Wait Here to be Called

 

Mary and Gabriel

I don’t like to wait. I don’t like to wait in lines at amusement parks. I don’t like to wait in the carpool lane at school. I don’t like to wait to be seated at restaurants. Our kids can’t wait to open their Christmas presents. I can’t wait for the magic of Christmas Eve. And to be completely honest, sometimes, I can’t wait for all of the holiday craziness to be over, so we can get back to our routine.

Yet, the Christmas season, particularly Advent, is a season of waiting. The focus of the Advent season, of course, is to prepare for and celebrate the birth of Jesus…and anticipate Christ’s return. Advent reminds us of the importance of waiting.

This past Sunday at church, we lit the third Advent candle, symbolizing joy. Yet, our pastor acknowledged all of the pain in this world. Friends are grieving the loss of loved ones. We are heartbroken by the inexplicable violence and terror in our society. We feel the darkness when lives seem broken beyond repair. In the midst of this season of both joy and pain, we were reminded by our pastor of the words of David, who faithfully sang to the Lord, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent…” Psalm 30:11-12.

During Advent, we are waiting on the birth of Emmanuel – ‘God With Us’…A God who not only lived and died among us, but a God who promises to be with us in the middle of our joys and our pains. We wait with a spirit of hope. We wait, with faith, for a God who brings peace to our hearts in the greatest times of pain and can even turn our wailing into dancing. When we wait on the Lord, we ultimately put our hope in something greater than our circumstances. Psalm 27:14 encourages us to wait in hope: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

We also wait for God to guide us throughout our lives. I once saw an airport sign that said, “Wait Here To Be Called.Wait Here To Be Called”  I chuckled to myself thinking it would be nice if it was that easy. We wait for our calling – to be a spouse, to be a parent, to find the right job or career – to be used by God in some unique way. We wait, not knowing how or when God will answer. Psalm 37:7 reminds us to be patient, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”

Whether or not we like it, we spend much of our time waiting – waiting for the next stage of life, waiting to feel God’s call, waiting for the pain of death and the pain of sin in the this broken world to lessen. We wait for heaven. We wait for Christ’s return.

The airport sign made me think a lot about waiting on God.

But perhaps instead waiting to be called, our calling is to wait!

God asks us to wait patiently in hope and expectation because He can heal our hearts, give us peace beyond understanding, and clothe us with great joy. So, this advent season…enjoy the wait.

The Angel, Gabriel, rocked young Mary’s world with inconceivable news of an unplanned child. The life she had been waiting for would look entirely different than she could have ever imagined. Gabriel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; God loves you dearly.” (Luke 2:30 PHILLIPS).

And the same is for you as we celebrate Advent.

Do not be afraid; God loves you dearly.

…On Beginnings and Endings

photo-26

Well…when you ask for God to reveal His plan…you better be ready for an answer! In Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish, I expressed anxiety over what God had in plan for our family. And in Leaning In, I shared more fears about the unknown. I reminded myself that fear is not from God. Instead, he asks us to put our hope in Him…leaning in and seeking His strength.  Easier said than done.

Our family of six, (formerly known as the ‘CO McMonagles’ and most recently known as the ‘NM McMonagles’) is becoming the ‘CA McMonagles’. We are moving to San Diego. I’ll be honest; I’m very sad to leave our life and dearest friends and family here in Santa Fe. I do believe, though, that San Diego is not going to be rough. I started praying for a miracle last fall…a miracle to keep us here in Santa Fe. My friend, Lois, tells me that miracles don’t always look like you think they will. Throughout the last year, I have slowly stopped digging my heels into Santa Fe and honestly started asking God to make me open to His plan. That’s a miracle in itself. So God gave me hope in the meantime. Hope is one of those fuzzy/hard-to-define words. But hope is worth grabbing and holding onto. Hope lends sanity to the everyday.

“…in a big, loud world – we hold on to Hope. Hope for the impossible, hope for the unlikely, hope for the unexpected, hope for the improbable — because hope is nothing else but the spine of faith…for Hope in [God] is the anchor of our soul.” –Ann Voskamp

An anchor to our souls…how awesome is this little nugget of truth from the Book of Hebrews?! It is in great hope that I am trusting that God has heard my prayers and is showing us miracles, no matter how unexpected the form. I have real hope that God has our family in his hands as we launch off on this great new adventure.  Saying goodbye to our friends in Santa Fe is going to be difficult. But a new start doesn’t demand closure.

