!

I don’t know about you, but every time I’ve experienced anything new, at first it’s always been challenging. A new home. A new job. A new city. A new haircut. A new pair of glasses. A new language Everything… everything new must be worn in and lived into. But, at first the new is difficult, uncomfortable, challenging and seemingly impossible, all held in the hands of peace, good and freedom. I’ve known this reality here. For not only am I in a new location physically, I’m also in a new location spiritually and emotionally. The old has gone and with it, went my habits, control tactics and coping mechanisms. Therefore, when discomfort, sadness or the unexpected hits I feel completely out of my skin. Yes, I feel freedom, but I also feel discomfort. There have been moments here where I’ve felt an almost instantaneous compulsion to burst into tears. I get caught off guard as I feel a new that I know is good, but the familiar which kept me “safe” for so many years is no longer with me and there is great risk and vulnerability in that.

I feel naked a lot. I feel as though I have been stripped of all the things I’ve used to cover my shame and now I’m standing naked, wondering if it’s okay to be doing such. I feel a deep vulnerability. It is good. It is risky. It is true. God is in it.

With all of this new, I am experiencing good. The good is real and filled with truth. It is beautiful and I’m so thankful to be walking in it. (even though at times it is painful) Freedom is uncomfortable. But I intend, as a friend reminded me today, to do as Marmie said to Jo in Little Women, “Go and embrace your liberty… and see what beautiful things may come of it!” What a great line. What a great invitation! It is an invitation I fully intend to take.

I am living into my liberty and beauty is found here.

 

God who is good… created

blending-the-elements-of-creation-In the beginning God created.

God is good and God is King.

The stage is set, a story is unfolding. God, who one comes to know through the text of the story, is wildly good and He is King. He is sovereign and He is the ultimate authority. This God who is good acts. His very first action is the fifth word of His story. God created!

With poetic word and rhythm the story of creation unfolds.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formlessand empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good,and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry groundappear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered watershe called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Take a moment to read it again. A beautiful poem, conveying the purpose and intention of an almighty, thoughtful, intentional, and sovereign God.

The picture painted of creation is one that declares the character of God and his intension with his creation and both are good.

What stands out to you as you read the story? What do you notice from the text? What do you learn of God? Creation? Rhythm? People?

I’d love for us to learn from one another as we read and listen.

Giving away lipstick: 10 ways to give away dignity and courage

feb09-lipstickA friend and I were sitting in a coffee shop yesterday. He is someone I learn from nearly every time we are together. We have completely different upbringings and our pasts could not be more different. I love spending time with him.

As we were chatting yesterday I asked a question which prompted him to send me an article. The article chronicled the story of a Horror Camp where people were dying daily. Shortly after the discovery of yet another death a box arrived from the British Red Cross, in it was found tubes and tubes of red lipstick. Many were baffled by the gift, but it was this gift that brought dignity to those encamped in this horrid experience. (it is a short story, I encourage you to take the time to read it)

I immediately was struck by the thought of lipstick brining dignity. I then remembered a time where I brought bouquets of flowers to women who made their home on the street and how it was important because every woman wants to feel beautiful lovely and seen and when you give a woman flowers that is what you are telling her without words.

The needs of this world are great. Every day greets us with more hatred, pain, death, useless violence, poverty and darkness. I want to be a person who brings light. A person who steps out of the comfort of home and acts. A person who brings dignity and gives courage to all she meets. A person who gives away flowers and lipstick.

I don’t always know the best ways to do bring dignity and courage away but here are a couple of thoughts:

1. Smile at people. A smile acknowledges a person exists and says that you are glad they do. It’s inexpensive but the pay off is great.

2. When a person wears a name tag, refer to him or her by name. Be the first to ask the question at the cash register. Be warm and engaging, treating each person as though they are a friend in the making.

3. Leave early when driving somewhere. When you’re not pressed for time other drivers don’t seem to be so annoying. Be kind, let other drivers in. Assume that those in a hurry or seemingly rude have something hard going on in life and instead of internally flipping them off, take a moment to pray that God would meet them in their need, in their rush and in their pain and intervene.

4. Pray that God would give you a friend who lives a story that you may have prejudices against. It’s amazing what happens when our life crosses paths and friendships are created with those who against whom we hold prejudice. (Here is a great story about just that.)

