Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Word Wrap-Up 2013: Hear

'The Sound of Silence: After Hours' photo (c) 2008, fotologic - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For the last 3 years, I have participated in the One Word campaign/idea/thing. In 2011, I picked the word Hope. In 2012, I picked Faithful. And in 2013, I picked Hear. And I noticed that I'm really bad at following through consistently on my word. In 2011, I didn't blog about the word I picked, but I did a couple updates and a wrap up. In  2012, I blogged about the word I picked and had an update or two, but no wrap up. In 2013, I blogged about the word I picked and one good update. Then I fell off the blogging wagon and forgot my word.

Forgetting my word has been a bit of a theme across the last few years. Somewhere around mid-year I forget that I have a word to be focusing on and then in November or so, I pick it up again. It would seem that I would make no progress on the word during those months. However, the One Word campaign is more than just about me and my effort. It is about God and what he is doing. So when I pick a word it isn't what I would like to accomplish. It is what God plans to accomplish in me.

In 2011, I didn't see much progress on Hope, but today I see how much less I worry about stuff and how much more hope I have in God and His plan for my family and I.

In 2012, I didn't see much progress on Faithful, but today I see how much I trust God to speak into an individual's journey and how it isn't my job. I see how much better I am about getting things done around the house and financially.

In 2013, I originally started out with a heavy focus on writing. Then I threw in a smidge of God because it sounded good. (Well maybe more than just that, but not much more.) Then in my update, I heard God speaking to me about writing and life stuff. As the year progressed, my writing basically went away. I stopped blogging and I certainly didn't write anything else. I did journal about once a month, which isn't very awesome because my goal was 3 times a week. There was 1 month this year that I didn't blog a single word and 4 more months that I only blogged a few times. So my writing goals went out the window.

But what about the God part of my word?

In those 5 months, I felt lost. There were vast stretches of silence not just on the blog, but in life. I was nauseous and sick for about 24 weeks or so. I was tired and worn out. So I didn't put forth a lot of effort into writing, reading, journaling, cleaning, or anything really. That bothered me A LOT. I felt guilty about all the stuff I wasn't doing. I expressed some of those thoughts at Bible Study and one guy said, "Busy stands for Being Under Satan's Yoke." I listened to those words, but I also heard God's message that it was okay. I was slowing down and that was the right thing to do.

I tried to embrace the slowing down, but it was still a struggle. I wasn't ready for the nothing and the silence. It still felt like I was missing something or I should be doing something else. Then the Advent season of waiting brought me peace and acceptance. I can't say that there was one turning point. I can say there were lots of tears and some big changes. After those days, then came an uneasy peace which settled into simply peace.

My word for the year was Hear, but I didn't expect hearing to come with so much silence. There were things at my job that I relinquished. There were writing plans that I abandoned. There were social media 'obligations' that went undone. There were traditions that changed. There were job changes for my husband and people to whom we said goodbye. God silenced many things in my life this year, so I could hear the stuff that really mattered. My mother in law was healed of cancer. A little girl will be arriving at our house in March. My son needs attention from Mom and Dad and play time with those people. My extended family needs to hear more from me.

So I didn't hear what I expected and it didn't come to me in a way that I expected, but I do think I heard what God was saying. I also heard what he was not saying. In the hearing, I also learned to embrace a little bit of silence. I hope to find that at the close of 2014 I have grown in hearing and silence as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Good Stuff Saturday 12-28

From Saturday that somehow didn't get published:

Photos for the week: A swamp, Elephants, Street colors, a beautiful sky, sea cliffs, and a sea lion

Singles in the church. We, as the church, need to do so much better by this group of people.

"Traditions don't last forever"

Even if you don't speak Spanish, you can understand this one.

Some great ideas about why Christmas is still important.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Silence and Light for Christmas

So you may have noticed last week I was a bit cynical. Sorry for that, but I had to be honest. In the days since then I have been trying to work out how I can not be so cynical. I have been trying to listen extra hard to what might be trying to tell me. After a couple church services and Bible Study last night, I think I'm getting somewhere. So I thought I would share that with you. I don't really want to leave this space on a sour note.

I'm sitting here Christmas morning before my husband and son wake up listening to Christmas hymns and enjoying the light from the Christmas tree.

That's really my living room right now.

I find myself thinking about light and silence and me. As a culture we may have misconstrued Christmas and I have been a part of it. I still am because I'm sitting here trying not to worry about our 'okay enough' gifts that we have to give. I'm worrying that they are horrible gifts that no one will really want and I really hold no hope that they will genuinely enjoy said gifts. I genuinely try to think of something that the person will enjoy and that fits their personality. I try and yet I worry about it every year. I'm tired of worrying about it, so I'm going to stop thinking about it because Christmas starts first in my heart and in myself.

