A Christmas Hope

This past week, my Papa & I were asked to sing Christmas carols at a local assisted living home.  We accepted the invitation, and began to choose songs that we wanted to share.  He would play the mandolin, and we would both sing.  We thought how nice it would be to have my younger brother play his guitar with us, and thought he probably wouldn’t want to but we asked anyway.  You see, because my mom was such a support to Tyler & his music, he hasn’t really wanted to pick up his guitar since she passed away.  It was an absolutely delightful shock to me to hear that he wanted to play with us!  I was so happy!

We stood up in front of the older crowd of residents, barely having practiced singing together except for the five minutes prior, and began to sing.  My dad would tie in meanings of Christmas and thoughts from the carols we’d sing.  During one of the first songs, we sang something about the angels singing with us, or seeing us from afar.  At that moment, I imagined my mom crying in heaven, not with sadness but with delight, to see the three of us together, singing & playing music together.  I thought about how happy she would have been to hear us all together, and how pleased she would be that we didn’t pass on singing.

This all led to another thought….one of hope.  I wanted to have my mom with me so quick right then, pinching back tears that screamed to be set free from the confines of my eyes.  Yet in that same instant, the hope arose that I will see her again soon, and it is because of the birth that we were singing about that I could have that hope.  It was a future hope of a fulfilled promise.  A promise God revealed many thousands of years ago, that was brought to fulfillment through the birth of Christ.

Through the Spirit, Mary a humble girl said “yes” to doing God’s will, for waiting on Him to provide a miracle through her.  An unsettling situation to be sure, she waited with hope that God would be true to His word once again.  When Jesus was born a joy filled her & spilled out to each of us through the Son. We can have joy in the hope that His birth proclaims.  There is now a way for us to be joined to the Father.  What a thing to celebrate, what an act of love, bringing joyful hope to a people stirred with unrest.

His birth brought love to the world, joy to the heart, hope to the mind and peace to our soul.  Though some days we all feel unloved, discouraged, defeated & distressed, we can know that God LOVES us, and because of that love we can find JOY because God gave PEACE to our tormented souls, which reminds us of the HOPE that Christ’s birth brings.  So this Christmas, let’s celebrate, I mean REALLY celebrate, not only the birth of Christ, but everything that His birth represents!

Conflicts and Fear

So last night, while speaking with some close friends, someone asked me…how is it you can go through such crap & hard things, and still be so happy?  My answer? “Because I’m a really great faker.” Don’t think that’s much of an answer? Well…..neither did I once it was out of my mouth.

Since I was in HS, honestly probably before that though, I’ve been the “tough girl” who doesn’t let things get to her. And it’s not that I really AM that tough, it’s just that I don’t want to face those things. Tonight, I was at a youth retreat, and after saying yes to leading part of a game……I said….I can’t handle it. I don’t want to do that. (I’m learning to say no when I need to and tonight I needed to say no.)  Instead, I somewhat reluctantly grabbed my Bible, hid myself away in someone’s room & read. I searched for all the places that God told us about his peace, and how he would hold us together & allow us to have rest in Him. Here’s some of what I found: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest…..” (Hebrews 4:8-11) “Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink;….” (Psalm 69:14)

These are all things that were going on in my heart tonight, and as we studied together later, about how God wants to open our doors if we LISTEN to Him and then wants us to OBEY Him, I wondered about what it was that He wanted me to open up with.  My answer?  Fear.  He wanted me to open up about the fear that was residing inside, holding my outside captive, never letting me truly express what was going on.  It was interesting, because it was like God was saying….I can’t heal that if you’re not admitting it’s there.  So I admitted it was there. And then the next thing, was….how do I obey God in this area?  What am I supposed to do about it?

One of the other verses I found spoke to that…Psalm 62:5,6 and 8 says “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken…. Trust in Him at all times, O people; POUR OUT YOUR HEARTS TO HIM, for God is our refuge.” Then you know, there are those many other verses that say do not fear….well, it felt like God was telling me….”don’t fear or worry….but if you do, tell someone. Tell ME.”
The other thing, was I avoid conflict (I’m growing in this though) ….and most times I think about that in relation to others. But tonight, I realized that I’m avoiding the conflict within myself, about the fear that I am (was) unwilling to face.  Fear about my mom, my family, my future, relationships, what God’s “to-do-list” is for me, etc.  So the conflict wasn’t with other people, but it was a conflict that I’m fighting with myself.  (which is interesting b/c a year ago, in a class, the question was posed “what is the biggest hindrance to you growing with God and I answered “myself”)  Hm.

So….it’s been a good night.  I cried. I think the last time I cried was in December….and before that one day in October. I do not cry.  But I want to, because it’s an outward expression of the deep fear that is in me, and I need to express that not just to others, not just to God, but also to myself.  ….”The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, HE WILL QUIET YOU WITH HIS LOVE, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

And now….I’m going to be quiet.

Someplace to Run to

You know, some days, I just wish that I had someplace to run to.  A destination of sorts, that would protect me from all the bad in the world. From all the disappointment, pain and heartache. In the past, there were these cities of refuge….they were mainly for murderers seeking ….refuge…duh. However…I wish that there were those today. Where only good things happened, you know?

