Seeing Christmas through new eyes

 

img_1839   A few years ago I noticed my expectations surrounding Christmas had gotten out of control. I blame it on one too many Hallmark movies. I was chasing after this magical feeling promised to me every December. Slowly, the most wonderful time of the year had started feeling like my emptiest time of the year. By the time January 1st rolled around, I suffered from a Christmas hangover. So I started looking deeper into my expectations surrounding Christmas and I realized I was putting too much pressure and weight on the activities I had planned. I was building them up too much. And in doing so, I was moving further and further away from the Reason for Christmas.
As I took a step back from the chaos that can happen during the Christmas season, I was able to discover and reflect on the season of Advent. Up until that point, Advent had been a chocolate-filled calendar you opened each day. It had been a candle you lit at church each Sunday during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. But as I pressed in, I began to learn so much more about it. It is a season of waiting. A season of anticipation. A season of preparation. When Jesus was born, the Jewish people were longing for their Messiah. They were waiting with great anticipation. We should be doing the same.
I had grown numb to the Nativity Story, having heard it retold hundreds of times. As I looked again, with new eyes, I saw real people. Real people who were asked to obey. A young girl and her fiancee were asked to put their reputation on the line for God’s glory. Shepherds were asked to abandon their sheep and worship a tiny baby. Magi were asked to travel a great distance to bring gifts to a new King. Had they not been listening to God and willing to obey, they would have missed out on the greatest experience of their lives.
Our schedules are packed full and even more so around Christmas. And in the busyness, we miss the Baby being born. I didn’t want to miss that. And I was done with the empty feeling from chasing after superficial things. I began to try hard at being intentional in seeking Jesus around Christmas. There is power in quieting ourselves and taking in the magnitude of Jesus taking human form and stepping into our world. How great our Father must love us to send His Son. When I focus in on these things, there is a much better chance of feeling full and hopeful when January 1st rolls around.

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Hold me steady

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I swear I had just been on a mountaintop. Matt had been travel-free for 4 weeks. I felt full and able to handle the busy travel season coming up. Then, in what seemed like an instant, I felt myself spinning in a downward spiral. Matt had been gone 6 of the last 7 days. And it didn’t look like it was going to slow down. I was having a full-on pity party for myself. I felt alone and isolated. I was grabbing at branches and rocks on my way down the mountain. Friends. A good book. A new project. Kids. Anything to fill this lonely feeling. The branches would hold for a short time before they broke and I was sent careening down again. The anxiety I had dealt with several times, threatened to break through again.

One day, feeling I was about to hit bottom, I forced myself to go for a run. It felt like there were weights on my legs and weights on my heart. But I turned on music that would reaffirm the promises of God and forced myself to move. With each pound on the pavement and each song, I could feel the truth breaking through, like the sun shining bright after a day filled with rain. God loves me, He is for me, He is my strength. But more importantly, He wants to be number one in my life. Too often I get busy with other things and slowly crowd Him out. When things are moving along smoothly, I being to think too much of myself and my ability to handle things. I become too confident in myself. The truth is, however, I can do nothing on my own. And God uses the moments when I reach the end of myself, to remind me of how much I need Him. I was reminded how important it is to check in with Him each day, to ground myself in what He says. Then I am less likely to believe the lies the devil is telling me.

I was grateful for the humbling I felt and even more grateful for a loving, gracious Father who didn’t shame me. He gently pointed me back to the truth I already knew but so often forget. This time, instead of a flimsy branch to grab onto, I saw a hand reaching down for me. And as I took hold, I knew I could rest assured it would hold firm.