Embracing Winter

Extreme cold and I are not the best of friends. We are not the worst of friends either, but with negative wind chills, snow that stays for days, and limited sunshine, I am reminded of why I call this season “neverwarm”. In this weather being outside for more than a few minutes causes my glass eye to become an ice cube, making it impossible to blink. I’m not tall enough to reach the top of my car to clear off all of the snow, thus becoming one of the very people who drive me crazy on the roads with snow flying everywhere. And even with multiple layers, my hands and feet are always cold. Always.

Suffice to say, Winter is not, and never has been, my favorite season. Some would claim that the above statements give me good reason for that. With gritted teeth I found myself this past week growing increasingly perturbed at the lingering arctic vortex that swept through the region and then decided to stick around, telling myself to just get through the days until Spring finally arrives.

Then, I was reminded of two things. One, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Everything, Lord? Even this ridiculous weather? Yep. Two, winter has a purpose. Without the cold, and the snow, and the darkness, we would not have such beautiful Springs, or the ability to appreciate the vibrant colors, warm temperatures, and sunshine. So this week I have been asking the Lord to help me see the beauty in winter, and to learn to embrace this season, even a little bit.

Here was part of His answer:

Sunset on the snow
Sunset on the snow
The sunset reflecting on the snow in the front yard
The sunset reflecting on the snow in the front yard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is difficult to capture in a photo what you actually see, so as pretty as these pictures are, understand that the real life experience of standing on the sidewalk and looking at the sun glittering on the snow as it disappeared behind the surrounding houses was breathtaking. There is beauty in winter; we just have to choose to see it.

Where do you see beauty in winter?

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Fighting for Thankfulness

There once was a time when Thanksgiving was about giving thanks. Remember? When we gathered together for the purpose of remembering God’s faithfulness, celebrating His blessings, and enjoying family and friends.

But ever so slowly the focus has shifted. Now it is more about overeating, and watching football, and pursuing the best deals as Black Friday turns rapidly into Black Thanksgiving. Have you noticed this year how many stores are open on Thursday, advertising sales and deals starting as early as 10am? Apalling, really. We have allowed the meaning and purpose of the holiday to be lost in the pursuit of spending money we don’t have on meaningless things. Instead of focusing on the abundance of what we have already been given, our focus is on getting more.

It’s not that finding an amazing deal on that new phone (for example) is bad; believe me, I love a good sale as much as anyone. However, this thirst for “more”, “better”, “new”, “upgraded”, and “different” is getting out of hand. Hopefully we are consistently cultivating thankfulness in our lives on a daily basis, but let’s get back to Thanksgiving being a day about giving thanks. Enough is Enough. Let’s fight against the current of consumerism and greed, and take this one day to actually be thankful for what we have been given. Sit around the table for more than 15 mintues, after spending 5 hours in the kitchen cooking. Share what you are thankful for, how the Lord provided for you this year, how you have grown, who has impacted your life for the better over the past twelve months, prayers that have been answered, etc.

There is so much joy found in choosing thankfulness, and complete fulness in fixing our eyes on Jesus. Everything we have been given comes from Him. Everything.

Remember that today, and choose to fight for thankfulness. In the midst of whatever is going on in your life and wherever you are, I pray that you experience the joy and fulness that is found in Christ, and enjoy the day with family and friends celebrating His great faithfulness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Flipside

Last week in a meeting at work I had the opportunity to share a little bit of where my heart is in the midst of transition, with not being overseas, no longer serving as a supported missionary, now living in NoVA and working at MBC – many aspects of my life I am working through in this new season. As I shared about this not being where I thought I would be, one of my co-workers said this:

“There are two sides to every story, and the flipside of your story is that the Lord brought you here in part because we needed you. He brought you here to be a blessing to us at this specific time.”

Wow. I had not previously thought about the Lord keeping me here in that light, and I am thankful that she said those words. What a timely reminder of a great truth. The Lord often puts us in specific places to meet the needs of others, and to use us to bless those around us. And the greatest joy is in being a blessing to others, we are immeasurably blessed in return! In calling me to this place, at this time, and using my gifts and abilities to serve others, the Lord is continuing the process of sanctification and growing me to be more like Him. What joy is found in this spot!

