Broken Hands & Clenched Fists

This was a recent guest post on my friend Emma Mason’s blog (link here). Thought I would share with you all too! Merry Christmas Eve!

A few weeks ago, while decorating the house for Christmas, I came across our nativity scenes. We have two and they both make me super happy because they are both so special. One was a gift from my parents many years ago and the other belonged to my paternal grandmother.

Unfortunately, one nativity scene has several pieces that have broken over the years- baby Jesus’ hand, Mary’s hand and this year, I noticed Joseph’s hand was somehow knocked off. The other nativity scene was in pristine condition as I carefully pulled it from the box then WHAM! I clanked the pieces together and off fell Mary’s left hand. UGH.

As I glued the hand back on I couldn’t help but think of the position of Mary’s hands reflecting the position of her heart. Both hands in this figurine are open to Jesus. Yes, she is His mother, but before God even opened her womb she had opened her hands and heart to Him.

I’m reminded of her response to Gabriel, the angel who tells her of the supernatural pregnancy she will soon experience:

“’I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary said. “May it be done to me according to your word.’” Luke 1:38

Now let’s just stop for a minute and put ourselves in her shoes- I think I might have laughed like Sarai did in the Old Testament if an angel had come to me and told me the news that I would be carrying God’s One and Only Son. The Word, God in human form…the One that was promised long ago to be our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace. The One everyone had been waiting on. I also think I would be very, very afraid of what was to come and what others would think.

But Mary, having open hands, child-like faith and an obedient, willing heart humbly responded to the angel, “OK, whatever you say.”

I mean, wow.

Maybe that’s why He chose her…But honestly, if we are children of God, we are all chosen to have open hands and open hearts to whatever He has for our lives, right?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel my hands are clenched tightly. I lay in bed at night and must consciously relax and open my hands. It seems they have developed a need to retreat to a position of being closed. Has my heart assumed this position too? Maybe my hands are closed because I’m tense or anxious and that’s where it all goes, maybe because I have a phone in my hand so much of the day my hands just assume that position, or maybe it’s my age- I did turn 40 this year? Who knows… but it’s something I must continually do and have become very aware of. Open my hands, stretch out my fingers. Keep my hands open.

Back to my heart- shouldn’t I practice this same exercise here too? Each day wake up and stretch open my heart to the Lord. His ways, His words, His voice and His plans for my life…even and especially if they look different than what I had planned. Keep my heart open.

I’m fairly certain carrying baby Jesus and giving birth to the One who would save people from their sins was not what Mary or Joseph had in mind as they were beginning their relationship. And surely, they had no idea what his life would entail- the criticism, ridicule and His brutal death. And yet, they were the Lord’s servants. Open hearts and open hands to do His will.

Somedays my hands and heart are humbly open to the Lord…other days, they are closed tightly around the things I hold dear and my heart seems shut down and far from him…which begs the question-what truth about God am I not believing?

As I type this, tears are brewing in my eyes because I know what often holds me back- I don’t know what’s next.

But neither did Mary. Neither did Abraham as he walked his only son Isaac up the mountain to the altar. When I think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane as a grown man begging God to take the cup from Him because He knew what was coming yet He still humbly responded with an open heart and hands, “…not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

With my fists clenched and heart closed off I’m not believing that His ways or plans are good, or that no matter what’s around the corner, He is good still and can bring good from any situation. I’m not believing He truly loves me.

I can’t control people or circumstances, so my hands and heart assume a closed-off position while holding tightly to what I can because I know that sometimes our biggest fears come true. Sometimes people hurt others, babies die before they even breathe a breath and we cannot make sense of the tragedies we see or experience. BUT- I cannot look to or think about these things more than I look to, think about and believe the truths about God. His promises for good, to be our comfort, for peace and joy, the promise of HEAVEN. The promise and help of His Spirit when bad times come, the promise that His character is ALWAYS GOOD and even though this world is often hard, and disaster comes, HE CAN BE TRUSTED to bring good. Somehow, someway. IF we look to Him for help with open hands and hearts.

Keep my hands open. Keep my heart open.

Our 7-year-old son has placed two gifts in his stocking- one for Santa and one for Jesus. How sweet that he is giving something to Jesus this year for His birthday. I mean, we do leave Santa and his reindeer cookies and milk, right? Of course, we should give something to the Lord as we celebrate His birth.

