Our Lord Come

This year, I’ve been immersed in the season of Advent for twice the normal length. In October, I began rehearsals for a set of Advent plays. In November, we finished the work of rehearsal and displayed it for an audience. And then finally, as the literal season began, we brought our work to local churches, spending the majority of our Sundays full of the work of the season.

As you can well imagine, I learned a lot about Advent through the process. I wouldn’t say that I have a ton of intimidating head knowledge or anything like that. Rather, it was a building of awareness or perhaps a revival of what had already been growing in me since childhood. Like everything, Advent had grown old and familiar after twenty years of church services and candle lighting.

I learned the names of the candles—Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels, and of course, the Christ Candle. I learned to light them in order, and it made sense. First comes prophecy, then came Bethlehem etc. It was all very logical. I learned to snuff a candle with the tips of my wetted fingers, something which came after many attempts, ouches, and much flinching.

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A visual of the type of Advent wreath we used, shown courtesy of The Sunday School Network.

One of the three characters entrusted to me was Helen. In my understanding of the script, she was smart, loyal, loving, and highly theological. Having struggled with depression in the past, she was very eager to help her dear friend, Peg, who had suddenly withdrawn from social activities. The course of the play was her retelling, through the use of the advent wreath, the story of Peg’s last Christmas—as it turns out that Peg is secretly suffering from a terminal illness.

In my understanding of the script, Helen was also a lot like me. In acting this is a good realization. Connecting with your character, no matter how different they are from you, is always important in making the portrayal as real as possible. Thus, it’s very nice when these connections are automatic, as they were with Helen.

My connections with Helen were subtle but deep. Her way of talking was not unlike mine, and she was close to my age. I could easily connect to her love of God and theology, and desire to help her best friend. And like Helen, I have also spent time in the depths of clinical depression. In fact, the weeks and months leading up to Advent, the time I spent embodying her, I was in those depths.

At the end of the play, I had the privilege of speaking the last lines to the audience:

Father, Thank you for my life. Our Lord come.

However, I didn’t always “feel” those words because frankly, I wasn’t always thankful for my life. I struggled to desire to address God as Father, or ask Him to come. Of course, acting isn’t entirely based upon “feeling it” or we’d never get anything done in theatre! But good acting must be truthful. I endeavour to be honest in my work, and thus, I made a pact with myself. I wouldn’t say those words unless I truly believed them.

That’s not to say I would skip the lines if I was in a bad mood. I always had to say them, but I wasn’t allowed to fake it. I gave myself as much time as I needed to pause, and find the part of me, no matter how intensely buried beneath the weights, that was thankful for life. Despite all the pain I was often in, I always said the lines. I always found some part of me that was at least somewhat honestly thankful for what I had.

I’m not one to say that serious problems can be erased or that mental health can improve with a simple change of attitude. We all have deep problems and pains that must be worked through in the process of life. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are not unlike this. But if there is one thing that the embodiment of Advent taught me about the season, it’s that Christmas is about life and the revival of everything good we were meant for. Everything that we lost in the Fall. It is a renewal of sorts. And while we can develop a deep head knowledge of all things theological, our relationship with God may only be deepened with the work of the heart.

God works in living, breathing, heart-beating, weeping, laughing, human person ways, too.

So today, December 26th, in the aftermath of Advent 2015, I will say, Father thank you for my life. Our Lord come. And everyday after that, Lord willing.

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Are You Ready?

It first occurred to me one evening in church. Exams and craziness had begun, and more were looming. And I was certainly not feeling ready.

I hadn’t been to church in a while. Two weeks, actually. And all semester I’d been pretty lacking, with good spurts here and there and many stagnant weeks. I don’t believe we’re penalized for the weeks we spend out of church. In fact, I wouldn’t even say that not attending church is a sin.  Yet there’s something about missing that makes me feel sad, and something about going that makes me feel right. More than right. Peaceful, a little bit joyous, and a lot more hopeful.

My soul was ready to be back.

But as we stood side by side, singing Christmas carols within the festive sanctuary, my heart began to ponder a question: Are you ready? It came suddenly, fleeting, and mostly unintelligible at first.

On the second round, the question was clear. The same words, seemingly created in my brain, inspired this time by the pastor’s message. Are you ready? Are you ready for Him? 

For Jesus? 

For once, I wasn’t defensive or quick to say yes. Because I wasn’t certain that I was ready and I knew that.

A year ago, if you’d ask me, “Are you ready for Christmas?” I would have replied with a persistent and quick “yes!” Are you ready for Jesus wouldn’t have even been a thought, however. If someone had tracked me down and held me into place over the matter, I wouldn’t have known what he meant.

Ready? Of course. I already did all that “heart asking” and “inviting” so many years ago.

