Unwrapping His Presence

There’s a word that’s been buzzing about this past year: deconstruction. As in: “taking a “massive inventory of [your] faith, tearing every doctrine from the cupboard and turning each one over in [your] hand” (Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans p. 50).

While this may seem in vogue for 2020, people have been deconstructing for centuries. Perhaps it’s why we have over 200 denominations in the United States alone. Or why Martin Luther pinned his 95 “Theses” on the door of the Catholic church. 

Wasn’t Jesus the biggest deconstructer of them all? The Phariasees had quite a handle on the law and alas the lives and necks of every Jew until Jesus came along and knocked it all down like a house of cards on proverbial sand. 

It wasn’t the sinner Jesus hated. They (I) are why he came in the first place. No. He hated what the Pharisees had made of their faith and the impossibility to practice it. Jesus came to make all things new. To set the crooked backs of women crippled under the law straight again. To give everyone a seat at the table. A table set by Him, not men. 

People disagree. People argue scripture and its context. People teach from their own upbringing, viewpoint, leaning or agenda. People get offended when said upbringing, viewpoint, leaning, or agenda is questioned. People want to be right. People don’t like hard questions. People don’t want to think about something new from a different view.

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Over the past couple of years I have been learning and listening and leaning in to what God has been showing me. While God has not changed as he is steadfast and never changing, my thoughts and understanding have. This is what this deconstruction stuff is all about. It’s not the destruction of my faith but the gutting and reconstruction of it. 

It’s what allows me to have new thoughts and ideas that God is teaching me. It’s what allows me to ask questions, to say if parts and pieces of scripture are hard, to wonder what in the world God was thinking when he allowed this or that to happen. It’s what permits me to show all my feelings instead of believing the person who told me I cannot be angry with God…it’s disrespectful. 

It’s searching scriptures for answers to my questions. And questioning how scripture was presented in a sermon, a teaching, a radio program, around the dinner table, or from those who use their pulpit power to abuse. 

In the very first garden, the serpent asked Eve the question, Did God really say…? He meant it to question the Creator of all things. But what happens when I challenge, not God, but man with the same question? When I can wonder if God really did say…then list the things that are meant to exclude, put in place, keep chained to the law, keep silent, in the kitchen, out of leadership or ministry. 

Women are to be silent in the church. 

Did God really say…? 

Women are to be doormats to their abusive husbands. 

Did God really say…? 

Don’t heal on the Sabbath. 

Did God really say…?

You’ll only receive blessings if you are in church every time the doors are open. 

Did God really say…? 

Don’t drink alcohol. 

Don’t play cards. 

Don’t. 

Don’t. 

Don’t. 

People have been searching the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11) for centuries. Sounds a lot like Did God really say… 

Wouldn’t that tick off the enemy if we took the question he used to trick Eve with so long ago, the one that caused labor pains in birth and weeds in the garden, and instead set some folks free. What if we turn the table and used it against him? 

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Long before cable television and the plethora of fixer upper type shows one could watch on a 24-hour loop, there was a once-a-week show on PBS called This Old House. Our newlywed selves would watch and learn and dream of possibilities. We learned to look past the cosmetic eyesores like carpet, paint colors, even certain walls and room configurations as those could all be changed, ripped out, torn down. 

What you needed were good bones and a firm foundation. 

I liken my faith journey to a good foundation with some space for tearing down walls that didn’t belong, paint that is out of date, carpet that needn’t be shaggy or orange. 

When I first started seeing this deconstruction buzz word all over social media, I was curious about what all the buzz was about. Once I started reading, I thought to myself I’ve been doing this for the past couple of years. Oh wait, for longer than that. 

Mine began when my oldest daughter came home and announced she was either atheist or agnostic but did NOT believe in our God…of that she was sure. 

I responded like any Momma who has raised their kids in church. What are you talking about?! That is not the way you were raised! 

I was standing at a crossroads. I could keep her in the same box I grew my faith up in, which I had wallpapered and decorated so darn cute. I could let fear ride shotgun and drive my need for control. Or I could sit with her, talk with her, ask her questions and allow space for her to ask hers. I could walk with her as she discovered for herself this Jesus I love so much. 

