A life prepared

In what is, arguably, the busiest season of the year, I find myself in the middle of a time-use overhaul. In the last several months, I found myself painfully overstretched in my time, and somehow even in the leftover moments, I was still floundering with it. I have lamented over the hours flying by to God, to my friends, and my husband, a lot…bless his heart. But no matter how I tried, I felt like I was walking through a life wasted.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your entire body can be present and at work in good, and even meaningful!, things, but your heart and mind are so distracted and absent, that you feel like you missed it? I have sat across from inmates in prison and wasted it. I’ve had coffee with a woman aching from a hard situation in her life and wasted it. I’ve gone on a rare date night with my husband, and yet, wasted it. I don’t mean wasted as in, not worth it, I mean wasted because I walked away wishing it had gone different, desperate for another chance to encourage and be there for them. The primary cause of my wasted opportunities was because I wasn’t prepared for it all. I didn’t ready my heart to make the most of my words and their time.

When it comes to regulating something, I am very much like a horse in need of blinders on. I am strong-willed and very much like the dog on the movie Up who is always snapping back to thoughts of squirrels, no matter what important moment is happening. So, I’ve gotten a bit drastic in my time management lately, and asking my husband to hold me accountable to my attempts to form new habits.

It may seem like an overhaul is drastic especially this time of the year, but sometimes drastic is what is needed. At least when you’re as hard headed as me, it is. But why SO rigid on my time and determined in my efforts? Because reading through the story of Jesus’ birth, there are two words my eyes rest upon. I stare at them, willing them to be untrue but seeing myself in them despite my desires: no room.

I am the innkeeper.

I talk a big talk as the season approaches, and I have such desires of where my  heart focus will be, but once Christmas is upon us, I look around and realize that my time and choices said there was no room for Him. No extra room, at least. No room for His birth. No room for the prophesies leading up to that moment. No room in my heart to look through all the Christmas glimmer to see Him standing there on the other side of it, looking at me with calm, patient eyes, willing me to  drop it all and walk away with Him for a moment.

He has gone ahead of us and is busy preparing a place for us, and yet, I don’t do the same so often for those He has placed in my life. I live out a life that believes the lie that there’s no room. No room in my time, no room in my head, no room in my heart, my home, my budget….

And to be honest? I’m pretty sick and tired of the lies. Because when I step outside of it a minute, I see the truth. But inside of it? As hard as I try, and as much as I care, I find myself rushing and rushing to check off lists and squeeze things in. I want to spend time with people, but often I feel like they need me as if I’m what stands between them and collapse. But I am no savior and I have no healing powers.

But, there is something I do have to offer up with open palms: a heart prepared. A heart that has readied for time with others so I can sit across from them over coffee, dinner, or the ever-watching gaze of a guard and listen instead talk. I can look into their eyes and know that the only One who can save them is One who was born and placed in a manger, but grew into a man and changed the entire world. I can remind them of His promises and love for them, and that will be so much more than enough.

I have a great desire to leave the presence of others almost bursting with all the words unsaid, so that I may pour them out to Him instead. I want to ask questions that cause true reflection and help me to know them. I want to walk away empty, because I have filled them up. But what I have found, is that the catalyst for all of that starts way back down the line in time before that moment. It can only happen when I have been so intentional with my time and gifts, that I may not be great and as boastworthy as an inn on a dark night, but I am as welcoming and warm as a stable.

Normally, this is a New Year’s sort of thing, but the people in my life are there now. Max Lucado says that you change your life when you change your heart, and that is so, so badly what I want for Christmas. So Merry Christmas, and may your gatherings this year be full of the light and warmth of a stable, even if they aren’t as done up and fancy as an inn.

Be Still this Christmas…

I got the opportunity to share my heart this month over at My Journey of Faith Magazine…

 

“The Christmas tree is decorated. Gifts are being wrapped and lovingly placed beneath it. It’s Christmas time again. I know this not just because of the beautiful decorations everywhere or the calendar, but also because the mall and commercials made sure to tell me about it months ago. So many things are left to do and experience, but though my schedule and life are saying “hurry, rush,” I can’t miss how often my heart is whispering, “slow, be still.”

 

———–To continue reading, click here….————–

Christmas communion

It seems the closer Christmas draws near, the more distracted I can become from the real point of it all. You too? Schedules seem to squeeze out each opportunity to bask in the grace of an infant child come to save us all. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard for me to even connect with that. How can it be that the tiny babe we see in the nativity scenes would be the one to die a man? He was innocent at death, but in a manger? Swaddled in cloth and laying next to His mother? He is even more so the image of innocence.

...we swallowed hope down, and let it spill back out of our hearts...

the beauty and heaviness of a Christmas Communion

Yesterday, this truth hit me harder than usual while at church. We began a new sermon series called Coming Soon, and yesterday’s sermon was all about the lead up in the Old Testament to Jesus’ birth and death. We sang Christmas songs about the birth of our Lord and ended it with a song about a rugged cross. And then, we took communion. Communion with the image fresh in our minds of a sweet baby boy.

I walked to the table and could barely look the man in the eye as he quietly spoke of body and blood as I took my portion. Then, I sat huddled next to my husband back at our small table toward the back of the dark room. The line to get cup and bread stretched right in front of our table…right against it. And as people stood right in front of me, I wished to sink under the table. I bowed my head with my tiny plastic cup of juice and piece of cracker in my hands. How could I? How could I take this knowing such innocence was poured out for me? I twirled the cracker in my fingers nervously and soaked the table in the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing. It was my sin that put him there. If everyone in the entire world had managed to live victoriously over sin, my sins would still be enough to nail him to a cross….and he would have still given his life for me, because that’s the kind of God we serve.

I finally drank and ate, but the crackers felt stuck in my teeth and throat. As the minutes passed, the silence in the room faded, and I looked up to see the people of my church. They crossed rows to greet and hug. I saw smiles and slaps on the back with laughter. And for one moment, I thought, “how do we jump from such heaviness to laughter so quickly?” Then, I remembered that the Hebrew word for “glory” actually comes from the word meaning “to be heavy.” This heaviness is the only way that laughter happens. His Glory is what brings our joy. We had just listened to a pastor speak on hope, and then we swallowed hope down and let it spill back out of our hearts.

I walked out watching the faces of so many. I saw smiles and tears, laughter and loving hugs in sadness. A room full of broken people who are brokenly desperate for that hope so painfully offered up to us. And as we walked out, we passed a beautiful nativity scene, and I looked again at that baby and thought on a life without His birth. What would even be the point? What would even be the point of laughter and grief and finances…even presents and decorations without Him? What would be the point of Christmas if there were no hope for us all? If this was all we had?

We went home to bake cookies and watch Christmas movies, all the while, the hope of Jesus swam through my mind and heart. What about you? Where does your hope lie this Christmas?