Tuesday Victories | 12.5

Friends, it’s officially Christmastime! And a Tuesday, so it’s time for some victories that are bringing me joy and meaning and reminding me of Jesus during this season.

ornaments

1. Childhood ornaments- when I moved to Indy, my mom gave me a handful of ornaments from growing up. Some are the ones my Granny gave each of the grandchildren each year and some are my favorites from growing up, especially the Cinderella and Snoopy ones. Matt and I decorated our apartment a few weeks ago and it’s always so fun to sort through them each year and to see them illuminate from the lights every night.

2. Amazon- because 2 day shipping and Christmas shopping work really well together. And the reason we’re basically done with both of our lists. Thanks, Amazon.

advent

3. Advent studies- with Christmas comes Advent, the season of expectation and longing and celebration of a Savior who came to save. I’m going through the She Reads Truth advent study, which is the one I’ve done for the past few years, and Matt is doing the He Reads Truth one. We typically do Advent and Lent studies every year, and I love that She and He Reads Truth provides resources for both of us! It’s not too late to start! Ladies, check it out here. And guys can head here.

4. This shirt– oversized long-sleeve shirts have been a favorite of mine this fall, and this one is pretty, looks crazy comfortable, and says “Give me Jesus plus nothing” which is my favorite and also a great conversation starter. This one made my Christmas list this year!

5. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Kettle Corn– discovered this seasonal treat at the grocery store this past weekend and it accompanied our movie night perfectly. I love all things chocolate-sea salt-y and Matt loves kettle corn, so it was the perfect match.

bible

6. The book of Hebrews– I recently read through Hebrews in my reading plan and shoot dang, I forgot how incredible it is. This book is set up to prove and discuss and celebrate how Jesus is better in every way and I loved it. Such a great way to lead up to Advent. In fact, I wrote a scripture study over Hebrews 9 and used it as a catalyst for a discussion about Christmas at the girls small group I lead at school on Fridays. You can find that resource here!

7. My husband’s Christmas message from last weekend- I love a good sermon. Love them. And one of my favorite voices that I get to learn from is my husband, which is just beautiful and exciting and fun. He taught at the youth ministry he oversees this past weekend and just killed it; I know I was not the only one with tears in my eyes by the end. He told me it will be online later this week, and once it’s posted, it deserves a listen (which you can do here). Crazy proud wife over here, friends.

IMG_4049_grande

8. This bag– The Reformation nerd in me is obsessed with this tote bag and it’s also officially on my Christmas list. This bag is perfect for toting around a Bible and a journal! And also another great conversation starter. I have a weakness for tote bags and love Scripture, so this was a fun find for me. (picture credit)

9. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren– I’m still slowly working my way through this book, but it’s challenging me in ways that are all sorts of hard and good and beautiful. She discusses how ordinary moments are meaningful to our spiritual life (one of my favorite very favorite things) and challenges her reader to be more intentional. Warren is a minister in the Anglican tradition and brings in her knowledge of the church liturgy and applies it to our ordinary moments. I’m finding this aspect to be particularly fascinating and challenging, especially since I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church. This book is encouraging me to slow down and make intentional changes, like waking up early to journal with paper and pen instead of scroll on my phone first thing in the morning, and it’s been so, so good.

10. The Office season finale- Matt and I started watching The Office this past summer after we drove through Scranton, PA on the way back from Maine and he realized I never actually watched the entire series. It was a tough moment in our marriage. We finished watching it last night and people. What a solid finale. I was skeptical of whether I would continue to like the series after Michael left, but I did and the last episode was so. great. All the feelings. Definitely a worthwhile show to watch all the way through, which is what I’ve been told for years, but now I can whole-heartedly recommend it.

To quote Pam Beasely from the end of The Office, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” In this season, I’m finding a lot of reminders to slow down and pay attention to the beauty in ordinary moments and I want to invite you to do the same. What are some victories or moments that are bringing you joy or pointing you to Jesus or challenging you today? Comment below or on social media (Instagram is my favorite) @kelseylietzen. I’d love to hear from you!

