Monday, December 27, 2010

I almost missed it.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

This year, I almost missed Christmas. Almost.

I almost let all the pressure surrounding the celebrating of the holiday overshadow the real reason and task of Christmas.

It all began on Wednesday the 22nd when I made a major mistake in each of the kid's Christmas pajamas. I didn't realize what I had done until I finished the waistband on the last of the three pairs of pants. And then came the thought that there was no way I could fix the major error and also finish their pajamas in time for Christmas Eve.

Previously, we had filled the week with friends and visits and fun, so the house was a mess and we hadn't gotten anything done.

The 23rd, we had Christmas with Eric's family. I was lucky enough to make the meal, but work and an unexpected recipe change meant just a little bit more stress trying to accomplish everything.

On Christmas Eve, I spent the morning running around doing a few last minute things. I was totally wound up. So was Eric. The kids were wired and we had too many things to do in too little time. There just wasn't enough time to finish everything that "needed" to be done. Finally at home, I sat by my sewing machine, sewing furiously, trying to finish pajama shirts: my machine was jamming, seams were super crooked and there was supportive stitching showing through and making my errors obvious to my eye. I also was thinking about all the food that I had to make: Treats for Jesus' birthday party, yummy food for Christmas Eve dinner, bread for Christmas breakfast. And then there were presents to wrap, Christmas cards to deliver to my neighbors, the house to clean and . . . .

I think you get the picture. I was completely stressed out.

Suddenly, it hit me. I was totally doing exactly what I didn't want to do with Christmas. I was making all the trappings of the holiday outweigh the weight of the meaning of Christmas. The stuff was more important than the people, than the baby.
And God sent some wonderful, gentle, loving reminders, in the forms of my children to help me remember (again) why God sent his son for us.

I managed to finish (with knowledge that I would later fix a major error) two full pairs of pajamas. And the girls danced around the house wearing them.

All three understand why Jesus came to be born on this earth: that our king had to become a baby to grow up and save us from our sins. To hear them declare their love for Christ moved me in a way that is difficult to describe.

At Jesus' birthday party (This year, He was gracious enough to allow gluten free brownies which we all said were really, really good), OG said probably the cutest thing I have ever heard. "Mommy, Jesus is in my heart, right?" "Yep, OG, he is in your heart." "Jesus is in my heart, so he can't see the brownies right?" During our popcorn prayer, their prayers were simple and moving.

Christmas morning was a great time with our family. The kids were excited to have us open the gifts they gave us, they were patient while waiting for their turn. And they all shared their new stuff.

Then at church, our family lit the Advent candles. Each member had a role: Eric (and Yoli, our adopted member of the family) read, the girls and I lit the candles, and J said the prayer. His confidence and the strength of the words he prayed was beautiful. I was one proud mama, not only for how he acted on stage, but for what he said with such strength.

And I ended the holiday with this thought, over and over:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

And from the real meaning of Christmas, this is the desired outcome. And it gives me great hope and great joy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reflections on this Season

I adore the season of Advent. It has become my favorite time of year.

There are many traditions and doings that make this season wonderful: exchanging gifts, cutting out paper snowflakes, singing Christmas carols, visiting with friends and family. And while those things are special to me, that is not why I love Advent.

Advent has become a time to worship the God who became tiny for me. It is a marvelous, miraculous movement on God's part that I never deserved or earned, yet he still came.

My heart is always full of emotion this time of year. I marvel the courage of a young girl who accepts without question God's call to bear His Son. I remember holding my own babies, noting their weakness and dependence on me and marvel that my Saviour was also so weak. I think more about that girl and how carrying this baby must have changed her, forever. May I be changed by the Spirit's indwelling too.

I worship with shepherds and wise men who saw the baby but knew He was King. They immediately fell on their faces to worship Him. I should do the same.

I think on Joseph who was asked to do the most sacrificial thing in loving Mary and Jesus, who was not his son.

I think of the stable animals and the physical world. Did they know their Creator had come? I believe they did and the animals worshiped. And the angels who couldn't understand why God would send his son to this dirty, broken world to save people who can't even contemplate the true depth of His love for us or His majesty or His glory. But they proclaimed him with voices full of joy and honor and glory.

I am humbled, awed, inspired, and changed as I think up on our great, big, glorious Creator God, the one who knit me together, who threw the stars into the sky, who sent the rhythms of the season to spin, gave up his most precious gift, his son, for dirty, broken, sinful me (and you).

Christ has come!
Emmanuel, God with us.
Rejoice and be changed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I have been dreading this moment for months. Officially for 7 months, unofficially, for just about a year.

This afternoon, our family said goodbye to our dearest friends. I said goodbye to my dear friend of many years, Anita and her husband Bryan and their three beautiful kids Elijah, Faith, and Mercy. They're not dying or mortally ill, instead they have been faithful in following the call God has put on their heart to run an orphanage for HIV/AIDS orphans in Maseru, Lesotho, Africa.

The Geurink kids with my kids. From right: Eli [7] Josh [6], Faith & Katie [5], and OG & Mercy [3]. 

And while the calling is great, the emotions of it suck. Anyone who has ever said goodbye to someone for a long time understands what I am saying.

Thankfully, our final time together (their whole family spent the night at our house last night) was not filled with sorrow and the bitter gnashing of teeth--no, it was filled with sickness, two lost teeth, stitches, and lots of laughter. I really love these friends--that even on this day, it was just life as usual with kids and messes and food and discipline and stories and needs and lots of humor. In fact, as we were saying goodbye, my youngest daughter (also the one who received stitches earlier that day) almost pulled my pants down to my ankles.

But still I am filled with many mixed emotions.
1) I am so proud of my friends. Bryan and Anita, you two have displayed extraordinary courage and grace in the midst of a difficult time of transition and planning. You have always been confident of knowing this was God's will and stood firm behind that. There have been a few nay-sayers (and in the early days, I was probably even one of them), but you have accepted this call knowing full well that God is in charge of your life.

2) I am sad--I will miss these friends dearly. Why these friends more than others? Well, all my friends are precious. But Anita and I met many moons ago across a table at Knollcrest dining hall. We were roommates in college, she a bridesmaid in my wedding, neighbors for four years, I was present for the birth of two of her babies, she present for the birth of two of mine. We have shared family histories, stories, many laughs, and many tears. She is the one who dropped everything and rushed to my side when we had to take OG to the hospital after she fell and hit her head. I was a blubbery mess when I called her and she called her husband home from work and drove from 30 minutes to sit with me in the ER. And both of us acknowledge that is exactly what friends do.

3) I am excited for the adventure this young family gets to go on. Come on, they're moving to Africa. is there anything cooler? More life-changing?

4) I am jealous. God has called them to sell everything and follow him, which they have done faithfully. He hasn't called me to anything like that yet. This time of saying good-bye has also made me come to terms with God's calling in my own life, and being content with whatever it is. Even if I am simply a home-schooling mom in a city.

5) I am concerned with the reality of life in a 3rd world country. They aren't prepared well for such a thing. I pray that God gives them strength for the many bumpy days ahead.

Luckily, regardless, I have great hope. We are united in Christ. Whatever happens I will see her again--whether in a few years as is our family's plan to visit, a few more years when they plan to return stateside, or in heaven as might be God's plan.

As is my prayer for them:
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6).

Have safe travels, my friends. You are deeply loved.

 P.S. To the rest of you, check out their blog Our Beautiful Mission. If you want to read about what has brought them to this place, click here.