Where are you, Christmas?


The other morning I got up early because I couldn’t sleep. I decided to read my Bible because it felt like God had been calling me, as I’ve been looking for peace in this holiday season. Looking to find some Christmas in this Christmas season, if you know what I mean. I’ve been struggling with change as people that I love grow old, get sick, die, move away, or re-prioritize their lives. It’s difficult, especially at Christmas, when your memories are so vivid and you just want things to be the way they used to be.

There are so many things to think about and life seems to be hurtling past at 100 miles an hour. Heartaches, sicknesses, deaths, troubles, things to do, people to help, places to go, prayers to be prayed – but I know that God wants me to have peace with the past and with the present. I know that He does, even as I sometimes fight Him as He tries so faithfully to give me His best.

I find myself singing the Where are You Christmas song (the Cindy Lou Who version, not the Faith Hill one, yuck) and it happened again this week. Where are you, Christmas? Why can’t I find you?

On that morning, I decided to read Isaiah 43 since I had jotted it down from something one of the trainers at my gym mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s funny that the kids’ library book on the table next to me was “Finding Christmas,” which was exactly what I was trying to do. Coincidence?

The passage in the Bible says:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name;

You are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.

When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. Nor shall the flame scorch you, for I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your Savior. Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you…. Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. Now shall it spring forth, shall you not know it? I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Not exactly a Christmas passage, is it? I decided to look up the word REDEEMED. After all, it says that He has redeemed ME. It means: To compensate for the faults of. To do something that makes up for poor past behavior. To atone or make amends for error or evil. To save from sin. To gain or regain possession of in exchange for payment. To repay, exchange, pay to clear a debt, carry out a promise, or buy the freedom of.

Wow. Maybe a Christmas story is EXACTLY what that passage is. His indescribable, amazing, undeserved gift. He’s done all that for me. Redeemed ME. Knows MY name. I am HIS. When I pass through the waters, he will be with ME. Not IF, but WHEN I pass through them. And then He plainly tells me to not worry about the past but to look for what he’s going to do for me in the future.

Today, after 4 days of a killer stomach virus, I found myself singing that song again as I tried to de-germ our house. But this time, almost immediately, four random things popped into my mind for some reason. One, how the kids bundled up into their snowsuits a couple of weeks ago to shovel the driveway of our elderly widowed neighbor. Two, when we helped a friend who’s having a hard time so her family could have a better Christmas. Three, when my girls gathered up a box of toys and clothes to give to a stranger – a single dad we’d never even met – so his daughter would have a gift to open on Christmas morning. Four – the thought “I am redeemed.”

Maybe all of those things are Christmas.

I love how God sometimes reminds you of the things that matter at a time when you least expect it, like when you’re fumigating your house with too much Lysol.

Where are you, Christmas?

I think I found you. Here, in my heart. My redeemed, loved, precious-to-God heart.


Summery Updates

It’s so hard to find time to write these days. I’ve managed to get a few of the thoughts out of my head this morning, so here are some summery updates on the people my life revolves around right now:

Jed is like a heat-seeking missile when he sneaks in to snuggle with us in bed in the morning. He looks like a tiny version of his father (except his dad doesn’t suck on his fingers while he’s sleeping.) He smells so good after a shower, like little boy and dreams and blankets and remnants of his dad’s “man soap.” With his new glasses and missing front teeth, he’s so cute that he’s hard for me to look at! And I never thought I’d care about sports until this guy came along with his immense love of flag football and his seemingly natural ability at baseball. I’m convinced that baseball is in his blood (his Grandpa Roy was signed as a pitcher before a shoulder injury took him out of the game.) When he walks up to the plate with the bat and I hear that metallic “thwing!” and the ball soars out over the field – way further than any 6-year-old should be able to hit it – something happens to my heart. When he’s fielding and catching and then chucking that ball all the way across the diamond, it just does something to me! I want to watch every game! He’s the boy-est boy I’ve ever met, but his little heart is so precious. We passed an accident on the highway and I said, “Uh-oh, we might be stuck in traffic.” His response? “Who cares about the twaffic wight now, Mom? We should be caring about dose people in dat car!” He teaches me lots of lessons like that.

