a weary world…. rejoices.

Post first shared on http://www.justbeth.blog

“Would you like a double – shot today, Beth?”

Why yes – yes I would. Yes I would like 2 doses of strong espresso in my simple almond milk latte.

2 shots….. yes, a double.

Indeed.

I love our towns little coffee shop. It’s open 3 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch, coffees and dessert. The limited availability keeps my appreciation up for what has come to be a weekly treat. A Simple Almond Milk Latte often with a muffin or danish on the side. Sometimes I pop in for a quick to – go order and other days I meet up with friends to linger with our coffees and good conversation. I love that the owner knows my name. I love that if I’m not visiting with her at the coffee shop I may see her at the Veterinarians offices on the other side of town where she works on the days when the coffee shop is closed. It’s one of the many treasures of small town life. The knowing of the people.

The day Debbie asked me for a double , I hadn’t even considered that option. I had actually never had a double shot in a latte before. It always felt like it would be too much.

Too much caffeine.

Too much money. ( you pay for that shot- unless you’re a character in a Hallmark movie where it feels like the coffee is always “On the house.”)

Too much of a splurge. A latte was one thing but a double shot latte… just felt excessive.

But on that day, the day she offered… it sounded just right.

Perfect actually.

It was my way to take my weary soul and rejoice.

You see, the night before I had received more disheartening news. It came when it was too late for conversation and the only action I could take was attempt to sleep. The night was long and restless. The day ahead felt daunting as my body felt the effects of the rest – less night before. The weariness felt extra that day. I added the news to a long list of energy drainers from this year.

Weary…… from rule changes.

Weary…. from job loss or pay cuts.

Weary ….. from cancellations, re- schedules only to be cancelled again.

Weary…. from what feels like lots of talking but far to little listening.

Weary…. from all that 2020 has dished out.

But… on this day… the day of the double shot… I made a decision.

SO yes – double it up Debbie.

It was in the sipping of my delicious treat that the words to an old Christmas Hymn dropped into my soul. The tune is not one of my favorites so it was odd that was pulled from my memory. The words though… the words.. that describe the event that many of us will celebrate this week… the birth of Jesus – Our Savior… the words…

” A thrill of HOPE… a WEARY world…… REJOICES”

A

Weary

World

Rejoices.

God saw my sleepless night. He knew my Spirit, soul, body and mind were overwhelmed and he reminded me…

Beth…. You are Weary

AND

You can rejoice.

The weariness does not have to cancel your rejoicing.

The shifted holiday plans do not have to defer your hope

The questions that remain unanswered do not have to steal your energy, your focus, and the gifts of the present moment.

Yes – You are Weary.

and yes, You can Rejoice.

December 25 marks the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas or Christmas Tide. It is a segment of time in the Church calendar when we pause to celebrate the birth of Christ. We Rejoice that our Savior had been born, the Savior who has come offering…

HOPE for ALL people.

PEACE for ALL people.

JOY for ALL people.

LOVE for ALL people.

He came in to a Weary world and he invites us to REJOICE.

That day last week, the day of the double shot. It was important. It shifted me. It reminded me that my weariness is legit but my rejoicing can push through. I can say yes to simple pleasures that come my way. I can open my eyes to the gifts of this season. I can live, love, serve and celebrate.

Let’s do it. Let’s expectantly walk through these 12 days of Christmastide with eyes ready to see light in the darkness and let’s agree to be the light for those that just cannot see.

Oh my weary friends… Let’s rejoice. Shall we?

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us NEW BIRTH into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being GUARDED by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You REJOICE in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials…”

Join me over at http://www.justbeth.blog where I’ll walk through Christmastide – committed to finding a reason to rejoice each day.

This sits in the corner of my kitchen counter… Rejoice!

Let Us Go Now…With Our Different Gifts

In recent years, the nativity scene that we traditionally positioned under the Christmas tree in our home has been consigned to the top of our bookshelves in the living room (thanks to our cat and the more recent addition of a grandson).  This requires that I climb a ladder to place the figures in and around the manger, and because I carry each figure separately, I have had more opportunity to study them. 

I’ve always liked the fact that this nativity has not just one or two shepherds, but a group of four, and I find myself drawn especially to the unique characteristics of these figures.  As you can see in the photo, each approaches the stable and the newborn Jesus in his own way. One kneels as he presents an open bag with small loaves of bread, another plays a horn, a third gazes up in stark awe and wonder at the sky that had been filled with angels, and the fourth carries a sheep, draped over his shoulders.

We know that the wise men brought precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to present to the newborn king, but our nativity reminds me that even the humble shepherds had gifts to offer—as people created uniquely by God, they had gifts that differed, just as each of them differed.

