Advent: Pressing On and Making Room

Advent. A season of waiting.

Because it leads up to Christmas, Advent is a season of preparation. A season of waiting for the Light of the world to come into the world as a baby. A season of walking with the Light of the world toward the celebration of that baby’s birth. A season of anticipating the return of the Light of the world in all his glory.

But for now, we wait.

For some, it is a time to repent as a way to prepare the heart for the arrival of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I too often feel like one who is wandering through the desert along crooked paths, lost to the Light, lost to myself. And so, I look forward to the Season of Advent. The preparation. The anticipation. The hope. The wonder. The joy. The awe.

And yet, despite these amazing aspects of Advent, it is also a season of darkness. A season of seeking. A season of listening.

As I slow down, as I pause, as I listen, I can hear that voice in the wilderness. I can hear him calling to me, telling me, reminding me, beseeching me to prepare a way for the Lord. To make straight the paths in the dessert. And so I linger there, in the dessert, so that I may prepare my heart. So that I may step from the crooked path. So that I may step out of darkness.

But it is not yet time.

Right now, I welcome the darkness and await the light.

Right now, I will use this time to reflect on what it means that Christ came into the world.

Right now, I will repent and ask God to search my heart and point out anything that offends.

Right now, I will renew my heart and my mind in His truth.

Tomorrow begins the journey to Bethlehem and to the child born in a stable and laid in a manger. The child whose birth gave me life.

I don’t know where you are in your journey or in your life or in your relationships. But I know that I am hurting and I am walking through darkness. I know that I am wandering in the desert and I am waiting for the Star that will lead me to that babe whose life is what I need. Whose life my marriage needs.

And so, as Advent dawns tomorrow, and the journey to Christmas begins, I wonder if you might join me on the way to Bethlehem. If you might join me in responding to the voice calling out in the wilderness.

Because right now, my heart is overrun with too much of the world: unforgiveness, anger, worry, anxiety, deep hurts; there is no room in my heart for the Savior who is coming. Who is already here. Who is coming again.

But, this is a season of looking forward. This is a season for pressing on. This is a season of hope.

And so I will wait and I will seek and I will prepare.

Because although there may be darkness now, the pale light of dawn always pushes back the dark of night.

And that dawn is coming. Because that is the promise of Advent.

Thankful in All Circumstances

Yes, Even This One

In the midst of celebration and elation and preparation, there is lament. A grieving sorrow at the realization that things are not what they seemed. Not what you thought. Not what you hoped.

On Saturday, I hit the 50,000 word mark, the goal of every participant of #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). When I contemplated the idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to do it. But I decided that this year I would attempt it. Even with two little girls, only 3.5 and 5.75, who still need so much of my time, energy and attention. So, needless to say, I was elated when I crossed the 50k mark on Saturday. In that moment, it was sheer joy. And I eagerly shared that news and that joy with my husband.

Looking back at that moment now, sitting here in the midst of a repeated betrayal, that moment feels tainted. Because while I was celebrating with the only person in my life with whom I felt completely comfortable sharing such a raw rough draft, his heart, his mind, his attentions were divided. And not between me and our girls, with whom he was at home. But with Emily.

Emily lives across the pond. But the betrayal is no less real than if she were our next door neighbor. And the pain of betrayal pierces deeply, even as I set my heart on God and thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving. All of the conversations we’ve shared this in the last week now have this shadow over them. The shadow of someone else who crept into the quiet moments. Into the laughter. Into the celebration of words written, dreams being refined and shared. A dream that felt silly to speak out loud, but were being told to the one person I knew thought I could trust with it.

All of that changed this morning when for whatever reason, I decided to check my husband’s computer.

You see, seven month ago, we hit this same moment, but with Connie in Canada. At the time, I was devastated. I was seething angry and I was incredibly hurt and the sense of betrayal was not even something I could put into words. Today, I am numb. Angry, yes. Hurt, absolutely. Betrayed, definitely.

But I am numb to what I think or feel beyond this moment of discovery and reality.

In two days we will celebrate Thanksgiving with family, an event I was already dreading at least a little bit. But I felt an intimate connection to my husband, knowing that we would be together and that we had weathered the storm of betrayal with counseling and prayer and Jesus. I pictured us exchanging looks across the room, the kind of looks that only couples can share.

It’s strange. When my actions or my choices are less than what I want in my life, God is good and shows me in my mind’s eye the person I am striving to be: the woman, the writer, the wife, the mama. In those moments I see clearly this person I long to be.

And even today, especially today, God is still good. He is still the Creator of the universe. He is still my mighty fortress and my refuge. He is still my Comforter, whispering in my ear who I am and who I will be, so that I don’t lose sight of that in the midst of this storm and this loneliness. He reminds me that today, just like every day, I have a choice. I can choose my response. I can choose my attitude: will I focus on me or will I focus on Him. And no matter how difficult it is, I choose to focus on Him.