The story of Abram is a great example of this. In Genesis 12, the Lord calls Abram to leave his country and everything he has ever known, to go to an unspecified place the Lord would show him only after he responded in obedience. As God is giving Abram his instructions, he says “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing…” (v.2). If Abraham had refused to obey God, and stayed in his homeland, the impact of his life would have been limited. It was through his willingness to follow God’s leading no matter what, that a nation was born and a blessing came in abundance.

Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, and so are we today. The Lord has you exactly where you are supposed to be, and He has you there for a reason. It may have very little to do with you, and very much to do with the Lord using you to be a blessing to those around you.

One of my favorite quotes is from author Leo Tolstoy, who said:

Life is a place of service, and in that service one has to suffer a great deal that is hard to bear, but more often to experience a great deal of joy. But that joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.

Who are you serving today? Take some time to thank the Lord for where He has you, and the ways He is using your life to bless others.

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My cubicle!

First week of my new job is already over. So far there have been no dull moments, and many overwhelming ones. I walked in to two months of backlogged work that had not been done due to restructuring of the staff, and a pile of urgent projects that need to be accomplished in the next two weeks. After a crazy week I am just about caught up with the old work, and ready to start on the new work tomorrow. All in all, feeling more confident in my role and excited for the job ahead.

This morning during our prayer time we were talking about relying on our flesh vs. the Spirit. It would be so easy for me to attempt to accomplish this job in my own power. Following that path, though, will only lead to frustration, failure, and feeling overwhelmed. To succeed here or anywhere, Christ must be my sufficiency. In my weariness, He is there, waiting for me to turn to Him. In my weakness, He is strong. In my inadequacy, He is always enough.

The sufficiency of Christ was also the topic of my devotional entry for this morning in Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening”. He says “If Christ were only a cistern, we might soon exhaust His fullness, but who can drain a fountain? Myriads of spirits have drawn their supplies from Him, and not one of them has murmured at the scantiness of His resources.” I love the imagery of Christ as a fountain; unquenchable, inexhaustible, abundant. Not merely enough, but overflowing, constant, always available. He is the fountain from which my days should draw their strength. He is the foundation on which my mornings should begin.

As week two continues, my prayer is that the gospel will be my foundation, and Christ will be my constant fountain. It is a joy to work in an environment that values prayer, encouraging one another, and taking care of our walk with Christ before anything else.

Also, my boss gave me these beautiful flowers on my first day! So kind and thoughtful of her, and they have brightened up my workspace this week!

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Birthday Post: #27

Twenty-seven. Feels old when I say it. I know in my brain that 27 is not old at all, especially considering I had myself convinced most of this year that I was turning 28 on this birthday. But now I can say I am in my late twenties, instead of merely in my mid-twenties. Weird.

My generation has often been called “boomerang” children – we leave the nest for college/job/running away/exploration and adventure/whatever we feel like, and then return home at some point in our twenties to live at home once again. Most do it out of economic necessity, or because of a crisis or situation that renders home the best place to be. I always claimed that I was never going to be a boomerang child. That once I was out, I was out to stay. Well, never say never, I suppose, because here as my 27th birthday comes to a close, I find myself firmly ensconced in the basement of my parents’ house.

Growing up I envisioned a very different life. This is not exactly where I thought I would be at this point, yet at the same time I am utterly convinced that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. Back living at home, pursuing a dream that has been on my heart for 10+ years. This life I have been given has been an adventure filled with many twists that I never saw coming, including leaving staff with Cru to pursue going to a country in Southeast Asia I had heard very little of until last summer!

It is kind of fun starting a new chapter on my birthday. New (old) home, new job, new church, etc. It feels fresh, full of hope, burgeoning with anticipation of all the good things the next twelve months will hold. I’m sure there will be hard times, and disappointments, and struggles, just like always. But there is also a new hope (yes, that was a deliberate Star Wars reference, and yes, I know I am a nerd) growing. I am standing on the edge of a cliff, about to jump, with no idea what is waiting for me at the bottom.

Ready? Set? Go!!!!