I chose the latter. I’m so glad I did. 

5 years later in 2016 she decided to follow Jesus. We’ve been Unwrapping His Presence ever since.

It wasn’t always pretty and I very often answered with an I don’t know (it’s amazing when your own faith is questioned and you have to come up with answers other than that’s just what we do/believe and have no scripture back up) …but it was the start of my own asking the question, did God really say?

It was the beginning of leaning into the mystery of God, of the being still, of listening, learning and trusting. It was being okay with sitting in the unknown. It was me keeping my mouth shut, simply loving my daughter and watching God do some pretty awesome things. 

We continue to ask each other hard questions, wander in the wonder and watch God as he watches his daughters unwrap his presence.

I find that when fear is lurking in the shadows, I’m hanging on too tight to old beliefs or control or something in me that is a lie. 

Fear says I have to keep God in my tidy neat box. 

Faith says I can’t wait to watch God move. 

Fear says I have to control everything. 

Faith says God is in control. 

Fear says if I don’t who will. 

Faith says God will supply all needs.

Fear says keep busy. 

Faith says slow down.

Fear says hustle. 

Faith says rest. 

Fear says I have to do before I can be.

Faith says it’s already been done. 

Fear says that’s a dangerous thing to say, you’ll be without volunteers. People of faith will become lazy and lethargic. That’s why we must shove the do in people’s faces. Make them feel guilty. It’s why I love this quote:

“Ignatian discernment, then, isn’t so much about what to do but about who to be. It’s about becoming a person in tune with the movements that lead toward God. The doing will flow from the being.” (God’s Voice Within by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ page 6)

I’m seeing this in my own life. My being is what drives my doing. Not the other way around like so many hammer home. 

I like to think of deconstruction as an unwrapping of His presence, of spending time with Him doing nothing but being, of finding the treasure He not only has for me but also that He is. 

John Mark Comer explains that deconstruction is nothing new. Jesus and others use scripture to critique the world corruption of the church. But then there is another type of deconstruction for western millennials who use the world to critique scriptures authority over the church. The former is the way of Jesus. The latter is not. 

He goes on to say that deconstruction is the middle of maturation. Not the end goal. Deconstruction comes in three stages: 

Stage one: construction. It’s what we’re taught about faith. Things are black and white with no shades of grey. (Think You weren’t raised that way!) No questions are asked. I wonder if they are even allowed at this stage? 

Stage two: deconstruction. You realize there are some problems within the construction. You see others’ faith or way to believe. You begin to read scripture for yourself and wonder. So you ask questions. 

Stage three: reconstruction. You study. You learn. You listen. You discern. You rebuild your faith. You unwrap His presence. You see Him more and more. You feel Him in the dark places. He allows questions in wide spaces. (I added my own thoughts to each stage from my own experience.)

It’s a beautiful build. 

It’s a lovely gift to unwrap His presence. 

That’s what I discovered in 2021. 

It’s what I want more of in 2022. 

For me. 

For you

Let’s ask about each other’s stories of faith. Let’s not be afraid to ask hard questions or sit with each other during hard seasons. Let’s sit in the mystery of it all. Let’s look for Him in the pew as we take communion, in the park as we hear sweet giggles, in the least of these and the little things. His presence is in the Bible study at your local church as well as the dishes you are washing, the laundry you are doing or the babies you are feeding. Let’s discover who we are to be before we feel the need to do. Let’s have an absolute blast as we unwrap His presence! 

Stay wild my friends! 

kw

Unwrapping His Presents

photo of two brown wrapped gifts on wooden table
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Christmas is here! This time of year has me doing all manner of reflecting. Christmases past as a young girl living with her grandparents. Christmases when my own kiddos were little. Christmases now that my kiddos are no longer kiddos. We’ve been talking about favorite memories, favorite gifts, favorite traditions. 

Back in the day (when I walked 5 miles to school in the snow…you know the drill…) we didn’t get a lot of “in-between” things. I’m not sure if it’s so much that we couldn’t afford it, though we didn’t have a lot of money, but more like lessons were being taught on waiting and wonder, patience and anticipation. Like that time all I wanted for Christmas was a Mrs. Beasley doll. Would they? Could they? Find one. Buy one. Wrap one. Would she be waiting for me under the tree? I couldn’t sleep with the thought of it! 

