Monday, December 26, 2011

The Post-Christmas Post

Well, another memory is filed.  Another morning of watching my babes create what can only be described as pure carnage at the foot of the tree.
Another meal of too much, plus dessert.  Our home filled with friends and noise and mess and fun.
And another year of sitting next to my dear hubby as we settled down for a romantic evening...just the two of us...
watching National Lampoon's European Vacation.

Don't judge me.

(At least it was the somewhat edited version.)

We lit our last candle and sang for Him (this was before the the way)
How I loved watching the faces of my children...

They went to bed early (so we could watch that movie...I said don't judge me!) and were so happy and exhausted that not a single one of them had to be re-tucked.

I mean, people, do you KNOW how long it has been since we have not had to re-tuck at least one child?  Either after a sip of water, one more trip to the potty, or any other of a plethora of excuses...we always have to re-tuck someone.

But not last night.

They were worn plum OUT.  Their little eyes were closing before their curly heads hit the pillow.

It was a.w.e.s.o.m.e.

This Christmas, I truly feel I was more focused on Him and His coming than in many years past.  Partly because of this.  My heart has been filled and my voice has murmured lyrics all week...words that are eternal and true.  This concert set the tone for us.  Our imaginations were captured and our hearts ached for Him.  The words of these songs came to life and drew us so sweetly to the throne of the fact that He came while we were not looking.  He fulfilled all the promises that many had forgotten.

And He died for us while we were yet sinners.

All of this celebration and feasting, all of this fun and gathering and relaxing, every good and perfect gift is from Him.  We give and bless because He has so abundantly given and blessed.

We live because He came.  We rejoice because He is risen.  Whether we live in poverty or abundance or somewhere in between, He is the reason we sing and celebrate.  Without Him Christmas would be utterly empty and nonexistant.  There would be no warm spot in Winter.

But there is...because He is.

This day after, we have relaxed and played and been happily not busy.  Now I sit in evening silence, with rain coming in sheets outside my window, pondering the fulfillment.  Quiet has not exactly been abundant, so still my Bible awaits and I am about to turn those ancient pages and read Isaiah's words.  I did not want to rush or be distracted so it turns out I will sleep with them fresh in my mind.  I think this may be what He wanted for me today, how He intended this day to end in the first place.

But I must say, ending last night like this...with a good laugh next to my husband of 16 years...
well, you watch this and tell me if you don't crack a grin:

You know you laughed :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Coming

The celebration of Advent has been a struggle for me in years past.
To wreath or not to wreath?  Which devotional should we use...or do we use one at all?  In the attempt to avoid legalism, we often miss out on tradition.
But this year has been different.
I did not say perfect.
But it has come together and my heart is becoming ready.
A candle is lit, and we sing.
Silent Night, Away in a Manger...little voices rise in imperfect harmony.  Mari stays one step behind as she is still learning these old, old songs.  We all smile, and Daddy picks up the devotional that just happened to arrive the day we lit the first candle.  Sent by a friend, who no doubt was prompted by the Lord to be sure we had it just in time.
Daddy reads, and I fall in love with him all over again.  Sometimes the younger ones get wiggly, distracted and  unwilling to sit. 
So he starts over.
The wiggling eventually becomes disobedience, but it is so important that they learn to sit and listen and try to grasp just a tiny shred of what Christmas means.
So he starts over again.
The wiggling stops.  Eyes are no longer glazed over but focused.  Sometimes a question surfaces, or a smile.  
They begin to grasp that tiny shred.
I pray I can grasp a tiny shred of Christmas.
A Child...God become man...a Savior who deserves the honor of a King, the glory and praises of Heaven, sets it all aside to be born into earthly poverty.
He willingly becomes the most helpless of beings and lies, whimpering, in filth and strips of linen as a feeble attempt to keep him warm.  
He becomes the scandal of the gossips, the focus of hatred, the one they are hunting when countless innocents are brutally murdered.
He grows and matures and loves his Mom and Dad...but is keenly aware of and in constant communication with his Father.  
Can I grasp this?  I don't know.  It causes me to sit and marvel at the purpose for which He came.  When did He know?  When did the Cross come into focus?  

He comes in humility.  
He comes in love.  
He comes in power.  

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Emmanuel...God with us.

