Advent: Waiting in Love

Isn’t it difficult to act in love when you’re waiting expectantly for something? Or is that just me? Having passed my due date two days ago, I find myself a tad… just a tad – barely noticeable, I’m sure… cranky.

It’s okay if people pamper me and wait on me… I deserve it… I’m still pregnant. Right? Some folks were telling me that I was lucky that I could skip buying Christmas gifts and no one would hold me responsible because hey, I’m having a baby. 

How do you wait in love? How do you love others when your focus is on yourself or your expectation? It’s a bit of a challenge in my opinion.  

As we await the Christ child’s birth this week and the second coming each day, I am reminded not forget to love outwardly as the life of Jesus so perfectly modeled. It can become a temptation to focus solely on the waiting­­ or on the specifics of my own experience, but then I am missing the abundance of this life that Christ promised. There is redemption in relationship and beauty in service.

God bless your Christmas week and the celebration of the birth of Jesus!

Advent: Joy Down in my Heart... Where?

For this third week of Advent, I wanted to approach the theme of joy, but I am finding it difficult. I know in my head there is a distinction between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotive state that easily fluctuates in relation to changing outside circumstances, moods, or other factors. Joy, on the other hand, is supposed to be a character constant that is rooted in the unchanging Christ.

I know that in my head.

Still…. how do I experience joy when I’m not feeling particularly cheery? 

As my advent reflections have focused on my own upcoming Christmas child, I think of the joy of having a little baby. Of course, word on the street is that it’s not always “happy”: there’s the whole labor situation (thanks, Eve), the crying, and apparently I’m in for some sleepless nights. Yes, somehow joy is not supposed to rest in our circumstances.

I was sitting in the drive-thru at the bank this week, and this forces me to look directly at a very dilapidated house where a variety of characters often saunter in an out in a variety of apparel (think... camouflage coat with pajama pants). This day was bitterly cold and no one was bustling about, but I noticed a simple Christmas wreath on the door. It seemed so out of place it was almost comical. But I immediately thought of joy. It seemed to me that amidst a house that seems to be filled with people struggling with numerous challenges, there was this recognition of joy. A small sign that signified there’s something to be anticipating… Christmas and the Christ child… something that is bigger than our momentary struggles. 

I want to wear that Christmas wreath of joy around my neck – a reminder that my God is bigger than my story. He is unchanging, loving, and magnificent. This reality encourages joyfulness when happiness may be harder to come by.

Where do you see joy this advent season?

Continue in this Advent series: Waiting in Love

Advent: Peace in Pain

Can you discover peace in the midst of excruciating pain?

I’ve been pondering physical pain a great deal lately as I anticipate childbirth. I’ve had moments where I wonder what I was thinking and that I can’t possibly follow through on this plan. Of course, that’s not an option, so I’ve turned to educating myself. After asking my midwife a question, her response was, “Well, I think childbirth is always painful for everyone.”

Man, that’s unfortunate.

But Billy and I attended childbirth class to learn about what to expect (theoretically) and to try to be as prepared as possible. There was a lot less frenzy and wild, banshee screaming than what you see on TV, which was good news. Still, Billy finished the day feeling somewhat overwhelmed at how much pain I might experience, but I came away profoundly at peace.

Why? Because at the end of the seaon of pain, there was a always a crying, squirming, live little baby. And the parents couldn’t have been happier. There was purpose in the pain. It wasn’t pain for pain’s sake.

How often do we focus on the pain in our lives without considering what God is actively doing during that suffering? How frequently do I let physical or emotional pain consume me, rather than trusting the process to birth something good and delightful in the end?

In this season of Advent and celebrating the birth of the Savior, there is always the reminder that Jesus was the Savior because of the forthcoming cross. Imagine Jesus’ thoughts in life, knowing that it would end in agonizing pain, yet with tremendous purpose. I’m not suggesting that this knowledge makes pain any less painful or more desirable, and we are reminded of that when Jesus prays for the cup to be taken from him if there’s another way. Still, the knowledge of God’s bigger story and the purpose in our suffering has the potential to fill our hearts with peace in the meantime.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” -2 Corinthians 4:17

Where have you experienced God’s greater purposes emerging from painful situations? How has God been glorified though suffering in your story?

Continue in this Advent series: Joy Down in My Heart... Where?

Advent : Waiting for a Baby

“December 20… or maybe December 23,” my midwife told me as she studied the grainy photos from my ultrasound. I was thrilled to see “pictures” of a happy, healthy baby and felt more and more aware of the fact that there was a tiny person growing inside of me. Given my end of the year due date, I have been thinking about Christmas since about April of this year. So often we read the Christmas story, and we share the scene of the angel telling Mary she will give birth to the Christ child. Ten minutes later, we’re swaddling baby Jesus and lying him in a manger.

This year I’ve been sitting with Mary – waiting, hoping, worrying…. expecting. For the first time, I literally thought about the fact that she was pregnant for months, carrying Jesus. In this Advent season, I can’t think of anything that has required so much waiting from me as pregnancy has. I have tended to make major life changes suddenly and rarely wait on much. But this situation I cannot control, and as much as I keep asking my baby to come early … he or she has a little mind all its own.

So what do I do while I’m waiting? So often, I find myself turning to distraction… holiday parties, wandering through stores (often buying things for the baby as if choosing the perfect receiving blanket will encourage it to hurry on out and be received), or simply trying to forget time with activities and TV.

I have noticed signs of active waiting through preparation. We cleaned the carpets and set up the nursery. We rearranged to make space for the expected house guests that will arrive along with the baby. We’ve preregistered at the hospital and packed (sort of) our bag for the big day. We’ve taken classes to learn more about childbirth and child rearing in hopes of having some inkling of a clue in the moments ahead.

Yet I still find it difficult to dwell in expectation. I find myself wishing the next few weeks away and anxiously anticipating the future. At the same time, I have made conscious efforts to appreciate my husband and my spontaneous decision to see a movie one evening, knowing those outings may not happen (at least on a whim without prior planning) for this next season of our lives. I am trying to take advantage of days with time to myself and spend moments of waiting sitting with my Lord.

How are we actively preparing for the arrival of the Christ child this Christmas? How do we dwell in expectation for the remembrance of this past coming and the one that is yet to come? Do we rely on distraction to keep us from noticing the time? Wrapped up in the busyness of the holidays or our lives in general, do we let time pass without ever really preparing our hearts for our beloved? How can we be fully present and active in our season of expectation?

I feel challenged to evaluate the way I spend my time… seeking not to just hurriedly watch it pass, but to enjoy moments of God’s manifestation in this finite world. I am reminded to spend time with my Lord, preparing a space in my heart both in this Christmas season and in a life expecting a coming King. I want to truly notice my priorities and seek to make sure they are in order, knowing that any moment Christ could return and my world radically changed.

May your experience this Christmas season increase your ability to wait in expectation.

May you grow in silence and in preparation as we anticipate the arrival of the Christ child.

Continue in this Advent series: Peace in Pain.

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