Christmas Time

Monday, December 12, 2011

this christmas...

it's monday morning and the rain is gently falling. the christmas tree is lit up and fully decorated with memories from my husband and my childhood as well as those precious handmade crafts that our kids have brought home (without breaking, of course). i have enjoyed a warm cup of coffee and given my sick one medicine to help ease her discomfort. the stockings are hung and the nutcrackers are scattered around. the kitchen waits for the candy making to commence. the closet is filled with gifts that need to be wrapped in matching brown paper with pretty ribbons.

the more i type the more my stomach hurts and my heart sinks. just last week a friend of mine sent me a link to a blog asking if i had read it. i have been reading this blog for well over a year and then read a book by the author this spring while i was in Peru. i had read her blog telling the story of their family's christmas last year but had tucked it away in my mind for another time.
read this year's post on Ann Voskamp's Blog then come back. i'll be here.

this was my response to my friend:
"I have and it makes my heart ache to do
the same thing. I think I might read it to my
kids and pray they hear the truth. How
does one go about changing the gift giving
tradition? For we are not saved by human
tradition so why do I cling to it so?

i have continued to think about this blog. i have searched my heart as to why i am so stubborn in regards to letting go of the gift giving. as a teenager, my aunt and uncle would give us a devotional book and a little card saying that a donation had been made to a foundation in our honor. i am embarrassed to admit it but, i thought that was a sorry gift to give a teenager. my self absorbed heart wanted the temporal. i wanted all the stuff that would not last. i am thankful God has continued to work on my heart.

i sell my God short. one of the reasons i have clung to giving "stuff" for Christmas is that i don't want my children to feel slighted. i want them to have good gifts. i want them to not feel left out or deprived. in my doing so, i am separating them from what God has intended for them to know about the world and what we are called to do for others.

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to
give good gifts to your children, how much more
will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those
who ask him!
Matthew 7:11

ross and i spent time the other morning talking about how we do christmas and how we remember christmases of our growing up years. neither of us can honestly direct our memories to the birth of Christ. both of us grew up knowing that christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ but the magic of christmas that we remember from growing up really had little to do with Christ.

in our effort to train up our children in the Lord we have begun new traditions like the jesse tree advent, going to the Christmas eve service, and making a Jesus birthday cake for christmas day. many conversations are had throughout the season about what christmas is really about. we still do the santa thing and i don't have any real problem with it. anna even said last night, "santa is magic. he knows a lot but God and Jesus know more." we read all kinds of christmas books throughout the month- those about santa, snowmen, the Christ child, ways that people around the world get the gist.

our children are generous givers and somehow we have horded christmas for them. in light of wanting our family to go beyond ourselves and see that God is at work in a world that is so much bigger we have decided to begin giving a new gift to our children praying that in the coming years we will give more than we receive (from a worldly perspective of course).

here's our plan- on Christmas eve we have always given our children new Christmas pjs. this year they will still get their new pjs but they will also get a catalog and money envelope. under the light of our tree in the warmth of new pjs, that are a gift from God that we all too often fail to recognize, we will give our children the chance to choose a gift to give to someone else who's in need of what we take for granted.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come,
you who are blessed by my Father; take your
inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since
the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and
you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and
you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger
and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you
clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was
in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when
did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and
give you something to drink?
When did we see you a
stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 34-40

dear Lord, would you strip away my ugly heart of selfishness and lack of faith in the work you are doing in our children's hearts and give us all selfless hearts that break for that which breaks Yours. may we, as a family, in your grace reach beyond our temporal comforts to provide for the needs of others so that You are glorified.

" Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of
witnesses, throw off everything that hinders and the sin that
so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race
marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and
perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne
of God."
Hebrews 12:1-3

Friday, November 18, 2011

boldness in the form of a 9 year old...

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 timothy 1:7

monday evening while ross was at bsf i was getting the kids ready for bed. as i was putting the littles down henry asked if daphne could please join him for a "prayer meeting". how can you say "no" to that?

after i had tucked in the babies i could hear henry and daphne talking so i went in to redirect them toward getting their "have to-s" done so they could get to bed at a decent time. when i walked into his room there they were. side by side on his bed with Bibles open taking turns reading. it was one of those mental snapshot moments. once they finished we all prayed together and i took daph off to tuck her in.

when i came back to tuck henry in he told me he wanted to start a Bible study at school during recess. he wanted to invite his friends and enemies to study the Bible, answer questions and then play games.

