Friday, December 30, 2011

Fullness of Joy: A Tale of Christmas

Will you tell your kids Santa is real?

A week ago, I probably would have not even thought twice about the question…of course I will let them believe in Santa! What a horrible parent I would be if I didn’t!! Just to think of all the joys of the season they would never experience…yes, my kids will believe in Santa. I will even aide the little story…the presents magically appearing in the night, the list mailed to the north pole. Oh and we mustn’t forget the cookies bitten into and the carrots nibbled away, milk guzzled down as well. Yes, my kids will believe.

This year I got to experience Christmas here in Arkansas with a sweet family that has become my home away from home. Though I missed that precious time with my parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews, I kept busy just trying to keep up with this family of eleven! Oh how blessed I was! You would think a house of nine little ones running around would be the last place one would experience peace at the core…and yet, I felt nothing but such a peace which transcends all understanding within those walls.

This Christmas more vividly then any prior, I saw Jesus. In everything.

Oh yes, there were presents galore. There was more food then mouths to feed. Delicious food. There were games and laughter, fighting and tears. There was excitement in the air. Anticipation of the day to come. Big red socks filled to the brim, presents hugging the tree all around, plenty of sweets for all to share. But there was more, so much more!

On Christmas Eve, the dad, the leader of his home, he gathered up all of us kiddos as we circled around on the floor, looking up to him with joyous anticipation of what was to come. He told the youngest ones they would get a gift on this night, this night before that glorious day. With excitement, they each received. With an okay from dad, they opened, one at a time. First one: a baby Jesus. Second: a baby Jesus. Third…you get the idea. They were all baby Jesus from various nativities around the house. There was wonder in their eyes, as they each look up to daddy. He explains to them with deep conviction and joyous praise of the One for whom this day is made. We hear the Truth of the Christ, the baby born in the manger, the One who took what I deserved, the One to who gave me hope, peace, joy, and love.

“Daddy, what is joy?” Well, son joy is like happiness. Expect whenever something really sad happens, it doesn’t go away. It is from deep inside. We can only have it because of Jesus. Dad continued to pour wisdom over his little ones, raising them up into a life of godliness. Little murmurs of wonder and question to interject once in a while. He spoke rich Truth of why we celebrate Christmas. We get to open presents in the morning…we get to eat these special foods….we get to gather up in the living room and sleep…we get to open stockings that mommy and daddy secretly fill in the night…all of this is fun and sweet, but remember it is all about Jesus. This day is to celebrate Him.

This year, mom and dad decided to add a trumpet to the tree, up top by the angel. Dad went on to explain to the kiddos that not only do we get to celebrate Christ’s birth but we are celebrating that He is coming back!!! The sound of the trumpet…“Come Lord Jesus, Come.” That is a promise…He is coming. We get to live with joyful anticipation of that day. That is worth celebration!

Then we all curl up on beds in the living room…yes everyone! Dad leads us in worship…the whole choir sings out in praise to the Giver of Life. This is almost too much for my hungry heart to bear. Do families really worship the Lord together like this? No instruments? No big building of people? It was as if the Lord began peeling back layers from my eyes. I began to see the society that has fed me from birth such a tainted message for what it really is. The new clearness with which I could now see was like a dream—a fantasy. What joy. Holding back the tears, I just sing softly along, praising Him for this moment which is etched in my heart for life.

To quiet the hearts filled with excitement, mom and dad read scripture until everyone falls asleep. As I am laying on my bed, cuddled up and reminiscing, I wonder how I ever got here…to this very spot in this house in the woods in Arkansas with this family who wash me in the Word as I drift to sleep with their children on Christmas Eve. Then the tears begin to fall as I am reminded of His faithfulness in my life…the fullness of His presence in that moment contrasted with the hopelessness of growing up apart from Him—fullness of joy barely contains my heart. His perfect plan which far exceeds mine always places me exactly where I am supposed to be—without a doubt.

My very first time opening a stocking...
and I got TWO!!
With the sunrise, I hear little voices, filled with excitement. The day has finally arrived! We open gifts and play. We speak words of thankfulness for what we receive. We are blessed. We eat deliciousness. We gather around while dad reads to us a story of redemption. His humble tears move me. I wish I could press pause in these moments and never forget the fullness of joy contained. I wish I could give others a little glimpse, a little taste. Oh, I hunger for this. Nothing less will do.

