Christmas, slightly simplified…

It is Christmas. We have an almost-eight-month-old. It’s a bad combination.20131215-154413.jpg

As we started decorating for Christmas this year, I forced myself to scale back. Partly because of the knowledge that the baby could start crawling at any moment, and how much time do I really want to spend chasing a baby?

Also, though, because of the hassle.

Isn’t that awful? To look at these things as a hassle? But when I pulled out the lights we usually hang with our garland on our porch, and half were burned out, I didn’t even bother. I just piled everything back in the box and thought maybe next year.

The tree is up. The Nativity scene is up. The Advent calendar is up. The wreath on the door is up. I checked in with my oldest as I was reigning it in, and asked if there was anything else he Really Wanted to put up; if there was anything he would Truly Miss if it wasn’t out. Verdict: the light-up houses. So we set up our seven little Dickens’ Village houses on top of the piano and I put them on a timer so I didn’t even have to turn them on in the morning. Then I put my red glass hurricane candleholder on the kitchen island and called it good.

That doesn’t really sound all that simple, I know. It’s scaled down for us.  I’m looking at this year as a test: will I miss it? If I don’t get it out, if I don’t put it up, will I even care that it’s gone? If I don’t miss it, am I prepared to send it out the door before next Christmas rolls around? Will I really miss all the “stuff?”

Well…yes.

I made it a full week before I decided I really wanted the garland hanging on our stair banister. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten used to it; it’s been with us through the last two houses. That’s almost ten years worth of greenery hung with red tartan plaid ribbons.

Now we’re driving through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights, and I’m feeling like a Scrooge. We usually have candles in all our front windows, and I hang a little greenery with white lights on our small front porch. The practical side of me is screaming, she’s going to start crawling! You don’t want to have to watch all those cords! You don’t want to have to deal with burnt out bulbs! But guess what? I really, really miss our lights. A wreath on the door just doesn’t cut it.

And honestly, if you’re going to have anything on display at Christmas, shouldn’t it be lights?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…–Isaiah 9:2

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:4-5

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… –John 1:9,12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.–John 8:12

I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness –John 12:46

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light… –Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…–I John 1:7

The Lord is my light and salvation–whom shall I fear? –Psalm 27:1

Yes….even if you’re going to have a scaled-down Christmas, you should probably keep the lights.

 

 

Advertisements

Lessons from a six-month-old

Stupid time change….

I’m noticing more people have finally realized that even though “fall back” is supposed to mean an extra hour of sleep, it means just the opposite for those with small children.  While everyone else is looking forward to the shift, those of us with little ones know it means absolutely nothing besides now the kids will be up at five instead of six.

What I failed to consider was how the evenings would look.  We have a baby who goes to bed at six o’clock at night; on a really good night I might be able to keep her up until six-thirty.  Now, with the end of daylight savings, I have a baby that really wants to go to bed at five.

I know it will only take a few days to get her back to where we were (or at least close to where we were), but today I thought we had hope because she’d taken a third nap and slept until four in the afternoon.  Four!!  Making it until six should be easy; it’s only two hours!

I should have known when she woke up screaming that it wasn’t going to work.  We made it through a very high-maintenance evening (please know, she it not a high-maintenance baby!!) and finally, with dinner over, I was facing clean-up.  She was done.  DONE.  Unfortunately, my husband was done, too, as he was working overtime and had to disappear into his “office” in the basement.  I plopped the baby down in the living room with her bucket of toys, handed her a few of them, and kept talking to her as I ran back to the sink to at least get the leftovers put away.  Dirty dishes could wait, but I wasn’t risking losing leftovers to a sneaky (and astoundingly agile) dog.

Ravioli dished out and put away:  check.

Garlic bread stacked up and put away:  check.

Every last pot, pan, and plate piled in the sink away from potential puppy disaster:  check.

