Category Archives: letting go

Silent Night

Silent night.

It’s been one of those for me. I tried to fill it with a few phone calls and text messages to friends while waiting in my car for my kids to emerge from their youth group meeting. No one answered. All was silent, and the hush filled my heart until I could no longer suppress my reality. The pain inside of me was going to find its voice, and the silence offered it a stage for release.

Rather than trying to hold the silence at bay, I gave in to it and allowed it to hold me. Cradle me. Collect all the tears that had been welling up within me. In those moments of surrender, the Father allowed me to move out of my silent night so that I might enter into another one—the holy quiet belonging to Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

Mary’s labored breathing followed by the push and pressure of Emmanuel’s eagerness to make his entrance. Joseph’s soft responses to his beloved. Stabled animals shuffling in the hay. Neighs and brays; snorts and sneezes. Whispers of the wind stirring as symphony. A baby crying. The boisterous interruption of a heavenly choir.

And therein, my momentary pain was overshadowed by lasting remembrance.

Perhaps this is the beauty of a silent night … when sorrow bumps up next to Salvation. When pain nestles closely to Promise. When that which is holding us so tightly releases its grip to the mighty Hold of heaven—tiny fingers wrapped around human hurt, reminding us that all has not been lost in the silent night. Instead, all has been gained there, in that place of sacred collision.

It doesn’t seem reasonable, this holding of peace while simultaneously holding pain. But it feels right. Even in the ache, I’m willing to take hold of it, make sense of it, because the thread that ties me to the eternal is stronger than the frayed threads that tie me to the temporal. I am made for heaven, and a silent night tethers me to home.

Maybe today you’re wrapped up in a heart-hurt. Life has surprised you with pain, an unexpected grief that threatens to steal your peace. You have nowhere to place it, no friend to shoulder the load. The silence is deafening, and your escape uncertain.

Me too. Greater yet, God too! God is with us as we make our pilgrimages to Bethlehem this year, as we wrestle with our pain and strive to make peace out of chaos.

Emmanuel is in the manger. Emmanuel is in our silent nights. Emmanuel … holding our hearts. Healing our hurts. Keeping us safe. Walking us home.

How I love the gift of Jesus; how I need this blessed grace! On this silent night, I bend the knee and bow the heart to honor the King’s advent in my life. ‘Tis a sweet mercy and a blessed trust to have my silence interrupted by the great and glad declarations of heaven. As always …

Peace for the journey,

My Silent Night

Oh holy, quiet Bethlehem;

Tonight I linger here.

Beneath your stars, within your walls,

Your truth resounding clear.

 

The Baby cries his advent;

The momma cries relief.

The daddy cries his tears of joy;

The heavens cry belief.

 

How lovely is this moment;

That lingers then and now.

Both quiet and both willing,

For peace to take a bow.

 

To enter in and change me;

To soften pain with praise.

To dry my tears with silence,

To cause my hope to raise.

 

Oh silent night! Oh holy night!

You’ve never sung so strong.

So clear, so true, so tenderly,

Relieving all that’s wrong.

 

You are where I’ll linger;

You are where I’ll sing.

For unto to me a child is born,

Onto him I’ll cling.

(written by F. Elaine Olsen.12-01-13.allrightsreserved)

 

 

Letting Go

Letting go.

We talked about it last night after teeth were brushed and prayers were spoken. Two girls, one barely eleven and the other four times plus her senior. Her tears might as well have been mine. I know this struggle – this letting go kind of dilemma.

She’ll be taking a trip soon, one that requires her to leave behind a few items that have been her comfort for the past decade. She knows it’s time; she just doesn’t know how she’s going to do it without some pain.

“Maybe this is how God is going to grow you. Maybe this is his way of molding you into the woman he wants you to be – someone who trusts him in the night. You can hold onto someone real, baby girl, instead of something that’s not. You can hold onto Jesus. I sure would hate for you to miss out on a potentially, life-changing experience because of your fear of letting go. Maybe this is God’s way of leading you toward a deeper faith in him.”

These words were enough to momentarily quell her inner ache; I lingered a while longer while she let this truth absorb into her soul. After leaving her room, I let it absorb into mine as well. Long into the night I meditated on these words shared from my mother’s, well-trained heart to a daughter who is following closely behind.

Maybe this is how God is going to grow you, Elaine.

