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Just for a Smile

We are all go a little stir crazy, are we not? What better time to employ some creativity and share some joy? (Listen, creativity comes in spurts so if you fill tapped out, that’s cool. You do not have to produce anything in this season, but when it comes, let it overflow…like a toilet clogged with an abundance of toilet paper. Remember the days of abundant toilet paper?)

Framework:2020

I have no great or overplayed 2020 chliches for you. We are far too deep into the year to still be leaning into the 20/20 vision or Barbara Walters references. However, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to set the framework for this year. It is a practice that has proven to be an immense help in shaping my mind and heart moving into a new year.

The last two years have proven to be a bit unsettling. Many of the places where my faith and confidence in Christ were shallow, like wood-grain veneer on a particle board table. That veneer was peeled back and the reality of those shallow places was exposed. It is far from a comfortable process, but nonetheless, it is a purposeful and good surgery. It leads to life if we will endure it.

2020 came barrelling in like nurses running a gurney through the emergency room doors. Apparently, another surgery was required.

Do you know what is true after surgery? Nothing can be the same as before. Well, that’s not quite true. A person could choose to return to all their old habits, but they are also likely to find themselves back on the operating table if they do. No, a doctor would advise making changes. Build new habits. Give yourself the opportunity to live a better life.

That is what I intend for 2020. It is an odd combination of risking and rest. Making decisions and releasing outcomes. At first, I thought my word for 2020 was meant to be “rest”, but it wouldn’t settle into the space. It felt as though I was trying to use my car fob to unlock my house. (Don’t pretend you haven’t ever done that.) It was close; it had the same purpose but wasn’t meant for that spot. As I waited and prayed, “rest” shook out to become “dwell”.  Dwell incudes rest but it isn’t apart from action, not always. We can dwell while we work and move. It is knowing I am at home, even when I have things to accomplish. It is knowing where I belong, even when I’m on a mission beyond the doors of my home. It is trusting that even when the world around me is at war and I’m tempted to be sucked into the chaos and confusion, I am at peace because I have a place to dwell. I dwell in the presence and promises of God even when the earth shakes.

And that truth led me to my 2020 verse.

He released his supernatural peace to you through the sacrifice of his own body as the sin-payment on your behalf so that you would dwell in his presence. And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored…

Colossians 1:22 (The Passion Translation)

In Him, you and I are whole. We don’t have to flail around when our identies and securites are under attack. He has declared us whole. He has made us holy. All the broken places in us, they are restored in Christ. So when someone doesn’t understand us, we can dwell in his presence and trust the wholeness he has brought to us. When the people we love hurt us, we can stand in victory over the lies that threaten to dig in deeper and believe that we are restored.

I am choosing to live here in 2020, to live in His presence, to believe his promise and power. I pray the same for you. Regardless of what has been done to you or by you, spoken over you or out of you, trust the bedrock of Christ, navigate the borderlands with confidence. Dwell.

Watermarks:2019

It is January 1, 2020. How is that even possible?

If you’ve been around here awhile, two things will be true. You know that every January I write two posts, one reflecting on the year behind and one setting the focus for the year ahead. You also will have noticed that not much else is getting written these days. I don’t really have a great reason for that but nonetheless here we are. The start of a new year and the time to check for the watermarks to see where we’ve been.

I’m not feeling much like reflecting at the moment. All of the painful moments of the past year seem to be floating to the surface this week. I did take myself to a coffee shop yesterday to journal out all of the benefits of 2019. It is a practice I need to make more habitual, watching for the joys in the story. I listed 50 and I’m sure there were 10,000 more tiny ones that I didn’t remember. It helped to reframe the way I remember the year. For a little while at least.

My word for 2019 was suddenly. Honestly, I have no idea why. I can usually see, looking back on a year, why God gave me that specific word. I didn’t want suddenly to be my word. It kept coming up and I kept ignoring it. My word in 2018 had been cultivate, and it had seemed that everything I’d cultivated died. The habitual plant-killer in me was not surprised. “Suddenly” seemed like a cruel follow-up to a year of cultivation that left me feeling empty-handed. I say feeling because the reality is my life was full of wonderful things and even better people, but I felt so disappointed that my intentional cultivation had resulted in piles of dirt in place of blossoming joys and beauties.

I was afraid to trust God for the suddenlies because the slow work of cultivation had produced so little life. How could suddenly work when slow hadn’t. But suddenly was it. I could not shake it.

Here I am. After a year of suddenly and I’m a thousand times more confused than I was about cultivation. Again there is so much in my life that is incredible. I have been reminded in the last couple of days how amazing my friends are. They are the best thing about my life next to Jesus. I am grateful for the joys in my world, but completely baffled as to why suddenly was the word spoken over this past year. It was a lot of things, contained numerous moments of joy and numerous moments of heartache, but not a single moment was a suddenly.

My verse however got lots of mileage.

They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

Psalm 112:7 (NLT)

My life is relatively uncomplicated compared to the struggles of many. I know that. I don’t want to ignore that. Yet, even so, life is hard. Bad news comes swiftly and certainly. And I am wired and designed in a way to feel the full weight of it every time. I’ve tried to change that about myself. I’ve tried to turn that off. I cannot. It is who I am. However, I can choose to trust the Lord in the midst of it.

It is a choice that must be intentionally made every moment. I stopped choosing it for a bit and began instead rehearsing the lies that sounded so much like truth. I forgot that what I should be rehearsing are the countless ways God has loved me and been faithful. Thankfully, He was faithful yet again and fought for me when things were dark and getting darker by the day. My confidence has been restored. Bad news is unavoidable, but so is God’s kindness.

I don’t have a cute happy wrap up for this post. It is certainly not my best writing. It is simply honest: In all the confusion and all the hope that 2019 contained, it has brought us here, to the door of a new decade. I’m feeling less prepared than ever to move into a new year, but more confident that I do not go into it alone. And the truth is, I’ve always cared more about who is going to be with me than what it is we will be doing, so perhaps this is the best place to be.