believe

2018…here we go!

well 2018 is here and it’s going…it came quick and hit the ground running.

I can’t believe it’s already 22 days into the new year, time stops for no one. But in the start of the new year I’ve finally found the time to reflect, pray, and dream for 2018…a few days late, but hey life happens.

I have a friend who introduced me to this practice of adopting a word for your year. A word to hold onto for the whole year and see what God does. As I began to pray for 2018 and the world that God has for me I couldn’t help but look back at 2017.

2017 was a hard year. One to bury in a box, to never look back on again. It threw me off course more times than I would like to count, but somehow, I am here in 2018 knowing what it means to dwell in a place of self-grace. What is self-grace? It is my word of the year and means to simply allow yourself to be who you are…all of the crazy, the pain, the dreams, the confusion, the joy, the restlessness, the doubt…it’s accepting what you are feeling, recognizing what brought you to this point and truly believing what you are going through to be valid. It’s knowing we are exactly where we are supposed to be no matter the circumstance because our mighty Author won’t lead us astray.

Moving forward into 2018 though…it’s on my heart to encourage you (and myself) to keep accepting yourself and smothering yourself in self-grace. (this is what I’m learning) What does that look like? Well it’s different for each of us…

Maybe it’s quitting a job or asking for a raise.

Maybe it’s packing your bags or deciding to finally sit still.

It could be learning a new skill or giving one up that doesn’t make your soul feel alive.

It might be deciding to stay with that person despite everything or knowing the healthiest thing is going your separate ways.

Perhaps it’s deciding to start your family or changing directions on how you go about doing that.

It could be changing majors in university or taking the risk to walk away from what you thought your future was always supposed to look like.

Moving back home or to a new city where you know no one.

Maybe you finally make that appointment with the counselor whose number you have been holding onto forever.

Maybe you finally call that person who hurt your heart so badly once, but you are ready to tell them you forgive them.

Your sight might be set to touch the highest of mountain tops or to take that literal jump out of the plane to feel your body soar through the sky.

Maybe it’s allowing 2018 to be the year of saying no or possibly finally saying yes…

Whatever it is for you, LET IT BE. You do you. Allow yourself to be inspired, but don’t conform. Take that leap or actually… let yourself sit still. (sounds harder than you think) When you feel lost, know you are far from alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and a unrelentless God who will be with you no matter which direction you choose to go.

Cheers to a 2018, a whole new year ahead of us…we still have 343 days this year to make them look like however you dream of them looking like and when they start to look different, embracing them and yourself anyway.

-S

Dance This Christmas . . .

This Christmas, give yourself permission to not be merry or bright. Excuse yourself from the manufactured pressures of Christmas cheer.

 

The holiday season comes sharp and brittle for some. Maybe even for you, if I’m being honest this season has been a whirlwind for myself. Be gentle with others. Be gentle with yourself.

 

Finish with your frenetic shopping and buying and list-making, and be done. Let what you are giving be enough, even as every billboard and commercial and email promotion makes you feel as though it’s not. After all, the gifts themselves were never really the point. The point is the reaching across the room or across the country or across the neighborhood toward someone else. The point is, To you, from me: I see you. I love you. You are my people.

 

Call your grandpa. Call your grandma who sometimes can’t remember who you are. Ask the  Walmart greeter how she is doing today. Look into her eyes. Learn her name, and remember it.

 

Put a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, not because you feel guilty walking by it or because it’s “the right thing to do,” but because this is where we find God: in the eyes of the large man ringing the bell, his face wrapped entirely in a scarf so all you can see is his bulbous nose. His shifting, holy eyes.

 

At the Christmas Eve candlelight service, notice the shadows cast by the flames even as you sing “Silent Night.” This is the purpose of those candles, with their paper collars and dripping wax: not to make you feel cozy and Christmas-y and merry, but to reveal something about the nature of Immanuel, God with us: a flickering flame that contains both shadow and light.

 

Sing the songs even if you’re not sure if you believe them, if you ever believed them, if you ever could. Don’t worry that it’s inauthentic, that it’s some kind of lie to join in the song, to let the impossible words fill up your mouth. In the Thomas Kinkade version of this thing, the whole world is pristine and cobble-stoned and lit gently with streetlamps, and everyone singing believes perfectly. But this is not the truth of Christmas.

 

Beside you, around you, the chairs are filled with shattered people, with those whose hearts are filled with doubt and darkness. People who are singing anyway. Join them. You belong to this broken chorus.

 

Don’t be surprised when Christmas Day comes with interruptions and inconveniences. The serving dish full of mashed potatoes will fall on the floor and shatter. The new toy won’t work like it’s meant to. You will have forgotten to buy batteries. Someone you expected won’t show; someone you didn’t expect will…and the whole thing will feel different than you wanted, than you expected.

 

Don’t be surprised to find yourself thrown off-balance. Don’t shame yourself for that moment of sharp disappointment that pierces the manufactured bubble of “Christmas magic.” Notice what it feels like when the plans spin out of your control. Look around from the shifted earth on which you are standing. There is a good chance it is holy ground.

 

If there are children at your gathering, pay attention to their wonder, to that Christmas-morning look on their faces. But notice, too, their ingrown selfishness as they rip into their gifts and have to be reminded to say thank you. Remember that when Jesus said to receive the kingdom of God like a child, he knew about both of these things—the awestruck wonder, the acute self-centeredness—and still he said, “Let the children come to me.”

 

So come.

 

Bring your own complicated, disappointed, self-centered, wonder-filled, jaded heart to the manger—the one you have read about year after year after year, but never really paid attention to. Sometimes worship looks unremarkable. Sometimes it’s only just showing up at the same place again…because where else would you go but the stable? Where else but to the manger-bed of the unlikely, impossible King?

 

When all of it is done—when the presents are unwrapped and the living room floor is covered with paper, when the leftover gravy is congealing on the counter, when you are so tired you want to curl into a ball in the corner—then, just then turn on the music as loud as it goes. And dance.

 

Dance badly. Dance wild and silly. Dance in your living room or your kitchen, or haul yourself to the nearest Christmas celebration and kick up your heels. Spin your children in circles, throw your arms around your sister, push the coffee table out of the way and breakdance on the carpet.

 

Dance not because you’re merry, not because it’s bright, but because if Christmas is anything, it is the most audacious kind of hope. It is that teenage virgin-mother singing a revolutionary song: The lowly are raised up! The hungry are filled with good things! The world is being made new! Love has come!

 

Dance for Aleppo and for the refugees; dance for the depressed and the downtrodden; dance for your own broken heart during Christmas.

 

Let the song fill you up—every valley shall be exalted! Dance until, for one breathless moment, you believe it all.