Yokes of Weariness

Christmas may be over, but I still have the refrain “the weary world rejoices” playing in my head. I think we’ve been grasping this year for rejoicing. We are a weary world, and I have to think that 2018 won’t magically hold a quick fix for our weary hearts.

Over the last few days the weariness has born down heavy to the point where I could feel the weight settling in for a good long stay. A tension between heaviness and lightness began to build though, as I didn’t want to close out this year with such a view of it and also enter a new one with this weighted feeling.

That is when I was reminded of scorched earth in a photo, what I felt embodied so much of what this year has felt like at least for me. Alot of earth scorched. There were highlights, don’t get me wrong here, but there was much heaviness. As I looked on at this photo a friend took I saw the starkness of the earth and this tree, barren and bleak. I came back to Christ’s words for some reason in Matthew, where He reminds us that He came not that we would take on this weariness and brokenness, that this bleakness was ours to bear. He took it on. He bore it out. He faced it and He overcame.

For each one of us. For us to come to Him.

To bring Him our yokes we build and tie around our shoulders, we fashion out of worry, anxiety, burdens of health and death, grief and loss. To loose the yokes and lay them down. To take upon His of rest, to learn humble hearts. To become like Him and know light.

From this bleakness there is hope. Standing in the stark contrast is Christ asking for our weariness here at the end of 2017, and at the beginning of 2018. He asks for it daily. In the moments we want to carry our weary hearts, He asks we carry them straight to Him and let them go. Taking the burden off, He loosens our hearts to know Him more and trust Him deeper. To depend further upon Him in order to rejoice at His coming.

May our hearts rejoice in the beauty of the scorched earth and bleakness, knowing He is right there with us in it. He stands in the field, present in the manger, calling wise men to Him, and our hearts to His. To unburden and to release the yokes of life.

If you’d like to take a look at the photo that inspired part of this post, you can see it over at my friend’s site here.

Advent Joy

It’s the start to the third week of Advent, where we look at JOY. But I have to say I am just not feeling joyful. I’m not.

I anticipate and look forward to this time of year so much and yet I find myself sitting in this time of shear unjoyfulness. There’s just this immense lack of it in my heart and mind. All around me I see it, and I desperately want it, but it’s just not there. It’s as if this overwhelming grief and sadness has just enveloped life for me.

It’s jarring to even admit because I have been trying to cover it up, put on a mask and smile and be joyful when deep within I ache and want to shut off everything and every one. It’s the glimpses of a seeping depression coming through cracks in my life that I have attempted all too poorly to patch up with manufactured things, stuff that doesn’t fill those cracks.

The opposite of joy is fear, it’s the basis and the origination of sin from the very beginning. Fear of missing out, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, fear of being too much. It compounds and mounts, leading to more of me trying to figure out or patch it up. To overcome the fear with confidence and gusto. But the more I tried in my own might I kept finding the grasp I was holding onto was slipping.

While the world looks at joy as emotion evoked by success or well-being, Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit, born out through labor and toiling, by pruning and stripping back. James tell us that we are to count it all joy when we are face to face with trials. It’s hard, it’s difficult and we often feel guilty for not feeling this exuberant joy all the time when it looks as though things are great on the outside.

This morning as I struggled to face the week of Joy in Advent I pulled open His Word to Zephaniah 3. (Yes, it’s a book in the Bible, but I did have to look in my index to find it too) These words cut deep to a heart struggling in fear and searching to make joy on it’s own.

“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst, the Might One, will save,
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We’re not to fear, to not resign ourselves to hopelessness. He is with us, the Warrior God fighting for us. He rejoices over us. He quiets our hearts with His unending love. He sings over us. Words of love, beauty, mercy, grace and JOY. He joys in us when we can’t find joy for ourselves. HE is our JOY. He is MY JOY, when fear tries to take hold and pull me under. When fear thinks it has won the battle in my mind and heart. He brings JOY to fight, songs of redemption is His battle cry, His strength in my hands for taking up the fight.

