The Better

Morning and happy second week of Advent.  We have been attending a new church in Nashy.   A completely different experience.  This place with intentional space to linger and visit.  Worship that doesn't end with a three song set planned and directed to the minute.  Leaders that invite the body to the stage with them.  Although it can't really be called a stage or platform, it's just the place where music instruments are.  Catch my vibe?  The building is for corporate gathering but these people are in the business of healing, welcoming, allowing the Holy Spirit to invade and permeate and then sitting in that thickness and just being so grateful for it.  At least that is how I have felt the last two Sundays.  Floored.  Astonished and so raw.  All that to say, after this past Sunday and the last few days of my Advent reading I have felt a Spirit conviction stronger than before.  

We are also in a new city this year for the Christmas season.  Nothing is familiar and yet all of it is.  I have been striving to manufacture the "just right" feeling that I crave during this time of the year.  Matching pillows, white twinkly lights, candles, greenery flung everywhere and an atmosphere that is joy-filled and peaceful.  The irony is that in order to achieve my non-sensical goals I have been running myself ragged in search of all the "right" stuff.  And this morning that struck me right between the eyes.  One minute the simple, natural and use what we have mentality is in charge and the next I am a crazed woman scouring Etsy and Pinterest like no body's business.  Not to mention all these "holiday home tours" making their rounds on Instagram.  Most often I can scroll through, grab an idea, appreciate the beauty someone created in their home.  This year it has stirred up the green-eyed monster.  Sparked desires that are not feasible nor healthy.  Whoa.  Just as soon as those words appeared on the screen I wanted to delete them.  Well at least I am going to attempt to explain them away.   And please trust me when I say I am a fan of social media.  The ability it holds to connect people, near and far, educate, empower, grow and challenge.  All of these things are good.  For me, in this one instant, I allowed it to overtake my typically healthy indulgence.  Anyone with me on this? 

I am a usually content person.  But the struggle is real and this year I have been waging war hard core.  This past Sunday the entire service was devoted to worship, pressing in, going beyond and praying feverishly.  I was on my feet the entire time.  Hands raised, head bowed, then lifted, arms wrapped around myself, opened out wide and clapping in praise.  In other words, all over the place and completely wrecked.  The dichotomy of my recent actions and emotions flooded in and I repented.  Pleaded for healing.  For new thoughts to replace the old.  In the Advent devotional I have been reading the overriding theme is how Jesus is the "better".  At this new church Jesus is exalted, the most talked about, lifted high, praised, worshipped and adored.  His names, His redeeming power and His love are on repeat and because quite simply He alone is the truer and better EVERYTHING.  And during this Christmas season that is what we are celebrating as Christ followers.  His birth.  Love incarnate.  When a man of flesh changed eternity for all humanity.   For today, I am choosing to step into that a bit deeper.  Reminding myself that He is the better.  That the Prince of Peace came down from His throne for me.

Just because I have claimed that, written it in my journal and typed it here on the screen does not mean that I am fixed.  What it does mean is that I have recognized my fault.  My deep need for a savior.  And then hopefully the healing and growth.  I can laugh at my pillow obsession now, recognize it for what it is.  It also does not mean that I am somehow over this picturesque Christmas scene unfolding in our home.  Nope, still desire that for sure.  Guess what though, as I type and am finishing this post, Christmas has come and gone and we are sitting in the in-between space.  You know, in-between Christmas and just before the New Year comes and everyone is swept away with resolutions and good intentions.  Thus allowing more time for reflecting here.  On what was.  Our Christmas was different this year.  Everything from the Advent readings we did do to the way we celebrated with family, the food, all of it.  Different.  In light of the struggle I was walking through earlier in the season I am not sure that this could have been any more profound.  Despite all my efforts in creating and manufacturing our home as a haven for peace and hope, there was no peace in my heart.  I allowed changing circumstances and other people's decisions to rule my emotions.  Thus distracting me from my "present" mentality.  Jesus was still front and center, for certain.  Some traditions were maintained.  Our Christmas Eve meal and light viewing, the reading of Christ's birth story Christmas morning, opening stockings before everything else, coffee cake and jammies all day, game playing and coffee drinking.  Yes, those were the same.  Some were swept to the way side.  Movies not watched, Advent readings dismissed, activities forgotten.  For some reason this took a toll on me.  Distracting me, much like the decor did.  Can you even imagine?  One minute resting in our Savior's birth and the next fretting over whether the plaid pillow you just bought will coordinate with the tree skirt and candles.  Seriously?  I am just keeping it real people.  Having a clean, organized home brings me much joy.  Truly.  And that is no different at Christmas time.  So here we are, social media and the inter webs lead me on a downward spiral this season.  Taking me to a place I hadn't been in quite a while.  Still somehow, maintaining focus and doing my best to push Jesus into the spotlight.  My reactions let me down, the temper tantrums distracted and the dang pillows all ended up looking ever so cute.

Guess what?  That is life.  Mistake after mistake will be made and there is grace enough for it all.  The one that came as a babe in a manger brought with himself an immeasurable amount of it.  Enough and then some, if you will.  So my church, or at least the one we've been visiting now, reminded me of what I will offer to that grace filled redeemer this Christmas.  Despite my obsession with pillows and the lack of a nativity scene in our home and regardless of all the left out traditions and family, I am asking myself what will I give to Jesus.  On His birthday celebration what gift do I want to present to His kingship?  Not a pillow.  Not a melted down candle or sparkling Christmas platter of cookies.  No.  He is the truer and better everything.  What would suffice, save all of me.  To press in, hold on a bit longer, trust when it doesn't seem reasonable, obey when it looks bleak and take the next step when I am too scared.  Yes. All of that.    The new year is upon us and we will be pondering that question as a family.  Mulling it over at the table, journaling and sharing our offerings for the year.  Our hopes and dreams and goals as we pray Jesus at the center of it all.  Because friends, He alone is the truer and better.  Everything.  

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