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Finding Questions to Help in Loss and Grief

I’ve been swimming in grief of losing my Mom and trying to carry on my daily responsibilities.

There isn’t always space to stop and reflect because lately my schedule has been full. I know I have to let grief have it’s way and not ignore what’s happening in my heart despite the busyness. I wanted a place to write down the deeper questions I am grappling with right now.

I created a page in my bullet journal entitled, questions to ponder and reflection. I am trying to capture the moments of God whispering to me in the pain as I am walking this new path.

Some of the sweet end of the bitter this year has been traveling with one of the sponsors, Redemption Press at the Women of Joy Tour. I am smack dab in the midst of having the opportunity to hear godly teachers and participate in rich worship while working at a job I love!

Bible teachers such as Lisa Harper, Sheila Walsh, Ann Voskamp, Babbie Mason, and others have been speaking truth into my fragile soul. The truth is a healing balm to my soul and God has met me in the promise of Psalm 34:18, that he is, “close to those who are broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

This past Friday, in Branson, surrounded by 4200 worshipping women, we sang, It is Well with My Soul.

I said, “God I can’t do this, I am in the front row.”

This song has been a generational favorite of my grandmother’s and my Mom’s. I did what any woman does with roller coaster emotions.

I gallantly bowed my head and let the tears flow as I sang the phrase over and over again,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Why? Because it is.

God meets us in our brokenness.

God comes to us in our hurting places.

God waits to embrace the mess and reassures us with his overwhelming love.

God met me in those five minutes of worship and rescued me.

He reached down in my lonely grief and gave me his outrageous grace of healing.

I realize I won’t always be in this space and I know I don’t have to have all the answers, but I can think about the questions that God puts before me.

Questions such as,

Am I motivated by my pain or passion to serve God? (Sheila Walsh)

Do I recognize my need for God in my desperation? (Lisa Harper)

Can I fathom that Jesus prays for me? (Babbie Mason)

If Christ bears scars, how can I despise my scars? (Ann Voskamp)

Grief softens the soil of our heart to receive truth in ways we might not have invited in the past. (Click to tweet)

I am recording my list of questions and thoughts asking God to speak to these questions in the loss.

What are you facing?

Do you have questions of truth that God is whispering to your wounded soul?

Write them down and make them a part of your conversation with God. He is waiting like the best friend you’ve ever had to give you comfort and peace in your storm.

 

 

Learn how you too can be anchored in the storm. www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

Making Grief Your Friend

I boarded a plane two days after I learned my mother graduated to heaven.

I had an assignment.

For months, two monumental events were planned that took place this past week. Anchored: Leading Through the Storms was released with a book party at our local bookstore. The Women Of Joy Tour started, and I was heading to Tennessee where my cousin Andrea and I were featured authors with Redemption Press for our new devotional Live Bold, which was also making its debut.

The day after I received the news my Mom had passed, I wondered how I would garner the strength to finish the week. I was already hanging on by a thread. I was emotionally spent and had many restless nights anticipating the news of my Mom’s death. I know God doesn’t make mistakes and it is no accident that all these events converged.

I decided to forge ahead with the plans not because I was ignoring the grief in my heart or trying to be a super saint, but because I believed with everything I am that God was in the center of this storm.

It wasn’t a surprise. He knew before it even took place.

I believe he wasn’t inviting me to lie down in the boat. Rather, he was asking me to trust him with my fragile heart and hang onto the boat’s wheel, and he would help me navigate the wind and the waves of grief.

I chose to go into the weekend with grief as my companion and friend.

My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to contain my emotions and it would impair my ability to function.

I sensed God whispering to me to surrender my roller coaster emotions and trust him. I wrestled with the many what if’s and doubts.

Gently, he reassured me this was his plan, and he would uphold me with his right hand. The songs my Mom loved such as the old hymns, In the Garden and It is Well with My Soul, flooded my mind as the weekend approached.

They gave me comfort and Psalm 11:15, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants was like a warm blanket covering my soul.

