If You're Running on Empty This Season.

It is December: the season of list making and last minutes, the season of doing and buying and running and trimming. And so often, in our haste to do and buy and run and trim, we trim the margin out of our souls, our resources. We run the risk of running out -- cut down to the quick, we bleed. We're quick to reach the point where we just want to make it through the season unscathed. We dread the thought of having to see that family member, being asked to direct the children's play at church, being asked to bring dessert to the office party. We dread the thought of being alone again and being asked when we're going to bring that special someone home to meet our loved (or, at least tolerated) ones.  But we push through, for appearance's sake.

Its easy to hang a lot of lights and give no thought to the Light. 

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In one of my Old Testament classes in college, I wrote a paper on prophesies foretelling the coming of the Messiah. What I found to be so remarkable as I was doing my research is that the promise of a Savior is made from the very beginning. As soon as sin entered the world, Father God began whispering a way for us to return to Him. Cover to cover, scripture is the story of a Creator who desires to woo His beloved creation. Centuries before the virgin gave birth, redemption was being proclaimed:

For unto us, a child is born; unto us, a son is given.  And the government will be on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. {Isaiah 6:9}

For any number of reasons, the holidays can be difficult. We find our Twitter feeds full of gift giving ideas, but also full of the heart cry of a weary world in need of a Savior. Night before last, I found myself sobbing at my own family's brokenness as I drove home from my dad's house in North Carolina. The familiar anger and bitterness towards my mother crept up on me once again, seemingly out of nowhere, eight years after she walked out the door of our home and shut the door of her heart to my dad. She has been with many men since then, and he has stayed faithful to his vows, in spite of his struggles to pay the bills and keep the cupboards stocked since she left.

And my siblings, who have run the gamut of poor choices -- leaving home to flirt and experiment with the world, sneaking back only to steal money from the change jar so that they can afford to turn on their electricity.

So yeah, Christmas this year is going to be hard. The pain weighs in heavily. But the truth is, the mercy of the Lord is soft -- His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

The truth is that our God never changes -- He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

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He is still the Redeemer who spoke truth to the woman at the well, the Father who never stopped waiting for the return of the prodigal. He still reaches out to calm the crashing waves, the tsunamis that rage through our hurting and hungry souls. He is still the conquering Savior who came to life three days after being crucified and buried. He is still the Provider who multiplies fish and loaves and fills every last jar with oil.

And He sees us. The promise is that when we search for Him, we will find Him. When we remain in Him, anything we ask will be done for us.

He keeps His promises. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. Our hearts must simply make room for Him.

 

Come as you are (and a GIVEAWAY).

I've been learning a lot recently about hospitality. My friend Lindsey and I often joke about how we are not "pin-able." We don't post DIY projects or have home tours on our blogs. We work with words, and at the end of the day, we just pray that the dishes get done. Last week, I had to wash the same load of laundry three times because I had let it sour -- and don't even get me started on the ring around the bath tub, because it seems to be here to stay. home We have this idea that in order to be hospitable, everything must be perfect. There must be garland and a gallery wall and the aroma of fresh baked goods. We think that we must be perfect. But I'm discovering that it really doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.

I look around my sweet friend Amy's home. Two decades worth of marriage and babies, one of which has been spent nestled in our sleepy north Georgia mountains. Tonight she has stoked the fire and opened her doors to a group of women for the second time. There is red velvet cake on the island in the kitchen, and the kettle whistles anxiously. I watch and listen as Amy speaks, her voice dripping with sweet grace, and I can't help but feel a sense of peace whenever I'm around her. I can feel her warmth, her joy, radiating from across the room.

And at one point, I gather up my courage and ask, so you just decided to do this for all of us? Her eyes sparkle. "Yes." She tells me that she loves having people in her home, and that if she had her way, she would never leave.

What I've realized is that true hospitality isn't about how many times your home tour will be pinned. It isn't even about red velvet cake (although, we could probably make a pretty compelling argument for this one).

Hospitality is creating space for people to come as they are.

Over coffee and crafts, Amy tells me that she still struggles with wanting to be all the things. Lindsey chimes in about the inevitable disappointment that takes over when she is overlooked for something -- even when it comes to the things she knows she doesn't have time to do. Leaning into the moment, I said that it must be God's grace that we are not chosen to do all the things.

It was His mercy, His loving-kindness, that sent Christ to hit the mark in our stead -- and yet even the physical person of Jesus did not heal every sick person. Sometimes He simply gives us strength to bear our crosses with grace.

He invites us to come as we are and and find rest for our weary and busted up souls.

He is still Emmanuel, God with us. 

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With the coming of December, we've entered the season of advent. The word advent simply means the arrival. As we anticipate His coming, our hearts are heavy. We yearn for the day when every tear will be wiped away. We have learned to survive in a culture of scarcity. We live every man for himself, slaving away to build the tallest towers. We try to do enough to make enough to be enough. We want to be all the things.

And Christ offers us rest. He offers an invitation to cease striving. He offers us a life of that which we were made for. All of Him is more than enough for all of us.

That, my friends, is revolutionary.

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Some dear friends of mine made this for you, and I'd love to send it to you, all wrapped up in time for Christmas.

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If You Don't Recognize Holy Tonight.

I never used to like the song “Oh Holy Night." When I was a kid, I never understood what the words meant, and it seemed to go on and on

...sort of like my sin. Like the sin of the world that was too great for my feeble understanding at the tender age of twelve.

Long lay the world in sin and error, pining.

I didn't know what it meant to pine for something; to search for and want and need salvation more than the next beat of my heart. My soul had never known weary.

I imagine the very core of the earth heaving a sigh. An overwhelming spirit of heaviness.  And I see the latest news, everything screaming the wild lack of all that is sacred and holy.

But there, in the depth of night, a glimmer. A thrill of hope. 

Salvation came, a bloody and gasping infant. Peace is a person, one who has walked this dusty earth. He traded the entirety of glory for my skin and bones. His name is Emmanuel.

He is still with us.

Did you know that there is a second verse? For the longest time, I didn't.

A lamb without blemish, spread naked across an altar, bore the pain of nails and splinters that should have been mine. A curtain torn from top to bottom, unleashing furious glory over the earth. A crescendo of love, pouring out from the heavens as love won the war.

But it probably didn't seem like that in the immediate, in the carrying of his broken body to the tomb. The twelve huddled, wondering what to do next, some daring to ask if they should part ways and return to their old lives. They knew questions in the deep darkness. They were bound to it for three days.

We know chains. Anxiety, depression, addiction, fear, hopelessness, temptation, judgement, selfishness, lies. They coil around our spirits, threatening to choke the very life from us.

Even after Christ had risen, some had their doubts. Perhaps you've visited those dark corners with me? Some shadows seem heavy enough to dim the truth. Even Mary, as she looked upon her risen Lord, her Savior, did not recognize him.

She probably believed that the final battle had been lost. All hope, all that held her together, had been desecrated.

Sometimes holy is right before our eyes, in the tiny moments when we least expect it. Sometimes holy looks like the gardener. But then comes the beautiful recognition. The life sustaining revelation that he now holds the keys.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name, all oppression shall cease.

Hallelujah, we are no longer bound. Not only are the chains unlocked, but they are broken.

That, dear friends, is revolutionary. 

Can your soul feel its worth? Oh, that the Creator of this universe, in all of His splendor, would love us so fully.

So if in the hustle and bustle of life, you're missing out on feeling loved, missing out on the joy and the hope and all that is sacred and holy...

just slow down and breathe him in.

Take a few moments, I promise, this is so worth your while.

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