Then there’s Adelaide, who I still see as a chubby little 3-year-old when I look at her, even though she’s now long and lanky and already nine. She loves to carry our dog around like a baby and I catch her snuggling him and singing to him on a regular basis. She’s constantly repeating herself and laughing at all of her own jokes (I have no idea where she gets that from.) She’s always trying to make people laugh – or yelling at them. She isn’t big on happyStorybook mediums. She either loves you so much she can’t contain herself or she despises you with a chilling fury and a stare that should turn you to stone. She is so much like me that it scares me sometimes. Heart on her sleeve, likes to draw and sing, emotional mess, gray-green eyes, suspicious nature, freakishly weird double joints, crazy hair, crying for no reason, anger issues…. She also surprises me with her deep thinking abilities because, honestly, you’d never know she was a deep thinker with her goofy faces, silly songs, and love of slapstick comedy. She said, “You know how you have to be still for a camera to focus before you can take a really good picture? Well, I was thinking about how we need to be still before we can focus on God. He can always see us, but we’re always running around and doing stuff and we can’t really see him unless we just BE STILL.” Wow. See what I mean?

Josie is exuberant in her love of life and all of the adventures she’s intent on having. She is scared of nothing, except crickets and aliens. She’s a bit of an adrenaline junky – she wants to jump out of an airplane, go rock climbing (check), zip-lining, swim with sharks, go cliff-diving (check), and go whitewater rafting (check.) She’s always looking for a hug, a puppy, or a baby to cuddle. She loves ALL OF THE PEOPLE, and the way she runs is so funny I can’t even explain it… she’s like a crazy person, and it’s the best thing ever. She’s almost perpetually in a good mood and I wish some of her optimism would transfer over to me. She’s very “Pollyanna-esque,” unless you happen to eat her leftover burrito or (heaven forbid) finish off the last of the chocolate milk and then may the Lord have mercy on your soul. Yes, once in a while her temper will rage, but it’s like a falling star – it burns out quickly and she’ll probably come looking for you because, as she says, “I just can’t be a grudge-holder. I keep on trying but honestly, I just really want to hug you.” She is convinced that God has great plans for her life and that she is going to change the world by running a home for needy children. I believe her completely, and seeing her passion for others often makes me realize that maybe I wasn’t put on Earth to change the world for good, but to raise children who will.

Sadie, 13 going on 20. She’s always hurting her foot/toe/ankle/leg – but not seriously injuring it. She gets the crutches out every now and then for good measure – and because she’s more dramatic than she likes to admit. She spends an inordinate amount of time choosing (and changing) clothes for any event and/or non-event (like going to the grocery store.) We’ve mutually decided to never shop for shoes together again because we can’t stand each other when we’re at the shoe store. Last time, she hid my shoe from me in a display and refused to give me its location. Do you know how hard it is to find a random shoe in a store full of shoes? The camouflage is amazing.) This was still better than the previous trip when we both left the mall in tears. She’s smart, quick-witted, a voracious reader, and she’s not afraid of hard work (once she gets started!) I’ve decided that God gave my notoriously slow (yet altogether wonderful) cousin Angela to me while I was growing up to prepare me for living with Sadie as my child (“Coming! I’m COMING! I’ll be there in a minute! Hold on! I’m almost ready!”) She’s growing up right before my eyes. It seems like one minute she was my little “long-legged-fracas” in a princess dress, climbing a tree, and now she’s almost grown up with braces on her teeth and a shoe size that’s bigger than mine. But I love how she still holds my hand, asks my opinion, hugs me goodnight, and prays with me. And every now and then, I still catch her in a princess dress or up a tree.


Catching Up

I feel like the days are just whizzing by. It seems like it was just Thanksgiving a few days ago and now it’s almost March. How is that even possible?

I try to make time for myself, time for my friends, time for my husband, time for God, time for my family, and special time for each one of my children but someone always gets left out. And I try not to beat myself up about it, but it’s hard to keep from feeling guilty. There’s always something to feel guilty about, isn’t there? The past few days I’ve been feeling guilty about not writing things down, so here we are.

Today it was very quiet in my house. My two older girls stayed upstairs for hours, getting extremely creative with hot glue guns, sequins, and construction paper. My two littler ones barricaded themselves in the toy room with a menagerie of little plastic animals, Slinkies, matchbox cars, and dinosaur habitats.

And so I did what most of us probably do… lost and reheated my coffee 3 times, tried to read the same thing twice before I gave up, loaded the dishwasher, played a word game on my phone, and read my email.

What a waste of time. Time keeps going faster and I somehow just keep on wasting more of it. I don’t really know where my days go. Reading, math, library trips, cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery store, gym. That’s basically my life right now. And it seems like there should be more.

I don’t know, though. Now that I have time to sit and think for a minute, maybe life is just a lot of little moments.

walkPiggy-back rides down the driveway to the mailbox. Crazy outfits concocted from every pattern available in an 8-year-old’s closet. Strawberry muffins and homemade guacamole made by a girl with a faded pink blanket around her neck like a scarf. A million sequins and sparkles on the bedroom floor and the millionth “I’ll be down in a minute!” from an almost teenager.