The day we left I woke up with a renewed sense of strength. I felt carried close in God’s arms, and I was able to choose joy in the midst of my grief.

I allowed grief to become my friend by not shutting it out.

Grief met me in the songs the worship leader, Babbie Mason sang and reminded me that my Mom is praising Jesus and is whole and free.

Grief led me to see the truth in God’s word as the speakers spoke the truth that Jesus prays for me, loves me, and extends mercy and grace in the midst of grief.

Grief extended love to me through the prayers of strangers and kind words from new friends.

Grief allowed me to empathize and enter into other’s pain and pray for healing and restoration.

Grief leads me to Jesus because he understands every runaway emotion I experience and allows me the space to rest even when I can’t make sense of my thoughts and feelings. (click to tweet)

Grief encourages me to claim Jesus as my anchor because he understands what I can’t fully understand.

I am holding on to everything I know to be true about my God because he is the best captain of the boat in the storm of grief.

Find out more about being anchored in the storm. www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

How to Let Go, Let God and Choose Joy This Christmas

Panicky thoughts overwhelmed me yesterday as I was about to finish up everything for Christmas.

It’s what happens to me each time I approach a deadline about anything. And even though I try to plan well and organize my time, the moments still come.

It’s a mystery. I can so easily get caught up in the frenzy and the rush around me.

We are mere hours away from celebrating Christmas and I am working to practice what I’ve been writing to you about, embracing the gifts of imperfection this Christmas. These are the questions I am asking myself as I ponder the why’s and the how’s of my crazy emotions. I ask them of you too….

Can we embrace the fact that our lives are messy, our families aren’t perfect, there are problems, money, relationships, jobs? Can we stay out of the pit of denial and just get that life is messy?

Can we let go of the need for perfection for gifts – what is the perfect gift anyway? Who needs anything? Does it really matter if we get the wrong gift for them? If you and I can shop for our loved ones embracing that attitude we can actually enjoy the process.

Can we let go of the need for perfection in our relationships? Wanting that Uncle or Mom/Dad, brother, sister, child to act appropriately so we can all enjoy Christmas? Can we just accept the fact that our family is messy and just not let it rob our joy? Let that relative be cranky and set a boundary? I know it’s harder than we can imagine, but if we can embrace the imperfection, we won’t be disappointed as much.

Can we let go of the need for perfection of having the perfect home at Christmas and that it’s not going to even look close to the commercials we see on television?

Can we embrace the imperfection of the beauty of what we have to be festive with our own creativity in our house? If we can do that, we will see Christmas through a whole new lens.

Can we let go of the perfection of expecting others in our world to act with kindness and joy when we are out and about? Instead can we embrace the imperfection in our society and instead seek to offer a smile or a kind word when someone is being crabby because they think we stole their place in line, or picked up the last toy they wanted?

Can we be kind to ourselves and be self-compassionate so we don’t have remember like my grandkids sucking the daylights out of the straw to get what we want? We really don’t have to suck it up to feel good about ourselves or guilty because we can’t seem to find the joy and peace we need. If we just embrace the imperfections, we will experience the joy, peace and love we so want to during Christmas. Even if it isn’t perfect!! In fact, right now, let me tell you, it won’t be perfect!!

Mary had no choice, there was imperfection screaming all around her in every way.

Mary was probably only about 14 years old and yet she was a young girl wise beyond her years.

Can we follow her example and with humility ask for help when we need it this year?

Can we accept what happens even if it isn’t in the plan, and keep our hope in believing God for the future no matter now messy our lives are?

Can we practice self-compassion?

Can we treat ourselves the way we love to treat others?

Lastly, can we receive and accept the Jesus that was born in an imperfect barn and died on a rough imperfect wood hewn cross for us?

Can we receive the gift of His love for us this Christmas?

God came near.

That is what Christmas is all about. God reaching down into our messy, unruly and broken lives to touch our weary soul with the kiss of His love.

Receiving the gift is so easy. It is acknowledging our need for him, that we are imperfect, that we’ve made mistakes, we’ve failed, we’ve sinned and we just plain need him in our lives, every waking moment!