This beautiful family, they are not prefect by any means. They are real and flawed and in desperate need of Christ, just like me. But they love Him wholly. They love Him more then presents, more then Christmas, more then Santa, more then the season. Their worship is to Him and Him alone. Their children know it too. And the younger ones will not be able to deny it. His holy name echoes through those walls.

That is what Christmas is about.

If the Lord allows me to raise a family some day, my kiddos won’t know Santa, but they will know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior born in a manger. Is this not who we are celebrating? Then why do we fabricate this jolly old fella in a red suit when we can offer them someone so much greater?! I love that one day my family can squeal in excitement because of the Christ, the one who came and is coming again!! That is where the fullness of joy is found—that is Christmas.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Friday, December 23, 2011

Created for Something More

This past week has been much of a blur. The battle of feeling as though I was created for a world far different from this one rages wildly within my core, a storm within destroying the little wall of protection I had built up the past months.

 A wall built of bricks. Each one locking into place as my (deicetfully wicked) heart has so quietly nestled its way into the confidence of this life over the next. Is it not so easy to be decieved? To believe that instant gratification far exceeds what is to come. To be convinced that a title or money or a new outfit is going to make us feel better...lighter somehow, more free. Are we not constantly longing for intimcay with others? Friends, parents, roommates, siblings, our spouses (or spouses to be!). Searching through the crowds for the ONE that is supposed to stand out.

What is it that brings lasting satisfaction, contentment of our souls, in this life?

I have searched high and low. I have tried these other things. I have found nothing but Christ and Christ alone which brings such as this.

So if I really beleive that my life comes from Christ--that eveything I do and say and think and feel stems from a desire, a necessity really, to know Him above all else, then it would make sense that I feel lost in a world that screams otherwise.

It makes sense. And yet it is frustrating, a battle that will not simmer down within me.

This is personal--it is an attack of the supernatural designed to peirce the core of the "have nots" in my life.

For instance, I feel as though I should be spending an hour in front of the mirror, primping and proding my hair into perfection, running out the door with a man at my side--out to take on the world, oh and have some fun while we're at it.

I feel as though I should stay out late--hanging out and flirting from across the room.

I feel as though I should be content watching some silly chick flick, regaurdless of what I hear or see in the process.

I feel as though I should be a normal college kid...squeling with excitment over a homecoming victory last week, celebrating late into the night.

 And yet somehow what I FEEL I should be doing in order to be like everyone else is so far from the reality of my life.

Most days, it is a noteworthy victory to even get a shower. The application of makeup to this face--well that is like a miracle. Jokingly I think to myself, a boy? What does one even look like?
Most days, I am in bed before it's even dark outside. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. Most days, I am the first of my roomies to shut my door and turn off my light.
Most days, my stomach begins to turn as I walk by a TV blaring thougthless langauge and scene after scene of intimacy, frustration hunkering up from somewhere within that is unfarmiliar to me.
Most days, I look at college life and walk a little more quickly in the direction of home, looking to my future of leggings, blanket and a book on the couch with anticipation.

I do not feel like I belong in this world--especially in this world of college. Sometimes, I beg and plead for the Lord to just give me the ability to simmer down and be more "fun," whatever that means. This weekend I became so angry--so frustrated by my lack of "funness" if that's even a word. Comparision always destroys.

Almost two months after writing this post, I still don't have any answers and the battle continues to war on, lighter some days then others. And yet, I am learnng to be content where ever He has me at. If that is at a party with international studnets where I feel as though I am out of place, if that is in the classroom learning things that contradict my beleifs, if that is at home with my roommates who are pursuing different thing then me, if that is alone in my room weeping over my inabilty to measure up to this fantasy I have in my head, over the fact that I may never have it all together, over the fact that I will never find contentment in this life.

Praise God that my heart is deicitfully wicked and that my feelings are not my Truth. Praise to Him, for His word is perfect and unchanging. He is perfect and unchanging. That is my only hope, my only promise, my only place of peace in this life. Oh Lord, give me those eyes to see and ears to hear--to see and hear YOU over all the rest.

Daniel 9: 17-19
17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[a] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”