Thoughts on Christmas

Several weeks ago at the peak of my favorite season, I took a walk with my three year old nephew and inhaled deeply – that earthy scent of the woods in November. “Do you have a favorite season?” I asked him.

With no need hesitancy whatsoever he immediately replied, “I don’t really like winter, but I LOVE Christmas!”

Yes, Calvin. Christmas was always my favorite too. The first Saturday in December, the more mature and responsible of our clan traipsed through the woods, down the sidewalk in the borough of our little town, across Main Street, and entered the doors of the local fire hall where the annual flea market held, we knew, hidden treasures. Our task was to find just the right treasure for each member of our family.

We dispersed amongst the vendors’ tables, careful to avoid another sibling within the same row. Somehow we returned home with our secrets still secret.

A tree had been chosen, with much input from little people, by the patriarch of this brood. An entire afternoon’s work, this group went out to visit two, perhaps three tree farms to discover the one. Sometimes snow would fall, and Dad’s giddiness bubbled over and rubbed off on his children, and all was right with the world. Lights and trinkets were hung, some old, some new, some handmade, some re-made. It was glorious.

After all the hustle and bustle of Advent, Christmas Eve finally arrived. Sleeping bags were unrolled in the living room by the tree, Dad’s guitar strings sang with his fingers into the extended hours of the night, then several rounds of “goodnight” and giggles and shushing ushered in the silence and the million minutes it took to fall asleep because of the exhilarating sounds of more wrapping coming from Mom’s bedroom. (I don’t think she truly ever got to sleep on all those Christmas Eves.)

We woke before dawn, not being allowed to wake Mom and Dad before a certain time. We played rounds of Uno take up time. There were hilarious conversations between brothers guessing what was in their stockings. There were Frosted Flakes offered one morning a year which were gold on the tongue as opposed to our normal Grape Nuts or Cheerios. There was the delight of passing out those carefully purchased treasures while the Manheim Steamroller cassette tape reeled in the background. There was love. There was cheer. There was joy.

Ah yes, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. It’s around this time that we find ourselves hanging stockings, hanging lights, baking cookies, licking batter from our fingers, and all the while whistling little familiar tunes that we’ve heard sung our entire lives. And here we are tonight, gathered to hear some of this Christmas music and sing some of these carols again.

Why do we sing Christmas carols? Well, we sing to celebrate what has already happened. We sing to remember what he has done! Hark! The herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king! Here is the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay, the holy infant so tender and mild, the babe, the son of Mary.

But we know there’s much more to it than sleeping in heavenly peace. After all, there’s a reason the Son of God became a son of man.

Listen to what we sing:

  • Long lay the world in sin and error, pining.
  • Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.
  • O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

Tim Keller says, “Christmas is telling you that you couldn’t get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you.” And come He did. So we sing!

  • God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day, To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray.
  • Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
  • God and sinners reconciled!
  • Shall we still dread God’s displeasure, Who to save, freely gave his most cherished Treasure? To redeem us, he hath given His own Son from the throne of his might in heaven.

For some of us, we truly delight in this joyous season! There is the magic of a white Christmas, the soft reflection of lights on a rain spattered window, a mug of hot chocolate by a fireplace, kind words between siblings and for a few sweet moments there is peace on earth! There are quivers full of children, a first candle on a birthday cake, a 100th candle on a birthday cake, true love, a 100% on an AP essay, a brand new driver’s license in hand, a really great book, a new house.

But… maybe you don’t have childhood Christmas memories like mine and you don’t even want to hang any lights, and there are still Christmas trees that shed half their needles on the floor when you first bring it home from the tree farm, and children who argue over which tree is the tree and someone comes home a bit cross. There are still sniffles and fevers, loss of hearing, loss of eyesight, loss of memory, cancer, seizures, disability, depression, fatigue, aging parents, aging self, not enough daylight, a friend who moves far away, car accidents, the empty chair at the table this Thanksgiving, the chair you wish would be empty, empty wombs, empty words, empty hearts, and sin… oh sin…

So why do we sing? Well, we sing to recognize our sadness in this world tainted with sin. 

