How many ornaments have you broken this year?
I always break at least one.
I’ll be honest. Some ornaments I can live without, others are special and I would be sad if they broke. Things can’t last forever. Sometimes you have to let go.
Christmas is all about letting go.
God the Father let go of His son Jesus to come to earth.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to let go of her youth and hopes of a celebratory engagement.
Joseph, the father of Jesus, had to let go of his reputation and the security of his future.
Zechariah, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of his voice.
Elizabeth, a relative of Jesus, had to let go of her barrenness.
Christmas came through a series of letting go. (Luke 1:1-2:20 NIV)
Letting go can be one of the most difficult things in this life. Broken ornaments are one thing but letting go of a job, a dream, health, a home or a child is altogether different.
When my children were learning to swim my husband spent time in the pool teaching them what to do. When the time came for them to practice they would have to let go and swim out into the water. There would be that scary moment when they let go of the wall. There they were, dangling in that frightening place between the wall and their daddy’s hand. Those were swirling moments, when they had to let go, when they weren’t sure if they could reach their father, when they had to feel fear.
Letting go is sometimes forced upon us. We have no other choice and it is unwelcome.
Sometimes we have to let go for our own emotional, spiritual and physical health and it’s so very hard.
Other times we must choose to let go in order to gain something new.
In any case, letting go is a part of each of our lives, like broken ornaments.
Like many of you, I’m a bit reflective at the holidays. I think about Joseph and Mary, real people faced with a real predicament. An unplanned, albeit supernatural, baby. An assignment directly from God. A hostile environment both at home and abroad. So many things to let go of.
- Expectations for a “normal” life
- Support of family and friends
- Living in their hometown
- Never having the “honeymoon” stage of marriage (i.e. pre-kids)
- Financial security
- Their own plans
Maybe you find something on their list that relates to you?
It amazes me the hardship that is wrapped around the story of Christmas. It humbles me to think of how I idealize Christmas and forget how it was forged.
Letting go was imposed on Mary and Joseph. Read their story.
They also chose to let go in order to embrace something new. I think this must have been intensely difficult. Choosing to let go is just as challenging as being forced to let go.
My children had to let go of the side of the pool in order to find the waiting arms of their father. Sure, they flopped in the water, their heads went under, they felt fear, they tried their best to swim, but their father grabbed hold of them just at the right time. In the chaos of the letting go they found their fathers embrace.
Sometimes letting go is just that. Flopping, fearing, sinking, trying. It’s chaos. It’s a broken ornament all over the floor.
Is there something you need to let go of? Has letting go been imposed on you? Do you feel the chaos and uncertainty of it all?
Find your story in the Christmas story for it too is filled with chaos and letting go.
Letting go free’s your hands to embrace something new.
In the flopping, fearing, sinking, trying, chaotic, broken ornament minutes of our lives, Christmas comes to teach us how to let go because letting go happens to all of us.
Christmas is the display of the Father’s embrace.
It’s the tangible expression of Light’s promise to peer into our darkness.
Christmas lets us sink but will never let us drown.
It’s hope wrapping around, telling us our mess doesn’t have to define our lives.
Christmas is whispers of love songs that slowly melt us and lead us back to wonder.
Christmas comes to free our hands to embrace something new in difficult times.
So I broke my crockpot last night.
You heard right.
I broke my crockpot. You know the cooking appliance that you throw ingredients in and leave it to cook all day. You pretty much can’t mess it up….yea. Somehow I found a way to ruin mine.
I wanted to try something new. I tried a recipe for home made bread in the crockpot. It sounded easy so I gave it a go.
Now I probably should have realized it was a bad idea when the instructions stated to place the inner liner of the crockpot in the oven at a high temperature for over an hour. The actual heating element of the crockpot….the part that makes it a crockpot...wasn’t actually going to be used.
So I followed the instructions as written (something that I don’t normally do but I was hoping to prove to my family that I could follow a recipe). I heated up the oven. Put the crock pot with all the ingredients in and…poof….after some time out came my experiment.
It didn’t work.
This is nothing new for me, or my family. I’m used to things not working in the kitchen. I began cleaning my mess. I noticed something wrong with my crockpot, there was a sticky cloudy coating on the inside. I scrubbed and scrubbed. It wouldn’t come clean. Then I realized…it wasn’t a stuck on mess…the glaze had come off… grrrrrrr.
Now I’m not sure but I don’t think I can use a crockpot in this condition. The glaze seals the pot so it’s safe to use…but it has to be used properly. (I think they remind people to use appliances properly for a reason. Lesson learned.) Apparently putting the crockpot in the oven at a high temperature falls outside meaning of “used properly”.
