when all I’ve got is guilt to give

The thing that’s had me on my knees this holiday season, worship-weeping, is that little baby in a manger. God-Incarnate. The thought that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies would fold himself into soft t0-dust baby-smell vulnerability and enter the most refuse-filled place of our world. The very highest, very mightiest, very most glorious I AM entering the lowest, dirtiest level of our land as the tiniest, weakest babe.

It’s the sort of thing that causes moans of worship only the Holy Spirit can understand.

Here we sit, on the dawn of a new year, this leaf turned over, this fresh chapter started. And very often, as is the case on many new years, I am thinking of all the ways I want 2013 to be so different from 2012.

2012 was a wonderful year, full of joy and new life and promise. But it was also a very hard year, full of so many…failures.

Failures to be as faithful as I should, failures to be as kind, as loving, as gentle…failures to be a great steward of our money, failures as a housewife, failures as a wife…failures to lose extra weight, to eat as healthy as I wanted, to exercise as much as I should. Failures of forgetting to pray as often, failures to be immersed in the Word. Failures to be selfless, failures to be humble, failures to be a witness…and the list continues…

And all this failure rolls into more failure with its debilitating guilt. After all, I give the greatest guilt-trip of them all. There’s no one who can give a better beating over, a better putting down, a better you-should-be-so-much-better-than-this than I can. I can weigh my heart with the weight of should-have-beens so very fast.

This new marriage of mine brings such a keen awareness of my sin. And it is so good to be aware of sin.

But the question, I am learning, is where does this awareness of sin lead me?

If it leads to the Great Guilt Trip of 2012, it is for nothing. Well, correction…it is all for me. It is for my own ego, my own glory, my own salvation. Because guilt leads to this one resolve: I must act so that I can erase guilt.

I must act so that I can bring my salvation.

I must work to be saved.

And here I am at last, the very core of all guilt and all shame: a constant urge to self-rectify, self-purify, self-sanctify. Jenni Cannariato, the savior.

Have I forgotten the baby so quickly?

Have I forgotten my joy-weeping over Christmas? That great, glorious God came into the dirt and filth and vulnerability. He came to us. He came to me. With one purpose: to save. The great one who is willing to get so small and so dirty as to clean my guilt right away.

So here is my vision, my one resolution for 2013. Here is what I name this year: Guiltless.

I resolve to stop trying to be my own savior in 2013. I am vowing not to act, not to improve, not to aspire, not to work, but to step aside and let the Lord of Heaven’s Armies enter my dirty heart and save me. To keep my eyes wholly fixed, to keep my heart wholly opened, to keep ego and pride wholly subdued to let the one who gave everything bring me the freedom and joy of the manger-resurrection life. Glory from a stable, from flesh, from dust, from broken hearts.


reflection goodbyes and new year hellos

I love how the sovereignty of God pours meaning into every small area of our life. After all, no thing is small or purposeless when a good God is sovereign over all things. Doesn’t this very fact lie behind our intentional living? That we purposefully approach the days and seasons that he created, as something he created meaningfully. 

Which brings me to today: the last day of 2012. 

Why not pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and join me in reflecting over this past year, so that we can intentionally and mindfully move into the next one? 

20 Questions to Help Us Reflect on 2012 (with my answers in italics). These questions are originally from http://www.simplemom.net, and I couldn’t help but share the opportunity to purposefully writing the last few thoughts of 2012. 

1. What is the single best thing that happened in 2012? 

I married by best friend and soul mate after 5 1/2 LONG years of long-distance dating and got to travel with him to Switzerland for our honeymoon.

2. What is the single most challenging thing that happened in 2012? 

I moved away from my family and friends and my mountains to live a church-mouse-poor life in crazy-different New York.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? 

We met new friends and found the hope of a meaningful community after a few months of feeling like we might never find it.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle this past year?

I never thought I would miss my life in Colorado so much.

5. Pick three words to describe 2012.

newlywed, budget, change

6. Pick three words your spouse or best friend would use to describe your 2012 (don’t ask them…it’s challenging to think about how others perceived your year). 

dreaming, peace-making, change

7. Pick three words your spouse or best friend would use to describe their 2012 (again, don’t ask them. How well were you living in community with them?)

dreaming, together, challenge

8. What were the best books you read this year?

Kisses from Katie, Undaunted, 1000 Gifts, Healthy at 100, The Weird Sisters

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

my husband, my dear bridesmaids (all of whom were so supportive and helpful in my pre-wedding stressing), my mom, a life-long friend who I got to see after 10 years of emails and hoping and supporting, and a married couple who has offered us new community and friendship when we were feeling pretty lonely. 

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of 2012? 

Going from a single woman to a wife, and every life-change that meant.

11. In what ways did you grow emotionally?

I began to understand how much God has gifted me with the ability to choose misery or contentment, to choose his joy or my own comfort (which really just results in being bitter). I spent the first few months of my marriage wishing all my circumstances away (missing mountains, a job I didn’t really like, loneliness), only to find that when I opened my arms to God’s generosity and sovereignty in them, they became full of deepest blessing. The emotional growth was learning to choose contentment over complaint.

12. In what ways did you grow spiritually?

As I learned to be thankful, I learned to trust, and to lean, and to rest. God is sovereign. He is on the throne. He is good. And Christ came. He died. And I am covered in his blood. In the Gospel is the fullness of God’s sovereignty, the fullness of my rescue, and the fullness of my faith. Here, in this space, lies the deepest joy and the most wonderful grace. I am just learning how much this changes EVERYTHING, and I am looking forward to another year of living out the Gospel of Sovereignty, the gospel of grace. More to come…

13. In what ways did you grow physically?

Thom and I embraced a less standard-American, more plant-based diet. We don’t label our diet, but we eat to be healthy, and we eat a lot of plants. It’s a slow process, this change, and constantly evolving, but it’s already starting to change the way both of us look at food. We have a lot to learn still, but we’ve taken the first few baby steps. 

14. In what ways did you grow in your relationships with others?

I went to a girls’ group with a bunch of girls I didn’t know, and talked openly. I went to coffee with an almost stranger and talked openly. I went to a couple’s house and talked openly. I help dozens of customers every day and I make small-talk with them. This shy girl barely recognizes herself! 

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

As a teller, I most enjoy developing relationships with the customers to the point where they only want to do business with me. At home, I love the sense of making a home that offers my husband a haven and resting place. 

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)? 

At work, it’s really difficult working with people who do not understand my values, beliefs, etc., and may never understand them. It’s hard to walk the knife-edge between silence and speaking, knowing when to stand up for my beliefs and when to be silent. At home, I feel failure and guilt so deeply when the dishes are dirty, the bathroom is hairy, the laundry is out, I am exhausted, and my husband is stressed because his home is not a haven.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?


18. What was the best way you used your time this year?

planning a beautiful and meaningful wedding, taking on some different writing projects, homemaking, putting together creative and healthy meals for the two of us

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

I learned to be joyful no matter what. I also learned that I am more sinful than I ever thought possible (marriage will do that to you, I guess). 

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2012 for you.

Uncertain life, certain God.

How about you? What are some of your reflections on 2012? I’d love to hear…What are you doing to intentionally usher in a new year? Making resolutions, setting new goals, picking a verse, naming the year? How are you making this season meaningful?

Happy New Year!