"I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever." Psalm 86:12

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Just Doesn't "Feel Like Christmas"

"It just doesn't feel like Christmas." I've found myself saying this phrase a few times over the past two weeks. Many of you know my mom has been fighting a battle with ovarian cancer for the past two years, and now her battle is coming to an end. Not because she's lost, but because she is winning and gets to go home and walk with Jesus soon. She has victory in Him. So this Christmas season has been a little...well, a lot different for us.

So, what makes Christmas "feel like Christmas?"
- cold weather
- sing-along Christmas songs
- putting up the Christmas tree
- buying and wrapping presents
- seeing presets under the tree
- spending time with family
- watching Christmas movies
- sitting by the fire

These are typically the things that make Christmas.... Christmas. No matter how much we may say that Christ is the center, He still gets put on the back burner. And in an effort to solidify our claim that Christ is indeed the focus, we might pull out our Bible on Christmas morning, read about the birth of Christ and pray before we tear into all the pretty wrappings under the tree.

This year has been a reality check for our family. All those things that make Christmas "feel like Christmas" really haven't mattered this year. For the first time I have truly seen just how meaningless and futile all the hustle and bustle really is. Fretting over that perfect gift or panicking over the last-minute ones. Getting the ribbons and bows on your tree just right. Being the most creative or "Pinterest-worthy" with your gift wrapping.


What does matter....is hope. When all the glitz and glamor are stripped away, it may seem like there is nothing left to celebrate. Somehow Jesus has become an afterthought, or a thought only saved for the Christmas Eve service at church, and then it's back to gingerbread houses, Christmas movies and candy canes. But what if all those things are taken away from you? What if your only reason to rejoice really is the birth of our Savior? Can you really rejoice in that? No presents. No stockings. No traditions. Just Jesus. 

This is basically what our family is experiencing this Christmas season - just Jesus.
These past two weeks we have been watching and waiting for my mom to enter her final days and final moments. What do you buy someone who will no longer be here in just a few short moments? It's an odd question. But the answer is easy. It's nothing. You don't buy them anything because you realize they are leaving this earth - going to another home where they can't take anything with them. This is ultimately the reality for all of us.


This earth is not our home. Nothing here can satisfy us. Nothing can bring us joy. Nothing can fill the hole in our hearts that is a Jesus-shaped puzzle piece.

So while this Christmas has been drastically different from any other I've experienced, I realize more than ever how thankful I am for Jesus. For the hope He gives us. For His peace and His grace. For without these things, there would be no reason to wake up each morning. And there would also be no Christmas morning.

Yes, I am losing my mom. Very soon. Much sooner than I would have ever imagined. But I still have so much to gain. Jesus has so much in store this Christmas. It's what He wants to give us every Christmas and everyday of our lives, but somehow we become too busy, too frantic and too distracted to hear or see Him.

My husband and I have still managed to find time to buy each other a few gifts. But this year I had to really rack my brain to come up with a short wish list. Because more than that new book and some new bath products, what I really want is peace. I want joy. I want hope. I want to know that everything will be okay. That all this really does work for my good and His glory. Those things can't be bought. And those are the things that Jesus wants to give us! That's why He came! That's what Christmas is really about.

So what SHOULD make Christmas "feel like Christmas?"
- rejoicing in the fact that we have a reason to hope.
- rejoicing because He gives us peace.
- rejoicing because He satisfies our hearts.
- rejoicing in the birth of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying family time, putting up the Christmas tree and opening presents. But I hope for myself, and for you, that these will no longer be the things that make Christmas feel like Christmas. Jesus is what makes Christmas feel like Christmas - in the hope, joy, peace and salvation He brings.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Onion Water

This weekend David and I went camping at Roaring River. It was very relaxing and so peaceful. As we made preparations for our adventure - making to-do lists, gathering equipment, packing necessities, food, etc. - one of the small details was to chop up an onion. David chopped the onion on Wednesday and placed it in a baggy in the fridge. Well, this was no normal onion. Its fumes quickly filled the fridge and would plaster your nostrils upon opening. This thing was the epitome of POTENT.

