Monday, December 30, 2013

Don't Hold Back {Messy Monday}

Try this equation:

>62 years of combined parental experience + 24 hours x 4 children =

Back home today and ready to write up just the tiniest of Messy Mondays.

I'll spare you the details, but Christmas week was a sick one. One by one, each family member succumbed to the stomach flu until we could do little more than just languish on the couch.

And yet, it didn't ruin Christmas. Sure, Christmas Eve and Day involved the same nastiness, but for all the Christmas movies we watched where the very existence of Christmas was in peril, it came and went like it usually does. Regardless of our mental haze, God still delivered:)

I hope the same was true for you- minus the bathroom time.

We're embarking on 2014 in a couple days and I'm still looking for my word of the year. It's a word to help me focus- a lens through which I see my relationship with God, others, and this blog.

Messy could be it, but I'm looking more on the hopeful side of things. I'm hopeful for more than just a healthy year. I'm hopeful that, in the midst of the mess, God gives me eyes to see His hand. His love. His deliverance. 

More than ever, staring in the face of an unknown year leads me to look past the day-to-day messes as well as the major world messes, and see a God who always delivers.

A God who doesn't ever hold back. A God who goes the distance day in and day out, just so that we can continue to discover just how much He loves us.

I pray for you today- that you get the rest you need. That you remember the ways the Lord has delivered this past year, and that you trust Him to deliver in the year to come. It means more than wishing you health, wealth, and happiness- it means praying that God works through every single thing, including the messes, to display His perfect and sufficient love in your life. That is my prayer for you. God bless you, friends. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quiet Round Here

While all is bright, all certainly is not calm around here. So in the spirit of stilling my heart in the presence of God incarnate, I will not be posting this Christmas week. Plus the kids are home so I pretty much need every waking moment to collect my sanity. Love, peace, mercy, joy, and hope be to all you wonderful people this week:) Merry Christmas! I'll see you again next week!

God's Wild Woman:)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas With Judas

I'm writing this because everyone is stuck with someone.

And Christmas is a particularly adhesive time of the year.

Perhaps you already have a person in mind, but in case you don't I will jog your memory.

The person you're stuck with isn't the well-meaning, but tactless, guy at the office (or family member) whose comments you have learned to let roll off your back.

It's that person you don't want to see. The one who would make your life easier if they simply moved- out of the school, out of the office, out of the town, out of the country, off of your Facebook.

The wild-card that has you on your guard.

It's your cause-and-effect person. You know,

"I wouldn't yell so much if they'd just listen to me the first time." (Wait, that's just my kids.)

"If they wouldn't complain about everything, then I would make more of an effort to talk to them."

"If they wouldn't shove their 'perfect' family in my face, then I wouldn't feel so insecure."

"I'm really good at taming my tongue except when they do things specifically to annoy me."

It could be any manner of if-then statements, but when it comes down to it- it's the person who has hurt you repeatedly with their words and actions.

If you don't currently interact with any hurtful people, enjoy it! Then keep reading because chances are that person will walk into your life eventually, and even if they don't there's still some Jesus time coming up and who wants to pass on that?

Repeated interactions with these people threaten to do two very unpleasant things-

1. Calcify into an emotional kidney stone that moves painfully whenever they are near.
2. Turn you into an emotional hypochondriac- imaging emotional injuries all over the place where they were never intended.

Thankfully, I don't have "sticky" people in my family. But I know there are lots of people who do. There are sticky people at our jobs, in our neighborhood, even in our church.

So, how are we going to encounter these sticky people at Christmas and beyond without losing it? It would be easier if we didn't have to face them, but I know too many people for whom that's simply not an option, so let's have a game plan.

You've probably already gone the prayer route. Maybe you've been driven to your knees repeatedly over these issues. If not- just go ahead and fall to them. Don't pray while you are sweeping or balancing the checkbook. I'm not saying it doesn't work- prayers work anywhere and everywhere- I'm saying it benefits your peace of mind less. Some things you can't multitask. This may be one of those things.

Take some lessons from scripture. Search out the Godly people who encountered sticky people. How did David behave around King Saul? How did Jacob deal with his father-in-law?

How did Jesus treat Judas?

What a blessing is ours that we have such a close relationship with our God- so much so that there is no human relationship that is beyond His comprehension.

I thought about Judas the other day. It's easy to write the other disciples a pass for their betrayals. They were scared stupid. Eventually they lived and died following Jesus.

We can't say the same for Judas.

