When Everything And Nothing Has Changed

It’s Monday morning. Wake up. Two days are gone. They just disappeared. It’s as if nothing has changed, but nothing is the same.

This morning my heart breaks for every parent who is  going to send their little one off to school, and then have a moment of doubt. It has been crying for the parents who had their worst nightmares come true since Friday.

When I close my eyes to pray, there is a moment of comfort. I know that He met them at that moment with warmth and love, the sweet innocents that our world lost too soon. They’re safe now, in a place far better than this. But how do you put into words the prayers for their families? I can’t.

One of my close friends lost someone this weekend, he took his own life. Across the country from the cameras, and the news stories, another community is grieving. And I know there is nothing I can say to her. I know because I’ve been in her shoes, I’ve gotten that call, and there are not words that make it better. There is just sadness, infused with questions and guilt and speculation about what could have been done differently… but none of that helps.

I’ve tried many times to come up with advice for people who stand in the shoes I stood in once. And the best I have is this: love them through it all.

That is my prayer for Connecticut, and for a small town in Wisconsin, and our whole country. Just keep loving them through it. Grieve. Cry. Be angry. But then remember just to love again. Love their memories. Love who they were. Love them straight through the anger, and the sadness, and the questions. Trust me, if you hold on to the rest of it, and not the love, it will make you crazy.

We can argue about gun control, be divided on mental health care, and drive deeper wedges between us all later, but for this week, I pray we just love through it. Arguing with family over politics at Christmas dinner won’t fix this. But love, it might.

Wishes & Tears

I cried at work this week. Yup, tears streaming down my face at my desk.

I was suffering from writer’s block one morning, so I put my headphones on and tuned in to a local radio station online. It was just starting, and I should have known better than to listen with people around me. Every year, for the month or so before Christmas, they fulfill Christmas wishes. The rule is, you have to submit a letter explaining your wish for someone else. They grant wishes for people in the community who need some extra help and cheer this Christmas, who are facing hard situations through no fault of their own. They are one of my favorite parts of the season.

I’ll admit, they make me tear up more often than not, but this one got me going more than most. The woman had recently lost her daughter, and was struggling financially to care for her grieving teenage granddaughter all by herself. Her friends were in the studio when the morning show called her, and they read one of the letters that was submitted.

It was the kind of letter we should all hope someone would write about us. They talked about how even when she was struggling, she was always generous. How, despite the enormous grief she was carrying and the stress, she never complained, and always had a good attitude. How she was a constant light in their lives. After giving her gift cards for Christmas presents, groceries, gas ,clothes and even a simple things she couldn’t afford like haircuts and dog grooming, the morning show host told her she was someone we should all be striving to be like. Her humble tears led to mine.

I love these kind of moments. They shouldn’t be confined to a holiday season, but they serve as a yearly reminder of the call in Matthew 25:34-36. We are supposed to give food to the hungry and clothes to the naked, to invite strangers into our homes and our hearts, and to look after them.

That night my husband and I went to the mall for our annual pre-Christmas shopping trip together. We began the tradition our first year together, that we grant a wish for at least one child in our community. Some years we can do more, some years we just want to. I dream of a year where there aren’t any names left when Christmas Eve rolls around. I know there are, and it breaks my heart.

Don’t let the cynicism of the season drown out the magic. If you’re not feeling the spirit this Christmas, might I suggest you go shopping for someone you’ve never met? Someone who won’t have piles of boxes under their tree this year? Or maybe someone who just needs a winter coat to make it through the winter? Trust me, it’s magic. Your heart will feel completely different after. And all the rest of it that stresses you out, just doesn’t matter quite as much.

Do It Because You Get To

I have a post-it note hanging on the mirror in my bathroom. I put it there the night before I started my new job. A similar note used to hang beside my computer in my dorm room in college. It says “Do it because you get to, not because you have to.”

I heard that quote during my first few months of college, and it really struck a cord with me. Most of the things I complain about having to do, someone else would be grateful for. At the time it was having the opportunity to study at a great college, even when I didn’t want to crack my books that night. I often think of it when I don’t want to go to the grocery store, because as much as I hate grocery shopping, there are thousands of people in the world who would love to have my full stocked kitchen. Having a job in this economy? I know from months of both my husband and I searching,  it’s a blessing.

But at 4:45 on a cold Wednesday morning, it isn’t always easy to crawl out of bed with a good attitude. So when I stumble into the bathroom to brush my teeth, the post-it is there as a reminder. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

What you know in your head and what you live out in your attitude can sometimes be radically different. I’m noticing that in myself lately, more and more. Sometimes I feel like conviction comes like rain drops, little by little, almost unnoticeable, until enough of them finally convince you it’s raining. I’m admitting it – my attitude can use some work.

But as my post-it note experiment shows, it’s easier said than done. My “I’m going to have a good attitude about this” pep talk will inevitably wear off, especially when the daily monotony kicks in.

I think this needs to be one of my resolutions for 2013, to live life with a better attitude. I was not a fan of 2012. If I want 2013 to be different, I need to make changes in myself, because life will still be life.

Monday Morning Faith

I struggle with Monday morning faith. It seems like the best weekends and the best attitudes get knocked down, first thing Monday morning, and you’re left asking why. Or, maybe if you’re me, whining in your head “WHY!?” to God.

Yesterday was one of those mornings for me. I had a perfect weekend, walked into work at 7:30 on Monday morning with a good attitude, ready to take on the week. My good attitude was gone by 7:34 when my e-mail loaded. A client had sent me a two page scathing e-mail in bright blue text, just tearing my writing for her to shreds.

