Making space for Christmas {Book Club}

We made it.

We made it to the end of our first Velvet Ashes book club book! But more than that, we made it to the cusp of Christmas. We made it individually, in families, on teams, and here, as a group gathered around Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift. This week Ann wrote about making space and we have. {For those of you who haven’t “made space” in quite the way you envisioned, grace and peace. It’s not a contest we’re in. It a relationship that fosters other relationships. Don’t look for where you missed the mark, look for where you met others.}

If you’ve missed our first three weeks discussing the book, you can find our chats on December 1-3 here, December 4-10 here,  and December 11-17 here.  It’s been such fun to talk books! and words and ideas.

We started this week off with Esther and Mordecai. One of the things I love about their story is the way the created new family ties; most likely you’ll be experiencing different ones this year than you would if you were “back home.”

And they were focused on the task before them (like us). In response to Mordecai telling Esther not to expect a pass just because she was in the palace, Ann wrote–

“It comes like a whisper from those outside the gate: You’ve got to use the life you’ve been given to give others life. You’ve got gifts that weren’t given to line your life with; they were given to be a lifeline to others — or you lose your life.” I’ve been thinking about the gifts I’ve been given. It feels a bit much to see them as lifelines, doesn’t it? But I also know that God has woven us together and people have been lifelines to me when at times they didn’t realize it.

Then on to Habakkuk. I’ve always loved that minor prophet! and especially the end of chapter three. Ann writes, “We lose every single person we love. There is never another way. Think about that too long and you will find it hard to breathe.” Indeed.

On December 20th we (finally?) get to more traditional Christmas territory and from here on out it is familiar characters. Contrasting Zechariah’s and Mary’s doubt, I was helped by “never doubt that there are two kinds of doubt: one that fully lives into the questions, and one that uses the questions as weapons against fully living.”  Doubt can be used to more fully live. I believe it, and like seeing it in print.

The stand out idea for me this week was, “The miscarriage of Christmas begins when anxieties crowd out space within simply to carry Christ. Make room; be a womb. Be a womb to receive Christ everywhere, and it is He who delivers everyone.” I have to admit that be a womb kind of creeps me out (sort of like the entire last chapter of 1,000 Gifts). OK, so I’m creeped out. I do understand Ann’s point. We don’t have to do more, be more, reach out more, create amazingly memorable memories for loved ones. We do need to make space. How can we do that? What ways have you found that really help you create space?

Here are a few of the reflection questions:

  • Where have you seen blossoms of goodness even in the most unlikely places?
  • How do the performance bandits seem to target you, especially this time of year?
  • Who is one person you need to make space for today –someone who has been crowded out by the busyness of the season?
  • How does your perspective change on the hurry and the worry when you remember that God is with you?
  • What do you need to lay down so your hands will be open to receive God’s gifts?

Ann ends  Christ, the always Gift for all our days. Get a cup of something warm or cool to drink (this was mostly written with black tea with a bit of milk) and let’s talk. Please feel free to join in even if you haven’t read the book. For those who have read, what stood out to you as you read? And do come back as the conversation unfolds. No need to apologize if you don’t comment right away, comment whenever you’re able.

Thanks for sharing part of this Advent with us. Merry Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

Amy

p.s. Next week we’ll announce the next book, but there’s no rush to move on. Savor this time and our discussion.

Photo Credit Anggie via Lightstock

14 Comments

  1. Morielle December 23, 2013

    Ah! Thanks so much for sharing that line: “never doubt that there are two kinds of doubt: one that fully lives into the questions, and one that uses the questions as weapons against fully living.” This is an idea that was somehow half-formed in the back of my mind, but being only half-formed, was unexpressable. It’s a huge theme in my favorite novel (Till We Have Faces), but yay for Ann Voscamp expressing it so cleverly and succintly! And for connecting it to Mary and Zechariah. SO POWERFUL.God is really challenging me to be living-into-the-questions doubter right now.

    1. Jennifer December 24, 2013

      I am with you on that…. Living in the midst of questions, not being afraid of not knowing, of not understanding, of not being in control rather than creating walls to keep questions away from us, to appear to protect us from uncertainty or not having control. Admitting that we really do not know all the answers… but God does, and he is not afraid of our questions. Sometimes I know I am challenged to accept the reality of living with simply not knowing… and not to allow this to stop me from also living as fully as I can, in the midst of the unknown. I am learning that the walls I can build up at times, to protect me from the unknown, can actually be the thing which prevents me from fully knowing the reality of the safety and security I can only know in God… in the midst of the questions.

