Currently // December 2017

Hello friend! So I have finally completed my 4-month-long speech therapy internship. Which means that I am finished with pulling off 40-hour weeks and spending the evenings writing school assignments and such. Which, then, means that I have more time to spend in the corners of this space — with you, dear friend. I am so glad you still come to these parts.

These last few days have been quite the celebration, as Finland turned 100 years old. With snow on the ground and a blue sky, the Independence Day was beautiful.

So today I am joining Anne In Residence, a few days late to share with you a little bit what my life looks like currently.

Currently

 

Currently: December 2017

Lighting candles every evening. The days are short here in Finland, with darkness falling around 4:30pm. Which gives me all the reasons to light beautiful candles. Just for that, I don’t mind the darkness. I have a few scented ones, but I am fairly sensitive with the scents.

Spending time trying to learn how to relax right. So far, I have been watching Christmas movies in the evenings while lighting up candles. Up next is reading, once I get over the tiredness and can stay awake for reading.

Choosing the last of Christmas presents. I have bought most of them already. But there are a few I can’t seem to figure out what to get them. Good thing there are still days to go!

Sending out Christmas cards. I haven’t been much for sending Christmas cards on my own before, as we have done that as a family. But I guess it’s finally time to grow up and start sending Christmas cards!

Singing Christmas songs when no one is listening. Mostly while I am in the kitchen, baking or cooking something. I truly love this season of the year.

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When Advent Season Is Hard

 

So we fall into Advent, this time of waiting. We are waiting for the hope yet to come. Waiting to celebrate the hope we already have. Waiting to see, to understand better the gift given to us.

This is a season of expectations — and yet, for so many of us, a season of unmet expectations and bleeding hope. Maybe this is the first Christmas after a separation, a divorce in the family and trying to figure out how to divide time, how to share the days. So it is for us this year. Maybe illness has borrowed space this holiday. So you try to figure how to handle your heart, how to stop the bitterness from spreading. For some of us, a child has gone away. A loved one has left us. A friend is now unreachable. There is brokenness within.

Sometimes, it’s hard to reconcile all this brokenness and pain with the hope of this season. We fall into Advent, this season of waiting — but some days it’s hard to wait for a change to come, to endure one more day. Though there are lights all around us now, the pain is evident and so is the darkness.

When I go to the beginning of time, the beginning of the story of humankind? I see my brokenness already there.

The fall of man — the fall of my heart. I also see beauty in our brokenness. Not ours but the beauty of Love broken for us, heaven bent down to meet us wretched sinners where we are. The Perfect One carrying our failures and falterings, our guilt and shame — and the world shook as grace poured down and won the victory. It was the kind of love that bled raw. The kind of love that took so much, so that much could be given.

It is okay to feel that way as well. Your Lord and Savior, the One who gave His heart for you? He knows. He has walked the road you are walking on now. Your God — He feels the pain, the brokenness, the strings of your heart that are about to snap.

That, right there? Is the hope for us hurting, for us lonely or broken, for us tired or weary. To know that we need not walk alone with all this that we carry. We need not pretend to be okay. Yet we know, that there is something beautiful waiting for us.

“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” (Hebrews 10:36-37)

In the end, is that not the beauty of this season? The joining together of all of us broken and hurting, us weary and confused. We were all there already, in the Fall of Man — this stubborn heart of ours, wanting to decide what is best for us. But we know, that the best for us is the presence of God.

So how do we get it, the presence of God? We get it by joining one another, praying for one another. And we get it on our knees, letting go of these desperate needs and wants. We get it — when we want God. And He is there, only one step away. He is there, this bright light for us who are surrounded by darkness. He is there, for He is Emmanuel — God With Us.

When Being Kind Isn’t Easy

When Being Kind Isn't Easy

We are arriving to that time of the year when the days get shorter, sunlight showing up only sparingly. As it is, the days are getting longer too — this math that is not my favorite. It is difficult to see the light around this time of the year. I notice it clearly these days. Some days I manage to catch the sunrise on my way to work. Most days it is still dark when I leave to work. Overtime keeps me at work long into the afternoon or evening. So I haven’t been able to leave work early enough to see the sun for a couple weeks now.

