So much stretches out before us in a new year. Plans, appointments, schedules, events. We fill in the little boxes on our calendars, and we make our agenda.
At the same time, there is so much to come. So much on the way to our lives that can’t be scribbled into a little white box.
Happy New Year, 2018!
We make our plans, and God makes His.
I pray for all your new years and your fresh starts and for all your calendars. I bless all the days to come. I stand with you for your hopes and dreams. I pray that all the things that need to go are overwhelmed in a fresh wave of God’s love for you. I pray for new visions, new relationships, healing, blessing, provision, protection. I pray for a new sense of order in every area of your life. I pray for all the old things that have expired to fall away, and for them to be replaced with His best for you in every way.
Here we go.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! 2 Cor 5:17
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
Identity is a subject that is talked about all the time. In cultural circles, it is one of the hottest topics of our day.
Don’t try to be something you’re not.
A week ago, I was getting ready for church.
I used to try to have all the little details of my life perfect, especially when my family was going somewhere in public. My clothes laid out, the kids’ clothes laid out, my hair perfect, their hair perfect. Everyone’s nails clipped and filed, mine perfectly manicured. Coordinating hair bows, loose strings cut, sweaters lint-rolled till they shined. You get it.
Our culture tells us “Don’t be something you’re not, but, oh by the way, be perfect!” All at the same time. And we buy into it.
Because, what will happen if we don’t?
I make choices daily about how I use my time. Having all the little details perfect back then meant that I spent a lot of time on those details, shining shoes, ironing, micromanaging the kids on little things.
And we buy into it.
I still care about those things. I’m not saying that I have become a slob. In fact, I’ve learned how to work smarter and not harder in a lot of areas. “Lord, help me work smarter, not harder!” One of my favorite prayers. Everyday wisdom. Jesus. Oh, how we need it.
I still care about those things, but I don’t care about them nearly as much as I used to because I no longer take my identity from them.
“Identity” was a word that used to infuriate me when I first came back to the church. The women in the weekly Bible study I attended said “identity” to each other, their eyes meeting, knowing looks, head nodding. Identity. Girl. Mmmhmm. Like it was a world in a word. And it is. But their extreme confidence in something I did not understand frustrated me to the point of rage.
Lord, help me work smarter, not harder.
Christianese is only helpful if we translate.
I wanted to know what they knew. I started to pray into this word. “Identity. Identity in Christ. What does that even mean, God? I want to know.”
I started to see what Jesus died for. What He wanted for us, for me. Redeemed. All the junk that I thought was a lost cause in me, all the areas of damage, all the areas of failure. He died so that I could have a different identity. I was not what I did. I was whatHe did. I was what He died for.
Christianese is only helpful if we translate.
It’s a walking out. What we know as identity will continue to grow as we grow closer to Him.
You become like the people you spend the most time with. I want to be more like Jesus. I’m spending more time with Him than I am on all the little details. And I’m spending more time trying to follow Him where I think He’s leading me. I do think He cares about the way we take care of ourselves, but those things can become idols. We can go overboard on anything if we don’t understand that identity comes from Him, His life, His death, His vision for us.
You become like the people you spend the most time with.
Our lives are not our own.
Instead of making lists that are set in stone and making everyone miserable as I try to check them off, I’m asking more questions. “How did You make me? What is on Your list for me today? What am I in You?” I’m able to walk out in more confidence when my to-do list comes from One so much bigger than I am, One who loves so well.
So. Back to getting ready for church.
I had gone to an event the night before and gotten home late. I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready for the morning before I went to bed. I know how I am when I don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority. The details have to come later. I chose rest.
And, again in the morning, I chose rest. I slept as long as I could, and I got up with about 45 minutes to get ready.
What is on Your list for me today?
I knew I wasn’t going to be super dressy, no time for that. So I picked up a pair of jeans. Fine. Jeans are fine.
Then, I started going through my drawers. I felt a little stressed and rushed. I picked up a sweater that is pretty, but I don’t love it on me. I started going through the drawer again, looking for something that I felt better about wearing.
And I heard that old phrase, “Don’t try to be something that you’re not.”
And I felt offended.
“What, Lord? I’m not doing that. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy dressing up and putting different pieces together. I’m not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘trying to be something I’m not!’ What are you talking about?”
I am learning that when I am offended by the Holy Spirit, I like to throw a little fit. And then when I get it out, He’s still there, waiting. And then I say, “Ok. Fine. I don’t understand because I don’t think that I am that/do that/think that. But whatever. Please. Show me what you mean.” That’s just how it goes. Every time.
And He does.
I felt that He was saying, “Just stop a minute. Be honest with yourself about what you are right now.”
Please. Show me what you mean.
And I got it.
What I am right now. What I was, right then.
I was someone who chose sleep over details that day. I was someone who chose blogging over ironing that week. I was someone who chose time with my kids over shining shoes and cutting threads. I was someone who chose to put a party together for my friends instead of dying my hair.
I do all those self care things–again, I don’t want to sound like those things don’t matter. They do matter. I’m not all holier than thou. Trust me. I like my hair done. I like when my boots are tall and my makeup is on point. It’s just that, the reality of what I was in that moment was not someone who had made those things a priority. I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to make up for a week of putting other things first by tearing through a drawer trying to find the perfect sweater. I wasn’t going to be able to get ready for church and be on time by trying to be something I wasn’t.
I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes.
I felt relief. Permission to move forward. Perfect is just not going to happen today. Maybe never. I put on the less-than-perfect sweater. I didn’t even try to fix my hair. I brushed it and put on a hat. I grabbed the first jewelry I saw. I did simple makeup. I have no idea what the kids wore, but they got themselves ready for church on time with no prodding. To me, that’s success. Two teens and a tween in the van, on their own, on time, with no pushing from mom. Thank You, Lord.
It’s a journey, this identity thing. But one thing I know. I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am. Rushed? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? I don’t have to wallow in it, but I don’t need to be in denial about it either, in the name of perfectionism, or optimism.
Or even in the name of faith.
I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am.
Real faith doesn’t have to lie about circumstances. Real faith is honest about the mess and brings it to God and says, “Ok, God. It’s Your mess. Now what?”
And here’s the funny thing. I got so many compliments that morning on my jewelry, on my hat. I had to take a picture. Not because I think I look like a rock star, but because I know how I felt, and He showed me that He can still put us together in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our less-than-perfect. He can help us work smarter not harder. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
He will work it out.
And someone will just love your hat.
If they only knew.
What are you, right now? What do you need to be honest about, and just let God have it? Frustrated? Disappointed? Rushed? Lord, we give it to you. Show us how to walk this out without trying to force something that is never going to happen. Show us how to stop trying to be something we are not and just rest in You.
Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20
If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.
At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.
No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.
Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.
Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies
1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God.Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?
He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.
Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.
What would Jesus do?
Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you arethe source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.
The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a
This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9
I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6
2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds. Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.
To change a life, change the thoughts.
To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.
Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer29:11
Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.
Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.
So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.
Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.
This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2