Preparation

What do you do when you’re expecting someone into your home? You probably clean, and clean everything. You might add some decor. Maybe you light a few candles to make your home smell good and feel cozy. But do you pray?

I admit, I usually don’t. If I do, it might sound something like “God, please give me the strength to get through this social interaction.” Socializing takes a lot of emotional energy for me, so my prayers are usually pretty selfish before any of those interactions.

My husband and I didn’t prepare anything before we adopted Belle. I found her at the shelter, sent him a photo, and his response was that we were going back to the shelter when he was off work because he was sure we would be adopting a dog. We had been thinking of getting a pup for a while, but the actual act of adding her to the family was spur of the moment.

We didn’t prepare anything before we adopted our male cat, Raptor. We thought “hey, maybe Sabrina could use a friend?” And we wanted another cat.

And I didn’t prepare anything before I adopted my female cat, Sabrina. She was with her litter in the veterinarian office I worked in at the time (I was 16), and I told my mom to hold her because I wanted her, and we left with her that day.

Prayer wasn’t even a thought in any of these instances. And there wasn’t a lot of preparation for a lot of decisions I’ve made.

In Luke 1:39, we see Mary visits Elizabeth, who is 6 months pregnant with John, and in verses 46 through 55, Mary praises God, beginning with “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Verse 56 tells us Mary stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months.

Three whole months. Can you believe that?! There is a brief explanation about Mary in these verses in my Bible. I won’t copy out the whole thing, but here’s the piece that stands out: “It is clear that she did not claim to understand it herself, but simply worshiped God in humble acknowledgment of the phenomenon engulfing her existence” (italics mine). Mary didn’t have a physical place to prepare–we know Jesus was born in a manger–but she prepared her heart through worship. Think about what could have happened had Mary not worshipped God after the news.

That’s what this season and the weeks leading up to Christmas are all about: preparing our hearts.

I admit, I have not been great at it. Even though I’m in a slightly better head space this year than I was last year, the season sort of snuck up on me, and I have allowed work and responsibilities to get the better of me. I am tired and cranky, and by this point, I just want my vacation. But I’ve been trying to get myself back into that heart space. I have been playing Christian music on my drive to work in the morning and home in the afternoon. I have been sending up small prayers throughout the day. When I get frustrated (as anyone who drives in the DC area is bound to be), I try to check myself. Because my heart needs to be right.

Think about how different we would be if we worshiped the Lord in acknowledgement for our existence. We may be anxious for what lies ahead, we may not understand the path, but we can prepare ourselves by worshipping the One who does know.

. . . . . .

How do you prepare your heart?

Is it sometimes hard for you to prepare your heart for God? Why?

The News

What is your reaction when you hear incredible news? Do you scream and shout? Gasp? Are you vocal or silent? Are you reserved or outspoken? Do you worship?

Worship? You might ask. But what if it was bad news? I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter the type of news we get, our first response needs to be to worship God with whatever we have in us.

Imagine being Mary. An angel of the Lord visits you and tells you that you’re going to be pregnant, even though you haven’t known your husband, and–wait!–that son will be the Savior of the world. My reaction might have been something along the lines of:

giphy-1

or

giphy

But Mary seemed to respond calmly as she asked the angel how this would be possible. When the angel explained, Mary’s response was to declare herself a servant of the Lord: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word'” (Luke 1:38).

Man, I wish I could have that response to situations. I mean, I also wish an angel of the Lord would appear to me and tell me how things are going to work out (am I right? anyone?). But to have the confidence that it was God’s word that was spoken to you and to be excited about it is incredible.

According to the definition in my Bible, “word” here means something that is spoken, and the additional study material at the back of Luke (in my Bible) says this scripture is telling us to submit our plans and future to God’s will. So, she knew God told her this would happen, and she faithfully accepted the plan and submitted herself to Him.

That is remarkable to me. Mary had no idea what would happen next. All she knew was that she would give birth to Jesus. She left her uncertainty with God.

Granted, I have no way to know if she felt any uncertainty, but I know I would. And how often has something happened that I say “God, tell me what’s going to happen,” but He only gives me a piece at a time. Because that’s what He does. He works in such huge ways that He can only give us a small piece of His plan at a time, otherwise we would be overwhelmed. Imagine if He had told Mary everything to expect with Jesus. She may not have departed with such faith–she may have felt more fear and uncertainty, which would not propel her forward into God’s plans.

When something happens, we often want the whole picture right away. But, more often than not, God deals in short utterings, telling us only what we need to know right then. It’s a gentle nudge, a whisper of “do not be afraid…for with God, nothing is impossible.”

And worshipping is our indication to Him that we know that.

A Season of Hope

Do you celebrate advent?

All through my childhood, my parents would gift me with an advent calendar on December 1. I was always excited to open the little window and eat the little piece of chocolate as I eagerly counted down the days to December 25. I never really knew what “advent” meant, but I knew I loved the anticipation of Christmas Day.

Why? Because the Christmas season is a time of hope. If you’re a child, you eagerly await Christmas Day to see the magical appearance of presents that may not have been there the night before, hoping you got that gift you asked Santa for. If you’re an adult, parent or not, you eagerly give others presents, hoping they like the gift.

And if you’ve ever faced a heart-breaking disappointment, you hope for relief…and maybe a miracle.

I wish I could tell you I got the Christmas miracle I begged God for last year, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell you that this year doesn’t ache, but I can’t. It doesn’t hurt as much, but the hurt hasn’t entirely gone away. I wish I could tell you that I’m not still walking through the difficulty, but I can’t.

I wish I could tell you my childlike joy never faded, but it did.

But the great thing about the Christmas season is that it’s never too late to get that joy back. And that is why I am going to be working to celebrate this season and read the story of Christ, through the book of Luke. I encourage you to join me.

If you’re curious about what hoping and waiting on Jesus means, if you’re struggling to find even simple happiness this season, or even if you just want to read along to see what’s going on, I welcome you.

Let’s unwrap joy together.