when the fig tree doesn’t bud

Full disclosure?

I may or may not be crying a bit while I write this.

Fortunately, I also have a bag of barbecue chips by my side which makes things a little better.

I wanted to give all my friends an update on my book publishing process, and it’s a painful update this time. One of my main goals in making this blog is to be transparent – to override the facade of social media perfection.

So here goes.

* crunches chip. sniffles. crunches another chip. *

Okay. Ready.

I blow through about 3 children’s chapter books a week, since that’s what I’m writing.

* okay, not ready…more sniffles. *

Anyway. I spend hours reading them, studying them, diagramming them, and re-reading them.

I found one a few weeks ago that as I read it, page by page, I got that hot feeling in my face that happens when a teacher calls on me and I’m caught daydreaming or that time I got pulled over in a speed zone or now, that hot feeling I get when I’ve found a book parallel to mine.

Yes. Parallel to mine.

*sniffles.*

I was sitting in the minute clinic waiting area, just wilting with each turn of the page. And not because of the ringing in my ears or the fact that I couldn’t breathe through my nose.

Good news?

My writing voice is extremely different from this author’s. My characters are extremely unique from these characters.

(So I can keep my babies. I love them. I don’t want to give them up.)

But the plot….oh, the plot. There it was. Laid flat on each page.

Months of work. Months and months and months of work and someone else did it first.

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But hey, other good news?

This book turned out to be a New York Times bestseller.

Dad says I should take that as affirmation that I know what I’m doing. That I know my audience, and I know what’s relevant to them. And praise God, I picked up this book before I spent too much time sending mine out.

But my heartache.

Couldn’t this have been easier?

Could my first book have been the one?

I know it doesn’t usually happen like that for authors, but couldn’t I have been the exception?

Maybe “easy” isn’t God’s plan for me or this book.

Maybe I’m learning what it means to persevere. Maybe I’m learning what it means to have faith in what I believe the Lord has promised me. The kind of faith that I can’t muster up on my own…the kind of faith only God can give. Maybe I’m in the process of creating books so much better, so much more developed, so much meatier than my first one, that kids will love them and benefit from them even more.

Maybe I’m learning to be real with people and not apologize about it.

I have faith that someday, I’ll hold my published book in my hands and I’ll read it to a class full of littles knowing that I didn’t give up.

Knowing that I didn’t lose faith in God even when things didn’t go my way.

Even when the disappointment was real.

Even when my 6-month project had to be filed away.

Even when the stomach dropped and the tears came because that book was like my baby.

I have faith that someday, I’ll tell littles not to give up. To follow their heart’s desires.

Because by God’s grace, I’ll say, I didn’t give up either.

And a beautiful book happened because of that.

So, with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat, I’m on to book 2.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Thank You God, for teaching me to bow my head and to bend my knees and to run the good race with You as my anchor and with faith as my shield.

Dear reading heart, if you have a goal, a God-given heart desire, press on. Press on. 

I have a feeling we’ll be glad we did.

And may we, the bold dreamers who face disappointment, call our hearts to sing this anthem:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights”

-Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Blessings and joyful strength to you,

Robyn

Jesus offended me. (And I’m so glad He did.)

Can I take a minute to share with you? Thanks. Extroverted me is brimming at the seams.

I used to think, “I’m not perfect, but God loves me.”

Now I think, “I’m not perfect, and God loves me.”

It might not seem like a whole lot of difference, but to me, these two statements separate moralistic religion and Jesus in my own heart.

You see, the “but” in the first statement always left room in my heart for the hope that somehow, I could really try my best to be perfect for Jesus and He would love me always, even in the times I fell short of perfect. The “but” meant that sometimes, even if hardly ever, I could actually come close to achieving perfection by thinking and doing the right things that I thought God wanted me to do.

The “and” in the second statement means that I. Will. Never. Be. Perfect. At least, not until heaven when I meet Jesus face to face and am made perfect and complete in eternal communion with Him. And that’s the me Jesus came to save – the me who realizes and accepts my serious imperfection and doesn’t try to hide it with a band-aid of well performed morality or religious rules I’ve made for myself.