The Better Way

Every week, I have the joy of leading a girls small group at the public high school where I teach. Preparing for and being a part of this group is one of my very favorite things I get to do; I’m constantly grateful for the opportunity. Here is some content that I’ve prepared for them, and I hope it’s encouraging for you too.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:1-15

It’s officially Christmas time! As crazy and exciting, and even hard, as this season can be, as Christians, this gets to be one of our favorite time of the year for a deeper reason than just the food and parties and presents, even in the midst of our loneliness or exemplified reminders of brokenness. This is the time where we get to collectively celebrate that Jesus came to save. And while this can be such an overused phrase, how sweet it is when we dig deep to understand– to understand what exactly we were saved from and how Jesus changed everything when He came.

People in the first century were waiting, longing for a Messiah, a Savior that God had been promising for centuries. There were 400 long, bloody, law-memorizing years in between Malachi and Matthew, the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. To these people, Jesus finally arriving was an answer to a promise of a second, better covenant that was given generations prior, a promise that had been remembered through storytelling and tradition and rituals.

Jesus came to change the game– the game of the Temple and the priests and the hundreds of sacrifices. Of the lampstand and the glory seat and the sacred, exclusive Holy Place that fulfilled the first covenant God made with His people. He came to take a law that was once written on stone and write it on our hearts instead and to become the better Priest who only had to make one sacrifice, Himself, instead of shedding the blood of many animals. He came to take the temple, a once Holy, external place, and put it in his people instead, securing the way through his death and resurrection. He came so that we could live life from what he already accomplished instead of striving to a place where he would accept us so that we could be reunited with our Creator.

And he did this because of his love and because of our sin. Because of the Father’s character and our separation from him. He provided a better way for his people, one where we are already the good and faithful servant, where we are already holy and unblemished and free the second we say “yes” to his calling. Friends, it started long before the first Christmas, but the plan was set into action the minute the angel came to Mary. Everything. Changed. And this deeply matters for us still, enough to remember and celebrate in community and to sit quietly in gratitude and awe. Jesus came to save and to make a better way to the Father, one that we have full access through today. How good and glorious of a thing this is!

Discussion questions:

According to verses 1-7, what were the rituals the priest and high priest had to perform in order to wash away the sins of the people in God’s eyes?

According to verses 8-10, why was this system not the best way?

In what ways in our daily lives do we try and earn God’s love? Do you feel like it’s ever enough?

In verses 11-14, how is Jesus the better priest and sacrifice?

As stated in verse 15, what does this mean for us, today, as people of the second covenant?

Finding Hope in the Ordinary

As I walked through Advent this year, I was reminded that we serve a God who creates incredible meaning from ordinary moments. Jesus was born to teenage parents in a stable and placed in a manger—simple, quiet, and, at the moment, unknown to most outside the stable. An uncharacteristic coming for a long-awaited King.

Through his humble beginnings and the many ordinary moments of his human life, Jesus proved he was willing and able to live this hard, lonely, dark life with us, giving us hope and providing light in every moment because he understands. He walked through it too, becoming the ultimate counselor for every difficult, hopeless, draining moment we experience on this earth.

Jesus brought hope. He brought light and joy and the freedom to enjoy relationships and passions and learning and creation despite the darkness that plagues this world. He provided an answer for the longing, hope that there is something better than what this world offers.

I don’t know what happened in your 2015, but I’m sure some hard stuff went down. I’m sure things changed that you didn’t expect to change and that you struggled and cried and felt hopeless and lonely at different moments. I know I did. But this year, more so than other years, I experienced the reality of Christmas, of light always being the end result of darkness. Of God providing incredibly beautiful moments and opportunities I couldn’t have anticipated. Of a Savior always coming when the darkness I found in myself was too much.

I love how Christmas is immediately proceeded by a New Year. After a season of reflection and longing and waiting and finally of the joy that Christmas day symbolizes, we get to start over. I’m thankful to serve a God that always allows us to start over every moment, every morning, every year.

In this New Year, I hope you allow the significance of Christmas to change your daily routines and conversations and relationships and responsibilities. I hope you recognize God in the small moments, that you see how he is infusing light and hope into the facets of your world you think are permanently dark.

