here + now

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The other day I was picnicking with my best friends on the beach reveling in the sweetness of their presence. Our friendships have grown, changed, and flourished through cross country moves, a wedding, babies, losing loved ones, getting our dream jobs, driving minivans, and most recently a proposal with yet another move on the horizon. Needless to say, feasting together with the soundtrack of west coast waves crashing against the shore as I snuggled my best friend’s newborn while the other two chased her toddler was a slice of heaven. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized how precious the day was, knowing full well that another one like it was likely in the distant future.

I’m often caught between wanting the present moment to last forever and grasping for what’s to come. It’s a never ending tug of war that results in a mind boggling endeavor to grasp the infinite while living within the construct of time.

I want what’s coming, or at least what I think is coming, but I am simultaneously afraid of time passing too fast. Weeks fly by while hours feel like a millennium at times.

(Breathe)

Here I am, Lord.

I wish I could tell you it is as simple as praying those four words. Not even close.

It’s a little more like this…

Caught up in the work week, pausing occasionally to stress about the future, and praying for the wisdom to trust in God’s will as I ardently pray for it to be done. I want to want your will to be done, Lord, even if I fail to trust in you far too often. When my prayers get impatient or demanding, just know that in my heart of hearts, I love you and genuinely want to serve your Kingdom – whatever that entails. But Jesus, you know what I desire, so please fulfill the desires of my heart, especially since you put them there in the first place. I know I sound contradictory, but you know all things, so hopefully you can make sense of my rambling. Jesus, I do long to do your will. Give me the courage to say yes like Mary, and oh, give me a sign. A blatant sign. Preferably today. I love you, Jesus. My heart is yours.

“Skies spin their dance within Your breath, time runs its race within Your hand
And my mind runs wild to comprehend, what no mind on earth could understand
Your ways are higher, Your thoughts are wilder…
It makes no sense but this is grace, and I know You’re with me in this place”
– Hillsong UNITED

His ways are higher, and he doesn’t expect me to understand the intricacy of this time and place or what’s to come. He is simply with me, here and now.

Amidst the whirlwind of my thoughts and the limits of my comprehension, I love and serve a God who is intricately involved with every detail of my life.

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid.” Matthew 10:30-31

God cares so much about you that he knows how much hair goes down the shower drain each morning.

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

He never breaks his promises. He is committed to walking with you through every moment. He’s not going anywhere!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3 

He is in love with you. Giddy, all-consuming, sacrificial love. Sister, you are his bride. You have captured his heart. He delights in pursuing you.

I wrote these words for both of us. We need to be reminded of who our God is in all of his glory and romance and splendor. His mission is to capture our hearts.

His words are as sweet as honey, and they soothe the soul with peace and trust. The circumstances of my life haven’t miraculously changed, but the disposition of my heart has been directed back to his gaze.

I wasn’t made for this world, and neither were you. We were made for so much more, and until we get there, this “longing for more but not yet” feeling serves as a reminder of the ultimate goal: Heaven.

“The world is thy ship and not thy home.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The fact that we grapple with this feeling is an indication that our heart truly longs for heaven, and we won’t be satisfied until we rest in our eternal home. It’s comforting to know that our soul aches for what our mind cannot comprehend. Our lack of understanding doesn’t inhibit our innate longing for union with God.

“So I set about to find God and found that I could not find him until I embraced the mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus, who is all over all these things, who was calling me and saying: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…

You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
-St. Augustine of Hippo

keeping ritual

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I start my day with a cup of coffee. The smell gently wakes me up before I take a sip. Whether I am headed to work or making the most of a slow Saturday morning, it’s a part of my daily ritual.

There’s predictable aspects of life (like a morning cup of coffee) that I find endearing. Our rituals, as simple as they may be, hold a richness that we see in the wear and tear of our favorite mug or the plethora of decorations we store all year long to deck the halls.

We rely on the faithfulness of Christmas each year, the fragrance of a fresh brew, or the dependability of daily Mass, to maintain equilibrium in our life.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the unsettling feeling of losing such consistency. My Grandma and Grandpa passed away within nine months of each other. I never thought that I would be without my grandparents at the age of 27. This past year has involved grieving the loss of my fondest rituals which revolved around their presence.

