relationship practices for the holidays

Posted in relationships

Holidays. Family. All the gatherings.

Do you love the holiday season? I certainly do. The glow of the Christmas tree before the sun comes up. The retelling over and over of the story of Jesus’ entrance into the world. The snacks, the traditions, the music, the Christmas Wreath candles, the smiles over gifts.

Over Thanksgiving week, my husband and I spent every minute with family, close and extended, those who live in our town and those who traveled by plane. We engaged in a lot of meals and stories and celebrating. Since then, these practices (hopes, rather) have been rattling around in my mind. Already, I’m seeing how transformative they can be. Maybe one can be life-giving for you as well.

Love people exactly as/where they are.

We are all on different paths, maturing at varying paces, and interested in a gazillion different topics. Give those around your table the space and freedom to be fully themselves. Truthfully, this is sometimes challenging for my helper-fixer (enneagram 2w1) tendencies, but it produces a much lighter and enjoyable atmosphere. God is sovereign, I am not. God is Redeemer, I am not. God changes hearts, I do not. God is Lord, I am not. Because He is everywhere, I don’t have to be. I believe He is enough, so I don’t have to be. This is the environment for real joy and love, supporting others in who they are. (I confess, this is where I find myself praying, Holy Spirit, help, every other hour. #truth)

Speak truthfully, but graciously.

It’s healthy and normal to disagree or admit an opposing thought, and in my recent encounters, the key is to speak as graciously as possible. I’ve also found it beneficial to be a little vulnerable before I share a disagreeing or concerning opinion. Not only sharing why you might disagree, but the path that led you there (not just facts, but stories), can ease the tension and give the other person an authentic glimpse into your perspective. J and I have been practicing the art of interjecting Jesus into a conversation. Most often, He comes up because that’s what we’re most often thinking about, but sometimes particular situations feel more intimidating or awkward. Hallelujah, we can ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage, and He helps us.

Ask intentional questions of (although not exclusive to) those on the fringe. 

And let them talk 90% of the time. You know who I’m talking about: the family member you only see once a year, or a quiet friend, or the person who seems super stressed. Presence is often one of the sweetest gifts, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or overdone. Sneakily help with the dishes and ask your aunt about their childhood Christmases. Practice making your grandma’s favorite dessert with your cousin and ask what they’re hoping for in 2019. I have a few standout question askers in my life and I always leave them feeling a little more known and loved.

Be faithful with what is in your control, and release what isn’t to God.

This, my friends, should probably be #1 for me. My husband and I have this running joke. When he makes a suggestion aloud he’s simply brainstorming to the room, and when I hear it I seal it in my mind with an expectation. Then when the situation doesn’t happen like I thought it would, I’m bummed. This month, among the ins and outs of holiday plans and gatherings, I not only want to share with God particular hopes, but ask for help to reflect Him in the moment, and release the pressure of the outcome.

Partner with the Lord and be generous.

Time, chores, a phone call, the purchase of a gift, cooking a meal, sweeping the kitchen, all these things can be an extension of God’s love to our family and friends. We can ask the Lord to guide us, to reveal someone’s heart to us, to be our joy and energy, to give us words to encourage someone. Look for Him in the embrace of a family member, in the laughter of a friend, or even in a delicious meal. Inhale God’s presence, exhale pleasing everyone. Breathe in deeply His goodness, and breathe out gratitude. Rest in Him as your All, and cheerfully give.

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I always feel a little extra delighted to be a child of God at Christmastime. So if we can treat others in a way that introduces them into a deeper life with Him, I pray we will be faithful in it. It looks different for everyone. (And He promises to help us.)

Let’s love our people in a way that causes them to think about Jesus.

P.S. 2011 family photo to make you smile. 

Reading and Listening | No. 15

Posted in creative

Preaching to Yourself audiobook – Hayley Morgan

The Briefing – Albert Mohler

Renewing Your Mind – R.C. Sproul

Trusting God with Our Children with Nancy Guthrie – Risen Motherhood

No, I’m not a mom yet, but for me, this was a compelling and inspiring reminder from Nancy about trusting God with all my loved ones.

Jesus Came Not To Give Bread but to Be Bread – John Piper

A Playlist of Benedictions and Doxologies – the Dwell App

The Wound and the Worry – The Village Church

Home Row Podcast – J.A. Medders

Unhealthy Friendships with Kelly Needham – Journeywomen

“Knowing God requires us to be all about him and not ourselves. In friendships, we can get away with putting each other on pedestals and making much of one another. And that doesn’t fly with God because he won’t share his glory with another. It’s actually really good for our souls to not be the center of our own universe, and it is his kindness to dethrone us. But that’s a cost we don’t always want to experience.” Kelly Needham

Don’t Even Look at It! – Knowing Faith

What has inspired you this month?

something better than easy belief

Posted in faith

I’m noticing a pattern in my relationship with God: not only do I learn new things, but He takes familiar truths and redefines them.

