Christmas is Over

15419767_10109356708892194_5520719584611047593_oChristmas was hard for me this year. We decorated and trimmed, not one, but three trees. We drank plenty of hot chocolate and ate candy and sang the songs more than ever before.

 

And it all felt like it sounds: secular and beautiful and surface. And I often felt like a character going through motions.

 

I didn’t have the warm and cozies despite the oodles of family and good things. I felt so off I even started an advent devotional- which sounds lovely but was truly an act of desperation, to find and cling to the Christmas of old.

 

We had a Jesus Birthday cake, but my December felt desperate for Christ.

 

My home needs to be saturated, not in Christmas decorations, but Christ.

 

15589580_10109446017117794_5125888555205362410_nChristmas is over but it didn’t end, it was just the beginning. January 1st was the new year, but Christmas is the new life.

 

And the only way to feel Christmas when 12 months roll along is to live in the depths of Christ the next 11.

 

So here’s to a new year, a new beginning Christened in a secular glow with a holy reality

 

Christ was born, Christ has risen, and Christ lives in me. In this very drafty old home, Christ abides.

 

So it’s about time I start seeing Him everywhere.

– J

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Rejoice, Be Glad

“and the greatest gift we can give our God is to let his love make us happy”- Ann Voskamp

 

Before becoming a mom I wouldn’t have fully understood this. But now, three kids later, it rings true and hard.

 

I so desperately want my love to be enough. I want them smothered and adored and laughing in the bliss of it all.

 

I want them fearless and bold and secure and glad to be themselves in this world, because my love has brought them there.

 

But my love will never be enough. Even if I didn’t fail daily, even if I wasn’t hanging on the end trying to regrip most days. I couldn’t; I cant fill them up enough.

 

There is a cross shaped hole, a longing in their tiny souls for a perfect love I can’t fill.

 

And as a mom that is hard. I want to fill it up. As a human, a sigh is let out and the pressure lifted, I can’t be enough, but I know the one who can.

 

This Christmas there is so much hustle and bustle and trying to get situated and in our new groove. Growing pains are running rampant and I feel guilty everyday.

 

I am not enough for them.

 

And that is ok. Moms that is ok.

 

rejoiceJust lean on the One who is. Talk to the One who can fill them, talk about the One who came down small as them and will put the broken pieces of them and this world back together again. He will put the pieces of me right where he designed them to be, in His hand. He created me to be their mom, I am enough for this moment, but not for their hearts. Only His love can truly fulfill their needs

 

And the greatest gift I can give back to Him is to let His love, His perfect love fill my holes, fill my guilt, wrap me up and make me glad.

 

Rejoice, Hosanna, Glory to the King of Kings.

 

He is mine and I am glad.

-J

Christmas Started Early

Christmas starts early in this house. (Each year it seems a little sooner than the last.) And I wake up early, sitting here, looking at our three Christmas trees. The earlier Christmas starts, the more money people make, the more commercial it can become.

But the earlier we start, the holier the outcome.

Between candy cane clusters placed excitedly with two year old hands and fisher price Jesus in the plastic cart…under the blinking tree…you can feel the secular merge with the holy and it’s magical and meaningful.

christmas-starts-earlyFaith was designed, intended for the masses. It’s natural for the worlds to collide; this odd pairing of elf and manger.

All glitter, all one star.

But it’s fitting, because my life is all mess, lovely, and smelly, and faulty. And too often I say no to God. I place him in the manger, holy baby perfect, and deserving, right into the middle of the smelly mess.

I turn him away every time I’m too busy.

And yet his perfect grace lights me up, washes the grime off, and decorates me from the inside out.

 

I shine glitter, sacred glitter, holy elves.

 

Santa giving, Nici giving, God’s grace given.

 

It’s for the masses and it’s full of meaning, and I’m fairly certain the angels rejoice when each tree is lit – a  holy secular merger of peace, love, family, and faith.

 

Lit up bright with elves and candy cane magic, reminding us of the not so plastic Jesus in a manger.

  • J

Christmas in July

They say discontentment is the opposite of a thankful heart. It’s the opposite of joy.

Its fists closed to the gift of the moment. I should be wiser than that.

We get to say yes; we get to choose joy. We have the power of a thankful heart.

 

And when I slow down, my life is brimming and my heart IS thankful. But as I sit here alone and quiet (for the first time in weeks), my soul yearns for me.

More love? How selfish am I?!

More peace? Is this not enough?!

 

So I stop writing and open the only source able to provide both, that has a prayer of loving me big enough, peace that will last long enough.

 

christmas in july1Perfect love born in December; yet it’s July. Christmas reflections in July…why not.

 

December isn’t the only secular season of “more.” It seems to last the whole year through and we wonder where the dissatisfaction comes from.

Unless we set down the stuff, purge for simplicity, go to the source of grace and love and peace, the stuff will just clutter and dust.

Lack luster love hidden among things.

christmas in july2There’s only one love and it was born in a manger. What would that look like if I focused my home on becoming a stable?

 

Only the necessities, so that there is room, there is time for more, for better, love.

  • J

A Thrill of Hope, A Weary Woman Rejoices.

Christmas has always been special, but the older I get, the more I seem to love it. Yes, the excitement of Santa and presents and family is still there…but more than anything there is a peace set a fire by the glow of a Christmas tree. It’s a peace that makes no sense considering the craziness that is the holidays, but its there nonetheless.

As I sit this morning, one babe asleep, one babe snuggled in my belly, I can’t help but think of Mary.

Truth be told, for years I paid her no mind. However, as I sit here this morning overcome with joy, and peace, and love for both my babies- my world is changed. They have both changed me to my core.

My life, my soul, my spirit is infinitely better because of their very existence – and although at times it frightens me (because the world can be a cruel, cruel place) I also can’t wait to see how they will change the world with their tiny bodies and huge spirits.

I think Mary had to have felt something similar. Yes, she was carrying the Messiah – but she was also carrying her little boy. Her world changed 9 months prior to the star, and shepherds, and kings.

I know the strength (physically and emotionally) required to raise my babes…in all their head strong (and body strong) gloriousness.

Oh, the weariness and joy of raising princes…

Oh the weariness and joy of raising The King. I can only imagine!

I’ve seen a lot of images of Mary (I have an art history minor and she’s only one of the most painted women ever.) I dislike pretty much every single one.

They don’t capture anything about her – except that she gave birth to Jesus, highlighted by the obvious halo around her and/or the toddler seated on her lap.

The essence of her, while yes, that is wrapped up in motherhood, is not captured at all! Her joy, her struggle, is often never even approached…unless it’s the pain of the cross… but what of the many years raising a toddler, a boy King. As head strong and holy as they come! What of the young mom, the young woman struggling to make sense out of hMary did you know.er life amidst the greatest joy and most sleepless nights she’s ever known!?

This Christmas I share my favorite painting of Mary…ok, its not a portrait of Mary at all, it’s a painting by Gustav Klimt. However, every time I see it, I see a young Mary mom.

Strong, brave, and hopeful, obviously tired and scared, but oh so beautiful.

And yes tears are falling – all good moms shed tears. A lot.

Tears of gold though, not because she gave birth to The King; but because her world was so transformed by the very existence of the boy she is raising.

Because the world is in so much need of her son.

How could she cry anything less than gold for her babe, about to change the world; about to take on the world.

The song says:

A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices…

But long before the world rejoiced, a single woman was growing a child

– a thrill of hope

– a weary woman rejoiced

…and silent golden tears fell down her cheeks on many a silent night.

Merry Christmas, from one mom, in honor of another.

-J

It’s Santa!!!

This is easily my favorite time of the year.  I am like one of those freaky Christmas lovers.  It represents everything that I value most: faith, family, generosity, happiness, music, Santa, and sugar.  It takes all the restraint I have to wait until after Thanksgiving to truly listen to Christmas music 24/7 (and sometimes it is all I can do to wait until after Halloween).  I am one of those few people who gets truly excited when Hobby Lobby sets up for Christmas as they’re taking down the Fourth of July stuff.  I LOVE Christmas.

I think what makes me enjoy Christmas so much is that it lets me let my inner child really express herself freely and openly.  As it says in Scrooged, “…we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!”  People dress themselves, their pets, and even their cars like fools.  We sing; we laugh; we play games; we give.  We stop to focus on what is important.  We let our guards down and enjoy the people around us more.

If you haven’t noticed, I take my faith very seriously.  Yet, it is still easy to get caught up in all the really good, positive parts of the holiday and forget the central purpose/reason behind my celebration.

for-unto-us-turquoise

Merry Christmas!  Enjoy all the things I love about Christmas from Bing’s Baby, It’s Cold Outside  to peppermint hot chocolate.  See how many of them  you can enjoy at the same time!  In the midst of this, let’s remember why it is we celebrate as we relish in the wonderfulness that is Christmas!

(Did I mention I LOVE Christmas?)

– S

More Christmas Characters: Learning from King Herod and Mary

Continuing with my theme from Monday of a reflection on characters in the story of the birth of Jesus, I’m looking at two people who have important similarities, but even more important differences: King Herod and Mary.  They both believed a Messiah was going to be born.  They both acted; just in different ways.

King Herod:

King Herod may sherodeem like a surprising choice.  I was actually surprised as I was thinking about which players to write about next, King Herod was one of the first that came to mind.  As the villain of the story, you don’t really hear many Christmas sermons talking about what we can take away from him.  I think there is something, though.

King Herod most prominently fits in with the wise men scene of the story.  He is the person they go to ask for directions to the location of the Messiah’s birth.  How does he respond?  Like everyone else I described in my last blog, he responded in action.  The Bible didn’t say he questioned the wise men about their source of information or created a council to determine if there was a messiah.  Nope, he began the hunt.  He accepted the birth of a messiah and sought to destroy him.  This goes back to something my parents have long said, “it’s not enough to believe in God.  Even Satan believes in God.”  King Herod believed a messiah was being born.  He believed so much he ordered for all male babies under two in the area to be killed (Matthew 2:16-18).  So, from Herod’s example, I ask myself: your faith is abundant, what are you going to do about it?

Mary

I think it is  safe to assume that we all know the general story of Mary.  The angel Gabriel appeared and told her she would give birth to the Messiah as a virgin.  Her response?

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the Angel could mean. – Luke 1: 29

Henry Ossawa Tanner's depiction of Mary hearing Gabriel tell her the news
Henry Ossawa Tanner’s depiction of Mary hearing Gabriel tell her the news

I think it is also safe to assume that we could add fear to the list based on the Gabriel’s next words to her: “Don’t be afraid, Mary” (Luke 1:30).  There was an obvious reason for her to be confused, disturbed, and afraid by this.  God’s calling often does not give us clear answers, nor does it always take away fear.  Often those things that are most important that God calls us for are scary and the details are confusing.  These feelings don’t represent weak faith.  Above all, we know Mary was faithful.  These represent our humanness in comparison with God’s all knowing might.  What is important is our response in these feelings.  What was Mary’s?

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Luke 1:38

Despite the fact I don’t understand this, despite the fact that the details are disturbing, despite the fact that I am

completely overwhelmed with fear, use me Lord.  – That is how I see her response.  This is the response that I am trying to build for everytime the Lord calls me to do something that is confusing, disturbing, and frightening.

Let me be a Mary.

– S