This sense of loss is coupled with a deep longing for newness. The Holy Spirit continues to stir up my desire for a fresh perspective. He keeps prompting me to sustain faith in times of waiting, to take risks without letting fear hold me back, and to believe in the promises that he has written on my heart.

What does that look like? A holy discontent.

Wrestling with God in the daily feat to be faithful to my prayer time, strive to grow in virtue, and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Every day is a challenge, because the world is against the covenant that the Lord has proclaimed over each of us. We heard it in yesterday’s first reading:

“You will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:28

He’s committed to loving you forever. What a ritual. To be covered in his faithfulness day in and day out. He’s in it for the long haul, aching and groaning as you long for more, grieving with you as you grapple with loss, and speaking to you as you seek truth and discernment in various circumstances of your life.

In fact, Jesus wants to be the rhythm of your life. The pep in your step, if you will. The fragrance that draws you out of bed in the morning, and a restorative refuge for your soul as your head hits your pillow.

In my admitted restlessness to feel satisfied by life’s rhythm sometimes, I pray the simple prayer, “Speak to me.”

It’s a call of the heart to the one whose voice soothes my trepidation.

Sometimes his voice shakes and quakes to wake me from my spiritual slumber, while other times, it’s a soft whisper or a gentle peace that flows over me. Every time, I am utterly speechless that God would speak to me. He does, every time. Not always in the ways that I want or how I expect it, but he responds to the call of his beloved.

This more than anything, is what we long for – to hear from the greatest lover of our soul. Oh the incomparable joy of hearing his voice! The awe and wonder of feeling seen and known by the Creator of heaven and earth. There’s nothing like it.

Go ahead, take the risk and try it. Make it a ritual even. And just listen.

the unknown

Let me see. I want to see it. Wait, I can’t see. Just wait, you’ll see. I can’t wait to see. Have you seen it? Oh my gosh, you have to see it.

It’s enticing and intoxicating, chasing it down – whatever it is.

A year ago, I took the plunge into the Midwest life. It was frightening and exciting at the same time. I felt sure of nothing tangible. I could say this experience was a once in a lifetime leap, but the truth is, it’s pretty indicative of a life in Christ. Expected even.

Jesus is constantly calling me out of familiarity. My dwelling place – living in the unknown with the one who knows me.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Choosing Christ means choosing a life of mystery. It’s not a phase or season of stepping out of the boat, it’s every day, every breath. Professing my love for a God who is unseen to my eyes, but felt profoundly in my heart; distant, yet closer than I’ll ever know; and all around me, while living within me. It’s too much to comprehend, yet completely worth fixating on.

How do we fix our eyes on what is unseen? 

We walk by faith and not by sight. And faith is led with love.

My intellect cannot rationalize how my heart leaps forward into the unknown. Willingly, yet foolishly in the eyes of the world. It’s challenging and tempting at times, to settle for something a little less unpredictable or refining. Over and over again, I grow in awareness of the frailty of my trust, how easy it is for me to fear or doubt because I long to know what it is and when it’s coming… you know, the next big thing.

And then, he intervenes. He overcomes. He rescues. He fights. He romances. He wins.

I’ll never understand it. I feel it though. The power of a love that is greater than me.

In my twenty seven years on this earth, I’ve learned this more than anything. A heart in love with Jesus is blind, yet sees clearly; wild, yet rests peacefully; and free, finding joy in obedience, while constantly living in the unknown. It’s beyond my comprehension and out of my control, but it’s the only life worth living.

I will lift my eyes to things unseen
To the promise in Your victory
And I will build my life on the mystery
Of where You call me, and I will go
Into the unknown

– Mosaic MSC, Unknown

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refresh her

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“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water … whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:10, 13b

Pictured above, on the left, is a glorious elixir that quenched every bit of my thirst. The name was a bit shaming to order, “Hangover Rx,” but the refreshing taste made it worth it. So much so, I sought it out across the country a couple of weeks later, except the second time, I had no shame or hesitation.

Sometimes, I hesitate to ask for or do the very thing that will quench my thirst. [I’ve transitioned to the context of a spiritual thirst now.]

