Wednesday, December 17, 2014

experiencing God's grace at Christmas


Today I want to share part of the Advent devotional that our family is using this Christmas.  The book is called Surviving Christmas and was written by the incredible Anne Marie Miller. 

Her story inspires me, and I pray it will inspire you.  Maybe you will find yourself or a friend in the middle of what she shares.  What I find is the overwhelming and always sweet grace of God.

My pray for this Christmas season is that many people will see and be consumed by the grace of God.  Read on!

(from Tuesday, week 4 of Surviving Christmas by Anne Marie Miller)

2010 was a year filled with grief and loss, betrayal and rejection in its most intimate form. The well in which I fell was so cavernous I thought I would surely die. Would I be saved? The dust from dirt on the bottom of the well filled my lungs as I breathed in, maybe for the last time. I prepared for impact. Suddenly, a rescue. Friends pulled me up with superhuman strength fighting the forces of gravity and hopelessness.

I was pulled back into the sun; its brightness causing me to face the demons both within me and outside me. One by one, a brutal fight. Victory was promised to me and I claimed it, but the battle-inflicted wounds were tender and my strength was gone.

In 2011, there were days of glorious beauty – with friends, with food, with wine, with music. Sunsets that inexplicably consumed my senses. Quiet walks in Radnor Park where I begged God for nourishment. For plenty. For restoration of what was lost.

“Your daily bread is enough,” was the response.

As the grey clouds increased, I lost sight of the suns and the sunsets. The wind was colder and the moon hid behind veiled fog and my spirit drifted away, focusing on the wounds I could see instead of the mystery I could not. Instead of roaming on the paths under silver pine, my fingers roamed the damages in my heart. I followed them back to the well from the past year; the well from where I had been rescued. It was tempting to fall back in.

December 2011 was my second Christmas season alone. The choice before me wasn’t clear but I marched away from the well and determined to celebrate the season with joy, regardless of what my emotions spoke. I went to Target and bought a small Christmas tree and a five-dollar bag of ornaments and a box of big, globe bulb lights. It was only a tree, and a borderline tacky one at that with it’s glittery pink star, but it was symbolic of my choice to not swear at the Christmas music constantly barraging my eardrums and to embrace the season on anticipation that was before me.

I left Target. I was not praying. I was not pleading. I was not even thinking. The greats say mindfulness brings us closest to God and I couldn’t have been further from being mindful on this drive home. A collision. Not between steal and plastic and fiberglass but between grace and the well in my heart. Something so large, so redeeming and indescribable ran me over on northbound I-65 and my heart’s draw to the well was released. Freedom exploded in my chest as I wept from a fount of joy and living water I had never tasted before. I laughed and cried for a solid ten minutes wondering if this was a lavish gift from God, full of life and it was finally the day He chose to give it to me...or was I certifiably manic? I didn’t care. The truth would come with each sunrise.

It is now December 2, 2012, 365 sunrises later. A full year has passed since the glory of God literally filled me. And I can say without hesitation it was His gift in His time. Why did my heart suffer so long and so profoundly? Why did I crave my own death over my own life? Why did he not save me sooner?

These questions will likely never be answered and that mystery is part of the healing. Even when the anxieties and uncertainties threaten me today, I know my heart is protected by a God as Father, incarnate as Son, and comfort as Holy Spirit. And I know there was no formula to arrive at this understanding, if it can be called that. It simply happened with no warning.

Was my soul groaning? Was the spirit interceding because I was empty and without words? That is my only logical conclusion. But the divine is wrapped in swaddling clothes, not logic.

Reflect: Hope was born in the least likely place to the least likely people so we can conclude the hope that changes the world will be poured down on us in the least expected ways.

There is hope for all of us. It may be far, far away from you right now. Please take comfort in knowing it is there. And when the time is right and it drowns you in every rich drop, your life will completely change. From someone who has been to the valley of death and has returned with an abundance of undeserved life, there is hope.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

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