  • And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…

Does that feel like you? Yes, there is sadness, and

  • Jesus came to earth to taste our sadness, he whose glories knew no end. 
  • Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, all for love’s sake becamest poor. 
  • He came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all, and his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall; with the poor, and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.
  • Mild he lays his glory by.
  • Nails, spears shall pierce him through The cross be born for me, for you.

The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

I have a picture from a few Christmases ago. My brother sits on the sofa near a woman, the wife of another brother, with my daughter wedged in the middle. A caption reads “(Not a real family)”.

If someone had taken a snapshot of Mary and Joseph and Jesus, perhaps it could have been captioned “(Not a real family)”. Or maybe that’s just what everyone was thinking as they walked down the street. After all, Mary had never actually slept with her husband Joseph. She had never actually seen the face of the baby’s Father. Joseph pretty much adopted this baby that his wife was bearing even though she was apparently a virgin. (I don’t exactly envision Joseph sitting on the front stoop, smoking a cigar with his buddies who are smacking him on the back with congratulatory remarks, like, “Atta boy, Joe!” Or “Way to go, Buddy!”) Come to think of it, the baby himself had actually been sent away from heaven by his Father.

Not exactly the warm fuzzy picture you want to wish for anyone on his day of birth.

But sadness does not have to mean hopelessness.

And that is exactly what makes this birthday so absolutely wonderful and breathtaking. We wouldn’t want this to be a “normal” birth story, or a “normal” family.

Immanuel – “God with us” – was no “normal” man. Who else was born with the purpose to save His people from their sin? To shine a Light into the dark world? To help those of us who are single moms, lonely dads, adopted children, children who are waiting to be adopted, hurting spouses, couples who yearn for a child, people who yearn for a spouse, widows, widowers, people who have had lots of lovers but have never known love? To redeem those of us with unmanageable mortgages, addictions, angry children, no jobs, no joy? (Maybe God had some insight as to what “normal” would look like in 2019. After all, He sympathizes with us in our weakness, yes?)

God was born. And because of it, a “Real Family” was created. A family in which He is the brother of all who believe that “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.” And if you know Him as your Brother, you know His Father as your Father.

As I have grown into the body of an adult, I still love Christmas. But I understand a little more that a Christmas tree means nothing without another tree, one that is shaped as a cross and has no shining lights, but the shine of blood dripping under rusty nails.  And it is erected in the Spring, not amidst the fallen snow.

Jesus came to taste our sadness so that we can feast on his joy.

So I better understand why the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay became a man of sorrows on that tree of affliction, but where, O death is now thy sting? as he arose a victor and with his saints he now reigns forever. Those third and fourth verses of Christmas carols can be sung louder than the first, because, of course, Easter is what Christmas is all about.

From Hebrews: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Somehow Jesus’ joy was greater because of his suffering.

Do you think Jesus gets excited at Easter, like a little kid on Christmas Eve? I can’t wrap my mind around the joy he must have remembering that day. Of course his joy is every day, but this day must be absolutely amazing!

And if this Jesus is your Savior, then his joy is your joy, because he tells us in John 14, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,” and Psalm 16:11 promises that we will be filled with joy in his presence.

Why do we sing? We sing the gospel, the good news, the story of redemption in these carols. We sing of the joy, we sing of the sorrow, and we sing of the hope that is to come!

  • Dearest Lord, thee will I cherish. Though my breath fail in death, Yet I shall not perish, But with thee abide forever There on high, in that joy Which can vanish never.
  • No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.
  • Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow…

David Mathis writes: “You have sorrow now,” says Jesus, “but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). When we see him face to face, our joy will finally be full and unencumbered. And it will be indomitable. No one will take your joy from you.

So go ahead and string up those lights. Pop a cork. O Come, All Ye Faithful, and hear the tidings of comfort and joy. Take your cue from the angels and sing! Come and see what the Lord has done! Wait and see what the Lord will do. Because some things are worth celebrating. And some things are absolutely worth waiting for!