Sharing my failed bread making attempt with my husband, he blurted out, “If you wanted a loaf of bread why didn’t you just get in the car and go get one instead of trying a new recipe and ruining the crockpot?”
“It wasn’t the bread I wanted. I wanted to try something new.” I responded.
We both found each other to be funny. He looked at the entire endeavor one way and I the other. The bread was the desired result but we assumed two different goals. Mr. Practical was about securing a loaf of bread. Miss Inginuity was about experimenting with creativity and innovation.
Isn’t that like relationships? They are formed by two people with different mental, emotional and relational DNA. When two people assume the wrong things about one another, crockpots get ruined. Many disagreeable moments happen because we fight over how to fight. We misunderstand one another. We are familiar with one another but we don’t know one another.
One loaf of bread. Two ways to get it.
How many arguments happen because we only relate one way – our way. How many fights ignite because we react instead of respond, or we posture ourselves to be the right one instead of listening or asking questions to better understand? Just because we are in a relationship doesn’t mean we know how to relate. Just because we are in a marriage doesn’t mean we know how to be married. We are siblings but struggle to feel like family. We c0-exist with other workers and fail to collaborate. Friends wonder how to be good at friendship.
The point is, relationships don’t always get used properly.
I didn’t realize that crockpots in a high temperature oven for a long time is a bad idea. I was unaware of how to properly use it. I didn’t think I needed to read the owners manual. In the same way we don’t realize we need to go to school on relationships. Having a relationship isn’t the same as being in a relationship. Friendship isn’t automatic when you are friends.
Who knew we need to learn to be a learner of those we live with and love?
Who knew crockpots could be ruined?
Who knew relating to others requires learning how?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. ~ I John 3:18
I was recently given a gift from my children. They gave me a subscription to Ancestry-dot-com. I have always had a fascination…ok…obsession….with history. When I drive down roads that are filled with 100 plus year old homes I wonder what the windows and walls have seen? I wonder what people were like 100 years ago? I can’t help it. I’m kind of a nerd.
I have always wanted to learn more about my own family heritage. My moms grandparents come from the Netherlands and Sweden and my dad came to America from Cuba. I do not have very deep American roots. My mom knows very little about her immigrant grandparents so I have always longed to learn more.
Needless to say, I’m obsessed with Ancestry – dot – com. I get on it and I literally lose all track of time, like… it’s now 1 a.m. and I have to force myself to put it away…kind of losing track of time. I won’t allow myself to go on the website until after 6 p.m. because once I’m on I have little to no self control. Seriously. I’ve never known something that has captivated me quite like this and I’m obsessed.
It’s a little unnerving to experience something that unleashes my lack of self control. As much as I’ve loved hunting online for clues to my mysterious heritage, I’m surprised by how this experience can sweep me away and overtake all of my mind and time. I guess that’s what obsession is; something that has the power to control you, even if it’s momentary.
Recently I was reading my Bible, (Matthew 6:25-34 to be exact), Jesus was talking to His friends about worry. Worry happens to everyone but He talked about worry in a way that made me intrigued. He says worrying doesn’t do anything for us, it can’t help or change things. Worry can entrap us. In subtle ways it can become the focus of our thoughts, it can cause us to try to manipulate others to comply with our needs so we don’t have to worry.
- Worry can rob us from being present with the people in the room.
- Worry can rob us from being peaceful and productive.
- Worry can erode our physical health.
Worry, if left unchecked, can become obsessive.
Jesus speaks to His friends and says that worry needs to transition from obsession to faith. I love it that Jesus gives a direction to take, He does not give judgement. He is not the voice that says, Shame on you for worrying. It shows you don’t trust me, what’ s wrong with you? No. Instead He extends grace and help in His teaching. He speaks to His friends as if they were children waiting for an explanation for something that would bring them comfort and insight.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sew or reap or store away food in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? ~ Matthew 6:26
Jesus remedy for obsessive worry is the character of God and the love He has for us. Fears of future needs and problems are real. Worry for the well-being of our loved ones and ourselves are real. God’s trustworthy character and unfailing love is able to hold us steady in the unknowns of life.
My obsession with Ancestry-dot-com has revealed a significant part of me, I am capable of being swallowed whole by something. We can be swallowed whole with worry.
One night I was deep in my ancestry search. For reasons I don’t know I looked over at my daughter. She was looking at me with a look on her face that read, Mom, do you even know I’m here? You’ve been on that thing for hours and you’ve not as much as glanced my way. Ouch! I was busted. I had been online for way too long. My daughters gaze was an invitation. Although I felt a bit guilty the non-verbal exchange was an opportunity to step away from the thing that was holding me hostage.
Jesus invites us to a way beyond worrying. He said,
…your heavenly Father knows you need them [food, clothes etc.]. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. ~ Matthew 6:32-33
He invites us to step out of worry and into the knowledge that God knows and cares about what we need. He goes beyond caring and offers us the opportunity to live with confidence that He will care for us, to live with peace and assurance that we are loved by Him, to live with the strength of conviction that we are able to follow His ways and not be tossed about by the floods of worry. This is what is meant by seeking His kingdom and righteousness. We step under His authority and rule. Although sometimes we can’t see how, when and where help will come from we live with confidence that it will come because God is unfailing.
May we continue to hear the invitation of Jesus. May we practice more and more, coming out of worry and into faith that God knows our need and will care for us because He loves us. May we experience more joy and peace because of this.
When I was growing up I often heard the phrase “God loves you” at the youth group I attended. It was always said in such a way that left me feeling as if it was the most profound thing in life. Maybe it is but I didn’t connect to it.
Although it felt right to hear it didn’t have a lot of meaning for me because I didn’t know what it meant, like grandparents that you never see or talk to write “I love you” in a card. You know it’s true and you’re glad about it but it doesn’t feel personal. You really don’t know one another. You are drawn to this vague statement of love but don’t know why because it doesn’t really affect your life.
I wish someone would have said to me:
God is interested in you.
This makes more sense to me. It personalizes God in a way that makes me curious.
Why is He interested in me?
How is He interested in me?
How do I know He’s interested in me?
It has only been in recent years that I have come to embrace the idea that God is interested in me. Maybe you are in a place where you too need to consider it? Here is some evidence from scripture that leads me to believe this.
- He knows your name. (Isaiah 45:3)
- He’s familiar with your hair style. (Matthew 10:30)
- He is impressed with your work. (Ephesians 2:10)
- He wants to hang out with you. (John 17:24)
- He gets it there are things about you that need improvement. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- He knows you like good things. (Psalm 103:5)
- He knew you would love His creation so He gave it to you. (Genesis 1:29)
- He cries when you cry. (Psalm 145:9)
- He understands that life often doesn’t make sense to you. (Isaiah 55:8)
- He has made up a room in his house just for you. (John 14:2-4)
This is just a small list. God thinks about you and is interested in you in more ways.
Next time you hear “God loves you” add the phrase “… God is interested in you” on the end of it.
It makes a whole lot more sense.
I’ve been married to this guy for a long time.
I can honestly say that we now have the friendship that I thought we were having years ago. We weren’t. The friendship we have now came from stepping into the thick-of-things.
Our friendship is filled with moments of great connection and misfire. It’s real and we both like it.
After the early years of marriage are over some of us get in the thick-of-things. Our true selves are featured and the scent of decay begins to waft. Something is dying. I know this is not true for every marriage, but it’s been pretty accurate in describing mine. I didn’t recognize the smell of decay at first. Disappointment is a misleading symptom. But the stench was decay.
Something must die. Our pride, our selfishness, our ignorance….
- Unrealistic expectations
- Wrong perceptions
- Unwillingness to grow, accept, learn and communicate
Many of these things had to die in my marriage in order to find the friend I married.
This is where love becomes true. The thick-of-things is like a dense and dangerous forest. Ugliness gets exposed and we have to stop being shocked by this. Both people have to be willing to go in order to survive.
A word of encouragement for the weary soul who feels like they are losing the relationship battle.
LEARN. Learn is just a cool word that means: be willing and teachable.
- Be a student of God.
- Be a student of yourself.
- Be a student of your spouse.
When we smell decay, when we realize that this isn’t the marriage we envisioned, we become raw. Vulnerability is the kneading board of learning.
I don’t want to sound over simplistic. Issues are real, misunderstood and exhausting. Problems can be dangerous to body and soul. Some marriages end because there just doesn’t seem to be any other way. In the thick-of-things every exit looks appealing. Going through is much harder than going around.
Also, I don’t want to pretend that if you do A-B-C everything will be great.
My marriage is not settled completely, but we’ve entered the thick-of-things enough times to know that it didn’t kill us. We discovered we could be a better us and by default, a better me.
Arm yourself with Godly people to pray and listen, counselors to help unravel, and the Holy Spirit to guide and keep you through it all. Prepare to change. You do have to change. You don’t find yourself at the edge of the thick-of-things for no reason. Something wasn’t working.
So let some thing’s die. I pray it’s not your marriage. I pray your find the friendship you thought you had from the start.
