Pieces

 

The past few weeks we’ve been learning a Remember Verse with the students I teach. It’s one of my favorites at Christmas time. “For to 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.

One of the things I have loved the most in teaching this is helping the kids grasp the enormity of God’s plan as he revealed this. Not just pieces of his plan, but seeing the fullness of his plan. We look at the beginning of the verse to understand it’s God the Father sending his son, Jesus. It’s such a great verse to ponder over during the Christmas season. Then we pause and look at where this verse is found. Isaiah. I then ask the kids if that’s Old or New Testament. They now recognize this is in the Old Testament which means this verse was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

It shows me that God had a plan. He had a good plan that included his son. You see, God Created. In the beginning, God created all and said it was GOOD. And Jesus was part of it.

The opening verses of John remind me of this:

“In the beginning was the WORD, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1:1-5)

v:9 “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him… v:14 The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, FULL of grace and truth.”

He didn’t have to come to earth. He had a plan though. God revealed himself to the Israelites. He gave the law, not to provide law itself, but to show his love. So that we would know him, honor him, love him, desire to be with him.

We made a choice, as his creation, to turn from him way back in the garden. We were separated from him because of our choice. But he had a plan. A plan to love us. A plan to restore us. A plan to redeem us.

And we didn’t choose his plan.

We kept doing things our way. In our time. AND he still loved us. Still revealed himself to us; out of His abundance of love.

He is slow to anger, slow to judgement, giving us time to know him, time to love him.

He was silent for a moment. There was 400 years of silence where he didn’t speak through any prophets or reveal any miracles.

Then God quietly began to reveal his plan. On a hillside, out away from the crowds, away from the affluent, away from the “religious” leaders.

pieces

God didn’t just give a piece of his love. He didn’t just give a little of Himself. He poured all his power and majesty and love into this world through his son Jesus. Fully contained in the human form so he would know. So he could sympathize not just in part, but in whole.

Even though that human body died on a cross, love did not. Love conquered death. Love rose stronger. Love remains. Not in pieces, but in whole. And it’s here for us today. WE can still choose to turn from the wrong things we do, we can ask for forgiveness, we can ask to know him. Not just with part of our lives, not just with pieces, but with all our lives. We can love with not just part of our love, but with all our love.

Because He doesn’t give us just part of his heart. He doesn’t give us his leftover pieces.

Do we do that to him? Do we just offer back our leftover pieces? Do we wait to come to him at some point when we have all of our pieces fixed and figured out? Do we get so busy or feel so broken that we remain in pieces, keeping them to ourselves? Or do we think that somehow we must put ourselves together perfectly before we come to him?

He loves all your pieces. He’s the one who wants to step in and put your pieces together, perfectly, and love all of you, with his fullness.

So let us remember this Christmas, as we recall the birth of Jesus long ago, he came as love, as light, in full. And he satisfied our debt, in full.  And now, when Jesus looks on us, he doesn’t love just parts of us. Pieces of us. He loves all of us. All the time. We can trust in that.

Don’t let what feels like broken pieces in you hold you back from the one who longs to restore, renew, and pour in full love.

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Helping Children Grieve

There was a tragic loss in our faith community this week. Three children were left to continue living on this earth while one of their parents is now in Heaven. It’s glorious to reflect that this person is now in the presence of Jesus. At the same time it is utterly heartbreaking to think about what these children must be feeling and what they will go through over the next days, weeks, months, and years.

I know this heartbreak. I’ve lived it and watched it unfold over the last ten months. Last November my children suddenly and unexpectedly lost their father. Thinking of the moments as we found out…heart rending. Horrific. Nothing I ever wish for any child. Ever.

The first days were surreal. Every month we still remember. Milestone days were difficult. Christmas. His birthday. The kid’s birthdays. They are learning to find a new normal. Without dad.

I thought I would share some things that have helped us. We’re still learning. This isn’t one of those things you really prepare for. And you never know when someone else may face this or need your helping hands.

  • Find a safe, neutral space where you can just exist. The first few days are really overwhelming. Get out of the house and go somewhere that you can just be. After leaving the funeral home the day he passed, we went to my grandma’s house. It was nice to get hugs. And to know we could cry or laugh, then cry some more. We could just sit. Then get a cookie. And more love.
  • If you say you’re going to visit, do it. Many people want to visit, but they’re afraid to impose. We needed people. It helped to talk and process what had happened.   It was also a good way to share the good memories. I had a few people who said they would visit and I desperately needed it. Then they didn’t show. I was left with my thoughts, and feeling a sense of loss again. So just follow through.
  • Let the kids set the pace as to when they return to school. My kids wanted to see their friends. Then my son was overwhelmed. I gave him permission to go to the office for a break. Or to call and tell me he was done and needed to come home. The first two days he needed to come home in the middle of the day. It was too much. And that was okay.
  • Allow the kids to talk about all of it. Ask for memories. Even now my kids will say, “Oh! Dad would have thought that was funny!” So I ask more questions. I let them talk. Their faces light up. Sometimes the smiles bring tears. So I hold them. And let them talk more.
  • Encourage a journal or art project. My daughter has written letters to her dad. She’s written what she’s feeling, sometimes when it’s too hard to say out loud. She also likes to draw. It’s great to give kids multiple outlets to express what they’re feeling.
  • Celebrate the milestones. For his birthday, we went to dinner. They always liked to go to chinese food when they were with him. So that’s what we did. And we got a cake, because the kids wanted one for him. We laughed. We cried. They blew out the candles and cut him a slice of cake. It’s what they needed that day.

Those are just a few ideas. Not to say we’ve done it perfectly. Or even well. There have been hard days. Harsh words. Hurt feelings. There have also been glimpses of joy. Finding the happy memories. Remembering the good things that still live on in each of his kids.

Finding My Voice

I have struggled in the past with having a voice.  There have been times in my life I wasn’t allowed to express my anger, or the fear beneath it.  I also was very timid in sharing my deeper views or feelings.  I think some of it goes back to that “Not Good Enough Principle”. If I don’t measure up, why would people want to hear my views or thoughts?   If I didn’t measure up, or wasn’t allowed to be angry, how could my other feelings be valid? Why would someone want to know them?

I think at times in my younger years I was sort of a shape shifter. I can get along with a lot of different people in a vast amount of situations. I can play the peacemaker to make sure everything is okay for everyone. Everyone except me.   Because I didn’t have the voice to stand up and declare what I felt in the situation. Or what I needed out of the situation. Because of my insecurities I held back. So I often ended up in situations I wasn’t okay with, or in situations that felt horrible. And that’s what remains. The bad feelings. And those bad feelings make a map in our minds and hearts. I get in new situations and start to experience those same feelings. Then I’m triggered right back to original situations where I was hurt. Where I had no voice.

I went through a season of healing those old situations.  Deactivating the map, so to speak.  It’s an interesting process. As I think about a hurtful situation I speak out loud. Saying the words out loud has made such a huge difference. I speak what I feel, how I was hurt, and what I need. Then I speak what I needed to hear from the other person or people. After this, I look for Jesus in the situation and talk to Him directly. I tell Him how I hurt, what I need and He usually answers me right away. It’s a pretty amazing process.

It might sound a bit odd to you, but it’s helped me gain my voice.  It helped me stand and embrace the calling He placed on my life.  I encourage you to try it too. Get out of your head. Stop the inside chatter that will drive you nuts. Speak the words. Speak the truth.  Speak them to yourself. To offenders. And don’t forget to tell Jesus. He is right there.  He already knows what’s going on, but He wants to hear it. He loves us so much and doesn’t want to see us hurting and in pain. So voice it. Voice it to Him. You have a voice and He wants to hear it.

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