Here we are again, y’all. That most wonderful time of the year. But I’m feeling a little bah-humbug myself. The thought of Black Friday shopping makes me break out in hives. Crowds and spending money like it’s going out of style stress me out. Plus, I see all the “stuff” around my house and can’t imagine why we need to add more to it (I stayed home in my pj’s and watched old movies all day). *Sigh* So, I have to do my annual refresh on my thought process (and my heart process).
First up, it’s remembering that we are in the season of Advent. So what does that mean exactly? Well, good ole Wikipedia is here to tell us (do you sometimes miss those Encyclopedia Britannicas as much as I do? Yes, they were older than me, but they smelled heavenly and the heft of picking one up left me feeling like I’d certainly accomplished something):
Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming”. (Wikipedia)
Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:31 (CEB)
Expectant waiting…preparation…return of Jesus…second coming…It *does* sound exactly like how I used to feel as a kid just waiting (usually not so patiently) for Christmas to get here. That was rough! But the hope of what was to come kept me hanging on, feverishly anticipating what Santa might leave for me and for whatever was underneath all of that red and green wrapping paper. And that’s exactly how God wants us to feel about Him…living in abundant hope and longing for Jesus’s return with baited breath and a fervored excitement.
For me, 2018 has provided plenty of obstacles to living in that excitement and anticipation. And my horizon line still looks a little dark. So I long for the Advent feeling. Here’s the thing, though. That feeling came along with the Gift given to us all two thousand and some years ago. Our job here is to claim it. It slept softly under a blanket of stars, surrounded by the sounds of sheep and cattle, all while poor dirty shepherds and wealthy educated men bowed down side-by-side in reverence. When I finally get around to decorating the house, the moment I pull out my Maw Maw’s nativity scene, I will be overcome with the Advent feeling. It will breathe new life into me. I will feel the Hope envelope me and I will cling to it.
The truth is, I can live in fear/worry/fret ‘til the cows come home. Or, I can accept the Gift of Hope that this time of year signifies. I can hold on tightly to it (sometimes like a life raft). I can know that He is good, and I can believe beyond all measure that He is God.
God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.2 Corinthians 4:6 (CEB)
I encourage you, Friend, to join me in remembering what Advent is, and embracing it this season. I am going to choose Hope. I am going to claim Hope, and proclaim it. May the God who loves us, each and every one, be with you this season and always. May the Hope of Jesus live in your heart, and radiate outward into the world.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (CEB)
(photo credit to Getty Images for the featured image above)
It was girl’s night out! Don’t we need those every so often? I still remember from a few months ago when I celebrate friend’s birthday with a group of girlfriends at a Paint Nite party. Have you ever been to one of those? I had never been to one but had always wanted to when I first heard about them. I was really looking forward to the time to catch up with my friends’ lives as we ate dinner before painting at a restaurant in Mebane, NC. When it was time, we walked into their side room where the restaurant had been transformed into a make-shift art studio. When I walked in that room, my heart literally skipped a beat and a smile grew on my face that I couldn’t control and I don’t think it went away until I fell asleep that night.
Even though I received a degree in Art many years ago (and haven’t practiced it in almost just as many years), I have hardly ever used the medium paint. My specialty involved ink, charcoal and chalk pastels. But that night the medium didn’t matter, it’s just the art itself that ignited my passion. For me that night, it was the art of simply being. I had honestly not felt alive for a while but with a blank canvas in front of me, four paint-speckled paintbrushes, and a white, Styrofoam plate with puddles of red, yellow, blue and white acrylic paint on it, I came back to life.
The first strokes on the canvas of light blue paint for the sky made me feel like I was flying in it. Adding pale pink, pastel yellow and white for the clouds seemed to magically appear. We were to stop painting to let the sky dry before beginning the next section of the painting, but it was hard not to! The next instruction was to swirling together a little bit of blue and a little more of yellow to create a nature green for tall grass with the brush, I started at the bottom of the canvas, stroked the brush onto the canvas in an upward motion as blades of grass and stems of flowers grew. When finished with those, I dipped my brush into yellow, orange, even blue and purple paint to create dots. It was an explosion of color as the flowers popped on the canvas.
Creating my own colors, the smoothness of running a brush up the canvas that left a colorful blade of grass behind it was so simple yet so fulfilling. It felt like Someone was pouring, almost dumping, colors of happiness, hope, joy and resurrection into what had been feeling like a lifeless soul.