I went outside yesterday morning to have a look at the “Blood Moon” as it’s called. The technical term is a Lunar Eclipse.
Eclipse: an obscuring of the light from one celestial body by the passage of another between it [and the observer or between it] and its source of illumination
The earth stood between the sun and the moon. Because of it’s precise location and timing the rays of light that were cast around the earth caused the mood to appear red and it looked altogether different and strange and mysterious.
Sometimes it takes something to stand in between in order for us to observe a new reality.
The Lunar Eclipse is a sign that there is a party going on 24/7 in the heavens.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. Psalm 19:1-2
I think the lunar fireball I saw yesterday morning was an invitation to participate.
Thank you Blood Moon, I accept.
Last week I went on a tour in part of Detroit. I’ll be honest. I’ve only been to Detroit to see a football game and I can only remember Ford Field. But that was a long time ago.
Things are different now. Much different.
My husband works in the outlying Detroit area. He is not downtown but rather in one of the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area. He took me on a tour of the neighborhood where he works and and we slowly made our way downtown.
I was not prepared for what I saw.
Vacancy on all fronts. Homes, buildings, streets empty and crumbling. The landscape was wide, plenty of space for a lot of people. But nobody was there. Okay there were some people milling around. But not enough to fill the space called Detroit.
As we traveled down the road I saw house after house, building after building boarded up, windows and doors kicked out, garbage, furniture, appliances, you name it, strewn all over the place. Buildings were literally falling apart from the inside out. I was speechless. Yea, it’s not a safe place at times. There is reason for caution, my husband has heard enough from people who live there to verify this. But it’s not the case for most people. He was comfortable, I was more cautious. I kept thinking. This is an American city, how can this be?
And then, I had to go. You know…I had to take care of a few things. We had finished dinner earlier and I didn’t take care of business before I left. We were in the thick of the neighborhood and turning around meant a 25 minute back which would have cut into our schedule. Suddenly a magical yellow sign appeared. Ah, yes, a McDonalds stood all alone on the next corner. (You have to keep in mind, there aren’t businesses or gas stations in amply supply, it’s desolate there.)
I’ll be totally honest. I wasn’t too thrilled about getting out of the car at this point. But I had to do what I had to do. When we pulled in the parking lot we parked next to a car that had a club on their steering wheel. (A device to keep people from stealing the car.) I was not amused.
I went in the door and immediately walked toward the bathrooms. A young woman was sitting at a table with headphones and a lap top busy working on something. She was dressed like a male rapper that you see on MTV. Her eyes looked up at me and without moving she said,
“You need to be buzzed in.”
“Excuse me.” I looked back puzzled.
“To use the bathroom you have to be buzzed in.” Still not moving a muscle.
“Thanks” I said.
I went up to the counter, waiting behind others ordering their dinner. Finally it’s my turn.
The clerk buzzed me in and I was in the bathroom. Now I didn’t know whether to feel safe or scared being locked in? I decided that I was uncomfortable at best and worked quickly to get out. I noticed that the bathroom was a little messy. Toilet paper knocked down and paper towels on the floor. But I didn’t stay long. I thanked the girl who informed me about the buzzing when I walked out and I was safely back the car to continue our tour.
As we drove around the question that kept coming to me was. What can I do? How could I make a difference? Witnessing the discouraged communities made my heart ache to help, to bring hope, to comfort to make something better for someone else.
Vacant places calls something deep inside of me.
I wrestled with this the rest of our ride. It was just about the time we arrived back to our hotel that a realization hit me between my eyes.
I could have picked up the garbage off the bathroom floor!
That’s what I could have done. The mess was right in front of me and I could have done something and I didn’t. I was too concerned about getting out of the mess that it never occurred to me to stop and clean things up for the next person who had to be buzzed in.
Isn’t that the way it goes though. We see the mess and we are in a hurry to get away from it or we like to pick and choose which mess we are willing to clean up. I’m guilting of thinking: I didn’t create this mess, why should I clean it up? It’s true, we can’t put blame on ourselves for others’ mistakes, but we can bring something good into it when given the opportunity.
I was given an opportunity and I missed it.
Bringing good is often small and unseen. It doesn’t boast. It just cleans up the place for somebody else from time to time. It’s not concerned about getting noticed. It says, I didn’t make this mess but I can help in this one way, albeit small, to make things better for someone else.
My heart sunk when I fully realized what happened.
A friend shared with me once a long time ago that his goal is to always leave places and people in better shape than when he found them.
I think that’s a good motto to live by. Hopefully getting buzzed at McDonalds last week will help me remember it!