Can we take a few moments and “be still” inviting the Prince of Peace into our frenzy?

Letting go and being still calls me to remember that phrase from an old song~

”Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

It starts with my heart, inviting Jesus to bring rest to my busyness.

It calls me to unwrap the gift of choosing joy in the midst of how hard I try to keep up with expectations for Christmas.

Let go,

let God,

and choose joy.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dispelling the Myth of the Perfect Christmas: Part 3

I’ve always wished I could of witnessed first hand when the angel came to visit Mary. Here was an ordinary teenage girl experiencing the supernatural phenomena of the messenger from God Himself. I can’t hardly wrap my brain around it let alone conceive how I would respond if I were her.

And yet Mary’s response captivates me.

When she got over the shock of the news, she worked through her confusion and questions with the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true. Then the angel left.”

Brilliant response.

Faith-filled and a heart that held TRUST as a core value.

She didn’t cower or run in fear, she believed and pressed into the experience. That alone speaks of her immense faith. Is that why God chose her because of the strength of character and belief demonstrated by her life?

As I read the story I focus in on three gifts she seemed to embrace. They are all imperfect, but yet they were the gifts that set her course.

The first gift was humility.

She acknowledged that she was God’s servant and knew she couldn’t do this by herself, she couldn’t orchestrate how it would all happen, she had to rely on God, she had no choice. It was all faith or nothing.

The second was acceptance.

She was willing to accept the imperfect process of how God was laying it all out. The day the angel came, her life changed forever. So many questions unanswered. She confirmed to the angel she would trust and believe God would indeed bring it about. She let go of any control.

The last gift she embraced was the gift of faith.

She had the faith to believe in something bigger than herself by hoping everything the angel said would come true.

Mary embraced the gifts of her fragile humanness and her imperfections. Those around her, the heritage of her people the Jews, expected so much more.

In some ways they demanded their Messiah to come in pure perfection, royally and splendidly.

But Jesus trumped the expected and came unexpectedly.

He arrived in a smelly barn, with dung and hay and poverty.

He was perfect, but he came to an imperfect world.

Jesus was a huge disappointment in his arrival to the nation of Israel because he turned everything upside down. No wonder they had a hard time embracing who Christ was. His calling card was less than perfect.

In the same way, Christmas can come as a disappointment to us in its arrival because of our own expectations.

In the days leading up to Christmas, I don’t think we start that way. It evolves because we have so many other voices and vices that dictate what it should look like.

We expect this time of the year for everyone to behave themselves and be holly and jolly.

Why should they, really?

Just because it’s Christmas?

Why would all of a sudden those cranky relatives turn up at your door-step transformed? When will we get it?

We are an imperfect people and when the stress elevates it heightens our behavior. Each and every one of us have a default switch when stress shows up on our doorstep.

How do we avoid slipping into that mode and flipping that switch? We follow Mary’s example. We embrace the three gifts of humility, acceptance and faith. Here’s what I think it looks like.

We don’t try to do everything all by ourselves.

We set limits.

We ask for help.

When we are tired, we readjust.

We practice humility by letting someone help us that might not do it ‘our way.’

I have a confession to make. I didn’t exercise humility when we put up our Christmas lights a few days ago. I got impatient. I had a vision in my head and expected my husband to read my mind. I was cranky and had to apologize later. Who wants to help a cranky person anyway? No one. Be humble, let go and share the diversity of making Christmas happen.

We accept the imperfect days leading up to Christmas.

We surrender to sitting and practicing ‘being still.’

We listen to that small still voice and remember that people are more important than anything. That includes the person who wants to steal your parking place at the crowded mall, or the person who cuts in line when you’ve waited and are next. We surrender unruly emotions and turn them into kind acts of service and words.

We accept imperfect all around us.

Lastly, we believe.

We choose to believe that Christmas is bigger than us.

It isn’t about you or me, presents, lights, dinner, relatives, a clean house or a perfect Christmas program.

It’s just about Jesus. God coming near to our brokenness, our failure, our emptiness and offering His incredible love wrapped up in a song of hope and peace.

