Monday, December 8, 2008

The Advent Season

This time of year has always been a favorite of mine. Even more so than my love for autumn. As a kid, it was hyped up with Santa and new Christmas dresses and packing into our van to see a live nativity. I didn't appreciate seeing that live nativity as much as I should have. My attention was set to Santa and what new toys I wanted. As I got older and entered my highschool and college years, the hustle and bustle of Christmas grew with secret Santas, Christmas countdown calendars, and Christmas parties. I also got the added bonus of long breaks from school. Since graduating, my focus has been more centered on the birth of our sweet Savior. I don't know if this is a typical course of action for most folks, but I find myself wishing my focus had gotten here earlier.

Better late than never, though, right?

Don't get me wrong, I still love the hustle and bustle of Christmas time and buying the gift I think is best suited for my loved ones. I love bundling up and going to our annual Light Up Night down in the city, seeing "A Christmas Carol" and "The Nutcracker" at the theater and baking cookies for days on end. I love watching Christmas movies, old and new, while cuddled under a blanket with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

But it's not the focus of my Christmas.

As the end of another year is approaching, I'm reminded again just how much the Lord has done for me in the past year alone.  I'm reminded of His abundant grace, His unconditional love and His mercy beyond measure.  I feel like I've been stretched and molded and formed so much in the past year.  I've seen my faith increase by leaps and bounds.  

If someone were to ask me if I trust the Lord, I would undoubtedly say yes.  But do I really?  I mean really trust Him?  In all areas of my life and everything that happens to me?  Sadly, no.  It goes against my human nature to trust Him with all my heart and mind and soul and strength.  But I've seen this area of my life change in the past year.  My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.  I'm more easily and much more quickly prone to say "Ok, Lord, I trust you" with whatever is happening.  Whether it's been broken relationships within my family, medical conditions of loved ones, or something simple like an issue at work which has been a point of stress.  

But it didn't happen automatically.  It's been hard work, but so rewarding.  It's been more rewarding than I could've even imagined.  It started with a murmur of trust to my Heavenly Father.  Of trying to let go more than actually letting go.  It started with a desire to be obedient, but having trouble trusting.  And it's flourished into a sweet commune with my Savior.  Into a fully trusting relationship.  I've been so blessed this year and am thankful for each blessing I've received.  I've told people, who I haven't actually said this to in a very long time, that I love them.  I've experienced healing in deep wounds.  I've witnessed mending of brokenness, reaffirming of love, and more blessings than I could possibly begin to count.  

Did I think God wasn't big enough to care for my every need?  Absolutely not.
Did I think He wouldn't hear my prayers or answer my pleas?  Nope again.

But by not trusting Him completely, that's basically what I was telling Him.  By separating areas of my life between areas of full trust and then those areas where I "trusted" but anxiety and worry and the attempt to do things my way took over was undermining His authority.  

But be careful what you pray for.

I've been praying for growth and the ability to fully trust in the Lord and I've got it.  But it came with a price of sacrificing my will for His.  It's the best sacrifice I could give though.  This past year has been a whirlwind of wrestling with myself to allow Christ to be the center of my life.  When an opportunity for trust presented itself and I wasn't trusting, fully trusting, He let me know.  It usually went something like this:

      God: Trust me.
      Me:  I do.
      God: No, really trust me.  Surrender your doubt, your worry, your hurt.  I love you and will take care of you.
      Me: I want to, but...
      God:  No buts.  This is what you prayed for now trust me, my daughter.
      Me:  Help me to trust You.  My flesh is so weak.

It was incredible how He turned my meager attempt to trust to full assurance in my Savior.  He knew I wouldn't be able to always surrender my will to His.  He knew it would be a hard road for me.  But He was just waiting for me to ask for help and right there He was carrying me whenever I couldn't walk on my own.  

This wasn't just for those "big ticket items" of broken relationships, but it has become an everyday item kind of relationship.  The amount of worry and stress in my life has significantly decreased.   That's not to say there aren't times when it's hard to surrender and the burdens of life are bringing me down.  But repeat the above conversation and that's where I'm at.  

I'm amazed at how many people trim their trees and decorate their homes in preparation for the Christmas holiday, but are not preparing their hearts for Christ.  It saddens me to think of those who celebrate Christmas, but not the true meaning behind this great approaching holiday.  The babe in the manger who is the Savior of the world.  

This advent season I am focused on worshipping Him in all the hustle and bustle of the season.  To focus on His love for me and what He's done to save me time and time again.  As I list to Selah's "O Come O Come Emmanuel" playing in the background, I think of how many times I've been "Israel".

Rejoice, Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, Oh Israel!

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

This couldn't be more true. I don't know how many people are actually reading this little blog of mine, but if you are reading this, I just encourage you to seek His will for your lives with all you've got. It'll be hard. But it'll be so worth it. If I can pray for you in any way, please comment or email me. I'd be glad to share in this journey with you.

Thank you Jesus for what you've done and continue to do in my life.

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