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You might be familiar with Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. The one where the younger brother runs away with his dad’s money, squanders it on “wild living” (prostitutes, alcohol, partying, etc) and ends up alone and eating with pigs after all his money is gone. So he returns to his dad’s house, thinking himself a fool and unworthy to be a son anymore, and his dad meets him with open arms and celebrates his son’s repentance and homecoming with the biggest celebration of the year.

Meanwhile, the older brother, who stayed with his dad, did his chores, followed the rules, and is pretty sure he’s done a lot better than his younger sibling, is absolutely furious with his dad for welcoming the younger brother back. He won’t even go into the celebration when his dad pleads with him to come and enjoy. The older brother says something to the effect of “I’ve done the right thing this whole time! You never threw me a party! And yet, my brother acted a fool and comes back when his money is gone and you throw HIM a party? That’s not fair!”

Can I admit that even though his argument annoys me, the older brother’s logic made some sense to me? And I found myself nodding and thinking, “Wait…but he did everything right…”

And that’s when Jesus gently and truthfully whispered into my heart that I’m less perfect than I ever dared imagine – no matter what rules I do follow. When you’ve idolized perfection for so long, that’s an offensive truth.

And that’s when the full impact of the gospel hits like a hurricane of unrivaled love.

If I accept how sinful I am (I know, I know. It’s heavy. It’s not fun to think about. It’s offensive, even), then how much more does Jesus mean to me?

All of a sudden, I need Jesus. I love Him even more. I am in love with the Son who loves me with reckless abandon, asking for nothing in return. Never asking for performance. Asking only for my whole heart.

Jesus says this about a sinful woman whom He allowed to anoint His feet with her best perfume, “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ “- Luke 7:47-48.

The truth is, Jesus forgives us all much. It’s up to us to decide whether we will let Him.

If we pretend we don’t need much forgiveness (with the flawed thinking that surely we must have followed the rules better than the next guy), then I suppose we only have the ability to love little rather than love much.

One more thing.

Did you know that when Christianity first spread, right after Jesus was crucified for us, it was considered anti-religious. Yes. Christianity was considered anti-religious. According to Tim Keller, the religious people of that day asked, “Where is your temple?…Where do your priests labor?…Where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” And Christians would have responded that they did not make sacrifices anymore. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices” (Keller, Prodigal God).

Keller closes with this: “The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him” (Keller, Prodigal God).

Please here this: God does give us boundaries and rules that breathe life and are pure. They show us how to live abundantly and by so doing, glorify Him.

But I pray we will be a people who admit and embrace with humble hearts our big need for Jesus, so His big forgiveness can take place in our hearts, overflowing into big love for Him and for others.

Blessings and love to you today,

Robyn

“The men at the table said among themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?‘ And Jesus said to the [sinful woman who anointed His very feet] “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:49-50).

Rest Easy.

This morning I was inspired by a question from my Hebrews bible study.

The sound of birds chirping out on the porch was also especially inspiring after a week of rain, and few things make me feel instantly at peace like my vanilla cream coffee perfectly warm and a lack of Tucker bites (for now) thanks to the God-sent electronic bug zooming around our little foyer.

I’d love to be transparent with you.

The question in my study was this: What are some of the “plus” behaviors you’ve tried to add to the sufficiency of Christ? (Harper, pg.115).

Well….I mean. Oh.

I don’t need to add things? I totally forgot I don’t need to add things.

Andrew Strickland Photography (10 of 53)

I forgot I’m good enough for Him because of Jesus. I forgot I don’t need to clean up my act before I come to Him in prayer. I forgot I don’t have to pray with my eyes closed and in one certain spot to get better prayer-reception. I forgot God forgave the sins I haven’t even done yet once and for all and that’s good enough.

Gosh, it’s so easy to forget.

Following rules and religious rituals we’ve made up in our heads sometimes feels safer than living free in Christ’s love, doesn’t it?

It’s hard to wrap my mind around how my life was more valuable to Jesus than His own. Rituals and rules make more sense to the human brain, I think.

