Preparing for Christmas: Cleaning

The holidays are upon us, our Thanksgiving celebrations are over and now we are into the season of Advent, in no time Christmas will be here.

The busyness of the holidays always seems to take over an I get lost in the hustle. So, this year I am trying to be intentional about making that different. When my eyes are on my calendar and my to-do list, I get overwhelmed. My intention is to prepare my heart and soul for Jesus this year.

One of the main tasks we do at the hoidays is getting our homes clean before company arrives. Sometimes this means a deep cleaning, but if time doesn’t allow for that maybe it is a quick once over.

I believe that we should do the same thing with our hearts as we prepare for the Lord’s coming. Does your heart need cleaning?

David tells the Lord in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.”

Cleaning the house begins with getting rid of the clutter that is lying around, I don’t know about you, but my heart is often cluttered also. Cluttered with frustration, hurt, resentment, worry, fear… you name it, it may be found there.

I know as David knew that I desperately need God’s grace. Just as I need to pick up each piece of clutter in my house and take care of it, I also need to take care of the clutter in my heart. Each frustration, want or sadness needs to be taken to the Lord.

Do you wonder what this might look like? Let me share a few examples.

You might say, ‘Lord, I am still grieving the loss in my heart. It is so difficult to celebrate or plan a celebration with all of this pain. I need You help to see the hope that Jesus brings to the world. I do not have to be pushed or pulled by the pressures of the world’s view of the holidays. My joy needs to be in Jesus opening heavens door for me and my loved one who has now passed on. My tears will still flow, my heart will still ache, but I will celebrate the hope I know in Jesus by just putting up my manger scene.’

We just lay out our hearts clutter before the Lord and tell Him our needs and He will help us to see ho we can go on, what we can do.

Most of us need some rest, we need to take time to be with Jesus, to read an Advent devotional or to sing a hymn that reiterates the Christmas story and brings hope to our weary hearts.

Let me share another scenario. Maybe your heart is feeling jealous or envious because you know you won’t have this Christmas be as you want it to be. Maybe you can’t be with the people you want. Maybe you know you can’t afford the gifts you would like to buy, yet you see others planning trips and shopping sprees leaving you feeling jealous and resentful. What might you tell the Lord about your heart then? ‘Lord, I want so much more than what is possible, I feel so disappointed, I am jealous of ____’s ability to fly to visit her family and ___”s financial status making him able to buy extravagant gifts. I want to scream in discontent. But Lord, I know Christmas is really about the tiny baby who came to earth to bring salvation. He is the one whose Word teaches me to surrender, to let go, and to forgive. Lord, help me rejoice in what seems to be a great trial and a big frustration. Help me celebrate Jesus’ birth with what I have this Christmas..’

Whatever it is that is cluttering up your heart this holiday season, take it to the Lord. He wants us to come just as we are and bring what is on our hearts and minds. He will lead us to see jesus, to see hope, and to find peace. He can lead us to know rest. We only need to come in jumble honesty and share our struggles.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, there is no sin too great, no clutter too big, the Lord can give aid. We need only come to Him.

He wants our hearts to be clean, He wants us to welcome Jesus, and know the wondrous love that sent Him to earth. The Lord will renew a right spirit within us as He did David.

More important than a clean home at Christmas is a clean heart ready for Jesus. Do you need a right spirit within? Different versions word this verse differently, some say “loyal” spirit, another says “steadfast” spirit, another says a “faithful” spirit and still another says “a right attitude.”  I want my spirit to be loyal to the Lord, I want to live out faithfulness, and not be divided because of the clutter within. I want my attitude to be right. What about you?

Wherever your heart and spirit are at, take it all to the Lord. Ask Him to be at work in you to help you find your all-in-all in Jesus this Christmas!

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Authenticity in the Adventure

Being transparent and authentic is difficult, actually it can be downright scary. But apart from choosing transparency in a friendship or relationship, there is emptiness. Sharing, holding heart secrets, being real about life, all build trust. Such friendships are great blessings. They feel safe, you feel understood, and you feel known. These kind of relationships do not come about in an instant. You don’t just sit down and begin sharing from the depths of your heart. These relationships take varying degrees of time to develop.

