Advent Reflections

Three years ago I wrote the blog below on walking while waiting. This year I’ve been mulling over the idea of waiting again, and instead of reinventing the wheel, I thought I would bring this post back. This year I am waiting and praying for many things – time to slow down, a full-time job for my husband, the birth of our son, community and friends in our new town, the return of Jesus and making of all things new, and on goes the list. We are always waiting for something, aren’t we?

As we wait together, may this bring your heart encouragement as it does to mine.

From “Walking while Waiting”, Dec. 24, 2013:

Christmas snuck up on me this year. With Thanksgiving being so late, a visit with the grandparents in the middle of the month, and working up to Christmas Eve, the holiday has arrived and my heart feels rushed and unprepared. So on Sunday, as the final day of Advent drew to a close, I spent some time reading the story of Jesus’ birth from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I was struck anew by the stories of waiting that surrounded this greatest day in history. Waiting is what Advent is all about – the hope of the coming Savior, the preparation for His arrival, the joy of His birth, and the love He showed in coming to earth.

Advent [noun]:

  • A coming into place, view, or being; arrival
  • The coming of Christ into the world
  • The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ
  • Middle English; Latin – Adventus; arrival, approach
  • Beginning or arrival of something anticipated

Beginning or arrival of something anticipated. Can you feel the excitement in the air? Imagine! The promise of a Savior…followed by 400 years of silence. An entire nation, waiting for the promised Messiah, anticipating the salvation and redemption He would bring.

As I read, these other examples stood out to me as well:

*Zacharias and Elizabeth get married, and then they wait for a baby. And they wait. And wait. And pray. And wait, until Elizabeth is long past child-bearing age and all hope seems lost forever.

*Zacharias is rendered mute, and has to wait at least 9 months before being able to share what God had spoken through the Angel Gabriel.

*Simeon is given a promise that he will not see death until his eyes have seen the Messiah. Old age begins setting in, and still no Messiah is appearing.

*Jesus himself waited 30 years to begin his public ministry.

Do you know what the Bible says about Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon in the midst of their waiting? Luke 1:6 says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were “both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” And Luke 2:25 says that Simeon was “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

Here are four thoughts from their example of walking faithfully with the Lord while waiting:

1. God’s sovereignty is sure, and His timing is perfect. At the exact appointed time, Elizabeth conceived John, Zacharias got to tell everyone about the glory and goodness of the Lord, Israel’s promised Messiah came, Simeon witnessed the dedication of Jesus, and Jesus began his public ministry. Not a day too early or too late, but exactly on the day each event was supposed to happen. Psalm 139:16 says “In your book were written ALL the days of my life before one of them came to be.” God is the one in control, and He brings all things to pass in His good timing and perfect plan.

2. Waiting is not painless, but the result makes it worth walking through the dark days. Imagine 400 years of silence from God. Or going through an entire pregnancy and birth with a husband who could not respond to you verbally. Or waiting years upon years for a child until hope seems lost. Or getting older and wondering each day if you would finally see the promised Messiah, wondering if you had properly heard the promise given. Or preparing for a public ministry knowing that it is going to end with your death and resurrection three short years later.

3. Obedience is not contingent upon God’s response. Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon were all described as being faithful to follow God, even when they did not always know if or when an answer would come. Jesus was the only one who knew the end from the beginning. The others chose to trust God and walk in faithfulness each day regardless of what the outcome was. Again, their obedience was not contingent upon God’s response to them, but rather on the knowledge of who He is and their trust that He would fulfill His word (for more, check out Hebrews 10:23 and 2 Tim 2:13).

4. We can trust God with our future in the midst of waiting. Back to Psalm 139:16. He already knows every day of our future. He has gone before us, laying the way and offering to lead us on the path as our Light and Guide. Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, and He will direct our paths. Psalm 119 is full of verses where David exalts the Lord as righteous and true, and declares the Word of God as trustworthy and and worth leaning our full weight upon.

What are you waiting for today? A baby, like Elizabeth? A new job? A spouse? Healing from an illness or chronic pain? An apology that never seems to arrive? The redemption of a friend or family member? An answer to a hard question? Direction on where you are supposed to go next? The return of Jesus and the making of all things new?

Whatever you are waiting for, I pray that you will be encouraged by this to continue trusting the Lord and walking faithfully with Him, no matter what may come. As you read the Christmas story, rejoice that the silence was broken, the Savior came, and through Him we have hope and salvation! See it with fresh perspective, and be reminded of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and perfect timing.