 

Dispelling the Myth of Perfection at Christmas

There are exactly 20 days 13 hours 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas, or as my grandkids would say 20 sleeps left! I don’t know about you but right now as that clock is clicking down it makes me go into a cold sweat and break out in hives.

How about you? Knowing that there are only 20 sleeps left before Christmas hits your doorstep.

Maybe you are feeling a little…

Panic

Anxiety

I want it to be over

I don’t want to think about it

Rush

Relatives

What is it that happens at this time of the year that causes us to freak out and turn into women that we normally don’t seem to be the rest of the year?

I was trying to explain this to my husband and he said,

“I don’t think people struggle with that as much as they used to, I think that it’s just a few people like you.”

Now he wasn’t trying to be mean or heartless, I think it is because most men just don’t get everything that goes into Christmas. Not because they don’t want to, but for them, they pretty much just show up for the holidays like a guest. They might do a few things at our request like help clean, cook, wrap some gifts and wrangle the kids together but most of it seems to fall on us.

My husband has always been a tremendous help and asks frequently what he can do especially when my voice gets higher and stressed!

Here’s a side tip, nothing to do with where I’m headed but it will help make Christmas smoother,  Be sure and give your husband kudos of appreciation when he jumps to your side this Christmas in the prep. I know that sometimes they see us stressed and don’t know how to fix it, and when they jump in be appreciative as much as you can without any cranky remarks. I am preaching to myself right now!

To help Kevin out a bit when we were having this discussion, I nonchalantly pointed this out when we were watching a movie and there were several Christmas commercials.

I said, “Look, look, see it’s all women!”

Most of the commercials were about women getting things ready for Christmas. The houses were perfect, the tree was spectacular, presents were wrapped exquisitely under the tree and everything looked like it was in perfect order.

“There!,” I sighed as I moved my hands up and down towards the big screen to prove my point of helping him understand how we get caught up in the madness of perfection.

Now, before I set some of you on edge or sound like I am stereotyping or men bashing, I know this isn’t true for all men, I do know some men that actually take care of the whole meal for their families, shopping, cooking and everything. I have a friend whose husband wraps ALL their gifts. I know of another guy who actually decorates not only his house but where he works and helps friends do the same. But generally speaking, Christmas does or doesn’t happen mostly because of the women. And then if you are a single parent, that’s a whole other story…everything falls on your shoulders to make Christmas happen!!

No matter how much we try and disconnect and tell ourselves it doesn’t have to be like what we visually see in the stores or on the television, we are thrust with images that portray perfection EVERYWHERE!!! Even the scripting of the commercials reinforces it with, “find the perfect gift” “set the perfect table” and to top it off everyone looks so happy together as relatives arrive and the warm sentiments of the Christmas season. Enjoy Christmas perfectly if you shop our stores and buy our stuff, that’s the underlying message. One of my favorite magazines had on the cover “395 Ways to Dazzle Your Friends and Family.” No wonder we struggle!

You and I both know how hard it is to actually find the perfect gift, keep a perfect house, tree, food and are you ready for this, really PERFECT relatives.

Now you might say,  do we have to talk about this?

Can’t I stay in the cave of denial and just get it over with?

I would say, let’s for once get gut honest and talk about this Christmas chaos and what it does to our psyche. We all to some degree struggle with this in our lives, whether or not we do a lot or a little for Christmas. It stirs up all kinds of emotions for us as women and seems to magnify the reality and heightens our awareness that we don’t have it all together no matter how much the media or retailers try to help us get it all together. AND we have messy families, cranky relatives who show up and that alone can create extra trauma around the season.

We buy into this ‘perfection’ whether consciously or unconsciously. We try so hard only to be utterly disappointed and exhausted at the end of the season eating ourselves into oblivion to cope with the stress that accompanies the holiday season. Then we feel worse because we’ve gained weight and our clothes don’t fit, we make New Year’s resolution we don’t end up keeping and we do the self-talk and the cycle continues. Is anyone out there that can relate? Whether it is a 15 on a scale of 1 to 100 or a 85 because of cranky relatives we all face it at some point.

