It’s Not Over

Nothing special stood out about the day, it was simple, ordinary, and uneventful.  The sun rose and set exactly the same as every other day.  I knew it was Christmas from the date on my phone.  I would love to tell you my non-traditional Christmas had a traditional ending.  Thankfully, it did not!  There were no presents carefully wrapped under the tree to rip open in haste.  There was no family to rush and see with a million cakes, cookies, and pies.  No parties, no fanfare, the day was simply Himself and me cleaning out the basement with homemade enchiladas to follow.  Had my Christmas been traditional, only December 25th, you would find me sulking in a deep depression right now.  Had I not intentionally set out to see Christ in a new way this season, the most wonderful time of the year would be the worst.

When I intentionally, purposefully seek Him, He is easy to find; He is wonderful.  Our savior hides in plain sight.  When we look, He is right there.

when we seek, we find

Through exploring my non-traditional holiday life, I found a Christmas season, not just a day.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33  

Christmas is no different.  I wanted to find Him, and I did.  I journeyed into the heart of Bethlehem, made room in the inn of my heart, knelt before my King, and looked full into His wonderful face.  I saw the face of a God who loved me so much even though I’m flawed, broken, angry, and full of unforgiveness.  He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to ransom me from the bondage that keeps me from seeing Him in full glory.

“For God so loved the world (me) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (me) believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (me).  John 3:16 (emphasis mine)

I am set free!

I am free to be refined.

I am free to be whole.   

I am free from anger and fear.  

I am forgiven, and I am free to forgive.  

I am so loved, that He gave His only son.  

He came so I might live.  I owe Him all praise, all honor, and belief.  The belief that my chains are gone, and it’s time to walk in the freedom He came to bring.  

The Christmas season marks God breaking through, into my world.  “O come, O come, Immanuel and ransom captive Israel.”   I needed a Savior, and He came!

Christmas is the beginning of the year, not the end.  

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling with us.” John 1:1;14  

I have a beginning

Christmas is not the finish line.  Yes, it comes at the end of our calendar year when we, as humans, in our limited world, wrap-up loose ends.  He made all things new through His non-traditional birth.  He took our limits away that day; He broke through the barrier of tradition.  He broke the rules and regulations and began a non-traditional work in a traditional world.  Jesus was non-traditional long before me.

Let’s do a new thing this year, let’s begin again.  Let’s be non-traditional together!  After all, this is a journey.  Let’s journey into the limitless.

What do I do with the rest of the year?  

I intend to live perpetually with the Christmas season close at heart.  He invites me to peek into His world every day.  He calls me to see his face daily, not just at Christmas.  He beckons me to keep the room at the inn of my heart open for Him always.

Explore His love and freedom today and believe that God so loved the world…

What’s holding you back?  What chains do you know He has broken, yet you still walk in unbelief, tethered only to yourself?  In what box do you keep our non-traditional, unlimited savior?  I challenge you to keep your Christmas gift out all year long, don’t put Him back into the garage with all the other Christmas decorations.  Keep Christmas in your heart!

This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long!

What a perfect place to start!

**Share your journey into this non-traditional new year with me!!  Don’t walk alone.  Please feel free to contact me, if you would like, via email, thejourneyofamilionmiles@gmail.com.  Let’s walk together, there is strength in numbers!

Please Come

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

I understand this.  It is the cry of my heart this Christmas.  Come, sweet Savior, and He did.  He came as promised, prayers answered and prophecy fulfilled.  

Do you believe this?  Do you believe He came to pay the ransom for captive Israel?  Of course, the Bible tells us time and time again, and the Bible is Truth.

What if you change Israel to your name, then do you still believe this?  He came to pay the ransom for your soul, to break the chains and set you free.

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“For unto you this day is born in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord”  Luke 2:11

Lost and hiding in the dark, you found me.  Unsure if you looked for a while or if you knew my exact location, I suspected I outran you.  I did not expect you to come to hell to find me.  Deservedly scared and alone, my captor kept me shackled.  A fitting punishment.  I overheard you speaking with him about my ransom.  It was costly, but you agreed to give your only son in exchange for my life.  You said I was worth your sacrifice.  The chains fell.  I was free to leave.  

