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. ūüôā

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!

Oh Christmas Card

I love Christmas cards.

I love receiving them, I love giving them.

I like gold foil and nativity scenes and family photos. I look forward each year to getting the letters that tell, however brief, our friend’s stories, of their life and their year.

Each year we also receive a few Christmas miracles.

They come in the form of cards from people who took a bit of extra time to hand select a card, just for my family.

Someone stood in front of a card rack and searched for a card just for their pastor.

Someone wrote a note thanking my husband and our family for faithfully serving.

It blows my mind to imagine it and it touches my heart to be a part of it.

Every Christmas congregational life refreshes my heart in a new way.

I look at my husband, crafting sermons, leading services, checking on shut-ins, and eeking in all the extras for Christmas, and then I look around at people and wonder if they notice. Not notice him, or me, or anything earthly, but do they notice that our God is a God who came to them, just for each of them?¬† It’s a hard reality in this world – there are thousands who don’t know and don’t care.

Then the cards come.

It goes a long way in a pastor’s heart to hear that what they do makes a difference in someone’s life. That just by being them, by being faithful, by representing a God of Love and Comfort, people have been touched and it has mattered. It goes a long way in my pastor’s wife heart to not be the only one telling him that.

So thank you card companies and thank you members of the Body. These cards are no small thing.

Thank you for building up, reaching out, and including us, every year.

Caves and Stables

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and place him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

At our house every year, we watch the movie “The Nativity Story” during the advent season. It’s a fun tradition we keep with some friends and their children on a Sunday afternoon, for a little advent respite from the busyness of the season. There is a scene in this movie that strikes me every time I watch it, right to the heart. Joseph and Mark make the long trek to Bethlehem, arriving in the dusk, the beginning of night. Mary simply says, “Joseph, the child is pressing.” The next thing you see is Mary, a woman very much in labor, breathing and struggling through. Joseph is running through the street of this tiny town yelling “Please, is there a place for us.” He knocks no doors, he lifts up Mary and carries her, as if to try to carry her very burden. He’s still knocking and yelling, “Please is there no place for us!”

There is no place for them.

And in my heart every year I think, when I see this scene-
This should not be! Someone, find them a place! Someone, give them a room, sleep on a different pallet for the night for pity’s sake! Jesus needs a place to be born!

And I wonder, is this the way it had to be?

Did God have a specific prophecy about Jesus needing to be born in a cave, in a stable, in a dank, dark place? Did God have a not directly prophesied¬†big picture plan here for us to see¬†Christ’s humility so very early on? ¬†Maybe, obviously it is useful for that. But is it necessary? Or is it just one more thing in this world that is just not as it should be…

There are so many things like the stable in our lives.

So many things that just don’t seem right. They may not be deep injustices that need to be resolved and conflicted over and struggled through, but they are the smaller issues- the small slight from someone at church, the hurried words of someone just not thinking, or being in charge of the Christmas play for the thousandth time because no one else wants to do it, or calling someone in our family because¬†evidentially¬†it¬†is just too much trouble for someone to be the person picking up the telephone first. I’m not sure what little things are in your life, but there are the things that yell – “This isn’t right! Does anyone have a place for me! Does anyone notice I’m trying so hard?!”

A few chapters later in Luke 9, Jesus himself tells us, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Things are not has they should be still, for Jesus. Born in a manger, sojourning with us for 33 years, to walk the path to the cross. Nothing with beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, no place for Him.

So, how do we respond when we get the slight or the frustration or all the small issues that just should not be? We pick up, we move on, we give new birth and new life to the situation by God’s grace and power and mercy.

Because our caves, our stables, are to God still a thing of beauty, because they contain our Savior shining brightly in the midst of the darkness, in the dankness of every situation.

What are you struggling with this advent season? Bring it to the Lord. He always has a place for us. Let’s share the small burdens together. He makes room in our hearts for each one of us to share the journey together.