Monday, December 21, 2015

Silent Night

400 years. Silence. Nothing. Not a sign in the sky or a word from the prophets. Nothing but stories of exodus passed down from generation to generation. They heard of God's faithfulness to others, but they had never experienced it for themselves.

The children of Israel had to be wondering if the stories were true. Were the promises just meant for someone else or did God have something in store for them, too? 

And then Christmas happened. And we are all supposed to celebrate and sing "Joy to the World" because Jesus came and all is now right with the world.

Only it's not. Yep, I said it. Despite the song that tells us otherwise, Christmas isn't always the most wonderful time of the year. Sometimes it's just hard. 

I am, by nature, a Christmas nerd. Christmas socks, tons of food, Elvis Presley singing on the radio, and loud family gatherings are my jam. But Christmas is about kids and those Christmases where I longed for them the most were some of the worst of my life. Everywhere I looked there were cute kids in their Christmas finery singing Joy to the World and I was anything but joyful. I would sit in church and dream of the day when those were my kids on the stage singing and I would pray that I wouldn't have to endure another Christmas where I had to answer the inevitable, "so when are y'all having kids?" question.

Instead, year after year, I heard silence. That's not to say God wasn't speaking in other areas of my life, but in the area of my family, I just kept hearing static on the other end of the line. And it hurt a lot, but especially at Christmas. Because I wanted to celebrate the birth of a baby. I just wanted it to be my baby and not the one who came for us all.

I'm not an expert on grief and I have no idea what Christmas must be like for people who are suffering from other heart aches--the loss of a loved one, or a sick child, or another unimaginable tragedy. But I know what it's like to sit in that silence and long for the one thing you can't have. 

And I also know what it's like when He breaks that silence. For me it came in the form of two boys who are anything but quiet. But I don't want people to think that I'm okay just because now I have everything I prayed for. Because that's not the case for everyone. People don't always come back  and sickness doesn't always go away, and sometimes circumstances just stay hard. 

But, rest assured, just because we may not hear Him, doesn't mean He is quiet. And if we sit in the silence, and lean in close enough, sometimes, instead of just hearing Him speak, perhaps we can hear Him singing... 

"What hope we hold this starlit night
A King is born in Bethlehem
Our journey long, we seek the light
That leads to the hallowed manger ground

What fear we felt in the silent age
Four-hundred years can He be found
But broken by a baby's cry
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate, here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel

The son of God, here born to bleed
A crown of thorns would pierce His brow
And we beheld this offering
Exalted now the King of kings
Praise God for the hallowed manger ground

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate, here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel

Oh, praise His name Emmanuel
Oh, praise His name Emmanuel"

Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)Chris Tomlin
from the album Glory In The Highest

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December is trying to kill me

When last we spoke, we were preparing for Trae's 9th birthday. And it seemed like all was going to be right in the world. And then December actually hit, and we haven't slowed down since.

For Trae's actual birthday we had a quiet night eating with friends (chicken on a bone, of course) and then we came home for cake. Simple enough and very similar to how I celebrated most of my birthdays as a child.  I remember very few birthday parties when I was a kid, but most of them were similar--a few friends, some cake and ice cream, and that was about it. I remember a few industrious moms who had a game or two involving either pinning a tail on a pre-printed donkey or dropping clothespins into a jar. Nothing fancy. No treat bags or elaborate themes. Just friends and fun.

So, for the love, when did I turn into one of THOSE people? A PINTEREST MOM! Last year we simplified and had a party at an indoor swimming pool. Get a pool, add friends, serve cake. Bing, bam, done. But, not this year. I decided it might be "cheaper" and "more fun" to have a party at home. And did I mention it had to be a party for BOTH boys since their birthdays fall at the beginning and the end of the month? We began with theme, and since both boys are big Hog fans (and the ideas on Pinterest looked so cute), it was "suggested" that maybe we have a Razorback tailgate theme. And they both agreed. Initially.