But I like Jesus better.

You know something?

I would rather be forgiven than perfect.

Because forgiven means I’m loved.

Hallelujah! I love being loved!

I can walk through this day with my permanent ID card in my back pocket:

 Robyn: Loved. Pardoned. Free to Go. A Friend of the King (John 15:13).

(so, not like, spent 30 minutes reading the Bible, so free to go until tomorrow morning).

(so, not like, didn’t do anything wrong for an hour, so pardoned until the next mistake)

(so, not like, prayed enough this week, so God will definitely listen)

No, no, no!

Praise Him, that’s not our reality as His beloved friends!

Because Jesus says the verdict is in. We can show our ID cards to that judging voice whenever it rears its ugly head with a religious to-do list:

Your Name: Loved. Pardoned. Free to Go. A Friend of the King.

One of my favorite verses is this:

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that

I am God” Psalm 46:10, passion translation.

I also like to tweak it a little for my own heart to this, referencing 1 John 4:8:

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that

I am [Love].”

So rest easy today. The result of our trial has been determined already: Jesus wins. And we win in Him.

Enjoy the walk a little more. We can stroll! Or even better, skip! We don’t have to strive and stress the whole time and power-walk anywhere checking off our list of religious to-do’s. (Although who doesn’t love a good power-walk with elbows flying all over the place? And even cooler, those professional power-walking suits and helmets? But I digress.)

All this, Friends of the King, because:

Jesus = Everything we need. 

(seen that phrase a million times? yeah, me too. and it’s amazing how many times I still need the sweet, Holy reminding.)

God’s grace and love to all us power-walkers-turned-skippers with To-Do lists turned-freedom-flags,

Robyn

Kick Those Anxious Thoughts to the Curb!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [humble and earnest asking], with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul, author of Philippians] – put it into practice. And the God of peace [contentment, fulfillment, security] will be with you.”

-Philippians 4:4-9 (emphasis and additions mine)

Goodness, I love this passage. 

And maybe you’ve read it many times – but I like to go back and read it with fresh eyes as though it is an official instruction manual for my heart and mind.

(Maybe that’s just the type-A, always-loves-a-good-plan part of me. But it works!)

I have this passage written down on an index card in the form of a checklist (type-A again, folks!):

  • Pray
  • Give the worry to God
  • Give thanks
  • Think about what is true.

Then, when I start to worry, I pull the card out and remind myself to give my worry to One who loves me most.

Or, in other words, I kick that anxious thought right in the pants! WABAM!!! (Also, can you tell I work with kids? I literally just did the slicing-the-air motion with my arm. I think I might be heavily influenced right now by the new ninja moves I’m learning).

Anyway, I’m not a very practical person – emotions are like, way better (kidding! sort of.) – but sometimes it’s good to have plain old practical advice. Here are two practical heart and mind “ninja moves” (I can’t get over this ninja theme!), that I like to use to kick worry to the curb. 🙂

1. The What-If’s and Worst Case Scenarios

Typically, if I have an anxious thought that won’t leave me alone and preoccupies my mind, it’s a “what-if” scenario.

I’m sure you know the thoughts well:

What if she thinks _______? What if they don’t like _______? What if I do something wrong? What if_______ happens?”

Clearly, these thoughts need a good karate chop.

So when I realize I’m playing a what-if on repeat in my mind, then I look back at my heart instructions from Philippians 4:8:

Paul writes, “Whatever is true…think about such things” (Phil 4:8).

Oh!

Because you know what?

“What-ifs” are not true! That’s why they’re called, “what-ifs” instead of “reality!”

So we shouldn’t even worry about them!

Whew! Praise God, right?

(Because what-ifs can be downright scary. Especially if you’re a creative type like me and think up scenarios for a living).

So why worry and focus on what-if scenarios as though they are true?

Because God, in His lovingkindness, has shown us what to focus on instead.

He instructs us to focus on “what is true.” Not on what we’re afraid might happen.

Karate chop number one, folks!

