Overwhelmed at Christmas

overwhelmed at Christmas2

With so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at Christmas. There are parties to attend and host, baking and more baking, gifts to buy, wrap, and exchange, cards to deliver, and perhaps a little something God whispered to your heart like volunteering or helping someone who’s really struggling this time of year.

It can be a bit overwhelming.

Since visiting Walmart and our local mall yesterday, I know I’m not the only one. The overall feeling was “hurry” and the basic maneuvering of pushing a grocery cart was at breakneck speed, dodging others who were doing the same.

But let me tell you what God has done to help me slow down:

I sprayed myself in the face (with God’s help, I believe 🙂 ) with the sink sprayer while hurrying to clean up, the water also hitting my arm and landing in a puddle on the floor. I found the puddle after laughing, thanking God for the wake-up call, and turning to leave the moment behind; I left with an even bigger smile and a wet sock.

I watched deer playing in the backyard, chasing each other and circling around; their white tails wagging and waving at me as if to remind me to find joy in the moments all around me.

I “found” a bright and beautiful dandelion (my favorite!) on my walk…in December?! Of course I picked it and put in a glass on the windowsill.

Laughter, so much laughter and joy. Laughing at a silly reindeer hat and broken glasses with close friends, cracking up over eating bread (long story!) with some wonderful friends from church, and laughing with God as I remembered Him spraying me in the face (see above).

Our dear Pastor stopped what she was doing to hug me and breathe with me. It was as if God used her to wrap His arms around me to tell me to calm down and breathe.

I can’t tell you the number of times I looked into the eyes of children (those riding in grocery carts, walking through stores, and talking with me at McDonald’s) and saw the peace and love of God Himself.

And something God did to not only slow me down, but to remind me Who Christmas is about and to fix my eyes on Him:

He reminded me why Jesus came, and He led me back to the cross. (To go there with me, click here.)

God taught me being overwhelmed at Christmas is a very good thing, not when we’re overwhelmed by the world and its demands, but when we’re overwhelmed by Jesus Christ Himself.

I pray you and I are overwhelmed by Jesus Christ this Christmas.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you all!

The View From My Window

st louis

We were driving 70 mph along the interstate, traveling between a semi-truck and a car whose driver had his nose buried in his cell phone. As always, I grabbed my door handle and reached with my foot for the invisible brake on the passenger floorboard. (Note: My invisible brake only works when my husband notices what I’m doing and instinctively uses the real brake over there on the driver’s side.)

Erratic driving. Speeding. Road rage. Texting while driving (please don’t do it!!). I saw a lot of things like that, scaring me into panic mode. I noticed a car swerving and when we began to pass it, I realized it was another driver texting, his head bobbing up and down as he tried to focus on the road a little and his phone a little more. Moments later, I saw a child strapped in a car seat playing with her feet, innocently riding in the car in front of the guy texting. It terrified me, really.

What did I do besides squirm, cringe, and reach for my handle?

I prayed. A lot.

I prayed for that child in the car seat. I prayed for the guy texting. I prayed for the young woman at the rest stop who was pacing in front of the open hood of her car while talking on her cell phone. I prayed for those riding on motorcycles, especially when they were pelted with heavy raindrops. And I prayed for the semi-truck drivers who were just trying to make a living in the middle of all the madness.

But God opened my eyes to more than those needing prayer, more than the Gateway Arch outside my window on our trip to visit family in Missouri:

Reminders.

I saw crosses. Small white crosses standing alone in front lawns. Three crosses standing tall on a hill. An enormous white cross, the surrounding buildings seemingly miniature in comparison. Crosses dazzled in the sunlight on the tops of churches and quietly rested in the shade alongside the highway as memorials.

They reminded me of Jesus and how His sacrifice has reached so far, changed so many lives, and touched and comforted so many hearts.

And I was reminded and encouraged when I read, “In God we trust.” I spotted those words across hundreds of miles of highway like lovely wildflowers that can’t be contained. They traveled in front of me on bumper stickers. They shouted from large decals on the backs of semi-trucks. I even noticed those words waving to me from across the street at a bank in a small town in Illinois when we stopped for gas.

Sometimes when we look out our window and all we see is madness, when the enemy tries to deceive us into believing the whole world has gone, well, mad, and we’re the only ones following Christ and we’re crazy in doing so, God reminds us of His truth and the fact that we’re not alone in our faith. We don’t have to travel this road alone. God is always with us.

And we have many brothers and sisters in Christ, right outside our window.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT.)

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It Makes Perfect Sense to My Heart

snow flowers

Sometimes things don’t make sense to me. Why is snow falling on the delicate flowers in our yard and melting the moment those flakes land, before I can get a single photograph?

And why did God allow me to write about the pain Jesus endured on the cross, my own heart torn in two (read here), but not about the joy of Easter morning so my heart could overflow with joy?

Perhaps He wanted me to stay at the cross awhile longer, so I wouldn’t dismiss it after a day or two; to be still at His feet and really take in the gravity of Jesus’ actions that day. For me. And for you.

And really, only God knew about today; the snow falling on the timid flowers and the question I would ask. “When, Lord?” He knew my question before I asked and told me today it’s time to stand up from the foot of the cross.