Why set me free?  Why give your only son after I took you for granted?  I ran away, hid, cursed your name, and turned my back on you.  I did not deserve freedom; I deserved the chains that bound me.  You agreed, but you loved me beyond what I could see.  You loved me immeasurably more than my angry stubbornness.  My broken heart cried as you showed me my hope and my future.

My ransom came in the form of a baby born in a stable.  Surrounded by barnyard friends, the savior of my soul drew his first breath.  Hope came to life.  He shattered the dark, fulfilling promise and prophecy.  The light of the world came to take my place one cold December night in the most humbling way.

Silently I wept, as we watched the scene unfold.  How could you sacrifice that precious little boy for my cold, bitter heart?  So quiet and innocent; his hands and feet were tiny.  His eyes were so bright and unforgettable.  All of Heaven rejoiced shouting “Glory to God in the highest” for the King of Heaven and Earth was born.  And you gave him as my ransom.

How do I repay you?  You secured my freedom; I’m forever in your debt.  I have no silver, no gold; I have nothing to give.  You lifted my tear-stained face and looked directly into my eyes while you explained how you gave your son freely.  He was your gift to me, for me.  In return, you wanted my acceptance of your gift, your child as my ransom.  His life for my soul.  You asked that I believe with all my heart that my debt was indeed paid and live freely always remembering your sacrifice.  I would never forget this baby in the straw, my forever Christmas gift.  For he is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  I fell to my knees in adoration.  From the mountain tops, I would proclaim the story of how you paid my debt with your only son.  

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21   

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

May this Christmas and every Christmas serve as a reminder of Hope.  The chains of my oppressor forever broken by the precious baby who paid my debt with his life, perfect love.

John 8 thirty-six

 

The Gift of Toilet Paper

“The homeless need toilet paper,” said this strange voice from behind me in the checkout lane in the low-cost leader.  

My trips to town never disappoint, and this was no exception.  There are always a few lessons I take along with my many items.  I stared at the strange voice blankly, blinked my eyes several times in confusion, and scratched my head as she pointed at the twelve rolls of cottony goodness that equal forty-eight regular rolls in my shopping cart.  Ten floodgates of memories opened simultaneously, and I was transported to a time when I was homeless, living on the backside of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  A tattered old tent was my bedroom, the cold mountain stream my shower, and the campfire my kitchen.  Not once did I venture into the woods without a roll of squeezable “enjoy the go,” ever!

This wasn’t long after I disappeared off the face of the earth and had no place to call home.  I had a job, my car, and some clothes.  Never once did I go without the cleaning power of the paper.  This was my dwelling for eleven weeks until I saved up enough to get into an apartment smaller than the great woods I called home.  I had everything a person could need to survive, except God.  When I fell off the face of the earth, I left God behind in a fit of rage.  Or so I thought.

I’m not sure how long I ran down memory lane, but the lovely lady continued to chatter while I stared into the face of a toilet paper angel.  We had a long chat; the cashier was super slow.  I didn’t mind.  The toilet paper angel had been there as well, it’s how she knew the homeless need toilet paper.  She was doing well for herself now, but there were the days she was putting herself through college back in the seventies when she had nothing, not even the bathroom magic I take for granted.

take nothing for granted

The pillowed rolls consumed me as I drove the curvy road full of hills towards home, my mind completely on autopilot.  Compared to then, I live in a castle.  I don’t have the comforts of WiFi or civilization.  My world is not packed with the sound of laughter (only my own, as I tell myself jokes occasionally.  I always laugh out loud.  It’s polite when one is in good company).  There’s a lot I don’t have.  What I do have is a roof over my head and music that constantly fills my ears and heart with the goodness of my God who never abandoned me even though I thought I had ditched Him.  I have running water, a stove, and a fridge full of food.  As well, I have twelve rolls of cottony goodness that equal forty-eight regular rolls that I would not be caught without.  In fact, I travel with a roll of just in case emergency wiping magic.

