Patience in the Moment (Matthew 6:31-34)

One day at a time, one moment at a time is one line from the serenity prayer that has always stuck with me.

I am not particularly adept at living one day at a time. Usually I find myself running from the moment in order to have plans three weeks from now. I will run myself ragged trying to anticipate every possible outcome instead of focusing in on what is happening today, right now. I ignore the blessings of the present in favor of maintaining a false sense of control. I don’t have time to be in this moment, I have to be prepared for what might happen tomorrow!

In Matthew 6:31-34 Jesus speaks directly to the heart of every worrier:

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Lately that last line, “each day has enough trouble of its own,” has been keeping me in the present. Between a father recovering from a stroke, a mother recovering from a badly sprained ankle, our hallway getting flooded, our kitchen having asbestos under the vinyl we’ve currently got down (meaning our kitchen will be getting ripped up), and a niece to help take care of, there has not been a lot of time to look ahead. Instead, I find myself being taught patience.

I think patience is the key to living in the moment. If we’re impatient then odds are we’re rushing to the next thing, trying to figure out what tomorrow will look like, or what next week will bring. We do not want to take time to be in the moment because the future is far more alluring. Our impatience propels us forward while patience stops us in our tracks and allows us to soak up the moment.

Even when that moment is chasing a stir crazy toddler around the mall, or unpacking two years of Southern California living and integrating it into my old room, or packing up the cabinets in the kitchen so they can be moved and our floor ripped out. Fun moments, crappy moments, all of them deserve to be lived. All of them deserve to have patient consideration for all of the blessings and lessons they contain.

Would I like to know what I will be doing in three months? Sure. Heck, I would like to know what Wednesday is going to look like when the asbestos team comes to rip out our kitchen. Right now, though, I am going to enjoy pondering the scripture, drinking my coffee, and eating my scone.

Why?

Because right now this moment is all I have and there is something to learn from being in it. 

This Christmas (is not what I expected it to be)

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The other day I was attempting to finish up my Christmas shopping. I had just returned home from a long drive back from college and wanted to try and avoid the day-before-Christmas crowds. Frazzled, tired, and going through a transition I set out to find a hooded sweatshirt since it was on my mother’s Christmas list. It had to be a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood that was in a lighter color than black. Should have been simple enough, right? Wrong.

After four stores, three parking lots, and a lot of sorting through jackets I was unable to find what I was looking for. Wandering aimlessly through the jackets at Sports Authority I was almost in tears because I could not find this impossible gift. A few hopeless minutes later I found myself in a store that sold calendars and purchased an NCIS calendar instead of a sweatshirt.

As I was buying the calendar I thought of something: the tighter I held on to my narrow set of expectations, the more frustrated I became. I was so caught up searching for something within such narrow, impossible parameters that I missed out on the bigger picture. I nearly walked past the calendar store because it was not in the plan. I let my unwillingness and, frankly, inability to think out of the box drag me down to a frustrated, sad place.

I feel like this series of events describes my holiday season. My dad had a stroke on Thanksgiving which threw everything off. To make matters worse, my mom managed to sprain her ankle pretty badly not long before he was supposed to be released from the rehab facility. I moved from Southern California back to Oregon which was an ordeal in and of itself as it left me home merely two days before Christmas Eve. Needless to say, I was not feeling the holiday cheer. Everything seemed to be falling apart around me. A state of frustration became my default as I found myself overwhelmed and disappointed. Nothing was turning out right.

Really, my definition of “right” was what was throwing everything off. My expectations of what Christmas was all about were wrapped up in the state of my family’s health, my own stress level, the presents I could purchase, and all of the things that I could do. Christmas became about me. Christmas was not what I wanted it to be and was therefore wrong.

Yet as I stood at the shopping counter buying that calendar I realized that I was missing the entire point of the holiday season. Somehow in the midst of all of the insanity I forgot the real point of Christmas. Christmas is not about me, or my family, or what I can possible do to make it a shiny, perfect holiday.

 It is about living in the light of a Messiah who came to earth as a baby and conquered through sacrifice.

When that becomes the center of the holiday suddenly everything else seems to work. I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how my sister managed to find a hoody the morning of Christmas Eve for a good price. I don’t know exactly how all the food got made or how my parents managed to be well behaved and cooperate with all of the family around. It all worked out.

The holiday wasn’t about everyone being in perfect health, or the food being gourmet, or all of the decorations being up, or even all of the gifts wrapped. It was about being together as a family to rest, if even for a moment, in the peace of Jesus Christ who came and died so that we could live.

Find peace in the love of Christ and let that be the center of your holiday, because when we do everything finds a way to fall into place.