Saturday, December 7, 2013

Giving Love for Christmas

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."  -Roy L. Smith

Tonight we drove home from having our annual family Christmas pictures done, finally. Larry and I were chatting a little, with interruptions here and there, from Solomon,

"Mommy! Daddy! See the lights?!" 

Or telling us about how he shared his  "handy cranes" (candy canes), or how the song on the radio was "that Rudolph the Reindeer song"! 

I told my husband right then, on this seventh day of December, that this is already the best Christmas I've ever had

It wasn't just the lights and the music, but instead the joy coming from the backseat. Experiencing this season alongside my 3-year-old, as he takes in and embraces, in his own little ways, everything that Christmas brings, shows, teaches, and gives, with my silly baby girl joining us for the ride - it's just one of the single greatest privileges of my life! 

This year, we began our December with all new traditions. We welcomed an Elf on the Shelf into our home for the first time, but added a different spin. As opposed to the naughty and nice list incentive, we took inspiration from Following in My Shoes blog, and included a letter from Santa. The letter explained that Christmas is not at all about earning gifts, but about GIVING love, showing kindness, and sharing the hope of Christ. Our Elf - who Solomon named Red - will be a helper, here to remind us to act with kindness and love, and to try our best to be a help and encouragement to others. 

We decided to make this happen by using our Advent calendar, including a gift for each member of the family, and a gift for others. For us, with such very little ones in our family, this means that before bed each night, everyone gets a little treat, and there is a little note to tell us what we can do the next day to reach out to someone else. Each day is something different, and specifically planned so that the kids can participate, and learn from.

Some ways that we have reached out to others so far have been putting money in the Salvation Army bucket (and getting to ring the bell!), brought a little get well gift to a family member, made and delivered cards for sick friends, surprised Daddy at work with a treat from Starbucks, and shared our candy canes with family.

Throughout the month we will also bring a gift to church for our annual Winter Share program, give away some of our unused Christmas decorations, donate items to those in need, and more. 

None of this has been physically or monetarily taxing on us. It has all been planned with the goal of focusing on others rather than ourselves (a change that I, personally, very much needed) and teaching our children the true meaning of Christmas. God showed His extraordinary love for us through His gift of a Savior. We have found it to be true already this season, that the best gift we could give to our family this year, is to give love for Christmas. 

You might think that at one and three years old, that Adalyn and Solomon will never remember any of this. For my youngest, that may or may not be true. However, we are not simply making memories, we are building a foundation. For the future of our family, for the future of each of our children, we are starting something now, in their most formative years, that we can grow from and build on, for years to come! Adalyn may not remember, but I believe Solomon will, and I know that Larry and I will! And we will all talk about it together, and reminisce about it, and be thankful for the opportunity to give, together as a family, for years and years to come! That matters. Regardless how very little our babies are, their service and giving matters. It matters to me. It matters to God. It matters to anyone and everyone that they share love and kindness with.

I am more than confident that God can take our small and simple gifts, and make them big, meaningful and powerful in the lives of others. That is His specialty, after all! A humble young girl, a simple rugged shepherd, a dirty leftover stable space, were all used to gift to the world the greatest miracle of all time.
The extra special blessing of all of this, though, is that we are SO blessed to be a blessing. I always wanted to give more during the holidays ... someday. But just going for it, not worrying that my gift might not be enough, or that my kids wouldn't care or join in, but instead taking the first step - that's where God met me. My mind has been changed. My focus is different. My worries have faded. Only the power of a gracious, loving Savior can change someone from the inside out! Let me not fail to also mention how incredibly privileged I feel to share Christ with my own tiny humans! My little manchild is now talking daily about helping his friends, making people feel better, sharing treats and presents, as well as even overcoming some of his own personal challenges to become a better listener, a better sharer, and really really "getting it", a little more every day. Oh the gifts that Christmas gives! 

If you are on Instagram or Twitter, I'm sharing our experiences throughout this Christmas season with the hashtag #givingloveforchristmas. If you would like to join in, please feel free to hashtag your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts alongside ours! Wouldn't it be great to spread wide the love of Christ at Christmas!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Momday: The true story of learning to love well

This morning, on husband's orders, I passed on 'catch up on chores' day to get out, by myself. I picked up a red cup from Starbucks (and a compliment on my outfit, which blessed this Words of Affirmation girl's heart!!!), and went to the bookstore. The rules were "no parenting books, nutrition or organic anything!" (because Larry knows how I get sucked in, then start planning or worrying about something ��), and to only enjoy myself. I made myself stay completely away from the children's section, to make sure I stayed on track with my mission of doing something only for me. I read magazine interviews from my favs, Julia Roberts & Drew Barrymore, of course flipped through a home decor magazine, and read Little Women. Such simple perfection! 

I'm indescribably thankful for a partner who knows me well, yet loves me still, and who sees through my dark places to my real heart. The truth is that I've been perpetually overwhelmed lately. My brain is so overloaded with trying to keep up with everyone's needs, my body so unrested, and it has quite honestly brought out the worst of me. My weaknesses are rearing their ugly heads, shouting loud and clear, making me feel awful in every way, but mostly about myself. Today hit the reset button in a lot of ways.