On that hour long journey through the dark woods, I imagined what it would be like to live outside without toilet paper.  What on earth would I do?  Use sticks, rocks, pine cones, drag my tail on the ground?  My mind floated back to the freezing present as I imagined the homeless camps I’ve seen traveling this Nation’s highways.  Makeshift tents from tarps, cardboard tied to trees, strings of clothes from tree to tree all race back to mind.  I just cannot recall seeing any johnny-pots.  No blue plastic out-houses that the sanitation department replaces once a month.  I’ve seen folks on the down and out sneaking into the Seven-Eleven trying to make it back to the bathroom before they get thrown out.  I’ve seen folks trying to find a corner just to get a little privacy to save what dignity they had left.  I’ve seen piles in the trees, on the streets, and in the parking lots.  I know it’s a horrible topic, but it’s reality and sometimes reality stinks, literally.

I live a life of privilege now, toilet paper included, some would consider this a luxury.  I did not fathom at the beginning of this day that my heart would be broken by a necessity that I dare not go without.  Yet, there are those who do, and I am sad.  Being homeless is hard enough, but I still had toilet paper.  I’ve always had toilet paper, I’ve never been without (if I was, I used coffee filters.  I do not ever go without those, but I had SOMETHING).

Whatever you did for one of the

I’m going to pass out my rolls of cottony goodness and maybe some wet wipes for those days when life gets extra messy.  It’s a tough world out there and pinecones hurt.  How do you tell folks of such a great God and remind them that He is always there (even if they have long since thrown Him out when they disappeared into the great unknown) when their most basic needs are not even met?  “Hey, I know you are down and out, and you smell like you don’t wipe, but Jesus is right here with you.  Good luck out here, I’ll pray God keeps you free of germs.”  I could tell you what I told people when they said to me “Hey, God’s always with ya!” as they drove off in their fancy cars, to their fancy homes, with toilets that flush but, I’ll leave that one alone for tonight.  God is always there, even for those who have pushed Him away, the magic paper is not.

Allow me to challenge you, my friends who read this all the way to the messy end, give many gifts this blessed Christmas season.  Christ gave so much to us, and so give in return, but please don’t forget the toilet paper; passing out the love of Christ one roll at a time.

I’m Not Alone

The sound of silence deafens my already weary ears while my laptop gives birth to dust bunnies.  My fingers itch to type the words screaming in my head, yet I sit lifeless, burdened from the heavy week, the week that is yet to cease.  The warmth of my bed sings the siren’s song luring me into the presence of sleep, much-needed sleep.  I resist the temptation for a moment longer.  The happy season, whirring by at the speed of light for most, creeps by at a minute by minute pace.  This too shall pass.  “I’m not alone” I remind myself audibly, “I’m not alone.”  

I feel it.  The weight of the world grows, surrounding me.  I feel the silence.  My world hangs in the balance of the unknown.  I don’t want to be alone right now.  “All is well,” I tell myself audibly, fighting the tears, “all is well.”  

I’m alone.  But, I’m not alone.  I never have nor ever will be abandoned, pushed away, or on my own, even when I was.  

Lacking stamina, I let go, surrendering the stubborn fight.

I give in to the quiet as I close my eyes sinking into the arms of He who came as a baby to know me.  He rocks me gently, like His mother did for Him, begging my release of this world that is heavy on my mind.  The peace that passes all understanding consumes every emotion that fights its way to the surface, and I let it go.  Compassion spills forth while He sings His lullaby over me.   He knows, I need not say a word.  He simply takes it away.

I’m not alone…

For Such a Time as This

 

For such a time as this, you have placed me right where you want me.  Ecclesiastes reminds me that there is a season for everything and everything has a purpose under heaven.  As this season of waiting dawns on the horizon of my life, I cannot help but wonder.  I wonder why, first of all.  I wonder how and I wonder how long must I wait to see your glory come to pass.  Couple the season of waiting, with the season of Advent, throw in my desires for Christmas and I find answers.

ecc-3-one

“I promise you, Child, seek me, and you will find me.  I stand at the door of the Inn and knock.  Don’t be the Innkeeper who turned me away.  Open the door of your heart and let me in.  I’ll be your best friend forever, and I will never leave you or forsake you, I promise.”  God hides in plain sight waiting for me to give Him every ounce of my attention.  When I acquiesce to His Lordship, He meets me in the very spot I occupy.  Through Him, by faith, is the answer to my “how?”

