We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Brand New Year, but the Same Old Me

Every year, it’s the same. When the magic of Christmas morphs into a craving for normalcy, we attack the house with determination! Like tin soldiers, we march the boxes of holiday decorations up to the attic to hibernate for the next eleven months. The furniture pieces finally stand at attention in their rightful places. The vacuum readies the floor for inspection. When my planner says December 31, I feel driven to launch the new year clean and organized — well, as much as possible with a loveable pack-rat husband in the house!

For me, when another year makes its debut, there’s something invigorating about the pursuit of unlittered spaces, tidy drawers and easy-to-find-it closets. I delight in the mystery of a fresh journal and the anticipation of an unexplored project or opportunity. Deep inside I find myself eager for change. Even the concept of new acknowledges the reality of old. I feel grateful for the prospects of starting over, for the relief of leaving the past behind. I’m more than ready to press the reset button.

So much potential waits unbirthed in the word new. So much promise. A new year and a new beginning . . . but there’s one problem. I’m the same old me. What difference does a new calendar make? I have the same weaknesses, the same blind spots, the same propensities for mistakes, for…sin. I’d like to wrestle out of this prison suit of flesh, but it marks me. Though positionally I’m free from sin and I’ve been named a new creation, my very nature still contains me like barbed wire. I can't seem to live up to my own ideals. Like the apostle of old, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18b, 19).

A brand new year, but the same old me. Yet, God is the same, too (Psalm 102:27). He is the great I AM (John 8:58), “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He offers the same love-motivated redemption (1 John 3:16). His forgiveness cleanses me (1 John 1:9). His promise to never leave me or forsake me gives security and stability (Hebrews 13:5). I, with my flesh-stamped heart, can enter the new year’s untold secrets with confidence. The God of the universe remains unchanged. I can count on Him.

As I step into 2013, I want to focus on the same gracious, consistent God instead of on the same old me. I want to reach beyond the temporal sense of time to the eternal. I long to hear His words when He will press the reset button for the last time: “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

Even me!

Even you!

* First published in Catapult Magazine, Vol. 9, Num. 24, 2010.12.31-2011.01.13.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Heavenly Peace

Rummaging through my memories this past week, I uncovered some peace and perspective, a remembrance tucked away the Christmas of 2004. Here's my story:

Stars peered down to watch us stand among a group of bundled up strangers in the crisp, cold darkness. As we waited, bits of conversation and clouds of white escaped our lips. The frantic pace of all that comes with Christmas suddenly seemed far away here at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm.* How many years did I determine to somehow simplify the holidays? Tradition’s strong tug and the fear of disappointing my family put miles on my Reeboks, piles of bowls and cookie sheets in the sink, and lists in my dreams. I physically felt the pressure, and even coming here for this “nice family event” became one more thing to do.

My husband squeezed my mittened hand, and our little daughter smiled up at me as a costumed guide led us to a blazing outdoor fire. We sat on rough log benches and listened to him recount bits of local German history. The fire snapped and leaped. I began to warm up to the idea of sharing this time together. The peacefulness of the place seeped into my heart, and the tension slipped out into the night.

Our tour took us inside log cabins to simpler celebrations in various time periods. We visited a one room school house where we sang carols with our stranger-friends. And yes, the pathway even led to the barn. Here, among the farm animals, musicians played the old Christmas hymns on a guitar, violin, and autoharp. Interspersed with the sweet melodies, the familiar Old and New Testament Scriptures whispered God’s beautiful story of hope for mankind. Tears blurred my eyes as my heart reached for each word. Somehow, standing in the clear winter chill enveloped only in the wonder of a miracle, the holiday season came back into proper focus. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior . . . Emmanuel . . . God with us” (Luke 2:11; Matthew 1:23). The lump in my throat could not stop the prayer from my soul - a prayer of confession, of thanksgiving, of praise for His lavish love and grace.
As we walked back along the path lit with white paper bag lanterns and gratefully sipped hot cider, I savored this heavenly peace. Back home the pile of packages still waited to be wrapped, the cookies still needed frosting, and events still filled up too many boxes on the calendar. Yet it all faded into the background. The image of redemption stood clearly in the forefront. God used the simplicity of the past to give perspective to the present. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

*Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm
Old Time Christmas 2012 
Saturday & Sunday, December 8th and 9th
Public tours - 3:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. with continuous tours every 15 minutes
Reservations not needed. The last tour starts at 7:15 p.m.

Group Tours (12 or more) by reservation only, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

All photos from Quiet Valley Website