I raced back into the living room, where the baby had never really stopped crying.  I took one look at her and every last ounce of irritation melted away from me as I realized she had managed to reach over and around every single toy I’d attempted to appease her with….and grab her blanket.  There she sat, thumb in her mouth, blanket pulled to her cheek, tears still running down her face.  My poor, exhausted baby!

As I rocked her and nursed her that night I thought about how even a six-month-old knew exactly what was most important to her.  How even she, as an infant, was able to cut through all the “stuff” and reach for the one thing she knew would help.  She didn’t want any of that other “stuff;” she wanted That One Thing that was her comfort; that would get her through until her struggle was over.  She wanted her blanket.

What’s your One Thing?

There’s no thirsting for the things
Of the world—they’ve taken wings.
Long ago I gave them up, and instantly
All my night was turned to day,
All my burdens rolled away.
Now the Comforter abides with me.

He abides, He abides.
Hallelujah, He abides with me!
I’m rejoicing night and day
As I walk the narrow way,
For the Comforter abides with me.

–from He  Abides, Herbert Buffum

A quick note…..

On April 19th we were blessed with a 9-pound, 10.7-ounce bundle of little-girl joy.  I’ve spent the past month primarily snuggling a baby, homeschooling a son, and just. barely. keeping up with the house.  (I’m incredibly grateful for a Sunday School class–and a husband–that cook.)  No blogging for me, thanks.

I had a friend post something on Facebook, though, that I wanted to share.  It really hit home for me for two reasons:  first, the incredibly obvious idea–how did I miss it?–that “gluttony” doesn’t just apply to food.  (Duh.)  Secondly, the incredibly convicting idea that it’s not just about getting rid of stuff.  It’s about putting Him first, making sure He is our priority, finding out what He wants from us….letting Him fill us, so we don’t feel the need to be filled with all the other “stuff.”

I’m working on it….

The Socially Acceptable Sin, by Jason Todd

In God We Trust

Funny, isn’t it, that that’s what’s written on our money?  It’s like someone knew we’d be needing the reminder.

“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  (Proverbs 11:28)

Let me vent for a moment and I promise I’ll circle back to the important point.

Months ago, I realized that in preparation for our Disney trip I should probably be ramping up our savings; I didn’t want to drain the entire account (admittedly unlikely, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in preparing for a trip that big).  So I did my best to start funneling a little extra each paycheck into our savings account.

That’s when it started.

It began very slowly; so slowly I didn’t even notice for a bit.  But the longer time went on, the more I began to see a pattern:  things were going wrong.  Often.  At an increasing rate.  The phrase “that’s what savings is for” was being thrown around more and more; so much so that I began to tack on an addendum:  “that’s what savings is for….but what happens when it’s all gone?”  The fact that we would be adding a baby into the mix in just a few months didn’t help my attitude one bit; nor did the timing of Christmas shopping.

Our list:

6/15  Husband’s pharmacy license renewed (thankfully, reimbursed)

7/11  Sprinkler repair

7/30  Tax oops (yeah….I don’t wanna talk about it)

9/9  Car battery (mine)

9/12  Bo…last vet visit

9/19  Brake work  (mine)

10/4  Tire  (mine…wow….it sounds like I drive a beater)

10/11 TRIP!!  (at least this was planned for)

10/26  New dog:  Kina!

11/1  Meds for Kina

11/12 Garage door repair

11/16  Kina disaster

11/20  Kina final lab work

12/4  Car repair (husband’s)

12/10  Furnace repair (to get us through the holidays)

1/3  New furnace install

1/18?  Impending new tire (Mine.  Wow….maybe I DO drive a beater!)

Some stuff on that list was known; the trip was a planned expense.  The dog purchase….an arguable expense, but this family doesn’t stay dog-free for long.  Everything else was a nasty surprise, and each time I’d find myself getting more and more worked up about it.  And each time, I could sense God prodding me:  Who are you trusting in?

