A Map for New Year’s

Happy 2018!

It’s the start of a new year and people have been making plans, choosing words and verses, making resolutions for this next year. It’s all good stuff but what I really want for this new shiny year? A map.

A map to show me how to navigate the year 2018 because at the moment I feel profoundly lost. Also, bewildered comes to mind.

 

I no longer recognize parts of this world that I’ve inhabited for a long time. I feel like I’m in some other alternate universe or maybe how Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole.

I don’t understand the culture, the trends and the language. I doubt myself and then doubt those around me. Some days I don’t even recognize myself or how I got here. So a map would be super helpful. Because I don’t want to get further lost because I might not get back.

I’ve been fascinated with the theme of being lost. What does it really mean to be lost? Is being lost really a bad thing? Maybe it’s just a detour and in fact, you aren’t lost at all but are right on course.

If you are lost what happens if you aren’t found? Can you find yourself? Do you actually need someone to find you? If you are really lost, can you turn it into something positive? What if you don’t want to be found? Or is being lost just part of the journey? Because we all get lost sometimes right? See what I mean? Fascinating.

Honestly I don’t have any answers. I’m still trying to figure this out, hence the wish for a map.

Did they have maps in the bible? The closest thing I could think of was the wise men from the east, following the star for a very long time and at the end of their journey, they found Jesus.

You may be thinking you’d like a map too. But our maps may not be the same. My journey through 2018 is probably going to look very different from yours. So although we both have maps, our travels will be different and you may use a tablet or phone to look at your map where I may use a paper one. But in the end, we get to the destination we are supposed to. Hopefully.

Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, that the star was so out of the ordinary that the wise men took it to mean that some extraordinary person was born and since the star sat over Judea, that’s where the person was. He goes on to state that the shepherds were told about Christ’s birth by an angel. They were Jews, they would understand and believe in angels. The men from the east, understood a star because they studied them and worshipped them. “..to both God spoke in their own language, and in the same way they were best acquainted with.” God gave them their own unique maps which they could understand and follow.

So we’ll have individual maps. Which is awesome but the fact is, I don’t have any map at the moment. Not a star. Nor an angel.

As I read the wise men and the shepherds’ accounts, I realize that God did not give them the whole enchilada. He gave them one thing to follow. An angel. To listen to and then follow instruction. A star. To recognize it for what it was and then follow it. For a long time.

After the night at the stables, what did the shepherds do? We aren’t told. But God unfolded the maps of their lives in due time.

With the wise men we have a little more insight into what happened afterwards. They run into Herod in Jerusalem, find Jesus in Bethlehem and then are warned in a dream to go home another route. Each direction was given at the right time and the right place. They weren’t given more. They were given enough.

God often works this way. I don’t particularly like it. I want the whole map. Not just the next step. The story of the wise men reminds me of the truth. Although a map would be nice, we only get the next step. And when we’ve taken that step, then we are given the next.

Who gives the directions? Like the star and the angel, God sends us the directions in a way we can understand. It may be people, it may be through prayer and reading the Bible. It may be through circumstances. The one thing I do know is that God meets us where we are and he’ll use whatever He chooses to get our attention, to direct our paths. It can literally be anything. We don’t need the whole map, we just need to be open to following His lead.

 

Some fav Quotes about Being Lost:

“He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found. Maybe accident isn’t the right word after all. Maybe miracle is.
Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.” Just One Day by Gayle Forman, p. 367

“I wasn’t lost. Just because you couldn’t find me doesn’t mean I was lost.” The Edge of Recall by Kirsten Heitzmann p. 208

“God seeks the lost and pursues the broken.” Rachel Harter, incourage.me.blog Aug 30/17 titled, Lessons in Rock Hunting

Ezekiel 34:16(NLT) I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes–feed them justice!

TURNING BACK: Finding What I Thought I’d Lost

The year ended, leaving me, with a surprise. I know it’s now the new year and we are supposed to be looking forward but before I do, I need to TURN BACK to the old year for a minute. I need to process something I wasn’t expecting.

I found Christmas this year. I thought it was lost to me. It never really felt like Christmas. For you too? (What does Christmas feel like, really? Why can’t it change from year to year?) There was no snow. The boys were wearing hoodies not winter jackets. It was grey every day.

Advent was non-existent in our house. I didn’t decorate other than a few table decorations because we were having the staff over one night. The tree went up because the boys expected one (rightly so). But other than that, I opened a few boxes and closed them up again. I didn’t have the energy or spirit. I didn’t even set up our nativity scene, something I usually love.