Letting go. I know it’s time; I just don’t know how I’m going to do it without some pain.

Of what, you might ask?

A few things. In the grand scheme of your life, my few things probably don’t matter that much. I imagine you have your own releases that are fighting it out within your heart today. You know it’s time; God’s been poking at it for a while now. But you are scared of the night. Those creature comforts that have been temporarily comforting you no longer suffice. Their power is limited and will never lend you enough strength for the deeper faith that is required for the journey ahead.

And so you have a choice: Let go of what’s in your hand so that you might take hold of God’s hand, or hold on to what you have and never make it to your next, spiritual birthday. You can stay stuck at eleven or you can add another candle to the cake and move forward with your twelve. The choice is yours. The choice is mine.

Maybe this is how God is going to grow us all.

It begins in the night, when light is cloaked by darkness, a wrestling it out under the covers with our souls. The pain is real, the ache almost debilitating. Almost. But then truth arrives, bringing with it a fair exchange for the hurt. A God exchange. His real presence for your temporal fix. His real hand, his heart, and his love for your false idols.

Your life, changing because of your letting go.

I want that, friends. Life changing. Life amplified. Life maturing. Life living forward in the daytime because I wasn’t afraid to let go in the night. Life holding hands with the Savior instead of life holding hands with fear.

Accordingly, I make this choice today, even as my daughter will have to make hers in coming days. I know it’s time; I just don’t know how to do it without the pain. So I won’t even try. I’ll expect the pain, but I’ll also expect the hand of Jesus. His real presence makes all the difference. His real presence is all the strength I need to let go in order that I might walk on.

This is me letting go.

This is me walking on.

I’ll meet you on the road of faith. Traveling mercies, sweet friends, and may you always know God’s companioning …

Peace for the journey,

Rodeo . . .

 

This isn’t my first rodeo.

In the course of my lifetime, I’ve lived in five different states, ten cities, and changed physical addresses at least eighteen times. My family and I are less than a week away from making it number nineteen.

A new home. New community. New ministry. New everything. Alongside the new, will arrive some old. It’s the old that sustains me. Strengthens me. Maintains me. That old?

God is near. (Ps. 145:18; James 4:8)

God.

Is.

Near.

When breathed in isolation, those three words hold enough theology, imagery, breadth, and depth to transition a heart from the old into the new. God and his nearness are old. God and his nearness are new. Never changing; ever the same. Ever present, active, and accurate. God simply and profoundly IS wherever I am. I cannot outrun his presence or hide from his heavenly GPS. He knows where I am and is willing to keep pace with my progression. Movement wins when God is with me.

This is how I can do this thing—keep making these moves and living the itinerant life. Knowing that God is near me keeps me upright in the saddle and focused on the finish line. Certainly, I’ve kicked up a little dust along the way, taken a tumble every now and again, and even knocked over a barrel on occasion. Each rodeo comes with its unique obstacles. But even then—even there in those moments of holding on for dear life—joy can be found. There’s something about the ride that trumps the risk.

To ride and rope and gallop alongside Jesus is to live life on the solid edge. This is how faith feels to me right now—dusty, wild, fast, and furious. I am hanging on for dear, sweet life. I’m resolved regarding the finish line, tenaciously gripping the reins in one hand while waving to the crowd with the other . . .

Just so you’ll know I’m still here. Just so you’ll know I haven’t given up. Just so you’ll know that I’m still committed to the ride, regardless of how bumpy it gets some days.

How grateful I am for the nearness of God and for this ride that draws me ever closer to his heart!

*Fair Warning: Number nineteen, here I come! Saddle up, and get ready to rodeo, friends. We’re in for the ride of our lives. May God grant us his favor, his strength, his discernment, his joy, and his peace for the journey that lies ahead. I thank you for the privilege of riding my horse next to yours.

 

a table for grace . . .

It’s not much. Just an old table with two even older chairs. I spied them alongside Hwy. 70 while winding my way home from my annual run to the eye doctor. My U-turn came as no surprise to my eldest son who made the trek with me; after twenty-four years of being my child, he’s grown accustomed to my motherly whims. After all, he needed this collection of not much.

A table for grace. A table for my boys.

“Think of the meals once shared there, Nick. The stories told there. The tears cried there. The prayers uttered there. Think of them, son, when you and your brother find your places around this table in coming days.”

