Breathing Advent

waiting
holding out for holy
hoping for the Light of the World
to show up in this darkness
counting down the days to the promised deliverance
gratefully grasping for the gift of God’s presence
trusting it will arrive just in time
to offer the way of salvation
in the midst of this wayward world

gasping for a breath of the Divine
longing for a birth of life to come in these moments
to bridge the gap of here and now with infinite eternal
to hope for His coming in the messiness of manger life
to know His love among the muck and mire
of this sin-soaked dwelling
wishing to be rich enough to offer a five-star hotel
but humbled and grateful that He comes to this stable
content to appear in stubble and dung
‘tho He deserves all pristine and glorious

pondering this starlit night of death and life
warring for the souls of mankind
i lift my eyes to the hills where angels descend to bring
glad tidings of great joy that will be for all people
and i marvel to be chosen as one of the all
breathing in this fearsome glory
i set my feet upon timeworn path
following shepherds’ footprints to stable of old
only to find it is my own heart to which i am led

with cadence of drummer boy’s heartbeat
i join in angels’ song
kneeling in awe and wonder
breathing deeply the scent of straw and sweat
and dawning of freedom
birthed with Salvation’s cry
i warm myself near Advent’s glow

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Misplacing the Gifts

A few years back, I read the book entitled One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It encourages the reader to record a list of blessings –gifts– that are present in life. In short, it’s an invitation to express thanksgiving for all the things we already have, thereby cultivating a heart of gratitude and joy. So I picked up a journal and started writing…

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The scent of rain (Which I recently discovered had the really cool name of petrichor. Sweet!)

Watching my children sleep

The blackness of my husband’s hair

Tiny toes of newborn feet…

The list continued to grow, adding up to a few hundred gifts, before my writing turned toward other venues and the list was casually set aside. Until recently, when a few friends decided to revisit One Thousand Gifts together. So I dusted off the cover of the journal that held my “Gifts” and began adding to my inventory of wonders…

Spontaneous song and dance in the kitchen (Yes, life really is a musical in my house.)

First glimpse of my son after too many months of overseas’ separation

The memory of Dad’s voice calling in the cows…

The journal pages and my heart overflowed with gentle reminders of grace as I read and prayed. Until the morning I misplaced the gifts…

While sitting with a couple of Bibles, a few notebooks, and a stack of books (my small plethora –pardon the oxymoron– of study materials), I reached for my Gifts journal only to find it wasn’t where I remembered placing it. I glanced at the stack of books sitting near me but didn’t see it, so I moved to another room and began sorting through piles of books and places where it might be hiding. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, I restlessly returned to the bedroom.

Determined to continue with my devotional time, I picked up the top book entitled Breathe from the stack beside me, only to find the Gifts journal resting directly beneath it… Misplaced gratitude, right there beside me all along, buried beneath the invitation to Breathe.

In that simple act of discovery, I couldn’t help but wonder: How often does thankfulness stay hidden from my life?

And I am at a loss to find it — until I take the time to backtrack. Until I return to a place of rest and devotion. Until I accept the invitation to breathe and discover the Gifts right there at my fingertips.

It’s amazing how naturally gratitude is found in moments of rest.

Breathing in life releases the Gifts and stirs the soul toward thanksgiving. A thanks so often slow in coming when we’re busy searching for it in the hurry and clutter of a too-full life. Gratitude squelched with the blow of that one phone call or email that knocks the wind from us, leaving us confused and unsettled. Grace, seemingly absent when it’s buried beneath heavy hurt. But when we slow enough to catch our breath, we lift the weight pressing down on gratefulness. Inhaling life, we are freed to exhale thanks and joy. A joy that has been there all along, simply waiting on us. Waiting for that next breath so it can infect us with its contagious overflow.

Gifts – always present.

Resting in the moment of here.

Right beside us.

Where God is.

Always.

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Breathe. Just Breathe.

How many breaths will it take for the old to be uprooted and a new heart to be formed in me?

When I stumbled across these words in a blog post last evening, I couldn’t help but smile at yet another reminder from Father to “just breathe.” It is quite obvious that I am one of the slowest learners on the face of planet earth when I have to be reminded so very often to do something that should come naturally for one of God’s own. Constantly, I hear the gentle stirring in my spirit, “Breathe, Barbara. Just breathe.”

Why does something as elementary as breathing require such focus and effort?

Because I forget it’s all about grace.

Grace for me. Grace for others.

God’s grace.

Too often I find myself in panic mode when the waves of life come crashing down, forcing me beneath the surface, pressing heavy upon my spirit lungs. Desperately, I attempt to hold my breath until there is a calm between the white caps, a brief moment when I have a chance to gasp a much-needed respite before the relentless tossing begins anew.

And the Spirit within my own nudges me with the reminder, “Don’t hold your breath. Don’t suck in oxygen so desperately that you cause yourself to hyperventilate. Just breathe. And trust that My grace will be there.”

Trust that My grace will be there.

As much as I know from experience that God’s presence will calm my heart and carry the day, I still have the propensity toward panic. When trials come, my initial reaction is to gasp and flail instead of breathe and ease myself into His loving arms.

I still have the tendency to forget about grace. A grace that consumes all the flaws in me with all the holiness that is His own. No matter how many times I come to Him with the same struggles, the same temptations, the same sins wrapped around my soul.

Breathe, Barbara. Just breathe…                                                      

Inhale God’s presence… and exhale the old way of living.

Take on His life… and give up your own.

One. Breath. At. A. Time.

How many breaths will it take for the old to be uprooted and a new heart to be formed in me?

I figure it will be just enough breaths to take me to the final stop on this side of eternity. And that next breath? Well, I imagine it will, indeed, be heavenly.

Until then, I choose to breathe. Even though I’m sure to need reminded again. But that’s what grace is all about.

Reminding me of who I am. And Who He is.

And that, my friend, is enough for my next breath… and my last.

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