Keep It Simple

Winter in Russia by Oksana Yushko
Sipping my tea while waiting for Ella to finish her cereal, I type away as the two older kids torture each other with tickles. It's almost mid-morning but it's hard not to savor the last of the holidays. Tomorrow things will be back to usual--- waking up at seven, groggily making way to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for my son while wiping away sleepy cobwebs from eyes and ignoring a more incessant call for sleep with a pounding headache, and after that, get Ella ready for kindergarten. Usually, after seeing them off, Roxy's robust voice will be heard calling for her mom. Or for potty time. Or breakfast.

But that's for tomorrow. Today, I've got today. I have a choice to do what I want with it. But what?

We got to celebrate Christmas yesterday and the day before that. And since it was Sabbath, I was doubly blessed. I was able to take part in a musical program, sang two beautiful songs and the next day, had a party with the young ones.

Actually, if I haven't come to this part of the world, I won't know at all that many observe Christmas way past the new year, unlike most countries who do so on December 25th. And I'm glad to be ending all these holiday-making (from December 25th to the New Year to January 7th) with the thought of Christ's first advent. And the reason why I'm still here. Here, anywhere in this world. And why I'm waiting, so earnestly for Jesus' second coming.

Well, I was reminded during our Pastor's sermon of a play that I took part in. I was in fourth grade and my school decided to participate in a regional "school play" contest for schools. It wasn't the only contest at that time, but it stood out for me for most of my childhood because I played the lead part and we bagged the first prize. My Ma adapted a poem entitled "The Unawares" and made a script out of it. Since she wrote the script, the school asked her to direct it too.

I was reminded of it because Pastor mentioned Leo Tolstoy's "Papa Panov's Special Christmas", a classic literature. It was similar to the play that we did but the latter was a lot more positive and heart-warming. And like Papa Panov, I dearly hope that this year I won't miss Jesus at all, that I get to see Him--- in everyone He sends to me.

And yes, Christmas really is as simple as that. You and me doing as Christ would have done with Him in us. His story in our lives.

But my, how we've made it too complicated these days.

Why don't we start all over again? It's the new year after all.

Simplify Life.

Choose simple. In style, in diet, in lifestyle. It means more water than soda drinks. Growing food by our own hands. More walking than riding. More food cooked simply. Love those flats. Choose silence than noise. Shine at alone time with only God as companion rather than in a party with a crowd of people. Enjoy simple joys rather than high-end entertainment. Opt out of building a barn for possessions. Build relationships instead, and character. Clean out home and heart with anything useless and burdensome. Clean out inbox and social media. Stay in touch with family and friends the old-fashioned way. In its most simple, clean up life to the barest and most necessary.

Be who I am.

Nothing complicates life more than projecting an image that is less than who we are. Movie stars are paid to pretend. And most of them have that lifestyles are not worth emulating. Also, I don't think I'll fit in their clothes or shoes. And if I do, it won't be long before I'd feel ridiculous. If we are honest with ourselves, we'd never be happy with faking. Just as I won't be happy having a white skin just because it's what society says is beautiful. I am more than a movie star. I am a star of my own and I am meant to shine. Jesus said it so. "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). 

When I start living as me, choices will come easy. God's work in me is in progress.

So love yourself the way God made you and who He made you to be. Glorify Him in who you are. But start being yourself first.

Get on with progress.

This may sound oxymoron to the two goals above, but really, progress means doing what you are meant to do as you, as simply you, as God has made you. And that means, not to regress.

Take an interest in the world He has given you. You may be surprised at the wonders you will find and what you are capable of doing. Recently, while helping my son with his homework, I found out that the place we are living in is a habitat of many of the unique animals, fowls, and plants that can only be found here. I was really amazed. I knew I like living it here with all its vast and beautiful nature, but I didn't know until now how special this place is. And this is another reason why I'm glad I'm here, aside from the fact that I have come to love winter and all its wonders. I, coming from a hot-everyday country. I have become a weather person. (Winter is a favorite topic of mine, and I can go on and on about it. Bear with me.)

How about learning a musical instrument? Growing your own food? Learning a different language (even if it's the most basic)? You may travel and read (if the former is not that affordable, keep on with the latter). Volunteer (your talents, time and yourself are meant to be shared, not hoarded). Keep moving. Keep growing. Move out of your comfort zone now and then. It's a necessary fuel to intellect and creativity. Care more.

Read and reflect Psalm 90. (A prayer of Moses the man of God.)

A few days into the new year, I was waiting for God to talk to me. I was hungering to hear His voice, but I was too busy with all the goings-on during the holiday. I guess, too busy to sit down and listen. I was longing to know what He wanted for my life this year. I wanted His opinion. I wanted His way, His presence in all my affairs. I wanted a conversation. And when I was ready to listen, I got a conversation. Psalm 90.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Nothing feels like home. In Him, we are home. Without Him, we are less than we are; we are nothing. Life comes from Him. He is life. He is the Alpha and Omega.

3 You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
4 A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

I think of my parents--- swept away... to sleep. And I think how like grass (or snow as it is winter, my husband asserts) we are--- here today and gone tomorrow. We are terminal. All of us are. Life is short and we complicate it with our egos--- bullying, arguing and debates.

7 We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

We are terminally ill. Sinful to the core, we deserve God's wrath. But knowing this, we can ask God to give us a heart of wisdom to live the days He has gifted us with.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

God is love. In His love, we don't get what we deserve. Morning after morning, His love never fails. In Him, He asks us to rejoice.

17 May the beauty of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

He is Emmanuel, living His story in us--- His beauty for our ashes, His joy for our sorrow, His passion for our indifference, His peace for our chaos, His hope for our hopelessness, His glory for our shame, His death for eternal life. Yes, Lord, establish Your work in our lives. Amen.

So here I am with today, thankful for it, grateful that I have it to grow, to gain a heart of wisdom, to be me, to sing and be glad, to shine His beauty--- His work in my life.

Let's live life simply: God in us.

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Mount Up with Wings: Flying by More than Just the Seat of the Pants
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