Friday, December 22, 2017

Pre-Christmas Gifts

I’ve always been a fan of what I call pre-Christmas gifts. You know, the ones you receive through the month whether in the mail from friends far away, or from co-workers, friends at church, etc. who won’t see you on the actual Day.

After unwrapping, I always keep each one under the tree and look at them often. I think it’s because they speak love to me. Annual gifts like See's Candies and the White House ornament. A week or so ago, I got a box in the mail that was filled with “things I knew you’d love, that made me think of you”. This is my favorite thing. That and giving my own pre-Christmas gifts.

Usually these manifest themselves in festive items to enjoy while we wait for the real gifts that will be given on the 25th. Holiday flavored drinks, seasonally scented candles and shower gels, most anything sparkly. If it’s shiny, I’m probably going to buy it for someone I love and want to delight.

In the early mornings this Advent season, I look at the gifts we’ve received so far and am grateful to have been thought of.

Interestingly, once December arrives, my countdown to Christmas disappears. This month, all these days are what I’ve been waiting for and they are here. No need to rush through. As I work through my Advent study, which is dated, I see the days disappearing and dread the end. Sure Christmas Day is the best day, but afterward, the glitter fades and I hate that.

As I said in a previous post, I invite God to show up and show off during Advent. To come and show Himself, like He did in Bethlehem. Like He will again one day yet to be determined. To give gifts that will make us marvel at His love, generosity and presence.

So this week I've been spending those early minutes of the day making a list (lists are life!) of all the pre-Christmas gifts God has already given me from the whole year and especially these last few weeks.

The one thing (I thought) I wanted the most was not given and probably won’t be. This is ok because the aforementioned list supersedes any notion I may have had of what the heart really desires.

As usual, God has exceeded my expectations (His Ephesians 3:20 specialty). I’m overwhelmed. He loves His children. He gave the best gift ever - salvation which Jesus brought with Him from heaven - not just for “His people” but for all. For me. And for you. And He continues to lavish us with presents and presence.

These gifts come in many different sized packages. James 1:17 tells us “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Christmas lights?).

Every gift you and I will receive comes from Him. He is the greatest gift giver of all time and I am the happy recipient this morning.

Like Joseph and Mary marveled at all the words Simeon spoke about Jesus in the temple eight days after He was born (this from today’s study - why you must take time for Advent in case I haven’t mentioned it), I marvel that God is still giving gifts. And that He chooses to give them to me. This truth alone is worthy of marveling. (Can you tell marvel and all forms of the word are one of my favorites during this season?) God’s generosity and love are worthy of some marveling on my part and yours. If we notice, that is.

I bet if you took a few moments in the morning or at night, whenever things are quieter, and looked around, you’d find some unwrapped pre-Christmas gifts from God. And if you’re really in the mood, you will marvel.

Let’s do.

I’ll give you a few of mine to get you thinking.

1. Sweet resolution of what can at times be a tense, frustrating relationship, a joy robber. I’ve learned that praying for peace, letting God do works of the heart, and humbling myself “God, if I’m the problem here, please change me”, can be the catalyst for Him to do His best work of transformation. BIG praise hands!

2. God moved my beloved firstborn, my beloved first daughter-in-law and my beloved first granddaughter back to Syracuse, close enough for regular visits!
Because it’s December and I have vacation time to burn, we’ve seen them every week (or every few days if you want to be exact) since their Thanksgiving week move. Gift! If you’re wondering, Drew is thrilled too. Just ask him. Or maybe don’t.




3. A church to become our new family, where we are led in worship and learning more of who God is and what He gives and what He expects from His children. Blessing!

4. Snow outside!
5. Gifts purchased with love for others under the tree.
6. Children coming home for Christmas.

You get the idea.

What if we realized that the greatest gifts aren’t going to be under the tree (did I just say that?) but are quite possibly already given, already surrounding us?

This could change everything, namely our expectations and focus and capacity for joy and gratitude. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want our holidays to look like. You too?

Well, you know what to do. Don’t waste a minute - start noticing (for extra credit, make a list, check it twice) then thank the Giver.

Feel free to give a few pre-Christmas gifts too (a few days left!), this is also life-giving.


PS. If you’re reading this, Scott Burtis, you did not hear me say I don’t want any presents. I don't think you ever will.

Lastly, gratuitous grandbaby pic. Marvelous.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Thrill of Hope

The news this week seems to match what's happening outside. The days are getting darker. Do you feel it? Political parties striking opponents with venom every news cycle. Constant conflict and mayhem. Random acts of evil resulting in mass numbers of death. Sexual predators accused and exposed. We are living in a very dark time.

This isn't the only time in history, of course, that has been so dismal and discouraging, scary even. Can you imagine the 400 years spanning the end of the Old Testament history through the first coming of Christ, The Baby born in Bethlehem?

400 years of God's silence. No sound from God for generations. Take that in for a second.

For all of history prior, God had spoken to man in many ways. At first, He walked and talked with man. Sometimes He appeared in a cloud or a pillar of fire. Sometimes a manifestation of His Son showed up. Sometimes He sent an angel to carry His message. Other times He spoke through prophets. But make no mistake, God's presence was known and felt. Ignored, denied and disobeyed perhaps, but always palpable.

Until the darkness set in and He stopped speaking. No more words. No more appearances. Just silence.

We've never known this kind of black emptiness, which must have been staggering and frightening, not to mention seemingly endless. We've seen bleak days, that's for sure. Granted, there are times when God seems quieter than others. We ignore, deny and disobey the order God intended for mankind just like our ancestors. We've witnessed the depravity of man's sin against mankind in countless hideous ways through the generations, and we know there is demonic activity but we've not been without God's presence in our midst.

How do I know? We have the Bible, His preserved, inspired Word in print, easily available to most. Also, because we have the Holy Spirit living inside Christ-followers giving testimony to God at work in a life.

Those living when B.C. became A.D. on the kingdom calendar were in desperate need of rescue, of a Light to shine in the darkness, of a Savior. Sin had taken over and no one could remedy it. (Sound familiar?) Those who knew the prophecies and believed the promises God made were hoping and watching for Him and they got what they were looking for. The first Advent.

This glorious story of Jesus' first physical entry into the world can become buried beneath American Christmas fluff but make no mistake, it is always there. It's in the books, the songs, the movies, the hearts of believers, the spirit of gratitude and generosity.

Fast forward 2017 years. We, too, are living in a dark time. If we're not careful we can become scared, discouraged, hopeless God forbid.

What a gift that tomorrow starts Advent season, a time to remember and a time to be hopeful for rescue because sin is running rampant and we need a Savior desperately. Our only Hope. The thrill of hope!

The Gospels give us a play by play of the birth story of Jesus, Savior of the world. (Read it for yourself in the beginning of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.) But there's more.

Throughout the rest of the New Testament more promises are made for Jesus' second coming. He will be coming again to collect those who've entered God's family by placing their faith and trust in Jesus. Those whose sins are forgiven and removed as a result of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.

I remember when one of our sons took this major step in his life journey. He'd been asking to "pray the prayer" and "ask Jesus in his heart" for some time, but we didn't rush it until we felt he had complete understanding. That day came when he was sitting in the bathtub talking to me.

"It's just that I'm sick of sinning, Mom."
Whoa.

Yes, indeed.
As I read the headlines and look in the mirror, I'm sick of sin and sinning too.

Come, Lord Jesus, we need You.

God always keeps His promises. Jesus is going to come back. I hope His return will be in my lifetime. What a glorious day that day will be! And I hope it's at Christmas time, when we are especially watchful and aware.

Until then, let these truths take root in your heart.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:5

Monday, November 20, 2017

Plaid Mugs Don't Lie

Did you notice? It's the most wonderful time of year again!
Well, it is. I can prove it.
Look what jumped off the shelf  into my TJMaxx cart this week.
Plaid mugs don't lie.