And there it lingered between us – our thoughts about coming days and about how a table for grace might just be the thing to keep our family together, even though our paths are diverging.

Grace tables are keeping tables because grace tables are framed upon firm foundations. What is built there (through meals, stories, tears, and prayers) is enough to write a history and fortify its remembrance. Hearts are shaped, beliefs are forged, memories are collected, and sins are forgiven at a table for grace. It’s where we do some of our best work as human beings. Why?

Because when we sit down at the table with others, we lean our hearts, minds, and souls toward understanding. We extend reciprocity. We offer respect. We lend grace. Tables cry out for such generosity. To deny them this possibility is to live underprivileged. Who wants to live like that? I certainly don’t, and as the mother of two cherished and adored, grown sons, I must extend this privilege due them.

And so, I made a U-turn on Hwy. 70, did some negotiating, and came home with two chairs and a table for grace. I know something of its value, even though my boys have yet to bow their heads in thanks around it. That will come for them and for the four of us they leave behind; of this I am certain.

As a family, we love the table for grace. We didn’t just discover it. As far as we know, it’s always been . . . long before any of us made entrance into this world. A keeping table built on a firm foundation that will outlast our earthly occupancy and that will carry us forward into our eternal one.

Think of the meals shared there, friends. The stories told there. The tears cried there. The prayers uttered there. Think of it all – God’s all – when you find your place around a table for grace in coming days. God’s children (the ones who await our arrival at the heavenly banqueting table) understand the value of such meals. They no longer live under their privilege. Instead, they live inside of it, surrounded by grace and keeping company with the King.

A table for grace. A worthy U-turn. An everlasting history.

Would you take time to live your privilege this week? Find a table and find a loved one. Share a meal and write rich history together. Grace is waiting to meet you as you arrive. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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on burying the blue sweater . . .

 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” –Isaiah 43:18-19

It’s time to throw-away the blue sweater (modeled here by mini-me, a.k.a. Miss Amelia).

How do I know the time has come? I just know. Sometimes a heart just knows.

It might be obvious to you and others that I probably should have let this one go a long time ago, but it’s been my friend for over twenty years . . . a lot of memories and a lot of back story to this particular sweater. It’s tough letting go of a friend like this.

Perhaps you understand. Maybe you have such a friend—a “holding on to” that is holding on as well, tenaciously gripping your hand and heart and unwilling to release you on your way. Could it be that years of comfortableness (of living with the old and with what’s easy) have robbed you of something new, something better?

Maybe, like me, you’re blinded to your need. To others, your need is obvious; your sweater is old, torn and tattered by years of overuse but rather than releasing it to the junk pile, you’d rather squeeze a few more wears out of it. You won’t force the issue, because forcing the issue means facing it as well.

If this is you, might I offer you a checklist of sorts, a few diagnostic prods when assessing your need for a new sweater? And lest you think I’m solely talking about the clothing that hangs in your closet, let me assure you that, greater still, I’m talking about the clothing that hangs in your heart, your mind and soul as well.

How do you know when it is time to throw out a sweater?

  • When it has outlived its usefulness.
  • When it reveals more than it conceals.
  • When the color fades.
  • When it prevents space in the closet from being available for something new.
  • When it adds to your load rather than easing it.
  • When it no longer warms your frame.
  • And most importantly (at least for me in this season), it’s time to throw out a sweater when it becomes a stumbling block to others, especially to those who sit beneath my influence. If I can’t let go of an old sweater from time to time—if I cannot release that which is no longer beneficial to my well-being—then how can I expect them to release theirs? What is modeled is often what is lived. I must be willing to rid my closet of the non-essentials so that my children might experience the freedom of doing the same.

Indeed, sometimes a heart just knows when it’s time to let go. Today I bury this sweater. Tomorrow, possibly something greater. It’s all in keeping with God’s “new” for my life.

I challenge you to do the same. Take a look in your closet today; examine the frayed edges of your heart, soul, mind, and spirit. Do so with this checklist in mind. Maybe there’s a sweater or two that needs to join mine in burial. It’s not always easy saying good-bye to a well-loved, well-worn friend, but sometimes, it’s required if we want to make room for God’s new dispensation of grace.

May our Father grant you his discernment, his strength, and his peace in the “letting go.” I’ll meet you graveside, friends, and we will glory together in the release and in the freedom that is ours in Christ Jesus! As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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