He spent every single day with the Savior and he never got it. How did Jesus do it? How did He face His betrayer every. single. day? And no rolling of the eyes? No snide comments? No gossiping? No punching him in the face? I don't get it.

The obvious answer is that Jesus was perfect. Jesus was God and man. And we're obviously not God, so that must mean this is impossible for us, right?

But we shouldn't let ourselves off the hook that easily, not because we need to try harder to be holy at Christmas, but because giving up the fight and giving in to our own hurt feelings will only hurt us more in the long run.

The secret isn't in dissecting the hurt and pain in their own lives. It might help a little, but it doesn't justify a thing in the midst of the pain they have caused us. The secret is in the person of Jesus.

Jesus was always about the work of His Father. 

At those moments when we are face to face with the hurt of "sticky" people around us, we need to remember Who is really in charge. It's not them. It's not even us. God is orchestrating it all for a very specific purpose. It stinks, it hurts, but the truth is that God is equipping you to experience and reveal His love.

When we are weak, He is strong. And He displays His strength most when we are buckled in weakness. We are tempted to give the other person the power. They are the ones who "cause" our reactions. But the truth is they don't actually have that power unless we give it to them.

How about we study the One who really has the power? Take some time and search the scriptures for the sticky people. How did God's people remain upright? They ascribed power and glory and honor to God. What happened when they succumbed to harmful reactions? They found forgiveness in His arms.

Forgiveness is another post, another blog, all it's own, but for now let's not spend this Christmas trying to "get through it." Let's live it. Really live it with other people that Jesus was born for. Even the sticky people because God stuck us together for a reason, and His strength, love, and glory are worth it all.

It's my prayer as you encounter people of all kinds, that the love and power of God works in you to love and live freely. I pray we all ascribe to God the power that He deserves and refuse to share that power with anyone else. And I pray you all enjoy this last week of Advent- really enjoy it!


This morning I am linking up with Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday, If I get around to it, maybe I'll link up with others too!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Surviving Christmas, Or Living it? {Messy Monday}

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Psalm 92:12-15

This morning, I told my husband they need to make a survivalist show about pastors' families during Advent.

We watched a survival show last night and, while I certainly wouldn't trade places with the marooned green beret, I know he wouldn't trade places with me either.

Look at all of us- just trying to survive. On a blow-up life boat. On a micro-suede sectional.

Like we're all just a bunch of Christmas trees biding our time until someone strips off the pretty ornaments and we're kicked to the curb.

Is that how you feel sometimes? Like you're just trying to make it through?

I hope not.

But if you are, then I have something to tell you:

You are not a Christmas tree.

You're an Evergreen.

It's a matter of life and death.

My oldest was observing our Christmas tree the other day. We cut it down the day after Thanksgiving.

"It's not as pokey as it used to be." (Indeed, decorating that baby reminded me of why they bear the name "pine needles.")

"Nope, it sure isn't."


"Because it's losing it's luster."

"What does that mean?"

"It's dying, Hon. Actually, it is dead. We're just trying to keep it looking alive for as long as possible."

She was confused and a little mortified.

Evergreens point to the eternal greatness of our God. Christmas trees point to our death and desperate need for The Life.

A perfect Christmas illustration.

This time of year we get distracted by shiny things. Soon the ball in Time Square will drop and fireworks will blaze and resolutions will be made. We'll remember that another year has past, and fool ourselves into thinking that means our luster is slipping away as well.

Soon we'll fall flat, and succumb to the temptation to compare ourselves to others. Tempted into discontent.

Trapped in "survival mode."

And my tree won't be here to remind me that any way you dress it up- death is still death.

The tree will pass away, but our Lord has an amazing way of taking a death on a tree and giving eternal life.

Death is still death, and life is still life.

Christmas is about more than survival. It's about life- in a manger. In a tomb. In glory.

And it's not too late. It's my prayer that God grants us the grace to stop right here. Right now. And regardless of what needs to be done, wrapped, baked, or sung, that He gives us the life-giving heart of this Advent season. Praying for you dearly beloved friends.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let Freedom Ring

Happy Advent Wednesday to you all!

I've been in the mood for some Martina McBride all day, and I gotta say, I haven't listened to much country in a very very long time. Still, I can't even think the words Let Freedom Ring without hearing that tremendous voice.

There's a slavery issue going on in my own heart right now. I didn't realize that until I heard the call to liberation.

Because my shackles were invisible. And now that I see my own, I look around at His Beloveds and see theirs too.

It's not a pretty Advent tiding.

