Pressing on Towards the Goal

This year was a year to remember.  Highlights include two sons married a daughter graduated and me and my husband turning 50.  This mostly happened in the first six months of the year.

We’ve welcomed two new daughters into our family and are so grateful for them.  God has provided in such abundant ways for my sons through these young ladies.  And for us; our family is much richer with them and their families who have become our extended family.

I love new beginnings and for my three oldest children this was a year of new beginnings!

I love new beginnings but I struggle with completing, seeing things through and finishing to the end. This is a pattern in my life and this year was not different.  I started working towards a certificate in Nutrition last year and was hoping to be close to finishing by now. I haven’t taken a class since March.  When I took part in the October, 31 day blogging challenge I gained momentum in writing and blogging that fizzled mid November. I quit a job I had as administrator of the church I belong to. There are at least 3 books I started but didn’t finish.

Putting a positive spin on in-completion this year I was there for my children during wedding preparations, graduations and other school events. I tucked my younger children into bed most every night. I kept my home running, got the laundry done and food on the table without a lot of stress. I started and finished a few books that have impacted my life in a positive way. (I’ll write about those another day). I saved money by not paying for nutrition classes.

Ok and while I can’t take all the credit the fact that my sons are grown, and doing well spiritually and emotionally and are able to love their spouses unselfishly is a beautiful blessing.

Such is life though. There are failures mingled with success. Weighing them against each other the scales are balanced and maybe even tipped in my favor but it’s not really the point to weigh successes against failures.

I have to fight the temptation to consider my worth as a person by what I accomplish in the world.  My failures, not just the outward things I haven’t finished but the inward attitudes of my heart; cynicism, discontent, discouragement and pride, are ever before me, they can weigh me down make me feel less than those around me and immobilize me from starting a new.

But there is a better way. I’m not to live in the world constantly comparing myself to the world’s standards and trying to gain acceptance by those in the world. When I remember my true worth in Christ as a child of God I have hope.  God does not accept me according to what I accomplish, in fact he does not look on the outward appearance or success at all.  When I compare myself to others it brings me down by either thinking of myself better than or worse than those around me. When I look up, however, I see a God who has accepted me, faults and all, with the only condition being I believe.

Paul the writer of the book of Philippians considered all he gained in the world, all his earthly  accomplishments as rubbish.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

That’s powerful. He was accomplished in this world but after being apprehended by God considered knowing Jesus and His righteousness far greater.  I want to be like that. His singular goal is to be like Christ.

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

He moved ever forward towards this goal.

 but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

And so I’ve found my inspiration, my consolation and my ambition. Move forward, ever forward, toward the goal of Christ Jesus.  I have plans for the New Year but under-girding it all I hope to have Jesus in sight.

P.S. In the midst of writing this I slipped over to Ann Voscamp’s site and read this with a similar theme: Grace Plan for the New Year

 

 

The Voice of Christmas Past

I’ve been thinking about how Christmas pasts, way past, when I was a child, held so many expectations.  How it was all about me and the tree and the gifts and always feeling poor.  Oranges and nuts in the stockings a few toys.

Friends down the street got a bike each year and two to ten new outfits. Pretty pajamas and the latest most greatest toy. Always comparing.

We got a box from the Tinsleys. Dear friends of my mothers who always gave cute things like stationary or toys that last a week. Those were usually the Christmas Eve gift.

We had an advent calendar made of felt and stockings with our names. Those were from the Tinsleys too. Our adopted grandparents I guess. Though they lived 1000 miles a way and I don’t remember their faces only their packages that came at Christmas.

Did I know, did I care that Jesus came?

I don’t remember caring too much. I remember advent candles pink and purple and lighting one each Sunday. The significance was never taught. We took turns pulling the felt figures out of the little numbered pockets and pinning it to the felt Christmas tree.  I tried to arrange it so I could open the one on Christmas day; A big square with 25 on it, pulling that off revealed the outline of Mary with the baby Jesus. I remember going to Mass on Christmas Eve or sometimes Christmas day.

Santa signed the tags in my mother’s hand writing. One Christmas I found the gifts in the closet behind my parents bed. I saw the sleeping bags and fisher price toys for my little brother and sister.  I pretended I didn’t see I thought I would get in trouble. I was always afraid of getting in trouble. But I never did.

It would have done me good to get in trouble when I was little. It might have saved me getting in trouble when I was big.

One Christmas my mother complained about my Aunt sending the notice of giving a gift to someone poorer than us in our name.

One year my mother sewed braided wreaths for friends. And every year she made cranberry bread from the recipe on the ocean spray cranberry bag for all her friends.

I don’t know where my father was during Christmas’ probably sitting on the couch with his bourbon and a cigar.

I remember one dark Christmas morning sitting on the couch at 4 am after Santa had come. The most magical time with the Christmas tree lights the only light and the presents all around. That Christmas there was a big stuffed horse, big enough to sit on.

So while I always felt “poor” I never really imagined more.

But now I know I am not poor but very rich indeed, I do have more than I could ever imagine, I have Christ the greatest gift. I have children who want to give more than receive, though that is still a work in progress, we all have our days.

Sometimes that voice of Christmas past whispers in the dark, you are still poor and don’t have enough, you never will be rich in this world and it tempts me deep to be discontent. But, I know, despite that occasional whisper, that happiness is not wrapped in paper and strings, that joy is not found under a tree on Christmas morning, that true contentment is not found in the abundance of things.