Friday, December 30, 2011

Of joys and tears

We had lovely Christmas moments of welcoming our Savior and making memories with family, and I held them all a little closer in my heart this year. These days go by so quickly; we’ve seen it with our bigger kids and we see it now with the littles. We’ve learned how soon children become young adults who have to make their own choices in the world, and how short a time we are allowed the privilege of their care. There’s a feeling of safety when they’re small and we know we have control; most parents learn, as their kids reach young adult-hood, that these young people have to make their own choices - just as we did and just as humans have done since the beginning of time.

This year the moments of sweetness were especially poignant, as we’d learned on Christmas Eve morning of the death of a wonderful, kind 18-year-old who was part of our homeschooling community. The circumstances surrounding his death were heartbreaking, and any parent who’s spent much time with teens, or had a child struggle with depression or bad decision making, had the painful realization that it could have been their child, their family.

Last gifts were wrapped through tears as we tried to process the news, children were hugged a little closer, and as we celebrated the birth of our Savior, hearts cried out for this boy’s family and for the brokenness of our world, and hung on to the hope of a day when there will be no more tears.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Stopped in my tracks, aching for the grieving family, I ask myself again: can I live until that day with gratitude, never forgetting to be awed by the gifts I’ve been given?

The loss of this precious boy reminds me, even as I hold his family in prayer, to cherish the sweetness of moments that will not pass this way again, holding them in my heart.

Dear Lord;

For these days, I give thanks.

For Christmas carols sung with generations;

For our young adults, and we ask that you guard and keep them while they are away from us;

For brothers who love deeply with a bond not forged by DNA;

Brothers roasting by an open fire

For time spent with grandparents;

For the fact that You loved us enough to come down and join us in our joys and in our tears.

We ask you to comfort our friends in their unfathomable grief, and give them a peace that can only come from You.

In Jesus’ name,


Kiss your children, and enjoy the gift of this day with them. And might I ask, would you please keep our grieving friends in your prayers?

Trusting in Him,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Peace

     We’re hunkered down here, happily making preparations for Christmas and savoring these busy yet peaceful days. I love the candles burning in the darkened afternoons, our Christmas CDs playing when kids aren’t making music for us on a guitar or piano, the smells of Christmas baking. I love the excitement of kids who want their turn at a shopping date, where they’ll choose a gift for the sibling whose name they picked in our post Thanksgiving name-drawing. I cherish the trip with each of those kids, where we share a treat of their choice, and I see their sweet excitement at finding just the right secret present.

          It’s a balance, doing all that must be done, while keeping peace and joy and managing to enjoy any of it. Perhaps this is the reason I light my candles early in the evening, need the soft music like I need water, and hold fast to tradition. Some years we keep traditions just because we love them, and other years we’ve clung to them, when our worlds were rocked and we needed something safe to return to.
Sometimes, the glittering, shopping mall holidays - full of expectations and pitfalls - can be brutally painful. Many I care about are experiencing this right now: a first Christmas without a loved one; a failing marriage; strained family relationships, children with behavioral special needs, disease. I know families ripped apart by addiction, and others struggling to parent adolescents born with brain damage from their birthmothers’ alcohol use. My heart aches for those families, and they are in my prayers.

We’ve lived through storms of our own these past years, and I’m thankful for what I’ve learned:


          Peace is not in circumstance - it cannot be, because those can’t be controlled and we’ve been promised peace as a possibility, regardless of what we walk through. At this time of year, especially, we remember this.

          “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

           Our God is a God of peace who offers that gift through His spirit – not necessarily in our circumstances, but in our hearts. I need that, and I think we all do.

          “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever.” Isaiah 26:3-4a

          We can’t control what others choose to do, but we can control what we surround ourselves with and the boundaries we set. I choose to try to create peace. Daily, hourly (every minute?), I need God’s help with this.

We’ve established traditions like anchors both comforting and necessary: our advent spiral and nightly Jesse Tree devotional readings, the candles Husband makes each year,

...tree decorating followed by a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas and snack of eggnog and cookies.

The children don’t let us vary this routine – it is how it must be done, and I think of the peace and security it must give them, and it makes me feel peaceful too.

This year we’ve added things I suspect will become tradition. We made huge snowflakes to gift and to create a blizzard in our own home.

Students had a “science lesson” as they helped their dad make deliciously scented candles,

and boys have made beautiful music for us as we’ve gathered together to sing Christmas carols. The simple beauty of these moments takes my breath away.

Boundaries and Simplicity

          We’ve learned we need to set aside both time and space to nurture relationships and keep peace. Sometimes this means saying no to things we’d held as obligations, and choosing which things our family can participate in. It means paring down, simplifying, and cherishing time together instead of being swept up in the mad rush that roars by like a tide this time of year.


          “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

          A tough order on some days and for those in the midst of trials, but on the hardest days, it’s still the key. Even in days of darkness, there are beautiful glimmers of light, moments and small gifts to be thankful for. Literally counting blessings, we find much to cherish, and see in small things much to be grateful for: a cup of tea, birds at the feeder in drizzling rain, a family of deer in the back woods; boys playing a board game, a sibling helping another, Husband making a special dinner, sans allergens, just for me. My cup runneth over.


         We need people who are there for us – the kind who will listen and not judge, the rare kind who will stop right then and there and pray with and for us. I will always remember leaving the grocery store in a daze years ago, just days before Christmas, when a phone call had left our worlds reeling. I ran into a new friend and after my story had poured out, she surprised me by taking my hands and praying for our family, right there in the back of the grocery store by the gum ball machines. The comfort of her bold and unexpected prayer was an indescribable gift; she loaned me her peace when I had none, and brought me to the throne with her, when I could scarcely crawl there myself. I count as blessings those friends and family members who have walked through hard things with us; we need friends like that, and we need to be that kind of friend for others.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”      2 Corinthians 1:3-4

     (Even Sadie, the 55 lb goldendoodle, needs comfort sometimes. In the middle of the music making and baking and cleaning, we realize she doesn’t appreciate the electric guitar.)

I am thankful, so, so thankful, that what we celebrate at Christmas is deeper than the thrills promised in television commercials from the purchase of the perfect present, and goes far beyond the perfect set-ups in magazines. We’re promised a peace and joy that can only come from knowing a Savior who cared enough to come live among us, in the lovely moments, and in our messes. With the broken and the hurting: He is there. In the quiet moments and the stillness: He is there. As you spend a few more days busy with last minute buying, wrapping, baking and preparing, I wish for you His peace, as you get ready to celebrate the birth of our King.

Trusting in Him,