Archives for November 2016

Waiting for Christmas {When the World Feels Weighty}

Twinkling lights and colorful packages.  Family gatherings and field trips with friends. Carols and baking.  Giving and loving.  

My favorite time of year:  Christmas.  

And perhaps I anticipate Christmas this year more than any other because the world feels heavy: Elections and refugees. Water pipeline protests and police shootings. I can’t open my email, sign on to social media, or turn toward the TV without feeling the weight of wilderness wandering…a hopelessness as I struggle to trust Him. As I forget his faithfulness.  

When do we speak and when should we remain silent? How do we pray? Where do we fit in this divisive culture? My heart is broken for this world, and I want to move into the darkness instead of sitting paralyzed by it.

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So. when the light of Christmas begins to twinkle, I feel the hope and the promise. He is still there. He’s still coming just as He said. He was faithful in the wilderness and will be faithful today.

Perhaps that’s why I love the Advent season so very much. It gives me permission to pause and ponder. To wait with wonder. It keeps gift giving from overtaking me. Advent reminds me there’s joy and peace in the waiting.  There’s a Savior who was born and will come again. Hallelujah. 

If you’re not familiar with Advent…

“The Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas…Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year…the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people…” (More about Advent here.)

That’s the official “what is Advent” explanation, but my personal definition is…a time to slow down and focus on Jesus during a season that’s known for busy and buying.  A time to look at what He has done, is doing, and will do according to His word.

So, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite ways to embrace, observe, and celebrate Advent.

A few months ago I got an early copy of Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting – a beautiful book by my friend, Kris Camealy.  This book will point you again and again to Jesus: Come, Lord Jesus is a companion in the waiting season of Advent. It’s a quiet invitation to sit with the weight of waiting, and recount the faithfulness of God, to trace the hope of Christmas, and prepare the way for Jesus’ coming into the world, into our own hearts, into our everyday, ordinary time. With its offering of a daily reading, a reflection, prayer and one, or two reflective questions for you to contemplate, this book is a welcome “friend” to readers during the Advent, or any other season of waiting.

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I also LOVE Kari Denker’s Journal Doodle Bible Studies, and she has a new Advent study!  You can check out her studies at Stone Soup for Five, but I am excited to do Kari’s The Promises Advent Study with my kiddos this year…

Start this Christmas season by looking back to the long awaited Messiah through a 24 day Advent study about Old Testament prophecy and their fulfillment in Christ in the New Testament. Each day has a short Bible study, journaling ideas, Christmas challenge ideas, and more than 50 coloring pages to go along with each day’s study. Dig in, de-stress, and enjoy this Christmas season in a whole new way with Journal and Doodle Bible Studies!

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If you want a paperback of the Promises Advent study, you’ll find it on Amazon, but if you want to download and print the study, use this link to the Stone Soup site. (I thought this download and print option might be great for my friends in Honduras!)

I also ordered Light Upon Light  compiled by Sarah Arthur. I’ve not read a page of it yet, but it appealed to my liturgical and literary sides. I simply love liturgy (raised a Methodist) and my English teacher heart loves that this book includes poems by Donne and Rossetti as well as pieces by Dickens and Eliot – woohoo! So, this is probably for the nerds among us. But, I plan to pick and choose from it throughout the season. The description…

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This collection contains daily and weekly inspirational readings to help the reader prayerfully experience God through the liturgical seasons of winter. Well-loved classics by Andersen, Dickens, and Eliot join contemporary works by Frederick Buechner and Gary Schmidt. Poems by Donne, Herbert, and Rossetti are paired with newer voices: Scott Cairns, Benjamín Alire Sáenz, Susanna Childress, and Amit Majmudar. Readers are invited to experience Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in its raw strangeness, stripped of sentiment, and to turn toward Emmanuel.

If you’re one who colors (not me:), Hannah and I loved this book when she spotted it at Lifeway: All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas. I LOVE all things Nancy Guthrie, and the few pages I read were great. Nancy’s solid Biblical teaching inspires me each time I study with one of her guides.

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And I will ALWAYS recommend both of Ann Voskamp’s Advent books: The Greatest GiftVoskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus — the greatest gift — through the majestic advent tradition of “The Jesse Tree… retracing the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day’s profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn’t blurred past you but your heart’s fully unwrapped the greatest gift you’ve always yearned for.

And Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of ChristmasEach day, families can read the provided Scripture passage (in connection with the original book), engage with a specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme. 

My kids and I have had a Jesse for a few years, and although this book is for younger children, my big kiddos still love and learn from it.