2. The Power of Giving Thanks

If you’ve read any of my posts, or if you’ve ever heard me talk… pretty much ever, then you know I love the writer, blogger, and photographer, Ann Voskamp.

God has blessed and used her book 1,000 Gifts to truly change my heart and my life.

1,000 Gifts beautifully illustrates the importance of giving thanks to God.

Voskamp says, “It is impossible to feel thankful and anxious at the same time. So we must choose to give thanks.”

Do you see the beautiful gift we have here, friends? That we can choose the path of life instead of the path of worry simply by choosing to give thanks?

And not only is a mindset of thankfulness an open window and fresh air for our hearts, but giving thanks is a command from our Perfectly Loving Father.

Looking back at our heart instructions, Paul writes:

“…with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

How beautiful. That very sentence makes my heart sing! Not only are we free to give thanks, but we must give thanks! What a delightful charge.

And yet, how often do we all skip over the “with thanksgiving” part and head straight to the “present your requests to God” part?

…Yeah, me too.

Because when I’m worried, I am not in the mood to focus on things I am thankful for.

And so, I must choose. We must all choose to give thanks in those times of worry.

I also ask God for His help.

And then, quietly but surely, my heart and mind start to think calmly and hopefully while I give thanks.

If you’ve never prayed prayers of thanksgiving when you’re worried, I find it helpful to start off by telling God thank You for the truth about who He is.

We can thank Him for all these things because they are written in scripture, so they are the truest of true:

God is good and faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23),

He is all-knowing and all-powerful (Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 139: 1-6),

He is perfectly loving (Psalm 23:6, John 3:16, Psalm 103:8) .

He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

And then, with a heart growing calmer and steadier through the giving of thanks, I love to move on to thank Him for fuzzy socks and cat purrs and then sometimes cat bites and space heaters and chocolate chip cookie dough and the small but beautiful gifts like those.

And I’ve learned through experience that a thankful heart opens the door to let God’s peace come in, displace the worry, and strengthen the faith.

Karate chop number 2! WABAM!!! (I felt the sound effect was warranted again. Thankfulness makes me so happy!! What can I say?)

Encouragement

Friends, if you are like me, and you get caught in the net of worrying way too much, you are in good company!

Remember how Jesus walked on water that one time, and Peter got out of the boat to walk toward him, but then Peter got scared – started to worry – and so then he started to sink? I love how even Peter, a man who is looking right at Jesus, a man who gets to touch Him and talk to Him in person, who is His very apostle, and who is called “Blessed” by Jesus in a conversation with Him, still struggles with feeling anxious. I also love how even though Peter became anxious, Jesus reached out and saved him. Jesus did not let him sink.

Perfect Love.

Perfect Love Who desires us to “Cast all [our] anxiety on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7, modifications mine).

Now, in a very serious conclusion, if you ever get stuck and are drawing a blank about something to be thankful for, hear this:

“And on that day, God made bacon and said, ‘Men, I love you.’ And then He made chocolate and said, ‘Women, I love you too.’” – Michael.

I like to think God laughs at our jokes sometimes. 🙂

There is ALWAYS bacon, chocolate, and the never-ending love of the God who loves you more than life!

Blessings, peace, karate chops, and bacon and chocolate to you,

Robyn

Those Ugly Stepsisters: perfection & fear

Dear friends, a few nights ago I froze at my computer.

At the keyboard, more specifically.

My brain turned into a blank piece of paper and the words wouldn’t come.

I felt anxious.

And so I prayed and I read Ann Voskamp (highly recommended) and I wrote in my journal and I ate chocolate and I watched a rerun of Boy Meets World.

Then, I told Michael about what I was feeling. He said, “You need to write about this. About how you took on something big and you’re nervous but – God’s in your court.”

And I said, “…Okay. Done.”

Because Michael knows me better than I know myself a lot of the time.

And when that logical, loving man tells me I need to write, I know he’s right.

Now, the “something big” I’ve taken on is becoming a writer professionally.

More specifically, writing books for children.

That’s a big leap.

It’s awesome, it’s scary, it’s for such a time as this, it’s blessed, it’s my dream, and its biggest adversary is this:

Perfectionism.

