Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace Year

The year 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster for me with my oldest child moving to the other side of the globe and my youngest leaving home, but I prepared for it and gave myself extra grace.  For me, this grace looked like coffee with lots of half and half, salted almonds, and massively huge bags of tortilla chips.  It also looked like me being a little nicer to myself. 

At one point (actually, most of my existence previous to this year) in my life, I forced myself to do lots of things and I was very disciplined—mostly because I thought that was how I was supposed to be.  It seemed to be the mode of operation for all the women I admired. So I chose to work hard at working out, eating right, and being diligent with a mostly-regular quiet time.  I got up early, made lots of food from scratch, and kept a clean house. 

Now, however, as I am nearing the half-century mark (and am a novice empty-nester), I am starting to find out who I really am…and that I don’t enjoy all that structure so much and that I really prefer slowness to speed.  I have discovered I am a nicer person if I don’t try to be someone that YOU want me to be, but, instead, tap into the person that God made ME to be; He’s the only One that needs to approve anyway, amiright? 

And you know what?  I’m not really the tough girl I used to strive to be, nor am I very brave; I only look that way sometimes because I hang out with my adventurous family.  I’m actually the one that cries like a baby when the hiking gets hard and hyperventilates when I have to climb mountains.   I’m just a normal, sometimes fragile, middle-aged (wow, I have never used that adjective to describe myself) gal who resists change like the plague and who happens to like cute things that look like animals (you know, like the cow-shaped cream pitcher that allows you to dispense milk while simultaneously pretending the animal is vomiting) and flannel sheets with rabbits on them (not actual rabbits, though that would be cozy). 

I have taken to walking in the sunrise with my exuberant pup most days rather than performing exercises that make me want a four-hour nap by 9 a.m.  I let myself eat a cookie with my coffee and have no guilt about it; I even bought a cookie jar shaped like a fox to put them in.  Brent and I have been doing a Bible read-through in the mornings where we read a passage and then talk about it, and I haven’t been as rigid about spending my own time in the Word, nor have I been journaling regularly. But I am gaining a depth of knowledge from listening to Scripture being read to me.  In fact, each night when I go to bed, I am anxious for morning to come so we can have our coffee/Bible time all over again.

Since my kids are out of the house and my morning schedule is much more lenient, I am allowing myself to sleep in occasionally (but not if it makes me miss my coffee date) and enjoying the coziness of my flannel sheets and the deliciousness of slumber. I occasionally purchase convenience products as part of my meals and have chosen to not look at the labels but instead, to enjoy my reduced stress level.  Also, I often just consume tortilla chips from a giant bag for an entire meal, and I’m okay with that. 

My house is easier to keep clean now, with less people inhabiting it, but it still gathers dust and pet hair and cobwebs.  Uncharacteristically, or maybe not really (who am I anyway?), lately those things haven’t really bothered me.  Occasionally, if someone is coming over, I will pull my sweater sleeve over my hand and do a quick dusting of the china cabinet.

And, instead of feeling a loss of control by giving some of these former “necessary things” up and loosening my grip on some of the others, I have felt a new freedom and a deep-seated joy in my paradigm shift. I am not suggesting that these changes are all positive, nor necessarily permanent, but switching things up a bit has helped me successfully navigate formerly unchartered territory.  I am also learning that spending more time on what I enjoy actually fuels my mind and body to complete the drudgery  important things that all card-carrying adults must do (ie: laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and buying actual food).

Lately, though, I am hankering for a bit more structure and will likely pick up some of the dropped balls; others, however, will continue to sit on a lower shelf; they don’t need nearly as much attention as I formerly gave them.  And like the “chips for supper” decision, I’m okay with that. 

In this year, the grace year of 2016, the year I lowered my expectations for who I am and what I should accomplish, I am much more content with who God made me to be.  In conclusion, I guess I write all of these to convince myself that even in a time of great transition, I’m still okay.  Life is still good.  And the liberties I have given myself to “grieve” and adjust—to be more childlike and less hardcore--have made me feel less frantic and frazzled.  That’s what we all want, isn’t it?  Just a little sanity mixed in with our craziness?  We always think we are in control; we really never have been.  However, being nice to myself in my year of transition has leveled out the bumps of this wild ride and made the bruises not nearly so bad.  At least nothing a Hello Kitty band-aid and a few tortilla chips can’t fix.