I hope you find God with you in your responsibilities at work or school, in the dark mornings getting ready for the day, in the average conversations with the people around you. I hope you find Him in the books you read and in the people he brings into your life, in the walks you take outside or in the dinner you make at night.

Let’s allow 2016 to be the year we recognize grace and love and hope and truth in the everyday because we remember that God is with us.

I started this blog to do just that, but in the transition of graduation and moving and first year teaching and the hundred other new things the Lord plopped in my life, I’ve forgotten to spend time reflecting on finding the beautiful in the ordinary. So here’s to coming back to this space in 2016, reflecting and learning and finding meaning in the in-between moments.

waiting and wanting || advent

Christmas time is here. We are almost to the highly anticipated day, and while the Christmas cheer began shortly after Labor Day in the commercial world, the music and food and parties and decorations are now fully justified.

I helped my mom put up the Christmas decorations around the house this past weekend. It was the first time I had helped since before I left for college, and it was so, so good. Memories flashed through my mind as I hung each ornament on the tree, remembering how much I loved Cinderella as a child and our family’s love for everything Charlie Brown and football and snowmen.

While I hung each ornament and chatted with my mom, I reflected on the past year, where I was at in life, and where I thought, one year ago, I would be at this point.

And typically so, Christmas looks different this year. I’m graduating soon and thinking about apartments and cities and job applications. I just finished student teaching and am processing through that experience while preparing to go back to a college schedule of classes and late nights and homework. My twin brother is stationed in Italy with the Army, unable to come home this year—our first Christmas without him.

This year, in the midst of the craziness and life happening around me, I still find myself in a state of waiting. I’m waiting to find job applications and go back to school and be immersed in the community I missed so much this past semester. I’m waiting for graduation and moving somewhere new and being a full-time teacher with my own students and classroom. My family and I are waiting for my brother to come home next month, to be reunited and celebrate a belated holiday with him.

I think it’s fair to say that at the end of each year, most people find themselves in some state of waiting. And in this waiting comes wanting. Wanting for a better job or living situation or community or relationship. Wanting for life to speed up or for life to slow down, wanting some kind of change we hoped would already have happened by now.

We find that our deepest wants and desires often come to the surface during the Christmas season. In the midst of the festiveness and the pressure to fully experience every second of this season, I’ve found myself wanting more than just books and a job, but an undeniably deeper desire to be loved and known and to love and know others in return.

In high school and during my first few years at college, I started to view wanting and desiring as weak and selfish. Why couldn’t I just be content? Why did I need more? Isn’t it a sin to be selfish? I’ve wrestled with this over and over, trying to suppress my deep longings for what I desire out of life, trying so hard to just be ok.

And then early one morning, in my dark, quiet dining room, I stumbled upon this verse:

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:21

I read it over and over, realizing that I had to stop condemning myself for being a human who thirsts. The Lord created us with a deep sense of longing, not necessarily so that each want can be fulfilled at our command, but that through each desire we are drawn towards Him. That this process of wanting will bring us to take the life Jesus offers without guilt and that through our wants and perceived weaknesses we realize our frail humanity and our desperate need for Jesus and grace and saving.

In this time of Advent, this time of anticipating the birth of Jesus who permanently changed the process of salvation for future generations, we are called to wait. We are called to wrestle with our wants and desires and insecurities and weaknesses so that we may be drawn closer to Him, to move towards a deeper understanding that He is what we desire; that He is the One who freely offers the life we thirst for. We are called to wait so that on Christmas, we will be ready.

I pray you find meaning this particular Advent and that this time of waiting and wanting and wrestling moves you closer to leaning into your need for Jesus and the life He brought to this earth.

And if you have a moment, I ask you to please pray for the men and women who are serving in the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force both stateside and overseas this Christmas. Pray for those who are unable to come home, that their time of waiting will be purposeful and meaningful as they serve to protect this country. Pray that the Lord will keep them safe.

To those who are serving in the military this Christmas: thank you. Your service matters and your sacrifices are deeply appreciated.

Picture Credit: Chase Emery