Because if I focus on me, I know that misery will surround me. I know that anger will fill me to overflowing and bring its own hurts and anguish.

But, if I focus on Him, I know that I will find truth. I will find peace, even in the midst of something that has spun the world around and off its axis. God will be the axis that keeps me from losing my way. I cannot move forward from this moment in my strength. But, then, we can never truly move forward in our own strength because whenever we build our worlds on sinking sand, in other words through  our own efforts and based on our own plans, that world will always fall away.

So, right now, I choose Jesus. I keep my eyes on him. I listen to favorite hymns like The Wonderful Cross sung by Matthew West and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing sung by Mark Schultz and It Is Well sung by Sara Groves and I focus on the healing and redemption and life that only comes through Jesus. I cleave to that today.

I will pray ceaselessly. I will give thanks in all circumstances, even this one. I will seek his kingdom, his righteousness, his love before anything else today.

And for today, those are the only choices I will make. Until God speaks to my heart, I will simply let him cradle it, all of its pieces, for me.

Beyond the Busyness

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker}

How it works: Write on one word for five minutes. No editing. {All the details for how to play along are here.}

Today’s word: Fly…

{Go}

Busyness.

Most days it starts as soon as my feet touch the floor. Which is much too early for my taste. I am not a morning person.

But my five and a half year old definitely is. Up with the chickens, as they say.

And so my day begins much too early and the demands begin to surround and overwhelm.

Unless I find time to pause.

Unless I find time to dream.

Unless I find time to take time.

Time away from what needs to be done.

Time to dream about the things that fill my heart.

Time to pause and drink in my life.

The crazy. The chaos. The beauty. The joy.

Sometimes, I just take time to sit and watch my girls at play.

Sometimes, I just take time to sit and watch the birds fly back and forth to the feeder.

Sometimes, I just take time to sit and listen to the lyrics of a favorite song.

Sometimes, I sit and whisper, “Thank you.” Letting God know that I see his hand at work in my life. At work in me.

I let him show me himself and my heart’s desires.

And, then, I let my heart fly. Soar to new heights.

Of joy. Of wonder. Of awe.

And then, I rejoin the chaos of my world. Renewed.

{Stop}

What Do You See?

Sometimes I feel invisible.

In a world filled with people chasing dreams, tweeting, blogging, writing, creating, living their purpose, I feel invisible. Not worthy of time or attention. Like what I say, what I want to say, what I try to say, dissolves in the noise. In the shadows.

My words go unheard.

This is something that has come in an ah-ha moment recently. It has hit me in the chest with force. It has pierced my heart. It has pierced the armor of pretending that I’ve developed over the years.

As I considered this idea, this perceived truth, I looked back at past moments. And what I saw was difficult to acknowledge.

I have lived much of my life being someone else.

I have taken on friends’ dreams and made them mine.

I have taken on others’ expectations and tried so hard to meet them.

I have watched those around me who attract relationship, community, notice and mimicked them. Tried to be like them. Tried to be them. Instead of me.

Because I feel invisible.

Because I feel like my voice isn’t heard.

And I feel like I don’t know who I am or who I’m supposed to be.

I don’t know who I was created to be. Or what I was created to do.

I feel lost.

Have you ever wondered if you matter?

Have you ever wondered if anyone is listening to what you have to say?

Have you ever needed some sense of hope that there’s more to you than what you feel? What you see in yourself?

I have.

Even now, I seek some sense of assurance.

And the only one that comes faithfully in these moments? The blessed assurance that Jesus offers me.

And those words seem contrite, don’t they?

When your heart hurts and your legacy seems lacking, those words seem contrite.

When your yearning for relationship or community or assurance, those words seem contrite.

When your longing to find your place or make a difference or make a meaningful contribution, those words seem contrite.

When you want to matter.

Those words seem contrite.

But the God behind those words is anything but contrite.

The God who enters into this brokenness that seems to define me is anything but lacking.

The God who covers me with his grace and wraps me in his wings of protection is anything but unmoved by my struggle. By my sadness. By my sense of invisibility.

He sees me. He always sees me.

To my human mind, this doesn’t seem like enough. But you know what? It is.

It’s actually more than enough.

And to know that, sometimes I need to step back. I need to unplug. I need to avoid the noise of the world. I need to pause. I need to be still.

I need to be still and know.

I need to be still and listen.

I need to be still and be seen.

I need to trust.

I need to know.

I need to let his truth wash over me and wash away the doubts.

I need to hold fast to his hand and let him lead.

