Another coffee stained devotional finished…another 365 days of life lived.
So before we move on into what 2019 will be, I’m taking a moment to give a glimpse into our Christmas this year in case you want to take notes and start planning.
My photos are characterized by bad lighting…constant movement…and anything but a picture perfect event.
Please note Elmo face down against a mug of cold coffee….or egg nog…or apple cider…or who knows what …Tia’s current novel…two calendars going…rotting bananas…and G is down at the end using all my foil to fashion action figures which Tia then decided to hide all over the house and has requested remain until she returns….
I did have plenty o’help in preparing dinner….
And the non-food “crackers” were once again the best part of the meal…
although we each have our own unique style for sporting a crown…
and one of us just never took her’s off…
We hugged a lot…
took some walks to burn off energy…
hugged some more…
and put on puppet shows…
and when we got bored with the toys, we made our own fun…
Zach stepped even further into the role of girl-dad…and untangled a princess’s hair from the infernally frustrating packaging she came imprisoned in.
While Miss Caroline patiently waited…
We made room for each other…
and while the pictures may not be perfect, nor the people in them…we thank God for the gift of family that He has given us and we look forward with great hope and expectation for how He will continue to show up and show us how to love well in 2019…
Time seems to be accelerating and I am feeling it was only moments ago we were looking at 2018 and wondering what it held in store. Now we are days away from ringing in 2019 and I am full of all the emotions as we wind down our holiday events, reminisce about what the past year taught and look forward to getting some goals in place for the coming year.
A day before the first wave of our family was to arrive, I began to experience a tenderness in the thumb on my right hand.
By the end of Sunday evening, it was definitely swollen around the tip of the fingernail and the upper region of my thumb.
We were meeting up with Zach and Rachel for an escape room so I took full advantage of her medical degree and had her do a quick diagnosis in the the waiting area before we began the adventure.
She said it was definitely inflamed and possibly infected and recommended some treatments and things to watch for.
I couldn’t think what I did to cause it to be so sore, but eventually as a deep bruise developed under the tip of the nail bed I vaguely remembered earlier in the week I had poked something into the tip of my thumb although for the life of me I can’t recall the exact circumstances or what the object was. I just remembered hoping I had not split my fragile nail yet again..but it seemed to remain in tact so I had gone on. Because I wear polish on a regular basis, it had gone undetected until the pain manifested the problem.
Even now it remains swollen and at times the throbbing renders me unable to focus on anything except how much I wish it would heal soon. I don’t think I realized how much I use my thumb until every movement causes me discomfort at best, and deep aching at its worst.
And I actually found myself thanking God for it.
Because it was a constant reminder to me of some dear friends who limped through the past month of Christmas festivities with gaping wounds of loss.
Every twinkling light and every card that arrived or post of an intact family was a sharp reminder of the changes this year brought.
Unwelcome and unwanted changes that mean things will never completely heal or return to normal.
Because what was normal has been forever erased.
So we pray for a gentle transition to a new kind of normal and we trust and believe always in the promise that there is a peace that transcends our earthly pain.
There is a mercy gift to us when we are deep in the heaviness of loss.
Because grief comes like waves at unexpected times and each one of us processes it differently…so even as we mourn the one who is no longer with us…we must learn to make room for our own broken hearts and the hearts of those we love who grieve differently.
And we know the One who calms waves with His voice.
He commands all kinds of waves to be still.
Our God is a God of comfort and love, mercy and grace.
He knows what we are made of…flesh and blood that easily bruises and ages and gets tired.
Flesh and blood that is temporal and hardwired to rebel…and yet…He so loved us that He sent His only Son…to be one of us…so that whosoever would believe in Him will never die…but will have eternal life.
Hold fast to that promise today and every day.
May God bless and comfort those who are mourning and who are in pain.
May you know HIs Presence in real and powerful ways even as He holds you tight <3
We have come to the final verse of John 17 and our Countdown is ended.
My heart feels much like our home looks…bits and scraps of wrapping paper lie here and there…boxes with tissue and gift receipts are stacked near every chair and on either side of the couch. Remnants of various bags of treats are scattered amongst clean dishes waiting to be put away.
The departure of one child to head back to her own home and life is ticking away in my heart far too quickly as she will load up her car in a matter of hours.
And yes, this was Christmas.
We have laughed and eaten and celebrated and now we will hug our goodbyes and separate and live out where God has placed each of us.
Our time together is tucked away in a crowded treasure box in our hearts and we will call on those memories when we cannot tangibly reach over and take hold of a hand or give a tight squeeze as we take turns filling another coffee mug or sharing a puzzle to work on.