I am hoping that this Christmas, the anticipation of what is to come that we can embrace something that can’t be bought or given, and that can help ease the stress…..something that can’t be put on a credit/debit card and shopped for. I would like to give you the one gift you can give yourself~the gift of imperfection.  Brene Brown has written a book, The Gifts of Imperfection on this very subject and I have found it liberating and enlightening. She gives these definitions when talking about the need to put on the perfection.

Perfectionism is not the same things as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. 

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.

It seems to be all about having to be perfect because we are worried about what other people are going to think more than striving to do the best. Who will raise their hand with me that we are of so guilty at times?

Here is what became my ‘aha’ moment when I was reading her book. She said that, Perfectionism hampers success, in fact it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis which mean we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.

 WOW! Having the need to be perfect at Christmas or any other time actually hinders my success, my ability to actually enjoy life, and especially to enjoy Christmas. This was huge for me. We all want to experience the love, joy and peace of the Christmas season, so here is what I think the solution is….receiving the gift of imperfection! We will continue on and discover what that looks like over the next few blog posts. So in the meantime, here’s a tip of what I am trying to practice for the next

20 days, 14 hours, 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas~ANTICIPATION.

I am creating a space of anticipation that invites

slowing down,

being still,

enjoying the moments,

being present,

choosing gratitude and

speaking it out loud daily and writing in my journal.

Creating this space looks like intentionally sitting each day in my favorite cozy chair curled up with a cup of tea and the devotional “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp and my Bible. It’s only Day Four and my heart is making space for Advent, the true meaning of waiting to receive the greatest gift, celebrating Jesus. The noise, the fanfare, the chaos subsides within me as I am choosing to submit to a ritual of being still and pondering as Mary might of done when she received her news that she would be the mother of the Son of God. It is causing me to break out in worship.

It doesn’t come easy for me, it has come slowly and it is growing each day. Will you join me on this Advent journey?

 

When You Move from the Wilderness to a Traffic Jam

Yesterday, I was stuck in a nearly 2.5 hour traffic jam on my way home from doing what I love~teaching at the university. I had a few moments of “arrrgh” to “I hate this commute” to a quiet whisper of a reminder that being pinned between hundreds of cars moving like turtles has a purpose.

As I complained and whined to God, I was gently nudged to a memory nearly five years back of wondering when I was ever going to get out of the mess. My days were empty back then and were filled with lots of questions having emerged from a painful wilderness season and hanging on to all the hope I could get.  My life had unravelled and I was on a slow crawl through the desert of healing and restoration. Being confident in God’s call for decades, I found myself straddled between the memory of what once was and the uncertainty of what would be.

Then God showed up with more promises.

He planted one smack on the forehead of my mind.

Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert. Isaiah 43:18,19. 

I focused on the question, Don’t you see it? Honestly I said, No, God, I don’t see it! And yet a hint of anticipation took seed in my heart as I began to choose to trust God as he made a road through my desert.

Now sitting in the traffic jam yesterday, I laughed because here I was life brimming with all the “something brand-new” God has been doing for the past several years. I can hardly keep up to tell you the truth. When God gives a promise he delivers. God has brought me out of the wilderness season to a life so full of purpose that my heart is overwhelmed with worship.

What do you do if you find yourself still waiting in the desert? Here’s our cue from Isaiah.

  1. Forget about the past – This doesn’t mean it won’t creep up and bite you or me, it just means that if God is to move us forward, at some point we have to stop going over old history. Whatever the past is, hurt, loss, or pain, work through it, grieve it, get help, recover and ask God to help restore. He is in the business of renovating our hearts!
  2. Be alert and present – When we dwell on the past and and keep whining we aren’t able to be present in the moment. We can’t see what’s ahead if we are sitting in the desert complaining. Yes, complaining! At some point we have to get up and keep putting one step in front of the other trusting Him to leads us through the wilderness.  When we are present and alert we can anticipate, look up, be ready, and watch for what’s around the corner.
  3. Open our eyesThe promise is, I am about to do something brand new, it’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? If we look up and not down and around our circumstances, we will see what God wants us to see. He will give us glimmers of what’s ahead, but only if we keep our eyes open. Our response is to say, Yes, God yes, I can’t see it all the way, but I trust you to see it. If you can’t see it all the way, believe it!
  4. Stay on the road – If God says he will make a road through the desert he means it. Don’t wander off that road in search of escaping the wilderness on your own. God will provide in the rough place and gives exactly what we need for the journey. Follow His lead and He will bring you through.

