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.

#Election2020

November 3, 2020. For 4 years, it’s the day Americans have been waiting for. Either to re-elect the current president, or to vote him out. Voter turnout was higher than ever before in early voting and I have no doubt that at the end of all votes being tallied, this will be a record setting election.

In the days to come, this polarizing election will finally be over. Bless it. But when it is, our real work will begin. Because on both sides passion is strong, emotions are raw and victory seems like the only satisfactory outcome. But one side will feel tremendous loss.

And this is the place where we get to show up. See, if the guy I voted for wins, I get to pray for him until we start this election cycle again. I get to reach out to those who feel the loss greatly and work to keep division out of my relationships and just be the best example of Jesus that I can be.

If the guy I voted for loses, I get to pray for the winner until we start this election cycle again. I get to reach out to those who feel the victory greatly and work to keep division out of my relationships and just be the best example of Jesus that I can be.

If I’m being honest, many in the church have represented Jesus so poorly in the last 12 years of presidencies. When the church felt like they lost at the election of Obama, the curtain was pulled back to reveal the ugliest, least Christ like parts of the church. Racism showed itself. Suddenly “Christians” took to social media to tear apart the appearance of a family. 4 humans that were made in the image of a God who loves them deeply and feels ever single racist, hateful, critical statement that was made about them. So many in the church behaved as if the God of the universe was actually controlled by one single person sitting in one single position in one single country. It’s as if so many in the church held their faith in the presidency more than than in God himself. And rather than work to bridge divides, bridges were burned. For 8 years.

When Trump was elected 4 years ago, so many in the church were the most ungracious winners. Rather than working to bridge divides, an effort to double down on burning bridges was the order of business.

Let me be clear here. This wasn’t (and isn’t) the whole of the church. I’ve been so privileged and blessed to walk along side Christ followers who don’t put politicians above people and who believe firmly that the God who created heaven and earth doesn’t lose power based on America’s political choices. Who love well. Who serve well. Who show up. Who see people hurting and don’t stop to check political affiliation before stepping in to help. Who lose with grace and win with even more grace.

As we enter these days where we’ll find out who will sit in that little house on Pennsylvania Avenue for the next 4 years, can we as those who say we love Christ remember a few things?

Grace upon grace. There’s not a single one of us that isn’t in dire need of grace on a regular basis. Yet so many wouldn’t give it to someone “different” if salvation depended on it. What if God’s standard of grace for you was based on your standard of grace for others? Some would be left high & dry and some would covered for a lifetime. Choose grace.

He would love first. Remember years ago, the WWJD bracelets that were all the rage? The answer to that question? He would LOVE FIRST. He did love first. And loved ALL. Even those who didn’t agree. Even those who didn’t follow. Even the one that sold him for silver. Even the ones that nailed him to the cross. Choose love.

Let’s go back to pre-school. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. It’s honestly that simple. If something you’re about to post on social media were said by someone else about someone you’re fiercely protective of, what would your gut reaction be? (And, hi, don’t get all high & mighty here and try to pretend that you wouldn’t have a protective reaction. You would and you know it.) If you wouldn’t be ok with someone saying it about someone you love, don’t say it about someone else. Choose kindness.

God doesn’t need you, me or a president. Can we behave as if we believe God really sits on the throne in heaven? Because what I’ve seen from many in these last weeks is that too many Christians have more faith in who is or isn’t president than they do is the ONE that is actually in control here. Like the whole kingdom of God will crumble and fall if their person isn’t elected. Did you know that regardless of who sits in the White House, you can be a kind and good and loving person to your neighbor? Like Jesus would want you to do? Did you know that just because your person doesn’t win doesn’t mean God’s will wasn’t accomplished? Did you know that sometimes what you think is right, isn’t? God doesn’t need anyone of us to accomplish His plans and purposes. Let’s quit behaving like a single person controls the will of God and the outcome of his Kingdom. Choose God.

Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year you & I will still have highs and lows in life. No president can change that. Sure policies can add to or take away from our stress. But thankfully, the God I serve is bigger. Can we approach these next years as if we believe that our God is bigger? As if we believe that His plans & purposes always prevail? As if there’s still a world that needs to see Jesus represented well? Can we approach these next years walking with people and loving them well?

Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s that simple. Let’s do that and we’ll see the America we want to live in.

Graves Into Gardens

In this season that we’ve seen since Covid made its grand and unwelcome entrance to our lives, is there any one of us that hasn’t faced a battle? An obstacle? A loss? We’ve all kind of been tossed into that raging sea. Some are in boats that have weathered well and others are holding on driftwood just trying not to go under. But we’ve all faced something.

Early on in all of this I found this song. It’s become an anthem of sorts for me. A peace in the storm. A celebration of battles already won. A promise of the future. Which do you need today?

“You turn mourning to dancing. You give beauty for ashes. You turn shame into glory. You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies. You turn seas into highways.