Expectancy

Last year at this time, I unknowingly penned some of the same words I fully intended to process out today.  Today’s sermon actually covered this verse this morning as I sat in the pew, teary eyed trying not to let my sniffles be audibly heard by my friends besides me.

Colossians 1:17- “And in him all things hold together.”

Leaning hard into that verse, it almost hurts to think about all that 2017 was and did in my heart.  In many ways it was joyous and full of wonderful memories of fun, friends and family.  Good, wonderful moments.  Places visited, people met, and times of rejoicing.  But also….times of suffering and heartache.

2017 might as well have been the year of silence in many ways, I couldn’t write or share in the same ways I have done in the past, because the words from the Lord felt much closer and personally deeper that I am not sure if I am ready to share or able to.  It is much easier to share when the lesson has been learned and behind you….but in many ways the lessons and sufferings aren’t over yet.

I am in the midst.  I am standing in the muck, the grime of life.  I speak from the trenches.  Maybe my trenches look a little different than yours, but it is still the struggle.

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Friends, this is it, right.  This is what living really is.  It isn’t the Instagram pictures, the funny stories shared on Snapchat.  It is the pain behind the eyes.  The screams and curse words no one hears or even the ones closest bear the brunt of.  The silent tears in the car.

  • The breakdown standing in front of a laundry pile.
  • It is being surrounded by people but still feeling the ache of loneliness.
  • It’s those moments in the grocery store when you are trying to decide whether to drown your sorrows in frozen pizza or ice cream.
  • Real life is when someone’s bags are packed ready to leave….and yet still wanting to fight to stay.
  • Or when you have to get up and do it all over again, even though your legs and heart feel like lead.

No one wants to share these moments online, we want to be distracted from them. We want to pretend these are just the moments we skip over to get to the shots of pretty lattes and shoes surrounded by leaves. (Totally saying this as my #bestnineof2017 included several of those shots!)

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This Holiday season, much like the ones before it have left me wanting. I always have expectations, ideas about what this time of year should hold. It should feel like all those Hallmark movies I have been watching.  Snow always flurrying, lights on every house, cookies available at all times.

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Even if it is a little like this, it won’t ever be enough.  It will always leave us wanting more.  Because what we expect from a supposedly happy, joyous season, is actually a satisfaction for deeper longing.  One that is broken open by living in this world. A longing that actually doesn’t have an answer that sounds as good as “Family, Love, and gratitude.”

I was frustrated that I was too busy this year to enjoy all my regular holiday things, like cookie backing, and crafting.  I didn’t drive around to look at lights and have yet to enjoy some hot chocolate.  But someone reminded me that all of those things are great, but it is good that this also be a season of expectancy and longing not just of met expectations.

As someone who is afraid to have expectations to be disappointed in or even crushed hopes for the year to come, expectancy looks much different.

Instead of holding tight to a list of goals, a word, or even some sort of resolution, being expectant means opening your hands, arms, and even heart to an anticipation of seeing what God will do with this blank slate of a year.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angle departed from her.” -Luke 1:37-38

Oooh, that feels too vulnerable, right?  Right now instead of writing this, I should be deciding on my 2018 word, creating some sort of Instagramable image to share with everyone. Something to give others hope and inspiration.

For me, proclaiming things over my year, makes me think that I am the one steering this thing, it implants this idea in my head that I am the captain of my soul.

Maybe that I have to pick the just right WORD to hold my life together.  A lie that I cling to…..to easily point blame or reason with, when things go wrong or the disappointment is just too real. Or even a word to just forget after January or misplace in the rough terrain for February.

So we our own scapegoat when we don’t meet goals or life fails us in some way.  Or its an ego boost when things are going right.  For our glory or downfall. Holding ourselves responsible for everything. Worshipping our own abilities, talents and gifts.

Right there it is….when we place ourselves in the captain seat of our lives, we are essentially trying to be our own savior, superhero and more.

Isn’t the truth is so, so much better….because Jesus is better. 

“and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” – Heb. 12:24

He has spoken the better word not only over 2018 but our lives.