I find it easy to get caught up in the daily grind, and it’s easy to feel mundane there. Wake up, go to work, workout, eat, socialize, etc. We find ourselves going through the motions with days and weeks flying by faster than we would like. Suddenly, it’s summer time and the dreams and aspirations we have for this season hang in mid air hoping we will have adventure, but also get things done, and maybe even encounter something glorious (fingers crossed!).

There are beautiful moments when I feel the rush of believing in those aspirations without a shred of doubt. However, more often, I am a little fearful of the pace that days flash by without experiencing all that I hope for. The daily grind holds me hostage. I start to forget that there’s a perspective outside of “in the thick of it.”

Maybe you can relate. I recently felt compelled to write a sister in Christ a little note reminding her that Jesus sees her and he is so dang proud of the life she is living. The Holy Spirit nudged me to articulate how beautiful her story is, even if the day to day feels challenging, monotonous, or even wonderful. If you’re like me, when you write notes like this, you start to realize that as you’re speaking to a sister, the Holy Spirit is using the very same words to speak to you. (Funny how he works like that…)

It’s so easy for us to encourage one another, offer counsel, and love ferociously when it comes to our dearest ones, but what about your soul, sweet girl? When was the last time you listened to those words tumbling out of your mouth or the sentences you so thoughtfully strung together on a little card for a friend in need of some love?

It’s humbling and it’s hard. To take our own advice that is.

Jesus wants you to see the broad brush strokes perspective of your life. It’s freaking beautiful. It’s a masterpiece. He’s proud of your perseverance and your faith. He adores your little quirks. The things you’re trying to change, or desire to, about your family, your job, your relationships, and/or yourself, he is cheering you on. He wants you to know that from his perspective you’re making progress, even if it feels like you took a few steps back today.

Your story is sacred. Your life is unique. Your dreams are precious.

Jesus is holding each part of you with the utmost care. He’s in the details of your life, your day to day. Phone calls, laundry, meetings, crying children, meal prepping, travel and all. He’s in the thick of it with you, but today, I believe he wants you to take a step back and see it from his perspective.

Stop analyzing with a microscope what Jesus views through a look of love. 

Who you are today is enough. Your past, present, and future are in your Creator’s hands, the very hands that formed you.

You’re going to be okay. Your life will turn out beautiful.

“Jesus turned to her and saw her, ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.'” Matthew 9:22

 

 

shocking, and true

“Does this shock you?” (John 6:61)

In the context of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is referring to his previous words proclaiming that he is the Bread of Life. He exhorts them to eat his body and drink his blood to obtain life. It was bold and unapologetic. He never waivers on his word choice. The word he uses for “eat” in the original Greek literally means “to gnaw”.

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

John 6:52-56

Yes, this shocks me. Everything about Jesus shocks me.

In this chapter alone of the Gospel, it mentions that just after healing the sick, Jesus feeds five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, then he proceeds to walk on water and identify himself as The Bread of Life. He tells his disciples and those present to eat his flesh and drink his blood to remain in his love. Chapter six ends by saying that many of his disciples deserted him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67)

It stings a little. I can’t imagine the pain and disappointment Jesus feels as he watches his friends walk away from him. It took courage for Jesus to ask a question that leaves him vulnerable to abandonment, but in doing so, he presses into the doubts and fears of his disciples to give them an opportunity to rise above their intellect and respond from their heart. I can’t imagine what they were thinking, and even more so, what they were feeling.

It doesn’t make sense. Nothing about Jesus makes practical sense, not to the human mind. And yet, as this question lingers in thin air, Jesus gives his disciples (and us) the chance to respond.

I must confess that sometimes the question lingers longer than I feel it should. My own frailties of mind, heart, and body fall short – all the time.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

No pause here. The enemy sneaks in to my thoughts. He tries to convince me to be content, stay quiet, do whatever will keep the peace and avoid potential conflict, even if it means compromising my beliefs. He creeps into my weakest places trying to rob me of truth, strip me of courage, and seeks to leave me wounded and broken.