Ahem. Seriously.
It’s not because of the snow. Though it is wonderful.
It’s not because of the red cup. Though it makes a dreary day cheery.
It’s not because of the music. Though it changes the whole mood of the season.
It’s not because of the pine trees. Though I may or may not be preoccupied with thoughts of how I will decorate ours this year.
It’s not because of the lights. Though there can never, ever be too many.
It’s not because of the food. Though I am obsessed with holiday food.
It’s not because of the presents. Don’t get me started.
It’s not because of the family gatherings/kids home from school. Though that one is close.

No. It’s about the very best thing about Christmas. The anticipation. The hope.

Advent. I’ve written many a post* about on this important yet often under-acknowledged holiday over the years because I'm obsessed with it. Advent is what took my most favorite month of the year and sent my enjoyment of it over the top.

There’s so much to love about the sacredness of Advent. It’s so...so...daily and intentional.

It’s an every day focus on what matters most. The entrance of a Savior into our world. Recalling the details of His first arrival, that starry Bethlehem night. It’s so wonderful to read the eyewitness accounts in the Bible trying to imagine the details. It’s a special kind of worship. Assigning value by remembering and thanking God. It’s honoring to Him.

There's also a looking forward. A longing for the second and final Advent, when all the promises of the Bible are fulfilled at last. When the Savior arrives...again. Not as a baby though, rather a mighty warrior coming to collect His brothers and sisters and bring us to our Father. Oh that will be a day!

I’m looking forward to it and hope you are too. It’s the dream of all dreams. The hope of all hopes. As tragedy and evil increase, the more my anticipation intensifies. Better days are ahead, friends. This isn't as good as it's going to get. Not by far!

What if that hope became the focal point of our Christmas season?
That’s what Advent does.

May I gently suggest you make Advent a more prominent part of your December?

Let's start with the basics:

What Advent ISN'T:
It isn't finding a piece of candy every day hidden in a pocket or behind a fake door. That may be fun and tasty, but it’s not Advent.
It isn't attending a Christmas church service, though we should definitely do that.
It isn't baking Jesus a birthday cake, though he did create frosting for us to love.

Those can be good things, but there is so much more! It's about celebrating Christmas, Jesus-style, making Him the Main Event.

What Advent IS: Every day of December (sometimes starting on December 1st, other times starting the 4th Sunday before Christmas Day)...

It’s preparing room in our heart for Jesus to come fill and quite possibly rearrange what is revealed.
It’s taking time out of our day to focus our thoughts, our prayers, our heart desires on the two Advents.
It's making space in our day to be still, to read God's Word, to pray and listen.
It’s personal worship.
It’s confession of sins.
It's mending broken relationships as much as it is up to us.
It’s finding ways to reach out to the needy, the poor.
It’s being kind and generous to everyone we meet, including those closest to us.
It’s a choice not to arrive at December 25th irritable, worn out and full of regret, wishing we had found the secret to a meaningful Christmas.

How does that sound? Impossible? Nope. It's 100% within our grasp.

It's not even complicated - that's the beauty of it. This is not the time of year we want to take a break from our devotional life. If anything, it should become a greater priority because of all the distractions we know are going to compete for our precious time.

I like to think of it as inviting Jesus to show up in the midst of all the merry and make Himself known to me in a new way that will make me marvel even more at the wonder of Him.

Just find a quiet space, your Bible, light a candle if you like them (I recommend a wood wick and listen to the crackle) and maybe start a fire in your fireplace. No fireplace? No problem. Surely you have Netflix.

(And yes, that's a whimsy turkey...after all, it's Thanksgiving this week!)

As my love for all things Advent, anticipating Jesus’ arrival, intensifies, so does my library of Advent devotionals. These are books written with the expressed intent to help us redirect our minds for a portion of every day (beware - the sheer delight may spill over into more of your moments.) to consider why Christmas is a thing, how it can and should change us, and spark creative, meaningful traditions for our children and grandchildren that will continue for generations.

I have a few favorites and I threw in a moose because I live in the Adirondacks:

Let's take a closer look.....









Found a few more....

I told you I obsess.



When every day of December is focused on Advent, joy permeates every area of your life. The busyness of the season no longer controls your schedule. The hectic pace is not bossing you around. What’s important takes center stage and with fresh Christ-centered moments, the not-as-important frenzy falls away.  And isn’t a silent night and peace on earth what we are all looking for?

