0

Discovering the Real Value in Christmas

 

pexels-photo-243221

 

Christmas always left me feeling sad and empty when I was a little girl.

After all, the presents had been opened, and the wrapping paper was in the garbage, the whole idea of Christmas always seemed to be a waste – at least – to me it was. It was a race against time to get all those presents, and then a few hours later it was done. I wondered what the point of all of the gifts was. I was focused on a tree strung with bright sparkling lights, a man in a red suit who travelled with reindeer flying all over the world to give out gifts.

Forget the actual day of Christmas, the magic of Christmas Eve struck a chord in my young heart because I knew whatever was happening was special. Everyone leaves work early to go home and be with their families and close friends. Part of the problem I think was, I didn’t even know that we were celebrating and remembering a baby being born.

It’s a few days after Christmas, and it is still about hope, and though the majority of us have already been out to pick up a bargain from the leftover sales from Christmas, we make-up excuses for more stuff. Just another day to spend time buying stuff. And the question is: do you even need it?

Everything and nothing leads us to pause about what has gone wrong, except we don’t know what it’s all about. It’s a season of where paradoxes’ emerge. It’s a time to be wowed by the hope given to us by a baby born in a barn – in a complete lack of luxury, the complete opposite of what most people think of when they speak of Christmas. This is a time when it’s easy to overeat, over-shop, just plain over the top consumption! Another chance to fill the emptiness inside of their souls, but sometimes you need to empty yourself to feel the poverty of the situation.

It refuses to be extinguished

A small flame of hope lingers hidden underneath anger, shame, depression, and anxiety, etc., with all the gems that are the sum of our desires. Christmas doesn’t seem to be enough but it is, with the simple gift of hope in a birth of a baby in a manger. The problem is most of us equal Christmas with more stuff, more doing than waiting as we are called to do so during the season of Advent. Taking time to enjoy the Christmas lights on front porches, for example, this can help remind us of the hope that is in the waiting. Instead of holding onto negative emotions, make an effort to seek out the good that Christmas does offer, and even the opportunities that are given to us the time in between Christmas and New Years. For myself, I have found I need fewer activities and more time reflecting to appreciate what is going on.

The time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is usually a chaotic time for me. It’s hard to put into words how I feel in this time of undetermined celebrating. It’s mostly an emotional and spiritual battle, but this year, I decided I was going to do something more concrete. I started with Advent:

  • This year I made the plan not to go into a mall once December came, I didn’t want to see the busyness when it should be a time of waiting, not rushing around. I start my Christmas shopping in March/April so that around November I can tie up loose ends.
  • I bought a devotional from Magnificat specifically for the season of Advent. I don’t normally read devotionals, but I figured reading something about Advent might help.
  • During Advent, there were times that I felt little reminders of joy and hope. I let the Lord fill me with these emotions, and they led me to anticipate(joy) the coming of His arrival.
  • I make a point each year to work 2-3 days to help with confusion of days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve

 

I hope you all had a safe and happy Christmas and all the best for coming year of 2017!

Advertisements
0

Keeping Calm

never-be-in-a-hurry-do-everything-quietly-1

He’s in the eye of my storm. It was one of those weeks when everything seems to come colliding down like waves in an ocean. Every weakness I thought that had been healed had pushed itself back into my life. At least it seemed that way.

And wondering where God is in all of this?

I know it would be easy to say, and I have in the past thought, believed, and pouted about how God isn’t here statement. I work in a low-income housing building(s), I know not only my clients but also quite a few of the tenants that live in the building as well. It’s the perfect place to love others as Jesus teaches us to do, but the actual  act can actually look like something else sometimes.

Over the summer, both of the elevators were replaced, and we’re is still waiting for the second elevator to be inspected before it can put into service. In the waiting, there is one small elevator in service. It is here that you see some of what lacks in everyday living, namely kindness, courtesy and generosity being extended to those who need it. There were some factors that didn’t help as I was tired and peeved that I hadn’t seen my supervisor in a couple of weeks, and I was assuming that she was hiding from the clients. I was feeling frustrated at the fact the people in front of me were filling the small elevator with two grocery carts to move in. I wanted to scream, but I knew that wouldn’t accomplish anything. So I scowled at the two people who really didn’t seem to understand.

Changes coming

I don’t love my job nor do I hate it. But I have learned how important support from management is to a low-level employee, which is what I am. Nothing is all about you, and sometimes when you learn that it either perplexes you or you sigh with relief. At first, the anger I experienced when waiting to use the elevator surprised me, its intensity trembling inside of me.

He helped me to remember that he was still the eye of my storm, and he still had the power to bring the waves of contention to a stillness that most of us have never experienced. By that Friday, I finally saw [in person] and spoke with my supervisor who I had not seen in over two weeks. I don’t like just communicating by text and phone, for me, it’s not real enough. There’s this invisible screen that separates us that isn’t enough for me. As she spoke, I listened, there was no anger, in fact, and I started to understand why the state of my anger rose to such a high pitch inside of me.