This reality quickly turns my gaze back to the Bread of Life. I need his strength and sustenance to persevere. I depend on his sacrificial love to give me life to the full.
Every. Single. Day.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)

My heart cries out with his. Jesus, where else would I go?! You are the only one. You are the one who nourishes my soul. You are the one who gives me courage. You are the one who rescues me.

How could I pause for even a moment? It is you, Jesus. You are the bread of life. The cup of my salvation. The one for whom my soul longs for. I will eat your body and drink your blood, to live forever with you.

It is you, Jesus. 

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“From the Eucharist comes strength to live the Christian life and zeal to share that life with others.” – St. Pope John Paul II

letting go

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I can’t see what’s in front of me. It was pouring rain and as I weaved along the country roads toward the airport the foggy thunderstorm left my hands clenched on the steering wheel praying I would not drive off the road. Street lights are a novelty in the rural Midwest, and apparently, so is seeing the lane lines on the road.

Thank goodness it only takes fifteen minutes to run from the parking lot through security to my assigned gate for departure at the Madison airport. I made it. Phew.

There wasn’t a moment on the drive that I thought I would miss my flight. Despite decreasing my speed by 80% and a total lack of vision of the road and other vehicles, I knew I would make it to my plane in time. Such confidence freed me to slow down and take the necessary precautions on the stormy roads that morning.

I can’t see what’s in front of me, but still I want to trust you.

I have no vision of the year ahead, let alone the next five to ten years of my life. I can’t tell you if the Midwest will be a stop along the way or a place that ever truly feels like home, and while the desire to be married and have a family grows in my heart, I can’t show you proof of if or when that chapter will be written.

What I can tell you is that prayer works. Talking and listening to Jesus opens us up to hear the voice of God, to feel his presence, and to find peace in the middle of not having many answers. When the people of God lift their voices to him in unison, he listens. He responds.

Lately, I have felt Jesus responding, but it’s not what you think. I didn’t hear an audible voice and I don’t have any hints about the future. But I do feel him. I feel Jesus wanting to set my heart free from the weight of doubt. I feel Jesus desiring to alleviate the feeling of exhaustion that comes with constantly trying to calculate life’s outcomes. I feel Jesus carefully loosening my grip from the fear of being forgotten.

He is giving me little tastes of what deeper trust feels like. (As an aside, I just pictured him handing me truffles, one by one.)

Trusting Jesus feels a little like reckless abandonment. It’s invigorating. It’s thrilling to let go. I picture myself running and dancing with arms tossing in the air as the sun kisses my skin and the wind caresses my curls. It’s marvelous.

It’s hard to stay there though. I’m sure you can relate. As much as the glorious release of concern enthralls me, thoughts rush into my mind grabbing my attention and dampening my courage to run freely with Jesus.

The moment is enough though. One moment gives us a taste of the sweetness of trust. Trusting in Jesus empowers us to believe in the unbelievable. It catapults our dreams to the heavens and unleashes a beauty and fearlessness that puzzles the world.

Isn’t it ravishing? It’s most desirable.

Won’t you run with me? 

I can’t see what’s in front of me, but Jesus, I trust in you. 

 

 

Photo credit: Little City Magazine

a desert season

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Every Lent we talk about going into the desert with Jesus. Sometimes, I swear it becomes trendy to share with others that we are in “a desert season.” The anticipation of Lent lasts throughout the year. One time someone told me during the summer what they were planning to give up in Lent. Really, six months ahead of time?

That is so silly! Why are we waiting for Lent to get our lives in order and give up the things we knew we should not have been doing all year long, only to return to them after Easter? Now let me clarify, I am not saying that we should not give something up during Lent, but I am wondering if we understand what it means to go into the wilderness (the Judean Desert) with Jesus.

Jesus is led into the wilderness/desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he is hungry. Maybe even hangry, who knows?

He is tempted three times: sensual pleasure, power, and glory.

These are basic temptations. We face them every day.

We are told to indulge.
We are told to control.
We are told to seek the praise of others.

However, there’s something much deeper going on in the desert between Jesus and the devil before he is tempted.

The opening phrase of the devil’s first two temptations begins with a small but powerful word that bullies us: IF.

