28 December 2010

The day after

What did Mary do the day after?

The day after giving birth to her first-born. The day after she held evidence that the angel's words weren't just a dream. The day after she pulled her post-labor self together when grungy shepherds dropped in unexpectedly. The day after she spent a night with moo-ing and baa-ing mixed with a newborn baby's squeaks.

In my imagination, I see Mary waiting in the stable alone with a tiny baby while Joseph finds a more appropriate place for them to stay. While he searches, she holds baby Jesus so close, smelling His perfect skin, counting those ten fingers and ten toes and dreaming about all that would come with this new person in their family.

Along with the song, I wonder, "Mary did you know?" Did she know this humble beginning would change the world? Did she know we would wonder about her in that moment two thousand years later? Did she have a clue the pain but finally ultimate joy her baby would bring to her and to the world?

What did she do when she found herself alone with the infant Messiah?

What do we do when the preparation is over and Jesus is here?
The day after cooking and baking sprees finally end. The day after completing the last Advent activity. The day after listening to Silent Night one last time for this year.

We put away the tree. Find places for a billion new toys. Put away the Christmas music.

And I search for ways to keep Jesus the focus of my preparations. The reason for celebration, and someone who is even more real and life-changing after his birth than during the anticipation of His coming.

As Mary knew, Christmas Day, Jesus' birth is the beginning of the life-change, not the culmination.

23 December 2010

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
by Christina Georgina Rossetti
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part, -
Yet what I can, I give Him,
Give my heart.

20 December 2010

December Joy

This Christmas week, my words are taking a break, and pictures will tell the story of our December.
Joy found in decorating a gingerbread house (and getting to eat the decorations).
Joy found within a snowfort and of course the snowballs that flew out of here. Joy found in a cozy sweater coat and a good friend who visited for a
Joy in this picture will be found many years from now when Amelie sees her desperation. But also much joy is found here because of how far Asher has come from his own years of Santa fear.
Joy found in the simplicity of a slinky.
Wishes of joy for the simple things this week.

17 December 2010

Surprise blessing

I know four days inside doesn't sound like much, but when you add a four, one year old, and pink eyes into the equation, four days equals eternity.

At their worst, Asher's eyes looked like someone dropped red food coloring inside and rubbed it all around. The boy just looks sick. Meaning Mommy can't even take him for a quick grocery store run pretending everything is fine.

And now our sweet girl's eyes are starting to have the same pinkish tint that Asher's started off with.

So we've skipped school, the Christmas program, the Christmas party, the shopping I planned to do, the grocery shopping I must do. And traded that time for books, discovery of Peter Pan, rediscovery of the beloved cow cuckoo clock, and lots of Kleenexes.

As we look at facing yet another day inside, I'm feeling acceptance and relaxation that we don't have to perform our rushed morning routine to get everyone out of the house on time. I haven't had to capture a squirmy girl to get her dressed and presentable to leave the house. No searching for boots, gloves, scarves, backpacks. And I haven't had to frantically grab for a snack for Amelie.

I quickly moved through all of the grieving stages of my outside freedoms and I think we're content with being here.

The tree is lit. Presents are getting wrapped. Lists for when I do get to see the grocery store again are made.

We are cozy and settled in with our pink eyes. And I'm beginning to love the blessing of pink eye.

15 December 2010

Low, Campy, Kitschy

Everyone has creative juices.

Whether we hide them, use them to create sophisticated art, or just do our best with glue and string, we share a common desire to make something beautiful. Not even that we need to create with physical resources to make something out of nothing, but more that we long to improve, organize, direct.

The Christmas season brings out my need to make more than any other. In the past I've spent hours designing and assembling cards. Last year I determined to make everyone on my list something homemade. Even despite my attempts to stop the insanity this year, my creative ideas led me to a late night knitting flowers.

None of my creative attempts are especially good. Often they end up in the trash after one season. But yet there is something that makes me believe I must do it again.

I've wondered if my art is kitschy? Is it campy? Is it low? An artist with an eye for sophistication and true beauty would thumb their nose at my creations and perhaps wonder at the waste of materials and effort.

Even though I acknowledge my artistic inadequacies, the desire to find something else to make hasn't disappeared. And I believe I know where this creative urge comes from.

From the Original Creator Himself.

Not only did he create majesty in the oceans, hilarity in animals, and great abilities in mankind, but instilled within each of us the impulse to do the same.

To create beauty out of brush and paper.
To build skyscrapers with ingenuity.
To put a piece of fabric here and some lights there to make a house a home.

Whether grand to stand for years or flimsy to be thrown away within a few days, creativity moving hands and minds to action links us to our Creator in yet one more way.

And I believe through even our most lopsided attempts, He is glorified in our creations.

13 December 2010

The funny moments

Are you still stressing out like I am?

The peace, that secret I told you about last week is hard to keep. I attempted most of yesterday afternoon to answer just one more question in my Bible study lesson determined not to give up the one thing I know will keep me focused.

But the oven timer beeped, kids woke up from naps, my unfinished knitting projects that need to be done tomorrow sat close to my chair.

The phantom lists still to make and images I have of what I want these next couple of weeks to be and feel like flutter around and add to the clutter of empty Christmas decoration boxes that still need to be put back away.

But yet I took an impromptu roadtrip Saturday night with my brother and even on Monday morning, I'm not regretting that unplanned night which jumped into my carefully planned December.

The night represents exactly what I meant in the Funny Moments article I wrote for yesterday's newspaper column.

Slipping and sliding down I-74 with Sam. Spontaneous Steak 'n Shake with both siblings.

