Friday, December 22, 2017

Prepare Him Room



 "Let every heart prepare Him room"


We may sing that song but do we really think about those words? As we are in the final days of Advent, as we prepare so many others things for Christmas, have we taken the time to pause, and prepare our hearts?

We have just a few more days until Christmas. But all that prep in the meantime is for naught if we are planning to celebrate the arrival of our King, but have not taken the time for our hearts to receive Him. 

There's still time.


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Time. Oh boy. Touchy subject. We all have the same amount of time yet we so often think ours is the most important or think we are the one entitled to more of it. #guilty

But as we are in this countdown to Christmas, time may feel even more packed than usual. We are in this season of Advent, and only One really is worthy of our time.  We may be celebrating Christmas and the birth of a Savior, but have we taken time to spend with Him?

Before the hustle of the preparations that still need to get done, have we sat down to breathe, thank God for the ability to run around and get things done, and really marvel in the miracle of this Holiday?  If you are getting caught up in the preparing for Christmas, I encourage you to check to make sure you have prepared room, in your daily time, for Him.
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How we spend our money.  Ooo. There is another touchy subject.

But, as I was thinking through the ways we can prepare Him room, this one could not be overlooked.


God has designed us to get joy from giving.

But let's not just give for giving's sake.  If we are true Christ followers then we need to seek to truly make room for him in every aspect of life. Even our money.

No doubt a lot of cash has flowed out in these last few weeks and some of you are thinking NO MORE.  But with all the spending, has any of it been for giving?  If it has, then you already know what I'm talking about, and what that book except below is talking about. Has any of it been given away, with no expectation of anything in return?

Just something to ponder as we prepare Him room.


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Relationships. Ouch. We just keep hitting on the touchy subjects don’t we? But, let’s pause and ask, have we made room for Jesus…? In our relationships. With family. With friends. 

 When we are building these relationships, have we left room for Jesus? 

Have we put Him at the center of these interactions?  Even with friends and family who don’t follow our Jesus, have we allowed Him into our half of the conversations?   

Do we allow Him to work in our hearts, to soften, to convict, to help us see our friends and family through His eyes?  I know there are a lot of awful, ugly, hard things out there that take a lot of time, forgiveness, mercy, and sometimes counseling.  But for those that don’t involve all of that, and well, even those as well, have we invited Jesus into the middle of these messy relationships, to allow Him to help heal and rebuild?  

 I know there are all ends of the spectrum out there with where we are in relationships, so I do not assume I know it all, or that I am throwing a blanket over it all. But when Jesus says He wants to be a part of all of your life. He means these parts, too.

 Sometimes relationships can leave us feeling a bit like my friend here....
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Our Homes.  Have we made room in our home for Him?  The Israelites in the Old Testament were instructed to write The Word on their doorposts and walls. 

A constant reminder every time they walked into their Home: the Lord lives here.  We all have different styles on how we decorate, but this goes beyond that. 

This involves asking the Spirit into our homes. To set the tone of love and welcoming to anyone who may come in. 

As we are just days from Christmas, no doubt I am not the only one preparing my home for the Holiday. But I would be remiss if all my prep was just visual.  

 Come Holy Spirit. Work among us in this place.
A flashback to a couple Christmases ago. In the midst of preparations, these two dear ones thought it best to decorate with some "snow"
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And finally, our Thoughts.  Have we left room in our thoughts for Him? Or are we more prone to fill it with lies we tend to think are truth, thoughts about ourselves, or thoughts that look down on others?  

 "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 and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8). 
 
We began with the heart, and we end with the thoughts, book-ending a range of things of where we need to ask ourselves “Have we prepared Him room?”   

Aligning our hearts and our thoughts with Jesus at the center, we can better address those areas, and ensuring we have room for Jesus in the middle of it all.


My encouragement to you as we take these last few days to prepare for Christmas, and then the days following as we work to recover from it all, may we remember that without Jesus, it’s all pointless.   

But Jesus wants to be a part of it all, our messes, our successes, our everyday lives. He wants invited in.

Let’s make room.