I should have known I was going to have issues when Will woke up the next morning and announced he didn't WANT a Razorback football party. He wanted a BASEBALL party! So, being the good mom I am, I just went back to the (Pinterest) board and decided we could do a baseball/football Razorback tailgate. Then it was ON. I found cupcake designs and tablescapes and tons of fun games we could play. I designed party favors and did all the other neurotic things that I never imagined I would do.

What I didn't plan, however, was how I was actually going to pull off all of those fabulous things in the midst of DECEMBER, the busiest month of the year. And did I mention it was at my HOUSE? Which also had to be cleaned and decorated for Christmas. But I could do it. Because Pinterest also shows me all kinds of inspirational quotes like, "she believed she could, so she did." So I made a schedule (see Pinterest board: organization) and I bought some vinyl and I got started.

And then I also worked. And tried to buy a few Christmas presents. And put up a Christmas tree. And did the thousand other things that working moms do every day, but especially in December. And then, right before this fabulous birthday party that I had been working my tail off for, I realized it had become WAY more about me and my pretty party plans than it had about my children. You know, the ones for whom I was HAVING THE PARTY!

Somehow, mainly thanks to the weather (can I get an Amen for a 70 degree Saturday in December????), we had a fun party. And do you know what was the highlight for my children? Not the party favors, not the custom Razorback cupcakes, and certainly not the hand painted Razorback we forgot to pin a tail on. Nope. It was playing in the back yard with their friends. The same thing we could have done without ever looking at one Pinterest board. Yes, it was a good thing I had a plan just in case the weather had not cooperated, but the same ingredients that made parties great when I was a kid still worked. We could have played hot potato and dropped clothespins in a jar, and my kids would have loved it simply because they were enjoying the company of their friends. And not one child ever looked at my lights and said, "wow, Mrs. Harris, thanks so much for making sure I didn't have to look at any dreadful cobwebs!"

I'm a little older than most of the parents of kids the same age as my kids, and maybe because of that I have a bit of a different perspective. While the helicopter circles a little closer to their kids, I sometimes choose to give mine a little more space. Or at least I try to. But then the mom guilt kicks in and I think, "but won't he be upset if all the other moms are doing ________ and his mom does something different?" And lately I've been giving in to that guilt more often than not. But that birthday party proved to me that sometimes less parenting is more. The organized games were fine, but kids enjoy being with kids. Period. And given the opportunity, games will break out and fun will happen naturally. Also, kids will eat cake whether it looks like a Razorback (#PinterestWin) or a "baseball" that appears as if it might be bleeding (#epicfail).

And with that lesson in mind, I'm now preparing for Christmas. And I'm again kicking myself because we don't have an Advent calendar, and our Elf hasn't parachuted in or made a snow angel in flour yet, and we have yet to make gingerbread houses. So maybe this won't be a Pinterest Christmas. But I'm vowing to plan less (mainly because time has run out to plan more) and to let a little fun happen. And also to stay off Pinterest. At least until January 1. When I'm sure I'll be back looking for inspirational quotes related to something entirely different.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Deep

I really wanted to post something funny tonight. The last post was a little heavy and I was hoping to write something that let me use my sarcastic side. But I logged onto Facebook one last time before bed and I was reminded again just how difficult this life can be. We are supposed to be joyful this time of year, and I am certainly counting all my blessings, but there are just things on this side of eternity I will never understand. In just the last few months I have seen babies die and babies diagnosed with cancer. I have seen friends walk roads of infertility and cancer scares of their own. I have talked with parents whose children are facing demons they should never have to face simply because their biological parents made poor decisions. And, frankly, it just sucks.

So, tonight, I am again counting my blessings. But I am also praying for those of you walking a more difficult road right now. In the midst of the hard posts on Facebook tonight, I came across one post that includes the lyrics of this song. Tonight as I go to sleep I will pray that every one who reads this will be able to grasp How Deep The Father's Love for Us.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Stuart Christopher Townend