I’ve become spoiled. With a swift click of a computer key, I can order whatever I want and have it delivered within a day or two with prime shipping. All while sipping coffee in my jammies. I never have to leave the comforts of my home, fight holiday traffic or the woman who is also going for the last thing on the shelf and my list. 

There is little waiting for my wants to be fulfilled. 

I wonder if this has left me with little wonder of the season. 

I wonder if this has left me with atrophied muscles when I have no choice but to wait. 

I wonder if I am so used to getting what I want, when I want that I no longer know what want even feels like. 

I wonder if this spills into other areas of my life. 

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Babies. They sure do teach us a lot about waiting and anticipation, don’t they? It’s like they’re on their own timetable and we are at their mercy. There was much expectancy as Mary, the mother of Jesus, approached her due date. 

She couldn’t hurry things along. 

She couldn’t control the government decree and it’s terrible timing. 

She couldn’t control the gossip, the looks, the whispers surrounding her pregnancy. 

Trust was a must as she watched this story unfold and become the life she was called to live.

Oh, the wonder of it all! 

There was much pondering of things, storing them in her heart as she watched God move in her life and now her tummy. 

The wonder she must have felt at being chosen. 

The wonder of the timing of the decree. 

The wonder of having no place to stay. 

The wonder of the birth on that holy night. 

The wonder of the shepherds visit. 

The wonder of the wisemen’s gifts. 

The wonder of Joseph’s dream to flee for their safety. 

The wonder of the words spoken by Anna the Prophetess and Simeon.

The wonder of the future for her baby Boy. 

The wonder of what it all means. 

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. (Luke 2:33)

Mary and Joseph got to experience so many gifts that could be stored up in her heart. Confirmations along the way. Open doors. Closed ones too. Provisions provided. Words spoken. Scripture tells us that Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. (Luke 2:19)

She watched. She waited. She meditated. She sat in the mystery of it all and wondered. 

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I must confess, I haven’t always been good at unwrapping my gifts. Maybe it’s because I wanted what someone else got…like the time I really wanted the flower planter box my friend got from her man instead of the homemade ping pong table I got from mine. 

But seriously. 

What happens when I am given gifts that go unopened, unused, unwanted? I miss out. So does everyone around me. 

I have a Father who is the giver of good gifts. (Matthew 7:11) I walked around most of my adult life being jealous of others’ gifts but never having even opened mine. It’s been in the last decade or so that I’ve not only opened them but used them, appreciated them, exercised them and watched in wonder, be a gift to others which is the biggest gift of all. 

What about those unseen gifts? Like peace, joy, contentment.

Jesus wasn’t kidding when He told us that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) Just look around or turn on the news or scroll through your social media pages for a hot second. Trouble is brewing. 

I can try to eat my way to peace. 

I can try to Amazon Prime my way to contentment. 

I can try to jump through man’s hoops for joy. 

Or I can go to the Source of all those things, the Giver of peace, joy and contentment. (We’ll be talking about “Unwrapping His Presence” next week.) 

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I have this gift of wonder that Mary had, I need only open it. I’m able to watch and ponder things in my own heart like treasures from heaven. Even when. 

It’s how I can experience:

Grief and joy at the same time. 

Fear when acting courageously. 

Peace in a pandemic. 

Hope in hopelessness. 

Love for our enemies. 

Wonder is what makes me able to see/feel light in the darkness.

Wonder is what makes me anticipate with trust. 

Wonder allows me to be: 

Loved and lovable. 

Accepted and acceptable. 

Valued and valuable. 

That Babe in a manger brings with him much wonder, much anticipation, and many gifts. 

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I’m learning to watch, wait and meditate. 

I’m learning to sit in the mystery and the wonder of it all.

I’m learning to grow spiritual muscles in the anticipation of what God is up to. 

I’m learning to open and use the gifts given by the One who was such a gift so many years ago. 