Monday, December 18, 2017

Prepare


As I ushered my kids out the door this morning; hugs, kisses, and assurance that each had their lunch, a thought fleeted through my mind.

1 week until Christmas.

Now, when that thought comes to you, how does it make you feel? 

Exited?

Or overwhelmed?

When that thought came in my head, my first thought was of excitement.  Excited for Christmas break, for the kids and Paul to be home for 2 weeks, no homework, no lunches to pack. Excited to have evenings at home together and celebrating Christmas together as a family.

And then the next thought came charging through: I still have so much to prepare.

I looked up the definition of prepare. Yeah, yeah, I know what the word means. But, just like reading lyrics to a song can help you better understand it, reading a definition of a well known word can bring new light.

Prepare.  
1 a : to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity
   b : to put in a proper state of mind

As I looked at this definition it struck me. As we lead up to December 25th, we spend so much time on the first part of that definition. How much time do we spend on that second part?

We have all sort of prep work for the activities. We have so much to get ready for.
 
But how much time do we spend getting our hearts in the proper state of mind?
 
This time leading up to Christmas is called Advent. The anticipation of Jesus' arrival -  the arrival of the celebration of His birth, the arrival of His Grace as we seek Him in repentance, and the 'someday-arrival' of His Second Coming. 
 
How much time, in the last few weeks, have we spent reflecting on that? 

Well, it's not too late to redeem it. For the next 7 days, as we lead up to Christmas Day, the celebration of our King's arrival, we have so much to prepare for Him.  But none of these things can be seen, they all start inward.

No worries, you can still bake those cookies and get that last minute shopping done. But in the midst of that, I invite you to come along with me, to contemplate, how you, how I, can prepare Him room.

Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Suvar Christmas Letter

For the last 6 years we have taken the money that we would have used to pay for Christmas cards, pictures, and postage and put that money towards a charity.  For the last six years that money has gone to World Vision to buy a goat and a few chickens for a family in poverty. Last year we were able to add a cow to the mix as well, thanks to my commissions from Rodan+Fields. 


This year, with the increase in commissions from my side business, we are able to purchase the chickens, goats, and cow, plus support a local family in need.  We aren't tell you all this so that the light can shine on us. Rather, we share this with you so that others may see the Light that inspires us to give of ourselves. We can only give because He first gave to us.

"Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify YOUR FATHER in heaven." Summary of Matthew 5:16   

As my friend Carey says, "Our arrow points UP."

So instead of a picture in the mail with a happy holiday greeting, you get this update. And a montage of pictures taken over this past year.


Owen is 11 and is in 5th grade.  He is reading books at a high school level, building fantastic creations with his Legos, and aspires to be a surgeon someday. He is certainly the first-born of the bunch. Bent toward the Type-A rule following (to a T!) and constantly "directing" his sisters on what they should do. He has a knack for memorization and can recite long parts of scripture with hardly any practice and is self-teaching himself piano, mostly by listening to songs.

 The Boston Common

Hannah is 9 1/2 and is in 4th grade this year.  Hannah is our in-house creative, singer, and dancer.  We have noticed lately that, although she is incredibly shy and has a hard time around big groups of people, if you put her on a stage it's a whole different story. This girl loves to perform. I think I see musicals and drama club in our future. Daily she is writing stories, drawing pictures, and creating new things out of items found in our recycling bin.  All of her requests, questions, and stories come to us through song and melody.  Sometimes it takes 3 minutes to tell us something that really only takes 30 seconds, but at least there is entertainment through it all. 

 We as a family hiked a mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Madeline is nearly 8, in 2nd grade, and has quite the personality.  She is the most independent and headstrong of the three.  She seems to have a mature sense of humor that does not match her age and makes us laugh daily with things she says. She also loves to make little people out of simple ordinary objects (erasers, corks, clothespins), cuddle on the couch, and has a soft heart that is quick to ask and receive forgiveness. 

 He did it! 26.2 miles on the streets of Boston, MA.