Merry Christmas, and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you as you celebrate His birth.

Advertisements

In This Season

Have you ever desired something so deeply, and then doubted that God desired to answer your prayer?

I grew up with an older brother, and loved every minute of it. Loved being the “baby girl” of the family, loved having a protective brother who was big and strong and incredibly annoying sometimes, one I would boss around as if I were in charge, only to be put firmly in my place with a good noogie or a kidnapped baby doll being held for ransom, followed by a hug and adventure in the backyard. It was the life I was given, and it was the best. Even as a young girl I knew that someday, when I had my own kids, I wanted to have a boy first, a big brother for all of the other siblings who would follow. And so I prayed for that, for years and years and years, always hoping that a boy would come first.

Fast forward to June 24th, 2016, as I am sitting in my bathroom at 3am staring at a surprisingly positive pregnancy test (an unplanned, but very much wanted surprise). As I sat there taking in the full meaning of those two pink lines, my immediate fear was that this baby would be a girl. Not because I have anything against girls (I am one, after all, and quite enjoy it. Girls are amazing.), but because the dream of a boy first was rooted so deeply in my soul and I feared the Lord would choose to teach me contentment and surrender through giving us a daughter first.

Over the next few weeks as I processed my fear and worked through it with the Lord, I realized that at the core my trouble was a disbelief that God wanted to answer my prayer. I had fallen into the lie of thinking that in every situation of my life God wanted me to struggle, to grow me in faith through giving me the exact opposite of what my heart desired, surrendering my own will to His and finding contentment in Him.

The truth is, God does often choose to work in that way, and He has many times in my own life over the past decade or so. There are times and seasons when we grow more fully by learning to trust God’s goodness and character in His “no” responses – surrendering our own heart’s desires to His. The problem lies in beginning to think that is the only way He works, which is what I had begun to do. A father who only says no is not a good father, and neither is one who only says yes.

For all of July, August and September, I consciously worked to give up my desire for a little boy first, convinced that because having a boy first meant so much to me, it would of course be a girl, still doubting the Lord’s desire to answer my prayer. Although I still wanted a boy, I convinced myself it was a girl so I would not be disappointed when the gender was revealed. So, when September 21st came and I laid on the table with the ultrasound wand on my womb, I fully expected and was prepared to hear “It’s a Girl!!”.

I was not in any way expecting to see clearly with my own eyes – no words spoken – that this baby is most definitely a BOY. 100% a boy, not even a question. My immediate response was shock, disbelieving it could be true. I wanted a boy so deeply, how could it not be a girl??

Oh, me of little faith.

Over this past month I have been reminded that God is a Good Father, who desires to give good gifts to His children. Just like with any earthly father, sometimes “good” is in saying no, knowing that it is for the best of the child. Other times, “good” is in a joyful yes, delighting to watch as a heart’s desire is fulfilled.

I am realizing that this season of life for me is one in which the Lord is choosing to grow me through answering many, many prayers with a joyful and resounding YES. I am also realizing that having walked through seasons of experiencing God’s goodness through his “no” answers is making this season richer, more beautiful and special than if I had only experienced his yeses. 

We are not meant to live in a world where we get everything we want. A gentle and loving “no” is a precious gift, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. What a loving and generous God we serve, a good Father and faithful Friend in every season of life. Although Christian and I would have rejoiced and been thankful had our baby been a girl, we rejoice and are thankful and humbled for this boy, our son.

img_1070

Back at the writing desk

A lot has changed in the last year – I got married last fall, my husband and I both left our full time jobs and moved to a new city this spring, I started a new job as a travel consultant, and we found out that I am pregnant three days before loading our moving truck. Whew. In the midst of all the changes and new things the blog was moved to the “non-critical, non-essential” list for a while and writing did not happen. However, now that we are settling into the new place and establishing regular routines, I am looking forward to blogging again on a more regular basis. See you soon!

Calloused: Culture and 50 Shades of Conviction

Have we become so calloused that we have lost our dignity? The release this week of the movie 50 Shades of Grey has unleashed a maelstrom of blog posts, articles, and opinions online from every corner of society, both highly in favor and strongly against the film (if we can call it that). While I am thankful for the many voices who are speaking out against the sexual violence and trashiness of this movie, I am equally saddened that we have come so far in this culture as to require such a response. Has the line of propriety been completely erased? Have we sunk so deep as to glorify domestic abuse and mysoginy in the name of entertainment? Have we lost the ability to think rationally about what we are putting into our minds?