But that Sunday night, after the hardest three months of my life, I suddenly had the knowledge to know that I did not really know. I have never known, and I will never know a lot of what I like to think that I do know. And one of those facts, these pieces of knowledge, which is really not a fact at all, but which goes like this–it’s a question, actually–are you ready for Jesus? 

I tell you, my friends, about this now because it had intrinsic meaning for me. December is the time for Christmas, for a hustle and bustle and a busy season. But as Christians, are you ready isn’t just a matter of having the turkey prepared and the presents wrapped. Are you ready is a spiritual question, and a deeper layer.

Are you ready for the Christ child, the spirit in human flesh, the incarnate deity? 

Are you ready for a miracle that will knock you off your feet? A child born of a virgin, and conceived by the Holy Spirit? A child that is both God and man? 

And are you ready for that child to possess a love so deep that it will save you? 

Are you ready to bow down? 

Are you ready to let God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit–the three in one–in to your entire being, your heart and soul and life and everything

Are you ready for that? I knew I wasn’t, as we sang about Angels on High, sipped coffee, and took communion.

It didn’t make me sad. Just a little thoughtful.

Christmas is overwhelming, but not just because of the elaborate turkey dinner that’s to be made or the 27 guests that are coming. The height of this overwhelmingness doesn’t have anything to do with the gift buying budget or the list of festivities to attend. It is much, much deeper than anything material. Anything we can see with our eyes.

Christmas is an invitation that began with a young girl, who was no doubt inexperienced, uncertain, and downright scared. She was invited into a very special relationship with God, unlike any other before her. It would transcend her body, her soul, heart, and mind. It was a relationship meant for everything, and an intimacy reaching to the very depths. With her acceptance, the whole world was invited into this crazy, exuberant, uncontrollable, saving love. 

Are you ready? I didn’t know why I wasn’t. I still don’t know why I’m not.

What is holding you back? I don’t pretend to know even an ounce of it all. But I know there is a fear–of knowing and of being truly known. Vulnerability is desirable, but fearsome, too. The thought of being naked sickens me, but the vision of being known and loved in spite of everything and anything, and in all the nothingness I am, is immeasurable. 

He says come in. He whispers, Let me near. I love you, and I want to be part of you. 

What is holding you back?

The 25th is coming. We remember the story and the life birthed to us for eternity. The gift to know, and be known through and through.

Will you take it?

Note: THANK YOU for all of the positive feedback to my return to the blogging world. I really appreciate all of the warmth and encouragement. I realized something from it all, and I thought I’d share it with you. Your comments are very important! I’ve actually known this for a while, but I never wanted to admit it because I thought it made me shallow. I’m seeing things in a different light now, and I’m not afraid to admit that I love hearing from you! Feedback, in any shape or form, is very welcome and actually really helpful. It keeps me going with the writing, if I know people want to read more… disagreements and queries are also welcomed as I love to go deeper with thoughts. Thank you!

Here // This is Beauty

I often find myself longing for the exquisite. I dream of adventure, beauty, and joy. Slowly, I pass through life, wondering if there’s more and when happiness will ever abound.

Every person has a dream. I have several. They say every girl longs for a prince and a castle and I’ve spent life looking for mine.

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But then sometimes I find myself, caught gently in snow-globe moments, within the passage of everyday life.

The sun rises, glorious, majestic, golden pink and sets in the same beauty and colour. A winter wonderland in the morrow. White magic glistens from the tree tops and everywhere, promising a white Christmas after all.

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Later, we bundle up, gloves on hands and boots on feet, ear muffs, toques, scarves and all. Giddy, we venture outside, dashing through fluffy snow, we prance and play. Two forts, we build. A snowball fight ensues.

Well after midnight, we sit around the instruments, playing and singing. One groggy body after another curls up in some sanctuary corner and falls to slumber. But soon enough, we’re laughing again, running through hallways, playing, and telling stories.

The table is set early, the smell of pancakes and sausage drifts through the space, and sleepy limbs settle on chairs. Christmas carols stream from the iPod in the kitchen. We say a prayer before eating, and the light from the wonderland shines in on us. Silence ensues as we gobble. Hot chocolate for still sleeping souls and scrambled eggs fill our tummies.

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And as I look upon the exhausted faces, smiling in spite of their sleepless night, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve found what I set out to. Its a snow-globe moment. Adventure, beauty, and joy are all in this room. The secret, daily longings I’ve struggled so long for have reached my soul at last.

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Today, we skated round and round. Half the church came out. We drank hot chocolate and smiled in each other’s presence. The exercise and cold air and companionship filled my lungs and gave me strength.

And I realized, the answer of these longings is never far away.