In the midst of office parties, get togethers, hustle and bustle, shopping, decorating, baking and memory making, may this season also be one of watching, waiting, and reflecting on the wonder of the best Gift of all.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2Corinthians 9:15)

kw

When Christmas is Different

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We’re having a bit of a different Christmas around here. It’s for a good reason…my middle daughter is having a baby soon and our oldest daughter is flying out to see her and this new little one while said oldest daughter is on break from teaching. So that means two of the five kiddos (and their spouses) will not be around for the holidays. That’s 40%. Almost half of us aren’t here.

We’ve been watching old VHS tapes of when all the older ones were littles with much of the tapings being around Christmas. The memories are beautiful but it’s also a reminder of just how different things are now.

Not all bad mind you. Just different.

The kids were all under one roof. Now three of the five are married blending traditions of both families as their own. Todd’s parents and sister and my grandparents were all alive and well. Those are treasured  times and moments that pass too quickly.

This year finds me feeling funky. What do you do when Christmas is different?

I woke up in the wee hours one morning with an acronym of GRACE on my mind and in my heart. Maybe you could use it this year too.

G is for give.

As in give YOURSELF some grace this year. Sometimes it’s easier to give to others than receive from yourself. We can certainly say to a friend, Of course you are sad (or bummed or blue or sick or whatever). It’s hard when things change (or you lose someone or your health is bad or it’s different).

 It’s okay to tell yourself that too. Cut yourself some slack, do what you can then gift yourself with grace.

R is for rest.

With all the hustle-bustle and added details…shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, parties, programs etc…of the season we forget or don’t allow for a time to rest.

Keep your quiet time appointment with the Lord. Allow yourself 15 minutes to simply be still or catch a quick nap. Spend a few minutes in the twinkle of the tree lights thinking through all you have to be thankful for. Don’t have a tree? That’s okay. Light a candle, grab a book or magazine and allow yourself some down time.

Self-care is important especially during busy (different) seasons.

A is for acknowledge.

Acknowledge your true feelings. Talk to someone…a counselor, pastor or friend about what you’re feeling…really feeling. Shoving emotions down because you shouldn’t feel this way or you feel like a Scrooge isn’t healthy and will come out somewhere else…hello cookies!

Stop telling yourself you should or shouldn’t do or feel a certain way and be honest with your emotions.

C is for cherish and change.

You get a two for one special here. Cherish those memories! When I look back at the Christmases gone by I LOVE seeing everyone together. The traditions, the food, the gatherings, the gifts. But life is about change. Some things need to go. Others need to be changed up a bit.

Do I miss some of those earlier years when my kids were all little and under my roof? I’d be lying if I said no. But I am learning to enjoy the rhythm of a new norm with a balance of old and new traditions.

Remember: just because you always have doesn’t mean you always have to.

E is for engage.

When your holidays are different, either from loss or even good things, it’s easy to withdraw from the world. It’s easy to assume everybody else is singing about the most wonderful time of the year and not struggling at all.

Don’t buy into that lie. Don’t withdraw. Please don’t.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing…coffee with a friend, serve in a shelter, go for a walk with a buddy, volunteer at church, visit people in a nursing home, deliver cookies to the hospital or abuse shelter….but do something. Serving, engaging gets us thinking outside of ourselves.

God sees us, you and me. He knows our struggle. He feels our pain. He knows when our Merry Christmas! is more like “Many Grievings.” It’s why he sent Hope in the form of a newborn babe, a Son, his One and Only…to help us through when things are different.

And that is GRACE.

Fiercely for YOU!

kw

 

 

 

 

 

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

christmas gift

We stood in the living room and watched our pre-K daughter stomp down the hallway in her Christmas jammies shouting, I didn’t want stupid baby dolls. I told Santa I wanted a bike!

Nat King Cole was crooning in the background about roasted chestnuts on an open fire. The smell of monkey bread with a waft of evergreen was in the air but the excitement had sizzled somehow.

Well alrighty then. That was a special kind of something. The little brat. Did she not realize the sacrifice we made to buy Christmas at all? Does she not understand that her Dad and I love her even when we didn’t give her everything she asked for or wanted?

Ever been there?

While this memory is one we can look back on and laugh, it is a reminder that I have been that little girl in her Christmas jammies, stomping down the hallway and shouting that I didn’t get what I wanted. Only I wasn’t a little girl. I was an adult woman who had prayed and prayed, asking her Father for one thing and getting something else. Something very different than what was on my list.