I know people who are like these shepherds.  I have friends who, in all situations of need or for gatherings of any kind, are immediately thinking of food. Like the shepherd bringing bread, their first thought is, “They’re going to be hungry.” They have an instinctive sense that food itself is a gift, bringing a sense of well-being, or adding to the fellowship of all who are present. They cringe when others want to dismiss a meal as “too much trouble.”  Food is necessary, and therefore not a trouble to them.

I have other friends whose gift is music, and who likewise consider music to be a gift.  Like the shepherd playing his horn, they seem to be always thinking, “There should be music.” Some of these friends play or sing with a talent that makes me marvel.  Others simply have an enjoyment of it that is contagious, knowing that music can set a tone and enhance the mood of any event.

I have friends who approach God in stark awe and wonder.  Like the shepherd gazing up at the sky, they are all eyes and ears for his message of grace and hope—a reminder to the rest of us that it is entirely appropriate to be blinded now and then by the glory of God and his amazing work in our lives…especially in sending his son, our Savior. 

And I know people who have a strong sense of vocation.  Like the shepherd bearing the sheep on his shoulders, they seem to be what their work is…but also able to join their friends as they participate in the activities of the greater community. With their strong sense of purpose, duty, and responsibility, they can be committed to the efforts and purposes of those around them, as well.  

The Bible really doesn’t give much of a description of the actual shepherds in the account of Jesus birth in Luke 2.  We really have no idea how many there were and speculation about their unique gifts and talents is just that—speculation.  There may have been only two or three, or there may have been a dozen—with two or three or a dozen differing gifts. What we do know is that it was a night like any other, and that they were there in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks by night, when,

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”                           (Luke 2:9-14)

And we also know that the shepherds—after seeing and hearing the angels’ glorious announcement of Jesus’ birth—did not just look around at each other and say, “Wow, that was something!”  Well, they may have said that, or something like it, but Luke 2 continues by telling us what they DID most definitely say to one another: “Let us now go, even unto Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass…” (Luke 2:15, KJV).  And together they went. With their different gifts and unique personalities, they went together and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus. 

After seeing the angel’s words confirmed, they again did not just look at each other and say, “Well, that was nice.” Well, they may have said that, or something like it, but what we know for sure is that they went and “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17). This thought strikes me as an important one.  They went together, with one purpose, to spread the word.  But each most likely did it in his own way, in his own style—and this is good, because those who heard this news, and were amazed by it, were also unique and different, hearing and receiving in different ways.  Each of the shepherds brought something unique to the spreading of that good news!

It is now December 24, 2020, and it’s time again to celebrate our Savior’s birth. In many places in this incredible year, we will celebrate in new and unique and perhaps non-traditional ways. But let’s remember that we are nonetheless doing it together. Each of us, uniquely made and uniquely gifted, can say to one another, “Let us go now…and see this thing that has come to pass, that has also been made known to us!”

One of the things I would like to remember in 2020 is that, gathered together to worship in church, or worshiping from a distance and online, the body of Christ is still the body of Christ, and each of us who is part of this group of believers in Jesus is uniquely gifted for the sake of that body and the Good News of Jesus.  This is assurance that God gives us in his Word, and there is much for us to do, as God’s people, both in encouraging one another and bringing hope and healing to the world around us.

So–let us go now!  Let’s be like the shepherds.  We have gifts that differ.  Let’s bring them with us as we celebrate the good news announced by the angels when Jesus was born.  And then let’s also “go now” to spread the word, knowing that God has uniquely gifted us for that, as well!                                                                                                                       

I saw her.

Oct. 22, 2020. It finally happened. My first real tears inspired by COVID-19. I was one day into a new decade of life, one I had looked forward to in the way a 15 year old looks forward to the freedoms that come with their sweet 16. Many dread this milestone – but I was all in. One of my husbands students recently referred to someone this age as elderly. Whatever – I was Excited with a capital E.

I turned 50 – 18262 trips around the sun. I have lived some life, tackled many mountains both personally and professionally. My faith in a loving, providing God is solid. I’m now looking forward to the stage that provides opportunities to mentor young women who are on the journey I have previously traversed. I even feel fairly confident I can continue to walk the road of the challenges of 2020 with hope and expectation as well as bring a bunch of people along with me.

I love birthdays!

But then it happened. I had made it 7 months before allowing this nasty pandemic to push me to face the emotions I’d actually been feeling all along. Time and time again I had wanted to pause, to feel, to honor the sadness that just kept coming. I never did. Each day required a new thought, a new skill, a better attitude, a brighter outlook to just keep going. But that afternoon, sitting in my office after having made yet another decision that would keep us and others around us safe, I cried.