I have learned that it is very important to be intentional about keeping the Lord first in my life in the quest of building deep friendships. God truly is a jealous God. He wants our hearts to be satisfied in Him alone. I feel that at times the Lord has withheld deep friendships from me because He wanted me to be faithful in honoring Him first. I know in the past I have made idols out of friends, I mean, I chose a person over the Lord without realizing it or intending for it to be that way. I would seek their advice, their help, and/or their understanding, and bypass the Lord.

I have seen that as I am diligent about keeping the Lord first, He has blessed me with gifts of new and deep friendships. This may or may not be true of you and your life. The Lord deals with each one of us individually. He knows how to work with us, how to get our attention, and how to draw us back to Him when we seem to stray. He knows what needs to be taken away or regulated just as a parent knows what is not helpful or healthy for a child.

The Lord also knows exactly what our hearts need. He brings people into our lives, people who we can minster to or help in specific ways as He has gifted us, as well as, people who can bless us with their giftedness.

He knows what is in and on our hearts that needs comfort or holding. He knows our experiences, and how by sharing about those experiences we can find encouragement. He knows how in His wisdom a person truly may lead us to new understanding, maybe understanding that will push us forward in growing in Him.

He hears our prayers of emptiness, loneliness, and neediness. He meets us in the pain of those with community, sisters in Christ or brothers in Christ. The Lord is faithful to meet each of our needs in ways so amazing, in ways that bring our hearts so much satisfaction. But the glory in this all goes to Him because these friends are blessing of His love. Such authenticity deepens our relationships and brings us belonging, they bring us sisterhood or brotherhood.

If you are struggling with not having a close friend or a tribe of trusted ones, ask the Lord to show you His amazing knowledge of the neediness of your heart, ask Him to bring you the blessing of a friend or put you in a group of friends..
The Lord wants us to be in relationship, of course with Him first, and then with the people He puts around us and those He brings into our lives. He cares deeply about the needs of our hearts and He will give you the gift of deep authentic relationship in this adventure we call life.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

 

Love in the Loneliness

Until I find community enough in being with Jesus first, the entire restaurant wouldn’t suffice the aching that loneliness hungers to fill.”
Choosing Real Bekah Jane Pogue

Loneliness is very common. Loneliness is a neediness within that eats away at your heart like a cancer.

Loneliness is defined as a “sadness because one has no friends or company.” I think that at first glance this definition may seem true, but when you really think about it, loneliness can be present even in a crowd. It is the depth of connection with a spouse or a friend that bridges the gap. You don’t feel lonely when you feel understood, known, loved, and you’re your heart is safe.

I learned through my depression that the pain and neediness of my heart cried out for understanding and love. My depression left me feeling as if I was drowning, suffocating, and overwhelmed with so much pain. I mostly pushed people away, but when I found that my neediness wouldn’t annihilate another, then I would cling. It was through this that I learned how needy I really was, I became aware of the emptiness and loneliness of my heart. I recognized how much I had been hiding, how deeply my real self was really buried.

It was in the midst of learning these things, in the midst of my clinging to another in hopes for healing, that the Lord made me to know that He wanted me to give Him my neediness.
It is so easy for us to run to others with our needs even when we know that the Lord is the One with the power to heal, to comfort with His love, to give understanding, and to lead in His perfect wisdom.

The Lord wants us to run to Him with our neediness and loneliness. It was when I began to pour out my heart to the Lord, and really give Him my neediness that my healing began. He desired me to see Him as my greatest need, the All-Sufficient One, my Healer.

Life can just be lonely because of the mundane of everyday. We get so busy with all we try to do that our lives may be spent in living solitary lives. If that is where you are at, Pogue suggests that “maybe solitary isn’t something we need to run away from” instead she suggest it may be our cue of to run to the Lord.