What I’ve been looking for has been here the whole time. Perhaps it was hiding just beyond reach or maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. But it was here.

Perhaps the exquisite is simple and beauty looks like the smile in your eyes when we talk.

Maybe adventure can be found in building a snow fort in the church parking lot.

Perchance joy is grasped in simply being. Yes, I think joy comes from realizing each daily adventure and seeing the beauty for what it is.

Fulfillment is right now. Today. This moment. I’ve found it.

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Is there more to life than this? You’d better believe it.

But it is here, found among the ordinary, dancing in our souls. This God-given, blessed life is the more that we crave.

Here. This is beauty.

Longing: A Story Of The Here And Now

For the past three and a half months, I’ve been longing for this time. I’ve dreamed of December days when the homework is finished and out of sight and Christmas baking and gifts pile up instead. As a student, all semester Christmas, it seems, is as good as it gets.

Now, the bright lights blur in my eyes as I drive home from town. One whole semester, with every success and bleary-eyed morning, long day and rippling laugh, behind me. My third term is finished and there’s five whole semesters left.

I’m done. I’m here. I made it! I wrote my last exam on Tuesday and its been a week now. Yet my heart still longs for what I do not have.

I wish that I could eat the pizza in the fridge and the cookies I’m going to make, but my mouth is still sore from surgery last week. I long to have presents ready and crafts made. I want to feel useful and creative once more. Christmas day, seeing family, and visiting friends form happy images in my mind. Something about the holiday season — perhaps its the mistletoe or maybe the fact that I’m bored — makes me dream of romance. And all of a sudden, I’m caught up in the circle of longings again.

But my finals are done and I got A’s on my papers and I think “well, that’s pretty great.” The tree is up and I was able to consume a muffin today. But there is always something more that I’d like to have. That’s just the nature of life on earth, I suppose.

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I get home after volunteering at the Thrift Store, which once served as my summer job, feeling fulfilled. My name tag was still hanging on the rack and everything seemed as if I’d never left it at all. I hung up clothes, answered questions, and ran people through the till a few times. The work was simple, but it gave me so much joy.

At home, the tree is all lights and the star welcomes me in. There are dishes to wash while I chat with my mom and sip coffee from my favourite mug. I find jars and napkins and tins to aid my DIY gifts and the butter is finished thawing for the sugar cookies I’m going to make.

My bible sits in the box beside me. I’ve been reading random chapters lately — mostly short, New Testament ones like Peter and Titus and John — because I don’t know where to start sometimes.

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This is life. It is simple, but it is good.

I long for the future and for future days and plans and people. But today, I also give thanks for the present because it is the time to be lived in.

And I realize, that in all these longings, there is a desire to love the here and now. Longing is really a story of what we already have.

The Calling Of Christmas

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I’ve always admired Mary. Ever since I portrayed her in a series of advent monologues at church one year, her story has been real to me. God gave her a tremendous task and she fulfilled it boldly.

I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

Luke 1:38

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I often wonder what I am called to do with my life. I have dreams, ideas, and passions, but how am I to know which of those is what the Lord desires? Options are set before me, but I often shy away from the challenge of certain callings. Sometimes, my greatest desires seem too odd and revolutionary to be Godly.

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But then I think about Mary. She had dreams, ideas, and passions, I am sure. Did she end up doing any of those? I don’t really know. I do know that she did the Lord’s will. Was her task challenging? Certainly. I think we often forget how very challenging it was — we like to gloss her over with halos and carols, but she risked scandal, ruin, and even death for the sake of her mission. Did this calling make sense? No, not at first. Perhaps the stable birth never made sense in her time though now we certainly know the greatness of this calling.

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In a way, we all have Mary’s calling for this task did not disappear upon Christ’s birth. Mary was called to bare Jesus, the son of God. While she fulfilled this in a literal way, we are also called to bare Him in our daily lives. As His children, we are to shine like stars against a dark earth and mend a broken generation. Jesus has come and gone back to heaven, but it is our calling to keep His image alive on earth.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

This is the calling of Christmas — to love as God loved, to change the world as Christ changed it, and to answer the call as Mary responded. It started with the angel’s message and Mary and Joseph and that birth in the stable, but the calling continues today. The question is: will we fulfill it?

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Tonight in church, I felt a certain peace as we sang the familiar carols together. It was a beautiful service with candles and singing and scripture. But more importantly, I recongized my calling and grabbed hold of it. I’ve known this calling before, but I have disobeyed and let it go many times. I accepted it once again and endeavoured to take the calling of Christmas with me, both in this holiday season and forevemore.

Photo Credit

The Broken Road

This morning it rained over our fresh snow. I heard its soft pattering on the roof and watched the grass begin to peek out from the snow. It was an ugly mess.