Ugh.

Even that word is pointy and ugly and harsh, isn’t it?

Back to the moment when I froze at the keyboard.

Perfectionism does that, doesn’t it?

Makes you freeze.

Paralyzes you.

Ever heard the phrase, “paralyzed by fear?”

Yep.

Fear and perfectionism go together.

They are like the mean, ugly stepsisters in Cinderella.

(I relate most things to Disney movies, by the way.)

Like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, fear and perfectionism see beauty and hope and creativity and boldness and God’s glory – and they don’t like it.

So they try to sabotage it.

Remember when the mean, ugly stepsisters see Cinderella in her mother’s dress, getting ready for the ball, and they rip the beautiful dress to shreds so she can’t go and display all her God-given beauty?

Terrible!

Horrible!

Putting that moment in writing is even worse than watching it happen.

It also makes me want to go watch Cinderella again.

Can’t you see that’s what happens to us, dear friends, when fear and perfectionism attack?

Let me put it in non-Disney terms for those who don’t see things quite like me:

Perfectionism is:

  • When you’re afraid to start something – simply because you’re afraid you won’t be good at it. If you procrastinate, then there’s no opportunity to fail, is there?
  • Quitting something because it’s harder than you thought and you were supposed to be good at it, right? But you weren’t perfect right off the bat. So you stopped.
  • When you’ve worked for hours on a presentation and you’re smart and you’re ready, and then you get to the front and start sweating bullets and wondering how you look to the people in the room. What if they don’t like what you’re saying? What if you get something wrong? You get distracted and you fumble your smart words.
  • When you’re teaching, and you teach every day with those kids in mind and you plan for hours and your heart is all in and yet the minute your principal walks in your room to observe, you doubt. You fear. Are you perfect enough in her eyes? What if she sees you make a mistake? What grade will you get on your evaluation? You get distracted and you forget what you were even teaching in the first place.
  • When you don’t want to go on that date with the nice person or agree to a relationship with the nice person who has given you no reason to doubt, simply because you don’t want to get hurt if it doesn’t work out.

I think all these examples can be summed up in this one kicker of a paralyzing lie:

“I want to do everything perfectly, I want to be perfect — so I don’t get hurt or disappointed” (in your job, in your marriage, in your friendships, etc).

Dear hearts, this is no way to live.

Perfectionism isn’t living.

It’s striving. It’s frustrating.

It’s also impossible.

And yet, perfectionism and fear are so commonplace we don’t notice them for what they are most of the time.

But they’re there.

And like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, they will rip to shreds our beautiful gowns of creativity, beauty, intelligence, success, and any God-given glory we have if we let them.

Dear friends, perfectionism does not protect. Fear does not protect.

Rather, they stifle.

I am glad Thomas Edison was not a perfectionist.

He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I like him already. Refreshing, isn’t it?

He’s not saying he doesn’t ever fail, he’s just saying he uses those failed attempts to keep trying.

And I’m glad he did! (He invented light bulbs, for those of you who are scientifically unaware like I am).

Isn’t that what God tells us to do, dear friends? (Not to invent light bulbs, ha!) – but to keep trying?

We cannot pick back up and try again by our own strength, but here is why we can pick back up and try again:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, emphasis mine.

You see, He picks up back up each time. And so we can try again.

Because like the rising of the sun each morning, so does the Lord’s grace fall upon and bless and strengthen the hearts of His children.

And so, we try again.

Because our Father separates our sins from us so far as the east is from the west, we try again (psalm 103:12).

And then, we try again.

We are loved as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11). And so we pick back up and try again.

And when a group of Pharisees (a.k.a perfectionists, if you ask me, because I see my own weaknesses in their flawed perceptions) ask Jesus why He is eating with the “screw-ups” of that society, if you will, he responds with this:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17.

I suppose that is why Paul says to boast about our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). Because when we are real about our weaknesses, about our imperfections, the humble sacrifice of realness sets a beautiful backdrop for Christ’s light to shine brightly into our weaknesses and into the hearts of others, setting hearts free to abide in His love.