Gather Round Ye Children Come
Words and music by Andrew Peterson

Gather ‘round, ye children, come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man
Gather ‘round, remember now
How creation held its breath
How it let out a sigh
And it filled up the sky with the angels
Son of God, Son of Man


So sing out with joy for the brave little boy
Who was God, but he made himself nothing
Well he gave up his pride and he came here to die
Like a man
Therefore God exalted him
To the place of highest praises
And he gave him a name above every name
That at the very name of Jesus, Son of God


We would sing out with joy for the brave little boy
Who was God, but he made himself nothing
Well he gave up his pride and he came here to die
Like a man
So in heav’n and earth and below
Every knee would bow and worship
And ev’ry tongue would proclaim
That Jesus, He reigns with the angels


So sing out with joy for the brave little boy
Who was God but he made himself nothing
Well he gave up his pride and he came here to die
Like a man
So gather ‘round, ye children come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the power of death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sweet Moments

I love Christmas.  I guess I've already told you that.  But, really, this season is filled with so many beautiful possibilities and, usually, they come by surprise.  I like to think I am good at planning memorable activities for my kids, but more often than not they just show up.

Then He gets the credit.  Isn't that how it should be? 

Every good and perfect gift is from above...
of course.

So one evening my dear, brave hubby decided to take 4 out of 5 munchkins to see a movie.  Katie and I declined, as I had a lot of gift wrapping I hoped to do in their absence.  She asked if she could help, and of course I said soon as I stashed her goodies out of sight.

We pulled out the sparkly paper, bows, tape...and all the gifts that had been accumulating as Mr. Ups made his frequent stops at our house.

Yes, folks...for those who often ask how I "get it all done" the answer is I don't.  I go online, point and click, and never darken the door of the Mall.

At least not during Christmas time.

So we sat down to our task and, as usually happens when her hands are busy, Katie started talking.

"Mom, I love Christmas.  And not just for the gifts, because I know it is about Jesus and His birthday.  But I just love imagining the looks on their faces when they open them."

"I think the little ones are the best, because they look so pretty."

"I knew you and Dad were Santa because you always made us go to bed early and then we could hear you walking around and doing stuff.  But it was fun. I liked having fantasies when I was little." 

"They are going to love these."

Every word she spoke made my heart fill with joy.  This daughter of mine, whose love language is so obviously the giving and receiving of gifts, was being blessed and lifted up by the simple act of selecting the perfect ribbon.  Writing to DJ from Mom and Dad and sticking the label to the package was an act of love.

Her love tank filled as she dreamed of filling theirs.

It was a memory that I will treasure all of my days.  This quiet time with just her, to see her love well and be "in" on the secrets, was pure bliss.

Now, I am fully aware that a couple of secrets may be spilled.  She is only human and keeping all the secrets just might cause her to burst so I did not reveal to her all of the siblings' gifts.  *grin* 

I wasn't born yesterday.

But I am willing to sacrifice a few secrets for moments like this.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meaningful Remembrance

Every year, my children receive a new Christmas ornament.  It may be something beautiful like a sparkly tiara for the year Gracie was totally a princess, or it may be Batman.  There is the puppy in the mailbox for the year Katie loved the fur off of her stuffed dog, and the ESPN tree for DJ who knows all the stats.  But they always represent something about that child and what they were "in to" that year.

Well it hit me that Mari doesn't have a ornament for her first three Christmases that she spent with her birth family in Ethiopia.  And we decided we needed to fix that.  She has a "first Christmas home" ornament from last year, and her beautiful African angel for this year, but I decided to get the "lost" ones from families who are fundraising in order to add even more meaning to them.

So this is her first one...
 Pink, for a tiny baby girl born in an African mud hut.  
A tiny girl who barely survived.  
But she was so loved.

The second one... 
Her second Christmas.  
Spent sleeping on a straw mat with her entire family of seven.
Spent running barefoot through the fields of Wolaita, watching wild elephants and giraffes lope by.
Spent being loved by both of her parents and her four siblings.

The third...
This represents the year that hurt.  
Her father passed away suddenly and she was hungry.  
She was small and sick.  Her mother was afraid for her.
She was taken, in loving sacrifice, to a place where "she would get to grow up."
God was there, and He knew.  He sparked a desire in our hearts and that very summer, when her hurt began, we filled out the application with America World Adoption to bring her home.  Not knowing...well...of course we didn't know.  But He knew.  He had driven her someday-sister in America to pray and beg and believe for a sister from Africa.  Yes, He knew and He was weaving it all together.