In my experience, I have found that rarely does a promise happen in an instant.  God’s economy of time and ours aren’t the same. Sometimes it is weeks, months and even years. And yet I believe God gives us a promise ahead of time to infuse hope in our hearts to keep trusting Him and to wait for Him to act.

So get ready, God is about to do something wildly brand new in your life! It’s my story and I’m sticking to it because God is faithful and He always comes through.

 

 

 

When You Are Afraid Of Christmas

“I just wish I could blink into January,” a friend who is a single Mom wrote me a personal FB message last year because the season was feeling overwhelming and reminding her of everything she could and couldn’t do because of her limited resources.

The most wonderful time of the year can ramp up emotions such as these as we slip into the week before Christmas and sigh…

ANOTHER CHRISTMAS.

The days of December can cause us to fall into the vortex of losing our Christmas joy rapidly if we aren’t careful. We know in our heads that this should be a celebration of that tiny precious baby coming humbly to a manger to bring hope, peace and love, and yet somehow Jesus and the joy of the celebration gets lost.

We are by nature emotional human beings, and those emotions are more heightened around Christmas, or so it seems. Which brings me to talking about a  movie that I saw last year.

Did you see the movie Disney film, Inside Out? It’s a story of emotional characters taking place inside an 11-year old girl who has to move across the country and all that she experiences. In the story you meet her emotions of fear, anger, sadness, disgust and joy. The story stirred up all kinds of emotions for me and it made me cry, laugh and be sad as I watched.

As we approach December 25th, I’d like to share how each of the emotions that they identified in the movie can impact our feelings about Christmas and how we can recapture the emotion of joy. But first, I want you to know that I did a high-level survey across hundreds of people. Okay, I did a simple FB survey asking women to describe what makes them afraid about Christmas, mad, sad and disgusted.

For starters let’s meet the character FEAR from the film, can you relate?

This is what surfaced about being afraid at Christmas from my FB survey…

People won’t like what I made

People won’t like what I give

I’m afraid of not being enough

Not making people happy

Not having enough

Not going to have time to have a break

Do you know that fear creates exhaustation? According to the experts, fear is learned and shaped by our experiences. Fear can then become control. Did you know that controlling people are driven by fear and in order to stay safe they are driven to control because they are afraid of something? They might lose it!!! Ring any bells in the house? ME…GUILTY!

I am a recovering CONTROL-FREAK around Christmas time. Why? Because of many things I just listed. I felt I needed to control Christmas because of how I thought things should look, taste, feel and experience for my family and my friends. And then the fear caused me to really lose my joy and anger would seep in, but we will talk about that later.

As I write this, according to the xmasclock.com Christmas is 7 days, 15 hours, 50 minutes and 55 seconds away. And with that comes the ramping up of these kind of emotions at least from what I have observed for one specific group…women.

Can I get a witness?

The frantic and frenzy,

the pressure,

the anxiety,

the relatives,

the cooking,

baking,

shopping and more.

So between now and Christmas day, I want to talk about these emotions that can creep up and rob our joy. Instead of dreading it and getting emotional hives because of the pace, I am hoping that by the time Christmas Day comes we can experience and recapture the joy that God intends for us to have. I know we only have a week, but are you up for the challenge?

Back to our first emotion, fear. How do we then overcome the fear of not being enough or the people-pleasing trap we can fall into?

We can take our cue from the shepherds receiving the message in Bethlehem the night they were told about Jesus birth.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

God addressed their fear first before He gave them the good news. He told them they didn’t need to be afraid because Jesus had arrived.

