Step #12. Remember

season

This entire series, 12 Steps to Stay in Tune this Season, isn’t the end all be all. I don’t attempt to claim expert status. I’ve simply been sharing what the Lord has taught me about keeping the main thing THE MAIN THING throughout November and December. Thanksgiving must be more than turkey and Black Friday deals. Christmas is so much more than decorations and wish lists. Around Mid-October I determined that I didn’t want to end up frustrated and worn thin on Christmas Eve. I resolved this year would be different.

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

This song easily became my motto. I heard it while shopping. I sang it as I rocked my baby. The lyrics have stayed with me and reminded me to seek what matters, to have a heart tuned to God’s grace.

Reminded.

Remembered.

We must remember why these dates are celebrated on the calendar. We must tell our souls the stories of God’s provision and faithfulness. We remember so we don’t forget.

stepStep #12. Remember.

“I am a wandering Israelite who sees the flame in the sky above, the pillar, the smoke from the mountain, the earth open up and give way, and still I forget. I am beset by chronic soul amnesia. I empty of truth and need the refilling. I need to come again every day–bend, clutch, and remember…” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

 

Remember how Mary was not chosen out of her perfection, but out of her willingness. Remember the first “Silent Night” was probably anything but silent. For while our Savior was sinless, he was most certainly fully human-  and much crying he probably did make. Remember the wise men who saw with their eyes and believed with their feet… they followed.

 

All this to say, in five days, when you sit by yourself or with your family in front of a tree, around a table, in a wooden pew, or on a cushioned chair… remember the 42 generations who awaited the birth of the Messiah. Recall the young teenage girl who gave up her expectations for God’s amazing reality. Picture the infant breathing his first gulp of air and wailing – and then the man who cried out and gave up his last breath on Calvary. This God made flesh has come.

remember

 

 

“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

 

Following,
Ginger

Step #7. Give Grace

season

I didn’t post anything yesterday. Since starting this series I’ve made an attempt to post every Tuesday and Wednesday. My parents were in town visiting until late yesterday afternoon. I made being present a priority. I hardly opened my computer. Apologies if you are awaiting an e-mail response from me! It’s coming soon.

In the past I might have let my inbox or the need to post translate into stress. But not this year. I’m finally learning to just let go. There is zero chance of me living up to a Martha Stewart Christmas. My side dishes for Thanksgiving won’t make it onto your Pinterest board. I will not be meeting the expectations of our culture’s holiday season, and the sooner I remember that fact the more pleasant my days will be! Part of tuning my heart to sing grace actually involves the permission to say “no” in order to say “yes” to receiving grace.

I’m talking to you, Miss/Mr./Mrs./Ms. Perfection. This season that celebrates the Prince of Peace also threatens to steal our peace. But let’s make a promise right here and now: fight guilt with grace.

stepStep #7. Give Grace

  • The house doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe this is the year to scale back on decorations, or even gifts. Perhaps the tree doesn’t make an appearance until December 20th. Don’t take on the whole meal, ask guests to bring all the side dishes. Stop apologizing for the mess, instead, welcome others into your home with a willing heart.
  • It’s okay to play hookie every once in a while. I don’t want to miss an appointment or be rude, but sometimes I also just need to tell myself that the world will not stop spinning if I don’t write a blog post! You can express real regret (when you RSVP – which apparently is a lost art!) when you have to decline attending your 8th party of the year.
  • On the other hand, sometimes we say “yes” to others in order to bless them, even when there’s nothing gain on our end. I will always remember my mom telling me about the shift she made in her thinking about funerals. She doesn’t attend for the person who has passed, instead she attends in order to love on those who are hurting and grieving. There are a lot of things I don’t “feel” like doing – but it’s not always about me, is it? Maybe White Elephant exchanges aren’t your thing, so you take one for the team rather than acting the Grinch at the party.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt to the cashier, waiter, or staff member. We never know what kind of day someone else is having. Demonstrating patience is a tangible evidence of grace.
  • Freely dole out grace to friends and family who are also fighting the stress of the season! Push off any drama by being the one who is quick to speak kindly and forgive quickly.

“Grace isn’t natural, but supernatural. The natural responses when you get hurt are either to strike back or to withdraw. When we instead step out of the way and allow God to work through us, responding with unfailing love, even perennials that have endured a deep freeze may lift up their wilting heads and live.” (Dee Brestin, The Friendships of Women)

  • Encourage others to walk in grace. Instead of bragging in this year’s Christmas letter, speak truth! Lead by example and be willing to admit that although you had a great 2013, it also had some really trying chapters. For instance: I just wrote this sentence after my daughter made me cry. Yes. We’re both crying. I’ve been trying to put her down for a nap for almost 2 hours. SHE JUST NEEDS SLEEP. Forget accomplishing anything today, the kid needs to nap for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Love her to the moon and back but want to scream, “CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SLEEEEEEEP.” Authenticity is a gift this time of year.
  • Daily connect with the Author of Grace. If we want to have grace for ourselves we need to find it at the true source!

This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all. 

…To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

pumpkin

Gift yourself the chance to be less than perfect this season. Rely on the Lord and depend upon His strength. When you start resting on the promise that you are loved and that His grace is enough, you can’t help but sing of that grace.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer