Monday, December 31, 2012

what jeremiah can teach us about new years

'the days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when i will make a new covenant with the house of israel and with the house of judah.'  
{jeremiah 31:31}

those words were the prophecy of christmas.  he may not have known exactly what God's entrance into this world would look like but jeremiah knew long before the rest of us that jesus was coming.  
{artwork by marc chagall}
jeremiah is sometimes referred to as the weeping prophet.  

i may or may not be referred to as the weeping mother.  
it's no secret...i cry a lot.  sometimes tears of joy...sometimes tears of sorrow.  even though my face is tear-stained on a regular basis, i definitely don't claim to be the same caliber weeper as jeremiah.  the guy is in a league of his own.  after all...he was carrying the weight of a nation on the brink of complete destruction.

most scholars agree that the book of lamentations was written by jeremiah.  the name of the book is fitting...if you've read any part of it you know what i mean.


streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. 
{lamentations 3:48}

jeremiah was a poet and the book of lamentations is a collection of his poetry.  it has been said of jeremiah that he 'spiritualized and individualized religion and insisted upon the primacy of the individual's relationship with God.' (the new bible dictionary, 2nd edition)  he did this by words, but he also did this by example.  thousands of years ago before anyone had said of christianity- 'relationship, not religion' - jeremiah was living out that charge.

if you know God - and i mean really know God - you will find yourself moved to emotion...it's inevitable.  having a personal relationship with someone means opening up the deepest parts of yourself to them.  it also means caring enough to discover their depths too. anyone who dives into the depths of God and allows him into their own secret places experiences something that can't be put into words but can only be experienced... experiences like that evoke emotion.  

in jeremiah we see intense emotion.

another thing we know about any relationship is that communication is key...open, honest communication.  through jeremiah's words we see his desperate need to communicate with his heavenly father.  much of what God communicates to jeremiah is meant to be shared with the people of israel.  after all - that's a prophet's job description.  but don't miss the fact that much of jeremiah's conversation with the Lord is very personal.  jeremiah shares his struggles and emotions and allows the promises of God to be spoken back to him.

i think lamentations {chapter 3 in particular} is a good place to start the new year and here's why...
jeremiah penned line after line outlining the despair of a nation but tucked in between the desperate cries for help and the descriptions of darkness is the light of hope...for those who would return to the Lord.  despite a world raging out of control around him jeremiah manages to anchor himself and the future of his people in the promises of God's goodness and faithfulness.  

he speaks of hope.
he speaks of faithfulness.
he speaks of new.

i don't know about you but i, like jeremiah, have seen a lot of darkness and heartbreak in the world around me this year.  i've seen a lot of miracles too.  through the highs and lows i have sought the One who holds it all together.  lamentations is a vivid picture of a man who is riding that same roller coaster of life and is gripping tightly to the one relationship he knows he can count on...i want that kind of desperate dependance this new year.


i remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
i well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
yet this i call to mind
and therefore i have hope:


because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed

for his compassions never fail.
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
i say to myself, 'the Lord is my portion;
therefore i will wait for him.'
{lamentations 3:19-24}

my friends...
i am praying His hope and faithfulness will be your anchor as you navigate the waters of this new year...whatever they may bring.  
i am praying you will daily remember the promise that His concern for you and your suffering is renewed every morning.  
i am praying that instead of watching Him from afar you would enter into a relationship with the living God whose love is great and whose promises are always fulfilled.

 may your new year be...well...new.

Monday, December 24, 2012

merry christmas

because of God's tender mercy, the morning light of heaven is about to break upon us,  
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace...
{luke 1:78-79}

merry christmas from our family to yours!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

when christmas slips from your hand

yesterday i felt christmas.  

no shopping to do.  no major meals to prepare.  no travel plans to execute.  no looming deadlines standing between me and december 25th.

instead of being faced with a long list of responsibilities and obligations i was faced with my little family, at home...with a refrigerator full of food, a Christmas tree covered in lights, a closet shelf filled with gifts,  a warm blanket to cuddle under, and a heart filled with peace.
today christmas slipped from my hands.

in an instant i let the world steal it away.  

i want to scream.  i want to cry.  i want the demands and the questions and the needs that surround me to stop.  i want quiet.  i want alone.  i want to be able to turn my back on this world that falls apart and needs putting back together...this world that i can never quite get comfortable in. 

my peace is replaced with anxiety...worrying over problems that seem to need an immediate solution.  
my joy is replaced with oppression...the weight of my responsibilities crashing down on me.
my hope is replaced with fear...fear that i will step into january with more than i can manage.
my love is replaced with bitterness...frustration over the way i am feeling burdened by others.

but this is advent...the season of anticipating not what january will bring but of who God will send.  
these are the days of placing ourselves back into the freedom that was born into a stable in bethlehem, not into the burdens of the future.

these hours of preparation have much less to do with baking, shopping, and opening gifts...and much more to do with resting, worshiping, and opening our hearts.

the refrigerator, the closet, the tree...even the blanket...they all provide this false sense of being 'ready' to celebrate a day that changed the world forever.

i felt christmas yesterday but today is better...

today i need christmas.

when the feelings are gone and we are left with the reality of this fickle, fleeting life we grow desperate for christmas.  we grow desperate for the hope, peace, joy, and love that can only be found in the One whose heavenly being breathed human breath.

and suddenly the air around me is sweet enough to breathe in again...i'm no longer suffocating.  i'm letting go of the christmas i try to create and grabbing hold of the one that was already created for me.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

a christmas you can touch

when i picked her up from school today she danced to the car...hair flying.  she was singing a new song...it's always a new song with her...usually about princesses or jesus or something that she's recently learned.  the girl can set anything to music.

i was thankful.  thankful that today is just another sweet day for her.  thankful that school still feels happy and safe.  thankful that, in her innocence, she doesn't carry the weight of the world.  i'm taking her lead.  i'm singing a new song.

now we are home and i see her in the other room with all the pieces of our multiple nativity sets lined up.  she plays with them every day.  sometimes she takes down ornaments and uses them in her role playing.  

i overhear her saying things like 'christ jesus' and 'three kings' and 'the star of bethlehem'.  even if she doesn't completely understand every detail of that first christmas i am grateful that the words and the stories are familiar to her.  hearing those words cross her four-year-old lips gives me a peace that her spirit is already connecting with the eternal.  since i never know what tomorrow holds that's what i wish for...eternity tucked in her heart.
i watch her move the figurines around on the floor and then up onto the table.  sometimes she sings to them.  other times she tells stories.  i see her removing the ornaments {some of which are fragile} and placing them in various places.  a few days ago she asked permission - could i use some of these ornaments too, mama?  i only paused a moment before i smiled and nodded my head.  
it took a long time for me to decorate that tree.  i really like a lot of those ornaments.  i probably couldn't replace some of them.  i could make the tree off-limits...but i don't.  i want christmas to be accessible to my kids.  i want them to touch it and get down on the floor with it and hold it up to the light.  i want them to sing about it and talk about it.  i want them to be right in the middle of it.

it's what jesus did.  
he got down on the ground...right in the middle of everything.  
he didn't stand off at a distance watching us - wondering what it might be like to touch us or hold us or tell us stories.  
he came to us.  
he picked us up from whatever floor we were lying on, whatever tree we were hanging from.  even though we were fragile...even though we were prone to breaking...he came to us.  he still does.

i hope you know that you don't have to watch christmas from a distance.  i hope you know that you are part of the story.  i hope you will put yourself smack dab in the middle of bethlehem on that dirty stable floor and receive the precious gift that was sent for you to hold and sing about and treasure...

i hope this christmas is one you can touch.

our almighty God, who sifted stars through his fingers, stands not with kings and princes, but with the weak, the powerless, the poor.
because the people no one else thinks are important have a special place in God's heart.  he hears their cries.  he fights for them and defends them.
and one night long ago, in bethlehem, he stepped out of heaven and became one of them.
{sally lloyd-jones :: thoughts to make your heart sing}

Sunday, December 16, 2012

when the world feels dark...

yesterday my laptop was 3 hours away so i had to revert back to the way I started my words 30+ years ago...by hand (and in this case - on an old doctor's receipt I found in my purse). 

like many of you i am still processing the events of last friday {as well a few other bits of darkness}...this is just part of my processing.  i would love to hear yours...
{click to enlarge}

the song i referenced above can be found here...

and some of the scripture...