One of those unexpected memories I will keep long after the one of unfinished Oreo Truffles fades away.

09 December 2010

A funeral

Achieving the Great American Dream takes admirable virtues that I've always prided myself on having in full. These very characteristics give us reason to celebrate every July when we remember our founding fathers bursting with independence, initiative, self-assertion. Everything it takes to start a country from nothing and wrestle away from one of the mightiest powers of the day.

Without their commitment to an ultimate goal, they would have given up and forgotten about the dream of freedom to rule themselves and not be forced to submit to someone who didn't understand, or care, about life in this new world.

It's no surprise that American school children, myself included, grow up with the same vision. A dream to be in charge of ourselves. To make a way and rise to the top of whatever we set out to do. To accomplish, achieve, carry dependence to no one but find within ourselves the ability to provide in any situation.

And then I read today from someone who challenges me every time I read his writing,

"Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence." Oswald Chambers

While everything within the natural me wants to become self-sufficient, self-providing, self-reliant, God wants me to enter into a battle of giving up all of the rights I have to become self-anything. Virtues that I use to create my own Angie world aren't useful to Him and in fact take away from ways I could be used by Him.

And I'm wondering why it was good when the earliest Americans struggled so hard to become free and why it's not good when I work hard to become free?

The difference?

It lies in who freedom is being desired from.

Freedom from a King who taxed and imposed strict rules without understanding is completely different from pursuing freedom from God who loves, sacrifices, and intimately understands everything I face today.

I certainly don't enjoy attending funerals and would never seek out opportunities to go to one. But for this one, of my independence, I hope to have the courage to attend.

06 December 2010

Spiritual sanity

Shhh....I have the secret you've been looking for! It's the one guranteed to keep your Christmas season sane!

No, it's not getting your Christmas shopping done early.

Not baking ahead of time to fill up the freezer.

Not cutting the tradition of sending Christmas cards.

Not even reading time-saving secrets on blogs! (but of course please finish this one.)

The secret for keeping a peaceful mind over the next three weeks is found in the Bible.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you." Isaiah 26:3

My thoughts have a hard time staying peaceful when I'm mentally planning a billion things at once. Every year I start December with high hopes of not giving in to stress. And to not come up with some brilliant scheme that will make our Christmas perfect if I only add a dozen more things to the treats I want to make and ten more items to the shopping list.

After looking at idea blogs and hearing other moms tell about their beautiful traditions, I usually find myself determined to recreate the same. My imagination runs crazy trying to figure out how to implement that one more thing that will make our celebration perfect.

But this year, I am believing in just one thing to make my Advent season perfect and Christmas day a time of enjoyment. That one thing is to remember Isaiah's words; that when my thoughts are fixed on Jesus, He will keep me in perfect peace.

Ahh...the peace I've been searching for.

"Undisciplined imagination is the greatest disturber not only of growth in grace, but of spiritual sanity." --Oswald Chambers

02 December 2010

The Waitng

It's finally December and the Advent calendar countdown can begin. Since the middle of October, Asher has almost daily been asking me when it will be Christmas. Mainly because like a typical child, there are certain things he has his eye on and he can't wait to play with them. We made a list about a month ago to provide some kind of outlet for these longings. What's on his list?

1. Playmobil Pirates
2. Lego Knight castle
3. Star Wars light sabers
4. Fish (yes, an actual live fish, although he's concerned about how it could breathe under the wrapping paper.)
5. Nerf guns with bullets
6. Remote control motorcycle
7. The Knight Handbook

We discovered the final item on the list while checking out a book display at our local Festival of Trees. I showed Asher "The Knight Handbook" with an armor covered Knight on the front and explained that the book tells you how to become a Knight.

His eyes widened and a serious look of awe covered his face because I believe he thought if he read that book he would indeed know everything about becoming one of his heroes. Asher knelt on the cement floor and poured over the pages of the book. Eventually a frantic state of emergency developed when we had to leave it behind.

"We will put it on your Christmas list as soon as we get home," I promised.
"But another little boy might take it and there won't be anymore." he countered.
"They will not run out of that book, there is a store with hundreds more." I reassured.

And then tears flowed so freely and sincere desperate longing overtook him.

I almost cried myself.
Really, the book wasn't that expensive, we could have gone back and bought it for him right away.
I don't doubt he absolutely will pour over the pages of that book for hours and hours.

But this is a season of waiting and we both have lessons to learn.

I have several good, not to mention really fun, gifts waiting for both Asher and Amelie in my bathroom closet, and I'm regularly tempted to go ahead, give these toys to them, and enjoy watching their delight right now.

But this is Advent right? A period all about waiting for the arrival of the expected. The expected we are waiting for at Christmas time is a baby. A baby who brings meaning to life because He is hope of things much better to come.

Justice restored. Dreams filled. Tears wiped away. Good gifts freely given.

Gifts that I believe God longs to pour down now, but the time is just not right yet. Christmas is like the beginning, like people who (wrongly) choose the tradition of opening presents in their stockings on Christmas Eve. Christ's birth was a necessary first gift. Without His arrival to ultimately pay the sacrifice for us, there would be no hope of future goodness. We can forever look to His birth as a reminder that God hasn't forgotten us. He promised to restore this world and I believe Jesus' birth reassures us that promise has not been forgotten, and is in fact one step closer to taking place.

I want to give Asher that Knight book today. I want God to restore all hurts and pain today. I want to stop wanting and waiting.

Anticipate. Long for it. Good is on it's way!