This December started out with a pleasant anticipation of the Christmas season. Let’s be real though, it started November 1st! As hard as it was, we did resist the decorating and carols until Thanksgiving Day. That pleasant anticipation of Christmas slowly faded into an overwhelming sensation of doing more, buying more and questioning every morning with “What store am I going to today?” My feelings for shopping are quickly becoming less and less thrilling. Stores are filled to the brim with toys, gadgets, decorations, cheap woozy-what’s-its and bamboozlement. Every square inch is filled with stuff upon stuff with humans fighting their way through it all. I’m not sure if it’s the fatigue of a pandemic or the close resemblance of the retail atmosphere to how the anxiety of it all feels in my brain. Every December I’ve piled on the list of expectations that come with the season which most of the time serve as distractions from what really matters: Unity and communion with the Father, son and holy spirit, that overflows out of our hearts as unity and communion with our family and friends. Countless things pull for our attention, it’s a fight to keep our souls and hearts at peace. January then almost always comes with a rush of self-propelled ambition to reach goals and start over again. Most often we draw the energy to change and begin again out of a place of shame from slacking off or maybe over eating through the holidays. My thoughts have been swirling with this fascinating idea of starting January differently. Not with goals, more plans, and new habits for self development. (Although, I’m a goal-girl and will not shy away from writing and praying about new goals for the year).
What if I start January, with a heart that is readying itself for the release of control of the year ahead? It’s a bit daring, but how thrilling and soul-settling it is to place it all in God’s hands!? I wonder what He would do with our surrender? What if my focus for January isn’t a diet or fitness goal, or a habit to make me more likable and successful. Instead my focus is to face palms up to heaven and open my heart in surrender to the will of my loving and compassionate Father God? What if I start this new year not out of striving and doing, but out of prayer, contemplation, and surrender to Jesus who truly knows how to empower me for the good of others and the glory of God? This year, I’m setting my heart into the luscious soil of the goodness of God. That does not look like shaming myself into change or over planning or committing to ideas before truly saturating them in prayer. I’m setting my mind into the revelation of wholeness in Christ, not a scattered canvas of great ideas or an elaborate to-do list that leads to burn out. It’s a transition for how we begin…from goal-setting to soul-settling. God has good works in store for you and I to do, and I’m going to go out and do them but not from a place of shame, anxiousness, striving in my own strength or pure ambition. From a spirit of abiding in my maker, sustainer, rock and shield. My great goals and ideas do not sustain me. My appearance and ability to be a good-enough human being does not sustain me…it’s God’s love which sustains me. On my own, I can try my best and perform really well but it results in burn out, a lack of peace and inability to carry joy. It’s God’s love which sustains me. My revelation for this new year is to begin slowly and steadied by the pace of God’s presence and comfort. Our imagination, creativity and ideas will then follow but through the filter of God’s vision for us. I invite you into this with me; to let yourself begin in the abounding and faithful love of the Father. With a heart surrendered, completely saturated and set in the presence and communion with him. I’m starting this New Year with the energy of the birth of Jesus; surrender and simplicity. A simple stable, hay, and manger. The one and only, holy and perfect God putting himself at the mercies of two humans to raise him as a baby (that is absolutely mind-blowing to me)!
The surrender for Joseph was to still wed Mary, even though it would appear to friends and family that Mary had broken a purity covenant with Joseph and God. God had sent an angel to wake and speak to Joseph about the coming Savior through Mary and so the virgin birth was undeniable to him…but he still had to choose to believe and surrender despite outsiders or even close relatives who would disown him for having a child before the proper arrangements were made. He would look like a fool. No matter how costly the surrender, I’m willing to give it all to follow you Jesus. If you’re a goal-setter and go-getter like me, surrendering to God by slowing down might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. In order to live by grace and to serve from the richness of God’s goodness, we must slow down our hurried hearts and renew our crowded minds. I put this into practice much of 2021 and began to see the benefits. I had to surrender and let go of some things in order to create this space of life by God’s grace. What I gained made it all worthwhile, like seeing the sparkle in people’s eyes, more laughter and depth with my husband, healing in my own physical body and mind and relationships and even career opportunities I would have missed out on if I had been too preoccupied. Practically applying this New Year’s Revelation, we can work in pockets of pause throughout our day. Sometimes it helps to have a mantra, a bible verse, a short prayer that you say to tell your brain that it’s time to “freshen up” the heart and mind, if you will. A pocket of pause involves stillness, prayer, or just simple awareness of God with you in that moment. One of my favorite’s is a breath prayer,
Inhale: “Father, your love…
Exhale: “…sustains me”
“When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.”
Before we begin again, remember who holds you and sustains you. When life is going really well, and when life could be better. Remember who sustains you. Before we begin, before rushing into big ideas and grand achievements, let’s be a little rebellious to our natural way of living and doing…let’s pause and pray. It’s one way we can move and live from the simplicity and surrender of the birth of Jesus.
Merry Christmas friends. I hope you are well in mind, body, spirit and soul. I hope your families are strong and your friendships grow in authenticity this year. I hope that you see your God-given purpose light up in every space you walk into. I hope joy and peace abound in and through you.