Originally written and spoken for a gathering of women at Brick Lane Community Church for Christmas 2019.

Rejoicing Always

I stood on the porch in the chilly morning air and watched the boy saunter like a ten year old down the sidewalk, heading east, the bright early morning sun silhouetting his hands tucked into Philadelphia Eagles gloves and clutching the camo lunchbox. His step was light despite the heavy book bag stuffed with homework notebooks and his football he wants to share at recess so the boys can play for a precious few minutes of outside time.

 

We had been talking about Jason, who’s birthday party he’ll attend on Saturday, and the things Jason likes. As he rounds the corner with a bounce in his step he yells, “Oh, and he likes the Broncos!” 

 

“The Broncos? Boo!” I teased back, and he chuckles with that smile on his face I look for each day since he began school, telling me he’s gonna be okay. He rounds the bend and waves before disappearing behind the bush that takes him down the hill to the bus stop.

 

As I walk back into the house, his Bible lays put aside on the couch cushion where we sat ten minutes ago reading the last section of Psalm 119. Tim Keller’s The Songs of JESUS has been helpful, and I only rediscovered it after we had rehashed David’s loving of God’s law days in a row, both thinking, “Ok, this is good, but we get it already.” Today’s reflection reminded us of the importance of meditating, memorizing, and following God’s law. “We are to do this morning and night without fail.” We both looked at each other with the sheepish grin of failure. Oops. How are we doing with that?

 

He told me the post-it notes I left in his lunchbox are helpful. He hung one in his locker, so every time he opens the locker door he sees it: Pray continually. The other day he forgot his library book to return, and when he opened the door, he remembered to pray about that. The other post-it note he threw out because it was saturated with water from the ice-pack in his lunch box.

 

Some kids are hard to get along with. Some are annoying and throw erasers at his face. Some chat too much or say stupid things. But some he calls friends now. One boy was ultra-quiet at the beginning of the year. The first day, Ethan noticed him and said something like, “You don’t talk much, huh?” Now, Nathan is a “cool kid”. Not like a “kool kid” (bad), but he’s cool (good). 

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“He doesn’t interrupt me when I’m talking. He listens.” Yep, that is cool.

 

And tomorrow Nathan will join him at the birthday party. Just the two of them and their friend Jason who turns 11.

 

He’s growing up. He’s learning to adjust. I remind him each day that Christ is in him. And He is. It’s obvious to me that He is by the things he confides in me about, the things he cares about, the things that bother him and the good things he notices about other kids. For this I am grateful. My goal is to Rejoice Always, just like the post-it note reminded him that he dscarded because it got wet on the ice pack in his lunch box, next to Pray Continually.

 

I guess I’ll just write another one.

Still Learning

One hundred and eighty plus school days behind us, another year takes a wrap and we’ve pulled out the beach towels and flip flops. Summer’s sweat refreshes, a new tube of anti-frizz has already been utilized, and whoopie pies are on the menu as a celebration welcoming this season of farm markets, backyard barbecues, and tiki torches.

I learned to share this year. First year down in public school and we became accustomed to saying goodbye each morning, me catching their shadows waving through the bus windows as it drove past the house, and me blowing kisses with one hand from the front porch in my pajama pants and holding a coffee mug in the other hand.

I learned to trust The Sovereign Lord with the lives of my daughters as He commanded His angels concerning them. (I pictured those Angels’ feet shuffling along while they fought to keep their wings hovered around those children as a hedge of protection while the girls obliviously went about their days.)

I learned to pray. Not one day went by that as the bus drove by and beeped I didn’t breathlessly whisper help for them, dumping extra interceding on the Holy Spirit’s agenda as He turned my groans into whatever my words could not express.

They learned this year, too. Language Arts, the eukalale, Everyday Math…and they learned how to make new friends, brush off hurts, realize real friends, know compassion, love their neighbor, lean not on their own understanding.

