When There is Christmas & Aleppo

There are presents wrapped underneath my Christmas tree. There are sparkly lights all around town. Soft, familiar music plays in the stores and on our Pandora station at home. It’s Christmas. Peace on earth. Good will toward men.

I’m planning a menu. I’m drinking warm drinks. I’m reading my children Christmas books and the Christmas Story. They’re eating chocolate from their Advent calendars. They’re counting down to Christmas. They haven’t a care in the world.

And all the while there are people, even children dying on the streets of Aleppo. 

I’m having some trouble reconciling the existence of these two worlds, tonight. This quiet, magical world with pretty lights and cozy blankets with this chaotic, deadly, dangerous world where violence and death reign.  As I type, my toddler is dancing on the couch behind my back, eating a cookie and laughing. But I just saw a video of a boy in Aleppo who looked about my toddler’s age, with bloodstained hair and face, poking out his lower lip while a bleeding woman asked him repeatedly if he was okay. He just looked at her, lip stuck out. He said nothing but looked like he would lose it any moment. He look scared and terribly sad and something inside of me broke when I saw him. I wanted to scoop him up into my arms, just as I would my own son. I wanted to kiss him and clean him and tell him I loved him. I wanted to promise him he was safe. I wanted to promise him I would never let anyone harm him.

But there are promises I can’t keep. Not even to my own children. Not even at Christmas.

And my heart is breaking for Aleppo.

Jesus knew, even before the night He arrived on earth, that two worlds could exist at the same time. He knew He would bring both unity and division.   He knew that blood would be spilled and lives would also be saved, on His account. He knew there could be tragedy and victory. He knew there could be both pain and hope.

He knew the turbulence He walked into when He traded Heaven’s glory for the lowliness of His human form on earth. He knew the state of the earth. He knew some people were wicked, angry, malicious, envious, conceited, dangerous, threatening and toxic. He knew the circumstances that would surround His own death. He knew the Earth was not a safe place- hadn’t ever been a safe place. Not even at Christmas. Not even when Christ came. God with us. God help us.

And yet? He came. For me. For you. For Aleppo. For all of us. He came for US.

He knew we were lost. Devastated. Broken. Discouraged. Afraid. Alone. Vulnerable. Defeated. He called us sheep without a shepherd- we wandered with no hope. And when He looked and saw us, He had compassion on us.  He knew He was our only Hope. He KNEW we could only hope in Him. So He came and be-came Christ in us, the hope of glory.

He came to give us true hope in a world in which He knew we would have trouble, and pain, and hardship, and heartbreaking tragedy, and mind-blowing grief. He came to give us hope because He knew …

He knew our hearts and eyes would weep for Aleppo.

He knew the latest news would make us catch our breath and hold our hearts and ask God why? Why on earth? He knew we’d wonder how to reconcile a world where God sends His only Son for us but where people also suffer and cry and die in the streets.

Some days I feel so desperate, like I can’t catch my breath. Like there is just too much hurt in the world for anything I do to matter. But Jesus? He came anyway. He knew the state of things, He knew the state of hearts, He knew the cost, He paid the price. And He came anyway.

So I pray anyway. I love anyway. I believe anyway. I trust anyway. When the grief is almost too much to bear, I try to hold on anyway. When I can’t see a way or cling to a hope…

I try to hope anyway.

And He carries me. He carries you. He carries Aleppo. He carries us all. 

And now it’s time we put some action to our prayers for Aleppo. We can’t sit cozy this Christmas, fail to acknowledge the existence of these two different worlds and ignorantly open presents when God wants to presence Himself right in the midst of the hurting. This week, the hubby and I are calling our local Lutheran Family Services to co-sponsor a refugee family. Maybe you’d like to do the same? Or read this post and take one or all of the suggestions. Spread some love? Spread some hope? I have a feeling it’s the beginning of a journey. Maybe for a lot of us.

xoxo Latrice

 

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How to Be Satisfied Right Where You Are

I’ve been thinking a lot about “more” lately. It seems like it’s something we all want. MORE money. MORE time. MORE stuff. A MORE fulfilling job. A MORE fulfilling life. A MORE fulfilling relationship. MORE space. MORE options. MORE.

Why shouldn’t we want more? It’s the American dream isn’t it? We live and we work and we collect nice things and we reward ourselves with more. The newest version of that phone, the fancy car, the latest fashion line. We eat out, though our fridges our stocked. We buy new clothes, though our closets are full. We get the kids new toys though they could start their own Toys R Us with all the ones they already have. More.

This weekend, there were 5 freezer meals in my freezer remaining from the 20+ I put there in November. As I stared at them, nothing really sounded that great for dinner so I contemplated having my hubby bring something home instead. Something different. Something better.

And then a small voice whispered, “Be Satisfied.”

Be Satisfied.

So we ate from the abundance of what we already had and we were satisfied.

This obsession with more is as old as man. Of course we know Adam and Eve were surrounded by the abundance of God’s perfect creation when they ate the one thing God asked them not to. They wanted more. They were convinced that God was holding out on them. They would not be denied.