Joy may not look like a smiling, successful, fortunate turn of life. It may be the cries of the heart in battle, with God singing over us as He is with us. But JOY has come for us. To be with us. And for today, for now, we cling to a joy in Christ’s coming that brought hope, peace and love with the joy of today.


The First Sunday of Advent: Hope

This time of year always has me hopeful. I am not sure what it is, if it’s the story of Christmas, the childlike enamorment with giving gifts to others, or white twinkly lights.

I think it might be all three, and the smell of snow and cold.
I do love this season of the year and the hope many seem to carry, including myself. As I dig into the Christmas story, as I am prone to do each year about this time I find there is grit to hope
where we often put gleam.

I think about the hope Mary carried within her for months. That hope that she carried the Messiah, the hope of the entire world. Do you think that hope shone when others questioned her reality? I think it got gritty and messy and probably a bit scarred.

Hope got scary and truly unknown when strangers came to greet the One she gave birth to in a barn. They came because they too had been called by hope, a gleaming star guiding their journey to them. Shepherds, the veritable lowest class of society at the time, bowed before them because hope came in a heavenly host of angels. How would hope shine when it was wrapped up in the form of a newborn? One that had been born and placed in a feeding trough?

It’s absolutely absurd to leave hope as this shiny thing we see only during this current season. We cling to hope with dirt under our nails and tear-streaked faces. We grasp it with grit and dust all around because hope is there in it all. It’s a Hope we give nod to at this time of year but it’s the same exact hope that lasted for three days in the darkest hours of humanity. It’s the same Hope that brings blessing and allows trial.

This Hope gives traction with it’s grittiness because it’s a Hope that’s been used before. It’s been there before in the dark bringing light and shining brightly through the crack in the doors. It’s been there in the wild, bright shiny moments of joy and laughter. It remains, Hope remains regardless of whether we see it in it’s grittiness or it’s gleaming.

Not because of what it is, but who we are. We see with eyes and hearts that are fallible and ascribe only the glitter of hope while the grit remains there as well. All for our benefit and for His glory. Hope is His, and ours.

The grittiness of hope is where perseverance meets passion after all.


Newborns, Expectancy and Advent

Yesterday I had the privilege of holding a friend’s newborn baby. He was a mere 13 hours old and I have to say the sheer breath of calm and joy he ushered in was beautiful. To see friends becoming parents, and the elation and sereneness on the faces of my friend as she looked at him, as her husband held him, was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. (Thank you Abby and Tom for allowing me to witness that and hold the fantastic Fitz)

All week there’s been a build up of expectation, even as another friend awaits the arrival of her son whose holding out a bit on them a week after his expected arrival. It occurred to me the same feeling was overcoming me as well heading into Advent season. This expectation of the glory of the Lord. The celebration and elation of the birth of Christ 2,000+ years ago even now.

In doing some digging into expectancy, and what that word looks like (hi word nerd over here) in the Bible, it is so strongly correlated to hope throughout the Hebrew. They are linked and intertwined, and then I found this beautiful imagery of expectation. It is as one with an outstretched neck.

I don’t know about y’all but I LOVE THAT. Expectation is us stretching out to look, to see. It took me back to the days of going to parades in my hometown, and leaning out my head to see what was coming, to see if Santa was near at the Christmas parade, or the band was marching next in our 4th of July parade. You have to put yourself into it and truly feel the expectation in your body.

The expectation doesn’t come without a wait. It doesn’t come without some pangs of hurt, loss, strife, and suffering. Expectancy can be long and drawn out, but it’s still lingers. Hope builds in expectancy, confidence in the thing believed to be on the way. And just as my friends are now living out the fulfilled expectation of new life, so do we. The expectation of this season of Advent brings new life in joy, peace, hope. It ushers in the new life of Christ with us. In flesh now appearing. It brings confident expectation of new life not found in ourselves, but in Him.

All may be calm, it may be quiet as we wait in expectation. But may we lean out our necks to see the fulfillment of our expectation this Advent season in Christ’s presence with us.

In Everything? Give Thanks?

