Financially, I tend to get caught up and caught behind in purchasing just the right gifts.
Emotionally, I have ALWAYS struggled when it comes to trying to make it to EVERYONE's Christmas celebrations, having to say no to some invites just in order to keep some sanity to the days. But then when I do say no, that sanity turns to feelings of guilt.
Spiritually, I sometimes struggle because when I get caught up in the financial and emotional strain, I lose sight of the true meaning of the season.
So every day this season, I have tried to just flip this scene upside down.
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born.'"
I'm focusing on the good news.
The great joy.
And it is hard to admit this, but it isn't easy to apply this upside-down Christmas thinking. The joy, the good news, the Jesus still sometimes gets too mixed in with all the other "things" of the season, rather than being the reason.
But it sure has helped.
And when I get wrapped up in the other stuff, feel down about not having the perfect family gathering, bake my own treats, send out "real" christmas cards, or can't bring the exact gifts for the kids....I stop.
And I turn it all on it's head.
And focus on the only true joy. The best news. The perfect gift.
How do you keep Christ in your Christmas? I'd love to hear from you.
And for the purpose of recording it here on the blog, here is our family Christmas card.
Merry Christmas friends and family. I'm hoping you find true joy and peace wrapped up for you on this Christmas Day.
I apologize for my absence over the last couple of months. Life has a way of getting crazy-busy this time of year. Throw in a holiday or two, a foot surgery, and a few kids in sports and suddenly I blink and realize that what seemed like yesterday was really a couple of months worth of yesterdays.
Today's post is a throwback from a year ago. It still seems to fit.
When you're done reading, stop by my new home on the world-wide-web and see what you think:
It's how I make like Mary in the busyness of all the days:
So I am doing this advent-like devotional using my you-version bible app. I love this. These are just short and sweet snippets of bible and devotion that help me get into the right mindset about the Christmas season.
Anyways, today I read a few verses out of Luke chapter 2 where the shepherds had come to see then new baby Jesus (I remind myself of "Ricky Bobby" from Talladega Nights when I say the words baby Jesus out loud.) and then they went out to tell everyone about Him before returning and praising God for everything they had "heard and seen." (See Luke 2:17-20 if you want to read it.)
There was one thing that jumped out at me in the middle of these few verses.
Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
With all the things going on, Mary just quietly treasured it all and reflected onthese things in her heart.
That made me think of why I take pictures. Lots of them.
First of all, I love it. There is something about capturing the moment and not realizing that it was the moment until I get to go back and ponder and reflect on it.
It is how I like to remember things. Words, yes; but images too.
Taking pictures is my way of freezing a moment (my superpower) in time that I never want to forget so I can pull it out later and remind myself. Of all the things. Not just the fancy things. The posed for pictures. But the random moments that make up each day.
I wonder if Mary knew in those first moments that she would have to give her baby up to the world.
If she later went back to those moments she tucked away in her heart for comfort.
I know it's different, but I'm pretty sure I am already getting pretty sentimental about sending my babies out in to the world.
I'm glad for the moments I took time to treasure up.
How do you take time in your busy life to reflect and treasure up? Do you take pictures? Journal?
You went to DC, to San Francisco, and you went on your first missions trip to Philly.
High school cross country
I remember when you were little and I would tuck you in at night. I would sing "sunshine" to you and we would say a prayer.
I'd say: "you are so special. I'm so glad God gave you to me."
That was our routine.
You don't say a whole lot, but when you do, it counts. You are funny and smart. You hate talking about school. Last year for my birthday you let me ask you anything I wanted and you promised to answer with words that didn't include "yes," "no," or "I don't know."
I took more left turns to get home on that trip than I ever had. Our 4 minute drive took about 20.
And it was the best birthday present ever.
Now it is your birthday.
Part of me wonders how this happens.
How does 15 years go by so fast?
But I already know the answer to that:
One day at a time.
Today, I am thanking God for each day with you.
I hope that your birthday is special.
Because, Claire....you are so special. I'm so glad God gave you to me.
Back-to-School usually means the start of a new chapter in our house.
This year is no different. Except for the part that it is way different.
For one of us, it's not just a new chapter, it's a new book.
When we shopped for school supplies, we skipped the crayons, protractors and wide-ruled notebook paper and went straight for the laundry soap, futon, and surge-protected power strips.
Huh. Not sure how that happened.
I remember walking the kid to school while pushing his sisters in a stroller and walking him up to his line in front of the school. I waited with the sisters with all of the other mommies until the teachers came out to let the lines all in to school. The backpack was full of art supplies, tissues and hand sanitizer for the classroom
I remember driving to school when the carpool line led me to the other side of the building. The mommies dropped their pre-teen babies off in time for them all to "hang out" on the steps until one of the teachers opened the door. The backpacks stuffed with gym clothes and axe deodorant and body spray.
I remember the first day when my presence was no longer required. The Wildcat drove him and his sisters to school. I stood in the street and waved.
This week we turn the page to begin a new chapter. The sisters will all be doing the last first day of high school, the first day of high school and the last first day of junior high.
And the Wildcat will be a Bulldog. It's not only a new page, it's a new book. And it's his.
In this story, I play the part of a character that I am still familiar with....I get to help pack the backpack (car), and I get to drive up in the carpool line at school, where I will drop a piece of my heart off then leave it there.
Two hours home.
And stay home while he stays at school.
It's Nathan's turn to write the story.
It's the next step
The next chapter
The next story.
I have every confidence in you.
Not even a single doubt exists
That your college years will be nothing less
Than a page-turner.
Be kind to the other kids
and raise your hand for the teacher to call on you.
Loved the sessions. Loved the people I met. Loved the stories I learned.
I had the pleasure of attending a class that did not turn out like I thought it would. I had expectations for what I thought the class would be like, then found out that it wasn't anything near what I thought it would be like.
Lesson #1 of the Weekend: Throw away my expectations and let God fill in the blanks.
I went to the conference with an idea for a ministry. I didn't have a book proposal. I didn't have a speech written. I had an idea to share. A dream.
It's my dream. It's not one that you grow up dreaming about. More like a vision that just won't go away. The kind of dream that you can think of a 1000 reasons why it is just nonsense. But it just. won't. leave.
Trust me, I've tried to discredit it. Or discredit myself. I've argued with God about how I'm not the right person for the task. I have done this back and forth thing with God for about a decade.
Funny thing I've learned about God and dreams: He doesn't really force them. It's more like an invitation to be a part of what he wants to accomplish.
Another funny thing: while he isn't forceful or angry or mean with these dreams, it is still the sort of thing that keeps me up at night and wakes me up in the morning.
So that is what I went to the conference with. An idea. A dream. One that won't let me sleep.
Lesson #2 of the Weekend: Apparently this dream is a good one. Not a unique idea, but unique approach. This is the sort of thing that requires branding and marketing.
Hmmm....another foreign language to me.
Lesson #3 of the Weekend: While I am comfortable writing, speaking and serving need to come in to play at the forefront.
Gulp. Public Speaking.
Oh how I wish that I could be all about JUST serving and writing. But speaking is where things will start.
Are you ready? Here is the nutshell idea that was confirmed over and over at the conference:
1. I'm a speaker. I can be encouraging for your moms/womens/ministry group. I have three distinct topics to visit about. And none of them are about me. They are about YOU.
2. I am a missionary-at-heart. I am not going to Africa. But I will come to your hometown and visit your non-profit, your church group, your ministry or your home and WORK ALONGSIDE you as a volunteer. I want to learn your story and how God is doing his completely awesome God-thing through the work that you do. And I will share that with the groups I am speaking to. And writing for. And my world.
And I want to encourage you and those alongside of you that YOUR STORY is important.
I also want to note that although I love to write, working alongside of you (YES YOU!) is the primary thread to the ministry of my heart. YOU need to know that the work that you do, even if it seems small or insignificant, matters for eternity. YOU make our homes look different. YOU make our communities look different.
YOU are making heaven look different.
YOU and YOUR story matter.
3. As I (gulp) speak for your group and work alongside of you in your local ministry, I hope to compile all of these experiences in a book or blog or you-tube channel. I want to spotlight your story in a way that inspires others to actively engage in their own stories.
Stories that make Heaven look different.
This is something I have learned in my years of working in journalism and writing the stories of others: EVERYONE has a story. I have been fortunate enough to get to learn and share them with others. And even though NONE of these stories have been my own experience, it makes me want to live my own story better.
And the last note (for now) from the weekend is something I shared above: EVERYONE has a story, but not everyone can write or knows how to share their story.
I am a ghostwriter. (BOO!) But don't be scared! My giftedness seems to be in sharing the stories of others, either in writing or photography or journalism.
This is an area that I am hoping to develop.
I learned a lot from the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids.
But I mostly learned a lot about what I still need to learn. Marketing and Branding.
And from what I can tell, my brand is YOU.
What's YOUR story?
How is God working through YOU?
How can I come alongside YOU in service and encouragement?