Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas (plus a few days)

A few weeks ago, I remembered how He came like the winter snow. I love this song by Audrey Assad- she says all these ways our Savior could have come: like a fire, a hurricane, a mighty storm... but instead, He came like the snow- it perfectly depicts the peace Jesus brought to the chaos and muck of humanity when He came as a child.

As one of my favorites, J. Vernon McGee, put it: "Here comes God out of eternity, already the Ancient of Days; but He also came to Bethlehem, a little baby thing that made a woman cry." The least expected thing in the most needed way.

I can't help but remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning that February day, in the yellow guest bedroom at 14 Oakleigh Crescent in a London suburb. I was one of millions of Londoners who slept as the snow blanketed our houses and streets and sidewalks and cars, quiet and soft and slow. Something happened to wake me up, though, and I crept to the frosty window and peeked out into street and saw snow- SNOW!- everywhere. Inches and inches of snow, more than I'd ever seen fall at once, lit by the yellowed streetlights. Joy bubbled around within me, and I began tearing up.

IT CAME!- my one thought.
They had said it would, but I was skeptical.
Then it did. While I was sleeping, unaware. But something woke me up and all the sudden, there it was: five (or more) glorious inches of white, fluffy, frozen water making me cry.

Isn't that just how you imagine Christ coming? I'm not saying that night in the stable was quiet or soft or slow in the least-- I think it was probably the opposite. But I think about those hours after He had come, when He had finally stopped crying and finally fell asleep like the rest of the people in the Town of David. 
Maybe some young girl, who like me felt as though this town she was visiting was meant to be her hometown, awoke in the middle of the night and heard the word. 
He came. Maybe she always wondered whether He would or not; and then He did. 
"Already the Ancient of Days", but here in this tiny town in a tiny baby's helpless body, He just came and made another young girl, one who had no idea what she (or He) was doing with her life, cry. 

It turns out, this Jesus guy chose to come as something vulnerable and weak because He knew that was the only thing we could truly relate to: being helpless and desperate and reliant. 

For some reason, as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing says, this Savior-child was "pleased, as man, with men to dwell- JESUS, Our Emmanuel." He came to live with us so that we could live in Him and through Him.
I always get convicted by Christmas carol lyrics; it seems to be a different carol that strikes me each year. It seems like I'm continually hating O Come All Ye Faithful (because let's be real: if the invitation to 'come' is only to the 'joyful, faithful, and triumphant', then 90% of days I would not be invited). 
This year it was It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (specifically the third verse) that brought me to tears:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Now THIS one... this one gets me. 
"O YE BENEATH LIFE'S CRUSHING LOAD", it starts, and there I want to raise both my arms. 
then it starts qualifying it, like those ads for COPD drugs ("do you struggle breathing? do you find yourself wheezing after walking?") and continues: 
Yes, yes, yes. All of the above.
Have we got a cure for you!

Hannah Brencher  has kind of changed how I think about golden things. She mentions it a lot and it made me start thinking about it and noticing those gilded, glittering things, and realize that they're everywhere. God's Word talks about gold A LOT. 
Apparently it's a condition (not a thing) to be sought after. To be golden! What a thing to seek. 
And here, 'upon a midnight clear' we are offered it as the cure for our troubles: glad and golden hours.
They're coming swiftly! Get ready! Come rest with us and hear the angels sing so you don't miss the glad and golden hours we'll experience when we rest in Him together!
(I literally cried at this point in the song)

I'm convinced that I'm not the only one 2014 has been rough to. I'm sure that at least a few other people experienced bittersweet moments on Christmas week or cried on Christmas Eve or wished things were different. 
There have to be others of you who have toiled along some this year, who have climbed until you thought you couldn't climb any more, who have walked and walked and walked until there were blisters and scrapes and all you could do was drag yourself forward one small step at a time. 

But if you've been with Jesus for a while, or maybe if you've read Hinds' Feet on High Places, then you know that when He plants the Seed of Love in you and asks you to follow Him, the journey is far from easy. 
So many times you deviate and have to find your way back, or wish to turn around, or just cry your little eyeballs out because you're so tired of trying. But then once you become His and that Seed of Love blooms in you, one day you'll realize He's led you to the High Places. He's made your tired, dusty feet "like the deer's" so that you can "tread on high places."  (Habakkuk 3:17-19
And it's not so hard any more, and it's easier to see the golden sun, and it's more peaceful there beside His road. 

It makes me so very very glad He came. He became Emmanuel. God. WITH. Us.
To breathe with us
To live with us
To love with us
To cry with us
To walk with us
To see with us
To sing with us
To run with us
To fight with us
To talk with us
To rest with us.
Like snow. Not requiring or expecting anything but reverence. Making all our muck and chaos disappear and suddenly grow still under his weight and mercy and presence. Giving us a way to find our way to His High Places, so we could live those glad and golden hours with Him.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holy is He, Blessed am I.

For some reason, I have come to really love all those quirky, never-heard-of chick flicks on Netflix that are somewhat deep and depressing and not really chick flicks at all (E.g. The Diary of Preston Plummer, Liberal Arts, Like Crazy, Girl Most Likely, One Day, The Giant Mechanical Man, The Pallbearer, etc.) I've watched an abundance of them over the past month; don't ask me why because I couldn't give a reason. They just appeal to me, probably because I don't know what my life is and the characters in the movies don't seem to either.
Today as I was watching Liberal Arts, the female lead, Zibby, said something that resonated with me.

"I sometimes feel like I'm looking down on myself. Like there's this older, wiser me watching over this 19-year-old rough draft, who's full of all this potential, but has to live more to catch up with that other self somehow. And, uh, I know I'll get there. It's just sometimes I think I want to rush the process, you know? "

And though I am quickly approaching 22 years, I still feel like a rough draft. I, too, feel like I have loads of potential that I don't know what to do with and don't know how to catch up to the older, wiser, finished-product Me. 
Maybe I never will. Maybe I'm not supposed to. 
Maybe I will always feel like Taylor Swift did at 22 years old: happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. Miserable and magical. 
I don't know for sure, but I'm hoping with everything I've got that "fake it till you make it" is an acceptable mantra for an adult to sing repeatedly, and that it's ok for me to always be the emotional basketcase that I am.

Yesterday I went to my church's Christmas program. There were several times where I was brought to tears by the sheer beauty of it all- the music and instrumentalists combined with the drama and the dancers just cut right to my soul, right to the spot that recognizes beauty and alerts the rest of your self. I was overwhelmed with it all. 
Then the girl playing Mary sang this song.
And it kind of wrecked me. I was one big blubbery mess of tears and streaking eyeliner and it was like my soul was singing, desperately, back to God as I cried along with the song- "Be Born in Me" by Francesca Battistelli
The music video depicts Mary's heart through everything. 
Not that I am in any way to be compared with the mother of Jesus, but this song resonated with me so much.
God has been using Mary to teach me an abundance of things, over the long stretch of road that has been Our Journey since January 2012 (and if you want to hear about that I'd be glad to ramble to ya). But one thing that has been truly cemented this year is that He wraps himself in the unexpected. The song says:

"All this time we've waited for the promise
All this time You've waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?

Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I'll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me."

and, really, how perfect is that? How fitting is that to my life?! 
"It's INCREDIBLY FITTING, Becca!" is the correct answer.

don't want you to take this the wrong way, but I feel like I have so much in common with Mary. I feel like I have this unexplainable favor from the Lord resting on me and I have no idea why (Luke 1:30). All I know is that "I am not brave, I'll never be- the only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy. I'm just a girl, nothing more, but I am willing, I am Yours."

That's kind of the theme of my life these past few years. Realizing I am not fully His yet, but I am on my way- I am becoming fully His (John 1:12). Realizing my feet are mangled and misshapen from the sin I have trod in time and time again, and that He offers to make my feet like hinds' feet and take me up on the High Places (Habakkuk 3:19). Realizing that He calls us to lay down so many things in the grave, that better things may be resurrected (Luke 9:23, John 10:17).

This year has been the Year of Death (I'll write more about that come New Years' Eve) and it has, quite literally (spiritually) killed me. It has been the Death of Becca and it has been so incredibly, painfully glorious. And as I cried along to that beautiful song and really paid attention to the lyrics, I realized what may be the final realization of this series/journey: I HAVE DIED THAT HE MAY LIVE IN ME. 
I know, I know; I'm slow to realize this point that probably EVERY other Christian has gotten to by now. Whatever. He teaches us different things at different times. 

This year, He killed me.
So that I would be empty.
So that I wouldn't have to be the innkeeper that said, "No room."
So that I could say, "Well... I don't have much, but I DO have vacancy."
So that He could be born, here. In me.

So that my clinging to Him now and holding Him so very dear could eventually become Him holding me when I have not the strength to cling any more (I look forward to that day).
So that in between now and then, my heart could literally be His hometown.

He is making me His.
He is making me His home.

And knowing that makes me realize: it's ok to be a rough draft. I am His rough draft. I am being hewn and sharpened and purified and shaped and smoothed out, among my moments and years of seeming not to know anything but tears.
It's ok to watch a lot of sad movies because I don't know what my life is yet; He does.

"Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow of an angel or a warrior?
If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven's eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees
Holy is He;
blessed am I."

can I say that once more for my own heart's sake?
If you know nothing else, weary heart, know this:
Holy is He.
Blessed am I.

welcome to midnight.

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