With another year behind us, we are confronted with what our expectations and goals for the New Year should be. I've never really found myself with goals about weight loss or minimizing or self-care. My number one goal has always been to be a less broken person; to be able to connect to my emotions less reactively, to create thought patterns that are wholesome and lovely and freeing, and to be content in all circumstances.
Like most, I was handed a lot of baggage, and then threw on another hefty load from poor decision-making and the destructive pleasures I buried my hurts with. I had a breaking point when I was 21 - alone and pregnant. This breaking point was really a time when I was forced to sit in the mess that my life had become, and to cry out to the savior of my soul to rescue me into His arms and kingdom. I was met, accepted, loved, and healed in so many ways. There was still a lot of undoing to follow, and I feel that I have never really processed the chaos of my life properly, healthily.
As a believer, I sometimes drown in the guilt of having to struggle with things that I know Christ died to set me free from. Did that mean that I wasn't doing something right? Was I not doing enough? Was I doing too much and standing in the way? Was I really a disciple? Because my emotions seemed ignorant of discipline and loyalty. I began to feel like the hypocrites that everyone despises. I don't want to profane the name of God because of my brokenness. I don't want to preach one thing with my lips, and another with my life. I'm not thinking in terms of perfection here either. It's not about slight mishaps and small apologies. I'm speaking of deep character issues that have the force of a hurricane; the unkempt emotions that destroy and tear down and rear up in defiance to my heart's deepest desires.
Romans 7:15 speaks so tragically to my heart when Paul says that he does all of the things he despises, and doesn't practice the ways that he desires to live. It is the sinful nature that draws us back to the darkness, to the gaping holes of our brokenness, and to make us feel shameful in the process. But since I've been redeemed, why am I still a slave to the sinful nature? Can I change? I have been crying out for God to meet me in this place of fearful questioning, and this is what he has shared with me so far.
- I cannot live by moralism. I cannot use behavior modification to permanently alter my heart. My desires have to change, and the only way that can happen is through the person of Christ. We cannot free ourselves in a context of slavery. We cannot live in brokenness and claw our way out.
- Change comes when my communion with God grows. It's all about submission.
- I have to rid myself of plans and resolutions of healing, and let the Master Healer have his rightful place in my life.
A person doesn't have to forfeit therapy and friendships and all of the other emotionally healthy habits of life in order to be fully dependent on God to meet us in our need. But we've got to find him central to all of those things. We need to listen more attentively to His voice, ask for His guidance, and have the obedience to follow through.
My resolve for 2017, is more of a revolution - it's a bold stance for my dependency on God to increase, for my own voice to decrease, and to give myself more pause between stimulus and reaction. Join me in accepting freedom, allowing the healing process to root us firmly, and to offer our health and love to every other person we encounter.
Happy New Year!
The season of Advent is here, and I absolutely love these 24 days! They feel so well intentioned, so peaceful, so full of expectation and committment. Although January 1st initiates the technical new year, I feel that Advent is personally, my own beginning.
I love this time of reflection and anticipation, and I want the momentum to be felt with my children as well. Each year I make a handmade Advent calendar to commemorate these days. I have traditionally focused our activities or readings on togetherness - a better rationed committment of our time as a family, along with the quality of intimacy spent.
This year I felt strongly that we should focus less on our own gain, and more on our attitude about serving. So I have dedicated this year's Advent season to initiating peace, and how to shine our light into this world full of darkness. Our calendar is one of action. Instead of hyper-focusing on how we can be better fulfilled as a family, I am wanting to help usher our family into bringing fulfillment and beauty to the lives of others.
In a divided world, love is a HUGE act of resistance. Please join me this holiday season (and beyond), in resisting the temptation to withhold love, to build walls, and to focus on our differences. We have the ability to love, and to love well, through the person of Jesus Christ, so let's start doing it!
God's gift to restore humanity was the gift of Jesus Himself. He was born in complete self-sacrifice, with every ounce of his will belonging to the redemption of humankind. He did the difficult work, all we have to do is receive him and walk in his peaceful will. He came to restore the world, and he purposed the heart and hands of man to initiate that. He revived our hearts, now WE need to step up in that same dedication to others, and be the tools of change. We have Him! - His light, His love, His support, and the creativity and imagination to make all things possible.
I am hoping that these simple daily practices (with the grace of God), will transform these new habits into lives of peacemaking and servitude.
Here is a glimpse of what I've included for our children in their time of waiting:
- choose a toy to give away
- smile at a stranger
- give your seat to someone else
- do something sacrificial for a sibling
- at lunch, give your special treat away to someone who could use some encouragment
- compliment someone today
- name 3 things that you are thankful for
- bake cookies for a neighbor
- make a hug coupon for someone
- compliment someone that you find difficult to get along with
- make friends with somebody who looks different than yourself
- make a card for someone who needs some cheering
- commit a random act of kindness
- thank a person for something that you would normally take for granted
- be helpful to someone today
- serve one of your parents today
Of course we want to hold fast to certain traditions, and kids respond exceptionally well to special treats, so we do have days where those are in the mix as well. Basically, we are trying to gently nudge our children into thinking less about themselves, and more about others.
Here are some of the Advent activities that I have brainstormed for us adults:
- reinforce family traditions of offering thanks before meals and for any small reason we might feel joy
- reach out to a new friend and invite them over for dinner or dessert
- find one positive quality in a difficult personality that you know, and share it with that person
- lovingly create a care package for someone homeless, and keep it in your car for the proper moment when you can distribute with love and intention
- start a conversation with a stranger who looks different than yourself
- host a bake sale, with proceeds going towards the noDAPL efforts
- restore someplace neglected within your community
- create a gratitude list and add to it daily
- learn about other holiday traditions aside from your own
- pay for someone behind you in line, whether it's coffee or gasoline
- leave notes of encouragement in high-traffic, public areas
- respectfully engage with someone you disagree with
- support a charity
- make cards for those who need some cheering
- collect donations and take to a local shelter ( put love notes in the clothing pockets)
- annonymously complete a good deed for someone you know
- bless a single mother you know with self-care items, a gift card to someplace relaxing, or offer to babysit for a few hours
- fast from negativity
- consider spending less on gifts, redistributing your finances to a family in need
- support a business run by folks who either directly or indirectly support at-risk families
- use your words with a greater intention of bringing healing and encouragement
- find the truth in something negative that was spoken about you, and let it navigate you towards restoration
Peacemaking is a life-long process. I haven't always handled myself well, but it's a new day with abundant grace, and with a little sacrifice and humility, we can all learn the depths of empathy, understanding, and kindness.
Peace be with you!
(Please feel free to comment some of your peacemaking ideas. Our lights are much brighter collectively.)