Expecting Light: Peace

two candlesEver notice how the second week of December seems to ramp up?  As Christmas approaches with all of its traditional accoutrements, our schedules become increasingly chaotic.  As if holiday decorations, gift buying, and planning for vacation periods wasn’t enough, every time we turn around there’s always just one more thing…a band concert at the kids’ school, donating items for the local food bank, a cookie exchange with the neighbors, the company party, arrangements for out-of-town relatives, trips to the mall and the mailpost, and the list goes on…

My ministry partner and I still perform a very popular ditty we wrote several years ago to the tune of “Supercalifragilistic” from Mary Poppins.  The chorus goes like this:           Super tired, cooking, cleaning, shopping for my gift list.  All the while just feeling that my body’s rather listless.  If things don’t get done I’ll be a failure and be blissless, running like a chicken with my head cut off at Christmas!

Busyness may be universal at this time of year, but the truth is, when we lose focus on the true meaning of Christmas and instead get caught up in the spinning and the crazy culture in which we live, we can actually miss the peace and the beauty that is at the heart of this Holy Season!

Yet, what if the problems we’re facing aren’t just a result of an over-extended schedule?  Sure, making the choice to simplify may be a great solution for some, but what if we’re talking about BIGGER problems?  What about the trials of illnesses and death, divorce, financial ruin, or pain and suffering from a variety of other causes?  Honestly Friends, this is what Christmas is all about!

We live in a fallen world where there is pain, where people hurt one another, and where even the Earth itself suffers from years of mis-management.  Christmas reminds us of God’s ultimate love for us– where Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gave up his heavenly home to come and live with us in our poverty and ignorance.  It’s a holiday that shows us God’s faithfulness can be trusted.  He came to rescue us from ourselves, and He’s coming back!  As we make our way through December, tempted by consumerism and frazzled by the to-do list, or perhaps grieving a bigger tragedy this year, let’s try to remember that true peace isn’t about our circumstances at all, but Peace comes with knowing, believing, and trusting in our souls that God is with us, He is good, and He has a plan.  We really can expect the light to push away the darkness!

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A 3-Year-Old in Big Girl Panties

There are times in life when we just have to own up to our stuff. It’s embarrassing of course, and I may even feel absolutely horrified by my own childish behavior. Yet the only thing worse than knowing I’m being completely irrational and acting like a 3-year-old, is to know all this and still  never come forward with an apology for being an idiot. Somehow we think if we just ignore our feelings and deny our behavior, it will all magically go away, don’t we?  The reality however is that once triggered, we continue to act out with hostility, or we withdraw, wallowing in our guilt. Then, relationships suffer as the person on whom we unleashed our inner 3-year-old wonders, what went wrong?

The good news is that something wonderful happens when we face our garbage. With confession comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness comes true peace and freedom. 

Recently I had to deal with my immature, irrational self when I was sidelined by jealousy.  Now for the most part, this isn’t an emotion I typically experience.  (I’m not saying my life is perfect; it’s just that because I regularly spend time thanking God and practicing gratitude, my “green-eyed” monster is kept at bay.) Then IT happened… my husband was sent on a business trip to Europe.  Let me say that again… Europe–as in FRANCE AND ENGLAND while I remained at home.  Grown Up Me intellectually realized that he couldn’t help the circumstances. This was an unexpected, very sudden trip, and it certainly wasn’t his choice.  It didn’t help that when we looked into the possibility of me tagging along we realized the expense for us would be astronomical– what with a departure scheduled for the following week and the Olympics going on!

Grown Up Me sucked it up and played nice. My husband is my best friend; I was genuinely happy for him– I praised him for his needed expertise, encouraged him about travel, and celebrated the adventure to come. During the week he was gone I thought I had conquered my jealousy because I so looked forward to each Skype conversation and to hearing his travel stories. But when he returned home a week later, Big Baby Me started creating problems. Traveling to Europe has literally been a dream of mine since childhood… and then life got in the way.  Besides, I married a man who didn’t want to go there; I figured maybe we’d venture out in our later years…This was so UNFAIR!

So what did I do?  I welcomed my wonderful husband home joyfully and then threw myself a pity-party while he slept off the jetlag. I brought it all out to God–about how I knew I was being irrational and childish & I asked Him to help me understand the root of my jealous feelings.  Emotionally however, I still stewed, determined to be a “silent sufferer” and not upset my husband over something for which he had no control. Of course my inner child leaked out in passive aggressive behavior and when my husband asked me flat out if I was still “angry about the Europe thing”, I finally confessed to him.  Did I make a fool myself? Absolutely! Yet it was so worth it… Without the festering poison of jealousy, peace has returned. I’m really glad I put on my “Big Girl Panties” and owned my stuff– And extra blessing–now that my husband has become more comfortable with the idea of travel, we’re planning to go to Europe sooner rather than later. 🙂

Milestones- and the “small stuff” (part II)

Life’s biggest lessons don’t happen at graduations, weddings, or at the birth of a baby.  These are the milestones, the markers of time passing, the “Big Days” from an earthly perspective.  Real learning, (the kind which transforms our thinking and fills us with peace) occurs over time, frequently in tiny increments, and often following painful mistakes.  It’s why while I hope to be able to share some words of wisdom with some graduating seniors at their Baccalaureate, I recognize the opportunity as a simple seed to be harvested later.  Let’s face it, not many graduates will really absorb a message about finding peace as they trust in God’s timing.  Most young people are eager to rush out and “conquer the world”; they haven’t clue about the responsibilities that come with their freedoms. And they certainly don’t foresee the number of detours and waiting periods lurking just around the corner.  Likewise, sharing about finding peace in perspective will probably fall on deaf ears.  How many young people do you know who can step back from the immediate situation and really take in the bigger picture (seeing the forest through the trees)? The truth is, sometimes we have to go through life the hard way to learn the lessons.

The good news, if we’re open, is that we’re always learning; God has shown me again and again that sometimes it’s the little baby-steps that matter most. For example, although this is probably obvious to many of you, I’ll never forget when I learned a truth about asking for help– (and I know it is an occasion on which My Father in Heaven rejoiced :-))  See, I grew up in a home without a foundation of faith, and circumstances being what they were, I became a survivalist– convinced that I alone was responsible for “pulling myself up by my bootstraps” and making a success out of myself.  Independence was the goal, the crowning achievement, the American way, but I never realized how incredibly arrogant it all was too.  Later, when I became a Christ follower, my thinking gradually changed.  As I surrendered more and more of my life over to Him, I began to see that asking for prayer was actually a wonderful gift for others– not only did it bring peace to the one requesting it, but it also blesses those being invited to participate in this privilege.  Still it was hard for me to make personal prayer requests because others seemed to have “greater” needs (and I had minimalized my own pain), While this was true, God showed me over time that actually the root of my hesitation wasn’t about unwarranted requests as I had believed, but actually a remnant of my old pride in my own abilities.  Hard to look at, but grateful for the revelation!!  This life lesson of mine, like so many others, won’t appear on any calendar, but I will remember it forever as a turning point.  Pay attention, Friends!  When it comes down to it, the “small stuff” between the milestones makes all the difference 🙂