Contrast

December 26 - the day after Christmas. The day where you can sit in your pajamas all day long, eat delicious holiday leftovers from the festivities of Christmas Day, and feel zero guilt. After all, calories don’t count today, right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself…

Then again, maybe you have even more celebrations to run off to today for another side of the family, friends who happen to be in town for the holidays, or any other collection of “to do list” items that were neglected because of Christmas and holiday preparations.

However, my plans for today look like the first paragraph – rest, relaxation, and I guess a bit of to do list catch-up (but nothing too intense). In my mind, today is kind of a holiday from the holiday. Time to stop and breathe from the hustle and bustle of December, time to unwind and decompress from the fun and stimulation of being surrounded by so many loved ones over the past few days.

You know, the contrast between the atmospheres in my home yesterday and today is unbelievably striking. The scene from yesterday: 28 joyful individuals engaging in lively conversations - recounting stories, laughing and eating way too much food while the littlest ones ran back and forth from room to room all in celebration of the humble birth of our Savior. The scene from today: a quiet home with pets snoozing comfortably in the sun on the couch while a holiday candle flickers and Spotify plays softly in the background.

Contrast has the remarkable effect of magnifying a change, of magnifying a difference. I think Christmas is a beautiful reminder of the power of contrast and difference. The difference between yesterday’s chaos and today’s peace. The difference between death and life.  The lowly birth of a powerful Savior. That lowly birth of an entirely dependent infant in a stable who would live a perfect life in order to save you and me.  Dependent infant and heavenly Savior. So many contrasting features all wrapped up in one beautiful gift that we purposefully celebrate once a year.

Yet, it’s one of those gifts that deserves celebration each and every day of the year, not just the one we set aside to share with our friends and family. As you enjoy the rest of your holiday season, whether it be with more festivities or peaceful rest and quiet contemplation, I pray you can continue to rejoice with me over our amazing Savior.

Day 28

I hope you’ve heard about or have been following along with our Grateful to God challenge here at Holy Hen House for the month of November. If you missed out, no worries, you can make any day “Day 1” of the challenge to think and meditate on some of the blessings our wondrous God so freely gives to us. Regardless, here is today’s blessing to consider on “Day 28” of the challenge.

Strength (noun): the quality or state of being strong; capacity for exertion or endurance

Strength is one of those words I consider to be “loaded.” What can be portrayed and communicated by those eight letters is so much more than that simple definition from Merriam Webster. In all honesty, there were actually nine different definitions for that one word and still those descriptions feel like they fall short.

How does one describe the ability to stand up when you’ve been knocked down over and over again? How does one give thanks for the motivation to “keep on keepin’ on” in a life and world that is anything but easy? How often do we stop to think about whom that motivation and desire even comes from?

Life is hard. It is so often filled with challenge after challenge - a difficult co-worker, a family member that no longer values a relationship with God, a personal health crisis that makes you want to doubt everything you’ve ever believed. Challenges that beat day after day on that weathered door leading to your heart and soul. Will the wind and rain ever stop?

You know, the beautiful thing about God’s blessing of strength is that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the outside. It doesn’t matter if that storm stops or if the wind finally calms. With God and with His promises, we can know and trust and believe in everything (and I mean everything) working out for our best whether or not it looks or feels that way right now. Having that faith, that trust, and that hope in our extraordinary God certainly does renew our strength and it is that blessing of strength through and from our Lord that continues to help us face any trial.

Thank you Lord for strength.

You Mean What?

I love words that have multiple meanings. Sure they flustered me as a child, but now I tend to view them as perfect material for embarrassingly dry and remarkably fantastic “pun” humor. Believe it or not, there is actually a Guinness World Record for the word that has the most meanings with the verb ‘set’ taking said coveted title.

Why do I bring this up? Well, this month’s theme “Fall into Grace” centers on one of those words-that-have-a-lot-of-meanings words.

Fall.

Oxford English Dictionary comes up with 264 meanings for this simple 4-letter word. Impressive right? Makes me feel a little bit better about the time I’ve spent staring at my blinking cursor on a blank Word document trying to figure out how in the world I was going to write any semblance of a readable and semi-interesting blog post around a concept that can be interpreted so many different ways.

As a wheeler, falling - at least in the conventional/literal sense - isn’t something that typically crosses my mind. I may worry occasionally about “falling” during a transfer, an event I more (or less) lovingly refer to as “biffing it,” but that’s about it. That, my friends, is what I call a silver lining to assuming a permanently seated position and not having to worry about tripping and falling over my own massively uncoordinated feet - especially in the snow-covered and icy winter Wisconsin streets and parking lots.

