Entries in grace (3)


wonder lost is wonder gained

I lost the wonder. The excitement and the joy — it’s been replaced by an imposter, trader and artifice. Slowly seeping in, year after year, it worsened like a disease killing off the shiny glimmer of Christmas ornaments. My hope in Christmas dinner — a ham, potatoes and gravy — diminished as the china platters seemed less important. It was these, I thought, that made Christmas.

These shiny objects and dining room. These glittery presents tied with a bow. Most of all, these loving people who surround me. This so-called family of mine that I’ve been gifted. This is Christmas, a sense of home, a sense of space, a sense of importance and significance.

But like I said, someone’s done me in. The Grinch stole cheer from the one who wins “awards” for things like being a “half-glass full” type person. This is me we’re talking about.

My hope is gone. My anxiety is high. Christmas spirit is at an all-time low. With less than a week away, I find myself in a pit of despair, scared to think of what may come next week. You see, my hope in the glimmer of Christmas ornaments, presents, cheer and family have escaped into the world of reality. That beast — one-eyed, two-faced, monstrous beast — has risen breathing fire. My Christmas went up in flames. Harsh, but true in many ways.

Christmas is no longer perfect. It probably won’t be again.

So it’s hard. It’s stressful. It’s sad.

To think of Christmas day and not have joy immediately come to mind, but to be overwhelmed by anxiety. To think of staying at home and not have it sound peaceful. To not be excited about cooking Christmas dinner when cooking is one of my favorites. Clearly, something is wrong.

And there is. This world is not perfect. This world is sinful and hurtful and downright depressing sometimes. Especially when our own worlds and things of light, like Christmas, are lit up in disastrous fire rather than lovely little lights on a Christmas tree.

This week, my Christmas tree has looked rather Charlie Brownish. As have I. The pity party in my head was leading me to ignore the coming of Christmas day rather than realize how deathly scared I am of Christmas this year. How deathly scared I am of the death of Christmas.

For an optimistic person, pessimism or realistic anger and sadness does not sit well. But I decided to sit for a bit. It seems like I needed to pull up a chair and have a conversation with my Charlie Brown Christmas tree and see what was going on. So, I did.

And I realized it’s not about the family gatherings, nor the ornaments or Christmas sparkle. It’s not about finding hope in a Norman Rockwell family Christmas (although I’m very happy some have that experience) or the Christmases of our childhood. It’s about losing that Christmas wonder we had as a child for a new wonder.

Reality in adulthood is hard. We so badly want to hold onto our childhood nostalgia and wonder. And it’s healthy and good to do that. But sometimes, we can’t anymore. Sometimes, we have to let go. And this year, it’s time to let go.

But it’s bringing me to a new place of excitement.

You see, wonder lost is wonder gained. Wonder gained in Christ. Christmas will no longer rely on the perfect Christmas dinner or family cheer. It won’t rely on everyone getting along or everyone even being there. Because this world isn’t perfect, and realistically, this is the case for a lot of families.

This year, the pure joy of Christmas will come from Christ’s birth — the whole reason we have this whole “Christmas” wonder in the first place. We are going back to the root of joy, the true wonder, the true hope and true joy in Christ. We are going back to the first Christmas day.

And what a miracle it was. I look forward to the next few days resting in Christ, truly experiencing and exploring advent — a season of light!

And I look forward to waking up on Christmas morning, knowing and feeling that there is more than this world, more than what Christmases past have held for me — that I may wake up and know I am loved and have hope in a God that is greater than hope itself. That I live in the grace of a God that would offer his son so I may live. And that no matter what happens this Christmas, I am loved and Jesus is born.

How does this sit with you as you look to Christmas next week?

*Photo taken Christmas 2011.


full // state of thankfulness: day two

If thankfulness truly seeps into my bones, muscle and tissue, it will guide my heart and body to the core of my being, home to truth, love and grace. A home known as God, center and rock. Full. 