And if you’re not into books and prefer something simpler, I LOVE (I know, lots of LOVE in this post;) She Reads Truth. The IF: Gathering and She Reads are celebrating Advent together by reading Christ was Born for This.

Beginning Sunday, 11/27, we’ll spend the Advent season exploring the Old Testament roles of prophet, priest, and king, and the way in which Christ came to perfectly fill each of them, as well as a week in Luke’s beloved narrative of Christ’s birth.

You can get this study FREE in your inbox – sign up at shereadstruth.com – or you can purchase it for $1.99 after downloading the She Read Truth app.  

I’d love to hear all about your Advent plans!  Please share with me what you’re reading, doing, giving, baking – whatever. I love new ideas and old traditions. 

Celebrating Another Year of Owen

“He’s not breathing”.

My mom shouts as she changes his diaper. I panic in slow motion as the words sink in: He’s not breathing.

Before I get to his room, he coughs. He’s fine except for a purple tinge circling his lips.

The doctor hospitalizes him for 24 hours, telling us there’s a small hole in his heart that will heal in time; it does.

But after RSV and jaundice, we are tired of trips to the hospital. It seems he can’t eat anything. Breastfeeding is an epic fail.  He feels fragile. I hover, checking him many times in the night. It seems he will never be well.

Hour after hour I pray and wonder: Will this season ever pass, Lord? Will I have a healthy boy? Will he ever give up his sippy cup? Pacifier? Blankies? Teddy bear? When in the world will he be potty trained? Will he ever color since he hates the feel of crayon papers?

I sit for hours praying him past the difficulty; praying his life away.  

I hear this familiar lament often when I am with the moms of littles. I wish he’d walk or talk. I wish she’d eat with a spoon. Others look on and judge the parenting: should she still have a pacifier? Shouldn’t he be potty trained? How long will they carry that bottle? He doesn’t know how to ride a bike? Oh, he can’t read at 4? If he doesn’t get on a good travel soccer team soon, he will miss the boat; that opportunity will pass him by.

Sisters, don’t worry about the pacifier or travel soccer. Let her start dance classes when she’s ready to twirl around the room. If he prefers legos to letters, then build away.

Because they grow up.

When you’re bundling your baby in winter or teetering with a toddler in spring, you don’t see it coming. And people like me say…oh, it goes by so fast. And you secretly think, oh, I wish this season would pass. But, I pray you hear: it goes by so fast.

The baby who overcame a stop breathing incident, jaundice, and sensory issues woke this morning as a 14-year-old young man.

He doesn’t have a sippy cup; he’s a great reader. After years of travel soccer, he’s settled on tennis and bowling – although he might try swimming in high school next year. He might roll his eyes, but no temper tantrums remain. He no longer needs me to dress him or clean his room.

He loves storytelling and conversation. He loves Student Council and volunteers for just about anything. His heart breaks when we speak of the Syrian refugee crisis. After we listened to a podcast series on Syria, Owen prayed they’d be allowed to go home.

Much to my dismay, he likes country music and doesn’t know many hymns (oh, how this inner Methodist cringed while explaining that we used to sing from books called hymnals, not screens and ProPresenter!)

On Friday, I met his girlfriend and her mom at the mall, then left him there with her for dinner and a movie. It felt a little like the end of the world.

He does dishes, laundry, and takes out trash. He loves his family deeply, always considering everyone’s feelings. He’s an amazing cousin to Chloe; her face lights up and she extends her arms as soon as Owen enters a room.

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He tender-heartedly loves. Always giving the benefit of the doubt. Always giving hugs and “I love yous.”

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So, see? They grow up. Quickly. They become young men (and women) with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. Quirks and preferences.

And as I ponder the parenting of this 14-year-old and his 16-year-old sister I am sure of one thing: Raising an athlete or dancer should never be the priority – even for a season. Raising straight A students makes me proud, but it’s not “the thing.” Having popular kids who win awards and appear as angels to those looking on is not relevant.

The goal? The only REAL goal? To love them unconditionally and show them Jesus. In my coming and my going, speak of Jesus.

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Of all the great things I could share about and pray for Owen on his birthday, my prayer is simple – that he continues to heed the words given to the Israelites…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Commit to His commands, Owen. And as your mom, I pray we continue to speak often of Jesus and his love in our home. When we sit and when we rise. That we never avoid the hard conversation or the “I just don’t understands.”

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

And whether or not you’re ever state champion this or that. Honor cord wearer or award winner, know this: your first and foremost a Jesus follower. And when you focus on the cross, the rest will take care of itself.

Happy 14th Birthday, Owen! I love you deeply, and I am so proud to parent you every day. You’re a gift!

 

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