arrival of advent

The arrival of advent awaits us.  Beginning December 3, the church begins a season of expectation and waiting, culminating on Christmas Day as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A few friends of mine have put together a contemplative advent guide, which will be available for free.  Check back here later this coming week for a link to download.  This guide is meant to help you create some calm in the midst of this often busy season.  We hope it is a blessing and refreshment to your soul this season.

Check back here for a few of my original writing and poetry, as I’ll post on the day each one is read in the guide.

Peace to you this Christmas season.

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And we’re back…

I’ve been away from the blog for a while – well to be honest the last year (or more) I’ve struggled to keep up because life is busy, and my constant thoughts rarely make it on to paper (or a word doc).  However, a lot has happened over the past few months/couple years, so I DO have good reasons for my absence.  Instead of telling you, I’ll show you life in photos…

I shall soon return (I promise).  I can’t NOT blog… with my constant stream of theological thoughts and discussions forever in my head, or out loud with my husband.  I’ll be back!

Malaysia, January 2016IMG_2998.jpg

Home in KoreaIMG_3584.jpg

Looking down from BukansanIMG_3127.jpg

Family, December 2016IMG_6701.JPG

Scott and I at the North Korea boarder, Spring 2017IMG_7299.jpg

Saying goodbye to Korea, my home for 2 years, June 2017IMG_1310.jpgIMG_8231.jpg

Most certainly the best day of my life, with many more to come, July 8, 2017AnnabelMayPhotoArt-134.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-293.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-267.jpgannabelmayphotoart.com 

146,000 silent nights

Malachi 3:1  “’I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

These were last words God spoke.  For 400 years.

The people waited.
And they kept waiting.
400 years passed;
God was silent.
146,000 silent nights.
But all the people were watching and waiting,
and watching some more.

They were not fighting each other.
They were not worshipping other gods…
for the first time in a LONG time.

They knew God was with them as they watched and waited,
but, the promise…
from the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a son is born
Unto us a son is given
The peace, justice, righteousness…
they knew these were coming.
They knew HE was coming.

But, do you think the people wanted to give up?
Did they get tired of waiting?
Did they think God’s promises weren’t going to come to be?

Maybe.

But the next time God spoke, it wasn’t through a judge, king or prophet.
It was in the cry of a Baby.
God would break the silent nights, with a not so silent night,
through the screaming cry of a baby.
The Son of God,
Emmanuel,
GOD WITH US.

Two people waited expectantly day and night in the temple worshipping God, waiting for the Messiah, or the Christ.

Luke 2:25-32  “There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:
‘Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples— a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.'”

Luke 2:36-38  “There was also a prophetess, Anna […] . She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Simeon and Anna both were waiting,
and after waiting so long, they finally gazed into the eyes of God-
a baby.

Someone asked me last week – why do we celebrate Jesus coming at Christmas time so much? What’s so special about it?

Jesus was and still is the hope of all mankind.
Jesus was and is God – who came to earth to live as one of us,
to share in our sufferings, our struggles,
to live as we live,
and years later – this baby, now a man
would die on a cross and rise again
because of one reason:

LOVE.

God’s love for us – you and I and this entire world
is so big that he didn’t leave us alone,
He didn’t leave us to walk this life alone
He came to be with us,
He came to rescue us.

And that indeed is good news,
the good news of love
that was worth waiting for all those years.

Love.

 

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until it happens

Isn’t it funny?
Everything seems like a great idea
until it happens.

Move across the country and attend seminary..
but leave all your friends and family behind.
Move across the country so you can [potentially] meet your spouse..
but have everyone you’ve loved and longed for leave or let you down.
Move across the world to do ministry and be near your family…
but live with questions and fears whether it was really the right thing.

I live in the tension
of the life I long to live
and the life I’m living right now.
As if these two were so different
but sometimes they are in my mind.

Faced with a choice and decision that will impact the destination of the next chapter.

Move back to the land of barrenness and heartache…
to perhaps grasp what I’ve been reaching for.
Move to a land unknown full of possibilities…
only to be left alone, with myself and my thoughts.

Reaching forward and reaching back
cannot be done at the same time,
you must choose: future or past.
Which will dictate your path?
The choices you didn’t choose, or the chances you did take?

Perhaps all that we long for and all that we hope,
are right in front of us, right under our nose.
Perhaps the person we are and the person we long to be
are one in the same,
and the tension of both can become one.

It’s not really funny
many things seem like great ideas
until reality sets in
until it happens.
But the true treasure lies in your moments and days
embracing today while it is still called “today.”

Life-Love-Quotes-Start-living-Today.jpg

“you know just enough to be dangerous”

Those words still echo through my mind, spoken by a professor friend of mine.