Previously, my mom had reminded me that triggers that appear out of nowhere, can mean it’s just a burden for me to carry, a burden for someone else. That’s right, I was carrying someone else’s burden, but in the beginning, I didn’t realize this because it feels like mine. It’s a reminder that nothing I have or want to pocesses is mine, to begin with, and especially when something comes hurtling out of nowhere that you need to pay care.

Paying Attention

It wasn’t until I left the building with my schedule for next week that I realized that I felt free. I didn’t have the heaviness that I had carried. I could fill my lungs with fresh air and just remain little in all of this big, confused world.

0

This is for You

 

Do you sit and let the silence from within you rise up?
It’s there you know.

His silencephoto-1452723312111-3a7d0db0e024 (1)
that prays,
that heals
that fills you with peace.
The kind that can’t be manufactured in a factory.

He is bigger than our hate of one another and ourselves.

He prays in you and
if you stopped, and listened
to your heart you would hear him

He gives life to what is considered dead.

Do you scorn the solitude
like when you hide from your shadows?

The shadows of regret, hate, fear, guilt, and shame
These burdens push out His peace.
He is not holding back his arms to you,
you are.

He’s not out to get you, he does not have an agenda
He is not trying to punish you
He is the peace you’re striving for.

He knows you so well, and that scares you.
You’re scared he might make you do something you don’t want to do.
Giving up what you don’t want to let go of.

But he has something that you don’t have,
and that is patience,
and mercy, to lavish on you.
It is unlimited to what he can do.

A photo by Austin Schmid. unsplash.com/photos/5Dga0T0x6GY

3

Deep Beauty – Part 1

Ever since I was a little girl, I long to know I was beautiful. I desired to know that I was lovely. I even asked my Dad if he thought I was. I didn’t see my beauty or worth, and I ached to have someone like him to help me make sense of where I fit in. Everyone else was more important than I was, and on the road to somewhere. I wanted to jump on the fast track too; it’s just that Jesus had other plans for me. Living in poverty doesn’t just have to be material, most of us live in poverty because we haven’t experienced His love, which heals our invisible wounds.

The last two years, I have been wandering in the desert. Jesus is the driver, and I am the passenger letting the wind whip my hair all over the place. I am a passenger on this journey, longing to be a part of the beauty that exists here in austerity.

It’s the surface that many people live in, most of us are too busy with work, relationships,

pexels-photo-117504

and stuff considered more important. Letting the world dictate what you should do, eventually will push the desires of your heart further away until it will not be a part of you. This desire will float around you like an oasis that you can no longer reach onto what is good.

 

I completed a Lectio Divina. I don’t remember the verse, but what stayed with me was how I would respond to what I had received. Jesus wanted to teach me how to dive into the deep with Him, to trust in him, and in the process taking my ability to love Him deeper. Taking my fragile trust, and plunging it into deep waters. I guess you could call it freestyle diving. Essentially, I felt the Lord was calling me to do the same, except He would be my oxygen.

What I wanted the most was to love Him with all my heart, mind, and soul. Still, I am out of breath and the strength to love Him as I know He desires, but I am learning where and when to rest, and listening to him when he says, ‘Let me do it’.

I know that I can trust the Lord with all my heart, but then comes ‘lean not on your own understanding.'(v.5)* Interiorly, I am learning that my physical beauty pales in comparison to the beauty that lies on the inside of me. Much like the burning that the men from Emmaus** experienced, who spoke with Jesus, and yet did not realize their hearts burned within themselves until Jesus revealed himself, only to then disappear from their sight.

 

*Proverbs 3:5

**Luke 24:31

Published previously in 2014

2

Are We There Yet?

photo-1437623889155-075d40e2e59f

 

I’m only going to admit here: I’m bit of a romantic when it comes to waiting, but I’m under no illusions that waiting is a glamourous thing. Maybe if a documentary was done on the journey of my waiting then could I term my ‘waiting’ with a bit of romanticism? There would be sweeping and haunting music in the background, only the best shots of my waiting, and then of course the glorious end! But when is my waiting done?

We live in a culture that abhors to wait, the mere mention of the word, and we start becoming someone we aren’t. Nasty, belligerent and impatient. No, one gets away with this one because well, only the Lord is patient in waiting, which is why waiting is something to be learned and valued. But waiting is only the conduit from which we learn what we need for this life. It breeds character, virtue, fine manners for dinner etc. There are so many reasons for waiting, and most of us are still waiting for the Lord to explain it.

Pulling and Pushing

The Lord can and will use this time to turn our direction from outward to inward. To bring us to a place where we see what he sees in us. As I mentioned, I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to waiting, but I seem to push out of my mind, all the pain that accompanies waiting.

We can push away the pain of unfulfilled dreams, and pretend that we are in control, pretend that the peace that only comes from the Lord doesn’t satisfy our empty wants and needs. We want to live our lives in harmony with Him or we take off on horses that imitate and mock his beauty. We don’t breathe in His spirit and we can squander what he has given us because we don’t consider why He is waiting.

