Balance

I find myself in the space between a wind tunnel and a vacuum. There is so much life happening, represented by air waves flowing through the sieve.

The deep cavern in my heart is longing to be filled more and more, and to belong. I’m celebrating my oldest son’s sixth birthday today and tomorrow. I gave him some screen time while my husband and I were prepping things for his party tomorrow. He chose to listen to some worship music. I am grateful the seeds I’m quietly sowing are bearing some fruit. I’m not bragging. Daily, I’m brought to my knees for some reason or another in motherhood. This same child asks me, every night, to worship God with him.

God has used this time to hold me accountable to praising Him. He also gives me a chance to speak into Micah’s life. We can have deep and uninterrupted conversations. Micah has been wanting to listen to the names of God lately. So we do. But then I get to remind Micah that the same God created him. I asked Micah if he knew what God thought of him. He said “He thinks I’m sick.” I asked Micah, “Sick as in awesome, or sick as in blechhh?” He giggled and said “the first one!” I hope my children feel this way their whole lives.

We don’t win God’s approval by being right, or perfect. We talk a lot in our home about being righteous before God, meaning that we are won over to His ways, wanting to be like Him, and repenting of our sins. When we pray at night, I ask God to forgive me for my sins. I ask God to forgive my children for their sins.

My son is still learning how to pray. I help him by talking him through a framework. You can use it too. It goes like this “Praise God – tell Him what you think of Him. Tell God what you’re thankful for. (Pause for your child to answer in-between each thing). Is there anything you need to say sorry about? (Pause.) Do you need God’s help for anything? (Pause.) Who else needs some prayer?” (Pause.) NOTE: When I’m praying out loud with my oldest son, my prayer follows the same framework so he can hear it too.

When my kids are two, they repeat after me “Dear Jesus, thank you for today. Help me love you and other people better. Amen.”

At three, they are saying what they are thankful for also. And we build from there.

I was talking with a neighbor yesterday about how I want my kids used to a pace of life in which they can accomplish much, but also stop to smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t want us running. I want us to sit down to family meals together. And have time to clean up after dinner, to soak in good books, and have time to pray and worship at night without hurry to get to sleep to meet a super-early next day. I want my children to soak in the Word and to find truth beyond the world, to be able to slice through modern philosophy and know reality based on what they can’t see with their eyes.

So now let me come back to the cavern in my heart. As a non-native Californian who is far in distance from family, birthdays have a sadness to them for me. For my son, I hope he’s filled to the brim with love. But I know who he misses too. And I’m not lacking love whatsoever, but I definitely know who I’m missing.

But in that space between a vacuum and a wind tunnel, the Almighty is calling my name. And I feel the greatest depth of belonging there. There is no cavern He leaves empty. There is no hole He doesn’t fill. I have deep and eternal significance with my Creator. And I hope this is the same endless acceptance and approval my children and husband and family and friends feel their whole lives too. There is no greater feeling than that. And this love exists beyond death. Love is stronger than death.

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Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!