A Love Letter at Christmas

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) 

Oh my. It’s time.

I imagine my thoughts echo Mary’s. Though if she did feel as if time ran short, she certainly had more reason to.

However, a part of me whispers that God reassured her as He seeks to reassure us now.

Case in point- I try really hard to avoid the hustle and bustle portion of the season.

This is not a season I want to rush. Even then, it seems to slip by faster and faster each year.

Overall I did really well. I almost made the finish line.

However, in that final lap, I missed a hurdle and then hit a wall.

Disappointment and frustration. Somebody wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain and the order didn’t arrive correctly.

And in both instances the conviction hit my heart instantly. Though it was pinprick compared to the guilt which overwhelmed me.

There’s a difference you know, between God’s conviction and the enemy’s taunting.

God’s conviction speaks to you in the moment, encourages you to repent, apologize and move forward. Conviction occurs in those moments when it feels like God squeezed your hand to say “hey, remember…, slow down…, let’s reexamine this…”

The enemy’s taunting of guilt and shame though is heavy- it weighs you down and offers you no way out, no direction for improvement or redemption.

The enemy’s taunting ties you down to the situation, while God’s conviction seeks to lift you above the circumstance.

I prayed through the conviction, I turned my eyes back to my Father and to my Savior and apologized to the Holy Spirit for any grief I had caused him. But the guilt still lingered. Similar to a thick fog, I couldn’t see through it and I couldn’t grasp it to cast it aside.

And in the middle of that burdensome guilt I wondered at how God put up with me. Thinking about this season, the love He had and still has for us, and that love’s manifestation through His son, Jesus Christ…

Jesus.

Our savior and our hope. The one who never tires of caring for us or seeking us.

As I wondered how Jesus put up with me, especially during this season, I pictured in my mind a beautiful red envelope nestled in a Christmas tree. And a voice whispered that on Christmas, we all receive a gift we may not physically perceive- but that it is there for each one of us.

Our Christmas letter from Jesus.

I’m not sure what each letter would say. I imagine they would vary, not a corporate cookie-cutter Christmas note, but a personally detailed handwritten letter.

And while I believe they would all vary, I also believe they would all be written with the same intention; a note that we are loved, a proclamation of our innocence and a declaration of joy at our redemption and reunion. …

Perhaps something like this;

Brittany,

Know that I am as excited as a child on Christmas morning to see you each day. To hear from you. There is nothing you say that does not catch my full attention. I know that the words you speak are born out of a portion of your heart, your current emotions and perceptions of your situation. The writers heart I’ve placed in you may lead you astray at times thinking you must discover just the right words. Trust that I’ve placed the words inside you- you need not search they will come as they are called- you need only to trust in me and my ability to completely and fully know and understand every bit of who you are. I see you has who you were created to be, and one day you will fully see it too. Promise. 

Until that day, know that I am so proud of you. This year was hard, but you didn’t lose hope, remember that. Grief does not negate hope, the two coexist in a broken world where grief was never meant to reign. 

Most of the time you are doing much better than you give yourself credit for. And those times when you do fall short, don’t worry I’m here to fill the gap just reach out, my hand is always waiting, never far. It does hurt me when you sin, but it hurts equally to see you needlessly struggling with guilt when you have accepted the forgiveness I’ve freely offered you. Please trust that my love is enough. I love you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made, there is none like you. However, you are not so powerful that you are out of bounds of my grace. Hold tight to the fact that my grace is sufficient. 

I know perseverance is a trait more easily quoted than accomplished. But believe me, you are running your race beautifully. Don’t give up and don’t give in. I am right here! I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends. I know your heart will war between joy and grief. As you ride out the tides of warm memories and deep sorrow, let this truth be always buried at the heart of every thought- and that is today is not merely meant to be a celebration but is a day which recalls that time in which I stepped down from heaven so that I could be with you, all of you. Not one face did not go through my mind as I stepped into that manager, nor when I walked that hill to calvary. And I would do it all over again. But I don’t have to, because I am enough, it was enough and to me you are worth more than enough. Remember how much I love you as you celebrate my birthday. (Can you imagine- existing before the beginning of time and still having a birthday!!- I knew you would appreciate that thought:). 

For I so loved you Brittany, and that love is steadfast and never changing, Jesus ❤ 

… yeah, maybe, something just like that.

I encourage all of you to take a moment during this season as we prepare for Christmas and New Year celebrations and pray to God, asking Him, what would your letter say.

I guarantee it will be exactly what you did not know you were waiting and needing to hear.