I went to church this evening. The pastor talked about the guilty, wounded, and troubled heart. I know that I suffer from all of those feelings. And I sin–oh yes, I sin. Everyday, I make mistakes and wreck relationships and try to pick up the pieces again. I put off prayer because I don’t want to confront my maker with the same old problems. I don’t feel worthy of His love.

But isn’t that the reason for Christmas? Isn’t that how we know Jesus? If we were pure, there would be no use for a Saviour. But our sinful nature needs a Saving Grace. Life’s broken road is the path that leads us to the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Sometimes, its hard to accept ourselves because of sin. Sometimes, its difficult to just move on. Sometimes, we don’t even know where to begin. But the beauty is that we don’t have to do it on our own. As Psalm 147 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

We have Jesus. It’s remarkably easy to pass Him by, especially with the hub-bub of the holidays. But without Him we would be nothing. Without Him, our sin would stain us forevermore and there wouldn’t be any second chances. He is the reason for Christmas, joy, and life.

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With whatever trial you’re facing today, remember the joy that Jesus offers!

No Ordinary Story

I think I’ve heard the Christmas story too many times. Or rather, I’ve listened without really hearing more often than not. But when I really take in the words and ponder and believe, I am awed. Because the first Christmas was anything but ordinary.

Last week, I taught a lesson on Las Posadas, a Mexican holiday during the days leading up to Christmas, in the Spanish class that I help out in. I was amazed when I first researched the assigned lesson and found that it was all about Jesus and the story from so long ago. Carefully, I crafted a lesson that would accurately represent both the holiday and my God, would fit inside of public school regulations and align with what I believe. While I did so, I realized the true magnificence of the story I have heard so many times.

An angel appeared to a young woman and brought to her God’s word. The woman, who was a virgin then conceived a child. Upon a vision, her fiance risked his reputation and married her. Together they followed the census decree and traveled for miles on a donkey’s bony back while she was pregnant and near delivery. There were no rooms in any of the inns so the child was born in a stable. Angels sang in the fields and brought shepherds to come and see. Most importantly, the child was not just a child but He was also God.

That is no ordinary story.

Being a Christian your whole life is a wonderful gift, but sometimes I think it means that we forget that it’s a gift with a thousand layers. Being a Christian is not just about one time in our lives, reading the Bible once, or going to church and singing about God on Christmas Eve. No, it is far more than that. It is not an ordinary present by any means.

When I spoke in Spanish class, I tried to give this gift. I struggled with it in the weeks leading up to the lesson. I wondered how I could offer a package that had been rejected so many times. In the end, I just came to class, a nativity in hand, my information typed out, and the God I love and story I know in my head and heart.

I don’t know if anyone in my class decided to take that gift  or will come to receive it one day. I can only hope and pray. But I know that I am going to choose that gift today and tomorrow, just like I did yesterday. It is not an ordinary story in any way at all and most will not believe it. I know the truth though. In fact, I believe that the utter extraordinary nature of the story is what gives me life. Yes, Jesus was born, He saved me, and God is real. It is the best Christmas gift ever and I am going to unwrap it right now.

‘Tis The Season

It’s Christmas-time and I am overwhelmed. Not by the usual list of to-do’s or holiday engagements, but instead by the simple blessings of love, joy, and friendship. It’s the season for happiness and I am truly joyful this time.

Last week, I performed A Christmas Carol with some very wonderful people. We spent long hours inside of a theatre, pouring our hearts into one common passion. Together we went to the mall in stage make-up and Victorian up-dos, singing our Christmas songs as we walked. We made up songs, gave each other flowers, and celebrated in the success of our talents. Hard work became fun and acquaintances grew into dear friends. We shared joys, exhaustion, failure, hard days, and success. It wasn’t easy or even always fun, but today I miss it desperately because of those fabulous people.

I smile as I read emails from friends and reply. We talk about getting together and make plans. I remember the day that we met so long ago now. It was back then when I wondered what it was like to be happy and not feel alone. If only I could have known that I would someday come to experience the richness that I longed for.

I dream of baking cookies and cakes and all sorts of things for a party on Thursday. A dear friend and I plan the event together and we laugh over jokes from our play in the door way of her house. Joyous songs come from my lips at my voice teacher’s house and the piano rings with sweet Christmas melodies. Merryment is made and I marvel in it all.

This is the season for joy. It truly is. Every season and each day should be, of course but now more than ever we must remember that joy can indeed be a choice. It’s the time of the year that the Greatest Joy and the Truest Love came down. God sent his son, Jesus. Let us rejoice! Give thanks! I know that I will certainly be joyful this Christmas season and always because He has given me what it takes.