Welcoming the Old with the New

 

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“That’s what people do who love you. They put their arms around you and love you when you’re not so lovable.”

 – Deb Caletti –

Bare branches in the trees are diamond crusted this morning. Hanging low and happily yellow, the sun smiles at its reflection in the powdered sugar snow.

As my favorite fictional redhead says, it is “a new day with no mistakes in it yet.”

That’s what I need, for sure.

Welcome is my word of the year, as I explained in my last post.

But I didn’t anticipate how far into me it would reverberate. I especially didn’t anticipate how much I would need to change.

But, now I see…Welcome can’t come into my life if I stay the same.

To grow a heart of welcome in me, God has to do some furniture rearranging. A dear friend of mine is currently living with my family. Today, she reminded me that welcoming in means we have to move some things out of the house. It means a bit of winter cleaning. It means we might bump into the furniture a little, because it’s in a place it has never been before.

But I learned something today about welcome—it is not just for the new people.

Sometimes, doors in your heart get partly shut. Sometimes, the hinges get a little rusty. And sometimes we avoid some halls in our hearts. They’re a part of us…but we cease to welcome them.

Maybe it is more tragic to be an insider who is not welcomed than it is to be an unwelcome newcomer.

I realized that, in my pursuit of welcome, my family was losing me. Somehow, my most favorite people were getting shut out.

It began when I decided not to tell a family member about certain thoughts or feelings, because I didn’t think they would understand. So gradually, I bumped that door, closing it more and more…

Until this morning, they came face-to-face with me, and I confessed that I feared telling them my true thoughts, because I didn’t want my feelings to be dismissed. They were shocked and saddened that I had not opened my heart-door and told them before.

I had been wrapping myself in silence–in a lack of welcome–in this relationship. And it took a toll. In my reluctance to bring them into my inner self, I pushed them away. I shut my door. I was slowly eroding a priceless relationship, by my own self-focus.

So I took a risk, when I confessed my hiding today.

And the sun came out, glistening on the snow.

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Are relationships hard? Absolutely. Are they messy? Sure. Sometimes it seems better to hold certain thoughts inside…it seems safer. Definitely less complicated.

But love often means sharing anyway, making your feelings vulnerable to criticism…and also open to understanding. Love means you welcome the other person into your heart anyway. It means you risk getting hurt..but it also means you open yourself up to grace.

Don’t stuff it all in and walk away from conversations frustrated that, once again, they do not understand you. How could they? You never told them. 

I think we can hide from our families, even while rubbing shoulders with them every day. We can put walls up to keep ourselves safe, exhausting ourselves with needless protectiveness.

So I am posting a new welcome sign on my heart:

Welcome, family. You, too, are welcome in my heart. In fact, I’ll make you duplicates of my key, okay? Then you can come in whenever you like.

In fact, could you come right away? I’ve been missing you.


If you are joining me on the journey to Welcome this year, how are you doing in your family? Have you shut a door in your heart? Is there a hallway barricaded? What old relationship needs a little oil and polish?

Don’t shut out your biggest fans. God gave you to them for a reason. He can give you the grace to open the door again. 

Why don’t you ask Him right now?

“He gives families to the lonely, and releases prisoners from jail, singing with joy!”

 – Psalm 68:6, TLB –

 

 

 

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My Journey to “Welcome”

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“May your walls know joy; may each room hold laughter, and may every window open to great possibility.”

– Mary Ann Radwacher-Hershey –

For this new year, instead of making a list of goals, I chose a word.

Welcome.

I lay awake just after midnight, in the first minutes of January 1st, and the word welcome jumped to life in my head.

For the past few months, I’ve been curiously poking around at the impact of community. I’m collecting articles of all sorts–on loneliness, crime, orphanages, homelessness, imprisonment–anywhere that isolation rears its head, I want to learn about it. More importantly, I want to know what Christians can do about it…what I can do about it. How could the Gospel I believe penetrate all these varieties of loneliness? Because I know it can.

This is why welcome is my word for 2016.

Meanwhile, God is doing things in my family that I would have never guessed. Our family is growing by “adoption” as individuals and families are coming into our home for a few hours…or a few months. Like never before, I am getting to welcome in new family members into the ups and downs of my everyday life. Not just company. Not just bringing them into a freshly-cleaned house for pre-planned hospitality. They’re literally living in my space. Literally becoming part of us. Literally looking for a home that we can offer.

