I look back on my life a year ago, and I never would have imagined, I would be where I am today. Around this time last year, I pictured myself moving to Colorado, working at an epic Christian non-profit, attending Woodmen Valley Chapel, and if I was really lucky, dating a lovely air force gentlemen. However, that is not the direction God had planned. Just in time, He rerouted me HOME home. The road was rocky, though not as mountainous as I expected. It was sad, but not without hope. It was trying, but still profitable. Through it all, God has been reminding me of the power of presence.
Last year, with inklings of the Holy Spirit, God spoke to me about the power of generosity. One could say I acquired some of The Magic of Generosity. A beautiful gift it was, being able to sacrifice my love of caring for family and friends through gift-giving to loving a community through toys for children in southeastern Kentucky. This year I’m learning to make a similar sacrifice of love – except instead of being generous with my finances, this holiday season, I am hoping to simply, be generous with my time.
During the past few weeks, God has be teaching me about the magic of being present. And not half-heartedly so. This time of year is chaotic, I get it. For the most part, I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, not remembering where I last left my keys, or my mind for that matter. And I’m simply a single woman! I can’t imagine if I had a husband and children running around in my mess! Uff da. Today, when I was trying to mail a package at the post office, the postal worker tried to charge me for the bubble envelope. When I told him that I had purchased it previously, I could sense his assumption of dishonesty as he asked me where I purchased it. Honestly, as I told him, I had no idea. I found it in my “mailing supplies” drawer. Here? Plymouth? Kentucky? Only God knows where I bought the darn envelope. Even in the simple $1.79 things, I’m lost.
So being present, this time of year especially, can be incredibly difficult. But it is incredibly important.
It’s in the chaos that we really need community.
I’ve been thinking back to my accident a lot lately, probably because today marks the 6 months anniversary. Six months. Six months ago, I survived an emotionally traumatic season because strangers, friends, and family chose to be present in my life. I emphasize on “chose” because presence is a choice. God chose to humble himself into a form that would be dependent on humans to survive and grow. Because he loves us so much, he chose to be present in our lives.
Emmanuel, they called him, “God with us.”
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” -Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
During this season of God’s presence, I am trying to imitate Christ by being present in the lives of everyone I meet. Even, and especially, when I don’t want to be. Working in the retail world again, my days off are scattered, and thus sacred to me, but I can’t let them dictate how I live my life. I need to focus on the others God has placed in my heart. Instead of sleeping in, I’ll wake up early to visit a dear friend. Or instead of couching and Netflixing all day, I’ll spend the morning baking goodies to bring as I visit family.
Those are all good things, but the real kicker is what happens during these visits. As my mind is tempted to wander to my laundry list of things to do, I find my attention waning. I don’t want to be the person that is present in body, but not in mind. When I am somewhere, I am striving to be fully there. I’ll admit, it’s not always easy, because generally, I’m tired, or have a headache, or am distracted by all the things I think I need to do. However, in the moment, none of that is important. Truly. In those moments, the only thing that is important is the people in front of me, what they are saying, and being the presence that they need; the sense of community we all crave.
Imagine yourselves holding a puppy, kitten, or a baby (whatever your preference): Are you able to be distracted by anything other than the fact that you are holding the most precious and adorable thing in the whole wide world?! Of course not! Because it’s so freaking adorable! So, as practice, treat everyone you meet like a puppy. Give them all the attention and love they need, and in return your heart will be filled.
When you’re halfway through a show, and a friend calls to unload their troubles.
When you find yourself in the home of someone who has caused you pain in the past.
With the mothers who need an adult shoulder to cry on.
With your church leaders who are exhausted, worn, or are simply not “feeling” it.
When trouble finds its way into the life of a close friend.
With the clerk at the supermarket who waits patiently on customer after customer after customer.
With family members who dream of keeping old family traditions alive and well, year after year after year.
With yourself, your dreams, and the path your heart takes you on – no matter how difficult or impossible or inconvenient it seems.
With the God who gave up everything to be present for you.
God knows your presence is magical in the lives you chose to be present for. This holiday season, don’t just give presents, be present.