Loneliness can flood your heart throughout many moments of life for many very different reasons, the loss of friendship, the death of a loved one, moving away, isolation, or divorce. It is in these times we need to cry out to the Lord. Maybe it’s just the day and the way it’s going down, or maybe it’s the place you are in life right now, that the string of days, weeks, or even months leave you feeling lonely. Cry out to God. He hears and He answers our prayers. He deeply cares about the neediness in our hearts.

Remember, after you give the Lord the neediness of your heart to look for His answer. It is easy to miss His answers when one’s mind is set on wanting the prayer answered in our own specific way. I share this thought out of my own experience, because it was what happened with me in my depression. I knew what I felt my heart needed and I prayed for the Lord to do it my way. Instead, He showed me His way repeatedly, He wanted me to trust Him with my neediness. He wants to be the One we run to, He wants to be the One to meet our needs in the perfect ways that come out of His wisdom and love.

So, from our knees in prayer, we must get up and look to see what He is doing, where He is leading, who He is bringing or in some cases, whom He has already brought that we have missed. He knows who He has put in your life, or wants to put in your life. He knows the purpose for which He brings them.

I believe that as He sees and hears us bringing the neediness of our hearts, He will lead us to the quenching of the thirst in our loneliness through relationship with Himself, as well as with specific people He puts in community around us. He has a beautiful way of touching our neediness with His love so specific to our personal desires. He truly satisfies our hearts when we give Him the need and trust Him for the answer.

Are you lonely today? Call out to the Lord with your need.

Do you know someone who is lonely? Ask the Lord if there is a way to meet that person with His love.

The Lord is always near and never will abandon or forsake us. In moments of loneliness cling to Him and watch Him work! He is at work because He loves you!

Knowing Hope in the Heartache

“Pain is the most unchosen catalyst to an authentic faith journey” Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue
It is often easy to go through the motions in our faith-walks until pain comes into our lives and we know deep desperation in our hearts. Pain truly is the catalyst that sends us crying out to our Lord, begging Him to meet us, to help us, and to heal us.

Recently, there have been many deaths within my family and circle of friends. There also has been much serious illness touching the lives of loved ones. It has been a time to dig deep into the Lord’s truths to search for promises that bring the light of hope in dark times. It also has been a time of searching for the right words to say to those experiencing the loss of someone dear, or experiencing great pain in sickness.

As I laid in bed this morning, the room darkening curtains making it pretty near black, I thought to myself how much the room was just like a hopeless heart. My heart will remain hopeless, just as the room remains dark without the curtains being opened. The room brightens with the light of open curtains and my heart receives hope as it takes in the Light of Truth from God’s Word.

God’s Word is a light for the darkness and it is hope for the despairing heart. He can meet us in that dark place. He met me in the pain of my deep debilitating depression, in the grieving of losses of loved ones, in the heartbreak of the gradual ripping away of my dad suffering with Alzheimer’s, and through many other times of despair.

Knowing the hope from the Light of the Word of the Lord made all the difference in the world throughout those times. And knowing this great hope gives me a responsibility to share it. Because of what the Lord has allowed in my life I can share my pain and His compassion. I can be open about how He reached into the dark places of my heart and brightened the blackness with hope. I can reveal how He opened my eyes to the realization that my neediness, pain, and fear are all avenues to learning deeper intimacy with Him. These painful paths all led me to know Him in new ways and more deeply. They led me to learn different facets of His love and His character. And growing in knowing more led me to trusting Him more.

Who do you know who is grieving, going through a difficult time, in physical pain, or emotional turmoil? Consider how you can share the Light of hope we have in Jesus and His Word. Bring light into darkness and hope into despair.

It seems that just going along in life when everything is rolling smooth, we fail to learn to trust. We, too often, depend on ourselves, our own strength, and our own wisdom. So, the Lord allows pain to intrude in order to help us grow in intimacy with Him.

Truly His ways are higher than my ways. I would do it differently. I would prefer to avoid the pain, but my Heavenly Father knows what is best and He is teaching me to depend on Him. He is teaching me to know hope in the midst of heartache.