In everything, give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This time of year, especially the week of Thanksgiving, we see the first part of this verse tossed around. It’s on plates, napkins, chalkboard walls, plaques. It was probably on church bulletins Sunday and will be statuses come Thursday.

But I have to be honest that Sunday I really didn’t want to give thanks in my situation. As I sat waiting for the police to take an accident report (I’m fine, Betty’s scratched up) I was not giving thanks thinking it was God’s will for my life. I was frustrated and irritated at the hassle of someone not paying attention and side-swiping me. In the extended wait time for the cops (who never showed) I didn’t give thanks for that time in my car in the middle of a busy thoroughfare near my neighborhood. Thankfulness was not entering my mind as I steamed over plans for my afternoon that were now thrown out the window.

Real honesty here that I was just pissed. Pissed that now I have to get my car fixed, pay a deductible and deal with insurance claims for the next few weeks. It’s life I know, but I was not having it and most definitely was not giving thanks through it. I stress baked and fumed for a good part of the night. Then suddenly this verse floated into my head. So I pushed it aside and distracted myself with a book I’d gotten. I dove into another world to find some semblance of salvaging my afternoon, my evening, my day.

This same verse from 1 Thessalonians 5 popped back up yesterday morning in my mind. It was a gentle reminder that I hadn’t taken stock of giving thanks in my circumstances. That I was intentionally living outside of the will of Christ because I was vehemently choosing to be unthankful in my circumstance. I didn’t want to be thankful it wasn’t worse. I didn’t want to be thankful that there weren’t injuries. I wanted to pitch a fit and be stubborn in my irritation.

Guess what though…you don’t get to live in that attitude or perspective. Because it’s not in the will of Christ. No, instead we give thanks in every circumstance, not comparing that we are better than the next person in it or that we aren’t like them. We give thanks that He saw fit to place us here in this moment, that we have a God who hears when we’re frustrated, broken, angry. Thankful hearts recalling seasons of joy and pulling them into our now. Thankful minds choosing an attitude of thanks in all things rather than an attitude of disdain.

The Solo Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!

My pantry is stocked, the menu is set, and the house is mostly clean. This year we’re having Thanksgiving here in Nashville, as my parents had an appointment in town this week. There’s baking to be done and a Turkey Trot to prep for Thursday morning.

I wrote last week a bit about rushing Christmas but I do enjoy Thanksgiving as well. For several years my parents traveled to the beach during this week for a festival, and to escape the colder weather of east Tennessee. Between schedules, vacation time allowances, and the short travel window, I often opted not to join them. So it often meant I was solo for Thanksgiving. Honestly I didn’t much mind as I love to cook, and this is the Super Bowl of cooking in my mind. I had offers from friends and coworkers to join them and their families for the holiday, which I always appreciated, but never took them up on. Partly because I’m a bit of an introvert (shocking I know) but I also didn’t want to interfere on their family time.

Recently I was thinking on this as I prepped my lists and put up my decorations. Singles often find themselves alone on holidays for many of the same reasons I had-travel costs, vacation time allotment, schedules. But sometimes family is just hard for some singles, or they don’t have family in the definition we often attribute. In that perspective it’s hard to give thanks, it’s hard to sit at home and dwell in that constant quiet of single life. It’s difficult to see the family aspect come out in every commercial, show and conversation being had.

So if you know of some singles-whether they be at church, work, friend circles-check on them and find out if they are spending Thanksgiving solo. See if they’d like to join you, your family, or start a new tradition as a single and host your own for those who may not have somewhere to go or who don’t want to cook! You may get turned down, but press in a bit without being pushy. Be a bit vulnerable with your hospitality, even when it’s not perfect. Even when it gets a bit messy explaining the family relations as a backstory. 

It doesn’t take a buffet, an immaculate home, or well-behaved family. It takes opening your heart and your door to someone and giving thanks for that opportunity. It’s giving thanks for perspective and a seat-filled at the table, where so many conversations and life are done. It’s choosing a moment of uncomfortable for a season of thanks and giving. Maybe you’ll have a new tradition for your family for years to come.