 In April, we as a family took a road trip to Boston to cheer Paul on as he checked an item off his bucket list - running the Boston Marathon. A race that you have to qualify for in order to run (under 3 hour 10 minutes for his age group) it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip.  In June, Paul finished up his third year of teaching with much singing and rejoicing from me.  Having put in more hours in 8 months than a full time job does in 12, I was so very thankful to have him around for the summer.  But our summer was hardly a sit-down relaxation type of summer. We spent nearly 2 weeks traveling and visiting our dear friends in Zambia, thanks to a donor who paid for our plane tickets! The whole trip felt like a dream. In fact, if I didn't have the 400+ pictures to prove it, I would completely believe that I had imagined it all.  As far as myself, I continue to work for Gateway Woods as the Systems Coordinator in the Foster Care Department. I love being the support behind the department as we license foster parents and support them as they take care of hurting children.

Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia

I have been striving to be more active on this blog over the past year because I love to write. But so often I don't have those large chunks of time to sit down and type. I am hoping someday that I will be able to be more regular, until then, thank you to my few faithful readers!

 A quick stop in London, and a 3 mile trek to see Buckingham Palace

Along with working at Gateway, being a wife, mom, taxi driver, and all around supporter of everyone's lives, I am also balancing that along with the time I put into my side business. Two years ago I took a leap and joined as a Consultant of a skincare company, Rodan+Fields. For quite some time Paul and I have desired to live off as little as possible and give most of our income away. We felt like we were about to the point of squeezing blood from a turnip, when God brought along this out-of-the-box way of funding His Great Commission. These past two years have been a lesson in trust, waiting on God's timing, getting a better understanding of what giving really looks like, and changing our question from "How much should we give?" to "How much should we keep?" 

A typical home in the compound, outside Kitwe, Zambia.

Each of us is called to serve the Kingdom in different ways, and different capacities. I pray that each person who reads this will realize they have a part in furthering the Kingdom, and that 2018 will bring it into clearer focus just what that may be.


We thank you for your prayers and want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.  We are so thankful that so many years ago Jesus was willing to come to earth and live a human life, devoid of sin, and die on the cross for each of our sins.  We don’t deserve His sacrifice on our behalf, but we are SO very thankful for it!

A very Merry Christmas and a joyful, Happy New Year!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Perfectionist and trying not to be




This year I was part of the committee to create and direct the Christmas Program with our Sunday School students at church.

Drama and skits was not a “thing” for anyone on our committee, and so we focused more on music and scripture readings. Even at that, it still felt like quite the production and my easily stressed personality tried it’s best to take it in stride.


Tried being the key word.

The Program came, and it went. And no surprise, it all turned out fine.

And now that it is done, and that responsibility if off my mind, I feel like I can finally get into the Christmas Spirit.

How sad.

How sad that my cheer can be so easily offset by responsibilities, to do lists, and expectations.

I know there are other recovering perfectionists out there. How do you deal?

How do you set aside expectations you set on yourself? How do you deal when you fall short of what you had in your mind?


In this striving to NOT keep up with the Joneses, what do I do about the Joneses that I've created in my own mind?

I don't have the complete answer, and I would love to find that magic bullet that could just take care of this struggle for me.

But I did have the thought while I was ruminating in the car today, driving between work and school pick-up, the car was quiet and I could be with my thoughts.

Truth.

When our fears, our failures, our deflated expectations stare us in the face, threatening to kill our joy, we can fight it with Truth.

Truth that nothing of ourselves will ever be good enough. Tough pill for a perfectionist to swallow, I know.  But truly, it can be freeing. Because the only good in me is Jesus.

Which means I can stop trying so hard. I can stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Because, well, the only good thing in the Joneses is Jesus, too.

I know this may not be a popular belief, and I know there are some that may disagree. That's OK. I'm open for dialogue. Because my Jesus loves everyone.  Every one.  He knows every single one of us is not good. But he loves each of us anyway.

Now, I know that Truth.  The daily struggle is to shut down the lies the try to invade and tell me otherwise. The best way to fight it is to start every morning with the Truth. And then, step out the door, wave to my neighbors, the Joneses, and smile, knowing they are only good because of Jesus too.