So let’s do this, dear friends.

Let’s love Christ without fear. Let’s love others without fear. Let’s stop trying to be good enough for God.

Because we never will be.

But because He sent His Son, we are.

We are.

Take a breath.

He’s got you. And He loves you.

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10, passion translation.

So go put your Cinderella dress back on.

Let the God who loves you most stitch it back up.

And don’t let those ugly stepsisters Fear and Perfectionism sabotage your ball anymore! 😉 

Peace, blessings, and fresh mercies to you in Christ,

Robyn

Behind the Christmas Card (the one with the crazy cat…)

Greetings! Here is mine and Michael’s Christmas card for this year:

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And here is a more accurate representation of our family: (Tucker trying to escape, and us trying to smile while also making sure he doesn’t run and hide under the bushes just to be difficult while we wait with treats as people drive by and give us questioning looks because we’re outside in church clothes crawling around in the pine straw attempting to grab our furball like what happened last week).

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Sometimes the holidays can be like that, can’t they?

We want the first picture. The perfect one. The Christmas carols are playing and the candles are lit and the tree is bright and so shouldn’t everything be perfect, just this month, if no other time?

And if things aren’t perfect for me at Christmas, am I alone in that?

Is everyone else having a way more normal and sugary and wonderful experience as meanwhile Michael and I work through newlywed lessons only learned and planted beautifully in the heart while forged in the heat of challenge?

If your holidays, dear friends, at times resembled crawling in the pine straw (probably not, but you get what I’m saying) instead of decorating Christmas cookies, you are not alone.

And I don’t mean things were negative or bad all the time this Christmas.

Lots of times this Christmas season, things were wonderful.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, dear friends! I am so thankful for all those good times!

I instagramed about our tree and cookies and presents, and we drank hot chocolate and sang carols and snuggled and laughed and watched the Polar Express and stayed in our pajamas all day.

But also lots of times this particular Christmas season, things were hard.

Michael and I were (and are) in the process of setting boundaries in respect to how we spend our holidays, based on what is best for our marriage – our marriage, the sacred beginning of our own little family.

Someone didn’t like – didn’t respect — the boundaries we needed as a young family, and it hurt.

Really hurt.

The kind of hurt where you choose to genuinely thank God for His Son while you string the Christmas lights because you must choose joy when the emotion isn’t easy to find in the moment.

The kind of hurt where your husband sits on the couch and prays and wants peace with someone he loves but it’s just not in his control anymore because people have free will.

This was our Christmas, dear friends. Our second Christmas as a married couple. Our second Christmas as our own family. As one flesh. And I am so thankful for it.

It was a beautiful time. It was sacred. It was also messy.

But isn’t beautiful and sacred and messy the story of our lives?

And isn’t beautiful and sacred and messy why we needed Christmas in the first place?

Because who could rescue us from sin so messy, but the God who made us beautiful and sees us as beautiful despite the mess? Who could rescue us but the God who chose to come in the most sacred, pure, loving way: as a newborn baby?

If your Christmas was hard, I know it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.

Especially if you wrestle against perfectionism (you’re in good company here, folks) and your Christmas wasn’t like the picture, it’s confusing, even.

Please know Jesus didn’t come for the perfect.

Christmas didn’t happen for the perfect.

It’s so much better than that.

Like a fresh breath of air, Jesus came for you and me. He came because we’re not perfect. And our situations here on earth will never be perfect, and so we can celebrate Christmas because He came!

Hallelujah, He came!

And so now, because He came for you, He promises when there is pain, there is purpose (Rom 8:28).

When you hurt, He is near (Psalm 34:18).

When you trust in Him, you will live with Him forever in a place more perfect than we can imagine (John 3:16).

Maybe this Christmas was wonderfully peaceful and bright and joyful for you. I pray it was! Michael and I have had those simply sweet Christmases, too, and I know we will again.

Praise God for those Christmases! They are gifts.

With a humble heart and by the grace of God, I echo this: Praise God for these hard Christmases, too. They also are gifts. They are. And you are not alone in them.