Honestly, this should not even be an issue. This movie should have been the biggest flop of all time (and maybe it will be. . .we can’t give up hope just yet) due to the disgusting and abhorrent nature of the content. Far from being celebrated, the realistic outcome of relationships like Christian and Ana’s are women’s shelters, emergency help lines, counselors and psychologists, and deep emotional scarring and pain. You don’t need help lines for healthy relationships. They exist because this kind of behavior and lifestyle are not ok.

The proper responses when walking out of the theater after seeing this movie should be digust, deep sorrow, and a conviction to stand against this kind of abuse and domestic violence. True love is selfless, not selfish and demanding. True love gives more than it takes. True love seeks the good of the other person. True love is life-giving, not life-taking. True love is honest, peaceful, and joy-filled. Yet many movie-goers will walk out of the theater blinded by the glitz and the shiny people, believing the lie that love can be found in abusive relationships, or even worse, that they have the power to change another person.

Oh friends. May we be lights in the darkness. My heart breaks that the callouses in our society have grown so thick that this movie does not shock us. That this being released does not cause outrage and demands for it to be removed from public view. That our only response is “don’t watch it”, without even taking the time to question its existence in the first place. May we be rightly appalled, and may we fight all the more for justice, and truth, and a return to propriety in our entertainment. May our convictions become black and white, instead of shades of gray that lead only to ruin and despair.

I will leave it with this:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Phil 4:8

Jesus and the Single Life

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus was single? My dear friend Jenni and I were talking last year before a wedding she was attending, and we were talking about how challenging it can be to attend a wedding alone, especially as you get older. But she said “If Jesus could go to a wedding by Himself, then so can I.” I love that perspective, and it got me thinking about what else we can learn from Jesus about being single. If Jesus is our model for living a holy and perfect life (not that we can ever be perfect this side of heaven, but that He is and showed us perfection), then it naturally follows that as Jesus was single His entire life, we can look to Him to learn what our lives as singles should look like.

As I read through the gospels looking for parallels to the single life, here are 5 things I discovered:

1. The goal of Jesus in every place and every situation was to be a blessing to those around Him. His focus was on them and meeting their needs, rather than on Himself and His own status or situation. The ease in which we get so caught up in ourselves and the frequency of our fixation on relational status is somewhat alarming. We are so quick to look inward instead of focusing outward. How different would our churches and communities look if those who are single were intent on being a blessing to those around them in every situation? What if we looked up and out, instead of always bemoaning our lack of a companion? What if we sought to serve generously, to give of our time and resources, to bless those around us as long as we are single?

2. Jesus intentionally surrounded Himself with community. In a culture of independence, isolation, and the detached relationships of social media, true community is becoming obsolete, especially among my generation. Jesus stands out as an example of one who entered into the lives of others and invited them into HIs own life as well. He built deep friendships with all kinds of people – men, women, married couples, the sick, tax-collectors, and prostitutes. He did not limit Himself to befriending only those who looked like Him or came from the same socio-economic or religious background. He loved all people, and actively pursued relationships with them.

3. Jesus did not squander His time, but used it wisely and with purpose. This does not mean He was always busy. Again, this does not mean that He was always busy. That bears repeating, because we often think the only way to use time “wisely” is to fill every moment with something important. We have plenty of examples of Jesus resting, going away to pray, sleeping on a boat, hanging out at wells chatting with people, eating dinner with friends, etc. He shows us what one person can do in a short amount of time. We have a plethora of opportunities and excuses to waste time in today’s culture, and Jesus shows us the importance and feasability of time well spent.

4. Jesus lived on-mission. Everything He did was on purpose, and His whole life led to the cross. Where is your life leading?

5. Finally, Jesus did not shrink back from hard situations. He went to weddings by himself, funerals of dear friends, large gatherings, and even the cross, all in joyful obedience to the Father. He saw the value in celebrations and goodbyes. He confronted false religion and heresy (as a sidenote, this goes back to the first point – even in His rebuke, it was for their ultimate good). He was willing to be ridiculed, shamed, and persecuted, because He knew that He spoke the truth. He walked through hard times trusting the Father to sustain Him.

If you are single, how can you start living more intentionally today, following Jesus’ model for us? If you are married, how can you be encouraging the single people in your life to live with purpose? How can we mutually enter into community and seek to be a blessing to one another?