When I think back to the first Christmas, I'm impressed with the silence. The silence of the night broken by the cries of mother and babe. The silence of the shepherds in the field broken by the chorus of angels. And while they weren't actually there at the moment of birth, the silence of the Magi, of Anna, and of Simeon all broken by worship of the King. There was silence that night until God broke the silence with the birth of his Son. So I need to find silence. Not the noise of crowds and shopping, but silence. Not the noise of one too many Christmas parties, but silence. Not the noise from my head doubting, but silence. Not the noise of trying to make too many people happy, but silence. 

I need to find silence this Christmas season and let God break through that silence. 

And when he does break through that silence, He brings with Him light. He is light and He plants that light inside us to show to others. When we shine His light through us, then the reality of Christmas is brought into that space as well. 

There are many wonderful things about Christmas. There are even family traditions that I enjoy. However, Christmas means more than these traditions and more than the song lyrics. Christmas is about the Incarnation of Christ. God coming to live with us in the form of a baby that grew up to be a man who experienced what we have here and sacrificed himself to make sure we can experience what He has there. 

So I'm going to take a few minutes and enjoy some silence.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Good Stuff Saturday 12-20

This week the photo is of butterflies.

This list is amazing! It's nice to know when other people get your book obesession

What Xmas really means and it might not be what you think.

Love these thoughts. Very real because sometimes hard things happen and we don't always react well.

It seems that Christians these days love a controversy, but are we missing the point?

Teaching is hard. This is a little glimpse into why.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What does Christmas mean again?

'Carol Singing' photo (c) 2006, Herry Lawford - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Watching a video on Christmas traditions in other countries made me realize how shallow our obsession with gifts is as well as how time consuming it is. We don't have time to celebrate by listening to a special performance of a chamber choir. We don't have time to enjoy a bonfire and carols with our neighbors. We don't have time to create special ornaments or decorations. We don't have time to make choosing and decorating a tree a special thing. We don't make any special treats for others around us. We don't deliver them to our neighbors and spend time talking with them.

All we do is go to the some over crowded store and search for the 'perfect' gift that will some how outshine the other dozen or more gifts that are given to that particular person. We spend money that we often don't have to make sure that what we buy is just so. Christmas has become about what we buy. We get Christmas from a store.

"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store."

That might sound a bit cynical and short sighted, but for me personally, I'm ready for Christmas to mean more.

I would love to hear from you all about your Christmas traditions. How do you make Christmas mean more?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Good Stuff Saturday 12-14

So most of you may not know, but I'm in love with moose and reindeer. So this picture is just awesome!

And the introvert in me thinks this place would be a great place to see these animals and just get away from it all for awhile.

#11 is one of my all time fears! Introverts will get this list.

I have read about 10 of these. Are you more well read than me?

Wow! I don't even know how to start wrapping my mind around this cultural difference.

And how did I get to be 33 years old relatively well read and educated and not know this! It will blow your mind!

Sometimes we get so caught up in Christmas we forget about Advent. This is a good reminder.

I want to grow up to be like this someday.

Monday, December 9, 2013

No more asking, just listening.

'Sinking Tug' photo (c) 2010, Jon Skilling - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

"Slowly sinking under the weight of way too many commitments." A forward has never captured me the way this one did. In my head, I'm screaming, "YES, that is exactly what has been happening with me, with us, for way too long."

So even though I'm only on page 15 now, I find myself invigorated and ready to read this book and many others. I'm ready to color and play pretend with my son. I'm ready to watch movies or go to games with my husband. I'm ready to start living as a family again or maybe for the first time.

How did we get this far from healthy? And why did it take such pain to pull us back together?

I suppose those are the two questions that keep running through my head. I can't say I'm unhappy with this place we find ourselves in because I'm not. I am less stressed than I have been in a long time. I'm enjoying time with family and friends again instead of feeling like I should be somewhere else doing something else. I'm relaxed.

I'm still sad for the people we had to leave behind to get this change. And since I suck at goodbyes, I find myself getting stuck in that sad place more often than I would like to. I'm pretty sure I'm also thinking too hard about this whole thing and trying to find something about myself to 'fix' to make sure it doesn't happen again. And maybe there isn't anything about me to 'fix'. Maybe God just wants me to stop and to be for a little while. Maybe I just need to focus on my family and God.

Maybe I just need to be thankful for God's plan and shut all those questions out. After all, I can't hear what God is saying if I keep asking him questions constantly. So it's time for me to just listen. Or maybe hear is a better word for it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Good Stuff Saturday 12-7

Sometimes rants are worth it.

This is a rather amazing story. She is so brave.

Of course the photos! Fog, a crazy lake reflection, stormy seas, and some cute baby owls.

Remembering family stories are important. Shawn puts it more eloquently than me though.

Are you settling for anything? The Magi didn't and we shouldn't either

Are you willing to deal with someone else's mess? The Church is supposed to.

Kim is just so willing to give and help people out. This is a beautiful idea that I am thinking of how I could start doing something like it.