Monday, January 5, 2015

on fresh starts

Hi there! It's been a while hasn't it? My last post was nearly 3 months ago. What have I been up to??

Well, teaching, teaching, more teaching, choreographing, the holidays, and a small time in bed due to sickness.

And now it is January. 2015. A new year.

A fresh start.

Well... it didn't feel like that for me this year. Not until today.

Why? Well, my New Year began with a terrible cold and a bitter disappointment. It started, not with grand intentions and proud declarations, but with a weepy time journaling, praying that God would somehow bend and break me to His Will, when I felt like He was stripping me of the most beautiful things.

Getting sick meant missing out on a beautiful day of music and adventures with a dear friend, and it also meant several days in bed, doctoring my sore throat and dreadful sinus pressure, and losing time to work on the things I should have done before break.

And then, just when I thought I was doing better in some sin struggles, I fell AGAIN, and I was so frustrated with myself and angry at the "fresh start" I very much wasn't having. I got before God and asked His forgiveness and help, but I felt very defeated.

But then today, something amazing happened.

I finally started reading The Gospel Primer, the book my church is reading devotionally together throughout the month of January. I got out my Bible and my journal and the book and a pen and I set to it. But just as I was getting started, one of my dogs came upstairs, whining like he had to go out.

I pulled on my robe, found my slippers, and headed downstairs with him.

But when we got downstairs, and I prodded him to come outside, he wouldn't go. He just laid down next to our other dog in our living room.

I looked around, and saw a beautiful display. The Christmas tree - our first real tree ever - lit up and beautiful. The white/gray haven outside the big picture window. And two sleepy dogs, who just wanted my presence. They didn't need to go outside. They just wanted to be with me.

So I went quickly back upstairs, pulled on a pair of stripey socks, grabbed a blanket and all my books, and headed down to sanctuary I had nearly missed.

There I sat, in our old tattered rocking chair, a giant pink fuzzy blanket to keep me warm, gospel truths pouring into my heart via the books in my lap, and the beautiful atmosphere warming my heart.

As I "Mmmed" and underlined, and journaled out some prayers, a wonderful song a friend recently told me about played over and over in my head....

I am the Lord your God, I go before you now, I stand beside you, I'm all around you..... Come to Me, I'm all you need, Come to Me, I'm your everything... Do not look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me....

And as I looked up, and saw outside the beautiful newly fallen and long anticipated snow, blanketing everything in the most perfect of whites, I couldn't help but think, "This is it. This is my fresh start."

My new year didn't start at midnight on January 1st. It didn't begin with gallant decisions. It began with the breaking of my will. It began with weeping because I couldn't bear to lose such a day. It began with more weeping because the pain was too great for me to bear. It began with disgust for my sin, and the desire to truly repent. It began there, in the quiet haven of my living room, as I took in all the beauty that surrounded me and thought, "I nearly missed this."

Dear reader, I don't know how your new year started out, and I don't know what your hopes and goals are. But I do know this - if you ask God to bend and break you to His Will - He will listen, and He will do it. And it will be painful and frustrating and scary and at times even heart-wrenching.

But it will never be wrong. God's leading in your life can never, and will never be wrong.

And you will never be alone. God will be with you through it all. Wherever you go, what you do, more than you know, He will be there.

I saw this tweet the other day and it struck me. E.M. Welcher wrote, "Let me be your friend for a minute: 2015 is going hurt too. You're going to need Jesus again this year. All year."

We tend to get really mushy gushy about new years. Like, "2015, be good to me!" And, "I know this year is going to be great!" Or we get cocky about it. We plan and resolve and think everything it going to be better, simply because it's January 1st. And listen, I'm all about thinking positive and setting goals and looking forward to new and beautiful things! But I appreciate Welcher's reminder. Even in your best year - you're going to need Jesus.

And don't forget that Jesus is near because He loves you and knows that you need Him near.

This Christmas season I heard not one but two very good sermons focused on God dwelling with us. And it was so encouraging, and also sort of attention grabbing to me. I mean, I've heard that before - Jesus being Immanuel - "God With Us" - but I just couldn't help but wonder if God was trying to drum something important into me this year:

Sydney.... I am WITH you.

You see friends, fresh starts and new beginnings are wonderful, but they aren't possible without God, His work, and His nearness. God breaking us down, bending our wills, making us holy, and dwelling ever so near to us.

So, welcome Him in, and breathe in His nearness tonight. Offer up your fresh start. Surrender your gallant plans. Take your will and make it HIS. He just wants to be with you.

Go to Him. He's all you need.

Come to Me, Bethel Music Feat. Jenn Johnson
"Don't look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me..."

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