Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
Sun shines golden through gray storm clouds in California sky. We need this rain--replenishment for this parched ground. A squirrel tightropes across our backyard fence. I watch him pause and select berries from tree branches drenched and low. Water has been pouring from heaven this week, and we are grateful. Keep raining, God. Soften the dry land. Fill the lakes and the rivers. Let the creeks run, overflowing with drops falling steady and swift from your sky.
I sit amidst boxes of Christmas decorations not yet unpacked, thinking about what it means to sit with God. I consider what I expect when I am with Him. How does he show up? How do I know when I am with Him? If He is an invisible God, the Holy Spirit within us drawing us deeper to the Father, what do I see when I am with God? How does He manifest himself? How do I stay with Him, in His presence, no matter where I am?
During this season of extra-busyness, I can easily feel like a failure. To be a good Christian I am supposedly required to read an Advent devotional every day, do my best to decorate the house and boost up my hospitality. I am supposed to consider how to give to others, like Jesus did, have my heart be broken for the lost and lonely and the sad. I am supposed to listen to Christmas music and do fun Christmas-activity-stuff with the kids. I am supposed to be extra happy and not stressed and organized and filled with inspiration and gratitude for all that God has given. Oh, and I'm supposed to bake, too.
I want to do a lot of these things. I want to have a house sparkling with color and good smells when my kids get home from school. I want to read beauty-filled words near a Christmas tree and watch the lights dance through fragrant boughs. I want to encourage people and speak truth and let the Father's abundant love flood me so I overflow with his love to others. I want to walk into a room and be a blessing, remembering that I am a daughter of a King who has fought for my heart when He came as a fragile baby in the not-so-quiet-chaos of an animal-filled barn one night long-ago.
Justin wrote this week about our family's desire to serve and bless others this Christmas--to forget ourselves and receive Christ when we love others as much as ourselves.
But how can I love another person if I don't spend time with the One who is love? How can I love anyone this Advent season when I haven't let God's love to me pour in?
This Advent, there is one thing I need to do more than anything else: I need to spend time with my Savior, just us two. If I am to love anyone, especially during this extra-busy-Christmas season, I might need to strip everything else away And from there? From that place? I will have a lot of love to give. Maybe gifts will be given, maybe cookies will be baked, maybe lights will be strung, maybe carols will be sung. But one thing is sure: I will be equipped to love.
So now, here's the question I get asked a lot: what does it mean to wait for God? What does it mean to expect him or pursue him? How does this invisible God manifest when we are sitting alone with Him?
Although we each experience God's presence differently, I most often experience him when I am in a posture of listening for his voice. And to listen for his voice requires me to be quiet--my soul within me to quiet--so I can think of him. It is simply my choosing to think about God that turns me towards where He is.
The Holy Spirit in me is awake and stirring, waiting for me to turn towards God, waiting for me to want to be with Him, look for Him, listen for Him, see Him.
When I am desiring to be with God, and I am in a posture of stillness in his presence, He helps me be open to Him. Open to hearing Him, in my heart. Open to seeing Him, in my mind. Open to going with Him, in my imagination. I allow Him to cleanse me of distraction; I surrender to Him my presence, and He helps me be present to Him.
This Advent, in my waiting for Jesus, I will be choosing to be present with Him, thinking about Him, looking for Him, longing for Him. Practically, I will go to a quiet place each day of Advent, for 15 minutes or more, doing nothing but being with Him. And in that posture, in that active choosing and desiring to be with Him, I will see His face; I will hear His voice; I will be restored. I will remember who and whose I am.
How do you feel about Advent this year? What do you expect when you sit with God?
Also, come on over to visit me at my friend Dolly's place.
Let go of the busyness and stress of the holiday season and open your heart and mind to peace by experiencing the joy of Jesus' birth as you use 12 Advent Prayers! Finding quiet time during the holidays will help you reflect on the reason for Christmas and preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ's birth. Let us know in the comments how you are preparing your heart!