Reflections on A Very Merry Christmas!

The blaze of Christmas is dimming. The joy and anticipation in our kids this year was a blast for us! I loved hearing our eldest describe all that he remembered about our family traditions to his little brother. Our eldest, (7) deeply grasped the meaning behind Christmas in some new and beautiful ways. I enjoyed just hanging back and watching him proclaim truth and tell the stories we have told him for years! It was joyful and fulfilling to see how much he has grown. I am so grateful for him!

This was the year for our middle son; he is 3 almost 4 and doesn’t remember much from years past. But I think this year really “sealed the deal” as it were. He asked So.Many.Questions and we answered them with great delight. (And sometimes he received them with delight, other times, not so much!)

Our sweet baby girl, (almost 8 months) was just a fun delight to us! She exudes joy in every way and is so agreeable. She learned to clap her hands, to wave hello/hi to people, to give kisses and to CRAWL! AHHH!

My favorite new Advent item was reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Have you seen this book? It is the Bible in complete story form. Every story finds a way to point back to Jesus. It’s not written to be read and studied the way an adult would look at the Bible. It is meant to be looked at as a true story unfolding before a child. It’s meant to be read from front to back rather than jumping all around. I love the conversational way it is written and the beautiful and artistic illustrations. It is so neat!

This year, we really made a point to insert the time we needed to do our traditions and to enjoy each of them. I would say that this was the least stressed I have ever felt at Christmas time. It was very freeing! And when I let go of that stress, I felt very present with the joy and excitement my kids were experiencing. It was a blast jumping into things with them. I made a point of throwing out a lot of the things I usually feel pressured to do (i.e. clean my house!) and just sat on the floor with the kids and tried to be with them. (I also am doing a better job of delegating some tasks to my very-capable-children.)

We baked cookies and decorated them, we drove around neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights (with hot chocolate in hand!) and we went to a special display at a local park. We read Advent stories and discussed new ideas and old ideas about God with the kids. Chase and I played with our Little People Nativity set and re-enacted the story of Jesus’s birth. We shopped for each other and brought the boys out to shop for their siblings. We shopped for kids in need in our community and donated gifts to Cooper’s school. We enjoyed family time and lots of silly craziness. We had family movie nights, ate popcorn and enjoyed Daddy’s “famous” hot chocolate.

And when Christmas morning came around, we really drew it all out and savored it. It was glorious. It was exhausting.

There were still moments of sorrow and sadness;moments when my heart melted. Friends were diagnosed with cancer, families struggled within themselves, children diagnosed with sickness. The Sandy Hook tragedy was a deep reminder that terrible things are happening in our world everyday. I have my own reminders too of sadness and pain and hurt. But this Christmas, I felt a tremendous sense of hope and peace. I picked up my journal where I’ve been counting my joys; practicing being grateful by writing at least 3 things I am thankful for every day. And even in the sorrow I was reminded of the Hope that only God can offer us. There will always be trouble here in our lives. We are not promised immeasurable joy on Earth. We are not promised that we will be kept from pain or death or hurts. We are only promised a way out in the end, a Rescuer, a Counselor and Guide.

I felt a lot of peace and hope with those reminders. Sometimes, knowing that you don’t have to go through it alone is what gives you the courage and strength to press on and push forward. Even when it is so very hard.

There is pain and sorrow and death; but there is also goodness and joy and light!

So now, post-Christmas, we are sorting through things and relishing the last days before life resumes it’s sense of normalcy. For now, children are home and happy. The house looks like either a lot of fun has been occurring, or a lot of work is to be done (depending on your perspective).

Every year after Christmas, I begin thinking about the current year and asking God to remind me of the things He has done and the things I have learned/wrestled with along the way. Sometimes the things I think of are really joyful, and some are really sad and painful. But this year, as I have begun to think on this past year, I am amazed at all that has changed and taken place, I am filled with gratefulness at the big things God has provided as well as the things that I will wrestle with for much, much longer.

For the New Year, I always have a prayer I begin to pray throughout the year. In years past I’ve prayed to believe God and trust His goodness, I’ve prayed for freedom from fear and to believe the best, I’ve prayed to have greater faith and to approach the things in my life with strength and dignity and I’ve asked God to make the Holy Spirit more evident in my life so that I would be sensitive to His moving. Each time I’ve asked these things over the years, God has always given me exactly what I have prayed for!  That’s pretty amazing to me. To think that all of those prayers were answered each and every year? Wow! I’ve learned and re-learned a lot in that time.

I have already begun asking God what I should pray for in 2013. I’ve asked Him to bring some themes to mind where I need to grow. I have a lot rolling around in my heart as He has begun to move in that prayer. I’m not sure where I’ll land, but I’m excited to begin that new journey. Looking forward to the future with hope and a prayer is a great place to start!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you keeping up with my sporadic posts this year. Thanks for hanging with me. 2012 has definitely seen a decline in posts. Kind of funny how the year we added a person to our family was the year I wrote much less.   I guess balance takes some time to achieve!

Light in the Darkness

The events of this past week in Connecticut were more than sobering. They were a reminder to me of the darkness of this world. They were a reminder that evil is present and active. The Bible calls evil a prowling lion who stalks us and seeks to devour and destroy us. That’s what the events of last week feel like to me. Evil sought out the weakest of our people and violently destroyed us.  My stomach still sinks and is sick when new information is brought out. Frankly, I have not watched a single story about the shooting. I know about it because of what coverage my  husband has watched. I’ve chosen instead to just pray for those families and that community. I’ve chosen instead to ignore ALL the media about it and to pray for God to continue to show the hope that He has made possible to all people this Christmas.

Do you see it?

He is the light shining in the darkness.

Romans 5:6-8 (The Message)”Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”

God didn’t wait for us to be ready. He brought Jesus, He brought light and hope and peace and a Way into the world when He was ready. That is the message of Christmas! That is the story of Advent. Jesus is our gift. He is our hope.

My friend posted on Facebook today the following:

“Consider. Copied from a friend’s post.

Newtown had taken down the Christmas decorations because they didn’t feel celebrating was appropriate at this time. “Bob Flayhart, pastor of Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama (#theBobbyFlay) said yesterday, ‘if Christmas is all about commercialism, then that is a completely appropriate thing to do.’ ”

“But if Christmas is about the birth of Christ, if Jesus really was born, and really was God, and if heaven really did break onto the earth with a mission, then we need to celebrate Christmas now more desperately than ever before. You see, Jesus did not come to give us pretty lights, and to teach us to act nicer, and to give us a reason to give gifts. He came because he saw clearly the unthinkable horror and evil that walked the earth,… and he came to earth to do battle with it.”

He is my Prince of Peace.”

This is a precious video that I just can’t stop watching. I love the simple way that these Australian kids explain the story of Advent. Their expressions, their joy, their awe are all present. Jesus loved little kids. He was always taking them into his arms and was always willing to stop and teach them, to relish them. He told us that the Kingdom of God belongs to them. The Kingdom of God belongs to people with hearts like this!

May you have J-O-Y today!