He wants to address yours and mine.

We have to acknowledge first that we are afraid. But we have slow down long enough and name it. Grab a piece of paper right now and write down.

What are you afraid of this December?

Get it out, write it down, tell Jesus, tell a friend, ask for prayer.

Ask God to help. Because if we let the emotion of fear take over than our need to control will take-over like a run-away train and we will be miserable. Take it from me; I’ve done it so many times I’ve made not only myself miserable but my family too!

We can’t miss the second part of the announcement. The angels told them what they could find it they let go of their fear.

The angel also told them where they could find JOY. Because JOY is a person, it’s not just the warm fuzzy feelings we might experience over Christmas.

It was in the good news that Jesus the Savior was born in Bethlehem and they decided to go and see. That is joy.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. Luke 2:15.

The next verse said that they hurried to see Jesus. I want to hurry to see Jesus and not hurry to be in a hurry this Christmas season.

My fear this Christmas is that I won’t have enough time to get everything done that I’d like to get finished. I was away for three weeks and just got home December 10th. I was fairly organized before I left and yet I am reminded daily from the intranet, television and the media just how many more days are left until Christmas arrives.  So in order to make sure that doesn’t happen, what I really mean is lose my cookies in the process, I am purposely choosing to simplify a few things this year. Just one example, I did buy Christmas cards before I left for our trip fully intending to do them while I was away. It didn’t happen, I was sick for a week on our trip and I came home and said, “Oh, Oh!” as I opened card after card from the mail. I took a deep breath and said, “It’s not going to happen this year.” I’m okay with it and I’ve let go of some other expectations that I have put on myself and feeling kind of free actually to enjoy more than stress.

As we step into these last few days before Christmas,

let’s name our fears together,

let them go,

and hurry as the shepherds did to spend a few moments to see Jesus.

I believe that our joy will be recaptured.

Saving Christmas

Her deep brown-black eyes and dark curly hair beckoned a second look from me in the store. She was standing all alone holding a book and as soon as her eyes saw mine she called out timidly, “Where’s my Nana?”

My friend and I looked around and didn’t see any adults close by. I leaned down and told this sweet little girl we would help her find her Nana. I offered my hand and she clung to it instantly and followed us to the front of the store. Before we approached the counter she saw her Nana and went running. It was a sweet reunion. She was safe in the arms of the familiar, her Nana.

Nana then encouraged her to say thank you and after a few seconds she said,

“Thank you for saving me,” in her darling three year old voice.

My heart melted as I mulled the phrase, thank you for saving me over and over.

I noticed the store piled with Christmas décor and I couldn’t help but thinking in that moment what “saving” means for me and for you this season. Christmas is coming and it will be here soon, 25 days to be exact.

I pose this question.

What do you need to be saved from as we approach Christmas?

Is it an overly busy schedule with not enough time to get everything done?

Is it finances?

Is it relational heartache that can’t be mended anytime soon?

Is it having to readjust expectations and simplify in order to stay sane?

Is it the news you have been dreading to hear and it has come true?

I know for me as I reflect on the days to come, my heart is broken for a few of my dear friends. One who suddenly lost her husband last month and two dear friends who lost their adult daughters this past year. I’d love to gather them all up and take away the hurt and pain, to save them from the heartache of celebrating with memories instead of holding their loved ones close. Others face sickness, families torn relationally, bills to pay without enough money to cover them and on and on the stories pour in. And yet, Christmas still will come as it does every year regardless of what we are facing, joy or sorrow.

It will come.

Christmas will be on time as usual and as we rummage through the commercialism that shouts to us, we can find peace and hope in the familiar arms of Jesus.

Maybe He isn’t familiar to you, maybe Jesus feels distant and uncaring, maybe you’ve been wounded. But He is the only one who can save us. It might look different, there may still be pain and sorrow, but He can save us with the gift of His unfathomable love. His hand is waiting to lead us to Himself if we let Him.

The little girl in the store had to let me take her to her Nana. She had to will it, even though she was afraid in that moment. Jesus does the same. Not just at Christmas but everyday.

