Friday, December 26, 2014

Christian Christmas Conflict

JOY to the world the Lord has come!

     I LOVE Christmas!  LOVE IT!!!  This year was weird.  I love putting up all the decorations, but this year I couldn't wait until today to take them down and get back to "normal."  Normal?  Whatever that is!   I felt like Christmas came at me like a freight train, and I couldn't quite catch my breath to enjoy it.  I had a huge "aha moment" as we call them in teaching.
     As a Christian, we try so hard to keep Jesus the focus of Christmas, but truly I LOVE all the hustle and bustle of the season. I love the lights, the parties, the get-togethers, the shopping, the Christmas cards, the hoopla of it all.   I love giving gifts, and especially love it when I feel like I got the gift "right," that special gift that wasn't expected.   This year, I realized it's really tough for me to enjoy it all and not buy into the materialism of Christmas that I actually DO enjoy too.  I enjoy the buying and giving (though I hate the bank account part of that too).  I kinda figured that this is all part of what makes Jesus the reason for the season for me too.  I love showing people around us just how special they are to us. I love giving all the teachers that help Lauren and Taylor a special something to let them know we do really appreciate them.  It's really great when you feel like you get something that hits the mark too.  I had to stop second-guessing everything I was doing and simply enjoy the act of giving.  It is the best feeling.
     This year I also realized how much I want to focus... really laser-beam focus... on some special people next year.  I want the girls and I to make an event out of our Operation Christmas Child boxes and invite others to join us on that special project.  (This year Taylor kissed her box before dropping it off, saying, "I know they'll never see that, but I love this kid already.")  I want to make the single women we know feel honored and special with treasured gifts.  I want to help at a local Ronald McDonald House with a group of caroling children and bring a meal or two because this year I know a family at one in Michigan.  I've heard their story of how much RMH has given them a safe haven in an exhausting trial with their own 1-pound micro-preemie. 
     A highlight this year was watching Lauren and Taylor buy Mike and I a gift.  They had planned for 2 days with secret "meetings" and asked if I could take them to Starbucks.  When we went grocery shopping at Albertsons, they headed on to the Starbucks located inside the store.  I passed by at just the right time.  They were at the front of the line 11 and 13-year-old handing over their own hard-earned money to the gal to buy Mike and I each a drink container with a gift card inside.  It literally brought me to tears, and they had no idea their mom was watching.  That was the first thing they wanted us to open Christmas morning.  I saw that it truly is more of a gift to give than receive.
Merry Christmas 2014!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Introducing Caroline Jane

"Be still and know that I am God."      Psalm 46:10

      Caroline is our newest niece born on December 9th.  She is a picture of perfection.  We got to meet her on the 11th, and it was the highlight of the week and who knew exactly how much of a highlight it would be.  It was also the beginning of some quiet time that needed to happen.
     We got to visit Caroline, Jess (my sister-in-law), Luke (brother), and 2 nephews.  It was awesome to be in their home, holding a precious and perfect newborn and seeing our nephews love on her, as well as rough around with us...awesome stuff to be in the superhero world with a 4 and 2-year-old since my daughters were more into the princess thing at that age.  We learned some cool stuff!!!
      Later in the week, Lauren got sick and we just had to stay at home...not what I thought I'd be doing the week before Christmas.  I am so thankful for the down time because we've gotten some crazy news this week...a dear college friend diagnosed with Stage 4 spine cancer.  She has 2 daughters as well.  Talk about being thankful for the time with Lauren on the couch this week to just be still.  We also learned of some close friends whose marriage needs big-time prayer.  I've gotten news of a highly influential teacher in Garden Grove and a father of 2 former students who have passed away, and other trials in our extended family and with friends.  I realized that Christmas stuff would get done but some visits had to happen first.  Time with people is far more important than some of the chaos I buy into this time of year...more on that soon...
     It's been a tough couple of weeks, but I realized the Lord gave us the sweetest time with Luke, Jess, and their family as a little token of what it means to slow down and appreciate what's and life abundantly!!!  It's been dear and meant so much to us.

Caroline, with brothers Tyler (goofball :0)  and Charlie, Taylor and Lauren