Is the hope found in Him brightening your heart today? I pray that you will know the light of His truth, the hope it brings, the comfort of His presence, and the warmth of His love.

Find Rest in the Ruckus

“Yet I know, in quiet pockets where my soul craved recharge and peace that rest was exactly what I needed. But how? How does one truly rest in the midst of life all around?” Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue.

It is a beautiful autumn morning. The sun is bright and bringing some warmth to the yet chilly air. I was up early beginning my new morning routine, and then outside digging up kale and parsley plants for pots to keep over winter, mostly to keep my bunnies happy. I had my morning coffee and toast, packed my husband’s lunch, did pet care, and now drove to the lakeshore. It is breezy and the waves are splashing hard against the rocks. I stopped at a local coffee shop for an Americano for this little mini-vacation in my day. So, here I sit in my car, windows open, listening to honking geese and crashing waves, breathing deeply the fresh air, and sipping coffee. Taking time to relax knowing the to do list is waiting for me, this is something new.

Summer flew past with much, too much, busyness and very little recharge or peace. The past few weeks the tight muscles in my neck and shoulders have been crying for reprieve from life’s stress. Every day has been the same, an endless to do list, impossible to finish in the hours allotted. Tension and frustration boiling over because I never get done. It was in the midst of all this that I remembered what I read in Present Over Perfect “Barns burned down, now I can see the moon.”  To me this is about clarity, it made me see that I was too bogged down in too much to do. Time to burn some barns. In another of Niequist’ books, Bittersweet, she shares how her friend told her to choose what she wanted to do and then decide what she was willing to let go of. I had to ask myself, “what am I willing to say ‘no’ to?”

So I took out slip of paper and made a list of my absolutes and there with the paper in hand I decided I needed to make some changes. I sorted things out, rather than trying to do everything, I began dividing the tasks listed into days. I also made routines for morning, afternoon, and evening to fit in time for journaling, reading, self-care, and exercise.

I began experimenting and really enjoying all of the changes. I have three main areas of tasks for each day, my to do list is narrowed down and my routines are allowing me time to do things I enjoy. I am not pushing through my days at breakneck speed but instead I am finding more quiet pockets to recharge and to know peace in. The pockets are there because I am being intentional about planning them in.

I know I have tried slowing down often before and I always get caught up in the rat race, but I feel like there is something very different about this time. It feels like it will stick. I am feeling so much more joy and peace.

My response to inquiries or comments have been sharp and defensive, but now the edges are softening because I am not in a constant state of overwhelm.

As I sit here at the lake, there is a flock of geese nearby, some of them are feasting on what they can find in the grass across the road. When they get their fill they fly overhead honking and flapping. They land in the water facing south and although they are probably paddling hard beneath the water, they are being moved north by the wind in the waves. I have been kind of like those geese trying to get things done but seemingly not getting anywhere with accomplishing it all. I felt pushed back by the wind and waves of busyness and too exhausted to keep paddling. The geese don’t seem to mind floating backwards, they are content to go with the flow. I want to move through my days with intention, yet knowing rest.

Finding rest doesn’t just happen. I am finding in the process of being intentional that there are quiet moments to listen to the Lord, to pray, and to draw near. These moments happen between the to do’s. I am choosing to stop pushing through. That is a big change for me, and it is a big challenge for me. It is difficult to allow myself that freedom, but I am learning to give myself permission.

I am also learning to be more consistent about praying for myself, telling the Lord the needs of my heart. I am taking time to rest with Him in the midst of my routine, and between my to do’s I am growing more aware of His presence. What a wonderful experience!

Pogue says, “To rest means to be filled up by the One who enjoys us right in the middle of the rush. Authentic rest emulates our Father, it’s turning my mind and heart to settle into a cozy rhythm that models Him…”

Pogue goes on to share how easy it is to neglect taking time to enjoy today, neglecting “to be present to the tiny moments and memories taking up who and what texture are now.”

