Palm Sunday: Grieving into The Future

In the Lukan text for Palm Sunday, as Jesus enters the town, he weeps over the city. Jesus experiences grief for all the pain these people will feel, grief for the loss of his life which is to come, grief for the systems of evil that persist even today. Jesus is the Savior who comes to save us not through displays of political power or military might, but the Savior who weeps over our cities and gives Himself up.

And it’s OK for us to grieve into our futures, too. Much is uncertain, and the likelihood is that people we care for around the world will suffer even more than they already have.

Personally, I am grieving two graduations for people I love. I’m grieving the probable delays in the process of building our family through adoption. I am grieving the people I love getting sick. I am grieving the many who have lost their lives and the lives we will lose before we are safe-er again.

Grieving into the future is a different kind of feeling. It’s the loss of our expectations. The loss of our hopes. The loss of the futures we imagined for ourselves, our families, our churches, our world.

But it’s also the surrender of our power. 

It’s giving up the life that political power or violence or money promises us. Grieving into the future acknowledges the truth about all the things we fall victim to, all the powers that do not save.

And instead of pining for the days that came before, and hoping they will come again. Grieving into the future helps us to lean in with the savior who weeps over the city, acknowledging the pain, acknowledging our need to be saved, letting go of the hopes and expectations that no longer serve us.

And that grief will uncover our undeniable need for a Savior. Hosanna, Hosanna, save us, save us. 

As we follow this Savior all the way to the Cross, we’ll start to see that the overwhelming beauty of the resurrection comes at the end of the most difficult road, and that road starts with this march against the powers of the day.

We might not be able to march out today. But someday, a day I hope is not far away, we will. We will be able to cry out with the stones of the earth, to bring God’s Kingdom to earth.

This is not the time to wave our palms in the street. Not a time to parade.

But a time to parade will come. 

When safety has returned, we will have heroes to celebrate. And just like Jesus’ triumphal entry was not like Pilate’s typical military parade…the heroes we will owe our lives to will not be the people we usually laud. 

We will owe our lives and safety to cart return person at HEB. To the doctors and nurses who went into danger unequipped with the gear they needed and deserved to expect. To the janitors that quietly protected us with no thanks. God at work in the people we would not have expected is quite fitting for our Holy Week reflection, because Jesus was the Savior no one could expect.

This is not a time to march, but a time to march will come.

When safety has returned, We will understand the teachings of Jesus in a new way. We will no longer be able to ignore the ways that our systems leave so many of God’s beloved uncared for, unprepared, and in danger. Because now we have all experienced the failure of the things we have built. We built them without ever considering the most vulnerable among us, and now we are all experiences the failures we used to be able to hide.

The constant procession of our structures and powers, demanding more and more of our attention, have suddenly stopped. Everything stopped.

And what’s left? We’re asked to stay home. And sit on our couch. And cry out to God from there “hosanna, hosanna, save us, save us.

It’s more ridiculous than the savior on the donkey even really.

The collective voice of God’s people speaking through their absence, not their presence in the public sphere.

When we stay home, we dig in our heels against all the evil tendencies that try to tell us that our neighbor’s life is worth our convenience or our money or our sense of control. It’s an act of resistance, not unlike Jesus models for us. Jesus is the savior who saves us by giving himself up.

And in this critical moment, God is calling us once again to show up and bear witness to God’s saving power. To choose the narrow path of the kingdom of God over all the glittery, powerful looking options were being given.

The grace of our current crisis may be that we are reminded that we are always in deep need of saving. And we are never far from the saving power of God through Jesus Christ. God hears our cries of Hosanna in our hearts and homes as well as in the streets of Jerusalem.

And as we follow Jesus through the week of his arrest, death, burial, and resurrection, we will see that the carving out the depths of grief will make room in our hearts for us space to experience the healing and joy of God’s mercy and grace on Easter. May we have the grace and courage to make it so.

The Spiritual Practice of Staying Home

Slowing the spread of disease is a way to love your neighbor as yourself. You might not avoid getting the virus by cancelling events or staying home instead of traveling. You might not die if you do get sick. You might not be that worried about it. But all around you are folks who are vulnerable to severe complications, medical professionals who will be overloaded if the spread of disease doesn’t slow down. If you’re not feeling afraid or anxious or threatened, imagine with compassion how you would want to be treated if you were. We celebrate too often in being right, in predicting the future better than those around us. But the Bible doesn’t call us to hot takes, it calls us to love.

Renegotiating responsibilities is a way to practice humility. Sometimes we go to work or church even when we don’t feel well, because we believe that we are needed too much. Perhaps you can take this wilderness period to see the ways you have inflated the importance and urgency of your work. Maybe you are needed, but you can begin to see that taking time to rest is not life or death for those who count on you. Even those of us dealing in life and death circumstances in our work—times like these can help us realize that we are only a small part of what our teams and institutions are able to accomplish. That can be freeing, if we’ll allow it to be. The world keeps spinning without our back-breaking.

Slowing down reminds us who we are and who God is. Lent is a time for growing closer to God by carving out time, energy, and attention from the other things that usually grab them. The wilderness is a place where we don’t necessarily know what’s down the road, we aren’t sure how long we will be there. This is often scary, but not bad. Perhaps taking the time to stay home over the next couple of weeks, and exercising grace and patience as we wait for further news can be an opportunity to rely more heavily on God who made us and sustains us. We do not know what each new day holds, but we know it is held by God whose love for us is greater than anything our fear could ever build or prepare. As we await further developments, allow God to be God, allow yourself to rest in God’s mercy, and wash your hands 😉

Adoption Questions We’ve Gotten So Far

We want to encourage anyone who has ever felt a nudge to grow their family in this way. We want to show you how accessible this is to families of all ages, life stages, and income levels! If this blog can encourage friends on the fence to learn more about the foster care or adoption process, that would just make us so excited. Today, we want to address some of the most common questions we’ve had and some of the things we were surprised by. 

Why are you adopting?

Since before we got married we’ve discussed the possibility of growing our family through adoption. It’s come up in our marriage over and over. And every time it comes up, we say “we’re still in school” or “this isn’t the right time financially.” But it’s always been something we’ve thought about. We were that couple who watched Instant Family and immediately looked up children available for adoption. 

We’ve felt called by God to open our home to kids in need of a family. Caring for orphans is one of the things the Bible calls us to most frequently, and the job we’ve done as a society on taking care of children who need us has been pretty sorry. 

According to the National Foster Youth Institute in 2017, 23,000 children age out of foster care every year, and 20% of those kids become homeless immediately. Only half have some sort of gainful employment by age 24, 70% of girls who age out are pregnant by 21, and only 3% of kids who age out of foster care earn a college degree, though 70% say they would like to. And that’s terrible, but it makes sense right? Even if you studied hard, earned good grades, and developed a plan and goals in high school without parental support, where do you go during Christmas break? Even if the state is covering your tuition, who sends you money for laundry? How is a foster kid supposed to buy a car? The odds of the children finding a permanent home are even less if they are a minority, if they have a disability, if they’re older, or if they’re part of a sibling group, and unfortunately that represents a lot of kids in foster care.

We want to be a part of giving our kids the stability and love they need to heal and thrive. And we’ve decided to adopt siblings because we want to help keep kids together with as much family as possible. 

So are you fostering?

No, we are doing straight adoption. Sometimes you’ll hear people say they are doing “foster-to-adopt.” In that case, children have been taken out of their parents’ home, but the goal is reunification of the family. Sometimes, parental rights are terminated and foster families might adopt the children they’ve been caring for. 

We chose not to be foster parents, because we want to permanently grow our family this way. For us, if we were going to foster we would want to be able to support reunification efforts without being conflicted. And there are so many kids ready to come out of foster care into families like ours! So straight adoption is what was best for us right now. 

Are you using an agency?

Gladney Center for Adoption is the agency we’re working with! They’re one of the largest adoption agencies in the nation, and they do infant, international and foster care adoption, which is what we’re doing, the New Beginnings program. We can’t recommend them enough. Their backstory is really fascinating. They were started by a Methodist Minister who vowed to find homes for all children that were left on the orphan trains in the 19th century, which had its last stop in Fort Worth. They are an incredible organization and we couldn’t do this without them

Do you already know which kids will be placed in your home?

No, we don’t yet. We’ve told CPS and Gladney Center for Adoption that we’re open to 2-4 children (a sibling group) that are mostly elementary aged. We’re open to all races and any gender. After our home study is approved, it will be sent to children’s caseworkers and we’ll be ‘matched’ with a group we haven’t met yet! 

You can see some of the children available for adoption in Texas on the TARE website and at adoptUSkids. However, these are just a very small subset of the children available, so we don’t know at all who will end up being our kids. 

What does it mean that the parents’ rights have been terminated? What happened?

Goals for reunification have not been met or parents have voluntarily given up their rights. As for what happened to “our kids”, we don’t know yet, because we haven’t met them. We suspect people may ask what happened that made them end up in foster care, but this will be a deeply personal part of their story. They’ll have to be the ones to decide who to share that with when they’re old enough. You can do us a big favor by not prying too much on the specifics of their coming into care and becoming available for adoption. 

What’s the most terrifying and painful thing of your life? Do you like talking about that at church or parties or the grocery store? Would you want your loved ones to share it with other people? 

It’s easy to be so invested in the stories around us that we begin to feel like they belong to us. But they still belong to the brave people living the story. If they share with us, it’s a gift, not our right. (This is true for adoptees, people living with disabilities, people who have risen out of poverty—anybody that we might objectify as a product for our own inspiration instead of giving them the full humanity of their story.) 

When are you going to meet kids? When am I going to meet your kids?

Once we’ve home study approved, we will move into the matching phase. We might go to events to meet children and their caseworkers; we’ll send our home study to caseworkers representing groups that might be a good match for us. When we’ve matched with a sibling group, we’ll get their files and meet with their caseworkers. We’ll have three separate visits with the kids, including an overnight at our house, before they come move in with us. 

After that, it will be important for us to take time to bond and get a routine as a family. So while we are so excited to share you all with our kids, it might take some time before many of you get to meet them. Thanks for being understanding of that! (Similarly, it will be a long time before we post their names or pictures…after their adoption is finalized at the earliest.)

Aren’t you nervous? Do you have any idea what you’re getting into?

Yes, we’re nervous! But we’re also so excited! We have prayed, thought, and trained a lot for this. We’ve listened to podcasts, read books, gone to hours of training, and will work with CPS and Gladney extensively over the next year. Think about when you got married, or when you were expecting a child. Were you “ready”? Did you think “ah, this is the PERFECT time for me to have a baby.” Or “oh, my life is 100% in order, now I shall get married.” No. but, you knew God was calling you to take that step and you would figure it out together. So, that’s what we’re doing. 

How can we help? 

We don’t need money. What we thought would hold us back for awhile was the finances of it. Some international adoption approaches $100,000 when accounting for travel, time taken off work, and the international costs. However, the state makes it incredibly accessible to adopt children from foster care. Each state is different, but Texas provides children adopted out of foster care with Medicaid and a waiver for tuition at a public university in Texas.

We’ve made a list of things our house will need to go from a house with no kids to a house with many kids. If you’d like to help us get some of those things, let us know and we can share. Since we haven’t been matched yet, we’re not piling up clothes or other things that will need to be size and age specific. 

The best thing you can do is to pray for us and our kids! Marianne had a friend who she hadn’t seen in awhile tell her last week that they pray for our kids everyday. It is the absolute most amazing thing. Seriously. We don’t know if our kids, whoever they are, are safe, lonely, scared or anything. And we have a lot to do to prepare our hearts and homes to parent kids from hard places.  

If you’re interested in fostering or adopting, we’d love to help you get the information you need or to answer any questions that might have to do with our experience so far. 

A little more about our adoption

We’ve had lots of folks ask questions about our decision to adopt and interested in the process. We have always had a heart for kids from hard places, and as we started discerning how we wanted to grow our family, we decided that we’d like to provide a loving home for a set of siblings to be able to be raised together. We are going through Gladney’s New Beginnings program. We are seeking a sibling group of 2-3 children probably about 5-12 years. Andrew wrote this post to share a little bit of our journey so far. We’ll have more soon!

It’s a long way off until we have children in the house, but we’re deep into preparation. We have a growing pile of kid games, blankets, sheets, pillows, and fun growth charts to hang up in our “kid rooms”. Both sets of grandparents are swelling with excitement, asking often for an update, looking through pictures and imagining our family (and proudly telling the woman who cuts their hair “why yes I do have grandchildren, I just haven’t met them yet!”)

Furniture was delivered to our house last week. We are now the proud owners of a set of bunk beds with drawers everywhere, and a bedroom set, complete with bed, mirror and dresser. The dogs love the new furniture, and the opportunity to go in the rooms previously off limits, but are bothered by their humans being in a bed that’s so high off the ground. We purchased a car for our growing family in December. While it still feels like there’s so much to do, it also feels like an eternity since we started this process with the Gladney Center for Adoption in October. It’s been health forms, income verifications, anti-racism questionnaires, letters of recommendations, background and fingerprint checks, fire safety inspection, pet vaccinations, more forms than our first mortgage and first job combined. 

People have asked us why we want to do this, and we get it, you don’t see this every day. And honestly, there isn’t one underlying reason why we want to do this. We’ve discussed adoption as a couple for years, since before we were married, and the more we thought about it, the more we saw the great need for families to step up for older kids and siblings.

I also often joke how great it will be that our kids will be old enough that they won’t think Marvel is lame, or worse yet, that Luka Doncic, star 20 year old of the Dallas Mavericks, will no longer be a superstar by the time they can appreciate him. But it goes deeper than that. When we think of a full house, our completed family, we don’t necessarily think of welcoming a baby into the house. The idea of our family that we’ve established molding and transforming because a family of children has moved in, that sounds pretty great. And when it comes right down to it, I have trouble NOT pursuing the sibling groups of 5 or 6 that are available. In my mind, if we have room and the capacity, who are we to not welcome children who need a family?

A lot of people have been really excited for us, and we’ve been so grateful to them. Some have been confused, and that’s okay, this is a confusing process. We hope to answer questions that people may have, and to document our own experiences. It might be that some of you will want to adopt from foster care!

As we looked for podcasts, blogs, books, anything that would give us guidance as we walked this journey, we realized that there aren’t a whole lot about the process of adopting from foster care, especially siblings and older kids. We’ve done so much research and training and discerning during the process, and if any of it can be helpful to others we want to share! So if you have questions about our adoption process, give us a shout and we’ll post some follow ups.

Holding Out Borrowed Hope

This week has been rough for me. I’ve been going back and forth to the hospital more than usual. My presence is likely not remembered and there’s little comfort I can provide in a confusing and scary situation. A lot of my time in the car has been spent stewing over something tacky a colleague said that I just cannot let go. In the midst of all of it, one of my people sent me an out-of-the-blue text:

“We truly love you.” 

That meant so much to me. And it’s not that the other things don’t matter because of the magical cure of someone’s unsolicited thoughtfulness. I’m still carrying the things that are making me cynical and hopeless and grouchy, but I’m reminded that God’s ability to transform things might be helped by my willingness, but it’s not powered by my enthusiasm.

The hope that comes up out of our selves, even from our most pious practices and beliefs, is so fragile and fickle. Even hope rooted in the truths about God’s promises and character can feel weak or even false when we expect it to be held together within ourselves, by ourselves.

It’s not a moral failing to feel hopeless sometimes. It does matter, though, if I let that feeling rule the ways I show up (or don’t) for the people God has called me to. It matters if I let the cynicism wall up my heart so it will be, as C.S. Lewis writes: “unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable”

So today I thought I would be reflecting on how my brilliant care-giving skills and sharp sense of humor could brighten up the lives of folks having a hard time this Advent season, but I’ve been struck by something different. I’m thinking today about how I can participate in the hope, the joy, the connection that God is springing up around me, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s growing in my own little heart-garden.

Could I borrow hope from the resilient community of folks that keep showing up to witness and participate in what God is doing?

Hope is vulnerable. Hope was born into a fragile body to a world that didn’t recognize Him and in many ways didn’t want to. Despite the odds, Hope lives generations later in the Spirit that animates communities that continue to offer persistent, radical embrace to this world which God loves.

The small, persistent Hope we each might hold in our own faith and life can become much more evident when we hold them together. Even if the season has left me tired or hurt or angry or lonely, people all around me are still holding out Hope for me to borrow.

And if I can borrow it, I bet that means I can lend it, too.

Who is holding out Hope for you this Advent? Who around you needs to know they have permission to borrow Hope from the community?

Journal Prompts to Experience The Fullness of Advent

I’m journaling through Advent to help me stay grounded in my busiest season. They emphasize making time for rest, reflecting on what God is doing, and finding hope, love, joy and peace on the road to Christmas. I’m posting them here in case you need a practice to help you do the same!

Dec 1: Where are you seeing God work in unexpected ways? 

Dec 2: What do you hope God will grow in your heart this advent? 

Dec 3: What in your life is making you cynical or hopeless? 

Dec 4: What power do you have to give hope to those who need it? 

Dec 5: What boundaries will help me experience Christmas instead of rushing through endless obligations? 

Dec 6: How are you resting? 

Dec 7: What community is nourishing you? 

Dec 8: Who do you need to make space for this advent? 

Dec 9: What people who live and work near me am I overlooking? 

Dec 10: What invisible pain is happening in those I encounter? 

Dec 11: How can I extend compassion today? 

Dec 12: Who is testing my patience? 

Dec 13: How am I resting? 

Dec 14: What am I giving too much space in my heart, mind, and soul? 

Dec 15: Where am I experiencing joy? 

Dec 16: What music helps me remember the Christmas story? 

Dec 17: When was the first time I understood the Christmas story? 

Dec 18: What fears are muddled together with my joy this year? 

Dec 19: Am I making time for those who love me? 

Dec 20: How am I resting? 

Dec 21: Who in my life is grieving? 

Dec 22: When do I experience peace? 

Dec 23: What tradition is most important to me? 

Dec 24: What has God done in my life this Advent? 

Dec 25: What do I hope to carry into the new year? 

I hope this season brings you deep joy, meaningful community, and a greater understanding of God’s great love for you.

Building God

An idol is anything that we love, honor, or trust more than we love, honor, or trust God. 

In the wilderness, the Israelites struggled to trust God. When Moses went up to the mountain to talk with God, they were afraid., and brought that fear too Aaron. All of the folks give up their gold rings and earrings and they fashion together a new God. 

God says the people are “ruining everything!” 

This story might sound far from our lives. We would never make a statue to worship. 

But are there other things we might gather up, a piece from everyone, and mold together into something that we might love, honor or trust…more than we love, honor, or trust God? 

Sometimes our community can help us discern the idols in our lives. Our friends and family might see it when we love, honor, or trust something more than we love, honor, or trust God. 

But often, our communities themselves have tendencies to try to run themselves instead of being governed by God. The golden calf was a fairly decided solution. But it wasn’t the right one.  The folks all got together and they decided what they wanted. 

In the same our churches, our friend groups, our community organizations, can lull us into idolatry. 

Because if everyone else, included godly people we admire, say something is good, we might not do further discernment ourselves.  And even communities who gather for prayer and preaching and worship every week. Communities that go faithfully to weekday Bible studies. Even they are susceptible to idolatry. 

I’m sure you can all think of examples of churches worried about the wrong things. Churches where the altar guild got in a throw down about what color the carpet was going to be. Churches where folks left because the pastor read out of the wrong bible translation. Churches where the people were more focusing on building a steeple taller than the baptists than there are sharing the gospel with their neighbors. 

Whether it’s steeples or carpet or potluck traditions or the translation of the Bible we use—-any of these things can be signs of idolatry on our communities. When we love status more than we love God. When we honor our own preferences more than God. When we trust our plans more than God’s power. 

Sometimes this comes from communal selfishness—caring only for the people inside. People who are already here. When we love God more than anything, we love our neighbors recklessly. Not just because they are in the same group or club or family. 

Sometimes this comes from communal pride—when we are more interested in the glory of our institutions than we are honoring God. 

Sometimes this comes from communal fear—when we know in some part of us that we can trust God’s promises, but we will feel better if we can build something for ourselves. Something we can look at. Touch. 

I’m sure you can all think of examples of communities that you’ve been a part of that had common idols. 

We have to acknowledge that discernment is more than finding consensus, and that a modge podge of our preferences will not equal God’s will for us. 

I know these colors exist

Claude Monet’s first operation left him almost completely blind.

Monet continued painting even as he lost his vision gradually to cataracts. He showed up everyday to his garden, where the water Lillies lived, and went to work. 

He memorized where particular paints were so that he could use the same colors he had used when he could see.

He wrote in a letter to his doctor:  “I see nothing but blue… I no longer see red or yellow. This annoys me terribly because I know these colors exist.” 

If you look at all of Monet’s painting, you can see the difference as his vision started to fade.

But he didn’t stop using those colors he couldn’t see. 

In fact, his paintings became bolder the less he was able to see.

In the time of darkness and uncertainty Monet was able to rely on what he had known to be true before. 

Even though he couldn’t see the same colors, he knew that they existed. 

He knew because he had experienced them before. And he was willing to rely on what he knew then, even if he wasn’t experiencing it the same now. 

In faith, the believer anticipates the outcome ahead of time.

If faith is the reality of what we hope for, then it is more than believing in God. 

It’s not just that we believe that God is real, but our belief in God changes what is real for us. 

When we are struggling, when what we see doesn’t reflect the goodness we are supposed to believe in–it can be hard to have that assurance. 

When the news cycle reveals to us the evils of endless shootings, deeply intrenched white supremacy,  the separation of families–the dehumanization of people made in God’s image and deeply loved by God.

I look out at all those things and I feel a bit like Monet as his vision lost contrast and color…

“I see nothing but blue.”

But at the same time, I’ve been rescued from pain I thought would swallow me. I’ve watched strangers come together to support families struggling.  I’ve seen people delivered from addiction. I’ve watched children grow and discover their purpose and calling.

I’ve seen those other colors before.  And I know they exist. 

That’s what gives me the strength to show up to my own garden and try to paint my own water lilies. I know that God hopes more for us, and that hope is more powerful than even the most pernicious structures of sin and the most confusing natural heartbreaks.

Even when it is hard to see the faithfulness of God, our reality is still rooted in the One who gives life and breath and hope.

Keep showing up to you gardens, loves, find ways to keep your colors in order even when the heart ache blurs them all together. Keep crafting the world you want to live in. Even when you can’t see it, you are making something beautiful.

Not everything is what it seems to be at first

Wisdom knows that not everything is what it seems it might be at first. 

When I was a kid, my little brother and I got stuck in Chinese finger trap. This long tube of thick woven paper had tightened up around our fingers, chaining us to each other. 

It was fun at first, but it got to the point where: we didn’t want to be stuck together anymore.

 So we pulled to try and get out. But the small tube tightened further and further. And we were screaming at each other, but then my dad came in and calmly pushed our hands together. 

Our fingers met gently in the middle of the trap, and the paper strands opened up wide, freeing our swollen fingers. 

At first, It seemed like, if we wanted to be apart, we should pull ourselves apart. That’s what seemed to be the only logical solution. 

But wisdom knows that not everything is what it seems to be at first. 

John 1 tells us that Jesus is the Logos of God. 

Logos means logic. 

But the story of this savior who comes to give his life for us defies so many of the things that we would call logical. 

After a life of ministry with the people others logically avoided….Jesus was arrested and tried and killed.  Which to any logical person, would look like a defeat.

And he rose from the dead, defeating the grave for all of us. And everyday, Jesus invites us to be a part of the same new life. To experience renewal and grace and redemption in our lives and to share it with the people around us. 

Jesus is the Word of God, the Logic of God, the wisdom of God. 

But so often we cling to human logic instead. 

Human wisdom says  “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Jesus, the Word, the logos, the Logic of God, says  “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.”

Human wisdom says  “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.” 

Jesus says  “Forgive your brother seventy times seven times.” 

Human wisdom says “Don’t get mad. Get even.” 

Jesus says “If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.”

Human wisdom entreats us to protect ourselves and seek success at all costs. 

But Jesus is the savior who saves us by giving up his life.

And he calls us to do the same.  

My hope for you is that you will look at your decision-making and try to find the places where human wisdom has cheated you out of following The wisdom of God.

That you’ll carve out time to learn God’s Wisdom by studying the life and teaching of Jesus. 

Perhaps you’ve told yourself you don’t have time to take on others’ problems. And Jesus is calling you to love your neighbor in a new way. 

Perhaps you’ve told yourself a story about people in our community that you don’t think like you or look like you. And Jesus is calling you to reach out to the least of these in our midst. 

Perhaps you’ve told yourself that you have to keep up with a list of endless demands from friends and family and coworkers. And Jesus is calling you to rest in Him. 

As we seek to route out the idols in our lives, we hope to love, trust and honor Jesus above everything else. 

He calls us to a wisdom that no human logic could compare with. A wisdom that is going to change everything, if we let it. 

Home for Christmas: Making Room for Christ

When I was young, it was really hard for me to part with things. Once when we were packing up the house to move, my Dad shared with me his rules for if he needed to keep something or not. He said if it’s not worth five dollars or of incredible sentimental value—you can throw it away. 

It wasn’t until I came to college that I really got what my dad was getting at. My freshman year,  l lived in an L shaped room with approximately the same square footage as my Kia Soul.

Every thing I brought into that dorm room had to matter, because it represented space that could not be used for anything else. 

I ran into this problem when Andrew and I got married, too. It didn’t make much sense to hang onto some of the things I had accumulated over the years, because I would have to pick that thing over the possibility of what we could have together. One of my toughest decisions was parting with my much loved floral couch, which my roommate and I bought at a thrift store for twenty dollars and then bribed one of our friends with queso to get him to help us move it. While I loved that couch, the square footage it would take up in our new apartment would represent so many other things that I was saying ‘no’ to while keeping it.

When Andrew and I got engaged, we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, with a little scanner gun, and we walked around deciding what our new home might look like. What color would everything be? Where would we put it? What would we actually use? We had to decide what our lives were going to be.

When Mary and Joseph got engaged, they would not have gone to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Instead, we would have found Mary at home, making linens for their new life together for herself. But I wonder if some of the same questions came into her mind: where will these things all go? What’s going to fit, and what won’t? What is this new life actually going to be like? That is when the angel comes to her, disrupting her expectations and inviting her to expect something else—someone else.

I wonder what Mary had bumping around inside her heart before that moment. Do you think she had anxiety and hurt and distraction that took up too much room in her spiritual life? I think she may have. If someone dropped some kind of life-changing, world-changing, news on me only a short time before our wedding, I am not sure I would have had the room to receive it. 

You see—I think about making room a lot, because of my affinity for things, which take up space, but also because I imagine my life to have space, too. As much as I love floral couches, happy meal toys, or other things that take up physical room. I also love  somethings that take up spiritual room in my life. Sometimes I cling too strongly to anxiety or hurt or distractions that feel good to cling to, because clinging to these things feels like having control.  On the flip side, though, these things take up a lot of room. So while choosing my fear, or pain, or expectations over anything else may feel like a choice, it’s actually limiting my choices.

And even through those anxieties and hurts and distractions she proclaims. I am the lords servant. She makes some room.

And God can do a whole lot with a little bit of room. From the womb of a young woman, God is able to sprout a child, a savior, a movement, a church, a restoration of the whole world. Because of one woman’s small and powerful YES.

For Mary, Saying yes to God, even in her trepidation meant saying no to a lot of other things. The expectations put on her, and the expectations she had with her own life were not easily compatible with what God was calling her to. 

What expectations are you saying yes to? Is it your best yes? What else could go in that space? When Christ calls, will these expectations give way and make room for the Lord?

Are we willing to risk our reputations to make room for Christ in our lives? Sometimes truly following Christ will put us in situations, like it did Mary, where we do not look as pious or upright as we did before. The Christlike thing to do is not always the Christian-seeming thing. 

The religious laws of Mary’s day could have had her put to death for bearing a child before marriage. The religious thing to do would not have been to agree to this task. And yet it was the thing God called her to. 

It may be that some of the things filling up our spiritual homes are very religious looking. But if we have no room for the Living god in our hearts then those artifacts mean nothing. It might be time to do a little Advent Cleaning. 

And all the things we kick out in the process are the things that steal our peace. The expectations to be always moving, always cooking, always shopping, always cranking out awesome pinterest projects, do not bring us peace, but rather anxiety. But Christ brings peace. God brings peace. 

How can we better make room to receive the Christ child, born in our hearts again this Christmas? 

Whatever we set a priority on, we will make room for. Everything else is flexible or expendable. When we make room in our lives for God to disrupt our plans, to trouble our expectations, we are agreeing to be God’s servants. Allowing ourselves to be used for God’s purposes involves personal sacrifice, but also flexibility.

Some things clutter up our homes and our lives, and take away our peace by distracting us. When we look at our lives, our schedules, and even our physical homes, we may be overwhelmed by all the commitments and physical things we have collected. How could we possibly even start to make ourselves available for what God calls us to?

God not only calls us to be available and to not become to encumbered by things of the world, but God will help us clean out our lives so we have room to do God’s work in the world.

God can do a lot with a little bit of room.

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