Want to join me? Time to start planning now so you’ll be ready when it starts.

Maybe you're thinking, "Girl, you're crazy! This is the nuttiest month of the year, the worst to try and carve out time to sit still!" True, but maybe ask yourself this, “How hungry am I for a Jesus-filled holiday season? Is this the year I take a more spiritual approach to the holidays?”

Whatever you do, don’t settle for an American Christmas alone. I love it all too, but at the end of the day, if it wasn't about Jesus, it didn't mean anything. How have we shown the world around us our Hope, what really matters at Christmas? 

Just like all those years ago, when our Savior first took on flesh and was born into a manger, He is coming for you. He wants to bring you good gifts. All because He loves you. So why not keep watch for Him? Anticipate something wonderful.

"So in these weeks of Advent we ask God to heighten our awareness of His presence, 
to open our eyes to what He is doing - in us and in the world. He may speak to us through the words of others, He may show Himself in the face of someone in need, He may care for us through the kindness of friends, He may move us when we gather for worship, He may stir us through art or music, or He may whisper inwardly by His Spirit. Stay alert."**

Ask the questions - then make a change.
Be like the mugs - anticipate the wonder.



P.S. If you have a different devotional recommendation, do not keep it to yourself, please post it in the comment section.


*feel free to sneak back through my November and December posts through the years for more thoughts on Advent.
**Living The Christian Year by Bobby Gross

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pray This Way

It's a beautiful snowy morning here in the mountains. I just love November snow. It's so different from March or April snow, don't you think? It makes the most wonderful time of year especially wonderful.

 I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately. It's an amazing gift to be able to pray to the God of the universe at any moment of any day. The thought that He is always available and approachable is both staggering and glorious.

Greeting Him first every morning has become one of my greatest joys in life. The priority time slot that is my one true constant.

I remember when it wasn't so easy or natural. When sleeping until the last minute then rushing into my day was the norm, regret and shame following closely behind. I hated that.

I was missing out on so much, but not realizing that fact, I didn't make the time or effort to sit and talk to my Father each day.

Those days are long gone and nothing can keep me in bed in the morning because I know the Lord is waiting for me out by my window chair. Isn't that wonderful? Not sure?
Read Isaiah 30:18:
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.
 

Right there in the Bible, where all His promises are. I picture Him sitting in my living room, offering me a chair next to Him or if I'm feeling particularly needy and vulnerable, to crawl up into His lap.

We, as followers of Jesus, know this is God's intention toward us or we wouldn't have entered relationship with Him to begin with, right? So what keeps us from running there every day?

Perhaps we are tired, too busy with things that may be good but not the best. We've filled our lives with so much activity and responsibility (some not expected of us maybe?) that we can't squeeze a minute more margin. This can be fixed.

Or maybe we are afraid?

Are we hesitant to come because we think He is mad at us? That because we don't like ourselves very much, He probably doesn't either?
1. That's not true.
2. Likely this stems from guilt over sin.

We are all sinful and prone to sin, but we don't have to be slaves to sin any longer. On the cross Jesus purchased our freedom from sin. Hallelujah! This passage in Hebrews is what has brought me to these thoughts today. I just love it.

As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this:

This new plan I’m making with Israel
    isn’t going to be written on paper,
    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
    carving it on the lining of their hearts.”
He concludes,
I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.
Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to
 offer sacrifices for them.

19-21 So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.


22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 
Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 11

The enemy has convinced us because of our sin we can't approach the Lord. Not true. Says so right there.

Still, if you are sinning, you need to stop. Just stop doing it. Tell God you're sorry and turn away from it 180 degrees and get going in the right direction. Live according to what is written in the Bible. That is wise living.

Confess. Repent. Receive His forgiveness. Live in peace.

Then you can bounce out of bed every morning (yes, you can be a morning person too!) ready to sit with Him and enjoy the relationship Jesus suffered to give you - because He loves you. Then you can ask whatever you wish and He will hear you.