me of little faith went straight to "what if he gets rejected"? this being my thought i wanted to talk through what his ready response would be if in fact one of his "friends or enemies" said no way to this idea. he just said, "i'll tell them- maybe next time." he had the whole thing planned already. he was going to make invitations, study colossians and write out questions to ask the group. "if anyone gets the answer wrong then i will just show them where the right answer is in the Bible." we prayed for God to use him and to bring all the ones who He wanted there.

tuesday morning he passed out 28 invitations. each 4th grader and the 2 teachers received one inviting them to join him on wednesday. tuesday night he went through the whole thing with us. a welcome, prayer, reading scripture, questions and a game.

wednesday afternoon his teacher called me and said that 22 kiddos showed up at the Bible study, pencils in hand and engaged. 22 nine and ten year olds gave up their recess to read the Bible together! afterward he told his teacher that he wasn't planning on being a preacher when he grows up to which she replied, "whatever God calls you to will be just what you will do."

"Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

Lord, You are so faithful even when i am faithless. thank you for loving my boy even more than i can imagine. would you continue to use him and the gifts You have blessed him with for Your glory? thank You for giving him a boldness and reminding him that he has nothing to fear. You are so good.

my thankful list thus far...

Today I am giving thanks for this moment as Amos Lee is playing and my Daphne is asking me about the invention and usage of the Neti Pot- yes simultaneously these two things are occurring.
Day 2: I am thankful for parking lots, a window full of friends and advice on cleaning pee smelling grout.
There are brief snippets of time when I think to myself, "if I had this quiet moment more often I would love to paint a picture of all the sweet people and moments that make up my cornucopia of joy." Then I realize that without the chaos of my life I wouldn't have such a bountiful harvest in my heart. Day 3: I am thankful for all the noise and chaos of my days and the little quiet reminders of the joy that comes with it all.
words. they can be a salve to a wound. they can be an encouragement to the downtrodden. words can bring laughter. words can challenge and sharpen. words can be life giving. words can restore. Day 4: today i give thanks words.
Time. All too often wasted on things that will not last but today it is being spent with my 5 most favorite people in the entire world. Day 5: I am thankful for time spent together with my family.

the sound of the palm trees blowing in the cool breeze. the football game played out in another room. the tick of the clock. the little voices calling my name. Day 6: Today i give thanks for my sense of hearing.
A warm bed, rain falling, cold weather, snow on the mountains, hot coffee, a morning at home. Day 7: I am thankful for this day.
For yesterday Day 8: Hard work shows itself. Do not merely listen to the word an so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!
Day 9: I'm thankful for books. I dream of one day sitting on the porch of a beach house in Maine wrapped in a cozy blanket with a hot cup of tea reading a fabulous book.
Day 10: I am thankful for a voice to speak truth.
Day 11: i am thankful for the men and women who put themselves in harm's way, leave their families and comforts so that i can enjoy freedom.
Day 12: I am thankful for 34 years of life- adventures and trials.
Day 13: It can calm me. It can encourage me. It can push me to work harder. It can paint a picture in my mind. Today I give thanks for music. From listening to Toto and Todd Rundgren with my dad or Windham Hill and Julio Iglesias with my mom, masterfully created mix tapes by Melissa Riley, and now the DJ skills of Henry & my husband Ross Newman my taste in music is varied but not a day goes by without a song in my mind.
Day 14:i am thankful for packages of thank you cards in the dollar bin. there is just something special about sending a handwritten note to thank someone for their kindnesses. i love to receive them but truly enjoy sending them.
Day 15: i am thankful for the boldness of my son. he proves to me over and over that we do not have a spirit of fear but of but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.(2 Timothy 1:7) He decided Monday night to boldly invite his friends and enemies at school to join him for a Bible study. i am humbled at the young man God is growing him into.
Day 16: i am thankful for the many pictures that i have whether in a box in the closet, a handcrafted scrapbook, on my computer or on my phone. i wish i were some fantastic photographer that could make every picture i have look like we were always bathed and happy but in reality most pictures in my possession show our reality. pb&j faces, laughter, tangled hair and lots and lots of love. i think that might be better.
Day 17: i am thankful for this exact place in life. i have thought at times "what if i had..." and all of what i can fill in the blank with falls flat and lifeless to what i have and what i have lived. life has not been easy or like that perfect picture i would like to capture but life thus far has been full. some things i would love to not have experienced but not at the risk of the changes in me that have occurred in the process.
Day 18: i am thankful for vacuum cleaners. i like a freshly vacuumed rug or carpet. (no one said the whole list of thanksgivings had to be full of deep meaningful things- i really am thankful for vacuums.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

e break...

let me just confess my absolute ridiculous dependency on a certain material object. it is pathetic, i must admit.

today i had to set up a principal's coffee that the 4th grade was hosting so i had the sweet opportunity to drive my kiddos to school. we are in a carpool and i have the afternoon pick up responsibility so i don't often get to drive them in the mornings. for some reason i enjoy driving them in the mornings. maybe it is because everyone is usually still in a good mood and not feeling the weight of the day. afternoons tend to include tired bodies & minds, grumpy attitudes and/or hungry bellies. with four little people demonstrating one or more of the previously mentioned troubles- afternoon drives home can be....well, less than pleasant.

back to my story. so i dropped off the big kids and the two littles followed me in to the school library to set up this casual informational meeting/conversation with the school principal. i was actually feeling pretty good about the fact that though an item on the sign up sheet was not provided i did not cave in and make the food. i recognized that not having a food spread that looks like a southern living magazine cover was not a reflection on me nor is it a necessity. this is big for me people. i think room moms are typically the "get things done" kinda people and if others don't then i, the room mom, will. so as you can see, this is a big deal that i went in this morning knowing the food spread would not be as i would like and i was okay with it. (insert applause)

all things went well. there was plenty of food and coffee. my littles were not the silent type but we muddled through the meeting with my iphone providing intermittent entertainment. at 9:15 i had to scoot out of the meeting so that i could get to the gym for a workout class. the girls and i got in the car and off we went to the gym. on the way i reached for my phone and sure enough it was not in my purse. oh i was frustrated! but knowing that it was at the school i kept going towards the gym. for the next hour i worked hard and sweated buckets then we headed back to the school.

no one had turned in the phone. it was on silent and so when the office staff called it there was no sound. i checked the garbage can and it was not there. i called ross and asked him to track it. because we had just updated to the new operating system the night before the locator was offline. i left defeated by a 2"x5" piece of modern technology.

once in the car i began to cry. i know that sounds silly but understand that i cannot afford to run out and buy anything i might desire. i have to save. i have to wait. i have to learn delayed gratification. iphones are not cheap. here i was driving home in tears wondering what could have happened to my phone. i was frustrated that i had let the girls play with it. ross never lets them touch his phone and i have thought that was a bit extreme but now i was kicking myself for not having the same standard with my phone.

then the Holy Spirit smacked me upside the head. between my ridiculous thoughts of my "whole life is on that phone" and "all those pictures and videos" He quietly said, "is it really that important to you? where your treasure is so is your heart. do you weep over those who do not know the Father?"

it was as if the e break had just been hit. my whole self reliant, control freak worldly life is on that phone and losing it is disastrous on some level but in the big picture it has no real value even if it did cost me a small fortune. that little man-made machine in more ways than i would like to admit is a tangible representation of my depraved heart.

i rely on myself in so many ways and find that in my control freak world i am restless. there is a song on my iphone (insert little chuckle) by audrey assad that has been striking a cord in me for some time now. "i am restless. i am restless. i am restless till i rest in you. till i rest in you, oh God."

Lord, my soul finds rest in You and You alone. You are the one who has saved me. You are my rock and my salvation. You are my only fortress. I will not be shaken, oh God. Let it be in You, oh Lord, that I seek my security. Forgive me for placing such a high value on such a ridiculous material object. Thank you for pulling the e-break on my meltdown today- showing me where my treasure was. You are so good to me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

this is not a facebook status update...

sometimes i feel like facebook is for the polite platitudes and faux images of a life that has a pretty soundtrack to it. this blog tonight is definitely not that.

i am struggling. no, that's not really a strong enough word... i am failing at parenting one of my children. i cannot for the life of me figure this one out. i want desperately to find a common ground but i find that more often than not i am so frustrated that i lose it.

today was one of those days. there is no excuse for it and i am far angrier than is reasonable. this child of mine is a lazy kid much of the time and so toys are never put away, clothes are strewn on the floor, items of "great worth" are lost time and time again. this makes me so incredibly angry to be honest. it is one thing to have a room that is a mess... i'm getting better at letting messes exist for a time but when i ask for the said mess to be cleaned up i expect it to be done all the way. i find clothes shoved in the corners of the closet. i find toys hidden behind furniture. tonight it was the goggles that sent me through the roof. how hard is it to pick up your goggles at a swim meet and put them in your bag? it isn't and yet here we are minus a pair of $20 goggles.

"money does not grow on trees" is true in case you are wondering and so when you lose $20 goggles ( you might be thinking "why in the world would you pay $20 for goggles" but in swimming there is the $6 goggles that don't actually work and then the next step is the $20 ones) i get very upset but more so because i see this as a heart issue in my child and it really brings out bad stuff in me.

when other people are with my little one they just eww and awe over what a sweetheart this one is. lots of joy seems to be had when anyone is with this one. here i am feeling like an outsider looking in. i feel like i am missing out on something and just can't find it. i see the smile and hear the laughter but feel so distant. what's wrong with my heart? i am so broken to know that i can be so angry with my precious little child and that tonight my words hurt.

i was not nice to this one tonight over a pair of goggles. goggles. i tell my kids all the time that people are more important than things and yet i did not live that out today. i let money and what i think is valuable (responsibility) come before this child. i still think it was irresponsible to lose the goggles but somehow i was the one who lost what is valuable.

i want to know this child and i feel like i can't. i want to laugh and enjoy the delight that comes with this one's presence. i want to shepherd the heart and yet i am losing a relationship with this one.

"Lord, i confess tonight that i was wrong. my words were hurtful and i did nothing with love. i failed tonight and i am so sad that i can't get any of it back. i want this night to disappear and i want my child's heart and mind to forget it all. why can't i see my child through different eyes? help me see with your eyes. help me see anything through your eyes. help me to delight in this little one. help me to know how to delight in everything."

Monday, March 7, 2011

next week...

next week i am leaving for an adventure of a lifetime. i was asked last fall to pray about taking part in a mission trip with international dental ministries to peru. in december i decided to go. God has graciously provided enough donations to make it financially possible and each obstacle has fallen to the wayside without hesitation.

when i was in high school i planned to go with a youth mission organization to zimbabwe, africa on a summer mission trip. after arriving at boot camp i just couldn't hack it. to this day i am not sure what my problem was but for all the wrong reasons (fear, boyfriend at home, etc.) i quit and came home. i regret that decision. at some point in my walk with the Lord He gave me a heart for missions and for africa. i don't know in what capacity or when He may do something with that little portion of my heart but it has never changed. so here i am some 15 years or so later heading out to the highlands of peru.

in many ways i feel like i did before giving birth to my first child- it is going to be more wonderful and more challenging than i can comprehend at this point so let's just go! we will be traveling to lima and then to cuzco and from there we will travel to the rural village where we will serve the peruvian people. my role is one of assisting the dentists who will be caring for the villagers' dental needs. i will sterilize instruments, assist procedures and will also help with the food prep for our entire team. that last part sounds like it might be a big job but i feed six people daily so feeding 10 seems not too different.

while we are there we are taking a couple of days to sight see. i mean, it's not like i go to peru any ole time so we have to take in as much as we can while we can. we will ride on a train, stay in a hostel and even climb to the top of that big rock in this picture of machu picchu. i am assured that if i can hike the grand canyon then i can do this.

it is very strange to leave ross and the kids here. somehow i have a false sense of security when we are all together. leaving means not being able to control anything. this trip is forcing me out of any comfort zone i have clung to. i am not fearful or concerned for myself but i am tender for my family.

henry has been a little nervous about me going. he asked me if i would be killed for talking about Jesus. i have never been one to tell my kids, "mommy will always come home" or anything like that because nothing in this life is guaranteed. if i were to not return i would not want the last thing i say to my children to be a lie, even if it were unintentional. when henry asked this i simply responded with, "i hope not." i told him that if i were killed for telling people about Jesus then it would be a great way to go and that no matter what he would have to trust that God had not forgotten me. he then went on to ask me what would happen if my plane crashed in the water. in my head i was thinking, "wow this is a really morbid conversation." i again told him that i hoped that would not happen but if it did he would have to trust that God is good all the time. to which he replied, "all the time God is good."

it is hard to go and yet so very exciting at the same time! i know it is an adventure of a lifetime. it is an opportunity to live out what God put in my heart long ago. it is a chance to see people, in much different circumstances than i, coming to a saving knowledge of Christ. it is a chance to bring physical relief to people in pain. it is a change to see first hand what God is doing in the lives of the peruvian people. it is a chance to take part in a work that God is doing. it is a chance to see that life is not just about me or my little corner of the world.

Lord, You are greater and more mighty than i can even imagine. Your hand has stretched out further than i can fathom. You have invited me to take part in Your work and so here i am. break me. change me. mold me into the vessel You created me to be.