The truth that says that we don’t have to be the one steering the ship.  We have someone that has already put themselves in the captain seat, the throne of our hearts and souls.  He came to take over the ship and steer us into eternity.  He holds the responsibility, he took on all the blame so we didn’t have to.  He is the captain that we could never be.

Mary knew that as she said those words “Let it be according to your word.”  She modeled an expectant heart for God to work.  And work he did.

So friends, as you enter into 2018, may your coffee and expectancy to be strong.  And may you see God work in impossible and mighty ways, not just in your lives but more importantly your hearts. 

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photo credit: Tuomo Lindfors Iisalmi via photopin (license)
photo credit: NathalieSt Festive Street via photopin (license)

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Held together

Shattered and Broken. Destroyed and torn apart.

Everything is ending, the pieces are on the floor in front of you. The door just slammed, the call just came, the tears are running down your face.

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Maybe it is a job, a relationship or a family.  Or maybe it is a hope, dream or desire you have held as a pillar in your life for so long.

Whatever it is, you can’t breathe or focus, or seem to move on, it just feels as if you will die under the weight of the shattered pieces of your loss.  You might feel as you can’t continue, you can’t face the world, the others that haven’t been broken, and everything is together for them.

Perhaps you are in hard place of “this time of year” that can be suffocating.  You can’t muster the strength to smile and pretend everything is fine, so you just don’t go to that work party or that event with your friends.  You can’t face them again when your insides feel ripped in two. The happy couple or put together family is a punch to the gut.

My heart has been heavy this year thinking about how this advent season, the season of longing is truly that for many people.  2016 was a hard year for many, filled with heartache and pain and worry.  A year that just didn’t seem to quit. The world seems to be aching in so many ways.  Brokenness, shattered lives, cities literally crushed by hate and war, it is all too much.

We want to look away, we want to run and hide.  It seems too much to handle, to bear, to carry around from day to day. So maybe you ignore or just numb your self to the pain because you just can’t.

If you are anything like me, there might be things that seem impossible to hold together, to balance, to get through.  I look to myself to try to do it for myself, to pick up the pieces, to hold it together until I leave a party before I crumble.

The truth is that we actually don’t have to just power through, keep it in, and stuff it down.  Friends, we don’t have to hold ourselves together.  

We don’t do a very good job anyway, right.  We make a mess of it, like a stain that we try to fix without the stain remover.

The truth is that we have something that holds us together.  Someone, really.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and longing, I have been reminded that what we receive in the birth of Jesus is way through the pain, someone to hold it together for us, to be with us in the suffering.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

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And in Christ, all things hold together.  

The power of that statement, in those moments when all the plates you have been juggling come tumbling down, when you feel at the precipice of destruction, when nothing seems sure, is water for the parched soul.

He came to us, he came to our world and lived the hard life that we are living.  He knows the pain and suffering of living this human life.  He knows. And he is still here.  He doesn’t run from it or hide from us. He stays and is with us. What a beautiful savior we have in Jesus.

Friends, as we wrap up 2016, we don’t have to pretend or posture before God about the state of our lives.  Our lives might be laying there destroyed by our sin or by others.  We might be in the midst of suffering and pain.  Or maybe 2016 was one of your best, but the message is the same.  It isn’t up to us to hold it together. 

We don’t have that power or might, but we have the One that does.

Friends, live in the freedom of not having to hold it together.  Step into the heartache and pain, you won’t be left there, you won’t be alone in it and it isn’t up to you to make it better. Praise Him.

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The Problem We Can’t Fix

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It isn’t the answer, it isn’t the fix for the problem.  The baby, the boyfriend, the success, the promotion, the accolades, your grown children’s lives.  It isn’t what will make everything better.  Maybe for a brief moment.  But not really for the long haul.