Dinosaurs scattered on the floor. Dirty socks balled up under the couch. Popcorn in the microwave. A purple hairbrush everywhere except where it belongs. Handprints on the windows of the van. Laughter from the living room. Dance parties in the family room. Binge-watching of The Dukes of Hazzard and The Andy Griffith Show. Car Picnics. Sliding on the hardwood floor in sock feet. A constant pile of shoes by the door. “Mo-ommm!” at least 200 times a day.

“Breft-tast,” lunch, and dinner, day in and day out. Fights over whose day it is to unload the dishwasher. Candyland, Monopoly, War, Go Fish, Pass the Pigs and Pepper. Games and giggles and squabbles and pinches and stubbed toes and skinned knees and upset tummies. Shampoo in eyes and making giant soap bubbles in the kitchen sink. Searching for lost ______ (insert any noun here.) Hurt feelings, apologies, inside jokes (“I must confess, Mom. I ate Skittles off the floor today.”)

Building Robotics. Checking the Weather Channel and the Star Wars app. Studio C. “But have you ever KILT anyone?” Trying to wash the dog in the shower. Going on walks. Reaching back to hold a little hand while driving home. Fixing the outside pump in the pond, putting away laundry, writing funny songs, making videos, going to the park, helping Dad, reading out loud, playing hide and go seek in the dark, building burrows through blankets, putting on Thieves’ Oil and saying prayers. “Can I snuggle with you?” and “I had a bad dream” in the middle of the night.

I just have to remember to grab a one-on-one trip to the hardware store here, a special “You can ride in the front seat!” trip to the post office or grocery store there, a special night at the movies once in a while. Because there’s no doubt about it – they are growing up. And it’s happening fast. It’s happening right before my very eyes.

And they are amazing. They are the best, most wonderful things I’ve ever been a part of.

Maybe I’m wasting less time than I thought.

Piece of Peace

Today was a good day to go to a deserted beach. To breathe. To think. To pray.

Luckily, we just happen to have one 10 minutes away.

My oldest daughter had the great idea of heading to the beach – on a windy, fairly cold day. For no reason at all. My first instinct was to say no… but then I thought, “why not?”

We were the ONLY ones there. The only car in the parking lot. The only humans as far as the eye could see. It was good to be alone.

The smell of fall in the air mixed with the smell of the beach – sand, water, trees… my lungs were hungrier to breathe that in than I’d even realized.

My kids took off, excited to have the entire expanse to themselves. Theirs were the only footprints in sight.

15027909_10154797699523933_1973148621075045243_nI followed along but found myself sinking down to sit on a random driftwood log facing the uncharacteristically giant waves in our Great Lake.

And then I thought.

A seagull dodging the waves caught my eye and so I watched him. How he worked so hard, pumping his wings to get up to a certain height but then once he made it, he just spread out his wings and soared. Effortlessly. Peacefully. Until he came down and had to work once again to get up to where he wanted to be. He did this over and over. He didn’t give up. He didn’t curse the water or throw himself down or even fly away. He just dealt with it.

This might sound crazy, but that bird made me think: how sometimes waves flatten out just like glass, but other times they rise up like the ocean in a storm. And we are powerless to stop them. We are mere spectators as the waves just keep on coming. Sometimes it takes a LOT of work to get to a point where you can look around and soar.

Isn’t that the same as the storms that come through our lives? Through our families? Through our country? The only thing – and I mean the ONLY thing – we have complete control over is how we choose to deal with the storms.

A shriek of laughter floated back to me on the wind and I turned to see my children as they ran down the beach. Healthy. Tall. Strong legs dodging the spray, sturdy arms tossing rocks and dragging sticks to make “tail trails” in the sand.

Without warning, my eyes filled with tears.

How will I teach them to deal with things that shouldn’t happen? How will I teach them to love when it’s undeserved? How will I teach them the value of hard work? The importance of just letting some things go? To do the right thing, even when it’s hard? To treat people with respect even when you don’t understand their choices?

And I’m not sure about all of that. I didn’t have an epiphany. I still don’t know how to teach them, other than by example and a whole lot of praying.

But as I sat there with the sun on my back and the wind in my face, I realized that sometimes, you just have grab onto a tiny piece of peace wherever and whenever you can. And you have to tuck it into your heart to save for the rough days that are bound to come. And when you have to work – really work – to climb back up to where you want to be (and you better believe it’s going to happen again and again) you just have to bring that peace out and hold onto it.

Hold it tight. Love your children. Love your country. Love your neighbor.