I know this is a season. My fear, though, is that these weaknesses of mine will gag and blindfold me until the best of me is so impaired that I've completely missed out on the best days of my life. 

However difficult it sometimes is, I wouldn't miss any of this for the world! This is the time of my life. 

So I'm learning, slowly, slowly, but surely learning, that to love my family and others best, I have to love myself. I have to accept and believe the Truth that I know, that I am God's child. I am dearly loved, and valued. Even so much more than all the love, affection and passion that I feel for my own family, God feels that for me, but even far  more than I can imagine. So, all my doubts and fears must fall away in the face of that Truth. My stress and my worry are both meaningless and defeating. Accepting God's love for me, making my heart right every day, allowing myself to have a clear head, one way or another, is how I can then love my children and husband well. I can care for them, use wisdom, and act with grace, when I Iet God rule my heart, and mold my mind. Even as I write this it is still occurring to me. 

Mamas, be gentle with yourselves. This job is sometimes harsh, often loud, always messy, and not at all to be taken lightly. But what a beautiful mess! What rich rewards we receive through our children when we have our eyes open! Do not let yourself be blinded with the lies that weariness can bring. You are dearly loved, and God made you for this! 

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:6-9 MSG)

Monday, May 13, 2013

On Mothering

Coming up on Mother's Day, when my mom is almost always on the road, I've been thinking a lot about how special it is to be wanted by your children ...

those moments of "MamaMamaMamaMamaMamaMamaMama!", or not being able to put down the baby at all for whatever reason, or feeling awful as you leave them crying as you go out the door, or being woken up 5, 6, a million times a night because they need you to feed them / hold them / comfort them / give them medicine / just be with them. Or "watch me!" or "heeeeelp!", or "come play with me!" Or like this morning, when I'm trying to go over some important things at my desk, very awkwardly, because there is a wiggly toddler in my lap, just wanting my attention.

I miss my mom. I miss her smell, and her hugs, and just her presence in the room. Our children feel the same way. What a blessing and a pleasure to be so loved, and treasured and wanted! When there are so many women who want a child more than anything, and so many who's children are grown and gone, and worse of all, those who have lost their children. There are parents of children who want nothing to do with them, and that is a tragedy. Sometimes it's so frustrating and so very very exhausting to have to give so much of yourself. But they just want their Mama. And you're it. So, I'm trying to shift my focus, and remember now that they're bonding with me, and they're building relationship with me. And I want that! I want them to always want their Mama, and to know that I always want them too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Because God sees

I was feeling sort of silly yesterday, washing the kitchen window. I thought, "no one will even notice this", but I finished it anyway, because it needed to be done and because I wanted it done. 

Today I saw this and it spoke right into my own every day existence... 

" ... the antidote for my own pride" jumped out at me most. I needed to hear that so badly! In all my tired, un-showered post-partumness, I needed to hear this so badly.

I know I'm not the only one. 

"Parenthood is a partnership with God. You are not molding iron nor chiseling marble; you are working with the Creator of the universe in shaping human character and determining destiny." - Ruth Vaughn

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Great Adventure

Today has been a beautiful day for my son.
Yes, I'm exercising my right as a mom, and taking a moment to brag on my little boy.
I'm just really proud of the exceptionally great day Solomon has had! 

He has listened well, spoken to us carefully and with patience, succeeded at difficult tasks, paid sweet and special attention to his sister, made lots of independent and positive choices, and just showed us his very best self all day long. 

Solomon is so exceptional. Despite my previous statement, I don't say that in a bragging way, but mean it literally. He is a free spirit, a non-conformist, an exceptionally determined little toddler. At times, so much so that it is a real challenge for him to stop and listen. This is simply who he is. He is spirited! He thinks forward and feels deeply. He isn't defiant, but is full of curiosity and energy, and such determination to explore any and every wide open space. He is intensely interested in learning, and delves in so deeply to his activities and ideas. Truly, if we all had his passion, we could change the world!

We spend a lot of time quieting his loud voice and calming him down enough to take one step at a time. We spend a lot of time laughing hysterically, receiving gigantic arms-around-the-neck-pat-on-the-back hugs, and talking about all the things that Solomon sees, hears, or does, and wants to see or hear or do. We marvel at all that he is.

We spend time praying over our children, that God will make them both their very best selves, and that He will make us both the very best parents that we can be for our children. One of my greatest goals, hopes, and prayers for my own life, is that I will be enough for my children - that I will be what they need me to be, so that they can be what they are meant to be. 

Solomon, and now Adalyn too, have taken us on such a journey. We climb and sweat, we take in the sights, and we dive deep into the cool waters. We navigate with all of the best tools that we have in our backpacks, and constantly seek out the best trails and routes. Today was really beautiful. I'm really thankful for it. I'm proud of my son. I'm proud of both of my precious little ones! They are my greatest adventure!

"While we try to teach children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." -Angela Schwindt