Sunday, December 16, 2012

What You Find When You Peel Back the Tree

Copyright (c) <a href=''>123RF Stock Photos</a>
The past two Christmases I've written excitably about the season, feeling inspired and touched by the meaning, the reality of it all.

The past two Christmases are the first two that I've truly known Christ.

This Christmas? There are more unexplained tears and more family-tension. More little problems and more big crises. There is more nagging and more needing-to-go-for-a-walk to get away from it all.

My blog has been quiet, waiting patiently for my return and I begin to think: who is the author - is it me? What is this blog? Who reads it?

The normal writer-doubts fill my head and tell me that I'm not good enough, that I don't write well enough. I hear the lie that I should just return to angst-ridden poetry instead of faith-filled personal writing because that, at least, got me ....

say it. Say it.

Attention. Accolades.

Shiny ornaments on my tree of success.

Oh, but I think about what I've learned in the past 2 years about God's upside-down Kingdom and I re-read what I just wrote.

The angst-ridden poetry may have gotten published widely and a few awards here and there...but the truly fulfilling writing did not come until I started this blog, until I started writing for my church newsletter, writing more intimately in my prayer journal and my regular journal, when I began my gratitude journal.

When I began the dialogue with God I became the writer I wanted to be.

Maybe not the writer that would get me accolades and awards. But the writer I know I was meant to be.

The angsty poetry had its place back then. But I am a new creation and I cannot nor should I discount the transformation within done by God.

So who is the author of this blog?

My dear friend, Michele, says on her blog that "Life's Author is God."

And I want that desperately. I want to surrender so much - all of myself - to God so that He is truly the Author of my everything.

I want God to be the author of this blog and I the mere vehicle.

I look at the metaphorical tree I have set up in front of me. I notice the ornaments are those of ingratitude, complaint, grief, sadness, depression.

I fight all those things on a daily basis, but this season has been especially hard. I read so much inspiration on my favorite blogs and I then play the comparison game. Why can't I do that? Write that? Feel that? Be that?

I don't want to feel this much grief for my mother, six years gone. Why am I feeling it so much more now?

I don't want to get this crabby on a daily morning basis.

I come home after my 40 minute drive and I am ready to go, having put the Armor of God from Ephesians 6 on, prayed in the car, told God I was ready to face the evening. And then to walk through the door to some crisis. It feels like it's every day. It just might be every day.

And in all of it - (I took a weekend break a few weeks back and learned this -) I know to give thanks.

Practice Eucharisteo. Practice giving thanks during the hard times.

So maybe this Christmas, for me, won't have the jolliness past ones have had. It isn't seeped in my mother's apple cider. It doesn't sing with Barbra Streisand's unique rendition of "Jingle Bells." We haven't done a family picture this year and I haven't sent out Christmas cards (how strange) because we've just been trying to survive.

Maybe this Christmas is more about what I learned that weekend I went away to be with God. Maybe it is about giving the hard thanks.

Maybe this Christmas I will peel the leafy evergreen branches back and reveal the bare tree underneath. It isn't about presents for me this year. It's about His Presence.

Not the decorated evergreen tree

but the bare tree that became a cross where Jesus gave His life for me

picture from

and through tears (maybe explained, maybe unexplained) and heart-pains I give the hard thanks. I turn my head up and, amidst the frightening teenage choices and the whiny kindergartener and the starting-to-get-moody-tween and the marriage bumps and doctors' shrugs, I give thanks.

I give thanks to You, Lord. I give thanks because You deserve it and so much more. I give thanks because I am thankful that I know how to give thanks. For that is truly what saves me every time, in my deepest and loneliest and scariest times: counting Your gifts. I lived so much of my life feeling lost, Lord. This Christmas, I thank you for leading me, stone by stone, footprint by footprint, year by year, to You. I am choked up when I think about how You have saved me. How You sent Jesus down as a baby born in a dirty, filthy feed trough instead of a regal chamber.  I am amazed at how You, this baby grown into God-Man, have pursued me - me! - all of my life, and still do! How you ask me to sit at Your feet. This girl who looked in the mirror and hated herself. Who saw dirt and filth. You ask me to see what You see, Lord. You are the Savior I always knew I wanted but never could understand until now. And not only do I want you, but I need You, Lord. Jesus, I need You.

It feels odd to be writing so nakedly about myself now - here - at Christmastime when I feel I ought to be writing about Jesus and His birth and the Gospels. I wrote my first year of blogging here about Joseph being a great example of a stepparent and I shared different music videos contemplating the amazing situation Mary found herself in. And an interesting blog entry from December, 2011, about the yoke Jesus asks us to take on and about Christmas expectations.

Is this December, almost-Christmas, blog entry appropriate reading for this season?

I can't answer that right now. Somehow, though, I know God works through my heart and into my fingertips. Somehow, He can write me out of this confusion.

From a bare cross, God folds out my branches until, in Him, I am a beautiful tree, ever-green with glory as I shine with all He will do through me.

I hope to write again before Christmas. I can't promise, but I will try. Until then, may you keep your eyes on Jesus this season.

And does any peeling need to happen in your life? Certainly an interesting notion...

Now, if you'd like, sit back and listen to a beautiful song I just discovered:
"Becoming" by Christine Dente

Blessings be yours...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Realization of the Noisy Fridge

Seeped into a necessary God-sabbatical this weekend, I sit here in the quiet of a noisy refrigerator. That has been the only thing that has disturbed the past 24 hours' quiet and contemplation. I have never known 24 hours to go by with quiet, peace, reflection only disturbed by a buzzing refrigerator.

And because I rather like the lack of static right now, I am doing what I've wanted to do for years:

take a break. 

I took a break in the real world this weekend and now I'm taking a break from the online world this next week. I will not blog, facebook or twitter from tomorrow (Sunday) until the following Sunday. Due to work and other necessary obligations, I will be checking email.

I do this out of obedience to God's call to be present for my family and my own desire to have more presence for my family. 

Often, having more presence in the real world means having less presence on-line.

That is something I've been railing against, not wanting to accept in my heart, for a long time. 

But too much has happened in the past 24 hours to have me continue railing against that truth, against God's calling me to rest and find joy in the home. 

So while the writer/sharer-part of me yearns to blog pages and pages about everything God has placed on my heart this weekend and all the incredible blessings and nervous nail-biting that have resulted in deciding to take and live Ann's dare...

I'm going to leave it at that and say:

Blessings upon your next week. May you listen to the whispering in your own spirit and heed it. May you hold your loved ones close. May new wounds heal and old ones fade. 

I would love to leave you with this blog entry from my dear blogger-friend, Michele-Lyn over at A Life It talks about margins and the need for space, the need to breathe. 

Until next Sunday, the 9th...

Sighing a long, deep Amen...

* Picture most definitely and proudly taken from Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience and in prayerful hope that it is suitable to share with you, for it does relate so very much.