And the Israelites, living in the desert, complained about the bread God RAINED DOWN FOR THEM from heaven. Heaven-sent provision! Heaven-sent wonder! But they wanted MORE. If they could have, they would have returned to slavery to get “it”.

I think somehow I’ve been convinced that all of my life is about striving for more. We don’t see ourselves in this house forever because some day we’ll have a better one. We won’t always drive these cars because someday we’ll buy better ones. Someday the hubby will have a better job. Some day I’ll have a better life. Someday I’ll have all the things that will truly make me happy. Some day we will have arrived.

But what if, right now, God is begging, what if God is pleading- “Be Satisfied”? What if right now, I have the abundance I think is only coming? What if right now, I truly have everything I need?

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…”

“Be Satisfied.”

It is becoming clear to me that this drive for more is fueled not by discontent with what we have, but by a misunderstanding of WHO we have.

Adam and Eve doubted God, so they sinned against Him. The Israelites questioned God’s intent toward them, so they grumbled and made new gods to worship. And we? We don’t recognize the abundance we have in Him. If we did, we would live from that abundance and be satisfied. If we wanted for more, we would want only for more of Him. We would understand what Jesus told us: our Father God already knows what we need and so our job is simple- seek Him first and He will add everything else. We need only to strive for His kingdom. We need only to seek His glory.

But. We underestimate what God can do. We underestimate WHO God is. And? We question His motives towards us. So we strive for other things that maybe can fulfill. We live for other things that maybe can give temporary life.

However, when the noise dies down, when I turn my discontented heart to God and truly look to Him- when I truly seek Him, contemplate His love for me, remember His character, remember the ways He has always come through- I realize again and again that He has never forsaken me. He will never forsake me. He will not abandon the work of His hands.

My sister? My brother? Be Satisfied. For right now there is overflowing abundance in His hands. At this very moment, there is overwhelming provision in His grace. He is a good Father Who gives perfect gifts. And He? He is the best gift of all. Seek Him first, seek Him now, seek Him always, and Be Satisfied.

Your life is right now. Maybe without “all of the fancy stuff” but never without “All of the Holy One”.

The next time you want for something that is beyond your means to possess? The next time your heart grumbles with envy? Whisper to yourself, “Be Satisfied.” For you already have more than you will ever truly know.

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”– Isaiah 55:2

xoxo Latrice

 

 

 

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The Only Words from Which I’ll Never Walk Away

I’ve been gone a while.

No you didn’t notice because you were busy living your life. And I was busy living mine- just away from the screens and the typed words for a while.  A friend of mine and I took a week away from the media- social and otherwise- anything that added to the tightening in my chest I started feeling on election day. We took a week from all of that but I haven’t written in a month. Not since the day before the election.

After that day it was hard to breathe. It was hard to listen. There was so much noise. So many opinions and fears and so much anger and so much hate. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t write.

There’s a scene in a movie, The Secret Life of Bees, where a character gets so weighed down by the pain and the sadness in her world that she weighs herself down with rocks in a pond and doesn’t come up again. That scene broke me because I’ve felt weighed down before. I’ve experienced desperation that feels inescapable. I’ve felt so lost and so broken and so heavy.  After the election, I started to feel weighed down again, and all the posts and the articles and the noise felt like rocks on my chest. I was fighting to keep my head above the water. And all that time I kept asking myself, What can I say? What should I say?

The truth is, I didn’t want to talk.

I didn’t want to talk politics.

I didn’t want to talk race.

I don’t want to talk about anything. Period.

But it’s hard for a writer to stay away from words.

So I said yes when a friend invited me to dinner with a group of women who wanted to talk about post-election fears, questions and concerns.

I said yes to meeting with this diverse group of women, and we talked about mushroom caps and nursing babies and black hair care and black heart care. We talked about the church and it’s role in reconciliation. We talked about love and it’s role in healing. There was laughter, there were tears, there were honest questions and honest answers.

You know what? While we talked something inside of me loosened. The tightening released and I breathed a little easier. While we talked, some of that weight came off. It was like someone was heaving those rocks off my chest.

I left that night feeling like we’d taken a step. I don’t know how far, but we took a step and I’m grateful.

I’m still feeling pretty fragile these days. Still avoiding political posts and articles because I’m far too frail to read them right now. I’ve been snuggling pretty close to Jesus these days. Breathing deeply- inhaling all His love and peace and His Words. His Words. It’s hard for this writer to stay away from His Words. 

“…I have overcome the world.”

“Be anxious in nothing…”

“Casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.”

“Be strong and courageous…”

“Fear not, for I am with you…”

“For God so loved the world…”

“Peace I give to you…”

Oh they sustain me, they ground me, they fill me and empty me all at once.

When I have nothing to say, He has said it all. When the words this world offers weigh me down, His words lift me, they draw me in, squeeze me tight.

They are the only words from which I’ll never walk away. They are the only words I’ll ever need.

Maybe all the other noise is too loud for you, too? Maybe the posts on social media and the news, and yes even the blogs are too loud and heavy? Maybe you need to snuggle close to Jesus and tune out all of the other words? They are the greatest words you’ll ever hear.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…”

John 1:1-2 (emphasis added)

 

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