Archives for December 2014

2014 Was…Just ALOT {A Poem Too!}

I tried to write a 2014 reflection using prompts from The Art of Simple Life, and I could barely remember the year, especially details.

2014 just passed. Quickly.

The highlights? Owen is in middle school.  Hannah in high school.  Both in NEW schools.  We moved into a much smaller home (unexpected blessing!).  I got a new job.  Our family experienced divorce.  We lost our church family.  My niece, Chloe, was born (after 15 years of trying).

It was just A LOT for a year.

So, in the midst of these “big” events, I can’t remember the smaller things.  The important things that comprised the fabric of our days.  I mostly went through the motions.

And that makes me sad.  I want to remember the days and hours, not just the events that pummel – or create smiles.  And it’s my 40th year of life – yep, I’ll be 40 in December 2015.

This year needs to be different.  It just does.

I began praying on December 1 for how God can make that happen – because he knows I can’t.

On December 6, I began “hand’ journaling again.  I have typed my journal for quite a few years.  But, this year, I got a cute journal and began writing by hand again. I love it.

And for Christmas, I gave my kiddos two gifts:  a scavenger hunt that lead to a poem and a gift, describing how this year will shift.  And a gratitude journal with a note.

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Friends, as we close 2014 and look forward to a new year, I hope you’ll join me in praying for more moments and less monumental (events).  For lazy days reading and for deep discussions with your children.  For time spent serving and loving others.  For mornings (or evenings) with your Creator.  For quiet.  For being.

For simply being.

{Here’s the poem I wrote my kiddos.  It was found at the end of their scavenger hunt along with a travel journal/smashbook and a book called 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die.}

travel poem

Han and O reading poem2014 – The Year of Adventure

 

Christmas gifts piled high under the tree,

Owen peering under, bent on his knee.

 

Hannah shaking boxes, inspecting ribbons and bows

Mom shaking her head…let’s see how this goes!

 

Gift after gift they unwrap with a smile,

Feeling as if mom went the extra mile.

 

Hours of shopping stacked up on the floor,

Boxes and paper and gifts galore.

 

Lots of stuff to wear and explore

While we all wonder…shouldn’t Christmas mean more?

 

More than games and books and shirts and shoes,

More than a long list of family to-dos.

 

When we look back to this day in December,

What will make it special?  What will we remember?

 

Our Advent time leading to this day? For sure!

Our reading and questions and Jesus so pure.

 

Our Jesse tree.  Our stockings.  The twinkling light.

We do not doubt, our season has been bright!

 

But what about the rest of the days in the year?

How do we keep this spirit and hold ALL days dear?

 

Perhaps we say no to more and more stuff?

Realizing it passes like the air – in a puff!

 

Maybe this year is about so much more

Than what we collect – what comes through our door.

 

What do you say to more adventure? More travel – a trip!

Doesn’t this idea make you want to jump and skip?

 

The years are passing, your mom is getting older

I don’t want to miss the moments -let’s be bolder!

 

Who needs to collect and hoard so much fluff?  

Let’s make memories instead of collecting more stuff.

 

Let’s travel and experience this world God made.

Let’s explore new places and sip lemonade:)

 

This year could be fun – want to give it a try?  

Just open this gift and you’ll find out why.

 

I hope this idea puts a smile on your face…

Flip through the pages and locate a place.

 

We will travel and memory make as oft as we can;

I can’t hardly wait to begin making a plan.

 

We will venture through city and country and town

What a joy it will be to explore all around.

 

Laughing and loving and making the most of our lives

As we go across country on many long drives.

 

Sure, this past year was an unplanned detour;

But, we only live once, that much is for sure!

 

So, let’s go! Let’s have fun and make memories so grand

While always remembering for what we stand.

 

Kindness and thankfulness and our Father above

The Giver of everything, especially our love.

 

I love you both with all of my heart!

I can’t wait for this brand new year to start.

 

As we laugh and love and make memories together

What else on this earth could possibly be better?

 

Merry Memory Making!

Love Always, Mom

Our Favorite Christmas Gift

Over the last few days, I have given and received some great gifts!  I now own a Lisa Leonard necklace with my kiddos names and Amazon gifts cards (times three – so excited!) But, my favorite gift I gave to my children.  It wasn’t expensive.  I didn’t have to shop for days to find it.

Here’s the letter I gave my kiddos yesterday…

emmanuel letter and packet

To My Little Ones…

By this time, you’ve unwrapped lots of gifts.  Owen got his Perplexus and new games to play.    Hannah has new clothes for school and books to read. Owen no longer has to wear too-short shirts to basketball, and Hannah will sleep deeper as she hugs her new Olaf!

I hope you like each gift!  There is lots of fun to come, huh?  

But, while you sit in the midst of wrapping paper, twinkling lights, new clothes, and board games, I never want you to forget that many others are not sitting among presents in a warm home with laughter all around, eating three meals a day plus snacks.

I can’t tell you why things are as they are.  Why we live in this place at this time.  Why some have and some don’t.  I have no answers to such hard questions. But in the midst of trusting God and His sovereignty, I know we are to be thankful, and we are not to neglect sharing what we have, being generous to others.  

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13: 16

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14: 31

Little ones, if there’s just ONE gift I could give you this year – if I could share one prayer over your life – it would this verse from O, Holy Night…

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

Love one another.  First and foremost, this is my hope for you that you would genuinely love each other and others.

His law is love.  Remember what we learned about the Ten Commandments? Each of them points to God’s LOVE for us.

His gospel is peace.  His gospel:  God sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross for OUR sins. The One who took our wrongs upon his own self has also brought us peace – in our hearts and souls.

The slave is our brother. We are all brothers and sisters trying to live in this world.  No one is better than you – or lower than you.  Equal.  

The cease of oppression becomes our prayer as we pray for our world.

And because of His love, His death for us, His love for all people…we praise His holy name.  Never stop giving thanks and praising Jesus for who He is and what He has done (and will do) for us, remembering that if He never ever does one more thing for us – His death for us is MORE than ENOUGH.

And I don’t want to remember this verse from O, Holy Night just at Christmas. I want us to live “God with us” every day….

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (which means God with us). Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23

When I went to Nashville to see Ann Voskamp, I chose a child for us to sponsor.  I asked for a Honduran child, but they didn’t have one.  So, I glanced down at the Central American children on the table…and who did I see?  

Nehemias Emmanuel Jimenez Alfaro

Emmanuel – God with us.

See what God did there?  A sovereign pairing.  As we provide for Emmanuel each month, as we write him letters and learn about his life and his village, we will be reminded of…God with us.  

This, little ones, is my favorite gift to you: The gift of giving.  Of giving each month to Emmanuel – the little guy in Mexico and your Everlasting Father in Heaven.  

I love you very much!

Merry Christmas,  Mom

han and owen w Emmanuel

May you be mindful of “God you us” each remaining day of your 2014 and each day of your 2015.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

First Family Photos {For Those Experiencing Firsts This Season}

It might seem small to some, but to us it was huge.

Family pictures.

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A friend posted on Facebook that her friend, a photographer, would be in town for the weekend and had openings to take family photos.  And something in my heart said…you should ask.  My best friend said…you should do this.

I did…and through a series of God events, someone gifted my family with a photo shoot.  (Thanks whoever you are!)

It was hard.  I am not sure exactly why; it just felt weird having pictures made with three people.  (We made it four by putting my niece, Chloe, in a few!)

Firsts are always hard, friends.

The first family photos after divorce.  The first Christmas after her death.  The first birthday without him.  The first ….{insert your first here}.

But in His strength, I pushed through, resisting the urge to hide under my covers.  I smiled. I laughed.  I held in tears.  My heart filled with pride as I watched Sarah Beth (aka amazing photographer) take pictures of my children, but I also hurt for them.  I couldn’t be more thankful for my new version of family, but an ache of “this isn’t how it should be” will (I think) be ever-present.

If you’re about to experience a first, God knows.  He understands.  He will be there.  And most of all…He loves you.  He wants to hear all about it – your laments and your thankfulness.

Always remember Paul’s words in his second letter to the Corinthians:

9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Praying for your firsts!