By later in the day, I could distance myself enough to see what the real problems were, few of them having anything to do with me. But in that moment, as I sat at my desk, ready to cry, I just stopped and prayed “Why? Why would you do this right now?”

Really big things, the bad things that scar your life, those don’t drive me from the Lord. Nope, those push me to him. I found a personal relationship with Christ during the worst lose of my life so far, and when anything comes close to that, it’s instinct, I hit my knees.

But Monday morning road bumps? Those drive a wedge between us. It’s the daily stressors in life that make me want to scream “ARE YOU EVEN THERE?! ARE YOU NAPPING? DO YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY?!”

I’ve had a lot of those moments this year. As a whole, 2012 was easily the hardest year I have ever experienced. It wasn’t the big things, it was the relentless pounding by the smaller ones. The prayers that felt unanswered. The hopes that got smashed. The bad news, after bad news, after bad news, only to be followed by a glimmer of good news – Oops! Just kidding!.

Every time, the question in my head and my heart is the same. “Why?”

My type A personality doesn’t like not being able to answer that question. For big things, I somehow trust that my Father can use them for good. For little things, I just don’t understand. In my head somewhere, I know that doesn’t make any sense. God can use little things. And if a knock out punch I didn’t see coming takes me down, He can pick me back up. He might even have a better plan for me then the one that fell apart. Right now, I can make that argument. But in the moment, my heart gets in the way.

I think I’m most grateful for Monday morning grace. When I need big screw-up grace, I’m normally right there asking for it. But Monday morning grace, the kind where He lets me stew at my desk, giving him a petulant “I’m not talking to you right now!” until I come around, that is the grace that I need the most. The stuff I don’t ask for. The grace that meets me where I’m at, even when pretend that I don’t need it.

Praying Tuesday is just a little easier…

Christmas Preparations

This weekend I didn’t start law school finals. My life has changed. Yes, I graduated over six months ago, and yes, this should have sank in by now, but this weekend was the first time life felt different. I’m actually experiencing advent. I don’t think I’ve ever put much thought into advent before. I’m always too busy. Life is always most chaotic this time of year. But this morning, I realize I’ve missed it.

It’s so cool to hate Christmas now. To complain about everything it entails and how commercialism has ruined it. Sometimes, even for those of us who secretly love the lights and the festivity, December becomes more about extra items on our to do lists and in our shopping carts than anything else.

Strangely, my bible reading this morning talked about taking time to prepare for the coming Savior, but I’m not in the Christmas Story. I’m in the Easter Story. The people came and laid down cloaks and branches and shouted praises as Jesus came into town. Then Jesus went into the temple and overturned the tables, driving out all who were buying and selling there.

It’s the wrong story, but the right idea. Those people complaining about how Christmas has become one giant commercial? They’re not wrong. The buying and selling isn’t what’s important. But I think preparing is.

For the past three years my life has been run by a giant to do list. Not only was there no time for Christmas, but often there was no time for date nights, no time for friends, no time for the things that fill me up, that are good for my soul. When I finally made time for Jesus, I was exhausted, and empty. It’s hard to find joy in your time with someone when you show up ready for bed.

This weekend I celebrated an anniversary with my husband with a date night in making dinner together, I had a close friend I rarely see come to town and we made Christmas cookies. Yesterday, when we got snowed in, I spent the day in my pjs  by the fire, talking to my sister on the phone, spending time with my husband, watching football. This morning when I woke up and opened my bible, my heart was full of things to be grateful for. Things that were there before, but that I don’t always take the time to appreciate.

There is something magical in preparing for Christmas, when we do it the right way. When we take the time for the things and the people that make our hearts full. When we reach out and make someone else’s holiday special. Those things help prepare our hearts for Jesus.

Ridiculous Grace

I have toyed with the idea of starting this blog for a long time. As a fairly successful blogger, with my own little corner of the internet already in place, it seemed silly. Why didn’t I just post everything I had to say on one blog? So I kept putting this off, thinking I would just post what I had to say where I was, but I rarely did.

I have just felt this pull, every morning after I got up and sat down by the fire with my bible.

See, faith used to be different for me. It used to be the most natural part of my day. At that time, I belonged to a church that felt like home. I had this community of amazing people around me who were educated, and fun, and still proud to have Jesus be the most important thing in their lives. I thought that was where I belonged.

But God had other plans for me. My life is now far away from that place, that church, and those people. I always thought that this was temporary, but as I enter my fourth year away,  it’s become obvious that despite my prayers and defiant insistence, that’s not where I’m going to be.

Finding that type of community again isn’t as easy as I wish it was. I tried different churches, I tried to put down roots at one of them, but it hasn’t happened. I don’t have that community here. I love my friends here, but they don’t fill the void that comes with having other Christ followers beside you each day.

I have tried to convince myself that I don’t need it, but the truth is, God had a reason for the church. It wasn’t so Christians could live in their own little bubble. It was so they could support each other and hold each other accountable. Living life without that support, only getting advice from people who don’t have the same foundation as you, it wears on you. I fully believe the statement you become like the people you spend the most time with.

So each morning I spend time with Jesus and my bible before I let the craze of the day pull me in every direction. It keeps me grounded in the busyness and the chaos. But as I seek to better understand the ridiculous grace that is bestowed on me, day in and day out, I miss having a community.

So maybe I’ll throw my thoughts and my heart out onto the pages, as a writer does anyway. And maybe I will find it here. Smart, fabulous people who are just trying to live each day growing a little closer to God, like I am.