And in a similar way, we say goodbye to our time shared this Advent season looking at Jesus’ tender prayer in the Garden.
I have loved so much sharing the thoughts He prayed for His disciples…His loving words for the eleven who had remained with Him and the many who believed then and have believed in the centuries since…including you and I and all who will believe until He returns.
Our final verse is John 17:26
And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
I told them what you are like, and I will them even more. Then the love that you have for me will become part of them, and I will be one with them.
Eugene Peterson has a lovely way of tying this together in his commentary notes following this prayer:
And as he prayed, he gathered up the life they had lived together and fused it into the life the disciples would continue to live, praying his life work and their life work into an identity. It was going to be the same life whether people saw and heard Jesus living it or would see and hear the disciples living it.
The Message, Eugene Peterson; NavPress, 2007, 2012. p 1672
Jesus did not rely on memories or human recollection to equip His disciples and followers. He gave us Himself.
Through His death and Resurrection, He has sent us the Holy Spirit to live in us who believe.
The living and active Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus the Son…the Triune God…lives in each of us when we receive the gift of salvation through grace and faith.
He guides us and leads us and teaches each one of us, so that we are equipped to be the living example of Jesus Christ in this world.
Peterson concludes his commentary with these words.
The pattern holds: Whatever we do in Jesus’ name, we begin on our knees before our friends and neighbors and conclude ‘looking up to heaven’ praying to our Father. Washing dirty feet and praying to the Holy Father bookend our lives.
THE MESSAGE, EUGENE PETERSON; NAVPRESS, 2007, 2012. P 1672
As you wash sheets and empty the dishwasher, vacuum the crumbs from under the table and haul the tree out to the curb…as you return to your desk or wave a loved one off to their own journey…I pray you will know the Christ of Christmas has never left you.
So I close out our Countdown with this beautiful prayer of blessing over us from the author of the book of Hebrews:
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen <3
I wanted to stop and share our verse before I start the coffee and the day gets away from me.
We gathered in a crowded sanctuary yesterday afternoon and took up a good portion of a pew near the front and I liked it.
When it came time for us to hold our lighted candles and sing Silent Night, Emmett took his and held it up as high as he could. Like a sword in the hand of a warrior, he stood straight armed and beaming through the whole song.
He must have remembered from previous Christmas services that at the end, we all raise our candles and he was ready, willing and eager to shine forth his light.
I hope he always is.
Good Father, the people of this world don’t know you. But I know you, and my followers know that you sent me.
During this time of year, it has been easier to hold up the Light of the world.
Will we continue to remember as we move into 2019?
We are hours away from having every single member of our family in the same four walls for the first time since one year ago today.
My heart swells with so many emotions…
gratitude that this will happen again another year…
a tender respect for the fact that we are not guaranteed a repeat next year, or in truth, ever again here on planet earth.
I also weep empathetic tears for those who are living that reality for the first time..or the tenth time…or the twentieth time this Christmas.
Life and relationships and we…my friends…are fragile.
And we take what we get with open hands and thankful hearts as we keep our eyes on the One who secured for us our real and eternal future.
This longing in our hearts to be gathered together…this is His heart for us.
Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me wherever I am. Then they will see the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the world was created.
John 17:24 CEV
I get that.
From a human standpoint I understand that desire to want my people with me but I have to lean hard into Christ to understand the depth of what He is saying that far exceeds my flesh and blood heart ability to love and care for and tend and enjoy and serve those I love.
Because I love selfishly.
I love because of feelings and emotions and experiences.
He loves because God loved Him before the world was created.
He loves because He is love….perfect love.
A love that is so far beyond my comprehension and ability and yet through Him, I too can love better…higher…unselfishly.
When I choose to abide…live…walk…journey…in Him and with Him…I see the glory of who He is and that love transforms me and His love flows through me.
In this season of remembering that He came to show us how…can we all embrace the way He has embraced us to His heart?
As we receive Him as a baby in the manger, let us crown Him King and LORD over all that we are and all we hold dear.
Heavenly Father, my heart is filled with joy today at the prospect of gathering with the family You have blessed us with.
But Lord, it is heavy for those who gather with an empty chair or more.
We know so many have lost family this year.
Mostly in a timing that to our human hearts was far too early.
I pray Your comfort and peace to rest solid in these homes as I picture sweet and precious faces who are moving on into what life looks like without the earthly presence of one so dear to them.
Lord, You are the God of Comfort and Peace.
Reign in our hearts as we hold together in tender prayer and the unity of belief that we will see them one day when You come and gather us one last time…together…forever.
In the Name of Him who died and now lives for us, Jesus Christ, the Messiah…Immanuel…God with us.