“If you are the Son of God…”  (Matthew 4:3,6)

He says it twice. The devil tries to undermine Jesus’ identity by implanting a question, a seed of doubt, where God has grown certainty. He attempts to disrupt Jesus’ tired, hungry, and vulnerable soul by questioning the one thing he knows to be truer than anything else, who he is.

Gulp. This is too real.

So often, it’s the times when I am weary, stressed, and feeling lonely that the devil creeps in with the temptations of pleasure, power, and glory, but prior to that temptation, he inserts an IF. The “ifs” vary for each of us because he’s crafty and manipulative, but for me, it sounds something like this:

What if you really didn’t hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in your prayer? 
What if you’re not really meant for this? 
What if God doesn’t fulfill the desires of your heart?
What if you fail? 

It keeps going, but you get the idea. What follows? Temptation.

Temptation to take matters into my own hands. Temptation to mask the discomfort and uncertainty with immediate gratification in the indulgences of the world. Temptation to make a full proof plan that will ensure success, adventure, romance, beauty, and security.

I see the value of removing the things we turn to in the midst of temptation during Lent. But it’s not enough. If we don’t get to the heart of the matter, it’s like putting a band-aid on an exposed wound that lies above a broken bone. We have to be willing to feel and recognize what’s underneath the surface.

Going into the desert with Jesus means wrestling with our “IF” moments in the midst of feeling tired, hungry, and exposed. So here it is:

Will you expose yourself to the Lord?

Will you let him enter in to the questions, doubts, and “IF” moments that seek to undermine the beginning and end of who you are? 

This is where healing begins and where restoration dwells. Do you hear the voice calling out to you in the desert? He’s been there, he’s walked the same path, he knows what it feels like, and he will give you what it takes to endure. Beyond enduring, “he refreshes our soul” (Psalm 23:3).

Jesus came to reconcile the Father to his beloved – not a small task. He couldn’t afford to have a moment of doubt in his identity as he began his ministry on earth, and neither can you! We are called to participate in Jesus’ mission on earth, and we can’t do it without knowing and believing that he is the beginning and end of who we are.

And remember, sister: Jesus makes the darkness tremble. 

A desert season prepared Jesus for his ministry, and it is a desert season that will equip you for your mission on earth. The purification of the refiner’s fire makes us a new creation, deepening our identity, and convicting us of who God is calling us to become.

Who are you becoming this Lent? 

talitha koum

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“Jesus took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!” Luke 5:41

As I read today’s Gospel reading, I was profoundly struck by Jesus’ words to Jairus’ daughter. Everyone thought she had passed away after Jesus stopped on the way to Jairus’ house to encounter the woman suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. Jesus responds to the crowd saying, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Following this, he proceeds to enter the home of the young girl to speak to the depths of her soul calling her to arise, and she “arose immediately and walked around.”

In light of our country’s headlines and movements, it’s incredibly challenging for me to ignore the power of Jesus’ words in the context of our world’s understanding of womanhood. I hear Jesus crying out, “Talitha koum,” to the souls of so many women who are trapped in the confusion and deception of what it means to be a woman.

While many rally to fight for protection and healing from the horrors of abuse, others celebrate the objectification of themselves (and their sisters) through the promotion of an over sexualized culture that strips our world of authentic, life-giving love. All the while, the greatest gift that women possess, the essence of their creation to be life givers, is constantly threatened by our world’s hunger for control and domination over everything, including life itself.

Our understanding of dignity has been thwarted. Too many feminine souls are sleeping.

St. John Paul II in his letter to women written in 1995, expounds on the inherent value that woman brings into the world through her simple breath of existence. He writes,

“Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity … Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”

Are we bringing these gifts into our vocation, workplace, and the greater world?
How are we making humanity more honest and authentic?

Don’t hide your authentic femininity, letting lies and deception convince you that you are too much or not enough. Our authentic self is valuable, and every time we withhold it from the world, we deprive humanity of the feminine soul. God knew the world was incomplete without her, so he created Eve to breathe beauty, authenticity, fidelity, and strength among other virtues into the world.

In recognizing the truth of our womanhood and inviting our sisters to embrace the splendor of life as God created it, we respond to Jesus’ invitation to arise. We walk humbly together reminding one another not to be afraid of opening our truest self to the world, but rather to live boldly in faith first and foremost as a daughter of God.

