A layer of wonderful counselor

I can remember my Mom playing Handel’s Messiah for us all the time when we were growing up. Her big musical displays usually took place in the kitchen and when she really got going she would direct the boom box like an orchestra or grab one of us to dance around the kitchen with her. She loved Celine Dion, and Josh Groban, as teenagers we lacked the appreciation for a finely tuned vocalist. Celine Dion still isn’t my first choice, but I have rocked a bit of Josh Groban from time to time, if you can really “rock” JG. Anyway, I still think of her and time Handel’s messiah plays or I read through Isaiah 9. I am not sure I can really read Isaiah nine so much as listen to it sung Handel-style in my head, usually with an intense focus on the Soprano line.

In case you are unfamiliar with what I am talking about, use this handy link to get on the same page, it is pretty beautiful and my soul usually starts to move up and down with the music. I am pretty sure I do an embarrassing dance with my eyebrows too. I think my soul wants my body to ballet dance along with the choir, but since I lack even basic coordination my body and soul have settled on the eyebrow dance.

6 For to us a child is born,to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Have you ever really spent time thinking through all the names of Jesus outlined in this verse? I wondered if we annually tracked every person they would connect with different names each year. For me each Christmas season is a culmination of the calendar year that goes before it. I sort through things at Christmas, I take stock, I make theories and I ask questions. I don’t have previous years data to really flesh this theory out, I have never had THAT much time on my hands, but maybe I will now.

I think this year I really connect with “wonderful counselor” and the whole idea of what it means to relate to Jesus in a personal way, like you would relate to someone sitting across from you, offering you advice and counsel. Having started my masters in counseling at Asbury I know a little bit more than the average patient about the therapeutic process. The counselor listens and uses questions and key phrases to help the patient figure things out for themselves. Counseling would be less than half as effective if you sat down and someone told you: Here is what you are doing wrong, here is why it is so dumb for you to think or do what you are are doing, and here is what you need to do about it, like now.

What is so great about Jesus being our wonderful counselor is that he already knows all our history and our hot button issues. There is no getting to know you process when you allow him to counsel you and lead you. He is what we are craving in this world on the deepest level, he knows us fully, more than we know ourselves. And as an added bonus he knows how to best lead us, because he is perfect and has all the patience in the world. This last part sounds a bit tacky but it goes with the counselor thing- His schedule is always open for you. Have you ever been in therapy, had a craptastic day and wished you had appointment at that very moment? Wished you could pull a Jack Nicholson in “As good as it gets” and bust down your counselors door and start yelling about your momentary freak out? Not an issue with Jesus, he always has room for you.

I always worry that one of my doctrine teachers, or seminary geniuses is going to come along and read some of what I take away from the bible and think, “as I suspected, she really was not paying attention in the slightest.” I was, I tried, and hey I did learn this: The Hebrews believe that each text has layers, facets, like a diamond. There are so many levels to each text that we can learn from. That’s reassuring isn’t it? This is one of my layers.

No Mo!

No Mo!

Noelle’s favorite word right now? More. Only it sounds more like “Mo!” which makes it so much cuter and easier to hear 3,512 times a day. It seems to me like the Christmas season can come on to some of us like a demanding toddler, always wanting one more cookie or sip of cocoa. And by cookies and cocoa I really mean our precious free time, money and sanity.
For as many Christmases as I can remember I have felt some ridiculously deep inner need to over book myself. Last year, for example, I committed myself to crochet everyone on my list a homemade scarf, and hand craft each Christmas card myself. We packed bags to celebrate Christmas out of town in Oklahoma City and in Michigan and were gone from Dec 17 – 30, and all this with a 7 month old. Disaster. It was too much. This year will be so much more low key.
I was talking with a friend the other day and she basically told me that being 36 weeks pregnant and having just lost my Mom, I pretty much have a free pass this year on any and all Christmasy bullets I would like to dodge. Since that talk I have realized that, yes I am pretty limited in my abilities this year, and there are many Christmas “norms” that I am not even going to attempt, because the odds are 97% certain that I won’t succeed. So this Christmas I am thinking less gifts, no Penny family Christmas card, and much more hot chocolate sipped while staring at my Christmas tree grove which may or may not even get decorated.
I was sitting in the bath tub this morning and I thought wow, I wish I could share this uber pregnant just lost my Mom free pass with all my friends. Not the sad grieving parts but the more peaceful moments by the tree parts. That thought was followed immediately by this one: Why do we have to be going through something extremely hard to set ourselves up to experience some healing Christmas peace? Why should I be the only one enjoying chocolatey, quiet reflective moments bathed in twinkle lights? So my answer is that I shouldn’t. I think we should all dig out our versions of the Christmas story, get to the heart of the matter and realize that Christmas isn’t about being busy or bowing to the never satisfied god of “more.” It is all about celebrating the freedom and salvation brought to our world by Jesus.

So even though going into this season my story and situation is likely and hopefully very different than yours, I hope you breathe in the Christmas story like you would fresh cookies or a just cut evergreen tree. I want to send you a free pass to say “no” to the mo! (more) of Christmas, and yes to the “less is mo!.” If you don’t want to send 112 Christmas cards, don’t. Send just 12, or none at all. Trim your shopping list, cut out a few holiday parties, make the what you do matter instead of doing so much that you don’t remember or experience any of it warmly.

What I cannot do today

 

I love the Jewish idea of binding things on your body in a very real and physical way. Because some truths seem so painfully obvious, but are next to impossible to keep at the forefront of your mind. Sometimes I want to wallpaper my living room with these truths, or tattoo them on my arms and hands. Or maybe on the foreheads of the people I surround myself with. Every sphere of life have a certain amount of these foundational and incredibly forgettable truths. Going through tough times is no exception.
Today’s painfully simply truth? When you feel like everything is crumbling around you, focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.
Chances are if you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, you can’t do what you do on a daily basis. You can’t fulfill the roles you hold in your life like you have always dreamed you would.
Let me bring it home and make it personal. Today I am on the edge, and if Ihad to tell you why, I couldn’t. Teeny tiny every day things are pushing me over the brink of sanity today, and I have had several moments where I didn’t think I would be able to make it to the moment of salvation when Kel walks through the front door after work. Noelle keeps trying to climb on the kitchen table and every time she does I think I am going to lose it. Little things like my water glass being out of reach are enough to frustrate me beyond belief.
So here is what I came up with to get me through. Don’t think about how Supermom would navigate this afternoon, or even how you would normally do so in an ideal situation. Instead figure out what you can do to get through.
What I cannot do right now:
Multi task
Do Laundry and chores
Plan fun activities for my daughter
leave the house
feel great about my life
think about Christmas
Be in a super healthy place
Worry about how the entire world perceives me
What I can do:
Ask God for the strength to get through the next two hours
Admit that I am going through intensely tough stuff
Lock Noelle and I in the playroom
Be okay with her messing stuff up a bit, or a lot
Feed her baked Lays
Be thankful we have this bag of baked Lays in the house
Read her any book she brings to me
Keep her out of the dangerous stuff
Listen to the radio
Take deep breathes
I am not the Mom I always dreamed of being today, I am not the supportive wife I want to be, I am not the positive influence in the lives of our students that I want to be. This is not a permanent state, but if I can’t admit that it is the state of things today, I will drown.