A BRAND NEW YEAR

By Lisa Huddleston

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

I love beginnings.  There is the promise of things to come, the hope of adventure and new discoveries, and the slightest hint of fear to give just the right amount of edge to the whole experience.  Will I be able to do what I’ve committed to?  Will I fall flat on my face or will things go better than I hope?  Am I prepared for the challenges I will face or have I jumped in over my head?  It’s exciting to see if I will sink or swim.  Will I drown, tread water, dog paddle, or pull a Michael Phelps and race in victory to the other side of the pool?  It’s all unsure at this point of the game.  And here I sit poised to jump in.  And here you sit, too.

Yesterday, I got out an empty calendar to begin the task of transferring birthdays and already scheduled events into the blank squares that represent every one of the coming days in 2011.  It’s something I look forward to doing every year.  Like so many other things this holiday season, I put this off much later than usual.  It seemed as though the time just got away from me.  For example, I always send Christmas cards the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I didn’t get around to it until December 28th this year.  Yes, Christmas was already over so we sent “Season’s Greetings” instead.  And don’t even ask what happened to baking and decorating my grandmother’s special sour cream cutout cookies.  There are some things I just don’t want to talk about right now.

But that’s all in the past.  Tomorrow is the new beginning of a new year with a new calendar and new hope.  How will I fill it?  What are the things I will choose to let go of this year—like the Christmas cookies?  What are the things I will choose to add?  Will I spend my days with purpose and intentionality or will the days run through my fingers like uncounted grains of sand?  It’s so easy to let time get away.  But I want these days to count.  And it’s all good as still here I sit and gaze into the water of 2011.

I have some big plans.  To guide two small groups all the way through the Bible in a year—with the Holy Spirit as our Teacher.  To complete another year of my graduate degree in Christian Studies.  To increase my coaching practice.  To keep writing.  And, most of all, to be open to the new opportunities God sends my way—the really scary stuff that I can’t yet plan for because I have no idea what they will be.  Just thinking about it all gives me both thrills and chills.  But it is definitely new and positively exciting to ponder “in the beginning.”

And that is where we sit.  Still at the very beginning.  Still poised to dive in.  And still with the whole unused year ahead of us.  Oh yeah … and it all begins tomorrow.  Please, guide me, Lord.  Use me to make a difference in 2011.  Just as you spoke it all into being in the beginning, speak now to shape my days—and help me to swim the race with everything you’ve put in me. 

What do you like the most about the gift of a new year?  How are you planning to make the most of the next 365 days?  I invite you to join the Women’s Ministry of FBC Lebanon and dive into God’s word to see how it will change you by this time next year.  “In the beginning God created …”  Oh yeah!  I’m excited about what the future holds!

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AND THE PENDULUM SWINGS

By Lisa Huddleston

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrew 12:11).

God willing, most of us who are reading these words are about to enter a new year. 2011. It looks funny, doesn’t it? But very soon it will become second nature to us. We will write it and key it in and speak it so often that by the time 2012 rolls around we won’t recall this oddity we feel at the newness of the words. Two thousand eleven. It doesn’t exactly roll off my tongue. But it will. And I am hoping that by the end of 2011, some other new things I plan to put in place will be just as familiar.

I can’t help myself. The end of one year and the beginning of the next forces me to evaluate my life. And with evaluation comes action—or at least the hope of action. You can call these actions “New Year’s Resolutions” or “Goal Setting” or most likely “Guaranteed Failures.” But, my mind just can’t stay away from the prospect of achieving something better than I have yet. Despite my cynicism about my supposed success, despite my dismal track record, hope causes me to keep striving for the next thing.

A quick flip through the past year’s writing reveals that at this time last year I was searching for a “Word for the Year.” How many of you did that, too? I remember some of your words: perseverance, joy, peace, and so on. Some of you chose to keep them to yourselves. Others, like me, blasted them out loud so that our friends could hold us to them. (And, no, my new word for the year is not discretion!) My word was celebrate. I wrote that I would celebrate being who God had designed me to be—a learner and an introvert. In retrospect, I think it was a pretty good word. I entered the Master of Christian Studies program through Union University and enjoyed the new insights my reading, the teachers, and my fellow students provided. It was a year focused on these studies, and it was enriching.

However, I can also see the dark side of that goal. In choosing to celebrate my natural tendencies, I allowed myself too much freedom to focus only on what seemed good and comfortable. I spent countless hours sitting and reading. Good stuff right? That’s not what my mirror is telling me. It says, “Get off your rump, Lisa, and start moving!” Harsh, but true.

I also allowed myself to become something of a recluse. I’ve found it easier to spend time with friends on social media sites rather than face to face. And I’ve not spent the time I should investing in the relationships that really do matter to me.

