Out with the Old, In with the New?

How are you, friend? By now you have more than likely wrapped up the holiday celebrations and have stepped into the new year with fresh goals, new determinations, and dreams of the possibilities a new year brings. Me too. 
 
I love the implication that every New Year’s Day brings, “Out with the old, in with the new.” But I have to say, this year I feel as though I am in overtime from last year.  It seems 2019 just isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. The same struggles that I wrestled down on December 31 got back up and faced me head on January 1st.
 
My initial reaction is, “Come on, really? Will I ever catch a break?” But once the dust settles, and my toddler tantrum is over, God speaks. I lean in and listen carefully. As I listen, I hear an echo whispering from my past. A lesson taught in our early years of marriage and ministry. 
 
Steve and I had just joined a pastor friend of ours to start a new church work. We were zealous, full of fresh ideas, ready to take on the community for Jesus. We would shake things up a bit by tossing out the “old churchy” ways of doing things and usher in relevant, innovative and trendy ways of doing church. 
 
The church grew, faster than we could keep up with. We soon discovered that in order for us to build something that was solid in the hearts of the people, we needed to add something into the mix. What we were missing in all the new, was the foundation that came with some of the old. 
 
As much as I want to enter the new year, with a slate wiped clean, I do not want to forsake the valuable lessons learned in 2019. These lessons will be the foundation under the lessons I will gather in 2020.
 
If you were to pause a few moments and reflect on what God taught you about Himself or His ways in 2019, what would you discover? 
 
There were many turbulent storms Steve and I faced in 2019. The ushering in of a New Year did not change the fact that these storms are still brewing. However, God has used these hardships to mark my heart with some eternal lessons that I carry with me into 2020. Here are my top three:
 

  • He is God, I am not. All my striving changes nothing, it is only through the power of His Spirit at work in us and through us, that true transformation happens. He offers me an invitation to be a co-laborer with Him, that I may have a front-row seat to His wondrous grace at work.  

For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:13, NIV
  • Choose seeking over striving. When I relinquish the control of always trying to figure out how to fix someone or a situation and earnestly seek His heart in the matter, I walk in more peace and joy. I don’t know how He does it but He surpasses my circumstance with His very presence. I guess that is the beauty of faith.  

Surrender your anxiety
Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations,
and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.”

Psalm 46:10, TPT
  • Live fully in the moment you are in. God faithfully supplies the grace for that moment. If I rush ahead of the moment I am in, I am borrowing sorrow from tomorrow and not trusting that God’s grace is big enough to meet me when I step into that next moment and what it holds. Rushing through life blurs my vision, preventing me from seeing the glory of God in my “right now moment.”

Refuse to worry about tomorrow 
but deal with each challenge that comes your way, 
one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Matthew 6:34, TPT

 What about you, my friend? Take some time and ponder, “What are some lessons from the past year that need to follow me into this New Year?” May God faithfully reveal them to you.  May 2020 prove to be a year where we pause in His presence more, look intentionally for the evidence of His glorious grace, and delight in His extravagant love. 
 
Let’s keep finding Hope in the journey,
Evelyn
 
P.S. I am thrilled to share with you that I will be finishing up my book proposal in the next two months. 

What a journey! God has taught me so much about myself and waiting on Him, as well as stepping out in faith and trusting His voice. What a blessing it would be if you would keep me in your prayers concerning two things. First, I will be away doing some writing this week. I want to be a conduit that flows with life-giving words. So pray I will hear God’s voice clearly. Second, my next step will be to find an agent. There are so many out there, but I know God has one for me. Thanks my friends. I will be praying for you as I write.

A Simple Christmas Prayer from My Heart to Your Home

It is 1:30AM and I am wide awake. Later this evening hubby and I will gather with friends to sing songs, read scriptures, pray, and remember together an infant child born to save a lost and broken world. But this is not why sleep escapes me. 
 
My thoughts are of you. How will you celebrate the birth of the King this year? Will the walls of your home ring with laughter and loud chatter as the family gathers round? Will your home lay quiet and simple, holding only memories because those nearest to you will be away this year? Will you gather in a hospital waiting room due to an unforeseen illness in the family? Will you kneel silently praying for a loved one serving overseas? Will you make a visit to assisted living to look into the worn eyes of the shell of someone you once knew? Will your celebration be interrupted briefly by the tears shed for a loved one who is celebrating Christmas sitting at the feet of this Savor?
 
I think of you and I pray. The holidays serve up a good dose of celebration and hope, with a bit of grief on the side. Grief for traditions long gone and transitions that have stepped up in their place. So, I pray. 
 

I pray as one who understands letting go of expectations and plans in order to live fully in the mess of the moment. I pray as one who has had to surrender the Hallmark-happily-ever-after Christmas to embrace the messy unscripted painful one in front of me, only to discover that God had a bigger gift of grace to give me that surpasses the thrill of any wrapped package under my tree. 
 

I pray for you what God prodded me to pray for myself two years ago. This festive time of year has always been my favorite time. I can’t help myself! The sights and sounds usher in feelings of hope and peace. And for a short time, all seems well. 
 
That is until two years ago.  I was so busy with all the “doing” of Christmas, wanting everything to be perfect for those I love. It was while I stood in the kitchen, prepping food for our family celebration, that I noticed a shift in my heart. I had lost my joy. The scurry of activities that once brought delight to my heart, had been reduced to another check on my list so I could rush to the next task and check another “to-do” to reflect “to-done.” 

“God, what is wrong with me” became my whispered prayer. “I want to enjoy my family when they get here. Now even our celebration has become another check on the list.”  I sat with my silent prayer, waiting for that still small voice.  He whispered. His words of grace to me that day, are the gift I pray tonight for you and for me. 
 
God: “Why do you strive? What is it you want? What are your expectations?” 
 
Me: “God, I want my family to feel wrapped up in love when they arrive. I want them to feel like they can take a break from their busy lives and just for a moment breathe in peace. I want to soak in the moments with them.”
 
God: Then let go. Let go of expectations and embrace the plans I have. The calm, peace, and love you seek comes not from your striving but seeking. Seeking me. So, invite me to be your guest. Ask me to come and do what only I can do. Matters of the heart are my specialty, for I alone can change a life. Invite my Spirit to come and move in your home. Then trust me.”
 
Me: “Ok God, I surrender. I let go of wanting everything to be perfect. I yield to whatever You want to do with our time together. I release my temporary expectations that I may embrace your eternal plan. Be our guest. Move among us. Breathe life into our dry, weary bones. Mend the broken places. Heal the sin diseased parts of us. Not my will, but yours be done. For you are a faithful father.”
 
And that my friends, that simple prayer of surrender and invitation changed everything, not just for my family, but for me. 
 
This is why tonight I pray for you and I pray for me a simple Christmas prayer.

“Father, as we gather to celebrate You, may we not forget You.
You are invited to come, move among us, bring Heaven to our home.  
Do Your deep eternal work in us.
We surrender our temporary pleasures to Your eternal delights.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus.
Amen.

 May we find joy as He presents to us grace gift upon grace gift. And as we unwrap each gift of grace, may the peace of His presence invade our hearts and our homes.  

Merry Christmas to you and yours,
Evelyn