“Everyone now wishes for ‘closure’. This word is unfortunate; it is not faithful to the open-ended rhythm of experience.” John O’Donohue, An Abundance of Blessings

For a girl who thought she would live in Georgia her whole life, it’s kind of surreal to think that I’m moving on to my fifth state since I left my childhood home. I’ve learned that with a move, real closure isn’t necessary. I have taken a part of each city and my dear friends in each place with me. Life truly is an open-ended experience.  Rather than an ending in Santa Fe, I’m focusing on a new beginning for the CA McMonagles. In his meditations on endings and beginnings, O’Donohue continues,

“A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us.”

Lois also recently shared with me a beautiful song that I might have listened to three hundred times in the last few weeks – Hillsong United’s, Oceans. It’s worth a listen and pretty fitting for our move to the Golden Coast.

“You call me out upon the waters. The great unknown where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery…For I am Yours and You are mine. Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide…”

Uncertainty is, no doubt, unsettling. Answered prayers and miracles rarely look like what we would have expected. But it’s in the deepest waters, deep in the mystery, where grace abounds. Are there places in your life where you can ask God to make you more open to His plan?  Some areas of life where allowing more hope will give you more peace in your days? I encourage you to seek the mystery in the deep.  Because the grace is so sweet.

So here’s to new beginnings…especially when they don’t have to dictate an ending. Santa Fe will always be a part of our lives. Watch out – the McMonagles, in all our chaos, are about to take SoCal by storm. There is part of me that thinks my Toyota Sienna mini-van is going to instantly turn into a jeep without a top the minute we cross the California state line. And speaking of songs…I’m trusting Katy Perry and Snoop Dog that like the California Gurls in their song, I’ll instantly become fine, fresh, fierce, tone, tan, fit, and ready – and basically just lay under palm trees sipping gin and juice all day. Who’s gonna watch the kids?!  I’m in.

 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” –Hebrews 6:19

Hoarding Joy

It was no Sandcliffs fireworks show, but at least we had something!!!

This may not come as a surprise to those who know me well. But when I was a kid, I used to time it perfectly so that I saved my Halloween candy until Christmas. My Christmas candy until Valentines. And my Valentines candy until Easter. I guess I just scavenged through the mid-part of the year to get my sugar high.  My brother, on the other hand, would fully enjoy his candy (then break into my candy stash and steal mine!). I have to wonder…would I have enjoyed the candy more if I had just eaten it when I really wanted it, instead of denying myself the pleasure just to make it last longer?

Talking with our friends, we recently realized an adult scenario of that situation. If we get a nice bottle of wine, we tend to store it away while we enjoy the much less expensive bottle…saving that nicer bottle for a ‘special occasion’. What we end up with is a collection of nicer wine we are afraid to drink because we are just saving it for the right occasion. But maybe the everyday is the right occasion!?

This past weekend, we savored time with sweet family friends enjoying a summer’s night eating and spending time together on the back patio. The kids played with sparklers. We drank nice champagne. We noted that there was no particular special occasion (other than being together, which made it special).  And we wondered if a nice bottle of champagne should be saved for that impending ‘special occasion’ or celebration. I think the conclusion I came to is that the everyday is the special occasion.  And my five year old made me realize what a shame it would be to save the sparklers for only a couple of patriotic holidays per year. Hanging out on the back patio on warm summer nights with dear friends are the memories we will most likely hold closest as life moves on. More so than New Years Eve or rare celebrations, those nights are the champagne worthy nights.

I tend to be quite the planner, but maybe sometimes, just eating the candy when I want it, lighting the sparklers, and enjoying that rare fancy glass of champagne is a perfect celebration…for everyday life. There is no need to hoard joy. Joy is all around us.

A verse that has particularly stood out to me in the past year is Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” My God of Hope is One who yearns for me to trust in Him day in and day out…to allow Him to infuse our everyday with real peace and great joy. And sometimes, that’s easier said than done. We allow the details and stresses of this world to choke our joy.

Oswald Chambers noted that,

“Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed. But the first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances. Jesus said, “. . . the cares of this world, . . . choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

I’m not suggesting that we be careless and shirk our responsibilities. Or that we mismanage that which we have been given. But joy is a gift – one to be enjoyed one day at a time…not to be hoarded for special occasions. We bring God joy, and He wants us to know the same complete joy. I think that if Jesus was with us on our back patio, He would want to light some sparklers and maybe even have a glass of champagne too.

 

“Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge!” -Hester Browne
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. —John 15:9,11