Thursday, December 13, 2012

i see you

eyeballs!  
lucy...i need to see your eyes looking at my eyes.

arms crossed, scowl on her face...boring a hole through the floor to avoid my gaze.  
finally they wander up to mine...those beautiful, glassy, cyan eyes...the ones that can be cool blue one moment and warm green the next.  their colors change and so does their message.  

in that moment this afternoon they were hardened.  they were telling me i was not welcome here.  they were speaking of anger and shame and wanting to be left alone.  they were tiny glass walls of protection that seemed impenetrable.  for a moment i looked at them with contempt because they were keeping me from the place i was trying to get to.  they were keeping me from her heart.  
in an instant i remembered all the other precious messages those eyes have sent me over the past 4 years and i softened.

in those moments when i need her to see me...to hear me...i get so frustrated.  how can i make her see?  
see that what she said was hurtful.  
see that how she behaved was unkind.  
see that i am only trying to teach her.  
why won't she let my eyes really meet hers so that we can see each other?
...and then this...
how are my eyes reacting to hers?  what message are they sending?

later in the afternoon i felt tired.  12 days of fighting fevers and sniffles will do that to you.  when tiny bodies aren't healthy my heart and mind can fail me too.  my task list had grown too long and i'd had the 'eyeball' talk one too many times.

we had spun webs of arguments that ended with her little words packing big punches...

i am super sad that you are not playing this with me right now.
i went upstairs because i was so upset that you wouldn't get me a straw.
you are so mean...i will never do that!
sometimes i get so mad i just want you to leave me alone.

i'm not kidding...she is four and she says these things.  sometimes i wish i could be so honest instead of giving someone the silent treatment for two days.  the child can articulate her emotions...she can also express them a million different ways.

...so i was tired...

when she asked me to go play in the backyard i was in the middle of getting some work done and i really didn't want to go.  it was cold.  i had work to do.  did i mention - i was tired.

then this thought...this flying out of nowhere, slam my back up against the wall thought.

eyeballs!
she needs to see your eyes...
i shut my laptop and let my gaze meet hers.  there they were...like an invitation.  full of anticipation.  full of hope.  full of love.

i grabbed her hand and we walked...down the steps, across the yard, and onto the trampoline.  we jumped and we laughed and we tickled and we talked.

we saw each other.
my mind was so full with this one thought...

your eyes will need to meet softly this way millions of times so that they can ultimately stand up to the hard, glaring meetings ahead.

if our eyes don't meet when she is twirling around the kitchen in her princess dress...
or when she wants to do an art project...
or when she is trying to scramble eggs all by herself...
or when she just found the coolest worm ever on the sidewalk...
or when she is flying high above the trampoline...

if our eyes never see each other in those momentary joy-filled, life-giving, care-free moments...
     how will they ever face the other ones?

the ones that come on the tail of a big mistake, a moment of fear, a weakness to peer pressure, a loss of control, a fall from grace, a broken heart...

i know those heavy moments will come.  this child whose wild curly head still fits onto my hip will grow.  she will become too big for me to carry, too old for me to cuddle, too busy for me to rock...
     but i won't give up her eyes.  

i will fight to hold their gaze.  i will lock onto them in all the moments that she offers them because i know there will be days that to see each other will be a battle.  but it's a battle we must win.

i see you my sweet girl...i see you.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

savor

it is a rare gift to actually slow during this holiday season.  december can be filled with rush and hurry and more, more, more.  mine is made up of home and family and less.

my husband has a demanding job.  a great job...but a demanding job.  december and january are the slowest times of year for him and for this i am grateful.  while many around us are ramping up, spinning wheels, racing forward...we are sitting down, holding hands, looking long into each other's eyes.  these months have become the make-up time for all the hours and days we are apart and juggling the rest of the year.  i am protective of this time...i don't let much into it.

i find myself every day savoring.