Really cried.

Crocodile tears, loud nose blows, cried. Me, alone in my pink desk chair, feeling the unexpected weight that comes with loss. I was overwhelmed with the reality that COVID had not only hit our town, our high school but now our family. I was feeling decision fatigue as my husband and I evaluated how to handle our situation. I longed for the day that being sick didn’t involve the health department, contact tracing and the intense opinions of others.

And then I saw her.

It was on this day, this day that the disappointments that fueled so much anger and sadness broke through, that I happened upon this loved one. The kind of person that knows you well. The kind of person that has seen you in some things and can speak the words your heart needs to hear.

It was just a glimpse, but a I saw her.

The lines surrounding her eyes spoke of years filled with both laughter and tears that had taken a toll on the sensitive skin that is the first to show signs of age. ( I sell skin care – I know these things.)

I saw her.

The nose shared by her mom and her sisters. The mouth quick to smile unspoken words of encouragement.

I saw her.

The sigh that accompanies deeper thoughts that most likely would not be shared with anyone but herself and her journal. The desire to see the bright side.

I saw her.

Her face was one I’d seen a million times. It was familiar, it brought comfort, it held wisdom that only comes from living many days on earth.

I saw her.

What I love about looking into the eyes of someone you know well is that entire conversations can be had without ever speaking a word and I could tell – she wanted to tell me something. It’s a sweet gift God gives to those that share a heart connection. That is what happened to me in this one, chance sighting.

In those brief moments as we looked at each other I heard her say…

Good Job.

You are Loved.

You are ready.

God’s still got you.

Nothing is too hard for your God.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God has great plans for you.

As I turned from her face I was filled with a hope that comes from a deep knowing. A peace that is rooted in truth. I shook my head as I moved my eyes from her gaze because it was one that should have been impossible to share. This face, the one that told me so much, belonged to…

my mom.

She lives hundreds of miles away.

The surprise was that she was no where close when I caught her gaze,

but all of a sudden…….

I was looking her

square…

in the eyes.

This wonderful, telling meeting between my mothers eyes and mine – it happened ..

in my bathroom.

As I stood looking in the mirror.

I saw her. Her wisdom, her love, her compassion, her grace…. things that show up with those fine lines around your eyes, I saw them…..

in me.

Heres to 50 and all the gifts it brings.

my momma and me – she’s taught me so much.

Toy Story

I don’t like the new Toy Story movies. Ok, I enjoy them as movies, but something about them just feels off to me. I finally hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago: Andy grew up. Ok, ok, I know, that’s the whole premise of the movies, but I didn’t realize that’s why they bothered me. Until Toy Story 3, I could dig in the basket underneath our tv, pull out the worn DVD case, and pop in one of Pixar’s earliest classics. I could enjoy a well-worn plot and hear the old familiar lines, “You are a Toy!” by Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. No matter how many times I watch the movie, they are frozen in time and I get lost in the comfortable entertainment.

But the new installments ripped away that comfortable feeling. In Toy Story 3, Andy grows up and gives his toys away… forcing me to recognize that I grew up and left my comfortable home, my parents, and lifestyle to forge a life of my own (soon joined with my sweet husband). At the time, I was excited, a little naive, and also a little… well… young. I couldn’t wait for the next life stage, forgetting to slow down and enjoy the one I was in.

In Toy Story 4, Woody realizes that he no longer is the beloved toy, and has to completely change his trajectory. (Spoiler alert!) He leaves the life he knows and forges a new one with Bo Peep.

I think my whole life I have had this false belief that my memories were not just memories, but bookmarks of time to which I can eventually return. I kept those bookmarks saved so that I can go back to those beautiful barefoot frisbee afternoons at college in the Triangle, back to summers at home with morning daycare and long afternoons on the beach, back to those first moments as a mom, a newborn snuggled to my chest with no other children demanding attention.  Back to our wedding. Back to the best (and worst) times in life. I could just pull the worn DVD out of its case and relive it.

But I can’t. Life is linear. As much as we like to watch time travel shows and movies – it’s not reality. 

Certain parts of linear time appeal, while others bring stinging tears: I’m ok with turning 30 but I’m not ok admitting that I won’t see beloved places and people again on earth. I love the ages that my children are now, but I miss their newborn smell and simpler days. I’m thankful for the wisdom that age has brought, but I’m embarrassed by the way I acted in my youth and I want to go back and fix it.

God is above time. God is not limited by time. And although I struggle with my humanity, it is comforting to know that I am held by a limitless being. That my sorrows over lost time and past time are held by the eternal one.

Christ beside me, Christ before me.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

My talented brother-in-law carved “Woody” into my Toy Story loving son’s pumpkin.