As we surrender to his hand, He saves us.

As we acknowledge we can’t do Christmas without Him, He saves us.

As we realize we can’t take our next breath, He saves us.

As we recognize we can’t make our family behave, He saves us.

As we try to make Christmas a meaningful time for our families with little resources, He saves us.

As we gaze on that child in the nativity scene, he whispers His promise of redemption and…

He saves us.

 

 

 

What Do I Do When the Big One Hits?

My sister and I were waiting in the ferry line with the wind howling and rain pelting my small SUV. We were on our way to Vancouver Island where I was going to be the speaker for a women’s weekend  at Camp Qwanoes.

We both had to go to the bathroom and wanted to wait to see if there would be a break in the storm. The loud speaker kept reminding us of the obvious – extreme winds, the BIG storm that was moving in and the ferry which would be delayed, again and again, and again.

Finally, after we couldn’t stand it any longer we braved getting out of our car in the high winds and blowing rain to go to the ferry terminal to take care of the bare necessities and grab some dinner. Once we’d practically been blown off the asphalt strip weaving in and out of cars we found shelter inviting us into the warmth and bustling terminal with other passengers who had the same thing on their minds as we did, bathrooms and food.

The ‘BIG ONE,’ the storm of the century was supposed to hit the island with predicted 100 mph and we seemed to be heading straight into what they were calling was yet to come, the aftermath of a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean. I had told my husband before I left that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to which he replied, “You have to go, you are the speaker!” Oh right, I forgot. Sigh…I gathered my courage and remembered God was the God of the storm and this was my assignment and headed to the ferry terminal with my sister who was as nervous as I was.

The weekend started and as Friday moved into Saturday morning and the morning moved into the afternoon and the afternoon moved to the evening, we noticed that the weather seemed calm and mild at the camp. Funny, where was the storm?

What was going on?

We soon learned at dinner that something miraculous had happened.

The camp staff had fervently prayed all week that nothing would interrupt the women’s weekend.

They prayed specifically that the ferries would run on Friday and Sunday for the women to arrive and depart.

They pleaded heaven’s doors that the power would stay on and that God would do what He does best breaking down walls and transforming hearts through worship and His word.

They prayed believing that God wanted to do above and beyond what we could even imagine.

And God moved.

He destined that the camp would be the eye of the storm.

We heard reports that the ferries stopped running on Saturday due to the magnitude of the storm. The power was cut-off in the cities around the camp, but the small community where the camp was, the power never even blinked once.

As I listened to a camp staffer, Gretta, relate the miracle, I couldn’t help but have spiritual goosebumps.

God did something significant for all of us on the weekend.

In the sessions we talked about storms in our lives and how they can cripple our influence. We spoke about being misunderstood and harboring unforgiveness and the need to let go and lean in because we don’t always have control when a storm moves in.

God gave us a physical in our face visual reminder that as we surrender to Jesus in obedience there is one place and only one place we can be safe. Jesus, who holds us in the very eye of the storm, He is our shelter.

And when the BIG one hits we are to do just three things.

1. DON’T PANIC – RUN to the shelter which is Jesus – stay close for He is the eye of the storm. Listen to worship and feed on God’s Word. Lean in close and listen for the next steps.

2. DON’T TRY TO FIX IT – TRUST – only God knows the big picture and He always, I mean always has the last word! Stay in the eye of the storm and don’t get distracted by the chaos. Just like the meterologists this past weekend who were dumbfounded that their computers weren’t accurate with this supposed “storm of the century.” God knows. He sees. He knows the outcome. He can do anything!

3. DON’T BE TEMPTED TO GIVE UP – BELIEVE and don’t lose hope. Keep praying. He is our refuge.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord do not abandon those who search for you. Psalm 9:9,10

As my sister and I drove home from the camp to catch the ferry we saw a rainbow like no other. I couldn’t help but thinking how God sheltered us on the weekend and how His promises are faithful and true and that’s the reason I know I can run to Him, trusting and believing that He is in control over even yes, the storms in my own life.