There have been too many days that I have neglected to take time to enjoy the day. I have been oblivious to so much because of being over-focused on what I feel I need to do or want to accomplish. I am seeking to find that “cozy rhythm” in my life and find rest in the ruckus of life.

How about you? How are you being intentional about rest?

 

An Invitation to Celebrate Even in my Fear

Bekah Pogue shares in her book Choosing Real, “Choosing Real is opting to see how present Jesus is in real-life circumstances… Choosing Real trusts God has a beautiful plan in the mess, in the scary, in the unknown, in the tears, and in not feeling enough.”
Are you in one of those places? The mess? The scary? The tears? Or not feeling enough? Pogue suggests that we should shift our perspective from self to the Lord. She suggests that we look for His invitations in the midst of all that life brings. What invitation do you see the Lord offering you right now in the mess you are in? What invitation do you see the Lord offering you in the scary place life has you in? What invitation do you see the Lord offering you in the middle of the tears that are streaming down you face?
Is it an invitation for rest? Or hope? Or freedom? Or an invitation to choose to have a thankful heart? Or maybe it is an invitation to serve? What is He inviting to share with you?
I am finding the truth of Hosea, and how it is in the wilderness times the Lord allures us. He draws us in to teach us more of His love for us, He draws us in to speak to us. He wants to know us that much, to show us how He sees and hears us and knows our deepest pain, as well as what brings us the greatest joy. He wants us to celebrate His love and His nearness. He wants us to know more and more how we really can trust Him in the midst of whatever He has allowed. He wants us to know that we are not alone. He invites us to know Him in a new way. He invites us to snuggle in and find out what He has for us. Because He has exactly what we need. You see He knows what we have been wandering after, searching for, dreaming of, wishing for.
He knows the deepest yearning in the depths of our hearts and He desires to meet that need. He wants to fill that emptiness. He just wants us to trust Him enough to ask. He wants us to show that we really know He is present and able.
Emotional pain often makes you desire to run to find a way to not feel. It hits you at unexpected times and sends you reeling. So when the Lord comes and meets you in that pain, when you feel Him reaching for you, when you feel overwhelming fear and you know your trust is lacking, you suddenly find yourself at the edge. It feels like a crisis of sorts. Here you are face-to-face with the One Who can help, but you feel frozen in fear. He urges you to give Him your pain, to trust Him with it all. What will you do?
I was recently at that place. Tears came easily, unexpectedly, at the most inopportune times and I felt nauseous with upset. I felt so alone, but realized His nearness. Why had I separated myself, this painful part, and not given it and all the neediness to Him? Don’t I trust Him enough to give Him the pain? I hadn’t, but then I did, I gave it to Him. In fact, I took time to find a Bible verse for each part of the pain, ones that spoke to me of His love and nearness, verses that gave comfort. I gave Him all of the emptiness and ache. I asked Him to hold it. I fell asleep exhausted and dreamed of Him holding it, holding me in my pain. And now each time something triggers the pain, I tell myself Jesus is holding this, I am not alone, I don’t have to carry this alone. And it gives me joy. It gives me hope. It gives me rest.
Yes, I still feel the pain at times, but I feel His nearness with me in it. I read the verses of comfort. It is too easy to get buried in the painful feelings, and get lost in them. When I choose to stay there, I miss knowing Who He is and what He has for me. So now, I am beginning to learn to look for Him in the difficult places, I am learning to celebrate His nearness when celebrating seems like the last thing one might do.
It is easier to push the hard stuff away, or try your hardest to act tough and try not to need, just keep busy. But you can only do that for so long and then the pain starts screaming too loud and your ears bleeds and your heart aches. But in reality you really are not alone in it at all, the Lord is with you in and through it all.
The Lord wants us to reach and to follow and to trust, He is near. Celebrate His presence and His love in all of life.

