The Beauty of Christmas

The kids decorated our tree this year. The whole thing. They strung the lights (and missed an entire bottom section). Actually, they put three different strands of lights on our tree, one white, two colored. Once the lights were up, I pulled the lid off the grey Rubbermaid tub filled with ornaments, and five enthusiastic souls bum-rushed it. I quickly unwrapped tissue covered ornaments, pried tops off tiny boxes, and tried to hand out only the “non-breakable” ones—which somehow they can still manage to break.

In a flurry of movement, they began hanging ornaments in a cluster, front and center.  I encouraged them to spread them out, and my oldest two took charge of that. But overall I held in my perfectionistic self–the self that thrives when there is beauty and order, because there was none of that–and I let them do it. Their way.

It’s the first year they’ve done the whole thing, from lights to decorations, and while I cringed a little on the inside, it was the easiest set up we’ve ever had.

After the grey tub was empty (save the ornaments I won’t put on our tree for another 10 years), I stepped back and sat on the farm bench next to my husband. There was nothing for me to do, the kids had officially taken over.

And in that moment, that rare moment when I actually sit down and am able to take in the view before me, I was able to see a different kind of beauty. A real kind of beauty. A beauty I may not have seen had I not stepped back. It wasn’t the beauty of a kid-decorated tree. But the beauty of kids decorating the tree. And I had to ask my husband to take a picture with his phone, because as usual, I couldn’t find mine. And although I know pictures don’t quite capture the moment as I saw it in my mind, I still want to remember.

Remember how they all had their hands in it. How happy they were hanging frosty snowmen and glittery shatterproof orbs. I want to remember how grown my oldest son looked as he stood on the ladder next to the tree. And how the little ones where huddled around the bottom holding onto their popsicle ornaments. Remember them before they cared about their out-of-control hair or wearing nice clothes. When they were oblivious to their appearance and decorated a Christmas tree with great zeal. This is how I will remember them the Christmas of 2018.

Because fifteen fast years from now, it’s all going to be so different. And more than a precisely decorated tree, I’m gonna want these memories in my rolodex, maybe even my photo album, if I can ever be so organized.

So I still haven’t rearranged them. The ornaments, that is. And I don’t think I will. It’s serving as a reminder for me this season. A reminder that real beauty isn’t found on the outside or in coordinated Christmas trees, but in the hearts and lives of the ones we love. It’s reminding me that Christmas isn’t about perfection. So far from it, actually. Christmas is about our need for light in dark places, for hope amid sorrow, and the all-encompassing undying sacrificial love of God embodied in Jesus Christ. And in light of that, it really doesn’t matter much what our trees look like.

 

 

 

 

 

A Word About Calling

Here I am. My name is my blog. And there is a picture of my face all smiling and sweet, looking like life is perfect and I have all the answers. Who am I?

Let me just get this off my chest, friends, because I have struggled, struggled, struggled through this. Why am I writing? Why do I think anyone would listen to me?

I don’t have to tell you dear reader, that I am nobody special. You already know that, because you have no idea who I am. 🙂 (Or you’re my mom.) But, I am just a woman like you. A mother like you. A sinner like you. One who struggles to put an outfit together and brush my teeth in the morning. One who gets frustrated when my kids can’t find their shoes. I yell at my kids more than I would like, harbor jealousy in the dark places of my heart, and cry over the exponential amount of cellulite I have accumulated over the past five years. I am just your average American stay at home mom.

So what do have to say? What can tell you that you do not already know? The reality is, probably nothing. And yet, here I sit, typing away on a computer like it’s my job: a job that no one is asking me to do.

And then it hit me one day as I read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Oddly enough, the word “talents” here is another term for money, but immediately we see the word and read the Webster’s definition: “a special natural ability or aptitude.” And when you read it like that, it gets a little more real. While we have been given money to be good stewards of, we have also been given talents, abilities, gifts.

Honestly, reading through the parable is a little scary. Three servants, two choose to invest wisely, and one gets kicked out. There’s a lot going on in this parable that I don’t have time to unpack here, but it shows more of the “judgement” side of God, one that we aren’t very comfortable with. He gives us things, and expects us to do something with it. It’s not just for safe keeping but investing. Investing in others for the glory of God and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Reading through this passage again I was struck by the fact that I have been given talents from God. We all have. Not one of us can say we haven’t been given anything. Maybe some of us have been given a lot, some of us a little. Either way, we’ve all been given to. And as I read and processed this, I saw myself a lot like the one servant nobody wants to be, the one who was scared to invest the gifts God had given him and buried a hole instead.