As women of courage and faith, the Lord challenges us to be the voice calling out to those in deep slumber, “Talitha koum.”

Arise, my sister, your soul is needed.

ponder this

In the depths of every human heart lies the desire to be accepted. We take one glance around the world we live in, one peek at our phone, and we are instantly bombarded with facades. I know that I don’t need to write out a laundry list of the ways we tirelessly try to portray a perfectly curated image to our network of family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. I’ve never met a person who has not struggled with being accepted and loved for who they are.

The irony of this ache is that we are chosen and loved immeasurably by the one who knew everything about us and sacrificed everything for us. Nothing scares Jesus away from loving us as we are. Rather, despite the fact that he loves us unconditionally, we struggle to accept him for who he is. We hesitate to choose his love, even though it’s perfect.

Why is it so hard for us to embrace the love of our Savior?

Personally, I think sometimes it is hard to believe that his love is as good as he says it is. I don’t doubt that Jesus loves perfectly, but there’s moments in my life that I doubt he could love me perfectly. I see his beauty and glory all around me, and then I realize how little I am in comparison to who he is. I remember how many times I have turned away from his tenderness, and suddenly, I feel intimidated and fearful, even though he’s given me no reason to be. While contrition serves its purpose in confessing our sins to receive the forgiveness of the Lord, running away from him out of fear never does.

That’s what I love about Christmas. Who can be afraid of a sweet little baby?

As I reflected on Jesus’ birth this year, I was struck by the blissful spirit of a baby that lightens up even the most tense situations. Being a single woman in her late twenties surrounded by mamas and soon to be mamas, I can’t help but notice how people flock to their little babes without hesitation. The moment a baby enters the room, conversations pause, everyone’s gaze slowly shifts toward the little one, and arms start to drift outward eagerly awaiting the chance to hold the child for a while.

Now, some of you are the type to aggressively intercept the baby the first chance you get (you know who you are), and you’re good at it. You playfully join conversations near the babe smiling and tickling the child until you get your message across and swoop in for the taking. Others of us, don’t dare to compete with the swoopers. Instead, we wait until the crowd dies down and the mother asks if we would like a chance to hold her baby. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, each of us share the desire to varying degrees. There’s nothing quite like holding a baby. Sweet, tender, soft, silly, loving, humble, non-judgmental, endearing, and approachable.

Here lies the beauty of the incarnation. Jesus comes to us as a sweet, tender, soft, silly, loving, humble, non-judgmental, endearing, and approachable little baby. No wonder people traveled from near and far to adore him. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

If you’re hesitating to connect with Jesus, or running out of places to hide and reasons why you’re too much or not enough for his love, try holding baby Jesus in your arms this year. The beautiful bundle of joy asks nothing of you and gives you everything in return.

Maybe you were ready to swoop in this Christmas toward the manger and cuddle Jesus in your arms, or perhaps, you felt like you were waiting in a crowd for the hustle and bustle to pass so you could finally have a quiet moment with the Lord. Even still, maybe you’re bowing before him not quite ready to approach the manger, or you’re slowly making your way there feeling the tremble that the shepherds felt in the field that night.

Wherever you are, Jesus trusts you. He entrusts himself to you to hold him in your arms. He wants you to love him and accept him for who he is, so that you can feel him holding you and accepting you for all that you are. Be not afraid, dear one.

“Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms, it is as if God were saying: ‘I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so you can accept me and love me.'” – Pope Benedict XVI 

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once upon a time

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When I was a toddler, I would wake up before everyone else in the house and tip toe downstairs to the bedroom my Grandma stayed in when she visited. Peeking through the crack of the door to see if she was awake, I would slowly nudge it open just wide enough for my little diaper bottom to squeeze in. After watching her sleep for a few moments, I would gently tap her on the arm hoping she would awake from her slumber. She was a sound sleeper, which was apparent to anyone in the house by the volume of her snoring. Determined to snuggle, I would proceed to begin poking her face with my pointer finger ever so subtly, which would inevitably scare the begeezers out of her, resulting in a high pitched exclamation followed by the invitation I was waiting for. With her eyes half open, she pulled back the covers and scooted over to make room for her youngest grandchild to wiggle in beside her.