In discussions with friends in longing, in waiting, in pain, wanting something to happen, wanting God to change the situation, I hear the whisper, “The answer you want isn’t the answer you need.”
Those things that we want aren’t the solution.  I know it, to the depths of my soul, I know it.  I know that those things that we expect, hope for, wait for, and want so badly,  the circumstances we want to change, aren’t what we need at all.
God knows this.  It isn’t like he is an angry parent, holding out on us just to punish us.  He is the opposite.  He is the loving father who is going to give us exactly what we need when we need it.  
He knows our hearts long for things, for good things.  For things that we place in a higher priority than him.  But sometimes that is why he doesn’t give them to us.  That is why we wait.  I like to think that all knowing God, has more of an understanding of what I need than I do. 
More than anything else, he longs for us to depend on him first.  To look to him for the solution, for the supply of our every need.  More than we long for the kid, the house, the relationship, he longs for us to put everything we have in him, to place all our bets on him, and go all in.  
He longs for us to depend fully on him, to look to him before all else.
Not to say this always looks like this in people’s lives, sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because we live in a broken and fallen world. But often he keeps us in waiting, so that we know what we are actually waiting for.  
I see it in Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and all over the Psalms. You see it in so many stories in the bible, and the bible as a whole. The waiting and the longing for a fulfill promise, waiting for Christ to come.
And in this time of year we feel it more, don’t we, the longing, the waiting. This season highlights the unanswered prayers, the hurts, the longings in our souls. 
Sure, a change in circumstances might ease the longing for a while.  It might seem like everything has lined up, but that feeling of discontentment will come back, the longing for the child might be replaced with something else.
Ultimately, it means that I can certainly place my identity in my circumstances, but my circumstances will change and then my identity will be shaken.  I need to place my identity in something that will not change, that is the same then, now and forever.
So, I am not waiting in this season of singleness, so that I learn how to be a good wife, or get my crap together, but because He longs for me to depend on Him, to throw myself in Him.  So that I won’t confuse the answer to my prayers, so that I will know that it is him that answers and not I as the one in control.
Friends, it is possible that we long for good things, we long for things that God could and will give us eventually.  But in that longing and waiting, that is where the transformation of the heart takes place.  

With or without the answer to your prayers, He will still be the same God and He loves you no more or less.  
More than anything he longs for our hearts to be turned to him.  He longs for our lives.  In his perfect understanding, he knows what takes our hearts and lives from him.  Those things that we want so badly, easily draw our hearts away. 
Friends, I write this because I know.  I know what it looks like to long, and wait, and hope.  I see it in the lives of loved ones, the longing, the waiting, and the hoping that today will be the day that the prayer gets answered. 

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”
Psalm 62:5-7 ESV

BUT God in his perfect wisdom, will take care of us in that longing, just as he did Abraham, and the Israelites, and many others.  He will give us exactly what we need and exactly the right time.

Longing

 Several weeks ago, I sat in a church service and heard the words that have been ringing in my heart for a while. 

We long for “Place.”
A rootedness
An identity
A stable life

This has been an echo of my soul for several years.  I felt it as I moved for the 8th time in 10 years.  I felt it as I went to weddings, watched friends buy homes, have babies, and put down roots.  I felt it as I drove 4 hours to a funeral alone. 

I feel it as I move closer and closer to my 30’s and still have no idea of what the next few years hold for me.  With no relationship, not hopes of buying a home or need for permanence, I live life from year to year, lease agreement to lease agreement.  I feel it as I celebrate another round of holidays by alone, and my siblings find their match and plan weddings.

Even as I reach accomplishments and joys such as finishing degrees and celebrating random holidays with friends, I feel that longing.  

This longing in my heart that I want a home, a sanctuary to come to at the end of a long day, a quiet and restful place full of peace and comfort.  This longing for a steady and stable life, something to count on, something or even someone to help me find roots. 

The mistake I make, and probably many others, is thinking that a place like this exists in a person, relationship, or physical building.  I mistake finding a soulmate to find a place to root myself.  (That is a lot of a pressure for one person.)

The other part of that sermon answered all of this.

That which we long for is secured for us in Jesus, the world can NEVER provide this.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3, ESV)

What I long for goes beyond a romantic relationship, a home, putting down roots, a stable and secure job, a direction, or even a community of friends.  What I long for is a place to put down my anchor.  This can only, only be found in the person of Jesus Christ.  If I try anywhere else, I will continue to live in this unsatisfied state, which is becoming more and more restless and anxiety driven.

Maybe you find yourself in this exact same spot or have been there…where you find yourself trying to throw your anchor? How is that working for you?