Ever been THERE?

I realize we are several months post-Christmas, a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is described as the indescribable gift from God. (2Corinthians 9:15NIV) Opening this Gift, discovering all the parts and pieces it involves, reading the directions and learning how best to put this Gift in action has been (and will continue to be) a lifelong process.

The instruction manual that comes with this Gift is both fascinating and frustrating. It soothes the soul one minute and makes me want to toss it across the room the next. It challenges me like no other book I’ve ever read.

Anybody else?

So what does one do when you receive this Gift and it’s not what you thought?

Maybe it’s harder than you imagined and there actually isn’t a BMW in your driveway and you still have more month than money. That tel-evangelist was smokin’ something when he painted a picture of roses!

Or maybe you’ve been praying hard…for healing, for your prodigal child, for your marriage that’s falling apart, for a different job or any job for that matter…whatever it may be, you’ve been faithful but the only sound on the other end is crickets.

Maybe you prayed for one thing and got something that was just the opposite or totally different.

What then?

Do we stomp down the hallway screaming that we didn’t want stupid baby dolls? Possibly. On occasion this still may be my reaction but I am maturing (?). I may only stomp my feet but not scream. (Imperfect progress is still progress.)

There are a couple things I’ve learned through the years:

The goodness of God does not change even when he doesn’t give me what I asked for. In fact, my Father is the giver of good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and he knows just what I need. His goodness is so great that he gave the best gift of all…His one and only Son. (John 3:16) If he never granted me another request that should be enough. My Father knows the sacrifice Christmas holds because Easter is right around the corner. Yet he gave.

I have a Father that knows the only way for me to grow is to NOT give me everything my heart desires. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and can trick me into throwing an all-out fit if its demands aren’t met. God knows this and gives according to my best interest, not because of some tantrum thrown in the middle of my family room floor.

I have a Father who is trustworthy. There have been many times when an answer to prayer was “delayed” (from my perspective) or seemingly not being answered at all. I’ve learned to ask what it was he was trying to teach me in the delayed response. And you know what? There was something. Every. Single. Time. So now I pick up a conductor’s wand and teach those crickets to play a song of praise in the wait….Tune My Heart to Sing His Grace.

When we begin to understand the sacrifice of the Gift, we tend to be grateful for what is given…whether or not it’s what we asked for, whether or not it comes in our timing, whether or not it was harder than we thought. It’s an attitude of gratitude that will forever need to be kept in check. Be thankful for the baby doll!

We don’t always get what we want but we will always get what we need. Our Father will make sure of that. Lean in, stay in his word and know that he loves you beyond your comprehension!

Fiercely for YOU!

kw

All I Want for Christmas

The anticipation was high and no matter how hard I closed my eyes, I could not get to sleep. I just knew when I woke up the next morning she would be in one of those packages under the tree. So I laid there, willing my five year old self to go to sleep.

The next morning, I ran out to the smell of breakfast baking, Dolly Partons Christmas album spinning on the record player and the Christmas tree lights twinkling and reflecting off the tinsel strewn on the tree by my brother and me.

Wrapping paper was ripped through and tossed aside. Present after present was torn open until finally, there she was…

mrs-beasley

I had waited for her all year! (In five year old time that equals two lifetimes…) I adored that Mrs. Beasley doll. I watched my beloved Buffy playing with her doll on Family Affair and then act out the scenes with my very own Mrs. Beasley. We spent countless hours playing and pretending.

What I hadn’t realized until many years later is the sacrifice and length my grandparents went to get this doll for me. We lived in the country and got to go to town (Lancaster) for groceries/shopping and on a rare occasion to eat out. We NEVER went to the city (Columbus) because in the words of my Grandfather, All they do is kill each other up there. While this may not be entirely true, it was his perception and avoided going anywhere near there. Until now…

My grandparents had looked in every store in town. There was not a Mrs. Beasley doll to be found. Anywhere. They only had one option…to shop at Children’s Palace. You may be guessing by now where this mega toy store was located….in the heart of shoot-out central…the big city…Columbus.