I agree with the words of artist Paul Cezanne: “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”
The field of flowers I painted was no masterpiece, but it did not lack any emotion. Enthusiastic. Light-hearted. Happy and joy-full. They were all rekindled within me. Another Paul wrote these words in the Bible, “For we are God’s masterpieces. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph. 2:10)
I embraced every second of that hour, and still think of that night often. Being comforted with friends, being gifted with a blank canvas and some paint, being refreshed with hope and joy are what I embraced.
What is your art? What is your passion? What is the thing that you enjoy doing that makes your heart become even more alive?
Is it music, sewing, painting, crafting, writing, or taking photographs? Is it playing a sport, dancing, holding babies, baking, gardening, walking barefoot along the beach shore, spending time with friends or having an hour, day or weekend of solitude?
You, my friend, are God’s masterpiece whom He created with unique passions and abilities to use to glorify Him. When what you’re doing makes you feel more alive, free, smile, laugh and full of deep joy, then do that as often as possible! Our Father loves to see us thrive and doing the things He knows we enjoy doing and are even good at. Those are true gifts from Him. I once read that when we don’t open our gifts from God, or hide it, or if we do open it, and put it back in the box and slide it under the bed, then we’re insulting God. I had never thought of it that way and humbled me. So, FIND a place to play with the gift He has given you!
When people dress up for mischievous, mayhem and other shenanigans.
Seeing the latest costumes (I haven’t picked mine yet) and yard ornaments, I see manufacturers have really upped the gore game. More macabre than ever before. The obvious ghouls and goblins are so easy to avoid. But what about those seemingly innocuous monsters??
You know. Things like pain and grief, failure, unforgiveness, betrayal. What about those monsters called addiction, depression, shame, isolation, despair?
I’ve recently had to renew my massage license. Part of the requirements to do so is 24 hours of continuing education every two years. One of my classes was The Mind/Body Connection: Deep Feeling, Deep Healing; Mind/Body Wisdom for Bodyworkers. The premise is that the author, Andy Bernay-Roman, recognizes that past pain that has been repressed (consciously or subconsciously) manifests in the body in other ways. In order to heal or move forward, the body and soul has to FEEL that pain and work through it. “The ignored heart remains at the core of disease and the reclaimed heart remains at the core of healing,” Bernay-Roman says. “Suffering is the result of not feeling…Funny how allowing oneself to feel pain halts suffering.” He adds that we have within us all that we need to move past our monsters.
When I think about Christ, I often think of how He would go away for periods of time. He removed Himself from distraction in order to get close to His Father and find clarity and healing. I don’t know about you, but while this idea is so very appealing to me, it feels nearly impossible. My daily schedule seems PACKED! Between myself, my husband and our boys, how in the world do I have time to get away? Our society has become a go fast society and often the busier we are, the better. How many times do we stay busy in an effort to avoid difficulties?
But perhaps the question should be how do we not MAKE time for solitude to happen?
In the Bible we are told the importance of protecting ourselves: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.Proverbs 4:23
While we immerse ourselves in distractions (busyness, TV, work, social media, etc.) and numb ourselves from pain (shopping, eating, alcohol, etc.), we don’t seem to be taking very good care of ourselves. We certainly don’t seem to be guarding our hearts in order to fulfill what God designed for us.
Think about it for a moment. I’m as guilty as anyone of believing issues will just go away. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But in my CE class Bernay-Roman said, “When pain is repressed, it doesn’t just go away, it goes in.” In addition, he states “how paradoxical that the path of feeling one’s pain leads to the healing of the suffering heart.”
With this, it’s important to remember God is always with us. The Bible tells us 365 times to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.Mark 5:36
God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything. 1 John 3:20
In addition to my massage CEs, I’m also really learning the importance of being intentional in my walk with God. I’ve always heard that God tells us everything we need in the Bible. But through my reading and spiritual growth, I’m finally at a point that my experience is showing this is true.
In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us about the whole armor of God. He said putting it on allows us to stand firm against the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:12-13
Both the apostle Paul and Bernay-Ramsey remind us that we have to be intentional when fighting the monsters in our lives. Preparing for and feeling them is the best way to guard our hearts so that we can live through our suffering. We prepare by growing our relationship with God and we get through them by feeling and facing them.
When we do this, then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
So, this Halloween, remember monsters won’t always come out where we can see them. Often, they lurk in the dark, within the deep recesses of our minds, souls and hearts. Don’t be afraid, God will give us all we need.
Oh! And I finally figured out my Halloween costume – gotta go put on the whole armor of God!