And thankful for these pictures…

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The Family Stump {Real Hope for a Tree} {Advent}

When you open up God’s love letter to us, the Bible, do you know what you find?  You find the family tree of Jesus.  You find the stories that trace the branches of Jesus’ family…And you go all the way back to the very beginning – our beginning.  And when you’re tracing that family tree of Jesus, guess what you find?  People who were big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and all the beaten up and brokenhearted.  (Ever know any families like that?)

...And things got so rotten that his [Jesus] family tree looked more like the stump of a tree cut right off.  But…right out of this stump. This budding branch – this green shoot of new hope, new starts, new freedom for the whole family – was Jesus!  from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

I read this introduction and the book’s first entry on Sunday.  Nothing jumped out at me.  I loved the thought of starting this new tradition with my children, so I focused on them – on their hearts knowing Jesus and his lineage better.  On making memories. On spending intentional time together.

But, when my son, Owen, read these words aloud last night, I held my breath.  Suddenly, we weren’t a mother, daughter, and son squished together on our sofa starting a new tradition, learning about Jesus.

We were…are… a broken family.

We were…are… the stump.

Stump Dec 1

And my head takes this and runs with it:  Stumps aren’t beautiful like trees. Stumps announce rather loudly – the rest of me is missing.  Cut down, blown over, hauled away, and changed forever.

Who wants to be the stump? My heart laments as I listen to my children read.  I wanted to be the tree!  I remind God – again.

And my Hannah reads…When their family tree crashed to the ground, it crushed all of their hearts.  The stump – and all of their days – felt utterly hopeless.  Like their hearts had been cut right out of them.  

And my thoughts continue..Yes, yes it did.  Thanks for the reminder (or not).

And her words continue…Out of the stump of every family tree – comes the shoot of Jesus’ forever-love.  Jesus would go to impossible lengths to rescue you.

Gulp.

I know – He is saying – change your perspective, Sarah.  It’s ok to be the stump. It’s a chance to be new – to grow again.

From stump to tree to cross…the redemption story.

God doesn’t cut off all the big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and brokenhearted from His family tree – He makes families just like these perfectly His!  He adopts all the messy and broken and imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart, and He gives us His family name…

Cheaters, liars, sneakers, brokenhearted…any of that sound familiar?  Yes. I bet so.  It does to me.

But, did you read the rest?  He doesn’t cut them off.  Does NOT.  He makes them HIS.  He adopts the messy, the broken, the imperfect – just as they are – even the ones you don’t like – into HIS tree, His story, giving them His family name.

Really?  {I know this.  But something suddenly sounds different.}

Right when I decide to quiet myself and my family – stump and all.  Right when I decide I don’t have to be all or do all or understand all. Right when I decide I am tired, and I no longer can or want to keep up with whatever or whomever I am trying so dang hard to keep up with.

Right when I decide He is enough. This Christmas and forever. (Although I am SURE He will need to remind me.)

Right THEN, He speaks….

Jesus comes right to your Christmas tree and looks at your family and says, “I am your Rescuer, and I will set you free from all the brokenness and sinfulness and sadness. I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you.”

He sets me free from all brokenness, sinfulness, sadness. He is the Gift, my Rescuer. In fact, He finished that work two thousand years ago on a cross.

Who knew when I picked up this book  – when I decided that this Christmas needed to be different – that a mom living on a farm in Canada had written the words I’d need to hear long before those words landed in my hands.

Who knew I was white-knuckling hope.  Holding on with all I had, choosing to believe that He is a God of His promises even though I felt left and forsaken.

Who knew I would leave the church for a season, rejecting what the “church” had become to and for me.

Who knew that the marriage I fought for, the stuff I collected, and the image I crafted would pass away.

Who knew that a stump could transform into a tree once again.

He did. My Creator knew all along.

And He has known all along what you need, where you are, what it will take, and where to find you.

As our family grows from stump to tree again,  I am sure there will be pruning – some branches cut that I think need to  grow.  Still…

We will be a tree again.  We will.

For the Bible tells me so.

**from excerpts from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp