30 Days of Celebration: Highs and Lows

30 Days of Celebration: Highs and Lows

Day 30. Wow.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to see the growth I’ve made in certain seasons. Especially one like this, where I feel like a teenage boy going through a growth spurt. So much happens, so many emotions, and sometimes I feel like I’m just going to burst.

Today one of my new friends looked me in the eye and told me straight up, “Maddie, you are so hard on yourself. It literally makes me anxious watching you work through things. You do not have to process all of this right now.” And she was right. I am so hard on myself.

When the reality is, I did it! I made it through my first 3 months in my new city! It’s had moments of goodness, but mostly it was just really hard. But I’m learning that that’s ok. Life is full of highs and lows, and I don’t have to make it what it’s not.

I remember where I was sitting when I first began this series, and I remember how I felt. I feel like I’m drowning these days, but I look back and I was drowning way more back then. Just 30 days ago. And so today I celebrate the fact that I’m drowning a little less then I was back then. I’m learning that it’s ok to celebrate even the smallest things like that. And I’m also learning that it’s ok to feel like I’m drowning a little right now.

It’s ok.

I celebrate what I’ve learned about the highs and lows. I’ve learned that the highs kind of celebrate themselves, but the lows need to be recognized. That’s what I’ve found myself doing during this series. I’ve picked the lows to celebrate because I need to celebrate them. I need to know they’re not all bad. They’re hard, but they’re not always bad.

When I began this series I was sitting at a barstool on a rushed Thursday morning, deciding to start this crazy endeavor mostly because I needed some celebration in my life. I needed it so badly. And so I desperately typed out some words and sprinkled them on me before I ran out the door.

But today, I sit on the couch under the light of the Christmas tree I just put up in my little temporary home. My new friends are coming over in 15 minutes. And I don’t write quite so desperately. I don’t hold on quite so tightly to the way I thought my life was supposed to be. I’m learning to let go. Of expectations, sure. But mostly of understanding.

I don’t need to understand today.

I’ve learned to be my own best friend. To encourage myself. To build myself up. To remind myself that I’m a safe place. Isn’t it crazy how hard it is to be broken, even in front of ourselves?

I’m realizing that I don’t need to process the hectic craziness of the last 3 months. I just don’t need to. I can let go. It’ll process itself on its own time. And tonight, I can have a Christmas party with my new friends. And just be thankful.

Praise God. He is good, all the time.

30 Days of Celebration: Tree Farms and Traditions

30 Days of Celebration: Tree Farms and Traditions

I come from a live Christmas tree kind of family.

This means that every year, usually the day after Thanksgiving, we load up the mini van and head out to the Christmas tree farm. And we walk around all the trees and choose the best of the best of all the Douglas Firs. And we load it up, on the roof of our car, bring it home, and listen to the Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas album as we hang our extremely home-made ornaments complete with macaroni hot-glued onto pictures of us in 3rd grade.

Today is no exception. And the traditions remind me of the great story written for me, the one I don’t deserve, but one that begs for celebration.

And today, after a bumpy season of transition in so many ways, the tradition is especially powerful to my heart. And though I’m tempted to question it and wonder why I was given so much when so many have so little, I am reminded over and over that it’s ok to just take it for what it is. It’s ok to laugh with my siblings, to take pictures with my sister, to enjoy the day given to me.

And so today, I drink hot chocolate and watch Elf with the people that mean the most to me, and I draw the line at anything short of celebration. It’s not my job to understand. It’s my job to celebrate.

Sometimes, I get really caught up in everything I can’t control or change, and therefore wonderful realities and gifts are overlooked because I’m so caught up by my lack of control. But I’m learning, my lack of control is a gift, because I can’t bear the load. It’s not my job to control things, but to appreciate the way God does.

I asked a mentor of mine recently for one sentence of advice. If she could give me one nugget of wisdom in this season, what would it be? She told me that where I am, whatever season of life and whatever situation I find myself in, to trust the One who brought me there. To trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He really has the best for me.

And that’s what I remember this tree-cutting day. I remember that I’m a part of something bigger than me, and that the Great Author is writing the story. And I rest into that, no matter how impossible it seems at times.

30 Days of Celebration: The Unappreciated Gift

30 Days of Celebration: The Unappreciated Gift

Sometimes it hits me how very little I deserve all that I have.

My very life is a gift, for starters. It was given to me. I am not my own, I was bought with a price, in every way.

But even more than that, I have been very overwhelmed these days by how undeserving I am of my day-to-day. The house I’m living in, the job I have, the friends I’m surrounded with. They are all gifts, none of them earned. I think, in the past, I have convinced myself that I “deserve” the things in my life. But I don’t.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do with all of these gifts. How can I receive them, if I have nothing to pay in return? Why do I have them all in the first place? And I will spend all of my time questioning all that I have and not celebrating it.

God has lately been urging me to think of it all as Christmas morning. It is as if He is giving me gifts, wrapped in beautiful bows, and instead of tearing apart the paper and delighting in what’s inside, I stare at the box. And I ask Him why He gave it to me. I question His motives. And I tell Him I don’t deserve it.

