When folks got to this word I had questions like, “Don’t you mean “know” instead of “no?” I’d explain that this is representative of “no room in the inn” for Mary and Joseph. So far, we’ve had awesome pics posted for this! Tons of “out of the box” thinking out there!
This word reminds me that the holidays are not always joyous and festive for people. Sometimes, the holidays are filled with “no.” No happiness. No peace. No joy. I know all too well how close I was to being in this world of “no” – had my marriage continued toward divorce, this would have been the first Christmas Eve without my children (and without my husband). This is why groups such as GriefShare and DivorceCare offer special sessions around the holidays to help people through their grief. Holidays are just that much harder when you are living in the world of “no.”
Pray this year for those who may not have a joyous Christmas. Maybe you are one of those who are living in this world right now. My friend, the good news of Jesus’ birth is bright enough and strong enough to blast through that dark world and bring the hope back into your life. That is my prayer this year – a prayer for the world of “no” to become a world of “yes.”
There were some very cool posts with this word. Some folks posted sun glasses, some were silly posts with big, costume glasses. One was a pic of a little girl who had recent eye surgery and was able to see well for the first time. Wonderfully creative pics from our church family!
Several years ago I suffered from something called recurrent corneal erosion. It is basically when your eye tissue is so unhealthy that the corners of your corneas peel upwards every time you blink – especially when your eyes are dry or when you are in REM sleep at night. It was extremely painful and felt as though I had severe corneal abrasions on my eyes 24/7. At its worst, I had thick, ointment in my eyes all day just so I could blink without pain and people had to drive me places and type for me because I couldn’t see.
Thankfully, after surgery, I’m all good now (and the surgery corrected my vision at the same time!). Since that time I have made it a priority to never take my senses for granted. Sight is a very important thing and I couldn’t imagine not being able to see my family or God’s beautiful creation all around me. The angels told the shepherds to go and see the new baby king. Those eyes saw the most precious gift right there in a manger. What a sight to see!
What do you see this Advent?
My son once asked me what was the difference between “joy” and “happiness.” My answer was in “kid speak,” but I was able to tell him that being happy was quick and on the surface, like when you are happy to see someone or happy that you did well on a video game. Joy, on the other hand, is much deeper. Joy is something that covers you and makes you smile from ear to ear for days. Joy makes you feel satisfied and at peace.
I’m not sure if he got it or not – it really is hard to explain. But, I get it . . . and I recently felt it. Actually, I decided to combine days 2 & 3 of the photo challenge because it was love that brought joy into my heart Thanksgiving week. So, bear with me as I share a mushy moment.
We ventured down to the beach for Thanksgiving – my family, my parents, and my sisters family. My husband and I stayed in a one-bedroom condo while the rest were in a larger condo down the strip. As my husband and I were preparing to go to the other place for Thanksgiving day, I was overwhelmed with love and joy. As you know, this has been a turbulent year for me and, as I reflected on how things could have been this holiday season, I was brought to tears. I shared this with my husband, boo-hooing all over him telling him how thankful I was for him, for our marriage, and for the love we have. He, of course, was wonderful and held me as I cried and assured me that he felt the same.
Love and joy do go hand in had much of the time. I won’t post the “love” pic of me and my husband. Instead I’m sharing the pic I used for “joy,” which was a photo I took at a local botanical garden. May the love in your life bring you amazing joy this Advent season!
We are doing a very cool thing for the 25 days of December (Advent) – we are doing an Advent Photo-A-Day Challenge! Folks are invited to take a photo each day for 25 days that is inspired by a specific word for that day. Today’s word is “Peace” and the photo I posted is to the left of my article. I debated on this because I also had a photo of my daughter kissing my son on the cheek (and him allowing it), which could have easily been a “peaceful” type of photo. But this particular photo had a purpose and a neat story.
I run at least once a week, but I strive for three runs. My neighborhood is quite beautiful, but very hilly (i.e., very challenging!). I took the difficult road recently – the road that is super hilly and steep. On this route I realized that I’d get to cross the bridge that covers the stream that our neighborhood was named after. I simply had to stop and take a photo. I stood there and listened – the sound of the water flowing over the rocks and the birds that were chirping was simply heavenly. It was a peaceful moment as my heavy breathing subsided and I was able to stop and just “be.” And, then, I began panting again as I finished my run. The peaceful rest actually helped me climb the big hill! I read somewhere that peace isn’t the absence of struggle, it’s the calm you find within it. <deep sigh> yea, I like that.
This was a slice of heavenly “peace” in my chaotic world. I reflect on that as the business of the holiday season is upon us – how do you find “peace” during this busy time?
If you would like to participate in this photo challenge, click HERE to see the info on Twitter or click HERE to catch us on Facebook. This is a great way to reflect during Advent – like a photo prayer journal! Enjoy!