So I fully expected nothing from Christmas. I hadn’t done my duty to prepare. Because it fully depends on our doing to experience Christmas, right? To wonder at the Christ child’s birth, we have to do advent readings. Attend church. That’s what we’re told, maybe not in words.

To feel Christmasy, the house must be cleaned and decorated to the nines. Our freezers must be loaded with baking and treats. We pressure ourselves every year.

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These didn’t happen this year! This photo is a year old at least!

 

It’s not just Christmas, either. Easter is starting to feel the same. It’s becoming something else to do rather than experience. We’ve messed it up. It all depends solely on us. All.Of.It. We think.

If we don’t participate, we tell ourselves, then we don’t deserve to see Jesus. That’s how I thought deep down although I probably wouldn’t have admitted it. I’m not saying that baking and decorating and Advent are bad. But what about grace? The outside glitter is okay but if it becomes the idol of Christmas then we need to TURN AWAY from it.

My TURNING AWAY this Christmas was rebelling against the status quo and being too exhausted to bother with it all. I’m weary of doing and chasing. I just said no to it all.

Saying no was the best gift I could’ve given myself. In the empty spaces that not baking, decorating, going and doing left behind, those spaces were filled with quiet, rest, and peace.

I thought I wouldn’t see Jesus this Christmas because I hadn’t done my part. After all, I had said no to Him. Rather, I had said no to the imposter that says to worship him I have to work hard to know him, I have to chase but never catch him. (Lynne Hybels in her book, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World, first clued me into this imposter.) I thought I had lost Christmas.

But the real Jesus, showed up in the quiet, in the rest and most of all, in the peacefulness of our home. I didn’t recognize him at first because I’ve been too focused on the imposter and the lies he’s been whispering. I believed all I deserved was a lump of coal. Naughty girl.

As I TURN BACK to the last couple of weeks, I see the presence of Jesus in our home and our lives. I was thinking about another problem one day and God showed me that sometimes when we think He is far from us, He’s actually sitting right beside us. Sometimes He waits for us to TURN TO Him. Other times He TURNS TO us first. And still others, He just sits with us. But in all of these situations, He is near. He is loving us. Even when we think He has abandoned us.

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That’s what I see, when I TURN BACK to Christmas 2015. I see wisps of his presence in the boys’ laughter and twinkling eyes. I see Him in the rest, against all odds, both my husband and I experienced. I see Him in the funny things Whiskers, our pet dwarf rabbit, does. I see Him in late night movies and chicken wings. And so much more.

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The emptiness brought fullness. The stopping instead of doing, brought focus. It all brought me face-to-face with the real Jesus. The true gift. Unexpected. Undeserved.

My desire In 2016, is to TURN TO the real Jesus. I won’t be doing anything else. The days of earning, striving, and chasing are over. (Although I know I will have to remind myself again and again about this. These lies have been ingrained in my DNA if feels like.)

TURN TO the real Jesus. And then, I’ll wait for Him to show Himself.

One Word (for 2016)

New year. New word. I was waffling about choosing a word this year. Wasn’t sure I’d get one. Maybe it was more that I didn’t want to sit still long enough to hear it. It was tempting to run from it.

The whole word thing for me is more of an exercise in seeing from a new perspective. It is not a religious thing or Christian thing at all. So not choosing to do this doesn’t make anyone less of a lover of Jesus. Let’s just be clear on that. I read about it on a blog a few years back and it fascinated me at the time. It took a couple of years to actually act on it.

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I’m a word person. I find them intriguing. I found filtering life through the word BRAVE last year gave me a whole new way of looking at life. So I’m curious about doing it again.

I don’t just choose a random word. I look at where I am in my journey and what themes have been bouncing around my head, in my life. I ask God what word is for me and then Listen. That’s it. There is no magical formula. You might go about it in a different way altogether. That’s okay.

A week ago, I finally started to listen. A few words came to mind. Create. Dangerous. Change. Change was resonating the most. A few things I‘ve read lately and watched, really got me thinking that I need to be the change. I’m not talking about playing God. Or that I have to do more. It’s not that.

This is what it is; instead of waiting for things to change on their own, being the catalyst for change when I can. Think Serenity Prayer. Following the nudge in my spirit telling me to act, instead of ignoring it. Instead of complaining about a situation or person, make a positive forward motion if it’s at all a possibility.

I thought about it some more and I really didn’t like the word CHANGE. It needed to be more and yet less. Then it came to me. TURN.