As I ponder this shift to one side, I am reminded of what it looks like when I drive our lawn mower with the two handled steering. Back and forth. Right to left. Jerky and convulsive starts and stops. But doing my best to head in a straight line. Therefore, in the spirit of the season and the hope of straightening out my line, I have chosen a new word for this year: discipline. Not as “sexy” as celebrate, but a corrective that is both wise and timely.

This year, I resolve to seek more balance. To lessen the curves (physically and figuratively). To focus on the external as well as the internal. Sure, it may be painful at times. I’ve already taken some steps that have hurt a bit by getting back on the treadmill and curtailing my time on the computer—but I am confident the benefits will eventually outweigh the pain. Just as my tongue will grow accustomed to saying 2011, I pray that I will soon adapt to my new focus on discipline. I’m looking forward to the fruit!

Have you picked a “Word for the Year?” What goals are you setting? Do you have any resolutions you’d like to share out loud? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

FOR KEEPS

 

By Lisa Huddleston

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. … [Nothing] will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:35-39)

Alright then.  Where did I put those stamps?  I remember Sarah handing them to me when she got back from the store yesterday.  And I know where I should have—always do—put them, but they aren’t there.  I have dug through the desk drawer, ransacked my dressing table, and overturned everything on the kitchen counters (and that’s sadly quite a lot this morning), but all to no avail.  Somehow something has separated me from those stupid stamps, and I still haven’t found them (but I will). 

Funny how stuff like this happens around this time of year.  Gifts get misplaced.  Lists fall between catalogs.  Stocking stuffers hide only to be found a year later.  It’s just a crazy time.  The more there is on our minds the less we seem to be able to keep up with it all. And as I ran around like a headless chicken this morning trying to find my stamps before Chuck headed out the door so that he could mail some cards (and even after he silently slipped out the door without them), I began to stir myself up into a steaming gumbo of negativity.  “You’d lose your head if it weren’t attached!”  “Can’t you do anything right?”  “Why are even the simplest things so hard for you?”  And my favorite, “I just want to quit!”

Even as I ranted and huffed around vainly searching for those stamps (and some self respect), I couldn’t keep from hearing a tiny voice in the very back of my head.  Sure there were other voices, too.  Mom saying, “Can’t died in the poor house.”  Doc saying, “You can’t trust your feelings.”  Even Elisabeth Elliot (what was she doing in there?) telling me to “just do the next thing.”  Good advice surely, but the one voice that finally rose above the rest was saying, “You can’t lose me.  I’m here for keeps, Lisa.”  And I sat down to write these thoughts.

Yes.  I remember, Lord.  I read these words just last night.  I breezed past them while focusing on other things, but now I can hear them calling from the turmoil of my thoughts.  “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”  Not my failures?  Not my stress?  Not my stupidity nor my inability nor even my own desire to quit?  “Nothing.”

And, this morning, as I ponder these words with hungry eyes, I find it interesting that they don’t ask “what can separate us from the love of Christ?”  Rather, they ask “Who?”

It’s not the things that are my problem.  The stamps will turn up somewhere—if not, there are more where they came from.  It’s not the cards nor the cookies nor the parties nor the lists.  It’s not the “whats” that are my problem.  It’s the “who.”

Right now it would be easy to blame the devil.  Sure.  He’s the “who” who would most like to separate me from the love of God, right?  It’s his fault, God. 

Well, that’s partially true.  But, this morning, as I fuss and fume and rant and rave and stir up all sorts of anger and self-loathing along with the dust and clutter, I am the “who” these verses seem to be pointing a finger at.  And thankfully, in this brief moment of clarity, I can see that even I can’t lose this gift.  I am loved in spite of myself—and I (even horrible I) can’t do anything to mess that up.  Yeah.

Now, where did I put those stamps?

SOME WERE WAITING

By Lisa Huddleston

Waiting?

Some were waiting

the day he arrived.

They had been waiting

for years,

for months,

forever.

The aging prophets

looking with milky eyes

to see

the light of revelation.

A he and a she.

Both waiting

to behold

the Hope of the nations.

The young couple

newly wed yet still apart.

Waiting for

her son,

their son,

their Savior.

And the hosts of Heaven

waited, too,

to announce his birth

with glory.

And he was here!

Wrapped in human skin

and cloth

and laid in a manger.

Yet some did not expect him.

They had no room in the inn.

They struggled to stay awake

as they dozed over their sheep.

They had their own children to birth

and their own dreams to nurse.

Yet he came just the same,

unexpected but not unannounced.

For those who waited,

joy burst forth in praise.

“My soul magnifies the Lord!”

“My eyes have seen your salvation!”

And their hope was fulfilled.

The rest were surprised

and afraid.

“Fear not, for behold!”

This Good News was

for all the people!

For those watching sheep

and for those watching stars.

For old prophets and young infants

yet to open their eyes.

For those he would call,

for those he would heal,

and for those he came to set free.

Even for those who had no idea that he had come at all.

This gift.

This Savior.

This Jesus.

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those

with whom he is pleased!”