Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear Samuel

Dear Samuel,
Hello buddy! It's time to write my annual New Year's Eve letter.

This year instead of going out, we're staying in...and sleeping. You've both been sick for the past four days and it's made for a long last week of 2011.

We hope that you'll take good care of your sis Samuel. You can stay up all night if you like, just please be quiet.

Samuel you can easily get your water bottle out of the fridge if you're thirsty. Just remember to shut the door. If you get hungry, help yourself to a banana on the kitchen table or some chips from the pantry. But don't eat the caramel corn on the counter - I made that for your dad and it has too much sugar for your little body.

Lauren loves Rice Chex so you can bring her a bowl. Don't eat out of the box please. And wipe up the crumbs on the table...or floor...or couch when you're done. Be sure not to run and eat - it's not safe.

Now that you're going in the potty please remember to wash your hands after using the toilet - especially if you're going to eat a snack. And don't forget to shut off the water!

You can ring in the New Year by watching a couple episodes of Dora or Finding Nemo or Frosty the Snowman. Those have been pretty popular with you guys while you've been sick. That should entertain you two for a couple hours.

Then read some books or color or 'do a project.' I am sure you can find plenty of things to do to keep yourselves busy.

Samuel if Lauren gets upset or over-tired, sing Amazing Grace to her. It calms her every time. You could also pray with her. Or ask her to pray. She prayed her first full prayer at bedtime tonight. From Dear Jesus all the way to Amen she did it by herself.

Play your guitar to celebrate the gift of a new year. Lauren requested Built This City on Rock and Roll this morning so that might be a fun one to play. Yeah, I know it's from the 80s but it's one of mom's favorites.

It's snowing outside but you cannot go out without mom and dad. We'll get up once it's light out and then we'll go out to 'play' (aka throw snowballs at dad).

Dad would love a cup of coffee to greet him first thing in the new year so go ahead and pull up a chair to the counter, grap a filter and put in a couple scoops of coffee grounds. You help dad with this daily so I'm positive you can make a hot cup of java (just be careful pouring in the water).

We love you both. We're so proud to be your parents and so thankful to celebrate another year with the two of you. You teach us much, you stretch us to new heights and you continue to show us how much love our hearts can hold.

But we're also really tired, so we'll see you in the morning. After the sun is up please.

Love,
Dad and Mom

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas...every day?

May we not save our worship just for Christmas, but may we fall to our knees every day, of every year, in worship of our King.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas expectations

Expectations. 

Whew. They can be a tough thing to manage.

Especially at Christmas.

We expect others to celebrate the way we do.

We expect others to understand what is important to us...even if it's not important to them.

We expect to continue our traditions even when life changes, people change, relationships change, circumstances change.

I had great expectations of this advent season....to read my daily advent Scripture and take time daily to teach my kids about advent and what it means. That hasn't really panned out like I had hoped.

We made a birthday cake this morning. For Jesus. Cause it's his birthday in three days...and we are having a Jesus Birthday Party tonight. The cake making didn't go as expected. Lots of tears, meltdowns, and flour everywhere.

And I look around my home...dirty, disorganized, with a few cards that haven't yet been mailed and presents that haven't yet been wrapped and food that hasn't yet been made...and I wonder why I expected this year to be any different.

Expectations.

Just like many of you, throughout the past few weeks I have heard and read a number of messages about Joseph and Mary and Jesus.

And the stories about them have made think about the expectations of that first Christmas.

Mary, miraculously growing her King in her very own womb, certainly wouldn't have expected to give birth in a stable. Or place her son on hay. Or be surrounded by anything less than the best. Or be in a town that wasn't even close to her home and her family.

After all, she was delivering...God's Son.

And yet, God doesn't come according to our expectations.

The Christmas story speaks perfectly to that. Jesus - the One who came to redeem us from our sins and restore all of humanity to Him - enters our world in the frail, humble state of a baby. 

And I begin to understand how our expectations and God's plans cannot co-exist.

I am grateful to the depth of my being that God's plans take precedence over my small expectations.

Christmas. I love that the Christmas story takes all expectations of the grandeur and formality with which a King should arrive and replaces them with an unwed teenage girl, a fiancee ready to find a new wife, a baby who was so...normal, a lack of wealth, and an abundance of simplicity.

The Christmas story has a lot to teach me about expectations.

Even when it comes to something like making Jesus' birthday cake.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It is time to worship

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.'"

This passage teaches us two thing:

First, that Jesus was born.

What do we learn next?

He is worshiped.

Now, in reality, the wise men most likely traveled a very long way so they probably did not show up the night of Jesus' birth as we often see visualized and hear as part of the Christmas story.

But regardless. They heard the Christ child was born and their response was one of...worship.

What do you think they expected to see when they arrived? A teenage mom as a King of the Jews? A tiny infant boy who looked so...normal?

They came.

Why?

To worship.

"But there is more here than a visit to a child who would be king someday. These Magi worshiped him. That was the intent of their coming. And so the narrative also reminds us that this child Jesus was far more than a future king. Only if He is divine could He be worshiped." - bible.org

We visit newborn babies in hospitals. We bring them gifts. But we do not worship them.

The wise men came to worship because they knew this baby boy was part of a much greater plan to restore humanity and repair relationships.

One week from today is Christmas. And I have choice. I can choose to worship gifts. Or people. Or decorating. Or baking. Or shopping. Or partying.

Or I can do what Scripture models for me. The wise men chose to worship and it would be wise for me to choose the same.

What does that look like? Taking time each day to read, ponder, or dwell upon the magnificence that is Christmas. Sing a hymn. Write a love letter. Read Scripture to prepare my heart. Slow down and listen to what God might be wanting to say to me this advent season. Get on my knees and worship the Creator who brought the created to earth. Stop and recognize the m i r a c l e that is the Christmas story.

Friends, He has come. It is time to worship.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Story by Max Lucado


Read this on the Women of Faith blog last week. I love how it helps me visualize the birth of Jesus in a new way and that it reminds me how humbling his choice was to leave Heaven and come to earth as a human.


God did something extraordinary.
Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light and wrapped himself in skin: pigmented, human skin. The light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. He whom angels worship nestled himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into a cold night, and then slept on cow’s hay.
Mary didn’t know whether to give him milk or give him praise, but she gave him both since he was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy.
Joseph didn’t know whether to call him Junior or Father. But in the end he called him Jesus, since that’s what the angel had said and since he didn’t have the faintest idea what to name a God he could cradle in his arms...

Excerpted from Christmas Stories copyright © Max Lucado. Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A season of waiting

Advent is the season of waiting.

And we all know I'm familiar with waiting.

What is so beautiful about this season of waiting is that we know what it is we're waiting for: the celebration of the birth of Christ.

I work for a Lutheran company and they have an advent service once a week leading up to Christmas.

It has been very cool to experience these services. I feel a bit out of place since I am not Lutheran and do not understand the 'format' of the service nor do I know the correct responses to some of the prayers. But the focus is on Christmas. And that is so so sweet in the corporate setting.

Today the topic was on...waiting.

I was very interested to hear what the speaker was going to say on this topic and I was not disappointed. I took a page of notes.

One point that spoke powerfully to me was this: when one has surgery (internally) things on the outside don't really look like they're changing. But on the inside much healing is taking place. Things are being transformed and changed.

This is what it can look like when we're waiting. On the outside, there is no apparent change taking place. But on the inside, God is doing a work in me (and in you) and a transformation can take place. 

Two thousand and eleven years ago the world looked the same from the outside. Except for a few people, no one knew the change that was about to take place.

I wait in sweet anticipation of Christmas. The coming of our King. And I wait for God to reveal what His plan and purpose is for our family. And some of you wait for what God has for your family as well.

We can be confident that although it might seem that things aren't changing or moving in the direction that we would like, God is doing a work whether we can see it or not.

And if we allow Him to, he can be transforming us from the inside out. Our waiting does not need to be worthless. It shouldn't be wasted.

Let's wait expectantly...anticipating the great work that God is doing and will do...asking Him to transform us in the process of waiting.

I certainly have not been asking God for that lately. I've been whining rather than waiting. I've been working rather than waiting. And I've been wondering rather than waiting.

This is a lesson that I learn over and over and over again friends.

And this advent season is a good reminder about the purpose of waiting: to prepare our hearts. The speaker today said, "Christmas is so momentous an event that we must prepare our hearts, minds and homes."

Lets prepare shall we? Lets tell God we are waiting for Him. We are expecting Him. We are anticipating His work in our hearts and lives.

And lets sit back and see what He does.

As many of you know, this past year I fell in love with the song: "Waiting Here For You."

What a perfect song it is for this season of waiting. We're waiting here for you Jesus...with our hands lifted high...in praise....and it's you we adore...singing Hallelujah.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Conspiracy and a request

1 - Watch this:




2 - Spend a couple minutes (or more if you're interested) reading this site: Advent Conspiracy

3 - Check out how Living Water International has impacted people around the world. 340 Living Water Wells have provided clean water for 200,000 people. Not only do they provide clean water, they also share with those desperate to hear about living water - a relationship with Jesus Christ.

4 - Americans spend $450 Billion on Christmas gifts every year. The estimated cost to make clean water available to everyone worldwide is $20 billion. Think about washing your clothes, doing your dishes and bathing all in the same water. Then thinking about dipping your glass - or your child's sippy cup - into that same water.That's what families do every day around the world.

5 - I hope that thought encourages you to wrap up one more Christmas gift for your spouse. Or your kids. Or your parents. Or your friends. Wrap up the gift of clean water. Change a life. Change a community. Provide the gift of water...clean water, living water.