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We turn to something or someone. We turn away from things or people. We can turn into. In a sense, we turn back, we turn to and we can turn away from. Making a turn, is making a change. It’s dangerous and creative in so many ways. TURN is change but there is an added dimension to it. It’s richer.

TURN. I am going to filter 2016 through this word. Not sure what it will bring. What it’s going to teach me, what I will learn.

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Today, on this first day of January 2016, I am definitely turning away from 2015 and turning to the hope of 2016.

2015 was a hard year. Not that anything really terrible happened. It was about an inner journey that has been difficult. A lot of questions. Few answers. So I am happy to turn away from it. I’m not walking away from it empty-handed though. I’m taking a few things with me as I TURN to the new year. Even in suffering, questions, doubts, good can be birthed.

I’m taking the things I learned about living BRAVE with me as I TURN to this new year. TURNING takes courage. I’ll need all the help I can get.

I’m taking the victories from 2015 and transferring and building on them into the 2016. Fear, anxiety, and lies will continue to be TURNED aside for bravery, hope and truth.

As I TURN to the new year, I turn with the hope that in a year’s time a few more things will be different. I read somewhere that despair comes about when there is no hope that things will ever change. It’s so very true. It’s stayed with me. I want things to evolve and grow and where I can be the change, I want to TURN into it.

What word is whispering in your heart and soul? Maybe that’s your word for the year. It’s worth thinking and praying about.

Or perhaps you just want to make some change too this new year. I have a couple of books I’d recommend for reading. You can’t read them without being transformed. That’s a good thing I think. They’ll make you uncomfortable and they’ll make you ask some difficult questions. At least, I hope they do. They rocked my world this year. I’ve mentioned them all at some point in my blogs. So if you are looking for a few books to shake you up and the world around you, put these on your reading list for 2016:

Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
Help My Unbelief: When Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith by Barnabas Piper
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Nice Girls Don’t Change the Word by Lynne Hybels

Happy New Year!

Jen

 

BRAVE Not-so-New World

Happy New Year!  I hope you have had a great celebration over the last couple of weeks.  I took a little time off.  I hope you had the chance to do likewise.  However it’s back to school, back to work and back to routine.  So here I sit.

I’m not sure I really want to write this.  But if I don’t exorcize these words spinning in my brain, there will be no peace.  It will keep writing itself in my head.  Better to get it down in black and white.

The start of the new year causes all kinds of talk about resolutions, changes.  It’s a sweeping out of the old and ushering in a fresh start.  Blank calendars full of beautiful pictures.  I’m not sure what’s more pretty, the pictures or the blank spaces! A new semester of school.  New classes.  Clean slates.

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I don’t really get caught up in it anymore.  I don’t make resolutions.  I didn’t need another reason to disappoint myself! How ‘bout you?  Over the last few years I’ve heard about praying for verses and one words that God gives you for the upcoming year.  They become your theme or motto for the year.  It’s intrigued me.

A couple of years ago I prayed for a verse and God gave me this one from Mark 5:36.  “Be not afraid, only believe.”  If it is familiar it’s because I’ve used it here before.  It’s been a theme in my life over the last couple of years.  Then the last year or so it was just Believe.

As the calendar pages flipped through 2014 there was rumblings of change.  I wrote about it last spring and summer.  As the year ended, a word was extended to me.  A silent engraving on my mind.  It was a God-thing.

I must admit I tried to run away from the word.  Which is so ridiculous when I tell you what the word is.  My one word for 2015 is Brave.  I’m running away from the word brave!  I didn’t want that word.  Because the fear sets right in.  If that’s my word, what scary thing is coming that I need to be brave for?  This word is so wrong for me!

I’ve spent the first few days of 2015 in fear, not bravery.  I thought I’d wait until the end of 2015 to write this.  Because then I’d know what the year had brought about.  It was the safest bet.  Yet as I walked through Sunday that word cleaved to me.  It is my word.  I need to own it.

There is still fear.  Being brave doesn’t mean absence of fear.  Yes there could be scary things in 2015.  Things I don’t want. Ignoring the word isn’t going to not make it happen, like some talisman.

What does brave look like?  For me, besides the worry of the unknown, there are some things in the future I need to deal with bravely.  On the horizon is something that can go either two ways.  I can fail or I can succeed.  If I fail, I need to fail bravely.  To not let it defeat or define me.  My response must be brave.

On the flip side, succeeding requires courage.  I will have to go way out of my comfort zone, bravely.  It scares me just thinking about it.  It’s one of those, “You’ve got the wrong person” moments.  I’m looking around for the other woman who will do a much better job.