Today was a hard day.  She struggled and decided today she didn't feel like being nice.  She told me she wanted to act up.  As I write this, my heart hurts because so often she acts completely normal and whole.  But today I could see the wound that is still there.  It only flares up occasionally now, but it is still there.  All the kids could see that today was harder, and they were exasperated because, well, why won't she just stop acting up and getting in trouble?  Why is she hitting and yelling?  Lord, help me to see.  Help me to love her as she needs to be loved.  Give me patience when I don't feel patient.  Give me eyes that see her heart when I am frustrated and feel manipulated or ignored.  Help me draw close when I am pushed away.  Help me remember how you have woven this all together and to remember that it is not, and has never been, about me.  Give me the mind of Christ, Lord.  Give me the strength to lay aside what I think should be and choose to pour myself out for You for the sake of my children.  Help me to model service by serving.  Help me to teach patience by being patient.  And above all help me to foster love and connection by loving and intentionally connecting with my children even when all I want to do is grab a cup of coffee and go into my room alone.

Meaningful...yes this post was meaningful to me because, in remembering, my heart opens up.  
Collecting these stones of rememberance is healthy because we do so easily forget.  He encourages us to remember...

Even in the beauty of is there for us because we need it.  We forget without it.  We forget Him and what He has done and why.  How much more do we need stones of rememberance in our every day?  
Much, much more.  I am convinced.

Friday, December 2, 2011

30 days of 28-30

I had the best of intentions.
On the 30th I was going to sit down and knock out the last three posts with panache.
Instead, I was in bed.
Some weird virus knocked me out...and not exactly with panache.
So as my house fell apart around me and my babies played nurse to mommy I had plenty of time to think.
Oh, and I also watched lots of Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel...because these were school days.  We have a new affinity for the series "Going Tribal."  It is some serious fun!  And did you know that Tiger Sharks off the coast of Hawaii have been tagged and then swam over 3000 miles to the Sea of Cortez?

The last three days of thankful.  Where oh where do I begin?  How do I narrow them all down?
I will say that as I languished in feverish achiness for two days I thought and rethought these last three entries.
I type these somberly, with a sense of awe at my God and Father in Heaven who has truly blessed me...blessed us...beyond measure.

#28...the Christmas Season.
This season holds so much meaning for me.  I remember the years before I knew Him...when it was about Santa and gifts and sparkle and good wishes, but not about Him.  Then He found me, and I wept through most of my first Christmas as His child.  Then just two years later I walked down the aisle as a Christmas Bride...down an aisle decorated with red and green plaid bows, to an altar filled with glowing red votives and poinsettias and a groom who would whisk me off to a cabin nestled in a winter wonderland.
Now I see it through the eyes of my children, as we light candles and sing songs and imagine what it was like back then.  As we watch the same movies I watched as a child and pick out new favorites and as Johnny Mathis serenades us...because nobody sings Christmas like Johnny Mathis...I marvel at this Season, that it never gets old.

#29...the leather sectional
It sits in our kitchen living area.  There are always blankets and a doll strewn across it, and a dog or two trespassing.  We often read stories or they spread out with their chapter books on this couch, but when the schoolwork is done and the weather is bad, they are allowed to turn on the TV and we all end up together in a happy pile of arms and legs and cuddles.  Memories are made and love grows as we enjoy a good book or a good show.  There are crumbs in the cushions and dog hair that needs to be vacuumed away and...hey, who wants to watch Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer?

I have to end here.  I have mentioned my Savior, my marriage, my children, adoption...and beside all of these sits the huge decision that was obviously the calling of God for us.  It has changed the entire dynamics of my family.  We love better, we live more freely, we learn together, and we get to set the priorities that are important to us...the priorities that help us stay in step with God's plan for our family.
Sleeping later, eating breakfast without hurrying, doing school and helping each other when one gets stuck, learning to be best friends again and having the flexibility to leave out what is unnecessary in order to have time for the truly important...I can't put into words how much better life is now.  Yes, I am teaching five kids in four different grades.  Yes, it can be complicated and we don't always "get it all done".  Yes, sometimes there are bad attitudes and kids who slop through work in an attempt to get done.  But overall, it has reduced the stress level of our home and given us time and memories that are priceless.  I cannot thank Him enough for pushing us and prodding us to this life.  It is worth every bit of planning and scheduling and paper-grading and frustrated reshuffling of the day in order to see our family live and love like this.