It’s easy to sit back and blab about how much I trust in God when everything’s coming up roses.  It’s truly hard for me to remember what it was like, sixteen years ago, when we were first married and flat broke and barely making it.  There’s a lot of trust when you’re barely making it.  Now “we’re doing fine”–that seems to be our phrase of choice; not rich, but far, far away from “scraping by.”

That list of problems has forced me back to trust; to evaluate who I’m truly trusting in and whether that trust holds even as bank accounts weaken.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”  (Psalm 56:3-4)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proberbs 3:5)

Only one thing is needed

On the first of November I logged onto Facebook and, in the midst of everyone’s sweet posts beginning their “days of thankfulness,” I unloaded.

“I HATE THURSDAYS……sorry, needed to vent.”

I don’t actually hate Thursdays.  Three-quarters of the day I love; that’s the day my mom comes over and we play.  We get coffee and run errands if we need to; we have most of the day together to just enjoy each other’s company…..and then she goes home, and I have to face the fact that I played all day and that nothing got done.  Any other day of the week, that would be an easy recovery, but Thursdays are my daughter’s gymnastics night; which means she and I eat dinner together early, and then head out the door for a good chunk of our evening.

This particular Thursday was especially bad.  Mom and I had played that morning, but then spent the afternoon at home with the still-new-to-us dog, since I don’t yet know if I can trust her for much longer than three or four hours.  Mom and I sat together in my living room; she worked on cross-stitched Christmas presents while I tried to coax a GoogleDoc to work for our Sunday School’s class Christmas party.  I would like to say it was a cozy and comfortable afternoon at home; unfortunately I was stressed out from the uncooperative document and an even more uncooperative laptop.

After she left it was a collision of things:  get the kids from school, drop them off at home, run the dog to her first vet appointment, run back home, scarf down dinner, throw my daughter in the car and run her to gymnastics, where I texted some more info about the Christmas party to others on the planning committee.  While I sat with my phone in my lap, responding to texts, it suddenly began ringing, and I recognized the name at the top of the screen as another friend who, I knew, was calling about a meeting we had the following morning.  And I admit it:  I saw her name and I groaned.  (Yeah, I’ve already ‘fessed up to her, so it’s okay to write about it.)  I answered the phone with the statement, “That’s tomorrow, isn’t it?”

That night was so bad my daughter didn’t get bathed.  That night was so bad I actually asked my husband for help.  (He’s great to pitch in….you’d think I’d ask him more often.)  That night it was all I could do to get the kids into bed without a meltdown (me, not them), and crash on the sofa, and unload my seven little words on Facebook.

As I thought about it that night and the following morning, some thoughts began to gel for me.  As I watch people run from one thing to the next, as I see our lives crowded with “stuff” of the time-kind, not just the material-kind, I started to realize something.  My mind went from rambling thoughts to more specific thoughts and finally, I realized, I could reduce these thoughts to two words:

Who says?

Some examples, from conversations I’ve had with people over the past few months:

Who says we have to sell popcorn to the school kids the first Friday of every month?

Who says the high schoolers need a coffee bar, staffed by parent volunteers?

Who says we should have gymnastics practice two nights a week, with competitive meets every weekend?

Who says our class party needs to be a catered affair at a venue instead of a potluck in someone’s home?

Who says we need our kids in every activity our church home offers?  (If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard a chipper, “If the doors were unlocked, we were there!”)

Please understand….none of these things are bad.  But every time someone has another “good idea,” that idea has to be carried out and run by other people.  Which leads to well-meaning people being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff they’re doing.

