12/31/14 Morning Musing: Making it Count!

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. There. I said it. Whew! Glad I got that off my chest. The thing about resolutions that I don’t like is that, while I believe people are well-intentioned about it…I think it becomes a legalistic battle that we tend to lose around January 17th…if we are lucky.

My thoughts this year are less focused on individual things that I “should do more of.” Instead, I would like to crunch on the character traits that God would have me work on. Instead of buying a new membership to the gym (and knowing me, ending up injuring myself trying to do more than I should), what if my goal was to love people better, practice kindness more, teach my children generosity through my actions instead of my words, or simply be less selfish? What would that look like? I know, I know…you type-A people like myself are saying “A true goal is quantifiable.” That is true…but what if that meant beginning with study and learning what God thinks about the topic before just throwing ourselves at something that our heart isn’t into (like the gym?) Once we know what God thinks about something, then we can think of ways to implement his truth into our lives…don’t you think? Then, it could be quantifiable.

Take “loving people better” for example: Last year, for the month of February, I put a sticker with some paraphrase of what the Bible says about love. Each kid got to eat a piece of candy and read their sticker and then we would talk about it as a family. By the end of the month, we were love-experts! (And I don’t just mean me and Stan! Bow chicka bow bow!) After learning what love is, I could spend time learning about the love-languages that I tend toward as well as the languages of those around me (There are lots of versions of the love languages book by Gary Chapman: for couples, for men, for singles, for children, etc.) I could become a student of those that I love…enjoy learning more and more about them and what makes them feel loved, closer to God, happy, etc. I could learn to speak their languages. (For example: Stan is quality time and physical touch. People who know me know that I am not a toucher and that my biggest love language is acts of service. So when Stan wants me to just sit with him and snuggle and hang out, I am usually busy “loving” him by doing the laundry and dishes and anything that will afford him more time. It’s not that I don’t love him, it’s that I’m not speaking it in an effective way for him to understand.) After I learn the love languages of others, I could start brainstorming ways to show them that I love them in their own language and that brainstorming could turn into practice.

How cool would it be, on this day next year, to be able to say “In 2015, I learned how to really love people so that it left no doubt in their minds.”? To me, that beats “Check out my abs! This is what I accomplished this year!” And think about how your goal could change the lives of others: your family and friends and even people who you consider enemies now could be in a different relationship with you, with God, and with others this time next year. Think of the potential suicides that could be prevented. Think of the stress that could be avoided. Think of the bad decisions made out of frustration or unnecessary loneliness that could be avoided.

So, how are you doing with this? Are you thinking of another ho-hum resolution that will be broken and forgotten in a month’s time or are you thinking about changing your life? It doesn’t have to be huge, over-whelming steps. Baby steps and accountability are how these things happen. Maybe you could even decide on a character trait as a family and each month plan out the next 30 days of goals. What character traits could you focus on? Where are you weakest? What areas in life do you tend to feel the most convicted about? (Want a hint? Ask your loved ones how you cause them the most pain…I bet you could come up with an area of your character that needs work right away.) Once you figure out your character trait for the year, start with basic baby steps. You’ve got this friends! Now is the perfect time to start becoming a kinder, happier, more generous, more loving, more selfless, or more charitable version of you. 2015 is a gift that someone will not receive…let’s make it count! Much love friends,

Beks

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12/30/14 Morning Musing: Except it’s not morning and I don’t have the mental bandwidth to muse…more of a catch up.

So, I’m sure that everyone is just on their head to know how Team Massey is doing with the skiing: Stan is practically a pro, the kids are progressing right along and doing great, and I’m still serving as a warning to others. I’m improving…which is good since the only other reward I have right now is…well…pain…everywhere…just…pain. On the plus side, I didn’t take anyone else out with me today (like I did in ski school yesterday) and I made a ton of people giggle (especially when I first started off by skiing down a long hill with my skis parallel to each other, my butt between them, and my back and helmet dragging on the ground while I giggled and cackled loudly past everyone who had control while going down that hill…but I stopped right next to Stan so…that’s a win!)

I think our whole family likes Beaver Creek over Vail. The kids definitely prefer the ski school at B.C.

So, the plan tonight is to move very little, stretch a lot, and wait for the meds to kick in. (I shouldn’t have to ice my hips too much since they spent so much time on the ground in the ice anyway! Ha!)

But seriously, greatly improving and gaining confidence (which by the way is when I would wipe out…maybe God is just keeping me humble.) Much love friends!

12/12/14 Morning Musing: Experiencing Christmas Instead of Enduring It

Last year, Team Massey tried a new thing for Christmas and it is already my new favorite tradition where gift-giving is concerned. Instead of buying a bunch of “stuff,” we decided to primarily use our budget on experiences. Instead of getting a bunch of toys for the kids that they would be ready to get rid of in a month, we bought Six Flags passes, Hurricane Harbor passes, and an evening at Medieval Times. When we went to these places, we reminded everyone that we were having this fun because it was a Christmas gift that we were still enjoying. The entire family absolutely loved it! And this year, we are planning to do the same thing (but with different experiences.) The kids do not know it yet, but this year, we are planning to get passes for Trapeze class, movie passes, and schedule some camping trips. We have enrolled Michaela in an Art Class because that is where she is passionate and we have purchased models and sporting equipment for Caleb because that is where he is passionate.

Focusing on a Christmas Experience instead of “stuff” has benefitted our family in so many ways this past year:

First of all, I has helped us to spend more time having fun together…it won’t be long before Michaela and Caleb grow tired of hanging out with Mom and Dad. We want to have developed a real relationship with each of them by that time…establish that we understand them, like them, and respect them…show that we are safe people for them…make sure that when they go out that door, that they know…really know…that they are loved, seen, and accepted here. Spending time having fun together has helped our family to feel safe sharing things with each other, have better attitudes when we are together, and come to understand each other’s wiring better.

Secondly, Christmas Experiences has given us is the opportunities to have meaningful conversations that come up naturally instead of having some awkward talk about what is on our minds. For example, I was an adult before I really understood how valued I am by God. (I knew that Jesus died for me…but I felt dirty and unworthy because of that…not valued.) When our family went to Medieval Times, Stan and I talked to the kiddos about their position with God…and we were able to do that in terms of what we were seeing around us…the knights were to serve the king and bring him honor and glory, and in return, the king took care of his kingdom as well as the knights…the princess was beautiful and precious to the king and he would do anything to protect her heart and bring honor and respect to her…Is it any different with God? The knights and princess, in and of themselves, were just people…they weren’t extraordinary…until they were in proximity with the king…my kids left that arena understanding that about their king…God!

Finally, having experiences together as a family has helped us to shift our focus from self to others. When we hole up by ourselves, it is easy to only consider our own thoughts and needs because our voices are the only ones we are hearing. But when we spend time interacting with each other, we are forced into a less selfish place because other people have opinions and thoughts that differ from ours…I think it is good and healthy to be forced out of our ego-centric worlds and I don’t think it happens enough because we tend to be a society that lives among each other instead of with each other (think tv, video games, computers, iphones, ipads, etc.) and because we have lost the ability to share ideas without making a character attack. We have forgotten the skill of human interaction…and that is truly sad because our Creator made ONE thing in his image…only one…and we are trading that in for a device.

So how are you doing with this? Are you over-whelmed by the materialism that wants to steal your relationships? Are you taking on lots of debt because your family needs “things” to be happy? What messages do you think your children hear when you fill all of their time with “stuff” and deprive them of time with you? What messages do you want your children to hear? Christmas is in 13 days…it’s not too late to return some stuff and invest in your family instead…

My prayer today is that we would live lives of experiences, and through those experiences, we would be in awe and wonder of our loving God. I am praying that we would learn to live in relationship with the people in our lives…that we would know them and be known by them. Much love friends,

Beks

12/9/14 Morning Musing: Making an A$$ Out of You and Me

A few years ago, some of my family from Georgia came to Texas to visit for Christmas. My cousin was staying at our house and consequently got dragged along for all of the Team Massey traditions. One evening, we were driving around looking at Christmas lights, eating snacks, and listening to Christmas music when we decided to drive through a specific neighborhood. While we were driving, we saw a group of carolers heading our way so we stopped and when they got close, we rolled down the window so that they could sing to us. They looked at us confused and a bit alarmed and kept walking. Yep, you guessed it. They weren’t actually carolers…they were just a family walking to one of their neighbor’s house. I had made an assumption that was way off-base. Now, any time I make an assumption without all the facts, Stan looks at me excitedly, claps his hands, and says “Sing me a song!!!!”

Why am I talking about this? Well, you know the old phrase about “when we assume”? I have noticed that this time of year, when we are supposed to be the most grateful and charitable…when we are supposed to be focusing on the selfless gift that the God of the universe gave to us…when we are supposed to be thinking of ways to share that gift with others, we tend to be less charitable in our assumptions (specifically about family.) How many of us dread some of our interactions with our families? How many of us are stressed out about how to handle relationships with those we love?

So, I had a thought: What if we decided to just assume the best possible intentions behind the words and actions of others? What if we were charitable in our thoughts instead of just with our finances? What would it really harm? By my way of thinking…nothing at all. For example, let’s say your family is late to a gathering at your mother-in-law’s house and when you get there she makes a snide comment about your tardiness. Instead of assuming the worst (which could very-well be the truth)…what if you decided to assume that she was worried about your well-being or…here’s a good one….what if you decided that she was so excited to see you that she was waiting expectantly for you to come over (much like your kids expectantly wait for Santa Clause)? Would it really harm you to decide to believe the best about her?

We all have relationships that are unstable and stressful…we all have people assuming the worst about us…it doesn’t mean we have to maintain that cycle of ugliness. We can choose to see others as children of God who deserve love…big, overwhelming, lavish love…charitable love…tender love…forgiving love…love that brought a Savior to be born in a manger. So how are you doing with this? Think through your relationships…who needs the most charitable of your assumptions? Who are you tense about seeing? Who could you selflessly love? They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery…who better to imitate and flatter (rather…praise) than the one who deeply loves our souls and chooses to cover our ugliness with his own beauty to present us as loving and spotless to his Father? What better way to worship our God than to extend that grace that he lavishes on us to others?

My prayer this morning is that we would not be stingy with our thoughts toward others…that we would honor Jesus by loving those he loves and extend charity through our thoughts and actions…that we would show that we are changed by his sacrifice and that the natural consequence of that change would be to be so grateful that we have no choice but to respond in kind. Much love friends,

Beks

12/9/14 Morning Musing: Kinder than Necessary

A few days ago, I was observing an interaction between my two kiddos. It was going how interactions at this age frequently go: Michaela was choosing to be offended by some minor thing that Caleb was doing and was picking him apart. Then Caleb responded by being snarky and the result was that they were both bristling. Later, they toned it down to being more passive aggressive. Nobody was being overtly ugly…it was just something subtle that I could “feel.” I talked with them and said that since Team Massey has defined our core values (We love God, we love each other, we love others, and we have fun) part of how we love is by being “kinder than necessary.” They looked at me with confusion and said, “…but we aren’t being mean.” *Face-palm* I’ve let them down if they are under the impression that showing Jesus to people means just refraining from being ugly.

We’ve had lots of conversations since then about the difference between “not being mean” and “showing kindness.” As adults, we experience this kind of thing all the time (or at least I do.) You know what I’m talking about…like when you have made a hard decision and then you find that others who disagree with you aren’t actively attacking you, but they refuse to interact with you in any way more than the bare minimum that polite society requires…or failing to be invited to something that everyone else in your group gets invited to (but of course you discover that you were the only one not invited when you look at facebook the next day…or (and this one is my favorite) someone refusing to eat something because you are the person who made it and they are mad at you (as if you are trying to poison them with your food!) Not speaking, not spending time, and not eating are not, in and of themselves, meanness…but they aren’t kindness either.

So as I was trying to explain all of this to the kiddos, I had to use an example that they could understand: “Let’s say I am mad at you. If I punch you in the face, that is being mean. And if I refrain from punching you in the face, that is not being mean. If I want to punch you in the face, but instead, help you get your chores done, that is showing kindness. Kindness isn’t just the absence of meanness…it involves our motives and actions…wanting good for someone and altering my behavior, in such a way, that allows them to receive that goodness.”

Kindness, like love (in my opinion), is not passive. It doesn’t just happen. We don’t fall into it or out of it. It is a decision that we either make or don’t make: We decide whether or not to include the person who is having a hard time developing relationships, we decide whether or not to pick up that name off the Angel Tree and invest in someone, we decide whether or not to let that other driver in front of us (even when they are basically cutting in line), and we decide whether or not to be friendly and loving toward someone who is actively being ugly to us.

So how are you doing with this? Have you ever had someone show you undeserved kindness? How did it make you feel? Are there people in your life that you are supposed to be kind to but are settling for just not being mean to? How can you model kindness to others? To your kids? How does your kindness (or lack of) reflect what you believe to be true about God, the world, people, and life?

My prayer today is that we will honor God by being kind to those he loves (everyone.) I am praying that we would remember that God wants to lavishly love people and that we have an opportunity to be an instrument that shows them that. I am praying that we will not settle for “not being mean” but that we will actively seek out opportunities to be kind. Much love friends,

Beks

12/3/14 Morning Musing: A Post-Mortem of a Recent Encounter

Last night, something happened that pissed me off. It was a little thing really and I’m not going into detail because it really is unimportant. Basically, someone got extremely offended when I questioned the validity of something she said. That turned into her talking about me with others and dismissing me in a very public manner. It was an extremely frustrating and uncomfortable situation for me and as many of you know, I have a hard time with controlling my tears when I’m angry. I did well with it last night though…I didn’t cry until I got home and discussed it with Stan. (I know what you’re thinking: That Stan Massey is one lucky man! By the way, his advice was “Next time, just punch her in the throat!” He always knows how to make me giggle! I love that man!)

Anyway, the purpose of this musing is to continue through my journey of heart-space preparation during advent (the irony of this sentence immediately following the throat-punching humor is not lost on me 😉)…so, I figure there is something in this experience that I need to learn from. There is some sort of truth that I need to apply in order to get myself into a better posture before God. Lots of thoughts immediately spring to mind: Don’t worry about the little things, what other people think of me is unimportant, everyone has a bad day so we need to become experts at practicing grace…and lots of other things. But, I’m not feeling the little *click* that tends to come when I stumble onto the right thing to muse about with any of those ideas, so I thought I’d muddle through this instead: The gal’s behavior last night was such a turn-off (although I know…I really do know that she is a lovely person) that, even if she hadn’t been incorrect with what she was saying, I wouldn’t have been able to really hear her. So, that leads me to a place of piggy-backing on yesterday’s musing (Basically, the story we tell with our lives, is more important than the book jacket (our physical appearances) that we wrap our precious story in.) I think today, I am needing to remember two things: First, how we present our story to other people matters. And secondly, if I truly believe my story (in this case, testimony) then it should be strong enough to stand up to questioning and scrutiny.

How we present our story matters:
This can be dissected down much farther. For one thing, people absolutely read our tone and body language because those things tend to relay truth even when our mouths lie. What I mean by this is that, if my purpose here is to tell a love story from God, the presentation of my story should exude love because people may not remember the words that are spoken but they almost always remember how it made them feel. (Take for example, these “Christian Churches” that are trying to tell the world the message of a loving God by screaming and spreading hate. The loving God is no less real just because these terribly mis-guided people have their information and approach wrong. But yet, people are so turned off by these churches that they are turning away from and rejecting that loving God.) Another thing about the presentation of our stories is that there is no formula for how to do it correctly. Each person we interact with has different needs and perspectives so we have to get to know our audience. In this case, I think that means that we need to put effort into knowing people. Understanding them. (Referring back to the story at the beginning) I have to assume that asking questions somehow equates to disrespect or aggression in the mind of this gal. But truthfully, I ask a lot of questions because I have a deep need to understand processes…the “why” and “how” behind the fact being presented. My brain is not capable of rote memorization, so to learn something, I dissect it. If this gal had understood her audience, she would know I wasn’t being ugly or combative…I simply wanted to fully grasp the concept. But instead of understanding her audience, she got defensive and lashed out and consequently, her point has been lost and dismissed.

A worthwhile story, can stand up under questioning and scrutiny:
I think that if something is factual, it should be able to be observed and dissected without fear. The alternative is that we voluntarily “know” things that might be untrue. (And honestly, with my brain damage, I just don’t have the extra space in my head for that.) I can use myself as an example on being defensive about questioning: When I was younger, I had a lot of anxiety around people asking me about my faith. Looking back on it, I think it’s because it lived in my head-space but not my heart-space. What I mean by that is that I had very few personal experiences to draw from…I knew God would never fail me when times got rough…but I didn’t yet have personal experience where that had been proven true. So when someone asked me how I knew that my beliefs were valid, my terrible response had something to do with choosing to believe it or embracing the idea of hell. (How is that for defensive?) Anyway, I’m sure that my approach was ineffective and the truth was missed because I wasn’t willing to bat the idea around for a while with the person. It was an opportunity for us to both learn something, but my unwillingness to allow scrutiny (because of my own insecurities) broke down the communication and we never finished the conversation. All that to say, if we believe something strongly enough to stand on it…to claim it as our purpose or part of our story…then we need to be willing to let ourselves and others test it and see how it performs.

I know I threw a ton of analogies at you this time…I’m not even sure this musing makes sense because I started with an argument of sor(I’m still crunching on it.) But regardless, how are you doing with this? Think about the things that you hold as truth. How willing are you to have a dialog about them? If someone asks you questions about them, do you take that as a threat or an opportunity? Do you only bat around ideas with people who agree with you or do you break out in hives just thinking about the prospect of discussion with someone with an opposing view? What about your presentation? Do your actions line up with your message? Do your motives? If you feel that these questions were particularly rough, how do you think you could explore your thoughts in a safe environment? Who is your safe person to discuss this with? How did you come to believe what you believe?

My prayer for us all today is that we would be willing to think and learn about the things that we espouse. (For me, it is my faith.) I’m praying that we would not just regurgitate ideas that we have been told, but that we would explore those ideas and move toward deeper understanding…that we would allow what we believe to mingle in with how we live…that we would allow our true beliefs to take up residence in a much more visceral place inside us so that, once we are sure of them, we would allow them to guide our decisions and behavior. Much love friends,

Beks
***Picture taken from the following site and then adapted: http://www.craftstylish.com/item/41689/craft-for-cats-two-yarn-scrap-toys-for-your-feline-friends/page/all

12/2/14 Morning Musing: Here Come Those Voices in My Head Again

Last night, I was having a conversation with some people and there was a gal there who, in a moment of real vulnerability, shared with the group about how her mother was always on her back about her weight. You know how it goes…telling her how many calories are in each thing that the girl consumed and basically ensuring that the gal always had weight on her mind. One of the men in the room asked me if I had an opinion about this matter (probably because of my stellar poker-face: big round eyes and mouth hanging open in complete disbelief. Seriously, this face conceals nothing! Every thought I have may as well be written on a sandwich board for me to wear!) I couldn’t believe the words she was saying! This girl…is GORGEOUS! I mean, as far as physical appearances go, she is the freaking standard that other women compare themselves to and find that they are lacking! (which is an entirely other musing about comparisons…but I digress.) On top of that, she is intelligent and remarkably beautiful inside as well…it’s an honor for me to get to have glimpses into her character and thoughts. I was so bothered by this new information for so many reasons: her mother should be her strongest advocate, she is being taught that her value is rooted in her appearance, the mother is ensuring that the daughter inherits insecurities like her own, and then…well, we all know how traumatized women in America are over their body-images. So now, this young woman, is not only taking on life with all the normal challenges, but she is also being saddled with her mother’s baggage. Tragic.

Since I committed yesterday to sharing my advent heart-space preparations with you, you are probably wondering what the story above has to do with the price of eggs. Glad you asked! Yesterday, I talked about hitting the mute button on our schedules (instead of getting busier on our calendars to fit in more stuff, I suggested that we actually clear out our calendars some and do less so that we have the margin to be with people in the moment and experience real life.) I think my suggestion for today is to hit the mute button on ourselves a bit as well. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not trying to silence you…especially if you have been denied the right to a voice in your life…I would never want to add to your mistreatment that way. What I’m talking about are the self-focused thought patterns or self-talk (that frequently are quite negative and un-productive) which usually sound like this: I’m not ___________ enough. I’m too __________. If I could _________, I would be valuable. I need to be the most __________. Once I am __________, I will be satisfied/happy with myself. Now read over those sentences again slowly and see if any of those blanks automatically fill themselves in for you. Seriously…go back and read them.

If any of those blanks automatically filled in with a word for you, then you are plagued by negative self-talk. Whether your development of those thoughts were helped along by someone else or not is unimportant for this particular discussion (however, I would strongly suggest that you identify who that person/people are and create some healthy boundaries with them in a hurry because that is toxic and abusive and it is not ok for your spirit to receive it nor is it not ok for theirs to deliver it.) The problem with negative self-talk is multi-faceted:
First, we are image-bearers of our Creator (I know I talk about this a lot…but it’s important and I was literally in my 30s before this concept took root in my heart.) Every single human being was made in his image, was designed to reflect him in some beautiful way. THAT is where our value lives! In the fact that the God of the universe took his time to sculpt our bodies, design our minds, and breathe life and passion into us.
Secondly, when we develop negative thought patterns, it requires a lot of effort to break them (and the more ingrained they are, the harder it is.) Think of a dog that tends to run a pattern around its back yard (I grew up with a beagle that did this.) Year round, that dog runs the perimeter of the yard, and very quickly, a trail forms. The grass quits growing on the trail as the dirt gets packed down and forms a rut. It becomes a passive thing that the dog no longer has to think about. It just follows the trail without effort. It can take several seasons of not running the trail for the grass to begin to sprout up through the hard-packed earth. Similarly, breaking negative self-talk will require restraint from passively running through the patterns and several seasons of time (during which we may have to frequently re-set and re-commit to breaking the patterns…after all, the pattern is the default at this time…we will return to it when we are tired or worn-down.)

Thirdly, negative self-talk robs us of life and joy because it shrinks our world to encompass only ourselves. That is a terrible place to be! There is so much out there to see, experience, and learn…but when we are focused on ourselves, we miss it! Ministering to others is a huge source of joy for everyone involved (think about it: compare how it feels when you cook dinner for yourself
versus when someone who loves you prepares a meal for you with your tastes in mind. The two don’t even compare!) Thinking outside of ourselves, is where love lives…it’s where we are able share Jesus with others…it’s where life begins and hope forms.

So, how are you doing with this? Do you have some noisy, negative thought patterns that need dealing with? Can you identify what they are? How could you work toward breaking them? What effects have these patterns had on your self-image, relationships with others, and ability to think outside of yourself? If your patterns are well-ingrained, do you have a safe person who could walk through this with you? How has this affected your relationship with Jesus? Here is a particularly challenging question: if we are consumed with ourselves, even in a negative way, it is a form of worship because it dominates our thoughts, emotions, time, and resources…are you giving as much of those things to God who actually deserves your worship?

My prayer today is that we will hit the mute button on the lying voices in our heads that rob us of quiet, peace, love, and joy. I am praying that we will learn to quiet the noise so that we are free to experience life instead of running the same trail over and over again on autopilot. I am praying that the Holy Spirit would help us to hear life-giving truth over the constant chatter of lies so that our world can be the dynamic and vast creation it was meant to be. Much love friends,

Beks

P.S. To the girl whose story I used above: You are beautiful. That goes without saying. But you are so much more than that! So much more! 😘

12/1/14 Morning Musing: Finding the Mute Button

This time last year, I had a conversation that I had never intended to have. The topic was 30 years old and I desperately did not want to have the conversation. But as I talked with this person, I could hear a still quiet nudge whispering “Now…It’s time right now.” I was in shock as I witnessed the conversation more as an observer than as a participant. I heard the words that had never been spoken tumble out in my own scared voice. I felt more vulnerable than I can recall ever feeling in my life as I waited for a response from the other person. What would I do if the other person denied it? Said it never happened? Insinuated that I was allowing myself to be haunted by something that never even occurred? What if I was crazy? (Huge admission for me: That is one of my biggest fears…that I would discover that I am crazy and that the rest of the world could see it and that I didn’t…and that I was being placated because I was so far gone that it wasn’t worth the effort of once again trying to bring this crazy girl back to reality…of simply being tolerated…of being a burden that the good people around me are forced to endure.) But, from behind the sunglasses of the other person, I saw a single tear appear and roll down their cheek and I heard the most powerful word in the most broken voice: “Yes.” It was a rush of affirmation for me…so healing. Even if nothing else was ever said about it, healing began happening for me right then. The conversation continued and long-held pain was released. Secret wounds were exposed to air and sunlight and rapidly began forming scars…strong scars where infection had lived for decades.

Last year was one of the best advent seasons of my entire life. It’s not because things were going smoothly…not by a long stretch. As a matter of fact, the state of some of my relationships could only be described as precarious and distant. But it was such a precious time because I was finally able to press the mute button on so much of the noise in my life. This year, as some of those relationships are re-bounding a bit, I am noticing that their “noise” is also re-bounding and I am deeply saddened to think that I might be exchanging the peace that came from pain in the midst of absolute obedience for the noise and ease of passively doing tradition and following expectations. While I didn’t enjoy the process of refining last year, I did very much enjoy the freedom and peace that accompanied being compliant with the Holy Spirit…with standing right where he would have me stand…with trusting him with my “stuff.”

That difficult but healing conversation began a lot of things in me…it actually began my morning musings and a burden to help others, who like myself, are being robbed of a life that is lived to the fullest simply because of duty or assumed expectations. So, many of you may not find this helpful or insightful at all, but on the off-chance that someone does identify with my story, I am going to reveal what I am doing/experiencing with Jesus during this advent season in order to get back to that heart-space of last year…where freedom and peace reign…where shalom lives…where truth and light and life begin. That said, the first thing I’m doing is pressing the mute button. I’m looking through my calendar and doing the opposite of what comes naturally…instead of arranging things so that I can squeeze more into my schedule, I am canceling everything that is being done due to duty. I’m clearing out all of the “noise.” The world will not end if I do not attend a party or if fewer flashy gifts are purchased. Ministries will still occur and be impactful if I am not the one that agrees to lead them. I am creating margin in my schedule where I feel pressure to over-extend and over-schedule. I am creating the space to not only identify the “good stuff” this season…but to relish and savor it as well.

So, how are you doing with this? When you look at your calendar for the month of December, does your heart rate increase a bit? Do you experience some anxiety? Do you feel over-whelmed? Does it make you mentally catalog more things on your to-do list? What can you do quiet some of that noise? What events can you cancel? It doesn’t mean that they aren’t good things…but are you trading the best things for merely good things? What can you reduce or simplify on your calendar? Can you envision the perfect advent season for yourself and your family? What would need to change in your reality in order to move toward the vision? (Understand, perfection is not the goal…it’s not even possible…but obedience is…and God honors it.) What changes do you feel God would have you make during this extremely precious time?

My prayer this morning is that we would experience freedom beginning today. That our calendars would work for us instead of us working for them. That we would have the strength and wisdom to say “no” when we should so that we have the margin to say “yes” to what and whom we should. Much love friends,

Beks