I want to end this post asking, what will we give Jesus this year? What gift can we give Him? Can we give Him our clenched fists, so he can open them? Can we give Him our broken hands, so He can heal them? Can we give Him our whole hearts today and every day? Can we truly say, “I am Your servant…Your will not mine”?

I think we can. After all, with God all things are possible.

Lord, thank You for Your Word filled with many promises we can cling to. Thank you for the many humble, broken people in the 66 books of the Bible that can teach us how to open our hearts and hands to You. Forgive us when we don’t trust You or when we question Your will or ways. Help us get to a place of surrender. Keep our hands and hearts open to You for salvation, Your Spirit, guidance, comfort, peace, joy, grace and to be used by You. May we gift you our hearts and hands this Christmas. May our eyes see you and look to you, not our circumstance or what if’s. If we are going to clench our fists may it be because we are holding tightly to You and the promises of You. The now and always of You- You are a good God, You love us, Your ways are good, and we can trust You. Happy Birthday, our Savior and King. May Your will be done. In Your mighty saving name, I pray, Amen.

No Shadow of Shame

It was Christmas Eve. There had been a situation and I was extremely angered by it. Looking back, it didn’t warrant that much anger…but we live, and we learn, don’t we?

Anyway. Angry was I and I didn’t just keep that anger in. I let anyone and everyone in my path have it, even taking it so far as to leave the situation. I just needed to find the Lord and be near Him. To feel His presence and to let Him calm me. So, I headed to the local Catholic church because I knew it would be open at 3pm on Christmas Eve and wasn’t sure about our home church.

I huffed and puffed and made it there safely, my baby in tow, wondering if jumping in the fountain of holy water would take care of my heart situation. While knowing water wasn’t what I needed but just God, Jesus, His Spirit and a big dose of humble pie.

I took a seat in a pew and wouldn’t you know it, there was a group of children singing carols-practicing for an evening performance. I sat, letting my baby play in the floor below me, hoping no one would even notice me, and I cried.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as the sweet sound of children singing flowed through my soul. Words about my Savior, His humble beginnings, His love for us. As I quieted my crazy and humbled myself, His presence was so vastly known to me; although I felt such shame and regret for my behavior.

I remembered the verse my discipleship group and I had recently memorized:

“Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their face.” Psalm 34:5

Ouch, it stung.

Shame had darkened my face because I let my anger rule my moments and hurt others in the process. Shame darkened my face because I was full of pride and selfishness. Shame darkened my face because in the heat of the moment I did not look to God. I could’ve continue to let shame darken my face, but I looked to Him with a broken and contrite heart, for help.

And help me He did.

I collected myself and the wandering baby, and drove quietly back home to apologize for my outrageous behavior.

While not grateful I had stormed out of the house, I was grateful for some time to clear my head and for a church with open doors on Christmas Eve filled with the sound of children singing. It was me looking to Him and Him helping me. It was me getting to a place of humbling myself and being radiant with joy, even though radiant and joy are not two words that come to mind when I reminisce about the situation. However, in humility, I sought the Lord and found Him. I looked to His radiant face full of joy and therefore was somehow reflecting His Light. Now, did it really require me driving to a church to find Him? Of course not, but my first full sentence as a kid was “My go church all night”, so I know if I’m grappling for Him when the chaos and my sin are ever-abundant and swirling around me, I will find Him at church (and quite often in my pantry!). Thank you, Jesus.

In the last year, I have often thought of this verse; it’s actually in a frame in my closet it means so much to me.

In fact, just this morning as one child was having a meltdown I recited these words out loud, “…those who look to Him for help…help me Lord...”. Just as His Word promises, He heard me and I let Him help me turn a frustrating situation into laughter and joy.

I’ll write it again for us…

“Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy…”

Yes, Lord, may we all look to you with humble hearts eager to seek your radiant face for joy, calm, love and grace. We need your help for this journey! Help us to remember a broken and contrite spirit You do not despise but work mightily in. Help us to stay in this place as we enter the very busy season of Christmas. Help us to keep our eyes turned upon your wonderful face and ponder the reason for this season. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Take a minute and listen to the words of this old hymn…love you friends.