It’s ironic that I’m even writing about this….I’m not a “joiner.”  My kids are in the bare minimun on extra-curricular activities, because I think being home, as a family, together, is more important than most stuff they could sign up for.  (My son is currently involved in–gasp!–nothing.)  I’m not that bad at saying “no;” I had a great amount of practice last month when our trip was closing in and making me feel overwhelmed.  It’s really struck me, though, how easy it is to get sucked in; especially when the ideas are so “good.”  How quickly we become “the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”  (Matthew 13:22)

Or we turn into those invited to the banquet:

“At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.  The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.  Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.  Please excuse me.’  Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ ” (Luke 14:  17-20)

I can hear Jesus saying to us, ” ‘Martha, Martha….you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ”  (Luke 10:41-42)

As I read through the Old Testament, I’m struck by the continued, repeated instruction given to the kings:  Seek Him.  Follow Him wholeheartedly.  And listen:

“They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them.  So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”  (2 Chronicles 15:15)

I realize the verse refers to peace instead of war, but truly….doesn’t rest sound good?

Back to school…

So…that’s where I’ve been for the past week.

Doing the last bit of shopping for what the kiddos need, while trying to not duplicate what we already have.

Savoring the last two days of summer break.

Labeling school supplies and loading backpacks.

Squeezing in one last big trip to the library.

Meeting teachers, student teachers (for both kids!), and checking in with past teachers.

Consoling my tearful daughter, often, about going to “all-day” school, aka first grade.  (“Why can’t we just go half-day?  I liked half-day!  I’ll miss you!”)

Settling the kids in their classrooms and then spending an entire day with my mom; coffee, lunch, shopping….

Doing my normal, day-to-day housekeeping things….with an added benefit of kid-free grocery shopping.

Praying for my little ones, as they start this new year.

Tucking notes in lunch boxes, hoping they give at least a bit of encouragement (especially for “all-day” daughter).

And fending off question after question after question, all phrased a bit differently, but all asking the same thing:  “What are you going to do with all your time?”

Truth:  I’m not 100% sure.  Day Three of no-kids and I haven’t approached anything like a “normal” day yet; the year is still too new to have established any true routines.  Even my normal morning routine has been upended this year; forced into something different and still not truly set.  What will my days look like?  What will I be doing with this time?

I’m fairly sure He will show me.

“His eye is on the sparrow….”

This has absolutely nothing to do with simplifying or organizing….just really felt the need to share.

My two kiddos started swimming lessons today, which has been THE dreaded event of the summer.  Every week or so, someone would murmur about having to go, and I would say yes, you’re going, and the grumbles would begin.  Normally my kids love to be in a pool, but this was the first year (out of four) that they haven’t been in the same class, together, offering each other the unspoken support that only a sibling can provide.  Last year my son moved on, while my daughter didn’t.  So this year, the threat of  impending lessons has caused nothing but misery.

They woke up this morning having completely forgotten about it.  All morning they played, until about 10:00, when I called them up from the basement for snack and told them they’d need to get their suits on so we’d be ready to go….the whole time, praying that the word “swimsuit” wouldn’t result in a total meltdown.  (Usually they are quite thoughtful and take turns having fits; this was one instance I could have had them both explode at once.)  God provided peace; they seemed resigned to their fate instead of rebellious, and we had a good talk about nervous feelings and being brave trying something new and alone.

Thirty minutes later we were headed to the pool, and I was praying thanks to God for giving me fairly peaceful kids in what could have been a really difficult situation, when….wait…there was a familiar car up ahead.  It couldn’t be…. The car turned.  We turned.  No way…..  The car turned into the parking lot, and we followed.  Not possible!!!

Yes.  Friends.  The very first friends my husband and I had here; the friends who were in this city even before we were; friends from my husband’s grad school days who we’ve known for….wow, a long time….two boys piling out of the car and me yelling at their mom “You have got to be kidding me!”  Not a joke…the boys were all in the same class.

Shortly after, my daughter discovered a friend from school in her class.  (Not quite as surprising as the previous discovery….my little social butterfly can’t not find a friend somewhere.)

Leaving the pool, my daughter looked at me with a huge smile and announced, “I can’t wait to come back tomorrow!!”

Proof, yet again, that God really does care about the littlest of things….even nervous kids and swimming lessons….and will provide “even more than we can ask or imagine.”

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  (Luke 12:6-7)