Marking Time and Seeing Emmanuel

I cried in the car yesterday. I was just barely able to keep the tears back from the kind of full-blown weeping that would have made driving dangerous. 

The day before I had loaded a favorite Christmas song on my phone. I had anticipated how much I would enjoy hearing it, but I wasn't ready for the gush of memories that would flood me as I listened. 

Christmas seems to have unique role in helping us mark the passage of time in our lives. Few other parts of the year have us doing the same things on the same days over and over again. Every December, we put up a tree, and can't help but remember all the years of trees before this one. We hang ornaments and decorations, and think about who gave them to us or who made them, or how they looked in previous displays. Memories of pain, joy, and transition seem to attach themselves to objects, songs, and even the weather. 

On that drive, as the tears came, the recollection of how much in my life has changed over the last five years came with them. I thought about the three different states in which I have lived, the job I started and resigned, the old friends I left behind, the new friends I met, and the kids I have watched grow from toddler to big kid status. 

In this marking of time, I worshiped. I became overwhelmingly cognizant of God's presence with me through all the twists and turns, joys and sorrows, of my story.

Perhaps this is part of how the concept of Emmanuel can come to life at Christmas. We can look back and see how God has in fact been with us, even in places where we couldn't see it at the time.  

Some of you might be in a season like that right now, a time when God feels absent. Perhaps hope could more easily be found in the past than on the future, through remembering how God was with you before. 

For me, I got out of that car with renewed sense of gratitude and faith. Though there still many things in this world I don't understand, and ways I wish God would act, I cannot deny God's realness when I look at my own story. 

Emmanuel. God has been with us. God is with us. God will be with us.

Emmanuel. God has been with us. God is with us. God will be with us.

P.S. If you're looking for some ideas for Advent and Christmas songs, here is a Spotify playlist I put together of some songs I really like. It includes the one that made me cry- Come and Worship by Bebo Norman.

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I remember You were with me

Five Minute Friday Last week, I made my first jump into the pool of Five Minute Friday. And swimming in its waters of freedom worked some writing muscles that had begun to atrophy.  

I tend to be performance-oriented. I worry too much about what people (including anyone reading my words) will think of me. I want to inspire, I don’t want to offend, I want to be sensitive, I don’t want to oversimplify, I want to write like those I admire most, I don’t want you to know how afraid I am that what I post in this space just isn’t any good.

 

The idea of writing for five minutes and posting whatever comes of that time is frightening, and that’s exactly why I need it. There’s no time for editing or polishing or making sure that things were said “just-so.” It’s writing bare, and that is medicine for my writer’s soul.

 

I hope it is good for your soul, too. Whether you write or not, may something inspire you to peel away a layer of perfectionism somewhere in your life.

 

This week’s prompt: REMEMBER

 

When I struggle to know which path to take, I forget.

 

I forget about how You have been present with me through it all. How I am on this path to begin with because You led me here. You brought me to a place that would blow the mind of the me of 20 years ago.

 

That girl who was depressed from all the turmoil in her home life, combined with the waves of drama that are part of being an adolescent girl. The girl who, without anyone telling her how to read the Bible, opened it up every night and read a Psalm, somehow feeling the comfort of its words.

 

I remember how You were with me.

 

I remember how even as I took paths leading me wrong, You held my hand over the rough terrain, so I could find my way to a better way.

 

I remember Your grace. I remember the way my life could have been, if not for Your presence with me in so many times and places.

 

And so as I face difficult decisions now, I face them with gratitude that I have the opportunity to be here at all. On a path where I am making decisions about how to move forward, instead of how to escape from the mangled tree roots tying my feet to the ground.

 

I remember that no matter which path I take, I am walking forward. And that, my Lord, is because of Your grace and love and presence in my life.

path

rest in grace

grace (n): unmerited divine assistance; approval; favor; mercy; pardon; kindness. When is the last time you paused, reflected, and rested in God’s grace?

I am an overachiever, a perfectionist, and a self-criticizer. Reminders of the sufficiency of God’s grace are a necessity for me. How about you?

I recently did a word study on grace. I limited the search to the New Testament, as even there, the content was huge.  I let verses like this wash over me…

  • For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. -2 Corinthians 8:9
  • May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. – 1 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I was inspired by my study to create a word picture, filled with verses like the ones above. My hope is that it can be a reminder to you as it was to me.

A reminder that God’s grace is Available. Abundant. Enough. Period.

Please use this image however you want. Read the words. Take in the meaning. Pin the picture. Bookmark, email, or print the pdf.

Maybe even use it as inspiration to create your own biblical word picture.

  • Use a resource like Bible Gateway to look up what the Bible has to say about words like strength or hope or forgiveness or love.
  • Use a resource like Font Space to download fonts that enhance the picture you are trying to make. (I used the font “Just the Way You Are.” What a great name for a font used to help picture grace.)

Whatever you do, I pray this post gives you permission to take a moment and rest in God’s grace. It is God’s gift to you. Receive it and rejoice in it.

What character trait or promise of God do you long to remember and rest in? Please leave a comment if you want me to do this with another word. I would love to make more.