This is the promise: everything that happens will be used for the good of those who love God. The hard Christmases will be used for good, and the peaceful, easy Christmases will be used for good.

What an incredible God we serve.

Dear friends, I don’t yet see the purpose in our pain from this Christmas. I don’t.

But I do see little glimmers of hope, like little surprises in the tree: the smile Michael gives me when we pray together, holding hands more lately because we’re a team and we need each other, praising God with hearts freshly bowed at the Christmas Eve service because we can see more clearly now in the pain how He truly is our Comfort, Shield, Savior. The moments where we share hearts because we have to lean on each other instead of watch TV. The moments when we look at each other in difficult situations with eyes that understand and we just know. We’re in it together.

These things are all the little gifts God softened my heart to receive this Christmas.

I pray whether your Christmas was easy or hard, peaceful or chaotic, that God gives you eyes to look back and see the gifts He gave. I pray we’ll all have eyes to see the gifts He gives today.

And I pray we all have fresh eyes to see, and hearts to know the greatest Gift we’ll ever receive in Christ Jesus.

Peace and blessings to you and your family,

Robyn

So Good.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

Michael, Tucker, and I like to watch the world go by on our screened-in porch.

Tucker in particular likes to watch people walk to and fro on our street – bonus points if those people are walking a dog and making a lot of noise. In Tucker’s world, those are the best kinds of people.

Today, kitten’s ears pricked and his paws cupped his chin as he lowered his head to stalk the nearest movement. I looked up to see what grabbed kitten’s attention this time.

It was a toddler wearing plaid and his dad following him with careful hands always at the ready to catch a tumble.

The toddler chose his points of interest and without hesitation followed his tiny little heart’s desire to each new moment: the grass, the sidewalk, a small, flat boulder.

The toddler and his dad stopped at the boulder. The toddler slapped it and looked at his dad. The dad slapped it too and smiled and showed how to climb on. Toddler stared in determination and climbed, but cautiously stayed crouched down on all fours. The dad held out his hands and encouraged Toddler to stand on his own on top of the boulder he’d just conquered.

Boldly, the toddler stood on shaky legs, thrilled to pieces. But the cute thing was, he wasn’t really standing on his own. His dad was holding him with careful arms but Toddler didn’t notice. Toddler was too excited and pleased with life at the moment to notice. He smiled at his dad, and his dad smiled back. The toddler delighted in his boulder victory, and the dad delighted in his son.

It stirred in my heart: they are made in the image of God – the baby and the dad.

Just look at the wide-eyed curiosity and enthusiasm the toddler enjoys. I like to think that the God who made fluffy clouds and macaroni and cheese and slinkies and giraffes with long necks and ticklish spots is a creative and curious and enthusiastic God, just like the hopeful toddler.

 When Jesus’s disciples asked Him who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus responded this way:

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

But my favorite part to watch might have been the toddler’s dad. While the toddler delighted in the world around him, in the flat boulder and the green grass, the dad delighted in his son. I like to think that’s how our Heavenly Father feels about us. The toddler’s dad was protective. He encouraged. He played. He smiled and he laughed along with Toddler’s squeals with kind eyes and when his son tried to run at top speed down a hill, the dad was there to run with him and slow him down because the short toddler legs were tying up in knots.

It reminded me of how sometimes all of us get tied up in knots. And Jesus tells us we have a Father “Our Father in heaven, Holy is your name…” (Matthew 6:9), who, David reminds us, is there with us in both the tangled knots and the victorious heights:

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar…If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:1-14).

So the dad delighting in his son is an image of our Heavenly Father. And the son smiling with delight is the image of our powerful, good, exciting God.

How God can reveal Himself through both the unashamed joy of a toddler and the unconditional love and security of a dad all at the same time is a mystery and a comfort. I like to think God has loving eyes and careful hands for His children like this dad on our street. And at the same time, I like to think God has excitement, adventure, and joy like the toddler exploring the land.

So if we are made in His image as sinful (but forgiven, my friends!) humans, how much greater, then, is this perfect God we serve? Mm. So good.