Not nearly as eye-popping as the umpteen email ads I wake up to every single morning.

Not as cheerful as the jingle soundtracks to the great deals at the department stores.

But it's there just the same. Our country has a slavery issue, and I'm not even talking about human trafficking.

I'm talking about our simple, complicated, overwhelming lives.

And after I have shackled myself to the gift buying, the decorating, the family time, the church commitments, the Christmas cards, my expectations- well, it's no wonder I feel torn. Perhaps you feel that way too. A slave to your calendar, budget, baking.

Shackled to the good, forfeiting the best.

I've been wanting to write encouraging stuff. It's the Christmas season, people! Holly, jolly, very merry Christmas joy! This stuff that you put on my heart, Lord, it isn't really where I saw this blog going in December. Could you lighten it up a bit?

Remind them of their freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

All the pretty shackles we use to decorate our hands and hearts and minds-

He came to free us from those.

The ways we would define our lives, portray ourselves to others-

He came to free us from those too.

The despair we would feel when we walk from our freedom straight back into a cell of our own making-

Yeah, He came for that too.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:1-4

The coming of our Lord is a celebration of more than Christmas.

It's our Independence Day.

God signed a holy declaration in the little bundle of His Son:

"Yeah, this is happening."

There would be battles to be waged and won, but God's resolution was clear from the beginning.

He would see it through.

So those of us poor spirits in need of hope would hear the Good News.

So those of us brokenhearted would burst from the shackles of brokenness and be bound by the Heart Healer.

So those of us held in captivity to all manners of masters would be carried into the fresh air of absolute freedom.

So those of us mourners would be comforted and adorned with true, everlasting love.

So those of us fainthearted would celebrate and praise our Lord, that He may be glorified.

I'm feasting on that right now. Before I go plan and clean and, cook and bake, I feast. I feast on His Word, and on His presence. I pause like an inmate realizing the cell door has been left open. That the warden is here not just to lead me to liberty, but to carry me there Himself because honestly, I'm pretty used to this little cell. 

But what lies beyond the bars is so amazing. It's life giving. 

Now that is an Advent tiding worth sharing.

Praying that you are given the gift of pause today. Praying that those shackles on your life are not only recognized, but handed over fully to the Only One who can bear their weight. Have a beautiful day of freedom.

Today I have the pleasure of linking up at Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday, as well as Woman to Woman for Word Filled Wednesday, and Michell for Doing You Well Wednesday!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cherish It

It all started with a simple card and a few pinecones, but in 1.2 seconds it became an explosion, sending it's glittery shrapnel all over our kitchen...

I've been given the gift of a unique Advent.

For most of November I resolved that this Advent would be different. That we would stop. Really stop and take stock of the important things of the season.

I just had no idea how we would do it.

I'm not really a "forward thinker." I let the tasks of today distract me from plans for the future. So while I planned to slow Advent down for our family, I was figuring on tackling the "how" when I got to it.

Then I received a gift! My sister-in-law's family gifted us with just what I needed. Just what I needed!  The Perfect Advent Calendar. That's what it's called. And she wanted to make sure I was prepared, so she gave me a heads up that I would need to look it over prior to December so I would have all the supplies ready. She is a forward thinker, a planner. Have I mentioned that I'm not?

December 1st I opened our goody box and perused the contents. My daughter and I strung the cards on the ribbon while the other two girls limbo-ed beneath. We organized the activities and I made my list of supplies to get at Hobby Lobby. (I admit I enjoyed turning a trip to Hobby Lobby into a "need.")

Now each day we pick the card in the slot for the day and perform it's directions as a family. Drive and look at Christmas lights, wear Christmas socks and take a picture, play a family game, watch a family movie, bake cookies, etc. During the family time, you discuss how this reveals God's love and grace. There's a scripture verse and a prayer. And each day is cleverly titled with a _______ it. Bake it. Build it. Deliver it. Play it. You get the idea.

None of them say Survive it, though a couple of times that has been my only goal.

Messy Monday happened last Thursday as our family embarked on memorializing The Legend of the Silver Pinecone.

After Googling the story the real fun began. Glitter sprang forth in happy showers over the glue painted pinecones. Smudged with hands, shaken onto bare feet, pressed into my neck and hair by an affectionate toddler, the glitter was everywhere.

The title of Thursday's card? Cherish it.

Cherish it.

In the middle of the chaos? The fights? The pleas? The family time that suddenly turned train wreck?

Cherish what?

