Abundance

Sitting in silence, just God and I, without the noise of life, of traffic, of busy, I have the courage to ask, “What do you want from me this year, God? What is it that this year holds for me? Where would you have me go from this spot that I am in with you?”

It feels scary to ask these questions in light of the year that I just had.

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Photo by Max Saeling on Unsplash

In the last year, God broke apart knots of pain in my life.  At times, I felt undone and completely broken. He uncovered things that needed to be brought into the light. Honestly, at times, it felt awful and probably like someone doing surgery.  I had started the year with an expectant hopeful heart that 2018 would be a different year. That God would make all things new or better.

Except, it didn’t feel like that.  Something needed to be different and I was ready to do anything it took for it to change.  And God did just that.

But by bringing me through a valley of pain.  He opened the eyes of my heart to the junk in there, and not all of it self inflicted.  He dug up things of the past, helped me face them and began the healing process. He awaken dormant places, he jump started places of lifelessness and renewed hope that had been lost.

Standing on this side of last year, I can honestly say, I am still expectant.  I am still staring down winter months but with hope. I am not in the same spot that I was in the last year and now, I am longing to see this God that didn’t let me remain in pain work mighty to bring me to Himself.

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Photo by Galina N on Unsplash

This isn’t to brag or proclaim how God is going to give me all the things on my prayer list, which He is fully capable of doing, but because I believe with every fiber of my being, that I am just scratching the surface of understanding who this God is that I trust.

If I were to call this a resolution, it would be that I resolve to find out.  I resolve to lean in, to dig deeper and be present with God to find out what happens when I trust Him and I run after what He is made and called me to do.  To fully believe and trust in the abundance that He has already given me in himself.

Often when we think of the word Abundance, we conjure up images of store houses of gold or food or the extravagance of the western world.  Perhaps to being able to order whatever we want from Amazon and put all the Target Dollar Spot items in our cart. 

God certainly promises to take care of us, but what I believe is that he cares more about is our hearts and souls.

We might always feel like we are lacking on this side of heaven.  Waiting for something to actually fill us, waiting to be full of joy and happiness. I have found in thinking about all that God has to offer, that whatever it is, it is in abundance.  He is abounding in love, grace, mercy, strength, power, wisdom, and so much more.

Searching the scriptures, I came across many verses with the word “abundance” but one that I think I will cling to this year is..

“But, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” -Lamentations 3:32

It feels fitting after last year, to expect to learn about how much God loves me. And He does love me. I pray that I would sit in, reflect on, live out of the fact that He loves me far beyond anything I can comprehend.

So friends, I don’t know where this hits you, but I want to encourage you that if you ended the previous year with a longing or ache in your heart, if you feel like you have been through the wringer and then some, remember that God offers you an abundance. Not of more stuff, but of himself.

He created you, he knows you, loves you and offers all of himself FOR you.  

We already have that in Him. We don’t have to go searching, we don’t have to tidy up our stuff or lives, we don’t have to clean up our diet or go on a media fast, or do a juice cleanse.  None of that is actually going to earn you more of Him. He has already give all of Himself, life and death, for us. All we have to do is step into that abundance, receive it and live out of it.

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Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash

I pray that your year, like mine, would be one of discovering and deepening knowledge of who God is, that your eyes are opened to what He has for you, that you would stop hustling to be better for God and truly know His “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever kind of love.” (Jesus StoryBook Bible)

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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)

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.

photo credit: Shattered dove via photopin (license)

Happy 2013 from the Future!

On Monday, I am going to ask my students what they did over the break….and if I was in my class and I had to answer this question I would get to answer like this!

I spent my Christmas Break….in AUSTRALIA!!!

I would love to share all my pictures and share all my stories, but for now, here are a couple from our New Year’s Eve celebration (a whole 17 hours before everyone in the states) atop a hill overlooking the Sydney Harbor!  There is a little video at the end that gives you a taste of the festivities!

(If it makes you feel better, it was chilly and we had to be there for 6 hours sitting on the ground.  And I was sunburnt from spending the day at the beach!)