And yet the learning does not take a break for these hearts of ours. We’re still as fragile as a delicate China teacup that has been chipped and carefully glued back together.

But we better know the hands that hold the delicate teacup(s) – the same hands that carefully glue it together when it chips. Those are the hands that gave us faith to learn this year past. And they will with certainty give us faith (and glue) for the year ahead.

I write these things to remember, as David did, the wonders He has done, and to proclaim His marvelous deeds. He parted the Red Sea and He paved our way through our first public school year. His love endures forever.

A Good Friday

I’m digging through my recipe box for Great Aunt Edith’s pineapple stuffing. The morning light was a soft sunshine yellow that somehow suddenly morphed into a dark, sobering gray. Wind now forces the rain sideways in gusts. The content sounds of a child flying his paper-made Star Wars ships waft up the stairs.

Last night we had a family discussion about how we might feel on this day, this “Good Friday”. It’s a loaded topic.

More than two thousand years ago, on the eve of this same day, the outlook for followers of Christ was bleak. Jesus had been arrested, taken before Pontius Pilate, beaten, mocked, spat upon, disowned by his own friend, even. A murderer was chosen over him to be released. In his weakness he was forced to carry his own cross but couldn’t do it, so someone else was forced to carry it for him.

And this day, this Good Friday, forces us to remember why it all happened. Thousands of years before that, someone in the Garden of Eden gave in to the lies set up before him by the serpent, and every day since then every single human, created by God and for God, has been driving nails into the hands and feet of Christ. It’s a wonder we’re not jolted by the sound. Yes, that includes me. I am guilty.

But that same day, as Jesus’ mother wailed and lamented in the crowd of onlookers, a thief was forgiven and welcomed into paradise. As the curtain of the temple tore in two, many holy people who had died were raised to life. Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” And He also cried out, “It is finished!” And the Father, who turned His face away from His Son, made His face shine upon believers.

Sorrow? Yes. Grief? Yes. Joy? Yes, joy, too.

I’ve found the pineapple stuffing recipe. The 3×5 card has an oily butter mark in the corner. (Lots of butter, a pinch of cinnamon…) It is placed aside for Easter feast preparations which will take place tomorrow. I dig in the closet for my umbrella – black with little bright red cherries on it. I can’t help but smile. Black, for mourning over sin. Red, for the blood Jesus spilled out for me. I open it and step off the porch and rain cascades down all around me, washing away filth and giving life.

This Good Friday is full of emotions, but mostly I am thankful. So, so, so deeply thankful.

(I later got to celebrate The Lord’s Supper at a 2:00 worship service. I knelt next to my eighty-four year old mommom, and my dad served us the bread and the wine. On Sunday, the third day, we’ll eat another feast together, celebrating our Lord’s resurrection. But the best part is knowing we will one day feast with The Lamb. I don’t think Mommom’s hands will be wrinkled, nor Dad’s hair gray, but I just might still bawl like a baby – in thankfulness, of course.)

Crockpots, Candy Hearts, and Mercy

A husband and wife had a vision to look after widows in their distress on lonely Valentine’s days and went running with it. They decked out their home in pink and red and roses and pasta. Year after year the group of widows expanded, and that’s how we found ourselves recruited as part of the team that powered up an army of crockpots this last frigid Valentine’s Day.

Amazing how crockpots have enabled us to serve a hot meal, and how men dressed in trench coats can brave the cold to valet and usher in women and serve them hot tea, and how children can respect their elders and take their orders and refill drinks, and how my husband can sit himself at a table of older women and have a conversation around centerpieces of conversation candy hearts. (Don’t worry, ladies. He belongs to me.)

And how each one thanks you generously as they head to their cars already started up for them and waiting by the front door, and they ask what’s my secret to keeping the lemon bars from falling apart. (And I’m a little embarrassed to tell them that the secret is in the box of Krusteaz, and that anyone can dump a bag of frozen meatballs into a crockpot and it was almost too easy to be called “sacrifice”.)

Because each of these women, despite being left alone, finds a way to not stay alone, but serves her church and her sisters wholeheartedly, and the blessings drip off of them onto me. Two are my children’s Sunday school teachers. Some are mothers of my childhood friends who at times fed me and loaned a sleeping bag and pillow for sleepovers. I sat next to some in Bible Studies past and shared prayer requests. My own Mommom was amongst them, a woman who helped raise me in many ways and now slowly shuffles to her seat hanging on to my arm and whispering to give her little bag of favors to my son who was hovering in the corner trying to find his purpose in life. And others who grace the church with the presence of their stunning gray crowns of wisdom as they visit each other, make meals for new moms, and pray faithfully from their rocking chairs when it’s just too cold to get out for prayer meeting.

Amazing how you can sometimes try to be merciful, but then you realize you are the one who was shown mercy.

Thank you, ladies, sisters, for being an example of what it means to love the Lord as your Husband, whether your earthly husband has been gone three months or twenty-two years. You will surely enter those pearly gates hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servants”. Until then, thank you for your long-suffering and perseverance that allows time for others to come to know this Husband to widows, Father to the fatherless, Savior of sinners, who loves to shower us all with His great mercy.

Goodnight, Spring.

Hush, Spring, hush,
Just a little while longer.
Mother Winter has fluffed her downy quilt
And kissed and tucked you under.

Hush, Spring, hush,
Stay beneath that blanket, white,
Soft, warm, clean and fresh,
Magic spell of sleep, delight.

Your eyes are drowsy, still,
Blanket’s folds around your chin.
Morning’s promise will come soon enough;
No need to rush it in.

Hush, Spring, hush.
Hear the soft sung lullabye
Of Winter’s pale voice whispering,
“Sweet dreams, Spring. Goodnight.”

I Can’t.

Jeering. Ridiculing. Hissing, even. I could see the glaring of the eyes and tongues sticking out in disgust even though I was upstairs.

Sibling love and sibling rivalry. There’s nothing like it.

Sometimes I let them “work it out,” and sometimes I yell. And sometimes, less often than I care to admit, I see it as a teaching moment. After all, I do love them too much to (sometimes) let them act that way. That’s the way that leads to hatred, and danger, and destruction.

The boy is brought upstairs in his fury. Self-control is not his strength. His chest heaves and his voice has reached decibels of rarity.

In patience, my voice is calm. Eventually his fury turns to tears. “It’s not fair! She’s so mean!”

“I know. It wasn’t fair. And it was mean… What if every time we did something unfair and mean to God, He just screamed and ran away?”

More tears. “You’re making me feel bad!” (Is a conscience beginning to melt?)

“But what if He did? Where would that leave us?”

He’s thinking (and crying).

“What does He do instead of screaming and running away? Isn’t His grace always bigger? Doesn’t He always forgive?”

“But I can’t!”

Some of the best words a parent can hear in a moment like this.

“You’re right. You can’t. I can’t. Which is why He’s done it for us. And then you know what? After He forgives us because we can’t, He gives us His strength so that we can.”

Teaching moment seized and utilized, the boy lumbers to his room in thought. A few minutes later he bounds down the steps with a few books in hand, sidles up between me and the mean one, and shares his blanket across our laps. His heavy heart has been lightened.

This morning, I find myself sharing an extra tiny kitchen. We’re both running late, both needing the counter space, breakfast, and the coffee. Early mornings don’t make us the prettiest people, and his words cut a little too sharp.

It wasn’t on my face, but you could see my glaring eyes and tongue sticking out in disgust anyway.

Sin. There’s nothing like it.

We kept dancing our fragile dance around our egg shells in the kitchen. Humility is not my strength.

He left for work. I finished packing kids’ lunches.

But sometimes, in moments of obvious mercy, it’s blaringly blatant that I’m loved too much to be allowed down that path of danger and destruction. By way of ritual, the Psalms are read before sending the kids off to the bus, and by way of mercy, calm and patient words melted my conscience.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.”

I can’t. But because of His “relentless, transforming, little-moment grace,” He has.

Teaching moment seized and utilized, heart lighter, sins forgiven, I am empowered to go and do likewise.

~ I’m thankful for the words from Paul Tripp and Psalm 65 this morning.

 

Brotherhood

The children marched through the door as they do each month, this time with remnants of glazed doughnuts still on their chins – a result of a field trip to a local Amish bakery on the way. As the elderly were assisted from their craft table into armchairs encircling the common area, the children were instructed to file around and shake hands. Some did so confidently. Others bravely fought bashfulness. Both the children and elderly alike.

I saw small hands, smooth with youth (and perhaps dirty under the fingernails), cupped in larger hands, wrinkled with years. Their fingernails were dirty once, too, perhaps.

The children sang loud “O beautiful, for spacious skies,” ignorant in youth, while several elderly mouthed along familiar lyrics with maybe a deeper understanding of the “liberating strife” in verse three.

I saw smiles from white haired women directed at the “precious children,” and the occasional nod of the head from glassy eyed men tired from life.

Poems recited by the children encouraged clapping from the older generation whose minds used to be sharp, and they knew it but couldn’t quite remember what it was they knew.

The children were instructed to “pick a friend” for the ring toss game. “Introduce yourself. Ask them about their family.” Some spoke louder than others. (Both children and elderly.) Some rambled on about something entirely unrelated to the question. Some conversations lasted a few seconds.

I saw small hands grasped by larger hands once more, lingering in their greetings. I saw awkward silence eased by a kind smile between a boy and a woman with nothing left to discuss. But in each pair of “friends” I saw the desire to communicate, whether by words or by touch. “I used to be like you,” the elderly thought.

Ring toss promoted comradery as teams cheered for each other. The children out-threw most of their team mates, who graciously accepted the limitations placed on their aged bodies. In the end, Old Ken and his young partner edged out Old Carl and his young partner in a tie breaker. Old Dean chuckled as he whacked Ken’s knee, “I thought you wouldn’t be able to do it!”

I heard laughter from the young and the old. And I realized the brotherhood spanning these generations, this creation made in the image of their Maker awaiting perfection and the frailty of life in young and old alike. I saw the mutual benefit of friendship – the children practicing respect of elders and valuing a gray head of wisdom, and the elderly remembering the joy of youth, anticipating the future gift of renewed bodies, and delighting in the innocence of children.

This brotherhood has nothing to do with America. It has to do with humanity, the need for grace, and the gleaming alabaster city of eternity, where each brother or sister of Christ (including this observer) will, in some way, get to be like children again.

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 

Snowed In With Jonas

The roads were striped with brine, and pick-up trucks roamed the streets, already flexing their plow muscles, all too eager to take on the first few flakes that dare fall in their path.

A large handful of people – the wise ones – find themselves sharing comfort and comradery at the library, stocking up on books and DVDs should the power go out and we are forced to resort to something other than streaming.

Everyone else has flocked to Redner’s in the American first world fear of running out of bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper.

Not wanting to be one of the five foolish virgins who forgot to bring oil for her lamp while waiting out the night for the bridegroom (otherwise known as “Jonas”), I’ve joined the crowd at the library and choose to rejoice at the coming storm. (I’ll admit I also felt a tinge of trepidation and followed like a mad sheep into Redner’s for just a few items I didn’t want to be caught without.)

Even the hater came home from work on Friday with a flutter in his stomach. Sure, he gets stuck with the shoveling, but – two feet? This could be fun. Swim meet cancelled on Saturday, church services cancelled on Sunday. We’re not going anywhere.

And we didn’t. Saturday morning shed light on the fury of the night, revealing way more snow than anticipated, and no, it’s not done. You would have thought it was Christmas the way the boy grinned and giggled and couldn’t wait to suit up.

Okay, kids. Waffles it is. (Good thing I got maple syrup at Redner’s.)

Some mornings are meant for reading. The kids found their cozy nooks and dove into the library stockpile and their favorite authors (currently reading some Cynthia Lord, Wendy Mass, and Stan and Jan Berenstain).

Lunchtime presented yogurt parfaits with homemade granola at the request of one girl. (BB’s had kiwi and blueberries. We are a rich country indeed.) Soup simmered on the stove for dinner, and in between there were a few games, more reading, and more banter in the snow.

Lest you think it was all fun and games, human tendencies proved true, and our snow day in this household was not all daffodils and roses. A loud and cheerful greeting in the morning will be taken as a curse. The pioneer boy’s early excursion in the 10″ of snow ended in tears and disappointment as he realized there might actually be something as too much snow for a short kid. The middle child, the one who loves comfort and warmth and predictability, took her first step outside and got snow in her boot. She promptly gave up. The other two began throwing snow in each other’s faces. Funny – at first. Then, not so much. Someone didn’t replace the toilet paper roll. The words of the reckless can pierce like swords. Someone carelessly brought in snow to saturate my formerly dry and cozy socks. Tightened online security locks you out of your own account. My book is not quite what I was looking for. Oh wow, we actually do have to shovel this snow…

But a new morning brings new mercies. Sunday morning’s sunlight sparkles on our thirty plus inches. We can’t see our cars, but God bless the neighbor who gave us a head start by blowing off our sidewalk. I watched him from the window, coffee mug in hand, while the sky was still pale pink on the horizon and solitude gave me a few minutes of peaceful silence before dawn broke like a bull through the hall. (The bull actually being the boy.) A few finches frolic in the bushes, thankful for the sun. Sister Bear made oatmeal for Brother Bear as she gave ear and he rambled on about his dream. There are more kiwi and blueberries, chicken broth, maple syrup, and coffee. And in a few minutes our family will gather together in an act of worship, laying down our human tendencies at His feet, thankful for forgiveness and daily bread, and the strength to shovel snow.

Lord knows we’re going to need it today.

References have been made to the Parable of The Ten Virgins in Matthew 25; Proverbs 27:14, 12:18; and The Shins’ brilliant line in the song New Slang.

 

Balance

Sometimes after a hard week God sees fit to balance it out with good. Small things, usually, but balancing, nonetheless.

The broken door to the van was fixed. Not in a few days, but a few minutes, rather. And not for a few hundred bucks, but zero, actually. Thank you, Mike Shoup. You have no idea what that means to us…

The “dreaded chiropractic appointment” for the girl with the injured knee was attended to by a doctor who not only saw the problem, but is oh-so-good with kids. (She may have complained about the exercises she is now required to do, but I secretly found her working on them by herself. That’s – amazing.) Thank you, Dr. Ryan. You have no idea how grateful I am…

A much needed weekend may have begun a little too early on a Saturday morning for the likings of this woman who will never be a morning person, but once the cup of coffee was consumed and the caffeine began to work its magic, the day turned for the better. I don’t believe in evolution, but watching my second-born cut three seconds off her back stroke in her swim meet today gives me pause. And even though my back was sore from sitting in the bleachers for three hours at a crowded meet, my view of the handsome sixth-lane timer watching his daughter swim the back stroke kept my attitude light.

Laughter from the children at dinner, even when Cobb Salad was on the menu.

Perseverance from my son with his homework, and help from his father who refused to allow me to be burdened with it.

The beautiful, squeaky sounds of a flute and violin coming from the girls’ room without prodding and nagging to practice.

A family board game that is finally not Chutes and Ladders and was actually fun.

They’re small, these things that make my life easier. And it seems silly to even think of them when things are going on in the world that should pull my spirits down like a lead ball chained to an anchor, sinking to the darkest depths of the sea. But these things were given to me as a gift. They have put the slightest weight on the other end of the scale to give me a balance – the reminder that He – my Father in heaven- still loves me. He has not forgotten me. He knows my weakness and frailty, and this week He knew I needed a little boost. Little, yes. But a boost, nonetheless.

Thank you, Abba. I would say you have no idea… but, it’s obvious you do.