This year will be shaped by the word Brave.  There will most likely be some blogs about it.  It’s a complex word.  We think we know what it means but I think it goes so much deeper than the surface meaning.  I guess I’ll find out.  And you?  What are you shaping your year around?  Is there a word or a verse that will be your compass this year?

As I’m writing this and flipping through my journal, I find a verse from January 2010.  It wasn’t my verse that year but I think it is this year’s verse.  Exodus 33:21  God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me.” (Solo Remix devotional by Eugene Peterson)

I think I can be Brave when He’s inviting me into that place right beside Him.

If you have a word or a verse for 2015 please feel free to share in the comments section.  I would love to hear about it!

The Day After Christmas

December 26th.  The day after Christmas.  The presents unwrapped.  The turkey eaten.  The day we spend a month preparing for is over.  

It was a quiet Christmas here at the Willcock house.  I wasn’t sure I’d like it quiet.  (Quiet being a relative term with two boys in the house, nerf guns and assorted superhero gear!)  Mark’s parents were away and my parents have our family Christmas on a later day.  It ended up being perfect.  I haven’t been feeling particularly Christmassy this season.  The boys have been sick and have been battling a particularly nasty skin infection that keeps occurring.  The infections are boil-like and painful.  Another round occurred late last week.  

I’ve also been remembering my brother’s dog, Reno from my childhood.  I was eight and we looked after him one fall while my brother worked up north.  Reno was still a pup.  A Doberman but my brother had not gotten his ears clipped.  He was a beautiful dog.  He was a great dog.  I LOVED that dog.  I spent hours outside with him.  He loved to jump up on you and lick your face.  Even as a pup, he was big!  I taught him to sit as I approached.  I would come home from school and he’d be waiting for me.  He’d sit.  You could see he really wanted to jump but he’d sit and let me come and pet him.  That Christmas my brother came home.  He took Reno out for a run on Christmas night and the dog was hit by a truck.   We were all devastated.  

I haven’t really been interested in dogs since.  Until the last couple of years.  Boys need a dog.  So we’ve been THINKING about getting a dog.  Maybe that’s why I’m remembering Reno.  

I realize that many people are suffering through a death of a loved one or sickness.  Or any number of awful things.  A memory of a dog may not be a big deal.  But I loved him and then he was gone.  It still hurt.  People still hurt on the holidays.  Christmas makes the pain more palatable.  Hollywood likes to make the Christmas season all magical and perfect.  Up against our expectations for a festive season, our pain and suffering becomes more pronounced.  It seems politically incorrect to not be feeling the Christmas spirit.  But how many people feel let down on December 26th?  I think more than would like to admit it.  But you know what?  It’s.ok.  

Christmas is more than one day.  Christmas lasts all year.  Because the babe born in the manger grew up to be a man who lived out a radical ministry.  He changed people and their lives.  It’s more than the Christmas story.  When Jesus was just thirty-three, he died on a cross to change our doomed existence.  It’s the Easter story too.  But in between there was a life lived that loved people that were excluded from society.  He was best friends with fishermen.  They weren’t considered a stellar part of society either.  He healed the physically, emotionally and mentally ill.   He associated with harlots and tax collectors.  He blew up the rules of the Pharisees and religious leaders to show us truth and love.  He came to earth for all of us.  Those who felt they didn’t need him and for those who felt they were desperate for him.  He came because he loved us and he wanted to heal us and save us from ourselves. 

 The spirit of the sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree the release of captives, and the freeing of prisoners, to announce the year when the LORD will show his favor, the day when our God will seek vengeance, to console all who mourn, to strengthen those who mourn in Zion, by giving them a turban, instead of ashes, oil symbolizing joy, instead of mourning, a garment symbolizing praise, instead of discouragement. They will be called oaks of righteousness, trees planted by the LORD to reveal his splendor.   Isaiah 61:1-3 The NET Bible

 The year of the Lord’s favour.  As we head into the last week of December and into 2014 my prayer is to walk out these verses.  Life brings both good and bad.  As we walk the paths of life, whether in mourning, discouragement or with broken hearts, OR in good times, we don’t walk alone.  Jesus is beside us and he enables us to walk strengthened, joyful and full of praise, in ALL circumstances.  He came to earth as a babe to live life as a human.  There isn’t one emotion, temptation or situation that he doesn’t understand.  That is the greatest part of this gift.  The baby born didn’t just disappear into oblivion but lived a life that changed the world and then he died to give us eternal life.  

I’m so thankful that Christmas is way more than just a day on the calendar.  Christmas is a lifetime lived out.