I need to let go of all the trying and let him show me who I am.

I need him. Only him. Always him.

Everything else? That’s about me. What I want and what I think I need. To be heard. To be noticed. To be acknowledged. That’s about me.

Because all I need to do any day, every day, is seek his face.

And to know that when I come into his presence, he is glad to see me there. How incredibly awesome is that?

And to know that he thinks about me and those thoughts are more than the grains of sand on the shore. How incredibly awesome is that?

How incredibly awesome is it that Jesus loves me? That he cares for me?

That he sees me?

He sees me.

And I am not invisible.

Rooted in Love

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker}

How it works: Write on one word for five minutes. No editing. {All the details for how to play along are here.}

Today’s word: Tree

{Go:}

A little over a year ago, my husband {David} and I moved our family from Plainville, Massachusetts {where we lived in an apartment} to Tryon, North Carolina {where we rent a house that is surrounded by trees}. We were searching for a place where we, like the trees outside the living room windows, could put down roots. For us. For our girls {who are 3.5 and 5.5}.

There have been many moments since moving here that I have wondered whether we made the right choice. But really, that doesn’t matter.

We must grow where we are planted. And trust God to work out all things together for our good because we love him and are called according to his purposes.

And so, I look out at those trees, especially in the early mornings, and I watch the way the rays of golden sunlight spread like a slow-moving fire from leaf to leaf.

I look out at those trees in the early mornings when they are coated in dew and fog and marvel at their beauty.

I marvel that they have grown and that they have roots that go deeper than we can imagine.

And I pause and I thank God that he can do more with our lives, no matter where we are planted, than we can possibly imagine.

I pause. I ask God to grow me deeper. I ask God to give us a place that we can be a family.

Right now, that is here, in North Carolina.

But always, it is together. And always it is always inside love. Ours for each other and God’s for us.

And for that, I am thankful.

{Stop}

My New Day’s Resolution

Because each day is a new beginning, I choose today to seek my heart’s desires.

Because God’s mercies are new every morning, I choose to live forward and not in yesterday.

Because today matters, I choose to live fearlessly. Boldly. Prayerfully.

Because today is all I am given, I will encourage others. I will love others. I will love myself.

Because this day brings it’s own worries, I will choose *not* to worry about tomorrow.

Because today is here, I will choose to be thankful for this new day. To be glad in it. To rejoice in it.

Because this day has many hours in it, I will choose to be present in the moments I am given with my children. With my husband. With Jesus. With my dreams.

Because this day is a gift, I will live with purpose. I will pursue community. I will work to recover my God-given, God-gifted dreams. My God-given, God-gifted reality.

Because this day falls in November, I will work on my #NaNoWriMo story with passion and abandon.

Because I have this day, I will celebrate my life. My blessings. My challenges. My needs. My struggles. I will see each of these as opportunities to grow in my faith.

Because I want this day to count, I will fight for my dreams. Fight to recover them. To put words to them. To declare them – to myself and to others.

Today I will live my best life and I will not focus on what I do not do, but on what I do. What I create. What I share. Who I am in God.

Because today the world needs what I can add to it. The world needs what I can offer. Because if not me, then who?

Because I am here for such a time as this.

Today, I am here for such a time as this.

Today.

Longing for More

I am in a season of longing.

This includes a searching, a seeking, a desire. A desire for more. But not more stuff.

More wisdom.

More Jesus.

More community.

More discernment.

More delight.

More contentment.

More joy.

But there’s more to it than this.

It’s a longing. A deep longing that sometimes leaves me breathless.

I long to know my true heart’s desires. My passion. My purpose.

My God-given, God-gifted purpose.

I long for this for David, too. I long for David to discover his heart’s desires. For David to recover his dream, to recover his passion.

I long for David to be fulfilled in his daily work.

I long for David to know the promise of God, that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his work because that is God’s plan. God’s promise.

I long for David to know the blessing of God’s favor when God establishes the work of his hands.

And so, each day, when this longing comes upon me, I have a choice. I can choose to wish things were different. To wish I knew the answers. To wish I could change our circumstances.

Or I can choose Jesus. I can choose to trust him. I can choose to rest in him. I can choose to pray and seek his guidance.

For if he created me, if he gifted me, if he cares for me, then certainly I can trust him.

I can trust him to reveal his truth to me.

I can trust him to reveal his truth through me.

I can trust him to reveal the desires of my heart to me.

For if I delight in him, the things I long for, the desires of my heart, he will give them to me. They might not look like what I anticipate them to be. But because he cares for me, I can trust that they will be more than I can ever imagine or hope for.

Because if I pursue Jesus, the rest will come. The wisdom, the joy, the contentment, the discernment.

The dreams. The God-given, God-gifted dreams will come.