This is real life folks, not dress-rehearsal.  I am planning on enjoying it fully. 
How about you?

Happy 2017!

“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free.”
~ Psalm 118:5

Friday, December 30, 2016

Stop Feeding It--repost

Brent and I are planning to an extended fast to ring in the new year 2017.  The last few years, we have adopted the practice of doing a one day fast most weeks, but we thought doing a longer time of food denial might help us do a little re-set on our diets, our priorities, and our prayer life.  I thought about writing a blog about fasting, but when I looked through my archives, I found this from December of 2012 and thought it appropriate even though it refers to a different kind of starving...

I once had a very wise 7th grade English teacher who, when asked how he got his dog to stop pooping inside the house, said,

 “It’s simple; I just stopped feeding him.”

Cute.  Now, if you love your dog, I wouldn’t recommend that.  And maybe if you want to keep feeding your dog and he won’t stop pooping on your carpet, you could get some diapers and cut out a hole for his tail, or you could hook up a bucket-type thing—like you see on horses in parades—to catch anything falling from his little hiney.  Or you could train him to do his duty outside.  Novel idea. 

You know though, when you apply this idea to sin in our lives, it makes perfect sense.  We can struggle with sin all we want, but until we make a decision to demote it to it’s rightful place—with us being it’s master through Jesus’ resurrection on the cross—and it being our slave, we will have no victory (I wrote about that in my last post.  You can read it here). Really, it’s all about starving;  starving our sinful habits until they are no longer habits, saying “no” to ourselves when we struggle with an appetite for temporal sinful pleasures, and ignoring our feelings (by listening to our minds that are filled with God’s truth) when they thirst for vengeance, unforgiveness and immorality.

If we want sin to stop coming out of us (believe me, dear reader, I could have written that in a much more creative, distasteful way), we need to stop feeding it.  We need to crave God’s glory more than our pleasure.  We need to see long, like God does, and not short, like we do.  And we need to make choices that make us look more and more like Jesus and less like ourselves.

So, here’s to starving our sin (and our dogs, but only if we don’t like them. Kidding, I’m kidding.  Don’t report me) until old habits die and new life appears.
No carpet cleaning necessary.

What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:21-23

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Newborn King

This is my new grand niece, Amelia Josephine, born two just two weeks before this picture was taken.  I had the privilege of spending her very first Christmas with her along with lots of extended family.  We spent most of our holiday time ooing and ahhing over her tiny perfection and watching her 22-month-old brother do cute things.

As I held little Amelia in my arms, I was struck by the reality—THE REALITY-- that Christ was born to us as a baby--A BABY!  At this time of year, we read and sing of this fact often;

"You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." 
   "The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head." 
"Holy infant so tender and mild" 
 "Glory to the newborn King"

But do we truly understand what Christ did for us by becoming utterly helpless?  Do we comprehend how He left His place in Heaven and confined Himself in skin?  Do we grasp how our most powerful God allowed Himself to sleep silently in an animal trough?  Can we truly fathom that the same voice that created the entire universe now limited Himself to a feeble cry?

It’s absurd, really.  A limitless, ageless God chose to intersect time and space and become a limited, time-bound man; and not just a man, a baby; tiny, helpless, poor.

So why did He do it?  God saw His children needed Him.  Yet, because of their sins, there was no way they could get to Him.  So He became one of them, and He lived among them to save them and bring them close again.  Not only did He live with them; He loved them; and He died for them…and in their place.  And then He rose again—conquering death, their greatest foe. 

He chose to enter the world in a way that none expected; not as a king; wearing extravagant robes and sitting on a royal throne, but as a baby; swaddled with strips of tattered cloth and lying in a hay-filled manger.  Our mighty, strong, omniscient God chose to come to us in the most unthinkable form, wrapped in skin and humility; a tiny newborn babe.

Just like little Amelia.  Just for little Amelia.  And just for you too.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
~Matthew 1:21