Welcome, my friends. Welcome, my new family. Welcome.

At the same time, I am trying to learn how to welcome my brother and parents, in the context of time spent together. I am amazed that I have known them all my life, and yet still their desires and personalities baffle me so often. As part of welcoming them into my heart, I am beginning to discover –or at least trying to discover– what they love the most. “How can I be a blessing to them, today?” I am learning to ask. Not that it is easy…but maybe love is so beautiful because it takes work. It takes real heart, not just the leftovers.

This a year of learning to welcome.

What will the journey of 2016 look like? What new experiences will God call me to welcome into my life? What people will He give me to welcome into my space, my heart? What wisdom can I welcome into my soul? What joy can I make room for?

“….Good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ.”

 – 1 Thessalonions 5:16-18, Phillips –

Why choose the word welcome?

Welcome is an expression of joy at the arrival of something or someone. It stems from the idea of a pleasing, wished-for visit.

Making space for welcome in my year means making myself available for the journey God has for me. It means opening my eyes to opportunities I might otherwise ignore. Most importantly, it means becoming like Jesus, compassionately touching all those who enter my life in the days ahead. In His strength, I wish for my face to be a restful home for the weary.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

 – Matthew 10:40-42, NIV –

That’s why I chose welcome for 2016. It’s about cups of water–giving away lots and lots of clear water to thirsty little ones.

It’s my joy. In fact, I think it is why I was made.

Will you choose a word for the year, or do you prefer to write out goals for the next 12 months? Whatever you choose, let me know in the comments! You all inspire me!

“I am strangely glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home—my only home.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre ― 

These Things

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“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

– Philippians 4:8, HCSB –

“Dwell on these things.”

Where does your mind camp out? Where do your thoughts linger?

Often, we tend to focus on the dark, the troublesome, the wrongs, the sadness, the sinful. That’s why Paul had to remind the Philippians (and through them, remind us) to think on the beautiful things.

In all ranks of life the human heart yearns for the beautiful; and the beautiful things that God makes are His gift to all alike.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

It seemed to me that in normal everyday life, I would have to think about many things that are not lovely, that are not just. Am I to never have a thought about ISIS, about Christian persecution, about the pain of the neighbor’s divorce? We should not hide from seeing that this world is truly evil and sometimes very ugly. It is not wrong to realize it. It is not sin to feel the weight of the world even to the core of your bones.

Here, there is good news: You do not have to walk around blindfolded to the world in order to keep lifting your gaze beyond the mire. 

This is why Paul reminds us of what to dwell on. “Look at Christ!” he keeps saying in his letters. “Think about what Christ did for you!”

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus…” the author of Hebrews echoes.

This way of thinking is not denying reality–it is recognizing that reality bows it’s knee to a God who has all the world in His hand.

This is not running from the world’s need–it is being strengthened for battle.

This is not wishful thinking–this truth is “steady and sure and clear as the wind.” 

I love to think. I love to ponder the things happening around me. This is good…unless I get so lost in the gusts of the world that I start to waver.

It can overwhelm me, more quickly than I realize.

We’re human, made to relate intensely to one another. We’re logical beings, made to think deeply. We’re emotional, designed to resonate with the ups and downs of life.

Crossed with the sin-curse, these gifts mean that each of us deals with relationships straining, thoughts churning, and emotions warring. Our qualities that can abound in love, wisdom, and joy bend toward chaos. The dark outside starts to creep in.

So in the daytime, our hearts begin to tremble. In the night, terrors creep into our dreams.

What is the remedy? As Paul cries, “Who can deliver us from this body of death?”

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

 – Philippians 4:4-9, HCSB –

We are offered an otherworldly peace, a beyond-this-moment joy, an unshakeable conviction.

We are offered an Anchor for our thoughts, a Light that no dark can overwhelm.

Think on these things.


“When you wake up in the morning, you can listen to whatever your thoughts are telling you–maybe they are reminding you of something bad you did the day before, maybe they are making you scared of something you have to do tomorrow. You can listen and feel horrible.

Or you can talk back. You can remind yourself of what is true, and who you are, and who God is and what He has done.”

– from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, by Sally Lloyd-Jones –