He delights in the details of my life and does not withhold an ounce of His love.  Even in the dark of winter, He showers me with Light.  Although my home does not show the outward signs of Christmas, my heart awakens within.  “Oh God, your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto this dark path.  In the beginning was the Word the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling with me, for me.”

Jesus came to make the untouchable God touchable.

In the early days, God revealed Himself to the most faithful, those He set apart (my heroes).  Jesus came to reveal Himself to those who breathe the air He created.  He came to set apart those who wear the flesh He was born into.  He was born to bridge the gap for those who are standard, ordinary, everyday, regular, like me.  He came as the light for all, not some, but all.  And it is that I celebrate, not in lights and decor (although I easily could if I weren’t stubborn), but in the innermost sanctuary of my being.  He came to BE my journey from here to there.  He came to keep me company in my season of waiting, and He came to show me hope that this too shall pass.  For that and that alone, I owe Him my adoration, but spring will eventually spring, and He will sacrifice Himself for the sake of my stubborn heart and break the chains of death.  He does it every year, and it’s just a new as it was the first.  All He asks in return is my belief.

A light burst forth one cold winter night, a light that can not be extinguished.

To answer my “why the season of waiting?” because without I would never seek Him.  There is a season for everything under the sun and this season, like all others, has a purpose.  “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you,” says the Holy of Holies.  If life were a constant of rainbows and sunshine, I would see His beauty, most definitely, but would miss looking into the eyes of a tiny baby and the magnitude of His presence.  My praise would be as shallow as my faith if I weren’t (standing atop the raging ocean while the blizzard winds swirl) looking at my savior.  The season of waiting allows me greater cause to fall on my knees and worship from the sincerity of my heart.  In the winter of waiting, my roots grow deep.

psalm119-and-john1

“If that’s really you, Lord, call me, and I will get out of this boat and walk to you on the water.  Call me toward you, where my feet will fail, and my trust is forced beyond any recognizable border,” I prayed eighteen months ago.  And here I am, clinging to the one who faithfully called me, clinging for dear life with no bottom in my world.  Here I am, forced to only see a baby in a manger for my Christmas, and suddenly life makes sense.  I may feel alone like I’ve never felt alone in my life, but I’m not, because the Word became flesh and made His home with me so that I may look full into the wonderful face of God.

Sweet baby Jesus who became flesh and made your home with me, guide me through the waiting season.  Hear my deepest desire to dwell in the house of the Lord forever and find me faithful like my heroes of faith.  Refine my doubting heart until all that remains is you.  This Christmas, I want to see you, I want to know you.  While the winter storm rages around me, my eyes are fixed on you.  I believe you, Jesus, I believe you.  Take me to the limitless, beyond the borders of rational comprehension, you are the lamp for my feet and the light on my path.

 

The Season of Waiting

It’s a gray, rainy day here in the Ozarks.  The cardinal feeds hastily while gray squirrel buries his walnuts.  Bedlam rules the airwaves.  My new trees drop their yellow leaves for their first season of cold.  Change is in the air, and it is inevitable.  Winter settles in while the season of waiting begins.    

I wait for spring to emerge so I can return to my out of doors projects.  I wait on the green to disappear so I can watch it come to life again soon.  I wait on the National Championship so college football can begin a fresh season.  And I wait on God.

Waiting is a season which allows roots to deepen and faith to grow.  It is necessary for new life.  Waiting is a period of prayer and expectation.  Waiting is a time of preparation for the hope that is Christ.  I know, like the season of winter, embracing the wait is the hardest part.  I expect, through faith, that God will come near as He promised and I know that hope will emerge.  All in His perfect timing.  

In this holiday season of expectation, the manger begs me to hope and challenges me to seek.  I dig deep to ask myself what I actually seek because when I seek, I always find.  

genesis-16-thirteen

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the one who sees me.”  Genesis 16:13

I long to see the God who sees me.  I eagerly desire to look into the face of He who knew me before I was formed.  I crave the presence of He who has promised good to me.  His blood pulses through my veins, and I wait.

Those who wait upon the Lord through this long winter, He will renew their strength.  Waiting for His coming requires preparation.  Advent, my expectation season, is here.

The only way to spring is to hold tight through the winter.  Winter must happen.  The only way to Hope is through Christ my bridge.  He came to hold me up when the bottom falls out of my world.

the-word-became

The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  John 1:14

He came not like a human but as a human.  He is the God who took on a face in hopes that I would see His.  He could have come as a superhero, with superhuman powers, but he chose to come as a helpless baby.  He knows what it is like to be born and he knows what it is like to be me.  He knows what it is like to hurt and He knows how to cry.  He came to show me the way to the season of hope when the holidays seem hopeless.

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 Let my heart prepare Him room, intentionally.  He is the greatest gift and I know in this season I must let go to make room.  I must let go of past hurts to make room in the inn of my heart for His presence.  I must let go of expectations that never come to pass so that I may expect the coming of Christ.  I must let go of preparing for the gloom of winter so I may see the beauty of that silent night.  

As the gray day turns dark and the winter rains fall steadily I know the hope of spring is near.  He came so I may have life abundant, and live, by faith, through Him.  This winter I seek His face and His heart.  I rest in the warmth of the stable to gaze upon Him.  The season of waiting is here.

When Things are not the Same

I read somewhere that it is good to walk through the advent season with others.  Strength abounds in numbers when the passion of the journey is mutual.  Accountability and encouragement smooth the path forming an easily traversed road.  When Christmas is not the same, having friends along the way make a difference.

Christmas is a season of joyful expectations as well as a season of tradition.  The holiday begins the day after Halloween with festive decorations adorning the stores.  Little by little music starts to change, and Mr. Claus is everywhere to be found.  Joyfully, the expectations of Christmas arise.  Anticipation fills the air and the days become numbered.  

What if the day after Halloween was just November first?  What if the decorations and music never appeared?  What if it ceased?  Would Christmas still come?

I try to imagine Mary’s joyful expectations leading to Christmas.  Anticipating the arrival of her baby boy who was special in his own right, did she dream of the marvels of his coming?  Maybe she thought about how she would share her special moment with her mom or maybe an aunt near to help, with Joseph pacing anxiously in the next room.  Next, would come the announcement of “He’s here!  The baby boy is born!”  while the family congratulated the father.  

Mary’s Christmas, a night in the barn, took a little turn to the nontraditional.  No expectations came to pass.  She had only Joseph by her side.  The cheers of joy came from cows and sheep.  No mom to coach her through the process, no hot water to ease the sting, and no warm blankies to snuggle the baby.  The usually joyful expectations of childbirth shattered that night.  

So what do I do when Christmas is not the same?  When joyful expectations no longer come to pass?  Santa no longer leaves me presents under the tree I do not have.  The traditions of warmth, family, and holiday magic disappeared years ago.  What I need to know and am soon to find, with joyful expectation and tradition stripped away; the trees, the lights, the music, the jolly man in red, the food, and the festivities, can I still celebrate the coming of the King?  Would the attitude of the season be lost if everything, except Christ, ceased to exist?  Would it still be Christmas?

For many a sparkle-less season is a blatant reality.  Jesus, himself, did not have the glitz and glamor of a comfortable holiday.  He was born in a less-than-common way; perhaps to remind me this Holiday season that it is truly the simplicity of Him that I need to celebrate.  

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.  Honestly, it feels a bit like a dark winter night’s storm is soon to settle-in.  The winds howl around me, and the chill is eerie.  However, in the barn, I find peace while kneeling at the feeding trough where a tiny baby sleeps.  He doesn’t mind that his only light is from the moon and the stars.  He finds perfect comfort from the warmth of his momma, and the only music that plays comes from the animals that sing him a song.  This is perfection in the making.  

I know there are others who share my plight.  You may not see them as we tend to shy away from the season; we hide in plain sight.  A nontraditional life is a lonely place this time of year.  Do me a favor, when you find them hiding alone in this world, please tell them He is Christmas.  He came to bring Hope to a sparkle-less world, He came to be the sparkle, and it is all we need to say “Merry Christmas.”  When the day after Halloween is only November first and the holiday decor does not go up, it’s still Christmas.  

When things are not the same this season, fall at the feet of He who is always the same.

Come Near to Me, King

When the bad days outnumber the good

When the sad is more than I can bear

When the heartache is more than I can stand

You are here

 

When this house is not a home

When this earth is not my place

When this longing engulfs my being

You are here

 

When I cry the tears no one sees

When I scream the words no one hears

When I fall to pieces with no one near

You are here

 

When I walk through the valley of death

And fear all things

You comfort me

You give me green pastures and sunny skies

Surely I will dwell in your house forever

 

You let me feast on your goodness

While my enemies watch

You overfill my cup

And give me more than I deserve

Surely I’m your favorite

 

Your goodness overwhelms my soul

For nothing can take from me

What you freely give.

 

I bow before the King and set aside this world in preparation for my Savior.  I long for your justice, judge me accordingly.  Refine my broken heart until all that remains is your perfection.  May I dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

Psalm 23 and Malachi 3:1-5

 

Reinventing Christmas

My not traditional life leads me to a not traditional Christmas.  I’m left to reinvent the holiday (not in a Seinfeld “Festivus for the rest of us” sort of way).  Maybe I should say “re-define” this holiday.  

I remember, distinctly, the moment I knew Santa was not real. The jolly man in the red suit never fooled me. I was small in stature but mighty in reason.  So many pieces to the story never held up or checked out in my book.  

  1. We didn’t have a chimney, which ruined it for me completely.  My mother always said Santa could use a door as well.  I didn’t buy it. 
  2. We had a small family Christmas at home before going to my grandparents for the big Christmas.  Somehow, Santa always came to my house a week before Christmas Eve just to bring my sister and I presents, yeah right.  Strike two, disbelief clouded my mind
  3. Then there was the Christmas when my mother took my sister and I out of the house while my father hid the presents under the tree.  Upon our return, I noticed the cat’s fur was a mess.  That cat would let no strange man pet him, let alone a man who broke into the house.  That was the final straw that dispelled the fiction of Santa.  However, many years passed before I had my “ah-ha” moment connecting Christ with Christmas.

I grew up in the church.  From day five (I was born on a Tuesday), I was there.  I heard the Christmas story and knew about baby Jesus in the manger but it wasn’t until my sister, and I escaped the Grandparent’s house late one Christmas Eve and ducked into a midnight mass at the big Catholic church downtown.  Somehow, someway, (I suppose, maybe, it was the reverent formality of the mass, and it’s grandness) I had an epiphany connecting the Christ of Easter to the Christ of Christmas.  He was one in the same.  Of course, my sis and I were in trouble for driving all over town wasting the fuel in Grandpa’s car.  We thought it would be and enchanting time to look at Christmas lights while discussing the depth of Christmas (it was).  The parental figures disagreed when we returned hours late (the days long before cell phones); Christ yes, Christmas lights, no.   

Years before I disappeared, Christmas took a turn for the different when my father went to prison.  Nothing was ever the same.  Not too many years later, my grandfather passed away in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Little by little sweet Christmas memories morphed into shattered shards.  My Christmas’s stopped after I vanished into thin air.  Once I surfaced into an alternate universe, I tried to piece together, like an incomplete puzzle, my favorite holiday year after broken year to no avail.  It wasn’t until I lost my mother one Christmas and the tragedy that followed that I let it go completely.  No trees, no cards, no gifts, no parties, no relatives parking their Winnebago on the lawn; it was only another day on the calendar, and I did not care.  I could not let go, however, of the feeling of Christmas I received at that mass over twenty-five plus years ago.  The seed of wanting more than toys, lights, trees, and food from Christmas was planted and waiting for life-giving water.    