A Fine Suffering

No, I’m not done. In fact, as long as we are alive, we wait for His return, his glorious return to claim what is His. But in the meantime what are we to do? What are we to say when it is asked of you why you wait, why you struggle with what you can’t seem to get from life. Well, life isn’t here to serve you, you are here to serve those around you. As the chisel in the Master’s hand continues to allow the absence of your desire. How does this absentia create havoc in the crevices of your soul? For long periods of time nothing will speak of what your heart longs for, or what you are seeking with your eyes. Sometimes you wonder if the hunger that lives inside of you will ever be tamed. The gnawing is like a flickering light that refuses to be blown out.

For a long time I’ve wanted to write about waiting because too many of us – just don’t get it. Learning to wait isn’t a punishment, it’s more of a time to be waited upon. We want to be where everyone else is, and that isn’t always the best place for us. Until our time is done, life is one big waiting period because we are simply being prepared to go home.

Most of my life, I have jerked myself around trying to be someone, something that I am simply not. It is in the periods of waiting that I have been taught who I am. We’ve been taught by everything that is around us, that it isn’t good to wait because you could have ‘it’ now! During this long season (and still continuing!) of waiting, that what I need and want are mistakenly not materialistic but of a eternal reward.

PASSION

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart… pursue those.

5

Joy of the Journey

photo-1443528130140-4f7ea31b2b57

A friend asked me what I was doing for Advent, and the short answer is nothing. Some people are really organized in a way that reminds them to choose some kind of area that they want to work on during Advent. I know this doesn’t mean I’m a bad person for not choosing an area I want to work on,

Lately, or rather the last few years I have stop actively planning, and it’s starting to show because normally I am on top of my family’s birthdays. My Dad’s birthday is in November and my sisters is in December, and for both of them it was a struggle to get their cards out on time. I could blame it on the fact that I had no money to go the Dollarama store and buy them that special $1 card plus the applicable taxes. I have tons of blank cards so I thought this was the perfect time to use them, and to be able to put a more personal touch. I don’t know if the cards were more personal, or it just showed my lack of – yep, you guessed it – Planning!

There’s a bit of perfectionism lurking in me, and shove in some depression, loose obsessive thoughts, and that’s enough for me to stop all together. I love sending out cards, but in the last few years, I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but store-bought cards are NOT cheap. I could save the ten dollars that I am saving for one card and spend it on a bag of produce from the local food co-op.

Before you start protesting that planning can be good thing, I’m going say right here that I am all for planning. In fact, I start my Christmas shopping around the end of March, the beginning of April. It’s for many reasons but one of the reasons is because I don’t want to be in rush, I want to think beforehand and get gifts that show that I love them, which is why I sent my sister and her boyfriend a VISA prepaid card, but to my defense I did think about it. I planned on saving on mailing costs because they live in the Maritimes.

Often my complaint is I can’t see the wonder and awe of this special time, and that could be blamed on my past experiences, the current culture over exposure of what Christmas is not. We are all on a journey with little stops here and there, looking for hope, encouragement in a month filled with dark nights and lack of sunlight’s warmth. I am in the process of having new experiences to replace the old, broken, dusty memories that harm more than anything.

I’m all for getting to the destination, but sometimes it can be a letdown. Sometimes I think back and yearn for the journey because it meant more than the final stop. All I can hope for in this journey of mishaps, misunderstanding and all the rest that I will see, is a sense of wonder in the unexpected moments during this special season.

 

 

5

There’s Always, Always, Always Something To Be Thankful For

 

photo-1445964047600-cdbdb873673d (1)

The last couple weeks or so I’ve had some people who have asked me how I am doing, which isn’t new, but normally it’s a quick ‘I’m good.’ There’s not much thought into how I am really. No run down of what I don’t have even though I would like it …. But I have also realized that everything is quiet, I am trying to do what the Lord has asked of me. I am trying to work towards faithfulness in everything.

For over a year or more, I have been aware of my freedom. I don’t know if it’s even a physical feeling, but just the knowledge that I am free. Jesus came to set the captives free. He came because He loves us and in that love is His Mercy which runs through us – if we allow the river to flow through. I am in awe of such a wonderful gift. No pushing away. There’s a tiny smile on my heart because for years, and it didn’t matter where I went I was full of anxiety and fear.

Advent is next Sunday, and I have all my Christmas shopping done and wrapped. I asked my Mom a couple of weekends ago, if she wanted her gifts … of course she refused. We have been discussing what I will make for dessert, who will make the sweet potato fries, and I am hoping there will be gluten-free gravy for the chicken. It’s usually just my Mom and I, and it’s fun to decide what we will eat. Just enough to be satisfied.

At one point or another I have tried to start a gratitude journal or list of sorts in my journal. I discovered that it is better if I allow my heart to reveal what it is grateful for. Sometimes the depth of my thankfulness can’t be written down on paper. Being saturated in His goodness is a peace and a joy filled place, and it doesn’t matter where you find yourself.

Thankfulness are words, but it can also be a way of living, a way to always display the wealth of blessings that has been poured into your life. And not just in words, but from those closest to you, who love you, look out for you and pray for you.