Thursday, December 25, 2014

merry christmas

To all our friends and family all over the world, we hope and pray God woos and wins your heart today with His mighty love for you. You are loved, you are treasured, because you are the joy of God's heart.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

the small and mighty power of Christmas

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know...his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms..." -Ephesians 1:18-20

Last night I told my children a story.

"What if you were in a burning building?" I said. "Imagine that you are about to perish, and you call me on your phone to ask for help. And what if I told you not to worry, that I loved you too much to let this happen to you, and that I would send you help. What if I said a baby was on his way there to save you?"

"That's crazy," said my Boy 2.

Oh, but that is the Christmas story.

People were far from Father God, perilously broken, and in danger for centuries. We were so bad off, that God sent a baby to save us.

It's a bit humbling. And perhaps it seems crazy, like my son said.

God's power is not limited by the smallness of the life He fills, though. He is still mighty and strong in the smallest vessel. Even housed within the the fragile newborn body of a carpenter's son, He rose in glory to defeat sin and darkness.

The hope that rises from that thought is brighter than all the Christmas lights strung from one corner of the earth to the other.

We are each one small life. We began as babies, and now we are people buying small tokens to put under Christmas trees, women waiting tables for tips, men typing away at computers, mothers kneeling beside beds in prayer, families gathering to mourn those we have lost, fathers pushing babies in swings, children playing in the snow, and people holding signs on street corners hoping for a hot meal today.

And yet. God sent a baby, and His power rose high above every other power, and it fills our life with hope that we, too, will rise one day.

God's Son came into the world, mighty to save. Now His Son sends us, filled with the might of His own resurrection into the world to do His will. That's what Christmas is all about; that's what life is all about.

May the crazy story of Christmas draw us all close to God's heart for the world. May God's strength and power fill our hearts with wonder and joy this year and ever after. May we be transformed by the powerful hope of Christ's call on our small lives.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

how to be the best mom in the whole world

Every night that I sit on his bed and kiss him goodnight, my ten year-old Boy 1 says the exact same thing to me:

"You're the Best Mom in the Whole World."

It always makes me smile, and I thank him, and I tell him I love him forever. I feel loved by him, and cared for in deep places of my soul because a boy whose whole world revolves mostly around the Dallas Cowboys, the Hobbit, and Dominoes Pizza wants me to know that I'm important to him. But after he says it, I tiptoe out of the room and try not to think about his words too much.

Because, I don't know, hang with me here, you guys: What do those words even mean: "The Best Mom in the Whole World"?

Clearly, I'm his only mom. So, it's hard to know if he has a good, solid perspective on how I compare to all the other moms in the world.

Let's be transparent here. I forget important stuff all the time. I get all snippy when it's time to leave and no one did what they were supposed to do to get ready to go (Just get in the car. Just get in the car. I don't even care. Just get in the car.) . I frequently feed my children non-organic food that probably has radiation or pesticides or GMOs in every molecule (Thank you, Jesus for these delicious chemicals. Amen.). I dislike all of my kids' sports activity 90% of the time (Can't they at least just play inside sports?). I never make birthday treats for them to share with their classes because that is too hard to do (emails, planning, allergies, baking, etc.).

The list of ways in which I miss the mark at winning mom awards is long, but I admit I don't know a mom who isn't missing it somewhere, so maybe we are all in this together?

I don't mean to be Debbie Downer. I'm a good mom. I try to be kind and patient. I clothe and feed my children daily. I tell jokes, sing songs at bedtime, and pray for them when they're struggling. I don't scream obscenities when they forget to do their chores, I never throw plates at their heads or call them cruel names, and I don't tell them to buzz off when they need something important. I love them so much that my chest aches with the weight of joy at the precious blessing they were yesterday, the charming characters they are today, and the amazing people they will be tomorrow.

But even so, it's times like this, when your kids love you just for being who you are, that you realize how much the ugly message of perfection has twisted its way into your soul.

Because before that boy of mine shot his loving arrow of hyperbole straight into my heart, I didn't know I had bought that big, fat, stinking, rotten lie that the Best Mom In The World meant being perfect.

And so the question begs to be asked: What does it take to be the Best Mom in the Whole World?

I think about that fair-haired boy-man softly sleeping on his pillow right now and I have to be honest: It took a million tiny moments for me to win his heart.

All I did was laugh at his jokes, kiss him every day, call him funny nicknames, write him silly notes, tell him I love him forever and God loves him even more, rebuke him when he was cruel to someone, ask him to forgive me when I was unkind to him, drive him to baseball practice, teach him to write his name, forgive him when he hurt one of my other children, bake his favorite dessert, let him play for five minutes longer sometimes, buy shirts that are his favorite color, insist he learn some things the hard way, stroke his head when he was sick all night long, be an advocate when he couldn't defend himself, listen to a lot of talk about Matchbox cars and Legos and Pokemon and football and Transformers and other things I don't care much about, take his hand in the parking lot, push him out and away a little when he got too comfortable, raise his needs above my own, and hold the days as loosely as I could so that the years would come and go as they are meant to do.

I am a freaking awesome mom to that kid. And he knows it. I'm not perfect, but he doesn't expect me to be, because I've never expected him to be perfect, either. He says I'm good to him, I love him, and I take care of him, and that is enough for him.

The interesting thing about being the Best Mom in the Whole World is this: there are thousands and thousands of us out there. We forget it, though. Because we forget that love is enough; that God's love makes us enough.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law." -Romans 13:8

I think the most dangerous part of forgetting that is that we may unconsciously communicate to our kids that being enough is an impossible dream. If that happens, they may never recover their own souls from the trap of perfectionism.

It's easy to pass on our insecurities, and so difficult to embrace the beautiful truth that in Christ we are The Best People in the Whole World. We are the grace weavers, the love bearers, the faulted yet forgiven, the chosen ones who have been washed white and clean simply because we belong to Him.

It's almost too good to be true, the way God makes us the Best in the Whole World. But it's true. May we never forget it again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

deep cleaning and sold houses

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

When we decided to sell our house, we started a deep clean.

One Wednesday, while the kids were at school, I scrubbed the dirt out of the tiles down the hallway. I tried to imagine where all this filth came from as I worked. Four years of settled dust, crumbs from goldfish, soil from muddy football games, dirt from pet rolly polly habitats, and general grime bubbled up with the soap and then I wiped it away with an old, ratty beach towel.

This is the way it goes in life, isn't it? You live, you make messes, you clean them up.

I sprayed cleaner and scrubbed some more. I love a good monotonous chore in a quiet and empty house. My soul settled and I let my thoughts empty out into these rooms that shelter the people I love. Dark thoughts, cleverly stowed away long ago, tumbled out along with brighter memories.

I stopped scrubbing. The weight of my mind settled down into my hands and I sat back and closed my eyes, waiting for the moment to pass.

What do you do when the darkness comes? When it seems the lights have gone out, what makes sense of the silence? Where does light begin? How does time heal the old wounds that can't quite seem to get cleaned up no matter how many times we scrub and wipe?

I began to say what I know.

The Lord is my light and my salvationwhom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
(Psalm 27: 1-6)

Our firefly house, the magical home with tons of character requiring more work than we had anticipated, is now under contract. We will miss our big trees and fantastic location. We won't miss our big yard work days.

There is currently no house to move into, though. So much of our lives on earth is not in our own hands to hold and control. It isn't challenging to find new worries in this broken place.

And yet, we know that we are held by One who holds all things together by the power of His word. He holds us close by the mightiness of His grace and mercy that triumphs all our sin and sorrow. Worry is something we can drop at the foot of the cross.

The deep clean of my own soul continues as I box up books and linens, as Mr. Fantastic and I juggle decisions about where to live. We are the blessed ones, the children God leads beside quiet waters, the son and daughter of a Heavenly Father who has written our names on His heart. We are counted among all His creation, He has planned good things for our family.

The darkness is not dark to God. He is our light and our salvation. We choose thankfulness and faith and trust in all things.

Just beyond the dark horizon, a home full of songs of joy and triumph awaits us all. He will light the way for you and for me, and there is nothing left to fear.

Monday, December 1, 2014

advent: hearts filled by waiting

Last Saturday, seven happy and slightly sleep-deprived children woke up at the crack o' dawn ready to go outside to jump, shout, and generally whoop it up on the a trampoline in the backyard.

Four weary parents shook their heads and delayed the fun until a later hour.

"The neighbors are all still sleeping. You guys can go out in two hours," we said. {Because, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS, just shush for a minute, darlings.}

This wasn't popular news.

We were required to deliver this news 273 more times than we wanted to, because hope (and complaining) springs eternal in the hearts of children.

"Is it time yet?"

"Can we go out NOW?"

"Have we waited long enough?"

"Ugh! How much longer???"

"Why can't we go out yet?????"

At long last, I looked the kids in the eyes and said this:

"You don't get to choose IF you wait. You only get to choose HOW you wait."

And, oh my goodness, if that isn't exactly what my own heart needed to hear.

After all, today marks the beginning of Advent, and therefore the beginning of the time God's children wade deeper into what it means to wait for God to come into the world.

He came once, many Christmas mornings ago, and our hearts can scarcely hold their great need for His return.

We are those who long for Him, aren't we? And it is a fearful thing to wonder when He will come at last for the final rescue of our souls.

We are shepherds on a hill, cowering in the light of heavenly glory. We are a small, powerless girl with a womb growing wide with God's plans, yearning for the moment of delivery. We are the prophets dwelling in the temple, looking at baby after baby, seeking the One that will take away our sin.

There once was a baby who was delivered for our deliverance, and the depth of that can take years to fully sink in.

And so here we are again, celebrating Advent, longing for the God who has promised to dwell with us, but who we can't see with our eyes.

We don't get to choose IF we wait, but we do get to choose HOW we wait.

The angels give us hope, though, don't they? This is what they told the shepherds, the words I put above our fireplace to chase away the fear that there may not be not enough joy this Christmas:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."

There is good news for those who wait: The advent of joy will chase the fear away.

And, oh, how our longing deepens our belonging.

Advent is when we remember how far we were from God the Father before He sent His Son to save us. It is when we fill our hearts with the marvelous way He loves us. Advent reminds us to wait patiently for the appearance of the God to whom we belong.

Our family will be reading Ann Voskamp's advent devotional this year to set out hearts above Christmas lists onto the one who has listed our names in the Book of Life.

We will pop open the windows of a Trader Joe's advent calendar every day, then enjoy the sweetness of a tiny chocolate in the midst of the waiting for Christmas morning. We will cherish the knowledge that our God is the One who comes.

On Saturday, the passing of two hours took much longer than seven children wanted it to take. When the time came, seven rowdy kids ran out the back door, and we all exhaled with relief. At last, the waiting was over.

I don't know if the jumping was more fun because they had waited for it. I can't guarantee they learned to wait patiently that day. But when a fight broke out over who should get to jump first, some of them were astonished to find they had to wait... again.

This morning I sit with my advent devotional before me, a cup of coffee in my hand, and a stillness in my soul. After all these years, here I am waiting... again.

I am one who longs and waits for His advent all the days of my life. In desperate times, in dark seasons, in happy days of joy, and in days of peace: I want Him most of all. This will be the way my life will go for many, many more years.

Because I belong to the God who comes, what I want most every day is to be with Him, and in the end the fight will be won by a God who was born as a baby and raised to show me the way home.

I hope you find your heart full of waiting this Advent season, and that when Christmas morning dawns, you fins He has come for you all over again.