When it came time to pack up and leave on Thursday, we decided to double-bag the diced bits of oniony fumes AND put them in their own tupperware container inside the cooler to keep them from contaminating all the other fresh foods. We got everything packed, and off we went on our exciting adventure into the wild.

We had chosen a camping site with no trees - our logic behind this was to allow for the prime star gazing experience. We thought we had struck gold with this camp site. (The experienced camper would immediately recognize this as the #1 rookie mistake). As morning dawned, the heat of the sun quickly turned our tent into a crock pot and we began the infamous game of "Dodge the Sun" - which involves laying on a blanket to read and moving every ten minutes as the sunlight shifts and bakes your skin. This was when we realized that picking a campsite with no trees was not among some of our "brighter" moments - no pun intended.

As the cooking events of the weekend had taken place, we let down our guard against the vicious onions and used their designated tupperware to store some leftovers, allowing the onions to sit in the cooler (now only single-bagged for some reason). But we used the rest of the onions for breakfast that morning and the onion fiasco was far behind us (so we thought). As the sun continued to blaze our campsite, we decided it was time to pack up and head home to the promising shade under our roof.

So the fun began - we packed all the leftovers, deflated the queen size blow-up mattress (that took up our entire tent by the way, but we also learned this is the ultimate way to sleep in a tent), folded both the mattress and the tent and successfully stored them each in the bags in which they originally came (score!), and worked up a near-drenching sweat in our no-shade zone which led to a dyer need for a drink of water.

Disclaimer for this next part of the story: Please keep in mind I just slept a whole night without my box fan (those of you who know me well know this is worthy of winning the Nobel Peace Prize), and I peed in the woods in the middle of the night, and I'm just downright incredibly thirsty and not thinking straight at this point. Let's continue...

David then pops the seal to drain the water from the cooler. All I can see is a crystal clear stream of ice cold water begging me to come and quench my thirst. The thoughts of how taboo this is quickly escape my mind and I'm overcome by my undying desire for a cold drink of this liquid that is so beautifully sparkling in the sun, and I just do it. I walk over to where the water is streaming from the bed of David's truck out of the red cooler, open my mouth, and the cooling sensation that splashes onto my tongue is DELIGHTFUL and REFRESHING... but only for a moment. The delightfulness and the refreshingness quickly vanish and I am overcome by an awful taste of... ONION. Yes. Onion. Flavored. Water. Those three words should never be side-by-side. That wretched onion had somehow managed to poison EVERYTHING it came into contact with. Its fumes permeated every drop of water that poured out of that cooler and now into my unsuspecting mouth. I immediately regretted my decision and spit it out as fast as I could. I couldn't find my toothbrush quickly enough to cleanse myself of this vile poison. Promising me something which I so desperately desired, but fooling me all too easily into its nasty scheme, this foul liquid only left me yearning for what I had originally desired even more.

Read the last sentence of that paragraph one more time. Sound familiar? All too often temptation lures us in with promises on which it can't deliver. Temptation plays upon the very things which we desire. It offers us fulfillment. It offers us satisfaction. And somehow it manages to appear in the exact form of the thing for which we are searching. The onion water itself looked NO different than the water that pours out of an ice cold water bottle. If I had paused for just a moment though, and considered the SOURCE (a dingy red cooler with melted ice that our dirty hands had dug through and that had been plastered with onion fumes) I would have chosen otherwise. My eyes deceived me, and my desire led me astray. I settled for the immediate, rather than waiting for the best (ice cold water bottles that, yes, were right inside the cooler).

"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." James 1:14-15

We must guard ourselves against the temptations this world has to offer us. We must first identify the deepest desires that lie within our hearts. We cannot be tempted by things which we do not desire. Once we have examined ourselves and have allowed the Lord to search our hearts, we must then take steps to keep those desires in check. I think that most of our desires can, in fact, be traced all the way back to God-given desires - the desire to love and to be loved, the desire to please and succeed, the desire for satisfaction and contentment. But from who are you seeking love? Who are you striving to please? In what things are you seeking contentment? When we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to look at what the world dangles in front of us, this is when those desires get twisted and we settle for the immediate. This is when we get duped into drinking onion water rather than waiting for the Living Water. 

"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you." Proverbs 4:25