 

Soul Nudging Truth Nuggets: Responses to “Choosing Real” by Bekah Jane Pogue

I’m lounging on my couch sipping Yogi Chai Green with a plop of honey, it is yummy. I have been chewing on a variety of ideas for my next series of posts and just settled on one. Yay! I recently finished reading Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue. Her words tug at a lot of truths that have been lost in what bogs me down in life. There are so many principles that just get lost in busyness and distraction. We forget to celebrate in life, especially when life seems troublesome, difficult, painful, or overwhelming; when life doesn’t go as planned.

Pogue says that “Choosing real” is “opting to see how present Jesus is in real-life circumstances”. She is talking about all of them, in death, in frustration, in overwhelm, in loneliness, and so much more. It is too easy to lose sight of Jesus’ with-ness in life’s hard times. Her book shares so many great ideas of how to celebrate. She shares suggested ideas to try, and shares those she has tried. This is truly a book of encouragement.
I intend to share my responses to some of her ideas in my next series of posts. The soul nudging truth nuggets she shares have spurred me on to want to live life in greater awareness and closeness to the Lord.
Here is a little preview of what my upcoming posts will be about:
TRUSTING IN THE STORM: It is no surprise to anyone who has lived on this earth for any length of time that often God does not meet our expectations as we desire or expect. Pogue suggests that the Lord is inviting us to celebrate how His manifestations end up possibly looking different from what we expect. This sounded familiar to me after having read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. Niequist describes a time when someone is going on and on complaining about his life, when he is stopped abruptly by the listener telling him, “These are the terms, what’s the invitation?” Life gives us many invitations depending on our perception of what is happening. Pogue suggests that as we get ”comfortable relinquishing… control for [the Lord’s] plan” we have a choice to intentionally celebrate His peace offerings no matter how they come. She says that “Faith offerings shift my perspective from me to He.” So the question is how will we respond to what comes to us in life? Pogue suggests that we can know the Lord more intimately as we lean into Him and celebrate our trust in the Lord. I want to share my exploration of these thoughts as I try to live out her suggestion to celebrate the realness of the Lord in life, and how He draws near to me as I seek Him more intentionally.

HOPE IN THE HEARTACHE: Pogue begins her book sharing the unexpected loss of her father. She shares how she had been so intent on her agenda trying to keep everything under control, and then suddenly nothing seemed to matter. Life stopped. She shares the truth that the pain in our life insists that it is attended to, and our God shouts to us in our pain (C.S. Lewis). The Lord definitely gets our attention when loss, and pain come our way, it makes us stop. Pogue shares that it is in heartbreak that faith is reignited. She says “Pain is the most unchosen catalyst to an authentic faith journey.” I have experienced this truth in my life and want to share how the Lord’s compassion has touched my life.
LOVE IN LONELINESS: Another area discussed in this book is the truth of how we can feel very lonely in life, in the mundane, in the everyday. We go about carrying out our tasks, trying to make it through our to do lists, and end up living solitary lives in the process. Pogue suggests that “Maybe solitary isn’t something we need to run away from” but rather “an indicator to run toward Someone.” She also suggests that in our loneliness we need to be looking to the Lord to see who He is putting in our lives, because He may be giving us community. What needs is He revealing? What people is He surrounding you with? How can you show love in the midst of your loneliness? These are worthwhile questions to explore. I know for me when I am feeling lonely I often pull into myself, rather than really looking to.

CONNECTION NOT CONTROL: Feeling the need to be in control is quite common in us humans. Many times it is not just control of our agenda’s, but it overflows into wanting control others close to us. Poque discusses the difference it made in her life to try to stop being in control and being honest about her needs. What is the need for control really say about what you are feeling? What do you really need? It is not easy to share neediness, it is a big risk. But Pogue found deeper connection with those in her life as she took that risk. Is it worth the fear, worth the risk? I want to consider that.

Well, that is a start, there is so much more to think about, but these will be food for though for the next few posts. I hope that you feel pulled in and will explore with me how to draw near to the Lord in these areas, how we can began to see with His perception, and how we can learn to grow in love and transparency in all of our connections, including our connection with Him. Join me in learning to celebrate the life He gives and to know Him more as we do.