Off they went, leaving all the comforts of the country, risking life and limb, traveling to a place they had never gone before, on freeways they had rarely driven on in search of a Mrs. Beasley doll so their five year old granddaughter would wake up on Christmas morning and be able to open the one gift she wanted more than anything.

For as much as I treasured my beloved Mrs. Beasley then, I now cherish the sacrifice of my grandparents even more. What they wouldn’t do for this little girl.

There is another who also saw a little girl in need of a gift at Christmas. I have a Father who saw just what I needed and so He gave His One and Only Son… (John 3:16). He, too, left the comforts of His familiar to travel to a place that was foreign, a place where it sure seems all they do is kill each other. He, too, sacrificed life and limb by the literal giving of His life.

This gift isn’t found under a tree but on a tree. Willingly. Sacrificially.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

(2Corinthians 9:15)

Jesus. It’s the best present we could ever give or receive. Even better than a Mrs. Beasley doll.

Fiercely for you!

kw

When Norman Rockwell Ain’t Your Daddy

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My grandsons. 🙂

There we stood in my mother’s kitchen, exchanging looks instead of gifts as we heard growls coming from the family room. I asked Mom what in the world was going on in there. He always has a hard time around the holidays, came her reply. We just need to stay in here. He’s been drinking. Whiskey drunk means he’s a mean drunk.

You see this step-dad was a Vietnam vet. And an alcoholic. The memories of war were exacerbated by the holidays. So he drank whiskey, not his normal beer, to try and drown the thoughts of buddies long gone, scenes of destruction and families whose lives are forever changed. I didn’t realize that then. I just knew he “ruined”our Christmas.

So we kept ourselves within the confines of the kitchen. Presents would be opened another day. At least we could eat together.

Then there was a different time, house and husband when we all gathered at Mom’s once again and the stove stopped working mid-morning which meant mid turkey basting. Fortunately (?) Mom had lots of frozen hotdogs that could be nuked in the microwave. Nothing says Merry Christmas like biting into a hotdog that has cheese in the middle. That cheese wiener holiday dinner is stilled talked about today.

Why am I sharing a couple not so pleasant memories from Christmas? I have lots of good ones, I promise, so why these?

Because we’ve all been there. We want everything to go perfect and smooth. Especially during the holidays. But almost always, something happens. We want a Norman Rockwell portrait…

norman-rockwell

norman-rockwell-turkey

But Norman Rockwell ain’t your daddy.

Instead we have weird relatives and kids who cry. Burnt cookies and cheese wieners. Who hasn’t stayed up until midnight on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts?? There’s so much pressure to perform perfection. It’s insanity. (On a side note: if you do not have a Christmas horror story, you are dead to me. I jest…mostly.)

Before you point your finger and cry, Scrooge!  let me explain. Somewhere in the middle of all that wrapping paper and all those bows, twinkling lights and mistletoe, cookie baking and eggnog making, stockings hung with care and tinsel flare is a manger. And a reminder. Of the very first Christmas. It was messy and less than ideal.

Think about it. Mary was a pregnant teenage virgin (the smell of scandal still wafts in the air!) traveling many miles because the government said they had to (nobody likes the government, right?), on a donkey no less, with her soon to be husband who chooses to stay with her because an angel tells him to. Let the messiness of that sink in anew.

They get to their destination and there is not one hotel room available anywhere. (Hello! Trivago) Nary a bed could be found. A farmer was kind enough to let them stay in his barn, that was probably more like a cave, where she gave birth. Just her, a 14 (ish) year old who had never been with a man, and her betrothed. Having a baby. All by themselves. Let the messiness of that sink in afresh….though there’s nothing afresh about the smells in a barn.

Oh wait, the cattle were lowing so they weren’t by themselves.

Right there in the middle of that messiness…Perfection. For unto us a child is born…and it changed everything.

No. Norman Rockwell ain’t my daddy. Instead I have a Father who loves me enough to send His One and Only. This Babe born in Bethlehem becomes Christ crucified on the cross. He is…

Wonderful Counselor when I don’t know what to do.

Mighty God when I feel weak and need muscle.

Everlasting Father when I feel abandoned and unloved.

Prince of Peace in the middle of mayhem. (Isaiah 9:6)

he-appeared

That’s what Christmas is all about.

We saw my step-dad a few years later, after the divorce and before his passing. Oddly enough it was at a Christmas candlelight service at our old church. He looked awful. All the drinking had caught up with him. He now had a trach, his face was mutilated and swollen from the surgery, chemo and radiation for head and neck cancer. But there was something about him.  A peace. I believe he got it. He got the true meaning of Christmas. And his soul felt its worth.

Jesus sees us my sweet friend. Right here. In all our imperfections.

It’s why He came.

kw

Bruises and Wounds

apple-butter-jars

Making apple butter is a yearly family tradition of ours. We have a very large copper kettle that houses up to 6 bushels of apples we position over an open fire outside. It takes most of a day, starting in the pre-dawn hours, to cook apple chunks down to the spreadable, edible, delicious consistency needed to eat.

We needed to chop some bigger pieces of wood down to size so as not to scorch the apple butter with fire that was too hot. The girls got a lesson in using the axe (safety first) and then it was my turn to try my hand at chopping. The first few pieces went relatively smoothly…I was sort of really proud of myself as I had never swung an axe before, very homestead-y of me… until I hit a quartered piece at the wrong angle and sent it flying into my shin. Just above my boot and right below my knee. Of course the edge of the wood is what hit.

It was one of those hits that makes things go immediately numb but you can still feel the throbbing. And of course brings tears to your eyes. I sat down to look at it and it really didn’t look like much. A little red line where the edge hit but otherwise not too bad….at least as far as the eye could see.

But it hurt.

I couldn’t sleep that night because of it. Every time I rolled over or bumped it (even with the sheets) the throbbing would wake me up. The next day I looked at it again thinking half my lower leg would be black and blue, bruised and swollen but you could still only see that small red line.

I felt like a wimp and told my man I knew it didn’t look like much but boy did it hurt. He assured me he believed me and wondered if I had bruised the bone. I really am surprised at just how bad it hurts but you could never tell if you were to see my leg. (Did I mention this already??)

Then it dawned on me yesterday that that is how many of us walk around. Hurting so badly on the inside with wounds so deep but on the outside you could never tell anything was wrong.

Today is day four and my shin is doing a little better. Or so I thought. Until I made beds this morning and put my knee up on the soft mattress which put pressure on the bruise you cannot see of which is not quite as healed as I thought it was. I didn’t put my knee on the bed gently due to a momentary lapse of remembering just how sore my leg still was. Let’s just say I laid back on the bed in the fetal position for a few minutes while the throbbing stopped.

That’s what the holidays do to those with deep bruises no one can see. We forget just how tender we still are and this time of year puts us lying on the bed in a fetal position wanting the throbbing to stop.

When I looked up bone bruises on WebMD (I love to self-diagnose) here is what it said under treatments:

Avoid placing more stress on the bruised bone area to allow adequate healing. A bone bruise heals more slowly than a soft tissue damage.

So to you who have deep bruises no one can see and wounds that are still healing this holiday season:

  1. Cut yourself some slack. Avoid placing more stress on the bruise by expecting perfection or by berating yourself with shoulds and should nots. It’s ok to not do every single thing you normally do.
  2. If old traditions hurt too much, try some new things. There is no rule in the rule book that says you have to do any one thing. And then maybe next year you can re-incorporate some old traditions.
  3. Sometimes the best medicine is in helping others. Take cookies to a nursing home or fire department. Work a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Carole with friends. Be creative!
  4. Avoid Pintrest for pity’s sake! Good night, nobody needs that pressure! And social media? I’m not saying never here but minimize social media time. (I took Facebook off my phone last week… can you say FREEDOM!!) But seriously, sometimes social media does nothing but gouge a wound.

Put this one as number one top priority: reflect on the true meaning of the season. Forget tinsel town. Read about the little town of Bethlehem. Forget glitz and glamour. Remember the humble beginnings of a babe in a manger. The very reason Jesus was born is for those of us with deep bruises and wounds no one can see.

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He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

He sees you my fellow wounded warrior.

It’s why He came.

Love you something fierce!

kw