We would “go back to sleep” for a few minutes until my restless toddler self decided that sleep was not entertaining. Next came a question, “Grandma, will you tell me a story?” She typically replied, “Of course, dear. What story would you like to hear?” “The one about the castle,” I would say.

I only ever asked for one story. From time to time she would try to tell me a different story, but a couple of lines into it I would interject, “No, no, Grandma. That’s not the story.”

So, what is this infamous story that she told hundreds of times? I know the suspense is riveting. Here is the gist of it:

Once upon a time there once was a kingdom far away set in tall rolling hills with green grass and flowers growing across the hillsides. In-between two hills stood a tall castle in the center of the kingdom where the king and queen lived with their children. Their names were King Bob, Queen Cyndi, Princess Darcie, Prince Daniel, and finally the youngest, Princess Kendra. The king and queen ruled over the land caring for their family and all the people in the village.

The rest of the story included a detailed description of the crowns and gowns that each member of the royal family wore ranging from rubies to pearls, sapphires, diamonds, and brilliant gold framing. The dresses varied in style and color, but it was a safe bet that the youngest princess’ dress was a shade of pink.

I reveled in this story each time as if it was the first. The way my Grandma told the fairytale unleashed our imaginations to soar without limits, fulfilling every desire of my young heart.

There was something ravishing about being deemed a princess by the woman who was the queen of queens in my eyes. Gram always described the character of each person and why God has chosen them to hold such high esteem. They were kind, fair, and thoughtful individuals who served their Heavenly King above all else. She spoke with assurance, instilling a sense of honor and worth in my identity.

Listening to her storytelling inspired me to dream boldly and freely. It challenged me then, and now, to look beyond my present circumstances to imagine what could be. Our world gains satisfaction and return on investment by pointing out our every flaw and defect. From such a young age, Gram taught me to “fight the good fight” with humility and grace (1 Tim. 6:12). Even as I got older, she affirmed my ambition to travel the world and would frequently ask me where the next adventure would be, encouraging me to do it all and never let myself get caught in the current of routine.

It becomes far less socially acceptable to have princess themed parties and speak of ourselves as royal as we grow up, even though deep down inside so many of us would still be left breathless at the thought of be crowned a real queen. After all, how many of us stayed awake in the middle of the night to watch William and Kate’s royal wedding? (Guilty) It’s much less about ruling a nation and more about the deeper implication of what we understand queenship to mean.

Our hearts yearn for someone to look upon us and see us for who we are, a child of the Most High, inherently lovely and beautiful.

This is not a fairy tale to be left in our costume box buried in the attic.

Your childhood dreams might have been far-fetched, but the way you dreamed captured the essence of who God created you to be.

Brave, adventurous, blissful, imaginative, hopeful, trusting, and radiant.

Where is she? What dampened her spirit? Who told her to stop dreaming big, daring, extravagant dreams?

There was a reason my Grandma was willing to tell me the same story a million times. She understood the delicate nature of the feminine soul. She knew how easy it is to forget who God created us to be, and how precious our courage to dream really is. At some point unbeknownst to me, she decided to make it her personal mission to communicate my inherent value every chance she got. Whether it was a simple look of love, her boisterous gawking of how marvelous her grandchildren are, or telling the perfect fairy tale again and again, as long as I was within an earshot of her, she refused to let me see myself through any other lens but our Heavenly Father’s.

Take a moment to reflect on what lens you’re currently looking at yourself and others through.

When was the last time you danced around the house without a care in the world?
How long has it been since you wrote down some of your dreams?
What makes you feel inherently loved and treasured?

Maybe it’s time to read your favorite childhood book or dress up in an elegant ensemble and treat yourself to a lavish evening. What adventure in this world makes your eyes widen and your face light up just at the thought of it? Dig through your costume box, daring to remember what the little girl in you felt like as she stepped into the vibrant fairy tale world that made her heart bubble over with joy.

Let the Lord tell you a story about who you really are. Listen carefully, and don’t hesitate to sit with him for a while and ask him to tell it again, and again, and again. He will.