God wants me use my “talents” for Him, not cover them up because I am scared. And although no human being was asking me to write, He was. He has a job for me to do. Do I have the guts to take a risk and invest? Or would I bury a hole out of fear instead?

You see, I had been looking at it upside down or outside in. It isn’t about who I am or what I have to say or not say. It isn’t about me at all. It is about Jesus. It was always and only ever about Him. This is His world, His story, and I am His child using His money, His talents, His gifts.

God isn’t calling me to write because I am the world’s best writer or His gift to moms everywhere. He called me to write–so I am. And I figure He knows what He is doing, even if I don’t. I trust that He will be glorified in some way, big or small, by my obedience to Him.

Because I am 100% convinced that when we do what we love, we glorify Him. Even if it’s the beauty of one life lived to Him. One life lived for the glory of God may seem slightly insignificant to us, but to the God who performed individual miracles and radically changed lives one person at a time, there is no greater thing.

So I am not writing because I have all the answers, but because He does. And when He says, “jump!” I’m gonna jump.

Over the past two years I have been slowly learning that “calling” is really pretty simple. It looks a lot like obedience to God. It’s that’s simple and it’s that hard. It’s simple because it isn’t complicated. You just follow God’s lead. You say “yes, Lord” when He tells you the thing it is He wants you to do.

But it’s hard because sometimes He can ask us to do crazy things. Things that don’t make a lot of sense. Things have uncertainty written all over them. Things that are risky. When I say yes to God, I’m not really sure what I’m getting myself into. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have to trust that it is there.

Most times, obedience to God requires straight up blind faith. But I’m pretty certain there is no better place to be than standing in obedience to God.

It doesn’t mean that things will come easy, or even that what I thought would come to pass will. But I will no doubt get front row seats to something wonderful–something special: watching God work and seeing Him reap a harvest, whatever that looks like. That’s worth all the obedience in the world to me.

So the question I now ask is…what is God calling you to do? I bet you already know. Now here comes the hard part. Obey. Just do it. Just show up. Invest. Begin. Just say “yes, Lord, here I am, send me.” If we are daring enough to take him at His word, I think it will be the best thing we’ve ever done.

 

Hope

This blog is supposed to be about mommy meltdowns, obsessive swiffering of hardwood floors, undisciplined eating of bite size candy bars at eight o’clock in the morning, and other petty humorous matters mixed with some insight into and inspiration from God’s Word. But tonight I’m not quite inspired and definitely not laughing. In fact, I’ve been crying a lot the past few days. So although it may not be funny or very inspiring, like the poop episode (see “Not So Dirty Diapers”), I feel compelled to write because if I didn’t write this I wouldn’t write at all.

Eight years ago, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room on Christmas Day watching the snow fall out the window. It was a beautiful sight, and in any other situation would have made Christmas that much more special. But not that year. The big flakes floating to the ground outside the thick glass seemed to only serve as a reminder of the bleakness of our situation.

My dad had undergone major brain surgery a few days prior and was back in the hospital with post operation complications scarier than the surgery itself. We feared for his life. I’ll never forget being in the basement in some corridor of the hospital praying and pleading for my dad’s life.

God answered our prayer. He stabilized and a few days later was released from the hospital. Looking at my dad today you would never ever know that he had major brain surgery that nearly took his life. We are beyond thankful.

However, memories of that terrible Christmas are haunting me now as we seem to be undergoing trial after tragedy after trial. I can’t explain them all (nor would you want me to), but when it rains it pours. My stomach hurts, my body aches, my eyes long for sleep that won’t really come because my mind wont stop thinking, worrying, rehearsing, and dreaming when I lie down at night. It has been one of the hardest weeks of my life, no doubt.

I haven’t even had much time to sort through emotions or read His word (though I think I understand what it means to pray without ceasing). But last night I was reminded of His love in a verse I had committed to memory years earlier and it was like a warm blanket. It reads:

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:19-23 (italics mine).

I haven’t read Barak Obama’s book, but I don’t think it’s about the ability or audacity to hope. Anyone can hope–or at least try to. It’s about what or whom your hope is founded on. Though I don’t know the outcome of this troubling situation or when things will settle down, I know that He loves me. And because of that love, I will not be consumed. Right now, that is enough.

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