5. Know someone who struggles financially? Buy them a gift that is not practical. Give them something that says you are worth more than just making it. It could be something as little as flowers or as big as a night in hotel.

6. When you see a person holding a sign asking for money, roll down your window and start a conversation. Acknowledge, smile at and warmly invite the person to conversation that speaks to their personhood.

7. Buy products that give dignity to their workers.

8. Be kind, assume good things, and be generous with your attitudes and beliefs.

9. Tip really well. Tip extravagantly. Over thank and encourage any who serve you. (Simply because we are paying someone for a service doesn’t mean that they have to be perfect. They too may be having a bad day or have just had hard customers. Maybe a relative is going through a difficult time? We don’t know. So instead of complaining and not tipping, tip extra and look your server in the eye and say something like, “I hope your day gets better.”

10. Be a good neighbor, to all of your neighbors. Be a good neighbor to your local businesses, postal workers, lawn care and landscaping workers, the neighbor who hides and the neighbor who knows everyone. Be the kind of neighbor you want.

You and I may not be able to alleviate the worlds darkness on our own, but if we each bring our light and give away light and dignity and courage… the darkness sure dissipates quickly.

How have you seen dignity given away? How have you been given courage? I’d love to learn from you too.

Disappointment, Hard, the character of God and two hands

sad-womanHard.

It’s a word I’ve used to define my life since the beginning of the year. I am weary of this word and it’s usage in my life. I am weary of having justifiable reasons for using it. I find my self teary even as I type. Hard.

I find that hard is not a comfortable response when others ask me how life is. The question may be asked with honest interest, but there are underline acceptable responses, of which hard is not one.  “Good! things are great, everything is looking up.” Or  the appropriate honest response of, “I’ve been on a challenging journey, but God is good and all will work its way out. As all things work together for the good of those who love Jesus.”  These are the responses most commonly expected. When you’re me, these two responses often feel demanded. But hard…. not the word most want to hear.

Honestly, hard, is not the word I want to say. I want to be able to say that life is good and overflowing with blessing. I want to say that I hit a few bumps in the road, but God is good and I know that all will work out for my good. I want to be able to smile as I describe every aspect of life. Honesty and authenticity keep me from doing such. (Though at times, I simply start talking about work and the good in the lives of others, and avoid the question all together) In reality my word for 2013 has been hard.

Last night as I was driving to a concert where I’d hear young Ugandan children sing and tell the stories of their lives and hopes for the future. As I drove to the concert tears filled my eyes and seemed to pour out. I found myself using a phrase I really had no desire to say, but once again honesty led me to speak what was real, and these words found their home on my lips, “God I’m disappointed in you. And I expect disappointment from you.” I wrestled with these words. How can I be disappointed in God?   I am going to hear stories tonight of those who in all right, can justifiably say that they are disappointed with how life has worked for them. I mean, I’m not without family or clothes or food or other basic needs? How could I be disappointed? But honesty once again forced me to vocalize my felt let down and my expected let down in the future.

Hard  and difficult are words those of us who follow Jesus too often ignore. Somewhere, we bought into a system that said once you follow Jesus, faith and hope and the goodness of God will keep you from experiencing difficulty or at least experiencing the effects of difficulty. But that my friends, simply isn’t true. Yes, God is good. He is faithful. I can put my hope in him. I can get through terrible circumstances with him as my guide and companion, but there is no where that I am promised my experience will be easy or that it will lack suffering or discomfort.

It is often the case that two truths must be held; the reality of current circumstance and the reality of the character of God. He is good and that goodness does not ebb and flow with life circumstance. He is faithful and that faithfulness is not lost when we hit walls of pain and impossibility. He is love and that fact does not change when loneliness is our only friend. He is hope and that remains even when the one thing we love is lost. One truth does not discount the other, nor does one truth cancel out the other. No, in fact the truth of God’s character meets us in the discomfort, loss, suffering, pain and hard and He feels that pain with us.

Two hands, holding two truths. It is in this place I find myself today. I hold two realities, feel them each with great weight and lean into the honesty felt in the presence of each.

What two things do you find yourself clinging to today?