I can’t help, but reflect on the middle three letters in “thank-ful-ness.” To wonder if when we say thank you, are in a state of thankfulness, that we may feel full.

Isn’t that what we so often seek? To be filled. With good, or bad. We immerse ourselves in what makes us feel whole — the internet, eating, volunteering, sex, marriage, academics …

The holes within our souls grow deeper and wider and our passage through life slowly brings them to light despite our efforts to fill and hide.

And when that light reveals our wounds, insecurities and faults, it’s like an overhead spotlight on our deepest, darkest places — the ones you wish never existed and hoped to God would never see the light of day. But there they are. Gaping, staring, revealing. Too big to fill. We grab our shovels and desperately move dirt into those places that seem six feet under. Or fatigued, we curl up on the floor.

Sometimes, we continue in these patterns for quite some time. Years even. However, eventually I believe God swoops in, swiftly or slowly, and brings us to grace. Leading, guiding or carrying … and we begin to see those holes lessen and learn to live newly.

He brings us to fullness. We begin to open to fullness.

I don’t believe saying one or two thank yous will fill ourselves to the point of healing. Or rid the act of wanting to hide our deep, dark places. However, I do believe that one or two thank yous with a little reflection can be the start of recognizing a new way of being. A way to open and be thankful, grateful, and possibly a little bit more full.

I’m convinced that many split second thank yous and greater moments of reflection will bring us to a fuller sense of our state of thankfulness and begin to open us to a greater sense of fullness in Christ.

We will begin to be truly thankful.

Could reflecting on thankfulness open you to more fullness in Christ?

*Photo taken at Hilltop Retreat Center in Fall 2011.


when you can't let go

“I don’t know what to do. I’ve been holding on to this all afternoon and I just can’t seem to let it go.”

Her voice heavily laced with emotion, my ears caught that one sentence and I understood.

My heart nodded. As if to say, “I get that.”

My chest rose and fell. I really get that. The pain in which you‘ve attempted to give something over to God, to want to forget desperately, but like fly paper, it keeps sticking to your shoe, traveling with you everywhere and nearly impossible to unstick.

The point at which you want to scream and shove it away and finally yell, “That’s not mine!” But sadly, it has become yours.

Situations. Emotions. Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment.

Broken pieces of your heart …

Pieces you didn’t know you had. Pieces you’ve been covering up. Pieces that have been hiding in a deep corner of your body.

And then, they rear their ugly head, and won’t go away. I want to hide under the covers, sweep it under the rug and cover my face in make-up. I want to make it go away. I want to be put together.

But it’s not working. It’s permeated my body, my thoughts, my face.

It’s checked in and decided to stay for a while whether it’s paying rent or not.

Those broken pieces run us into the ground. Sometimes we run ourselves into the ground.

In all this talk, we focus on one thing — letting go. We express that we’re holding onto something and someone in good nature says, “You just need to let it go.” Or we’re tired and the word failure creeps in as if we’re not letting go well enough.

There are times we need to ask God for supernatural intervention to release our heart of something. But sometimes, just perhaps, we need to steer our focus in another direction. Make an about-face and look back at what we’re letting go of. We harp on ourselves for not being able to think about something else. We grow weary.

But what if we took a step back.

What if we asked God for new eyes. And gave ourselves permission to not let go.

Sometimes, we need to hold on. Sometimes, it’s necessary and good that we do. We need to sit with what we feel “we aren’t letting go of” for a bit longer. Perhaps God is telling us something. Perhaps he is reminding us that the deep things of our soul take time.

Maybe, He is inviting us to grace.

And that feeling of not being able to let go? Perhaps, that was Him calling you back.

Back to a table set for two. Back to Him. He pulls out your chair, offers cozy slippers and lights a candle or two. A warm meal placed in front of you, He asks you to join Him.

Would you come and sit in grace tonight?

*Photo taken at Hilltop Retreat Center in Fall 2011.