So it is that these weeks, I have come in contact with quite a few difficult people. Not that they mean to be difficult. I am sure that is not what is their main purpose. But when dealing with them means that they are yelling at me, it is hard to label them as anything else than difficult. I think that this has something to do with the fact that I have been reading Bible verses on kindness lately. And after these phone calls? I feel like I am failing miserably.

It can take a long time, to arrive at the end of the rope. It looks different every time, too. Maybe you have done all you could for that person, for this situation — but it hasn’t helped. There is nothing left for you to do now, and it hurts. Maybe you tried all you could to apologize, to make amends, to make things right — but this situation is not changing. All the guilt, shame, sorrow keeps you awake at nights now. Or maybe you have exhausted yourself beyond what you can take. All you have now, is the strength to carry on for another two minutes.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

How is it possible to be kind in these situations? With mean and angry people, in difficult and challenging situations, when you are exhausted and weary? When circumstances stretch you thin is it even possible to be gentle and kind? Let alone to be known to all by our gentleness. This, again, falls into the category of mathematics that I have a hard time figuring out.

So this must be the key: to rejoice in the Lord always. Still the same question remains. How do we do this with difficult people? How do we rejoice in circumstances that are just plain hard and awful? When exhaustion is a cloak we constantly wear?

This is what I have come to realize. When I am stretched thin and my strength is running out? God will be my Strength and He will give me strength. When I have done all I could with this difficult person? I can pray for them and give them to the One who can actually change their hearts. When I struggle? I can give my heart to the One who can change my heart.

“He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21)

So it is, that we can always rejoice in the Lord — because we know the hope we have in Him. When the kindness we can naturally muster up runs out — we only need to lift up the situation, the people, our hearts to the One whose kindness towards us will never run out.

Linking up: #MomentsofHope Link-UpGlimpses Link UpModest Monday

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The Ministry of Small Things

The Ministry of Small Things
One morning, I read these words from Oswald Chambers in my morning devotional time. “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in the mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”

I think about these words a lot these days, as they challenge me greatly. 

It has been a battle here lately, wondering whether I am useful to God. I am in a season of change, my weeks extremely busy and not quite as I would choose them to be. There are many prayers rising up these nights, some of them quite desperate. “Lord, am I supposed to continue this ministry? Should I just stop this? Am I of any use here? I am not doing as well here as I think I should be.”

The struggle has been there for quite some time. But the answer came on a Sunday morning, on the floor of our Kids’ Ministry room. It all started with a kid who grabbed my hand and asked if we could draw together. There we sat on the floor, drawing houses and flowers and helicopters — which was quite the challenge for me, as I am so bad at drawing. But one by one, kids kept joining us. Soon there was the challenge of age difference between the kids, which usually means that someone comments on the drawing skills (or the lack thereof) of another kid. Which, then, usually results in my attempts to make everyone feel like they are doing their best. That day, I decidedly encouraged every kid and in turn, they kept encouraging and complimenting one another.

Right there, on that floor surrounded by kids, I felt God nudging me to see what was happening.

A small person had asked to get my attention and time, and I had had no objections to that. They had asked me to step outside of my comfort zone (seriously, I am so bad at drawing), and I had said yes. In the midst of a busy Sunday afternoon, I laid aside my plans and accepted a new one without murmuring. I noticed the people that came into the room — small and big, kids and adults alike. I talked with them and shared Jesus with them.

To me, this was all so very small. Unnoticeable, really. Because it was a small thing, I also categorized it as something that did not really matter. But that moment mattered — to me and, I would guess, to the kids. Also to God. Not because I brought someone to Jesus (although it is possible that maybe in the midst of all of it, someone felt the love and grace of God). It was not because I had done a great job, ministering to small and big needs alike.

Rather, in the midst of the ministry of small things — came my surrender.

I surrendered my need to earn love, to work towards a good standing before God. I surrendered my desire to do big things for God — and instead, He had me do great things for Him. Looking at it now, I see that my desperate pleas for God to use me were answered. But the answer looked so different than what I had imagined. And the answer was also so much better than what I had imagined.

You see, I wanted to change the world so I could earn God’s love. In the ministry of small things and surrendering, God showed me that His love has already changed the world — and my heart.