I imagine lifting my hand from the rough wood, cherishing Jesus’ blood that soaked in to my own fingertips, and closing my hand; holding His sacrifice closer in a more profound way. I look upon His face once more and close my eyes, allowing the image to burn into my mind; so when I feel bouts of selfishness or discouragement, I will close my eyes and see Him and remember what He has done for me and how much He loves me.

It’s time, so I stand from the foot of the cross and remember Jesus had to be carried from it. I wipe the tears from my face and thank Him for the freedom I have to stand, and the life I have here and now as well as eternal life.

Finally, I’m going to do what I’ve been desperately longing to do since I first knelt here: I’m going to run to the tomb.

I’m going to imagine running to the tomb like I’ve never run before because I want to be bathed in the light that glows brighter than the street of gold reflecting upon me. I’m going to run past every distraction, past all the things I need to do because this is where I need to be. And I’m going to stop at the entrance of the tomb, a place that should be dark, and I’m going to be thrilled at the sight of the empty tomb permeated with light. A light so pure and heavenly it cascades like water flowing over the rocks on the ground, washing over me.

And I’m going to stand in the light, letting it warm and heal all of my brokenness; the sensation of it dancing across my skin. I’m going to close my eyes and visit the image of my Savior on that cross. Not because I’m struggling with selfishness or discouragement, but because I don’t ever want to forget. And I want to be totally aware of the striking contrast of what I have seen and what I’m about to see:

I open my eyes and see Jesus Christ, my Jesus, standing before me in all of His radiance and glory. He is so tender and kind, and so mighty, and I realize He is smiling. I am in such awe that my Lord and Savior is actually smiling at me. His eyes reflect everything pure and lovely and holy. I struggle to stand in His presence, but He steadies me. We gaze upon each other as if we’ve known each other all along, as if there are hidden words we share when we look upon each other that belong solely to us. My heart tells me, it’s all true.

It doesn’t make sense why the Son of God should die for me. But it makes perfect sense to my heart: He loves me.

And He loves you.

Thank you, Jesus.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12 NIV.)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9 NIV.)

 “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’” (Luke 24:2-6a NIV.)

 

 

 

At the Foot of the Cross Where My Heart is Torn in Two

the cross

I went to the foot of the cross during a prayer meeting at church a few years ago. I knelt there, rested my hand on the wood, and bowed my head.  I knew it wasn’t the actual cross Jesus was crucified on, but I imagined it was:

I imagined Jesus looking down at me as He suffered, His blood running down and flowing over the rough, splintered wood before reaching my fingertips. I sobbed, imagining His face swollen and beaten, His eyes mere slits. But He was able to see me as I knelt there, my heart tearing in two.  I hated the idea of His suffering and at the same time I was so deeply thankful because I knew He was saving me in a way I never could.

As He hung there struggling to breathe, agonizing in ways I could never imagine, I wondered if my being at the foot of the cross, perhaps, brought Him a small moment of comfort. Perhaps He saw me here in this moment two thousand years earlier, surrendering my heart to Him, my King, the Lover of my Soul; my heart was torn in two, wide open for Him to enter in.

I gave Him then, as I do today, all of my brokenness and my torn heart because I love Him with all that I am, all that I have to give.

My God. My God.  How I adore and honor Your Son!  How I want to take Him in my arms and hold Him and take away His suffering as a mother does for her child and ease the agony of my own heart that breaks.  And yet, I know He is King and it must be this way.  I cannot rescue Him for He is the One who rescues me.

My Savior, Jesus, My King. How I worship You and honor You! I fall here at the foot of Your cross and I cry out to You with thanksgiving.  Thank You for taking the punishment that was mine.  Thank You for carrying this overwhelming burden for me.  It would have suffocated me the moment I tried to carry it.

And thank You for loving me in such a way I can’t possibly fathom but only humbly accept and cherish, treasuring it in my heart and holding it as close as my own breath.

One day, Jesus, I will run to You as I’ve imagined in my dreams, and I will throw my arms around You to thank You. Perhaps I will give You such a bear hug like I’ve never hugged anyone before.  Perhaps I will kiss Your cheek, hoping to remove the sting of betrayal from Judas, replacing it with deep adoration as joyful tears soak both of our faces.  Or perhaps I’ll collapse before You and fall apart, sobbing at Your feet because there is no way I can ever thank You or love You enough.

I imagine in that moment You’ll help me to stand and You’ll take me in your arms and hold me, letting me cry and whispering in my ear words I can’t hear or even imagine just yet. Oh, the sound of your voice so near and the warmth of your arms.  I know I will be loved more deeply than ever before, the shadow of the cross behind You and light reflecting from You as You lead me into eternity in Your arms.  Those arms that hurt for me, that hurt for all of Your children, so long ago.  You wanted to hold us, and the cross was the only way.

The cross was the only way. And so today I kneel here in my heart at the foot of the cross, tears falling freely again, as I see You there, suffering for me. I bow my head and from my torn heart I cry until it splits open even deeper, widening the depths of my heart to love You even more.

Thank you, Jesus.

“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23: 44-46 NIV.)

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 NIV.)