Date Night with my Daughter

Last night my oldest daughter and I had an impromptu “date night.”

Over the past month, she read all of The Hunger Games Books (she’s 11, almost 12.) I waffled back and forth over whether or not she was “old enough” to read them, but I finally decided to let her go ahead. I read them and loved all them – I think it took me about a week to finish all three (the first one I devoured in about 24 hours.)

Anyway, her dad got the first 3 movies for her and they had a little movie marathon over the weekend, much to the dismay of my other children – I’m somewhat adamant concerning my “read the book before you watch the movie” stance.

So last night, he took over dinner and bedtime duties and sent the two of us out on a Mockingjay Date. As we drove to the theater, I explained to her that this was a big honor for her, since usually if a movie is one I really want to see, I go by myself. That way I don’t have to worry about anyone talking, asking questions or ahem, or making fun of (I’m talking to you, dear husband) the story lines, plots, special effects, etc.

She replied with, “Tell me about it! Dad talked through all three movies because he didn’t know what was going on! I had to explain everything!” I cast a sidelong glance her way. “You know why?” Simultaneously, we said, “Because HE didn’t read the books!” Then we laughed. It’s nice to share a love of reading with my girl, who is growing up at a somewhat exponential rate of speed.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to talk to her anymore and it scares me. I know she’s my same little girl in there, but she looks (and acts) so mature. She “gets” things – jokes and puns and metaphors – that a couple of years ago I would’ve had to explain to her. Heck, she “gets” more things than I do these days.

We only whispered necessary information to each other (like “What happened when I was gone to the bathroom?”) and she was a perfect “important movie” companion.

My favorite moviespart of the entire night was when she reached over to hold my hand during one of the scary parts (she knew it was coming – I’d forgotten all about it.) Later she put her head on my shoulder. Snuggling with this one is a rare occurrence… she’s got it in her head that she’s a loner, but I suspect otherwise.

On the way home, we stopped for a milkshake. She’s a Mint Chocolate Chip and Oreo kind of girl. We talked about the movie and the story line in general. We talked about possible meanings and themes and applications in our lives today. I tried to listen more than I talked. She’s such an interesting little person.

Well, not so little. She’s almost as tall as me. She’s strong, she’s thoughtful, she’s helpful, she’s kind, she’s so smart and reflective. I’m so proud that she’s mine… and that she’s her own person, too.

I have to remind myself to enjoy these moments more instead of worrying that they are going by too fast. Sometimes I ruin them by overthinking it. Live in the moment, right? Seize the day!

And also, when your almost-teenage daughter offers to hold your hand and snuggle with you, especially in public, seize that too.

Falling Again

IMG_3506I’m ready to hibernate.

Our entire summer was a blur: sleepaway camps, day camps, Bible School, Volleyball Camp, Art Camp, fishing, swimming, the beach, the lake, trips to NC to visit family and the Outer Banks, Niagara Falls….

I don’t even remember everything that we did. Just that it was a LOT. As the mom, this involved a lot of sorting, cleaning, planning (not my strong suit), logistics (also not my strong suit), HOURS of driving (that either), and laundry (ah yes, there it is: laundry is my strong suit.)

But now the trips are done. The boogie boards are back in the attic where they belong. The car is vacuumed. The laundry is all done (not all put away, mind you, but it’s washed and dried, at least).

And now? Now I just want to stay home.

So we’ve finally traded in the beach bag and the flip-flops for hoodies and boots. We’ve tracked down some matching gloves and a couple of hats – just in case. The leaves and acorns are getting tracked into the kitchen, right on schedule. The mums look like they are lighting fires in yards all over the neighborhood.

I love the smell of a bonfire and the crunch of dry, crackly leaves. I love blazing oranges and reds and golden yellow with neon green edged leaves. I love watching the fat gray squirrels chuck acorns at us from high in our giant oak tree. I love the chill in the early morning and how, after the sun goes down, the breeze brings that little whispery message that winter is thinking about us and might just pay us a visit sometime soon. I love falling asleep to the sounds of football on TV. I love how the kids run in and out, trying to decide if they’re too hot or too cold – and sometimes capturing wooly-boogers (their term for those brown and black fuzzy caterpillars.)

We’ve done the Family Fun Fest, gone to a couple of pumpkin patches, attended a build-your-own-scarecrow party (there are now 4 big scarecrows holding a creepy vigil in my front yard), and guzzled down the mandatory 2 gallons or so of local apple cider. We went creek-stomping, explored the woods, and picked some apples.

My fall to-do list is just about done!
The only thing left is to hunker down, light a fire in the fireplace, and do absolutely nothing for the next few months.

Or maybe four.