And so the present sits there, untouched, unopened, unappreciated.

And God, the Giver, the one who put intricate detail into it, the one who thought it all out especially for me, is sad. I can imagine, at least. I can imagine the feeling of giving such an incredible gift and to watch it go unappreciated.

And that’s what my life is: an incredible gift. I want to appreciate it. I don’t want to stare at it, I don’t want to question it, I don’t want to neglect it. I want to tear the paper open, rip into the box, behold the wonder of it all, and jump around the living room with a smile across my face because I have been given something amazing.

Something worth celebrating.

 

What Would You Do If I Told You Somebody Died For You?

What Would You Do If I Told You Somebody Died For You?

I’ve celebrated Christmas 21 times in my life.

21 mornings of cranberry bread and red-wrapped packages and the Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas album. 21 times I have run down the stairs with my 5 siblings to see what Santa left for us while we were sleeping. (Yes, Santa still brings the Bowsers presents. Yes, 75% of us are adults.)

And we eat monkey bread and tear into presents (one by one, of course) and we laugh and gawk over what was waiting for us under the tree. And by the time we’re all on our 3rd cup of coffee, we pop a Christmas movie in and settle down in our new Christmas pj’s and we cuddle with our dog under the lights of the decorated tree.

And that’s Christmas. At least, on the outside, that’s Christmas.

But if I’m honest with myself, friends, for so many years my inside has looked pretty much the same. Sure, as I grew older, I would pay a little more attention to the story in Luke about the brave teenage mother and the long journey she took to give birth in a cave. Yeah, I knew that her son was Jesus, and I knew that Jesus was good because He came to save the world from its darkness. And of course, I knew that Christmas was the day we celebrated that.

And so as I unwrapped presents and drank orange juice and laughed with my family I would think about that sometimes.

But Christmas, if I’m honest, has often been all about me.

 

This morning is different. This morning, all I can think about is a garden from 2,000 years ago.

It was late, and a man was there, and he was hunched over, in agony. With his hands pressed up against his eyes, sweat like blood dripped down over his wrists and he cried out,

“Father… if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me…”

He paused, glanced at the trees and wiped the sweat from his forehead, his face scrunched and his vision blurry. Rubbing his hands on his knees, he buried his face in the spotty grass and moaned,

“….nevertheless…” looking up to the sky, tasting his own blood, “not my will, but your will be done…”

And within minutes, soldiers came into the very garden, and he rose to meet them, wiping dirt from his knees and tears from his eyes. And this very man, who minutes before had begged to be pardoned, willingly gave himself into the hands of the soldiers.

He didn’t even fight it.

And the next day they beat him, and tore his clothes, and they killed him. They took nails and they dug them into his wrists, and they hung him by those nails, on a tree. And he suffocated as his body weight dragged him down, his bloodied wrists the only force attempting to pull him up.

And so he died, slowly, in front of a mass of people who spat at him and cheered as he breathed his last.

This Christmas morning, that’s what comes to mind.

 

You see, that really happened.

2,000 years ago, if you had gone to a place called the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, you would have found a man with blood on his face. You would have seen him crying, heard him praying, begging for something. You would have seen him walk up to guards and give himself to them, no longer saying a word. You would have seen him being dragged to the officials, sentenced to death, and killed.

And you would have noticed that he never said a word, never put up a fight.

That’s what I think about this Christmas morning.

 

How would you feel if I told you that the reason we have a holiday called Christmas is because somebody died for you?

You were alone on a crowed highway, a semi-truck heading full force your way.

Standing on thin ice, watching it crack beneath your feet.

In your bedroom alone, trying to think of a reason, any reason, to live.

You were done, fresh out of hope, fresh out of reason. You couldn’t explain why, but you knew that unless somehow somebody did something, you were done.

Maybe that’s you this morning. Maybe you’ve run out of strength, scraped dry your reserves.

 

What if I told you that the reason Christmas exists is because Jesus came to this world in order to die for you? He came to be born as a baby, humbly. He came to die, painfully, on a cross. He came so that you and I today can have hope. 

Hope. Hope that this world isn’t it. Hope that despite everything, we have been saved from the darkness around us.

 

2,000 years ago Jesus lay in a garden and sweated blood as he took on himself our burdens. He voluntarily came into this world, this dark world, to be its light. He is God, but he became human. The Bible says that he came to serve, not to be served, and to give his life in order to save ours.

He gave his life in order that our darkness would be pardoned.

 

This Christmas morning, I cannot help but think about that. I cannot help but sit in awe of the God who takes away my darkness. I cannot help but give him my life because he has given me his. Without Jesus, without the man in the garden, I am hopeless.

But because Jesus was born in a little town 2,000 years ago, I can have life. Because he was born, because he made the choice to die for me, I can have hope. 

 

That’s Christmas. This December 25th, I really hope you know that.

You are loved- loved so much that God Himself, Jesus, jumped in front of that train for you. In the midst of packages and popcorn and playlists, I beg you to remember.

You have been handed hope. What are you going to do about it?