Friends, it's rare I make a plea like this, but I'm passionate about helping us keep the Christ in Christmas and combat the focus our society places on consumerism. I love gifts and I love shopping. But I've also committed to being very intentional about what I purchase and how much I spend. Tomorrow has been marked as 'Green Monday' - one of the most popular days to order Christmas gifts online. Americans have already spent almost $20 billion online thus far in the holiday season. Forecasters expect another billion to be spent online tomorrow.

Together lets give a gift that reflects the heart of Christmas. Give online today.

From the depth of my heart, I say thank you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hard things

Written Monday, October 31, 2011:

Sometimes life happens and it requires us to do hard things.

Sometimes those hard things are painful. Sometimes they are awkward. Sometimes they are emotional.

Sometimes doing hard things are just, well, hard. And sometimes they are excruciatingly hard.

Sunday will go down in my book of life as a day that required me to do a hard thing. I sat outside of a hospital, about to go visit a friend, and pleaded with the Lord to go before me into the hospital room. I asked him for wisdom about what to say, for peace to be present in my demeanor and for a strong sense of God’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Without Him, I would fail. With Him, I could offer light in a dark circumstance.

I wanted to visit and offer smiles and hugs and congratulations. I offered all those things. But in addition, I offered prayers and tears and words of comfort and encouragement. I asked Jesus to give me the strength to offer what my friend was striving to find in the midst of a hard diagnosis: the markings of Down Syndrome in her newborn daughter. I tried to provide hope for the future…a reminder that God is faithful and wise and sovereign over all…that His plan is perfect…that His way is best…that He does not make mistakes…that He is already walking the road that she will now journey on.

Having been the recipient of stupid phrases uttered without thought and sentiments spoken to make the giver feel better, I prayed fervently that God would allow my presence to speak louder than my words (a life-long prayer that grows with importance the longer I live). I tried to listen more than talk. I tried to ask questions without being intrusive. I tried to do this hard thing with grace and humility, knowing that the gift of presence is one of the most precious gifts of all.

Because not everyone will give my friend this gift. Some will hear and run away. Some will pretend. Some will ignore. Some will try to make it better. Some will compare their hard thing to her hard thing. We all handle hard things differently. And we don’t always handle them the right way.

If we allow it, life will teach us…others will teach us…God will teach us, how to handle hard things in a manner that brings glory to God and points others to Him. We can also find humor in the hard things and joy in the midst of pain.

The reality is, my hard thing is minimal when I think of her hard thing. My hard thing is supporting her and loving her and being there for her. Her hard thing is that her life is forever changed. Her hard thing may last a lifetime. It will be a beautifully hard thing, but hard indeed.

Sometimes that’s just it…we have to strive to find the beauty in our hard things. We have to choose to unwrap the gift. Choose to see it as a gift. Choose to face the hard thing head on. Asking God to lift us up. Be our strength. And guide each step we take as we journey through the hard things that come our way.
I see my friends doing the hard things and they encourage me: Beating cancer. Missing spouses. Forgiving affairs. Researching diseases. Loving family who is hard to love. Getting up every day and facing their hard thing.

Sometimes we don’t have a choice about whether or not to do the hard things. Life happens and hard things drop into our lives in an instant. A phone call. An email. A letter from a lawyer. The doctor’s diagnosis. Going around the hard thing does not make us strong. Going over it or under it allows us to pretend the hard thing doesn’t really exist. It’s only going through the hard thing that we are refined…molded into the likeness of Christ…transformed from the inside out.

Today I am working to figure out alongside my friend what it means to celebrate and grieve simultaneously. How does one be filled with joy and a sense of fear at the same time? How does one love medical professionals because of the knowledge that they have, yet hate them because of the hard news they deliver?

I don’t know. I haven’t walked this road before. Neither has she. But thank God that we don’t walk it alone. He made the road. He created the diagnosis. He waits for us…as we walk every hard road…and as we do every hard thing that this side of Heaven brings our way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We'll praise your name forever

O Come All Ye Faithful....it's always been my favorite Christmas song, but a friend introduced me to Chris Tomlin's version this week and I can't stop listening.

Do yourself a favor: turn off the 'Christmas noise' our world offers and immerse yourself in the beauty of this song.


We'll praise your name forever
We'll praise your name forever
We'll praise your name forever
Christ the Lord



Sunday, December 4, 2011

It

A few months ago, I came across this post from a friend of a friend. She writes about cancer and how it has come into her life six different times. Not once was it a personal diagnosis. Six times cancer was the diagnosis for those she loves and cares for. 

It's truly unbelievable to read her story about how 'it' has impacted her life.

I feel like 'it' is everywhere. My friend who had a double mastectomy last year. My friend who lost her husband earlier this year. An aunt and uncle who are both currently battling cancer.

I don't understand 'it.'

I don't like 'it.'

And I am exceedingly grateful for the promise of Revelation 21:4: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Oh what a day that will be.