For example, in high school, I absorbed the term sanctification as God’s shaping me to be more like Jesus. But in my spirit-and-flesh wrestling through life, I’ve been tempted to think of sanctification as ‘you’re not enough as you are, you always need to be growing,’ or ‘keep your spiritual act together, don’t mess up.’ This belief cultivates an anxious obedience and a lack of joy in faithfulness, not connection to God. 

Are you more aware and driven by the knowledge of your shortcomings and failures than you are aware of and driven by God’s mercy and grace to you in Jesus Christ? It is not a bad thing to know where you fall short of the glory of God. Remember God hates sin. But being aware of those things, does that drive you into the grace of God, or are you so aware of those that you have minimized the grace of God and you have left orthodox Christian faith and you’re out here trying to earn what you will never be able to earn? Matt Chandler

Sanctification, including the Father’s loving discipline, is living in a right relationship to Jesus Christ, the Master, that brings and sustains right thoughts, feelings, choices, and habits, enabling one to do what is right (Dallas Willard).

Spiritual maturity is living dependent on God, not independent of Him.

This year, my relationship with God has felt a bit like an unpredictable roller coaster, and believing Him hasn’t come easily or felt warm or bright, but maybe it’s better that way. I often felt like the person James refers to, “who doubts like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (1:6). Not that I doubted God’s existence or love or the Bible as truth, but I vacillated between trusting God, the world I could see, or my own abilities and feelings. The fight to believe God felt messy and tiring and discouraging. 

Today, almost in 2018’s last month, why do I say this season of warfare might be better than easy belief? Because it’s difficult to be satisfied in Christ if I’m never truly hungry for Him.

When we circle the desert, looking at ourselves or others to fix or change or be enough, we live in perpetual thirst. With the help of dear friends and Spirit-filled authors, I was challenged to take my lack of easy belief and dig deeper, despite my feelings; to seek more diligently, in spite of the temptation to quit; to confront my prideful tendencies, even though the admission felt shameful. 

I brought my seemingly empty, struggling, no-idea-what-else-to-do self before Him and asked to be filled with something new. 

Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith, for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us. And how should our Father do otherwise? He that has given us the greatest possible proof of His love which He could have done, in giving us His own Son, surely He will with Him also freely give us all things. George Müller

I came across these words by Hudson Taylor and designed a phone wallpaper: “How to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.” 

It is not in trying harder, but in the yielding to Him to work where belief is strengthened and renewed. It’s in the ‘I’m not enough, You’re enough‘ confession the Holy Spirit breathes a new layer of trust into my heart. It’s my desperate need of help to be the sweetest place to be, because God is an inexhaustible fountain and will never not give of Himself to His children who ask.  

God surprised me. In an uncomfortable season where belief felt unstable and my flesh ran out and His presence didn’t seem close, I learned a degree of greater ‘certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead’ (Hebrews 11:1 TLB). And wherever you find yourself, so can you. 

The judgment we deserve was absorbed by Jesus on the cross, so every challenge, pain, discipline, dry season, and sanctifying path has a purpose, not as punishment, but as gracious provision.

What if our weakness and need and humility is the gateway to more of God? Yes.
What if grace not accepted as a gift is grace not being authentically lived? Woah.
What is pleasing God is not found at all in living independent of Him to any degree, but dependent on Him? Praises.
What if believing God’s Word with our minds is all we can do, even if our feelings are super slow to catch up? More than okay.
#preachingtomyselfhere

Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all. D.L. Moody

My best stance on this earth is a posture of receiving – all of Him as all I need (Philippians 1). It’s a position of tasting and seeing God as enough that brings Him glory, invites Him in, and changes us. It’s a rolling every burden onto the shoulders of Christ. It’s finding joy in being hidden in Him. It’s confidence that nothing can separate us from His love. In all honesty, maybe I don’t want my faith to be easy breezy all the time, because I might not experience the magnitude of the gospel or the wonder of God as my lifeline. Ask me again the next time a season like this comes around. 

 

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What stops you from coming in need before God? Has God ever surprised you? What distracts you from being His beloved? What kind of season are you in with God? I’d love hear some of your story!