Sunday, December 21, 2014

Traditions and Perspective.

Bee's first Christmas Cookie Creation!

"There's something about saying 'We always do this' which helps keep the years together...Tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts".
- Edith Schaeffer

Christmas is almost here! I read that quote the other day in my Advent study and it gave me a new perspective on all the different holiday activities we enjoy. I vacillate between feeling guilty for loving the Christmas traditions more than the meaning sometimes, or feeling silly for over analyzing what is meant to just be fun.

She always has so much fun with her mama.
I heard my co-workers talking last week about how unprepared they feel for Christmas, and I felt like I was missing something because I really don't have anything left to do. It's so strange having no kids at home this year...so much less hustle and bustle related to all the things we HAD to do before Christmas Eve.

Such a strange season of life. But nice.


Learning new things. 
I watch my daughter be busy- juggling her new job, dear little family and a toddler with a big opinion. I see her trying to squeeze in traditions and fun and Jesus and life into a short month, and it makes me thankful for all those moments we had. All the traditions that made her love Christmas. I am thankful for the blessing of those years of "bustle" that have led to this year of less "hustle". I think I would feel a sense of loss and loneliness without those years. I might not have appreciated this phase now if I didn't remember the insanity that was before.


Thankful for an idea online to make "Blessing Bags" for the homeless this year. Bee helped fill them up.
Yesterday as I prepared the "Cookie Decorating Factory" that would be my kitchen, I kept thinking about the memorial service that was happening for dearly loved grandparents of my husband. Steve was unable to attend and needed me at home, so we spent the morning celebrating two grand lives that changed so many. I have know these people for as long as I can remember and my favorite moments were hearing Grannie Anne's stories of the traditions that made up her life. And to think Anne and Earl spent 90+ years of Christmases here, loving and caring for whoever came across their path. It made me smile. And even more, that they were bound together in life for over 50 years, and left that earthly life within a month of one another- it pushed me to keep perspective.


Bee LOVES teasing! She KNEW it was one of each item, but man, did she get a kick out of trying to slip two in!

Perspective to embrace the season I am in, right where I am. To not wish for what someone else might have, or what I think I might want of this world, but to love whatever road God has drawn in front of me. This Christmas and every day, I can keep my heart and focus on the one thing that matters.

You couldn't be around Anne and Earl and not feel their satisfaction with a life well lived. I love thinking about them and the legacy they left behind. It makes my heart hurt to think I won't see them again here, but literally OVERJOYED to know that someday- we will be together again because we have all said yes to Jesus and His saving work.
Almost complete! Just need to add the bus fare to the rescue mission,  socks and rain poncho. Thanks for helping, little one.
It will be a strange Christmas of "firsts" this year. "Firsts" without some traditions and loved ones, but also "firsts" of new traditions and love and friendship. A Christmas to celebrate the One who makes it all worth it, the One who came to make it all right.

"The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a LIGHT has dawned." Isaiah 9:2
A very merry tradition with my girls has begun. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A very "Merry Christmas" life...

Love my people so much.
Christmas is almost here! So many things have changed over the 8 months since I last posted, and it's a comfort to know God has a purpose and a reason for all of it.

I have been enjoying the lights and traditions so much this year because I get to see it through the eyes of a precious toddler, and there just is no better way. There is something about the way a child views Christmas that makes it magical.

Bee has to kiss all her favorite ornaments when she comes to visit.
I am not talking specifically about the acts of Christmas time, or the presents and Santa, although those are pretty great too. I am talking about the feeling of festivity that surrounds this season for most Americans. Even in the hardest years we have had- lost loved ones or scandal or poverty- there is just SOMETHING about this time of year.

My mom always puts up the best Christmas lights, and only her great granddaughter can play with them!
In our bible study right now we are focusing on grace and the way it changes lives. One of my favorite paragraphs just keep resounding in my mind:
"Joy is at the HEART of God's plan for human beings. Joy is at the HEART of grace...The Bible speaks not just about our need for joy in general, but for that particular kind of joy which characterizes God. After teaching on the need for obedience, Jesus told His friends, "I have told you this so that MY joy may be in you and that your joy may be COMPLETE." (John 5:11) The problem with people, according to Jesus, is not that we are too happy for God's taste; it is that we are not happy enough." (Grace- An Invitation to a Way of Life pg 60; Zondervan by Willow Creek Association)

When I look at my grandie girl and all the beauty that makes up her little life, I realize that my tendency to over analyze or over criticize robs life of the sweet joy of simple obedience and perspective. Now, reality is- when she looks at the decorations and the Christmas tree, when she turns the pages of The Nativity book and bows her little head to pretend to pray...she's not the one who crawled around in the attic to find all those things, cut down the tree, decorated it or vacuums daily the pine needles that are never ending. But what could be my focus? Instead of the busy-ness and the effort, what could my heart rest upon?

"While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger...
There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people. TODAY in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said,
"May glory be given to God in the highest heaven!
And may peace be given to those He is pleased with on earth!" ...

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby. The baby was lying in the manger. After the shepherds had seen him, they told everyone...All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over. " - Luke 2:6-14, 17-19

Talk about someone who could have allowed the circumstances, the stress...the STRUGGLE of life rob her of the joy God has for us. Yet, she didn't. She pondered all that God was doing and would do..and it was a treasure for her heart.

Thank you, Father, for the constant reminder that if I do these things for YOUR glory and for my relationship with you and your people...there isn't a thing about the process of living, about the process of Christmas time, that can't be enjoyed. Thank you that you WANT me to overflow with joy, and you have commanded me to CELEBRATE. And more than anything, thank you for the birth of my Savior...for sending me Jesus, the Christ, the very best reason to have a joyful "party".

"Though the fig tree should not blossom
and there be no fruit on the vines...
the fields produce no food...
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will show great JOY in the God of my salvation. " -Habakkuk 3: 17-19
Jasmine's work Christmas party gave them a reason to dress up and look adorable. Red lipstick for the win. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"But this is your hour- when darkness reigns."

Tomorrow will be a day of celebrating and laughing, a time of family and friends and giving thanks for the ultimate gift of salvation. Some people won't think much of it, some will be brought to their knees in gratitude.

Easter Sunday. So important...but not by itself.

Without Good Friday, Easter Sunday would never have come. To have the city praising him and waving palm branches just a week ago, to Luke 22 and after...shame. That's what I feel. I know my fickleness could have lead me to be one of those in the crowd- a shouting, angry face.

We had the chance to attend a Good Friday Service this year, and as I listened to the accounts of Jesus' last earthly moments, the scripture reading and the medical accounts of His scourging and death, I kept thinking of something I read this week about grace. I have been doing a study by Kay Arthur, and she says throughout that when we are faced with our own sin, when we are ready to confess...we can choose to run to Mount Sinai, or we can run to Mount Calvary.

It's such a tangible idea, to run in one direction or the other. Both towards God, but with very different results.

The author said:
"Remember, it was at Calvary that God inaugurated the covenant of grace as He put to death His Son, the covenant Lamb.
Sinai was the mountain on which the Law was inaugurated as Moses "took the blood of the calves and the goats...saying "THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU TO KEEP". (Hebrews 9:19-20)
To run to Sinai is to try in some way to do penance for your sins, to do some sort of good deed to make up for failing God."

But grace..."grace is found at Calvary".(chapter 6 of "Lord, I Need Grace...")

Oh, how wonderful is that? We keep striving to BE better, to DO better, to try harder to stop being insufficient and weak...when, we will always be completely unable to satisfy the perfection God requires. Until we fall under the sacrifice and forgiveness of Jesus.

Wonderful, wonderful. This weekend is a sad time when you realize what it cost. But it is also the most freeing weekend of the year really, when we choose to embrace all that it stands for.

The pastor said at the beginning of the service to think on what the "Grave" means to us personally. The grave of Christ...and at the end He asked people to just shout out their thoughts. To hear older adults speaking of "grace" and "mercy", young little voices shouting out "forgiveness" and "joy".
I had thought of the word "love" when I pictured Jesus' grave, but as I listened...it was just impossible to see any one word or phrase that could possibly define it.

And that's what is so great about God's sacrifice- it's bigger, and better, and more complete than we can ever really understand. Thank you, Father. Thank you for being so much more than we can imagine.

Happy Easter, Friends. Enjoy your eggs and candy and family, while you lift your hands in praise to the One who gave you everything.
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:8-9

If you need someone to celebrate Easter with and are local, Thomas Jefferson Middle School will be the place to be at 10 AM Sunday. Be there and worship with us!
3000 NW 119th St, Vancouver, WA 9868

(Pics are just for fun- the last few weeks have been full of landscaping and gardening, of love and friendship. Hard things that break our hearts, good things that remind us tomorrow is a new day, and Jesus with us through it all.)