Faith

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.

Reminiscing a Wandering Heart: Finding God Amidst a Heart of Turmoil

I sat in Church this past Sunday listening to the Word and singing worship as I usually do, but then I was hit with a ton of bricks when we started to sing one particular song, You Are With Me Still. I don’t know what happened, but I was filled with an overwhelming sense the Holy Spirit and just as Jesus did, I wept. As I stood there singing praises to God, singing the words to this song I couldn’t help but cry. Tears filled my eyes as I sang every word because as I sang every word, they rang true to me, my life, and my heart. God was with me still…

These past few months have been incredibly….overwhelming; emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally I was all over the map. I felt as though I was in this fog, haze, and unsure of whether God was even with me. But as I sang the words of this song I was assured that He indeed was still with me.

He is with me still…

…as I still grieve the loss of my Gramma and still continue to comprehend the fact that she’s no longer here on earth.

…as I question whether I ‘m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Am I making the right decisions?

…as I reminisce about my time in South Africa and my heart breaks for the people I met there, missing them so much.

…as my mom has good days and bad days, struggling to overcome the grief of losing her mom.

…as my family goes through rough times. We’re not perfect, we’re human, we don’t always get along.

…as I try to plan for the future and figure out where God is calling me next in life. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? God I just want you to tell me what to do.

…as I try to find the balance between school, work, and a social life. It’s hard, I can’t do everything, but I want to it all.

…as I try to handle my finances, trying to get by as a barista paying my way through college. I know God will provide, but that trust is not easy.

…as I find the strength to continue to follow God’s call to share the Gospel. Stepping out of my comfort zone, doing things I never would have imagined.

…as I find the courage to say YES, Lord! Each and every day. Some days I would love to just do nothing, but God is calling me to something much greater than myself.

These are some of the thought’s that raced through my mind as I sang this song. It seems like a lot, but in that moment I was in complete peace singing every word because I knew it to be true that God was still with me. Even through all of these thoughts of darkness, doubts, questions, fear, hopelessness, pain, grief, and so much more He is with me.

It seems like we often forget that we’re not in this alone. When the world seems to fail us, we think we’re on our own, but in fact we are never in this alone, God is always with us…fighting our battles with us…grieving our losses with us…questioning our purpose with us…He is with us still.

Our darkest days are no match to what God can handle. He is there with us through it all. His love will endure. His promise is sure. His mercy remains. He will give you strength, Just look…You’ve made it this far.

I hope you find encouragement and hope in this. No matter what you’re going through, He is with you still. Take a moment, take a listen, and see what God has to say…

-S

Listen to the Song Here

Catch the Story of the Song Here