At the same time, I will admit to worrying about a different kind of falling. Well, maybe worrying is too strong of a word…I will admit to having an undeniable level of concern about a different kind of falling. Falling in love.

I’ve fallen in love before and I’m not talking about the often flippant and over dramatic love that seems to overtake the lives of many teenagers (yea, I may have been one of those…). I’m talking about that kind of love that you are so sure is real. So sure that it’s reciprocated.  A love that started with a casual conversation and has now culminated in an exuberant “YES,” a glittering ring on a particular finger, and a white dress purchased and ready for its debut on a very special day. A special day where you commit yourself to another in front of your friends, family, and God.

Yea, I’ve been in that kind of love… but I’m not there anymore.  It only took one moment for my world to turn in a different direction and the path I thought I had paved so perfectly for my life to be obliterated. That white dress never made its debut and the glittering ring was set aside. That moment is now 3.5 years in the past and I can’t say I’m upset or angry things have turned out the way they have. I’m so grateful for what I’ve learned from “falling in love” and really, from falling out of love.

But then again, the thought of opening one’s self to that possibility of hurt, that idea of falling in and then maybe out of love again - oofta. Love is hard.

Yet that’s not really a fair thing to say. Love CAN be hard, but it can also be beautiful. God’s love is beautiful. It can lift you up and out of the darkest moments of your life. It can make you realize that you are worth so very much.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.  
           Psalm 143:8

An earthly relationship is a wonderful blessing from God, yet I couldn’t be more thankful for my season of “falling out of love” and singleness. It has been a time that has opened my eyes to a love that’s so strong, so faithful, so unending, and so perfect. It’s a time that has allowed me to “fall” in the best possible way.

Take some time and fall in love with God - fall into his protective and loving arms.
Fall into him.

Your Personal Independence Day

Do you celebrate your country’s independence day? AMERICAN-FLAG

On the Fourth of July our little city in Wisconsin becomes decked out to celebrate. A parade draws most of the citizens. Parents and children alike are dressed in patriotic red, white and blue. Flags and veterans are treated with respect, with people rising as the uniformed old and young somberly march by. Most everyone seems to sense the real cost of the country’s freedom. A fresh sense of pride renews my patriotic heart and mind.

Do you celebrate your personal independence day?

Maybe like me, you don’t remember your day because you were too young. That day my parents dressed me in a white outfit. They took me to church. Our pastor sprinkled me with water and baptized me in the name of the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s promise of salvation in Jesus was proclaimed. That day I was clothed in the robe of Jesus’ blood and his righteousness.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27

My baptism day was my personal independence day. Through baptism, I was personally brought to faith. God called me by name. God created faith in my heart. God put his Holy Spirit there as a deposit to keep me in faith until Jesus returns for me. My parents were an important part of the process, and I am thankful they wanted me adopted into God’s family as a baby. I am so comforted to know that I did nothing to earn God’s favor.

The Word of God plainly teaches that when we believe in Jesus and are baptized, we become free of the curse of sin and death. We are made alive in Christ. Jesus says,

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Mark 16:16

and

[W]hoever lives by believing in me will never die. John 11:25

In time, when the Lord chooses our homecoming day, we will see Paradise. Whatever joy and pride we experience on this earth as God’s children, prompted by the flag or by a blessing from above will evaporate as we enter our true and permanent home.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20

Will you celebrate your final Independence Day?

This is the day your body will die. Because you are saved, you will see the One who decks you out in the red robe of his blood and the white robe of his righteousness. On that day a believer will be completely free from the enemies of God’s holy and redeemed people: the devil, the world and the sinful flesh.

Just as during the rousing Fourth of July parades we realize anew the cost of our current freedom, remember there was an enormous price of your final freedom. But there's good news! You don’t have to pay because Jesus has it covered. He offered himself as your ransom. He lived a perfect life for you. He died for you and rose again. He loves you personally and wants you to be with him!

As good mothers, take your children to Fourth of July parades and fireworks. Teach them to be good citizens. Better yet, bring them to Jesus through baptism. Bring them often to the foot of the cross. Tell them the wonderful story over and over again. Remind them of their own personal and final independence days!

When all believers stand in heaven honoring the Lord, what a truly glorious day that will be. May both you and your children be in the countless number!

And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:17b

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