It was not until the present, did I realize that I do not need anything but the right heart to prepare the way for Christmas.  Thanksgiving set the stage to remind me that I have a host of things for which to be thankful even in the midst of an imperfect life.  The baby in the manger knows my name.  

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The Lord is coming, and it’s time to prepare the way.  Much like me, the Israelites were a grumble some lot.  It seems God was never good enough for them and they wanted justice (this sounds incredibly familiar).  So God Almighty said “You better get ready then, because I’m going to send Him and it’s not going to be quite what you think.  Get your heart in line, smooth out the wrinkles, and be prepared.”

Absolutely, at the beginning of this Advent season, I’m getting rid of the Thanksgiving leftovers and making room for Christmas dessert.  Likewise, I begin to prepare myself to welcome that baby boy that would one day die for my ungrateful heart.  But what about His second coming?  

Advent is a time of reflection and preparation for the first and second coming of Christ.  Will I withstand? (Malachi 3:2)

Will I make room for Him in the Inn of my heart both now and in the future?

Will I prepare the way for the savior that I beg to come?  

What does that manger dare me to believe?     

So, here I am reinventing my Christmas.  Unable to resurrect the ghost of Christmas past (which is a good thing, I don’t want to relive what I’ve been through), I am starting over eager to see what I can find when I sincerely seek the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.  I’ve challenged myself this Advent season to see hope and to believe, honestly, that He came to set me.  

Humbly, I lay my gifts at His feet, the little King, my Prince of Peace.  My circumstances could be a miracle in the making–I could very well, like Mary, look straight into the face of God.  

My Christmas Gift

Welcome to the season we all have eagerly awaited, the Christmas season.  Christmas is the season of celebrating my freedom.  This season, the birth of He who bridged Heaven and earth, is the epicenter of my faith.  He came to feel my pain and offer me a new perspective on the outcome.  He came to make Himself a tangible entity, a God who humbled Himself to know me greater that I might love Him more.  No other God in history has offered Himself to those He loves such as the creator of the universe did for me.  He came to bring an end to my captivity, to set me free.  

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Lost and hiding in the dark, you found me.  Unsure if you looked for a while or if you knew my exact location, I suspected I outran you.  I did not expect you to come to hell to find me.  Deservedly scared and alone, my captor kept me shackled.  A fitting punishment.  I overheard you speaking with him about my ransom.  It was costly, but you agreed to give your only son in exchange for my life.  You said I was worth your sacrifice.  The chains fell.  I was free to leave.  

Why set me free?  Why give your only son after I took you for granted?  I ran away, hid, cursed your name, and turned my back on you.  I did not deserve freedom; I deserved the chains that bound me.  You agreed, but you loved me beyond what I could see.  You loved me immeasurably more than my angry stubbornness.  My broken heart cried as you showed me my hope and my future.

My ransom came in the form of a baby born in a stable, laid in a manger.  Surrounded by barnyard friends, the savior of my soul drew his first breath.  Hope came to life.  He shattered the dark, fulfilling promise and prophecy.  The light of the world came to take my place one cold December night in the most humbling way.

Silently I wept, as I watched the scene unfold.  How could you sacrifice that precious little boy for my cold, bitter heart?  So quiet and innocent; his hands and feet were tiny.  His eyes were so bright and unforgettable.  All of Heaven rejoiced shouting “Glory to God in the highest” for the King of Heaven and Earth was born.  And you gave him as my ransom.

How do I repay you?  You secured my freedom; I’m forever in your debt.  I have no silver, no gold; I have nothing to give.  You lifted my tear-stained face and looked directly into my eyes while you explained why you gave your son freely.  He was your gift to me, for me.  In return, you wanted my acceptance of your gift, your child as my ransom.  His life for my soul.  You asked that I believe with all my heart that my debt was paid and live freely always remembering your sacrifice.  I would never forget this baby in the straw, my forever Christmas gift.  For he is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  I fell to my knees in adoration.  From the mountain tops, I would proclaim the story of how you paid my debt with your only son.  

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21   

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

May this Christmas and every Christmas serve as a reminder of Hope.  The chains of my oppressor forever broken by the precious baby who paid my debt with his life, perfect love.

Welcome to the season!