I walked (maybe even skipped) across the big stage to receive my degree from Dallas Seminary in May but in that moment, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t done yet.  There was more left to know and learn.

I know enough to be dangerous, but I know I need more.

Which is why I’m up blogging at 2:49am instead of sleeping.

So… what do you want to do with that?

What do you want to do with that degree?
Is this [job] what you were hoping to do as a career?
How long are you planning to stay?

The questions we ask people about life, whether it be careers, marriage, children, hobbies, etc… often are the wrong questions to ask.  During day one of orientation for my Master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary I was asked numerous times, “What degree program are you in?” closely followed by the question, “Oh, great, so what do you hope to do with that?”  Or, “What kind of ministry are you planning to serve in after you finish?”

So many of our questions are leading questions.  We intend to lead people to a specific type of answer.  An answer that belongs in a neatly organized box.  And not only that, but these questions do not focus on the heart of who the person we are conversing with, rather, we are forcing people to answer in a particular way so that we can categorize them.

Since my move here to Seoul, I have been asked too many times, “Oh, so is this job what you were wanting to do when you attended seminary?”

Um, no.  It isn’t.  Wasn’t.

I had no clue I would be here.
I have no clue how long I will be here.
I have no clue where I will go next.

God only knows.

And that’s the thing about all our grand plans: they aren’t ours.  We can plan all day until our faces are blue and our fingers are bleeding with callouses: we cannot know the future.

Proverbs rightly reminds us: “A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NET)

Throwing away old bras

I was raised in a frugal family. There you have it.

I have three younger sisters and I can recall in seventh grade only having two “cool” shirts and one pair of ultra cool wide-legged jeans (seriously, “classic” fit or “skinny” jeans were NOT cool!). I always hoped Mom would do laundry on Tuesdays so I could rotate and wear the two cool shirts again Wednesday and Thursday, and then of course Fridays we had to wear dresses to chapel, so I could some how put together a semi-cool looking chapel dress. On one occasion, I remember on a Saturday not having anything clean to wear that was “cool” so I threw on a pair of pink colored jeans and a non-cool shirt to make a trip over to Wal-Mart. To my complete horror and utter embarrassment, one of the popular girls was also there, shopping with her Mom.

Yes, I hid in the aisle.

We were on a budget.

So along these lines, I have this habit of never really throwing clothes away as a result of growing up in such a money-conscious family. I’m not a pack rat, I can throw things away, but clothes, that’s a different story.

Same thing with bras. (Sorry, maybe not so sorry if you’re offended by this post, but it’s true). I have so many bras that have been washed, rewashed, and then worn over and over again. Think about it, you wear a bra every day, so of course it’s going to get used a LOT.

Over time, these rather essential female undergarments get extremely worn out. Stretched. Sweat upon. Then there’s body fluctuations: weight gain, weight loss. All these things play into a bra really being treated poorly. Sorry there little guys.

I have a few bras I’ve been wearing for way too long, but, how could I possibly throw them away? Tossing one of those into the garbage can like a dirty tissue, then letting it sit there so every time I go into the bathroom and see it sitting there I hear it crying out: How could you do this to me after all we have been through? Why are you getting rid of me? Don’t you ever want to see me again? Let me give you another lift!!!

But you see, just like these bras I really need to toss into the garbage, tie the bag, walk out to the garbage bin and say: SAYONARA!, there are also many things like people, attitudes, fears, worries etc that we tend to keep around way too long in our lives, can I get an amen? We keep them around for security. What will my life be like without this person? Or, Can I really live with freedom instead of fear? Or…. the list goes on. Excuses to keep things around that honestly don’t belong in our lives in the first place.

Why do we hold onto these things?

There are probably many reasons, but one big reason: fear.
We humans fear the unknown.
We fear what we cannot control.
We fear that letting go of something that has become a security blanket for us, and we simply cannot imagine living without it. Him. Her. Security. Meaning. Future. Past. Pain. Worry.

So, I cannot promise anything. Letting go is scary, I know this. I’ve walked through this… BUT, we serve a God who is constant. Unchanging. Ever present. WILL NOT LET GO OF US.

Sometimes we are asked to give things up that we think are “good” but actually are not good at all. They serve a purpose of comfort for us, but ultimately may have no purpose in the greater story of our lives. They may be holding us back from what truly is GOOD for us, not just “good.”

This is not a sermon or exegetical paper, so don’t take these verses to mean I’m saying they directly can be interpreted or applied to what I’m speaking about. But let’s consider: God gives only good, that is His determination of what is Good, to us.

Psalm 34:8-10
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

Now, I might still get a few more uses out of my old bras – don’t judge me, it takes time for me to let go of certain things!  But, can we learn to let go and trust the Lord in those areas of our lives where He is asking us to open our strong grasp on things that may not be ours to hold onto at all?