After Resurrection Sunday

This last week my Bible study has had me in Exodus. Early in the week, I really thought it was a little “off” timing wise that the writers of this Bible Study laid out the plan to have Exodus following Resurrection Sunday. Why wouldn’t you stay in the New Testament and focus on the days post-resurrection?

But in the last few days, I’ve seen, at least for me, why God wanted me reading Exodus now. We spend Good Friday through Resurrection Sunday broken for the brutal way Jesus died, deeply grateful for what that cross means for us, thankful that Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave. And with a deeper realization of the depths of forgiveness and redemption that God so graciously gifted us.

But then we step into a new week. We still believe in all that the cross and the resurrection gift us. But as we go about life, we also can become so aware of how unworthy of the cross that we are. Then Exodus. Moses. He’s one of those heroes of the Bible that I can relate to in a lot of ways because he is human with a past full of failure, regret, mistakes, doubt, insecurity. And his story reminds me that the cross isn’t just about forgiveness. It’s about redemption.

Moses murdered an Egyptian and went into exile for 40 years. He surely thought the rest of his life would be separate from the Israelites tending his father in law’s livestock and crops. But then God called him to a burning bush. A murderer. Do you have a thing in your past that you think disqualifies you? Look back to the empty tomb. Jesus already defeated that.

Here’s the thing about Moses (and me, if I’m being honest). God called him by name and gave him an assignment despite what Moses felt was the greatest mistake of his life. He took the greatest pain of Moses’ life and redeemed it. Wouldn’t that be enough to make him just obey? But Moses inventoried all of his other shortcomings and fears standing in front of that burning bush talking to God…I stutter; the Israelites won’t believe me; Pharaoh will have me killed; I’m not worthy to do this. Y’all. He was in the very presence of God, hearing God’s audible voice and still questioned.

Can I be honest with you? This is me. No, I’ve never murdered anyone, but I’ve got things in my past that cause me to question if I’m worthy. Even though I’ve seen God redeem them and use them. I have insecurities that make me say, “Are you sure, God? Like really sure you’re talking to me?” And just like with Moses, God lovingly and patiently reassures me. Those things…all of them were redeemed when Jesus died on that cross then defeated all of the plans of the enemy.

Are you struggling to believe you’re qualified or worthy? Friend, God can handle your questions. Just like Moses, God will use the things and people in your daily life to speak reassurance to you. Are you hearing the direction, but gripped by insecurities? Look to that empty tomb. It doesn’t just symbolize the defeat of sin. That empty tomb means that all of the things you see as shortcomings have already been redeemed to work for good in the plan God has for you. He sees you just as you are…beautiful, worthy, able, redeemed. And He calls you by name.

When it comes full circle

March 12, 2020. I remember the day vividly. It was a Thursday. The last day of school before Spring Break. We picked up Addi & a friend from school and made the drive to Wimberly for Payne’s track meet. We talked on the drive about how crazy this new virus was. We talked about how, even though the virus hadn’t made its way to Kerrville yet, we’d keep our distance from folks who traveled to typical spring break-ish places just in case. We also talked about things we were still looking forward to in the spring and summer. And we had no idea just how much the world was about to change.

The track meet on March 12, 2020 ended up being the last thing that went as planned in 2020. The kids came home for spring break and never went back to school. There were lots of Senior year losses for Payne. A lost soccer season for Addison, where her brother would get to be her coach for the only time in her soccer playing years. A lost job. Re-imagined birthdays, cancelled trips, new buzzwords and phrases like “social distancing” “unprecedented” (I’m ok if I never hear that word again!) and “don’t forget your mask”.

And if that wasn’t enough, racial tensions erupted into civil unrest as our country as a whole reacted to racism at its ugliest on display. Weeks of protests and riots added to an already high stress, high tension and high anxiety year. And we had only hit summer.

2020 was a tough one. Natural disasters, death, sickness, separation, isolation, job loss, financial struggles…just the tip of the iceberg for so many of us. It seemed like the year that would never end.

Can I tell you the greatest gift that I think I received in 2020? The painful realization that there is no guarantee of that next thing. I didn’t know on March 12, 2020 that I’d never see Payne run in a Tivy uniform again. Didn’t this virus know that I had other track meets on my calendar for his Senior year? I didn’t know church would stop meeting in the traditional fashion. I have friends who didn’t know they’d never see a loved one again the last time they saw them. Friends who had no idea that when they left work on that random Tuesday that they’d never go back to that job. Because it was gone. So many sudden, unexpected endings.

But for me, experiencing some of that really was a bittersweet gift. I sat at Addison’s first volleyball game this year and remember thinking, “I need to soak this all in. They may not get a second game.” And honestly thinking that every time I sat down in a gym. I think that perspective helped me a lot in situations where I would have preferred a little less “safety protocol”. I could quickly remind myself that a year ago, we couldn’t do this at all, so I can endure this “safety protocol” so this thing, this event can happen. Even if it meant I was a little uncomfortable.

This week I had a moment that felt full circle. Addison had a track meet in Wimberly. On March 10, 2021. Almost 1 year to the day from her brother’s last meet. In the same location. And for the first time in a year, masks were optional. And things felt hopeful. I got emotional connecting those dots. It was a hard year. There’s no one that wasn’t touched by the virus in some way. But it felt, in a way, like this circle came around and closed.

It reminded me that sometimes God takes us back to places of loss so that we can really see how far we’ve come. And really see the good He can work in and bring from anything. Sometimes it takes a year to come full circle. Sometimes it takes many. Whether you’ve come full circle or are waiting for that moment when you feel the circle close, God is working. And He is good.

Crowning 2020

2020. That’s really all I need to say about the last year. For years to come, I’m sure when something completely, absurdly ridiculous happens, our response will be, “That is SO 2020.” And everyone will know exactly what we mean!

This year was chocked full of hard pathways. And many times we felt like we were on no less than 872 of those hard pathways simultaneously. There were moments when scarcity felt like more of the word to describe what pathways overflowed with. But hindsite. It really is 2020. (Honestly, the irony here is just…ironic)

Lost school days, lost sports seasons, lost lasts, lost celebrations, lost lost loved ones. So much loss filled so much of the first half of 2020. The second half allowed us to return to some normalcy, but still held challenges. But in all of it…the losses, the challenges, the uncertainty…there was abundance.

In this house, family game nights became a regular thing. Daily walks with my people (sometimes one with each of them!) became a regular and highly treasured addition. The loss of events meant the gift of time. The absence of busy invited more focus and intentionality. The slower pace, while sometimes a little maddening, allowed for rest and refreshing.

Was it hard? YES! Will we all very enthusiastically bid farewell to 2020? YES! Will we ever want a repeat? Absolutely not!! (2020, your name is Felicia, and I’m sayin’ BYE!)

But these pathways? They’ve pretty much all ended in abundance. You just have to choose to see what abundance means for that pathway. Ending this year? I’ll be surrounded by my people. That’s my bountiful harvest. Too often we define “abundance” and “bountiful harvest” in material or monetary terms. This year, more than ever, my abundance is in time well spent with my favorite people. My bountiful harvest is my people. The ones that share this house with me and the ones that share my heart.

We did it, y’all. We got out of 2020. Maybe a little bumped & bruised and maybe a little weary, but we did it! Happy 2021, everyone. Praying a year of abundance and bountiful harvests for you all!

The thrill of hope in this weary world

Christmas is always one of my favorite times of the year.  Christmas music, Christmas movies, colder weather, Christmas parties, Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, Christmas cookies, Christmas EVERYTHING.  I love it all.  I’m one of those people who would listen to Christmas music all year round if it was socially acceptable or even just acceptable in my house!  I keep a nativity on display in our home all year round.  I LOVE it.

