December 24, 2009

Celebrating the old and looking forward to the new

This morning I sat down at my computer, peppermint mocha in hand, to write about the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. I love the start of new things. The first day of a new school semester with perfectly sharpened pencils and fresh notebooks waiting to be filled. It is always an exciting thing to have a fresh start and January 1 is the golden day of new beginnings. I've always viewed it as the best of all do-overs. Everything I didn't do last year but meant to do I can try for again this time. All the things I didn't do so well, I can do those better. Freshness, newness, possibility of greatness, it's a wonderful feeling.

But, this year, I have a different feeling. 2009 was a spectacular year for me. I loved it. I've grown attached to my pencils and I like the doodles in my notebooks. I don't want a do-over this year. I want to keep going. So, instead of scrapping what has come before and claiming a brand new start, I'm just gonna keep on trekking. Life is a marathon after all, not a sprint.

This year I hope the close of December and the fresh start of January is a celebration not just of new resolutions, but of all that has come before. I look back over these past twelve months and I see that God has done miracles in the mundane everydayness of my life.  He has healed parts of my heart, killed pieces of my selfishness, blessed me beyond measure with a new job, a wonderful church and the frequent laughter of friends. He continues to teach me to be patient, to trust him when I am doubtful and to rest in his provision. I don't know what this new year will hold. I'm not certain that it will be happier or nicer than the last, but I do know that God will be in it with me. Emmanuel has come. His Holy Spirit dwells within me and will continue the good work he has begun in me and in the world until the day he returns again to make all things new. I have great hopes for this year and I wait in joyful anticipation of what the Lord has in store. Whether I spend this year in the house of prosperity or in the house of mourning my God will be with me and if I endeavor seek him, trust him and obey him I can be confident that his name will be glorified and my soul will know peace and rest in him.

Ecclesiastes 7: 8-14 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better that the proud in spirit. Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fool. Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Lamentations 3:21-27 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

December 11, 2009

Weird. Wonderful.

Yesterday afternoon my best friend gave birth to her second son. Two boys. The girl I used to TP houses with in the middle of the night is now a mother of two. It's weird. It's wonderful. Seeing her surrounded by her family was remarkable. It sparked of the things that make my faith in God burn brighter.

In this season of advent I've been spending time letting my mind dwell in the idea of the incarnation. What a radical idea. God. The one true God. He came down from heaven and was born of the virgin, Mary. He was born as a small fragile baby. He was all at once the most vulnerable of humans and the all powerful God of the universe. As I stood in a small hospital room last night holding a fresh baby boy, barely six hours old, I was struck by the awe and wonder of it all. We were standing around gazing at a baby boy, full of joy and hope for the future. Just a few thousand years ago Mary and Joseph where in that moment. Their new son. Incredible joy from holding their healthy baby in their arms. I wonder how much they understood that He was the hope of the world.

He is my hope and my joy. He is my saviour who was born a baby and walked the earth. He lived the perfect life I could never live and conquered death so that I might live forever with Him in His Father's house.

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,
only joy of every heart,
come and save your people.

December 4, 2009

'Tis the season

I love Christmas. I love the smell of freshly cut pine trees and hot cocoa. I love wearing warm mittens and walking in the snow. Most of all, I love the traditions. Last year, I started a new tradition with two very dear friends that has quickly become the best part of the Christmas season for me. We gather every day through the season of Advent to reflect, pray and anticipate the arrival of Christ.

Advent begins on December 1 every year. This year we've been gathering for only three short days so far. Nonetheless soaking in the idea of advent, focusing on the wonder of the birth of Christ many years ago and the joyous anticipation that someday He will come again to make all things new, has been a priceless experience. Each day this first week of Advent we light the candle of hope and pray -

O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
desire of every nation,
Savior of all peoples,
come and dwell among us.


November 11, 2009

Building in Vain

Psalm 127: 1-2

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

For most of my teenage and adult years I have spent an innumerable number of hours thinking, praying and journaling in an effort to figure out the unknown elements of my life. I have always thought that if I could just make my thoughts fit together just right or compose the perfect journal entry then I would be able to tunnel my way around an unknown future and onto solid ground. The things I wonder about are endless. Will I run out of grocery money before Thanksgiving? Why do these jeans make me feel rather large? Am I destined to be single forever? Will I ever be loved and known fully, just as I am?

Recently I was challenged by a good friend to stop worrying and start living in the moment. It was a scary proposition for me. Not worry? Not plan? Embrace the unknown and just jump off the edge of the cliff? What exactly was she asking of me? I am a planner by nature. I want things in predictable and color coded rows. I want to know what's coming next so I can be prepared. Was she asking me to stop planning? To stop being responsible?

That's what I thought at first. I thought that living in the moment meant being spontaneous in that let's forget work and head to the winery kind of way. And, while I do love a nice sunny Saturday afternoon sipping Bordeaux in the hills, I'd much rather map out the day well in advance to make sure we have just enough cheese and know who is going to drive home.

Living in the moment is actually entirely different that I thought. It's fun. It's free. It's not really that scary (unless I let myself really think about it...and really, isn't that the whole point? Not too think so much). I used to do most of my thinking/planning/attempted fixing while I was driving in the car. I mean, there's not much else to do there so why not day dream? The problem was my day dreaming turned to fretting and from fretting to non-reality based planning (turns out you can't think up a plan to meet your spouse in the grocery store and will it into reality) and all that useless planning turned to panic. Now, instead of panicking I just don't let my mind go there. I stop myself when I start thinking too much or planning out scenarios that just don't need planning. I turn the music up and sing along to a fabulous mixed CD of 80's music. I read. I listen to my friends' stories. I notice that the leaves have turned orange and the air is full of that yummy autumn smell.

This is how I will spend my time now. Planning when it's reasonable to do so. Thinking about the questions that I can find answers to. It turns out I want the Lord to build my house and I'm exhausted of trying to build it on my own - especially when I'm not entirely sure what I'm building anyway. So, I'll stop building in vain and making a mess of things and focus on living life and enjoying God. Thankfully, the Lord is faithful. He builds my house. He watches over my city. He gives me rest.