      1. Amy Young December 24, 2013

        “I am learning that the walls I can build up at times, to protect me from the unknown, can actually be the thing which prevents me from fully knowing the reality of the safety and security I can only know in God” — ah yes! That which started out as being helpful becomes the capture. Thankfully as we step out and slowly trust God to be the ultimate protector, he will. Not always as we want 🙂 … but that’s for another comment. Wink!

    2. Amy Young December 24, 2013

      Wasn’t the contrast between Mary and Zechariah helpful?! And it will be interesting to see what this year brings as you lean into some of those questions.

    3. Kristi December 25, 2013

      I tend to beat myself up for doubting most of the time. I too am learning that fully living into the questions can grow and stretch you in wonderfully unexpected ways. Recent events with friends and family back in the States had given me reason to rethink what next year might hold for me. Should I stay here or go back to be nearer to them? As I lean into this question He is drawing near first with peace and love. As I lean into that I think direction will follow.

      1. Amy Young December 25, 2013

        I’m pecking this on a small devise and will reply more tomorrow. …as much as I prefer answers, just looking through the gospels I’m struck with how many questions Jesus asks. He seems to be comfortable with questions. So, maybe we need to be too – or at least move a bit in their directions.

      2. Kristi December 26, 2013

        Staying here.

  2. Shelly Page December 27, 2013

    I haphazardly read the final days of the book. (I receive the grace you have given, Amy.) In retrospect, the two questions you list that stand out to me are about the “performance bandits” and “what I need to lay down”.

    I entered Christmas day full of anxiety about failing. I failed to get out and buy gifts for my team’s gift exchange and had to rely on a teammate to do it for me. I failed to make or buy anything “special” for those who have been in my life for a while here. I failed to even get on the ball and get gifts for family back in the US. I was beating myself up and also bulking myself up for the disappointed looks I expected to get from those who would get the “less than spectacular” gifts I did manage to get.

    BUT, you know what? There were no disappointed looks. There was sincere acceptance of my small, but cute, gifts. One thing I had to lay down was my tendency to cover up such failing with words. Christmas day, however, I had no voice, so there were no such words, only receiving of the gifts offered in spite of my lack of comparable gifts.

    There were two gifts that moved me to tears. (This might fit well in the Grove, but I am writing it here.) First, a framed creative rendition of Psalm 52:8-9, verses that have popped up in my life over the last few years. Second, a journal decorated with a crocheted garden along the edges. Why tears? In part, shame, if I’m really honest. That was quickly washed away by joy at being accepted and loved. I did nothing to earn these beautiful gestures of friendship and affection. Nothing. I need to lay down all my striving to be worthy, to do it right, to preform perfectly.

    1. Amy Young December 28, 2013

      Shelly, I am delighted you extended grace to yourself :). And LOVED that “there were no disappointed looks” — often we make things bigger in our heads (guilty of this myself) and rob ourselves of joy. I read on a blog today “fire the judge (in your head) and hire the witness.” Isn’t that a good word!

      1. Shelly Page December 29, 2013

        Oh I like that! Good reminder. Actually, I don’t remember when I hired the judge…but it is well past the time that it needed to be fired.

  3. Patty Stallings December 28, 2013

    “Where have you seen blossoms of goodness even in the most unlikely places?”
    Love, love, love this question. Expressions of His goodness and kindness are all around us – how often I forget to look!
    This is definitely going to be a journal question next week for me.

  4. Jenny December 28, 2013

    Amy, I agree with you that the womb bit was creepy 🙂
    From the chapter on the 20th “Your name has been drawn. Come to Him just as you are. Give up trying to be self-made :this is your gift to Him- and his gift to you. Simply come.” I need to lay down my efforts of trying to be self-made, self-sanctified, self- competent, ect to have open hands to receive his gift. The word here for “receive” is literally “take to (yourself).” I spend so much time trying to “take from” or “come with” that I don’t have empty hands to “take to” myself what God gives.

    1. Amy Young December 28, 2013

      Jenny, this is a lovely reminder. When we fill our hands, we can’t receive what He has for us. I so appreciate you adding to this chat :). Can’t wait for your thoughts on the next book!

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