But for as joyful as this season typically is for me, this year there’s definitely an element of weary. Isn’t it there for all of us?  So often the pain of a lost loved one, of distance between families, of fractured relationships, of missed events becomes real and raw during the holiday season. And 2020 has added a whole different level of feelings of loss and confusion and weariness.

Life, and a pandemic, doesn’t stop because Christmas is near.  There’s not a sudden 30 or 45 day reprieve from pain and heartache and fear that the road of life brings because we’re nearing the celebration of the Savior’s birth.  Hearts break, dreams shatter, souls become weary.

But isn’t that what Jesus came for? The weary soul? My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night.  One night, one birth that changed the world forever.  A Savior born so that you & I could have the hope of eternity.  “The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.”  But Jesus didn’t just come for the world and for eternity.  He came for the single soul that is weary from the road of life.  He came to be personal, real and relevant to me.  To you.

He came to bring hope, to anchor us in hope, so that our weary souls can rejoice.  So that in the midst of raw emotion, we can experience the thrill of hope that Christ’s birth allows for us.  Hope that on the other side of eternity, we will be reunited with those we’ve lost.  Hope that a doctor’s prognosis holds no power to God’s healing.  Hope that the most fractured of relationships can be miraculously restored.  Hope that a weary soul can find reason to rejoice.

If this Christmas season is one that finds your soul weary, cling to that thrill of hope that the Savior’s birth brought to this world.  Cling to the hope that He extends to you now.  Let your weary soul rest in Him and find in Him the thrill of hope that causes your weary heart to rejoice.

True Confessions of a Christmas Junkie

I was asked to write for our church devotional this week. And now that it’s been shared there, I wanted to share here!

Confession: I don’t like Hallmark Christmas movies. Well, any Hallmark movies, if I’m being honest. But I love Christmas. So this week, in the midst of the turmoil that’s on most other channels, I decided to give Hallmark Christmas movies a shot. Surely this Christmas loving girl could find a way to love a Christmas movie…no matter how syrupy sweet and predictable the plot is.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that after watching 3 of them, I’m even more resolute in my dislike of this brand of Christmas movies that so many of you love. I tried, I really did!

Isn’t it interesting how one thing can be perceived so differently by different people? How our experiences, upbringings, relationships, passions, convictions and so many other unique things craft our perception? These movies that so many love and watch any time they can make me want to just turn my tv off!

I think, for me, it’s that every single one is wrapped up so neatly in a bow. With a perfect ending. And that’s not life. We go through hard things and sometimes the end is ugly and messy, not pretty and perfect. Life is complicated and doesn’t follow a romanticized script with a sweet beginning, sticky but endearing middle and picture perfect ending. But it’s an escape for millions.

I’m more of a football game approach to life kinda girl. The beginning is exciting. There are ups and down, bumps and bruises, small victories and losses in the middle. And even if you end with a win, you still might end frustrated. But, just like those syrupy sweet movies, those football games (or any sporting event really) are my escape. I can hear the cringe that many of you Hallmark movie lovers worked up while reading that.

Isn’t it interesting that the differing perspectives on two wildly popular things can vary? But isn’t it also interesting that we need the different perspectives to keep the world spinning?

It’s a lot like the church. We’re full of personalities, big & bold and mild & meek. The play callers that want to move things along and the musical montage makers who want us to sweetly remember things past and present. We’re full of opinions and plans and traditions and progression. And we need each and every one of those things. Each and every one of those people. The church is one of those unique places where all of the differences can be laid to the side because of the one common focus: Jesus.

Jesus, who tells us that each of us, in our own uniquely created way, are vital. Are worthy. And necessary. Jesus, who calls us all by name to be there with Him in the end, if we’ll just follow Him. It’s messy, it’s beautiful, it’s hard, it’s rewarding. And the end makes it all worth it.

I guess at the end of it all, Jesus really does wrap it up in a pretty bow. And also makes it feel like a Super Bowl win.