Making Advent a Place of Rest

I have a little secret. I love winter. While people all around me are grumbling about the cold and the snow and the winds, I smile and nod, but deep down I know the truth- what would life we like without winter?
I love to look out the window and watch the snow come down. I like to add an extra pair of socks and trudge around my yard in the wee hours of morning with my husband and a pair of cross-country skis. I like to sit in my car while it defrosts all the snow and ice, because I’m from St. Louis and even after 10 years in Northern Ohio, I still don’t own a snow scrapper. I like to wrap my hands around a warm mug. But most of all what I love about winter is the rest of it all.
See, I love excitement. I love to go and do and I love to take life at a breakneck. Ministry is even like this for me, and honestly, I think ministry by its nature feels like this for most of us. It doesn’t stop. There is always more to be done, people to care for, programs to plan for, people who need to know the truth of Jesus. And who will tell them?
And we want it to be exciting; we want it to be exuberant and happening. But every day can’t be spring. Every day can’t be new stuff and greater things to come. Every day can’t be fall, with its harvest of new souls and it’s bounty of production. Every day can’t be summer. Every day can’t be VBS and summer camp and youth bonfires. But when nothing is “happening” in ministry we feel the big f’s come on – failure, frustration, and friction. We end up much like Narnia with a ministry that feels like “always winter, and never Christmas.” We feel burnt and spent, but rest alludes us.
So, where is God in our winter? In Matthew 11:28-29, we hear the much loved passage, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
God in heaven, maker of the stars, knows I need rest for my soul…but do I know it? Do you know it? Does your husband know it?
How can we encourage rest for ourselves, and our husbands? We see them scurry to and fro, we see them struggle and work hard. There are evening meetings to be attended and children to put to bed, members who are ill, and homeless who need a warm coat. There are deaths and baptisms, and divorces and Children’s Christmas Programs. Where is the rest in this season that God has given us?
Note that Jesus invites us into rest, but it is a learned process.  “Take my yoke…and learn from me.” Rest is a practice developed. Create rest times in your home schedule. Make the meal table a place of rest and date night a welcome invitation to rest. Block a day out on your calendar for nothingness to happen. 
Rest yourself. When the snow comes down, refuse to shovel the driveway for 2 extra hours, to hold your mug of coffee in your hand and praise the Creator for His wonder instead.  

What if the phone rings, what if life happens? I don’t know. But you do. God whispers in our hearts with His Spirit when we need some rest. He tells us in our hearts and in our marriages. He offers us rest-oration in these moments, put into practice. Certainly His cross gives us all the rest we need, but in these verses, Jesus shows us that, like He always does, He offers us more. He offers us His cross, and His rest, daily.

I pray for you in this winter season, that you find His rest again… and in it, ministry restoration, family restoration, and Newness of Life for all the seasons to come.

How do you find rest and peace in the middle of a busy pre-Christmas season?

My New Year’s “Things I Don’t Do” List

My friend gave me one of Shauna Niequist’s books recently,

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way.

It’s worth a read! The book was really helpful to me during a really difficult period of my life. But…this isn’t a book review. 🙂

One idea the author shared was that she started a “Things I Don’t Do List.”

She talks about her struggle with comparing herself to everyone around her, trying to “measure up”, and do all things well.

Oh boy, did this strike a cord with me.

I have perfectionist tendencies to say the least, that have gotten better (I think!) with 4 kids, graduate school, and life happenings that leave me well aware of the complete lack of control I have in most things. Surrounded by expectations, mostly of my own making, most days I felt a bit harried, under appreciated, and outside the community, of friends and the church, God intended me to be in.

All that said, the “Things I Don’t Do List” sounded just like a good idea of celebrating doing what I do well, and leaving some stuff out that just isn’t me, and that’s O.K.

Things I Don’t Do:

1) Make delectable potluck dishes… It’s a fact. I can cook, I love having people at my table. I just can’t get it together for a potluck. I bring chips, multigrain. Yum.

2) Act as my husband’s secretary… I don’t take messages. I know it may seem easier, but I will forget because a baby will need their diaper changed or someone will hit their sister or a youth group member will share about a life changing event. I just am no good with messages.

3) Ask my children to be completely quiet in worship… I don’t believe in this. They are loud children. Sometimes I wish we were quiet people, but that’s not our strength. I will ask them to be respectful of others, participate fully, and give their whole heart to worship. They will not always sit and stand at just the right time, they will ask lots of questions and I will remind them to ask more quietly, and they will belt out “This is the Feast” even when they don’t know all the words.

4) Read less… I love books. I love them like no one’s business. I carry a book around for stolen moments of quietness. I’m not going to judge myself for spending time reading.

5) Debate financial, educational, and relational choices with strangers…we make the best decisions we can for our children and our family, regardless of other people’s opinions. We take the church into account and society’s general opinions, but beyond that, it’s us and God, and moving in the direction we feel He points us.

6) Eat mediocre chocolate…I need to stop wasting my calories. I love dark chocolate, good wine, yummy food, and good friends to share it with.

7) Hide my testimony… I come from a lot of dark and difficult places. God has brought me from the pit. Redeemed it. Made it Holy. Given it purpose. It’s meant to glorify Him, nothing more, nothing less. May it be so.

What would be on your “Things I Don’t Do List”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, silly, serious, or anywhere in between!