Help! I’m drowning! That’s how I often feel this time of year. It’s not just preparing for Advent and Christmas that’s got me stressed; we’re also gearing up to open our warming shelter for the season. Scrambling to find a location for the shelter, training new volunteers, preparing posters, flyers, and essential shelter documents… the list goes on and on.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy volunteering for the shelter. I find great wisdom and compassion in my friends living outside as well as the team tasked with putting it all together. But all this comes into full swing as we’re gearing up at MSA for Advent and Christmas and wanting to make sure what we do on the Godspace Community Blog is meaningful for our writers and readers.
Every year October and November seem to collide like the perfect storm. It’s like the year speeds up from both ends and smashes together with a thunderous clash. My heart races, my stress level elevates, and anxiety seeps in through the fissures. I sometimes feel like the disciples must have felt on that boat in the middle of a tumultuous lake:
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.
The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown! When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” Luke 8:22-15 New Living Translation
OK, yes, I sometimes feel like Jesus is asleep at the helm. I can admit that. I can also recognize his voice asking me, “Where is your faith?” I know God has called me to continue working as the Volunteer Coordinator for our shelter, and God has called me to be director of Mustard Seed Associates. I’ve gotten into that boat. The questions I’m left with are:
- How do I push through the storms with courage and faith?
- Where can I find calm and shelter during the storms?
The Right Boat
First and foremost, I must ask if I’m doing things I’m not supposed to be doing. Have I gotten into the wrong boat? That’s a difficult question that takes discernment from those close to us who understand what we’ve taken on and why.
The problem often isn’t that we’re doing bad things, rather that we’ve taken on projects, parties, tasks, responsibilities (you fill in the blanks) that are not right for this season in our lives. Take time to evaluate your current and potential commitments. How do they line up with your sense of God’s tug on your life right now? Do you have a small group or someone you can go to who can confirm these choices?
The Right Crew
Now that I’m focused on the things I’m supposed to be doing, what does my support network look like? I need people around me who can encourage, pray, and listen well to my rants and complaints when times get tough. For me that means a small group from church, a couple of close friends, and my teams at MSA and at the warming shelter. Who is giving you support?
The Right Shelters
I also need times to just get away. To be honest, I don’t do a good job scheduling these times into my life. I would have better balance if I did. I do have a pretty good internal mechanism that lets me know when my emotions and energy are getting out of sync. That’s often when I call my brother and suggest it’s time for another mushroom hunt, camping trip, or both!
I’m refreshed by the wilderness and filled with wonder at God’s diverse creation. I just returned from one such campout and, even though it poured rain half the time we were out, I feel renewed. Where do you find renewal, refreshment, and energy? How can you be more deliberate about regularly scheduling those things into your routine during this holiday season?
The Right Captain
Out in that boat, far from shore, the disciples had a crisis. It happens. As we cross through the waters of Advent and Christmas, we may well experience our own crisis. When the disciples cried out to Jesus he was only feet away, resting in the stern of the boat.
This reminds me that I need to stay close to Jesus. What that means may look different for each one of us, but we need to ask ourselves, what makes me feel close to God? We might also want to ask ourselves, what makes me feel distant from God?
These two questions frame for us our spiritual temperament. Knowing the answers to these two questions will help us to incorporate more of what draws us closer to God while eliminating those things that draw us away from God. If we want to be guided and reassured by God’s presence, then we need to make sure that God’s in the boat with us.
The Right Attitude
Chaos will come. We can do what we can to cut personal chaos out of our lives and get control over our own busyness, but this time of year the world is amped up. Recognizing this helps us to reframe the season, to recognize the wind is howling, but know that we don’t have to get caught up in the storm. This kind of honesty protects us from anger, frustration, and anxiety. With this bit of inner peace, walking back through the points I’ve suggested becomes much easier.
- How are you feeling about the coming seasons of Advent and Christmas and all that comes with them?
- What boat are you in? Is it the right boat?
- Who is your crew? Who are you crewing for?
- Have you identified your shelters along the way? What are they?
- How close are you to the Captain? Are there things you can put into place now that will draw you close and keep you closer?