The little hands, minds, hearts growing in the love of Jesus. This is what I wanted to slow down to see, and I guess it took a great big mess to remind me of that.

It doesn't take a perfect calendar to tell me to cherish. (It helps, not gonna lie.)

And as I look around me and see people going crazy over stupid stuff (that's right- I said stupid- and I'm including myself in this group of people) sometimes the biggest gift is to be reminded to cherish it because He cherishes us.

The train wrecks we are. The bickering. The grudges. The ridiculous expectations. The impossible comparisons. The mistakes over and over and over again.

Cherish what? What could He possibly cherish?

Our hands, minds, hearts. That's what. We are so incredibly beloved, especially in the messiness of life.

He is willing to go through the messes with us because He cherishes us.

That's worth pausing over.

That's what Advent call us to. We pause not in some holy pursuit to perfect ourselves, but because we know that when God calls us to reflect on Him, we inevitably see one overarching truth - He cherishes us. No matter what. Pure Gospel there.

That's what sent Jesus to earth, and what sends Him into the very midst of the explosions of our lives.

That's what He tells you today and everyday.

I cherish you.

Praying that the Lord gives you reason to pause and awe over His tremendous love for you. Praying He calls you loud and clear to cherish the messy moments in your life because they are reminders that He is with you in the midst of them. He cherishes you, Friends.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday For Prodigals, or, I'm the Jerk

I'm about to make a radical change in my Advent scripture line-up.

I know, I know. Why deviate from the beloved Christmas story? Why postpone pondering the prophecies of the Old Testament fulfilled in that little person born in Bethlehem?

And after all, I have all year to reflect on the other portions of the Bible. Studying the birth of Christ at Christmas really just makes sense.

Honestly, I'm doing it because Christmas is a holy day for the prodigals.

Of course we have other terms for the Christmas and Easter Christians. Chreasters, Submarine Christians (they only come up twice a year- if that).

I've been thinking about that over the past few days- the beloved Chreasters- and I regret to inform you that I have been, well, a jerk.

I'm not beating myself up. I'm convicted, not condemned. But the real deal is I've become this guy:

Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound."
But he was angry and refused to go in.
Luke 15:25-28

Now I'm pretty sure everyone loves the parable of the prodigal son- as long as they identify with the prodigal. The disgraceful idiot who squanders his inheritance, lives destitute with pigs, and finally returns home to the Father who has never stopped loving him, never stopped waiting for Him- yeah, I'm that guy.

We'd rather be the stupid one, not the jerk.

This morning I realized, I'm the jerk.

I don't pout at the door of the church, ignoring the masses whose faces I don't recognize, but I mentally tsk-tsk and want to shake them. "Don't you get it?! We get this Christmas deal ALL THE TIME! WAKE UP!" It sounds like compassion, but it is borne just as much out of frustration.

One thing is certain, I don't celebrate them. (My stomach just turned typing that one.) The packed church brings no lasting joy in the knowledge that, in just a few days, life will return to normal and the church will be half-empty again.

I guess that means that I possess the ability to look at a glass that's filled to the brim and see it as half empty.

Then I remembered this verse:

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 
It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.
vs 31-32

Christmas is for the prodigals. It just is.

I'm not saying three hours a year is enough to satisfy the needs of a weary soul, or that all that makes our God worthy of praise can be summed up in a couple annual holidays. I'm saying it is fitting to celebrate and be glad because they are there, and Jesus is there, and the Father is running to meet them, which means that is what I should do.

Because I am a prodigal too.

So this Advent I prepare not only to welcome the Christ-child, but those for whom He came. People like me- who need the embrace of the Father. People like the ones Jesus was telling His parable to- sinners and tax collectors, Pharisees and scribes. People who, like the nasty dirty shepherds, sit on the outskirts of society and venture in to the crowd hoping to remain invisible rather than feel the judgment of the "holy" every-Sunday Christians.

I prepare my heart with the what-if's:

What if the shallow, temporary goodwill the world preaches about during this time of year was completely blown out of the water by the never-ending, unconditional warmth and love shown by God's people in His house and world?

What if, instead of settling for the anonymous "acceptance" of a disinterested society, people experienced the intimate, I-know-you-and-accept-you-just-the-way-you-are true love of God through His body, the church?

Wouldn't that be the best Christmas gift we could give them?

Wouldn't that embody the purpose for which He came- not just to sacrifice, but to reconcile?

It is my Advent Prayer that the Lord loves the jerkiness right out of me- out of us- so we can love with a full heart the same people He loves with relentless passion. And so, when faces of our towns darken our doors for one of the few times this year, we will not be the stumbling blocks that trip them up on their way to the manger.

Today I'm linking up with a few friends: Woman to Woman, Doing You Well Wednesday, and (of course) Three Word Wednesday with Simply Beth. Click, join, read, write, enjoy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Welcome to the Conspiracy {Messy Monday}

"Christmas marks the moment where God's promise was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. "
- The Advent Conspiracy

I'm not sharing this because I am proud of it. I'm just hoping maybe there are some folks out there who relate.

See, I cried over a vacuum cleaner.

To be fair, it was a nice vacuum cleaner. A Dyson. I have four kids and a dog. It's a zoo up in here, and I thought perhaps the messy Mondays would be a bit more tolerable if I had an awesome vacuum to sweeten the deal.

I fought hard for that puppy on Black Friday. (Not literally. Online.) Dealt with slow websites, accidental page clicks, bargain hunting, forgotten passwords, typing in credit card information repeatedly.

Here's the deal though- I don't have a credit card. I use my husband's, and that's all good. Except when it asks me for my phone number and I enter my own number- not his.

That's when I receive emails on the following day telling me the amazing deal I thought I had has been cancelled due to an error with payment processing.

That's when I cry.

That's when the credit card company freezes the card so I can't order another vacuum (mine was now out of stock).

That's when my husband gets text messages from his credit card company asking if he indeed made a purchase at that retailer for that sum of money. He answers yes. The card is reactivated.

I look between him and the vacuum cleaner on screen. Back and forth. I ask, "With all the junk I've had to go through for this thing, do you have the feeling that maybe it's just not meant to be?"

He nods yes. "Give it up."

I do. I give one last longing look at the item I don't need, yet covet. I click the little red "x" and close the computer.

Saturday morning, all over the world, children were dying of cold and starvation. Dear friends were suffering from terminal illnesses. And I used those realities to try to shake me out of the funk I was in. It really was not worth crying over. But I didn't care. I was angry. I was disappointed. It just sucked (pun intended). I threw a temper tantrum over a thing.

I really should know better.

I really should have learned from last year, when I let the insane rush of the season sweep away my joy and toss it into the garbage sack of used wrapping paper.

If you think something like this just happens, you're wrong. There is a very deliberate scheme out there planned by the father of lies himself. He is determined to steal your joy- to disconnect Christmas with the Christ. To entice us to trade the profound and incomparable gift of the Savior for the shiniest new toy.

Satan tells us that spending less at Christmas, sacrificing more, will leave us less satisfied than those earthly items we desire.

And I fall for it.

Thankfully, there are godly people out there exposing the lie. Reminding the gullible me, and those like me, that there is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than the Christ-child.

So, how do I live like this with my family? How do I convince my daughter that "No really, Jesus is way better than the American Girl doll everyone else has," and make it a matter of heart- not budget?

I take her aside- out of the river that rushes her over the edge of the waterfall into materialism. I show her that what Christ has to offer is so surpassingly awesome. We don't have to take anything away from our Christmas festivities, unless it's in the same way that I vacuum the Christmas tree pine needles that fall dead to our living room floor.

I expose the Advent Conspiracy for what it is- an elaborate attempt to buy Jesus out of His own season. Out of every season.

Satan doesn't force us to do it. We do it all by ourselves.

The Advent Conspiracy website has excellent tools to help combat the excess. The gift-giving is good, sweet. I even do Santa Claus. It is idolization of it all- the moment when I take the credit for "giving" my children Christmas, instead of glorifying the real Giver- that is the danger.

(And I just have to make this note: I praise God for a husband who deliberately reminds me of all this. Who takes me out of the race, sits me down, and helps me recalibrate my priorities.)

Remembering the suffering of others, looking to the destitute, comparing our worldly riches to those less fortunate- that will never ever shake us out of our self-centered funk.

Only Christ can do that.

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men."
John 1:4

We can't overcome the darkness of selfishness by shining more darkness onto it- God alone can overcome it by shining His own light into it. And that's exactly what He came to do!

We can't purchase our happiness anymore than we can adopt ourselves into the family of God. He came to do that too!

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God."
John 1:12
So this Advent please pray for me. I am so honored to have wonderful people interceding on my behalf. And I'll make you a deal- I'll pray for you too. May we be a mighty army of believers who let the light of the world shine in and through our lives and so experience a more fulfilling Christmas than ever before.