It would be like….the ideal world in “Where the Wild Things Are”…where only what you want to have happen, happens.  I know it sounds crazy, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? If you could escape for a time to just not worry about anything or anyone?

Hm.  I have to remind myself that God is like our “city of refuge”…..with the ability to let us just rest and be comforted. He brings us peace.  Someone guilty, that wanted refuge, had to put forth effort to get to the city of refuge…..and in some ways we have to take that step to seek comfort in Christ but…He also knows when we are hurting and can come to us  in that pain.  “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:1-2)

It is so difficult to keep standing…..when so many things feel like their crashing around you.  Sickness, disappointment, doors closing, etc.  It’s difficult to keep running this race….I just need to remind myself that I can. And when I get to a place where I can’t, then Christ himself will take over.

I just wish some days that he’d be quicker about that!

Expectation vs. Reality

You know how you expect things….you know they’re coming, or you think they’re coming…but the way you expect to feel when they come isn’t at all how they feel once it becomes reality? It’s like your expectations meant nothing because nothing prepared you for this. And no matter how long you’d been expecting it…it just wasn’t what it really was when reality hit? Hm.

It’s like if you play a scene in your head…you know that Thing A will be happening…so you process all the possibilities & probabilities of what will be the effect of Thing A, that causes Thing B. You convince yourself that Thing B will be great, that it’ll be grand, that it will work out. But when Thing A comes along, you react, turning into motion Thing XYZ and not even close to B….and then you freeze.

It happened tonight. As I’m wrapping presents, alone in my parents house. I’m wrapping all of my families presents. The door bell rings, from someone unexpected. Then here on the door is a friend, bringing care packages to my family, because he knows that this Christmas will be different. Yes it will. I knew it would be….I prepared for it. But as I took the packages, thanking him for his prayers & care, I placed them gently on the chair and started to cry. How is it that someone ELSE knew how hard a different kind of Christmas this would be….but to me, I had no idea! I get that this isn’t going to be like this every Christmas from here on out….but this one, THIS one….it’s just hard & it sucks. And everyone around me knew it….but I didn’t. I thought it’d be fine, it’d be an adventure. Hm.

As I’m writing this, two verses come to mind. Philippians 4:7, which says that “…the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.” ….So I know that He is guarding me, and will put peace in my heart that I may not understand. And I also know that “The Lord is my Rock my Fortress and my deliverer, my God is my Rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 18:2) Therefore I know that He will be the one to bring me through….to bring US through. I may not be prepared for what’s next….but I know that when my expectations meet reality, God will be the one who will comfort, provide, protect & reveal all that it is I am to know and do.

A little piece of beauty

Have you ever stumbled upon beauty in an unexpected place? Or had it bump into you at a time when you needed to see something of hope? I was reminded of a moment when this happened to me this year.

Beauty inspires me. It allows me to see something & create, fill in the unknowns of the depth below the surface. But sometimes beauty needs to be taken just at face value & heard in the quiet places. This summer, at the end of a mission trip, my friends & I took a week to explore beauty in Europe. The mission trip had been hard, challenging & beautiful in itself, but…I think we all needed a little breathing room to process all we had experienced. On the last evening, the three of us got all dressed up, did our makeup, hair & headed out for a free jazz concert in the heart of Budapest.

The concert was in an upper room of a classic WWII era building, of marble & stone. It was standing room only, and even THAT was crowded. So one of the girls & I decided to grab a glass-bottle coca-cola, and go back downstairs to a little lounge room with two sets of french doors, an over-sized fireplace and a black grand piano. The room was completely empty except for a round fellow, balding & aging quickly with round, inch-thick spectacles & a bow tie. He sat at the grand piano, alone, playing classic jazz melodies.

I looked at him & thought up this life….he was an old man, that lived a normal life. A life that had no adventure and no big casualties. One that was never written about in a book, or would never be mentioned in the papers. He probably had never been married, but had been in love once & had never forgotten her. He lived at home and took care of his even older mother who called him by his full name. Music was the one thing he did exceptionally well, and that was where his adventure was made. It was through his music that he could write songs about the extraordinary things that he never experienced but always dreamed about. Every Saturday evening he would sing softly to an empty room, hoping that his normal life would do something, for someone, someday, somewhere. And that was his life.

Of course none of this was credible in any way, because the only thing we heard from him was in Hungarian…so it was all the beautiful imagination that I’ve been gifted with, taking hold of the could-be’s of his life.

But it struck me then & again today, just how beautiful that moment was. Sitting there with a friend, listening to a contented musician play out his soul through the notes of a piano, in an empty room that was filled with beauty. Such peace surrounded us, such comfort & stillness. What beauty met us there. We didn’t think of it then, but I see it now, that God’s beauty is like that night. It’s simple. It’s beautiful & comforting. It draws you in. It is riveting & calm. Hm. To stop & notice those beautiful moments…to stop & notice how God can bring us beauty & peace…to stop & notice that He notices you, and wants to bring us beauty. It’s beautiful.