:: savor ::  to enjoy or appreciate something completely

yesterday both of my kids woke up with high fevers.  so we all three took a sick day.  
i savored it.  i appreciated every snuggly moment in our pj's with our christmas tree glowing and the cloudy day blanketing us inside.  i let it really sink in when tiny fingers ran up and down my arm seeking comfort and rest.  i breathed deep the tops of their heads as they nestled under my chin.  i held, i rocked, i sang, i listened, i spoke softly and smiled often...i savored.

i did not accomplish a single thing on my to-do list...i didn't even have a to-do list.  and yet i went to bed last night feeling i had achieved so much...because my enjoyment, my appreciation had been complete.

as a girl who is always looking forward to the next meal, i could make a long list of foods that cross my lips and sit on my tongue and bring me great joy.  like that magical moment when a slice of juicy pear covered in creamy goat cheese and wrapped in salty prosciutto hits my taste buds {is your mouth watering yet?}.  sometimes there is a flavor that is so divine that i close my eyes and cease chewing and hold still as that flavor sinks in...as i taste it completely.  

savoring is about slowing.

too often i find myself devouring the days.  chewing hard and fast as the next forkful approaches.  i want to take in bites of life more slowly.  i want to open myself to the minutes of these days one-by-one so that i can close my eyes and enjoy fully the flavors of the people and places and events that surround me.

i want to savor.

i want the spirit of this slow season to set the pace for the year to come.
share with us what you are savoring today...and then go make that yummy pear appetizer...come on...you know you want to.


CONGRATULATIONS
to the winner of the christmas doorknobber...

logan whichard!!
email me your address!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

a few ways to celebrate the season {giveaway!}

i hope wednesday's words didn't seem like a 'bah humbug' post.  i love celebrating christmas.  i look at my pretty twinkly tree at least 100 times a day and smile.  


{NOTE: it is not a coincidence that 'gentleness' is positioned where i can see it from my usual post in the kitchen...it's that piece of the fruit that i sometimes have to work extra hard on}

i could hardly wait to wake up this morning and spend the day with my family making wreaths, stringing lights, and listening to christmas music.  {and my merry mistletoe candle is burning round the clock!}

i just want to do christmas for all the right reasons.
so here's the little deal i have made with myself...if it doesn't stress me or my family out and it helps us embrace the true meaning of this season - let's do it!

and so for us...these are some of the practical ways that we are celebrating christmas this year...

~::~ we've already done our christmas tree decorating night.  my kids help a little but i do most of the decorating while they play with our nativity scene.  once all the ornaments are hung and the lights are on we make cookies and then sit under the tree with our milk and cookies as daddy reads the christmas story. {don't feel bad if you don't have your tree up...we got lucky and had time to do it early this year.  you may remember that i didn't do quite so well a couple of years ago}

~::~ tonight we will venture to bethlehem as a family.  no...we are not taking a mediterranean holiday {unfortunately}.  a church in our town hosts a really neat event that transports you back in time to bethlehem on the night that jesus was born.  i bet your area has some cool local church events that are free or really cheap too...check them out.  and if you live in the charlotte area...i'd love to hear about what you find!

~::~ our family {and our church} celebrates advent.  this is not some weird, mystical ritual. it's actually just another way of saying that we take the entire month of december to prepare for the big day.  advent means the arrival of a notable person or event.  in this case we are talking about the arrival of jesus and the celebration of his birth.  click on the picture below to take a look at the format we are using in our church {and our family}...
~::~ as part of our observance of advent we are using the family devotional from ann voskamp's blog.  each day i read the devotional as the kids decorate their ornaments which we are hanging from their very own advent tree {a giant stick spray painted white that my dad rigged up for me}.  last year we did truth in the tinsel and lucy actually remembered the symbolism of those ornaments we made when we pulled them out this year!

i will keep you posted on our other christmas festivities throughout the month.  let me know how your family will be celebrating!  i will draw a name from all of my blog and facebook comments on monday and the winner will receive a christmas doorknobber!