Just one more thought on the notion of hesitation....maybe we are asking for the wrong things. There are times when we want something badly enough that we clench our fingers around it so tightly we can't rightly pray "whatever you will, God".

Other times we know for sure that what we want is not in God's will and we cower back, not willing to bring it to Him in prayer. This is stressful living. No peace. Not fun.

I heard it said that we can never ask for God's will until we don't care what it is. Now that is faith.

The question on the table is - do you trust Him with everything in your life? If you're struggling and you want what you want no matter what, may I gently suggest you remember His faithfulness, His lovingkindness toward you? You can trust that He always has your best interest at heart. Even if He asks you to give something up or says no to the thing you want the most, His character is trustworthy. Recognize that He knows better than we do.

There's something I want right now. Really badly. Like I think about it many times throughout the day and am practically begging for it. When I feel the desperation that I must have it or I'll die (enter drama queen), I calm myself with what I know.

God's will is best. I can place my desire right in His hands and leave it there. I can pray, "If You want to, I'd like this. If You say no, that's ok, because You know best and You never withhold something good from Your children."

Does this kind of surrender makes you uncomfortable or is it a new way to pray you haven't engaged much?

It used to be that way for me too, but the advantage of getting older is what I now see in the rear view mirror. Now I can look back at the things I begged God for that He didn't give. All the "nos". And.I.am.so.grateful. The boyfriends I hoped would be husbands? Oy. Thank you, Lord.

Taking away a difficult situation the minute the pain starts, how would my faith have grown? How would I have seen His faithfulness? How would I have learned to trust Him and watch Him bless me for it? These are good nos.

He knows. He's trustworthy. March right into His presence with both humility and confidence. Ask for what you want. But don't stop there.

Yield your desire to Him. Tell Him you only want it if it will bring Him the most glory in your life. Because that's the stuff.

If it's not going to bring Him glory, we need to not want it.

The next chapter in Hebrews after the one I quoted above is the frosting on this cake. (And we all know the frosting is the best part!)

Hebrews 11 - read it. It's the names and brief stories of those who are on God's list. (Yes, God is a list maker!) Amazing stories! Need to be inspired? Don't watch sports on tv or make fictional characters your super heroes - the Hebrews 11 gang are the ones we should be following.

And remember this -

 ...without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. v.11:6

Show faith by the way you pray. By how often you pray. Bring all your desires to Him, trusting Him to lead your life and write your story. As I regularly pray for myself, Scott and our kids, dare to pray this: "Lord, don't let us want anything more than we want you."


Then maybe we can be added to the list of greats like I'm sure Elisabeth Elliot is who puts it this way:

"I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done."

Yes and Amen. To live His will, not mine is my heart's cry.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Preparing for the Inevitable

Recently we drove by the house we raised our children in. The new owners painted the shutters, removed my custom built window boxes and put a fence around the backyard.

Memories flooded in. Ally pushing her baby in a stroller in the yard. The boys shooting baskets for hours at the end of the driveway. Scott and I taking a walk every night after dinner, inviting the kids to come find us on their bikes....after they do the dishes and clean the kitchen.

I asked Scott if he misses having kids in school (a.k.a. home everyday). It's weird when the school calendar has absolutely no bearing on your daily life after 20 years of it being in the driver's seat. I used to love back-to-school time. New clothes, backpacks full of supplies, September = apples, October = pumpkins, November = pilgrims. You get the picture.
The season is changing. Summer is behind us. This is never more obvious than in a small tourist town when 85% of the businesses close up the day after Labor Day.

I noticed yesterday the leaves are starting to showing off up here in the mountains. Already? My excitement for Fall and then upcoming Christmas and winter is not as strong as it used to be. It couldn't come fast enough when the kids were home. Now it's more like I'm trying to put the brakes on and prolong its coming. Winter has long been my favorite season, am I now afraid of it?

March and April are the problem. Spring comes late in the North. The summer sped by so fast. It feels like the green lush trees just bloomed. I'm not ready for the cold that drives us inside. I will be eventually, but not quite yet.

