And I’d been joyfully praying over and planning what to write about in November (and possibly December). It’s kind of an odd phenomenon to be this plan-y for me, you guys. But I really like it!
Especially, because it gives me an opportunity to look at what God is saying to me lately.
The message has been overwhelmingly, abundantly clear: abide.
I’ve longed for peace.
I’ve asked for clarity.
I’ve prayed to know the Lord better.
And I keep hearing the answer: Abide.
Amidst all of the swirling questions about things that do and don’t matter, I find I mix them all up and require an anchor. The answer keeps repeating like a sounding joy, Abide.
To my shock (not really), abiding doesn’t fall within the spectrum of things I’m good at. And it’s grown more evident, like a whisper that rises to a shout, that passage in John 15:
The Vine and the Branches
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful.3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
So, that’s what we’ll be exploring around here as we enter into my absolute favorite time of year! Abiding in Christ to cultivate a season of peace.
Thanksgiving was this week. (This public service announcement has been brought to you, free of charge, by me. You’re welcome.)
I love Thanksgiving. I love food and gratitude, one of which I tend to be more known for than the other… And family, of course. But I love that Thanksgiving is without the pressure of presents. Don’t get me wrong. I love presents. I love giving them. I love getting them! (I like them in a box. I like them with some socks… Did you not sense the Seussical cadence?) But sometimes, the whole, simple, lovely event of giving and/or getting a gift is sullied by the tyranny of obnoxious commercials and abrasive banners, all urging the masses to hurry yourself over here and buy up every last list-filler. The early bird gets the worm, after all! (A highly unattractive and unmotivating picture if you ask me… It should’ve gone, “The early bird gets Starbucks” or something.)
And I promise not to spend the entire post bemoaning the fact that more businesses are open on Thursday too. Did you hear me? Thursday. THURSDAY. Aka, Thanksgiving Day! It’s just nonsense. There is no such thing as a retail emergency, so unlike hospitals, there’s no reason Target should be open. The affrontery. (Which apparently can also be spelled “effrontery.” Make up your mind, stupid English language.)
Ok. I’m done.
As previously stated, I love Thanksgiving. I love that there’s a holiday intended purely for fellowship and gratitude. Key word here being “intended.” Humans have such a talent for missing the point, and this is no less obvious at Thanksgiving, when- instead of filling with gratitude and joy- we sometimes settle to merely fill up to bursting on food, and then spend a significant portion of the time digging for Black Friday coupons so we can get more stuff… kind of contrary to the whole being content with what you have thing. Not to say I didn’t do both of those things, or that they are inherently bad in and of themselves… But it never ceases to amaze me how easily derailed I can be from the good things I intend to do. Know what I mean?
I love how this time of year can soften us in spite of ourselves- can coax us to relent to gatherings with friends, new and old. We give in to beauty, adorning our tables, our homes, our cities- it’s like an act of defiance. Creation suggests gray trees and brown landscapes, but we festoon the world with garlands and lights and bright baubles, and we feast our eyes and hearts and starving souls. In days of shadow, we bravely herald light. Even in seemingly frivolous and silly ways, sometimes.
Two Friday nights ago, for example, I got to go with a friend of mine to a craft night. A craft night, people!! And I didn’t have to buy anything or bring anything or prep anything, except scissors (which of course I ended up leaving behind). We just showed up and they had these three tables laden with all their crafty goodness. We were briefly shown how to accomplish the task at hand, and set loose upon a handful of wooden blocks and paint, armed with some hot chocolate from their- wait for it- hot chocolate bar. YOU GUYS.
But though I prepared myself to relish in the hot-chocolatey goodness and inevitable sugar high from hot chocolate AND the full plate of varied chocolatey-type snacks that were available, they ended up only partially sampled and nearly forgotten once the crafting began. (Partly because there was paint all over my fingers fairly soon after I started. The ONE time I don’t have baby wipes with me…)
After a slight mix-up that resulted in our arrival at an hour and a half after the actual start time (we firmly blame the Facebook Event page… which I maintain must have been struggling with some lingering confusion after the time change), we settled in and began the first craft. Because there were- apparently- three. Which would’ve been super exciting except that I get somewhat perfectionistic and exceptionally slow on the uptake when hearing instructions. So, it took me longer than any normal person to just begin…
Isn’t it cute?! And who isn’t a sucker these days for a good DIY-holiday-sign-project???
Here it is on the teensy little mirror in our apartment that vaguely functions as a minuscule hall tree (since we don’t have room for an actual hall tree/entryway). I love it, because one side is for autumn/Thanksgiving, and the other is Christmasy… You’ll have to wait for the inevitable post about Christmas and my subsequent attempts to festoon Christmasy-goodness all over our little apartment to see that side. (Is that the second time I’ve used the word “festoon” in this post? Well, now you have something fun to mumble under your breath.) So filled with pride was I over this great feat of artistic achievement, that I brought it along with me to my parents house last week to show them. (Again, very like a child displaying a macaroni necklace they made.)
Give Thanks. Oh, that this would be the banner over my whole life. Ann Voskamp shared through this book her own revelations about thanksgiving, counting gifts, realizing how in Scripture giving thanks always precedes the miracle, and instead of attempting to sum up the entire book in this sentence, I encourage you to do whatever must be done to get your hands on it ASAP! It’s not that she is the single greatest authority on living thankful or anything- she’s a seeker just like you and me. She just shares her journey of knowing God better, knowing his intentions for us better, and understanding how big a part thanksgiving plays in that journey. (The reason I echo her so frequently is because I have often merely played at being thankful, treating it more like a pretty word than a powerful, life-changing way of being.)
So, I now have these humble little blocks of painted wood to add to our fall decor. They cheerfully, ardently beckon me to live in the abundance thanksgiving creates. Such a soul-healing thing, thankfulness. It slows me down, helps me rest; in the chaos of a Black Friday world, it breathes into me the peace of Christ. And when you slow down, you stop seeing things in a blur, and there’s enough room for wonder again. “Let every heart prepare him room,” thankfulness cries.
Sometimes it’s a hard and brave thing to be thankful- and really thankful, not just the obligatory lip service we guilt ourselves into. Which isn’t thankfulness at all! When we feel like there’s only mediocrity and famine, thankfulness opens our eyes to the feast.
So, whether you had a Thanksgiving akin to a Norman Rockwell painting, or whether you felt that the Black Friday mindset invaded and left you reeling, I hope you can be blessed and un-blinded to the feast before you as we head into December. And together, maybe we can stand in defiant thankfulness in a scrambling, unseeing world.
Here’s some loveliness from our Thanksgiving this year (Lucy’s first!):
Did you do anything special for Thanksgiving this year? Or see any particularly well-festooned mantles??