My prayers and thoughts are with you all Friends! Do not hesitate to comment or reach out with prayer or praise requests/reports. Happy Christmas Eve to you and yours, I hope that even in the darkest of moments you may feel the pulse of the everlasting joy that flooded our world and which we commemorate today.

Thank you to Kelly for the beautiful photo! – Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Here’s to 28

“Lord, you understand me; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering- do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.” Jeremiah 15:15

28. Another year. Remarkable in its own right, the feat of the passing of time.

And what a year it was. A few weddings, a couple of road trips, graduate classes, youth group, birthday parties and childlike laughter. Friends and family. Driving through the Scottish Highlands. The sight of the Appalachian mountains and the vision of the picture beyond hope and yet lovingly delivered of Jamie and Jesus.

The places we’ve been and the wonders we’ve seen, both abroad and on home base. All the works of His glorious hands. From mountains and campfires to paintings and papers.

Dreams that were laid to rest and dreams that were born. Startling loss and miraculous healing. Running the race and being carried through the storm.

So much has changed and yet so much remains the same. The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know.

I don’t know where I am going.

I don’t know where every path will lead.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say.

And oftentimes I don’t know if I have it right. These places I am and these things I am doing and the priorities I am placing.

So the big question is… What do I know at 28…

I know that not knowing can be overwhelming.

I know that not knowing can be scary.

I know that not knowing is unacceptable to a world which depends on the security provided in an answer.

Most Importantly, I now know that not knowing is actually okay- as long as your eyes are on the One who does know.

The One who is not surprised by your weaknesses.

The One who is unphased by your doubts, fears and hard questions.

The One who loves you completely and uncompromisingly.

The One who understands you.

One big thing I learned this past year my friend, is that I had one more unaddressed fear to face. Honestly, it had never came across my mind as all out fear. But as I sat and discussed with God the events that had passed and events yet to come, it was as if a light was turned on.

As you know, I kicked the word fear out of my vocabulary back in year 26. Aside from the fear of the Lord, there is no room for it in my life. And knowing that, calls for a celebration of its own.

But, there was still one more fear to address. Can you guess it bud? It’s one that I hadn’t realized didn’t exist before God called you home. With you here, there was no room for it. With you gone, it came quickly and in full force. To be honest, it really didn’t have to come at all because I know it was already there at the door, waiting for its moment to make its appearance. Your friendship and love kept it at bay, in the darkness I fell in  following your heavenly birthday it began to dig in its roots.

The fear of being misunderstood.

I have always used a lot of words be it speaking or writing. And this is partially because I enjoy “using my words”. However, God has shown me that it is also partially because at times I fear that my words won’t appropriately convey my meaning. That they will fall short or be misinterpreted. Sometimes it keeps me from saying anything, or from saying the “whole” truth. The fear of being misunderstood.

It’s an actual fear. And this past year I was given the official diagnosis.

As I was praying and words were flowing too fast and thoughts running at full speed, I caught the statement “God, please understand” as part of the mantra coming from lips. God please understand.

They won’t understand why I feel this way, they won’t agree with this next step or know why I have to take this chance. Oh God, please, they don’t understand. They don’t see it and my words are not sufficient. Am I wrong? Are they right? Can you give me a clue? Like a little one… like playing the hot / cold game? I have been wrong so many times. Am I close? I think I have it, but what if I don’t? What if I don’t get it? What if I am wrong and fail? What if I am not understanding?

And then above the noise running through my mind I heard the silence, and the silence whispered, I understand you.

Not scathing or annoyed. But lovingly and reassuringly. He didn’t calm the storm or fix all the things. He didn’t even tell me I was right or give me a little clue.

But He told me everything I genuinely needed to know- He understands me.

And He still loves me.

And maybe I will fail. Maybe it is all in vain. But maybe it’s not.

At 28 I have realized that I am not supposed to know everything, all I have to know is Him.

And my friend, that has been a game changer.

You knew my heart and that made all the difference. God created my heart and that makes all the difference.

So going into 28 I am happy to let you know I no longer fear being misunderstood.

Your light is still continuously right beside me and your legacy continues to shine.

We still love and miss you, possibly more than ever, but when we see you again, there will be no more goodbyes.

In the meantime God has a plan I don’t understand, but He understands me.

And I know He will teach me the lessons my heart needs in His own way and in His own time, no matter how bad I would prefer a cheat sheet now.

I am still going to use a lot of words, but only because I enjoy “using my words”.

You always said I would write a book. I think 28 may be a good year for that.

Here’s to 28 my friend (give mom all our love),

God, let the shenanigans continue, I may not understand but I know You and that is all I really need to know.