Pastor Jan is still working through the New Testament letter of James as our church learns about Christian leadership. She sent the staff a list of five key Christian leadership principles from the letter of James and the first one jumped right out at me:
As we endure, we mature. When times are tough, don’t look for a way out, look for a way through. James 1:1-4
I have experienced this first-hand recently with my separation and now with our reconciliation. Grief is a tough thing – when you are in it and everyone around you is telling you that you WILL get through it and there is joy on the other side, you find it hard to believe any of it. I remember hearing that from countless people as I moved around numb from a broken heart, all the while wishing that I could just warp speed past the pain and go straight to the joy. I really and truly did NOT want to have to deal with the pain every day. It was horrible and I couldn’t imagine that there would be anything good to come out of it. If time machines existed, I would have spent my last dime to fast forward to that magical “joy” everyone kept telling me about. But, reality was what it was – I had to get through it, not around it.
Today, I am able to reflect a bit differently on those dark days. Being beyond much of that and now working through the mixture of emotions that comes with reconciliation, I can pull from the wisdom that came from the struggle. For instance, I can look at my marriage/husband now and listen without judgement, talk without overreacting, and trust without assumptions <trust is still a struggle, but getting better>. I also learned that no one is responsible for my happiness – only I am responsible for my happiness. So many important life lessons and nuggets of wisdom came from that horrible time in my life. I’m so glad I didn’t find a way around it.
Having a marriage shatter will humble the strongest of souls. Then having to piece it back together will build a strength you didn’t know you had. Maturity and wisdom comes through these experiences, not in spite of them. The more we trudge through the muck of life, the more we grow and mature. God is with us through it and will work within us as we grow from it – but we have to go through, not around.
What are some nuggets of wisdom you’ve learned from a tough situation? Have you tried to get around the grief/heartache/pain? What was the outcome?
Over the past few years I’ve participated in the “Spirited Life” program that is part of the Duke University Clergy Health Initiative. This is a wonderful program that is much needed for us clergy who tend to take care of others more than we do ourselves. As the program began I recall feeling stunned at the statistics surrounding clergy when it came to poor health and depression. I suppose those of us whose profession it is to care for others have a hard time caring for ourselves. Sadly
Last week I attended the last workshop of my participation in this study. It was bittersweet, in a way, because I’ve gotten a lot from these workshops and it pains me to not have that touchstone any longer. This particular session was developed around the idea of “where we go from here” so that those of us present could continue the good habits we’ve picked up even without the program. It was a good session and they spent a great deal of time sharing with us the importance of having a healthy “prayer life” – more specifically, having a life of prayer. It was really good stuff.
One thing I loved about what the instructor shared was when he blurted out, “Jesus was very self-centered.” Now, of course, most of us in the room were taken aback as we heard those words – I mean, Jesus . . . self-centered?! He went on to explain that Jesus was SELF centered – meaning that Jesus knew how to care for his SELF so that he could better care for others. The instructor mentioned the many times Jesus would go away alone to pray or to be alone with God. Jesus recognized the need he had to heal himself and would quickly go care for himself whenever he needed to – and he did this without guilt or feeling of stress in taking time away from his mission and ministry. Jesus was very self aware (and was a highly functioning introvert, I think). He was, I guess, “self centered.”
I really think that what we struggle with as clergy is the guilt of caring for ourselves over others’ needs. As care-givers by nature, it’s hard for some of us to put our needs first when we see so many other needs right in front of us every single day. Some of the needs we see seem so much more important than our own – we prioritize our time and attention based on the depth of the need. ”So and so” is sick, so I will go visit with them even though I feel sick myself. They need my attention more than I need to tend to myself. Well, at least I do that a lot. I really should’t put all clergy into a category that way – sorry!
Anyway, I think that is a huge thing that I’ve taken from this Spirited Life journey. It is like I now have permission to take care of myself when I need to – even if there are other needs around me. To use Jesus as an example is huge because he is our ultimate role model for caring for self and others. Self centered? Yea, I suppose I need to be!
How do you care for self? Can you find a way to put your self first?
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I revel in the many ways God speaks to me on a daily basis. In a previous post I mentioned the new sermon series that our pastor began last week on the letter of James. Also this past week began a Bible study series I’m leading called “Your Move” by Andy Stanley. Both of these messages offered similar valuable points that led me into great conversation over the week.
Andy Stanley begins his “Your Move” series with the first important question you need to ask whenever making a decision (mainly, the BIG decisions) – “Why am I doing this, REALLY?” I won’t expand too much on this so that Andy’s thunder is not stolen, but it was a great lesson on using your MIND more than your HEART when making big decisions. Your heart leads with emotion – your brain leads with knowledge and understanding. Too many times your heart leads you astray because you are reacting instead of simply acting.
Then Pastor Jan’s sermon was amazing and talked about the importance of acting with WISDOM when leading others. More specifically, allowing God’s wisdom to flow through you when leading. Wisdom is not just being smart, knowledgeable or understanding of a situation. Wisdom also includes your emotions as you may feel compassion for someone in the situation or have a valid fear and anxiety when considering alternatives. So, wisdom very easily could be the perfect balance between what your mind is telling you and your heart is telling you.
After both of these lessons concluded, I discussed this with a few close people and we had great discussions on the times when our hearts led us astray, when our minds rationalized us into a bad decision, and then the good stories of when we were simply wise and followed God’s guidance. The pic on my blog post was one I saw in Pinterest that says, “Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.” That is brilliant advice, isn’t it?
Are you facing a tough decision with your heart tugging one way and your brain another? And is God’s wisdom in the mix at all?