It's not rocket science to put the clues together. We don't live in a neighborhood anymore. Our kids are grown and out of the house. They aren't here for the whole month of December, sometimes just a week or less. (And we need the whole month of December to watch our extensive Christmas movie collection and for me to read them the stories of their childhood. Yeah, they don't really let me do that anymore anyway, but still.) Winter is long when there are no snow days.

The Bible tells us,
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."*

That pretty much covers everything. Notice how half are fun and enjoyable and the other half seem to imply loss and pain possibly resulting in fear. However, this I know, throughout the Old and New Testaments, we God-followers are instructed not to fear. Ok, but how?

I've been reading a delightful book about walking with Jesus through the physical and spiritual seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall and I love the author's ideas.

I've never experienced such an accurate description of both the brutality and value of winter. Winters, spiritually speaking, are necessary to achieve a less shakable faith through prayer (how shallow would our prayers be if we never endure difficult seasons of pain, trial and God's silence?), pruning (let's admit there are things in our lives that need to die and fall off), and waiting (while excruciatingly hard, this discipline yields volumes of fruit in an increased ability to trust God and help others do the same that comes with emergence into Spring).

I agree 100% but that's not what I'm going to write about today. I wrote many a post about spiritual winter when we went through our three year tundra just a few years ago. Feel free to back up and read if you're in your own. Instead, on my mind today is how to not just survive, but thrive in actual freezing cold winter.

I know, I know, we haven't even gotten to the calendar beginning of Fall yet, so why today? Because I'm nervous about what I know is inevitable and I want to get ahead of it as much as is in my control. (That looks like a self-confession of control freakishness. Not going there today either.)

Back to the book I'm reading, the author also suggests the value of winter play. There are things we can only do in winter that need to move to the front seat. "Winter might be handing you a gift...there may be something you can do now, here, that's hard or impossible to do anytime else."**
Outside - skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing, sledding, etc.
Inside - the things we can't seem to get to the rest of the year like puzzles, reading books that have long sat on the "to be read" shelf, journaling, ____________, etc. You fill in the rest of the blanks.

I like to think I already know this. I shine pretty much until mid-January which doesn't cut it when you live in the mountains where winter is forever (slight drama). If I'm honest, I admit that eventually my vigor turns into sluggishness and I curl up on my couch with sweet carbs to hibernate instead of embracing the gift of winter (physical). Then I get to Spring and wonder what I have to show for all those months inside? Wasted time. No more!

As I anticipate the long Adirondack winter, I accept the challenge to proactively enter the cold season with a positive attitude and arranging my time to include some things I usually intend to do, but often let slide as I slumber through awaiting Spring's colorful arrival.

A list! Of course, a list is always the 1st step.

May I suggest a spiritual goal/discipline as first priority? Perhaps reading through the Bible starting in January (or start in December so you're ahead!). Tackling an Advent devotional? Adding minutes and intimacy to your prayer life? Resolving to wait for God without anxiety?

Getting the most out of anything we dread is more likely when spending time with Jesus and growing in His likeness is the initial focus. Once we nail that, we can add other ideas.

Here's my first attempt:

1. Get out a big puzzle that will take a long time to complete and invite guests to join the effort. Good talks happen when working on a project together in a comfy living room.
2. Reread, with a friend this time, the Mitford series. Oh Father Tim, how I love you!
3. Exercise inside as often as I do outside in the summer (resist the couch!).
4. Plant a window garden to watch something grow.
5. Actively learn something from someone else. (My co-worker makes homemade bagels. Homemade bagels! She's promised to teach me.)
6. Make use of the many cookbooks I hoard - try a new recipe every week or two.
6. Learn how to cross country ski. Then ski across the frozen lake.
7. Go on a dog sled ride.
What is this? My apprehension is losing power. I'm actually getting excited for what's ahead. Are you? Let's do this together - add your inspired ideas in the comments so I can steal!

In the meantime, we can rest here - seasons change, but God doesn't. He's present in all of them. He's good in all of them, even when they are long and painful. No need to fear or worry. There's something good and necessary in each one for us.

We just need to chill and let God do His work. Did you see what I did there?


*Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
**Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan