Don’t Fight The Plan//Steph//Day seven

How sweet to read this week of advent posts! I’m so thankful Christmas is more than giving or getting the “right gift”. More than pretty lights on houses and yes, even more than spending time with loved ones. My sisters have done a great job writing out their thoughts on advent. What has struck me this year is how many of us can relate to Mary for different reasons. I was discussing her situation with some friends recently. We realized how much Mary had to let go of control. She didn’t get to choose when to have a child or even pick her baby’s name. Isn’t that something we love?  Being in control. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to obey God at times.

Mary was just a teenager (so young!) when she was told she would a have a baby who would be the “Son of the Most High”. Wouldn’t you have been a bit intimidated? But Mary’s response is striking. She could have asked, “Why me?” She could have made excuses. She could have grown prideful (as I’m sure I would have). But she simply asks how this is possible since she is a virgin (fair question, right?). She then says, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” 
“I am the Lord’s servant.” Her reply is simple and we have much to learn from it. What a beautiful example of humble obedience. She doesn’t fight the plan as if she can’t do it. She doesn’t say, “Of course God chose me. I’m perfect for this role.” She simply obeys out of a humble heart. Not because she wasn’t scared. She must have understood God is good and He would provide for her if He called her. She must have actually trusted God.
What would it mean for us to let go of control and obey God humbly? Let’s ask God today for the gift of humble obedience in whatever He calls us to whether the call comes this week or years from now. I can only imagine how that might impact the broken world around us that needs to be pointed to Jesus our loving Savior. Jesus who humbly obeyed and came to earth as a baby, to live the sinless life we cannot live, and to die the death we deserve. In doing this He brought us real life. Better than gifts and lights and anything this world could ever offer us. 
I pray you are blessed by knowing Jesus more this Christmas season.

Again & Again He Comes//Laura//Day Six

For the first time this year, I’ve realized that Advent is so much more than just lighting candles on a wreath and remembering the gift of Jesus’ birth so long ago. Though the Christmas story has always seemed beautiful and I’ve cherished it, it’s felt like a story of people far away. My heart has always desired to be connected, but struggled to find it. Then, this year, I read this introduction to an advent devotional that finally feels like it’s brought this Christmas season near to my heart….
“The King is coming. Jesus Christ has come and will come again. This is the hope of the Church whom He purchased with His blood. Jesus’ coming is the eager expectation and desire of His people. It is our joy because He is our treasure and greatest good. This is the theme of “Advent”, formed from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival”. It’s the traditional celebration of the first advent of Jesus in humility and the anxious awaiting of His second advent in glory. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting.” ((The Village Church Advent Devotional))
I’ve never connected the celebration of Jesus’ first coming at Christmas to His second coming, which has yet to come. But when I read this, suddenly the Christmas story feels so much closer and more connected to my world.
Remember November? Remember Paris? Mali? Colorado shootings? My heart is weary.
Loved ones with cancer, death, homelessness, addictions…  My heart is weary.
My own sin of selfishness and pride…My heart is weary.

Though the things that made Mary and Joseph and their friends weary may have looked different, there is no doubt they were weary and looking to be rescued. The Israelites had waited since the beginning of time, since Adam & Eve, to be saved. Their people had been slaves in Egypt, wandered the desert 40 years, were ruled by unjust and ungodly kings, and had given themselves over to all sorts of idols for so long. Yet by faith, they still believed their God would rescue them and send a Savior. Can you imagine waiting so long to be rescued?
Here I am, 2000 years after the coming of our Savior, and my heart STILL longs for Him to return. When I think how weary my heart is and how I long for Jesus to return again, I realize what a sweet joy and miracle it must have been on the first Christmas, when Jesus was born. Remember what it feels like as a child to anxiously anticipate Christmas morning? Remember the excitement of when it finally came? I can only imagine that Jesus finally arriving must have been like a million bajillion times more exciting. As the Christmas song says, its was a time of “weary hearts rejoicing.”
So this year, the Advent season has been a time of me reflecting on the gift that I’ve already been given in Christ and reminding my weary heart to continue to have faith and hope that Jesus will come again. And it isn’t even just that He will come again once and for all to rule, but that He can come again and again and again into the weary hearts of those around me—to bring hope and salvation and new life. We wait for His second coming, but we no longer need to wait for His arrival as our Savior. That’s a gift that’s already been given to us who believe and available to any who seek God’s face.

Thank you Lord that you gave us the gift of Jesus! Thank you that He came and led us out of captivity, to freedom in You. I pray Lord, would you come again and let this weary world rejoice.

{{I’m realizing more and more that I LOVE to share the things that I LOVE. My poor husband listens to me go on and on about my favorite things. So this Christmas season, I’d like to gift you with the knowledge of 3 of these things, only one of which relates to this post: 1) These Sketchers shoes make me feel like I’m walking on air. 2) This magical Tea Infuser & 3) Lauren Daigle singing Noel & Light of the World (This is the one that relates to the post J) Enjoy! Merry Christmas friends!}}

Yes Lord//Meg//Day Five

I’ve been so blessed by reading each of the blog posts on our “Awake & Free” blog this week… am I the only one?
On WednesdayNita pointed us to Mary and my heart said, “Yes, Lord,” as I read and rested in the truth of who Mary is and what she knew – something God has also taught me recently.  On MondayBrooke wrote about slowing down, and my heart said, “Yes, Lord,” as I found myself in agreement with the need to soak in time with the Lord this Christmas season. And I have. And it’s been beautiful.  On TuesdayLaura Kate wrote about how the story of Jesus is thread throughout all of Scripture and my heart said, “Yes, Lord,” as I rested in that knowledge and reflected on how seeing Jesus throughout Old & New Testament stories has been part of my Christmas season as well.  And then yesterday, Sarah wrote about how it’s okay to not be okay, and my heart, again, said, “Yes, Lord,” as I thought about the joys and the aches of my Christmas season – and those shared by many whom I love.
Yes.  Lord.
In Your Spirit’s sovereign plan, you have me here, being encouraged by so many women on what it looks like to walk with you, and you’re weaving together these stories and my stories to point to the same thing.  And it brings me to the point of just reading and saying, “Yes, Lord,” – because as I’ve thought about what I wanted to write today, I honestly have thought about writing – or could have easily written – on each topic that each woman presented.
And then I thought that maybe God would want me to share a little more deeply and a little more personally.  And so nervously, I respond, Yes, Lord.
You can catch up more on my story here.  It chronicles the story of my sweet son – one that’s still being written – as my husband & I have faced some of the most earth shattering news and walked one of the hardest journeys as we anticipate our son’s birthdays in just seven weeks.  Back in August, during the first two weeks of classes actually, we found out that the baby we are expecting in February has a neural tube defect that caused him to grow and develop without his skull or his brain forming fully.  This means that Jacob, our son, will have a very brief life on earth before He goes to Heaven to spend Eternity with his Maker.  His Maker who saw it fit to make him like this, and who has deemed him worthy of love, who has deemed him good
When September hit, I was unsure if we’d make it to the holidays with Jacob, still, or if he’d already be in Heaven.  And then October, and November, and now here we are in mid-December, Jacob has grown & developed in most other ways completely normally and is full of life inside me.  And my heart says, Yes, Lord.
What’s struck me the most this Christmas season is how much my mind & heart wander to considering Mary, and considering Jesus.  Mary in the sense that she carried a child – and not just any child, but our Savior – in pregnancy, and she gave birth to Him.  Jesus in the sense that He became a baby… that He – fully God & fully Man – entered into our brokenness and our world by means of “the least of these.”  And Jesus was born to die.  Both looked at what God was calling them to do and even though it seemed  c r a z y  in the eyes of the world, they looked to God, and said, Yes.  Lord.
God has shown me the grace & beauty of Mary’s response to Him as she learns that she, a young virgin, engaged to be married, is pregnant.  She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” {Luke 1:46-49}
Yes, Lord.
And then I consider how Jesus lived on this Earth, full of life & destined to die, and he performed miracles and he healed people and he fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and he was full of grace and truth as he approached women and children and tax collectors and Pharisees and Jews and Samaritans alike.  And He was God. And He was perfect.  And He lived to die.  And He said as He was facing His own execution – an unjust one, and in a criminal’s death – “’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” {Luke 22:42-44}
Yes, Lord.
And so I consider my own life.  I am carrying a child who has a greater purpose than the one I would have chosen for him.  We are doing something that seems crazy in the eyes of the world as we see value and dignity in our son’s life, no matter how old he is or how many breaths he will take on this earth.  I am carrying a son who is born “only” to die.   My son could be healed, if God so chooses, but in all reality, I face great pain and agony in losing him on his birthday. Some of the things I am facing seem impossible. I can almost feel those bloody sweat drops.
And I find myself saying Yes, Lord.
In the midst of the heartache, in the midst of the pain, God has sent His Spirit to strengthen me, much like He sent an angel to strengthen Jesus.  In the midst of the chaos and wondering of my son’s purpose, God has helped me to say “Holy is Your Name” even when the words cannot seem to even enter my heart.  In the midst of seeing that because Jesus was born to die, and therefore my son – born only to die – will live forever in Eternity with him, I see that Jesus is better.  And my heart can only cry, Yes, Lord.
This Christmas season, where is God leading you to say, Yes, Lord?  Where is He asking you to say, “Not my will but yours be done,” and then follow Him into the scary and into the unknown?  Where is He showing you in Scripture how He is near to you and to your story, and where you can see Jesus working out your story so you can in turn say, “Jesus is Better”?
My prayer is that we will be women this season who say, Yes, Lord.  Who look to the wonder and beauty and awe of the reality of the Christmas story and we say in agreement, Yes, Lord, because it is good.  And we look at the truth of who God is and we say, Yes, Lord, because even though we don’t understand, we long to.  And we face our heartaches and our grief and our disappointments – we face our triumphs and excitements and joys – and we say, Yes, Lord. And we follow Him.
Yes, Lord, my heart longs to cry in my grief.  Yes, Lord, He helps me say.  Yes, Lord.