The best part of Christmas was of course cryptically telling people that we had to change our Christmas plans because my dad was in rehab and just letting them wonder. (It was a hip replacement people - my parents are teetotalers!) Seriously it was probably a blessing for us to go to the mountains for Christmas Day because it is closer to Cincinnati (our next destination) and we weren't staying in a hotel this year because of having to bring my elderly dog. My dad's side of the family came up to be there for Christmas Day, and with all the kids it wasn't much less chaotic than being with all my cousins as usual. Santa knew to hit my parents' house and not go to my grands' - after all the guy is kind of a stalker.
What's Christmas without a little craziness, right?
As a huge fan of the biblical story of Christmas I love this video! I have long said that the theology of most Christians comes more from plays and song than scriptures, and too few know what part of the Christmas story come from the gospels and what they actually saw on a Hallmark movie. I feel the tide changing in certain circles. This cartoon explains my feelings perfectly!
Thinking that I was so ahead of the game, I had almost all of the
presents we needed for Ohio in Ohio and all the presents we needed for
Christmas morning and my side of the family at my grandparents' house in
Roxboro well in advance of Christmas. Of course, nothing in my life
seems to ever go smoothly, so life threw me the curveball of needing to
bring our elderly dog on our Christmas trip and my dad needing hip
replacement surgery and being unable to travel at Christmas. After Jamie
calmed me down from my mini breakdown when I realized there was no way
we could get our suitcases and all the wrapped presents from Roxboro to
Canton, a 4.5 hour trip, we continued to roll with the punches! We had a
mini pre-Christmas with my grandparents and most of my aunts &
uncles, loaded the car with a lovely Sasha sized space in the back,
bungeed our suitcases to the roof, and prayed against rain! Everything
worked out fine, and we had a fun few days with the grands. My maternal
grandparents gave the kids some animal hooded bath towels, so Caitlyn
put on this monkey show for her dad:
Elijah was eager to help my granddad open his gifts. He loves his 3 great grandparents!
My grandparents also gave the kids scooters. Caitlyn has wanted a "real" scooter for a while and picked it up right away.
And this is what our van looked like!
Growing in patience and teamwork is a great Christmas gift, right?
Our church collects money each holiday season for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The money helps support missions work overseas. Last year was Caitlyn's first year in Mission Friends, so she collected change from around our house to give. Currently she is able to earn up to 25 pennies a week if she is obedient. At the end of the week she gets to put whatever pennies are left into her piggy bank. So for the weeks she had her Lottie Moon bank I let her choose to put some pennies in it instead of her bank. I didn't pressure her or tell her how much to put in and was pleased that she would share anything. On Sunday I watched tearily from the choir as the children paraded in to dump all their change together. Caitlyn's few cents may have been the worldly equivalent of the widow's mite, but seeing her give cheerfully from her heart was one of the highlights of my Christmas season.
Sunday night my Mission Friends choir kids performed their poem and song to start off the night. They are amazing!
Almost a decade ago I was asked to be a godmother by a single mom with a daughter I loved. Since then Kassy has been an extended part of our family. When I married Jamie he became her godfather, and the kids consider her a fun big sister. She has endured several emotional trials in her life and school career. I have seen others give up under similar circumstances, but Kassy persevered. We have been honored to encourage and help her along the way whenever we could. In turn her presence makes our lives better. Monday night was her high school graduation. On the same night they also conferred GED certificates. I was inspired by parents and grandparents receiving their degree after decades without one. I was touched by my children's good behavior and excitement over the ceremony. (Elijah loved clapping for everything.) But I thought my heart was going to burst when my sweet goddaughter walked across the stage in her cute albeit impractical shoes to receive her high school diploma.
Way to go Kassy! We know you are going to succeed in college and beyond. The world and our lives are a better place because of you.
Is your focus on the voice from the microphone or the voice of the King of Kings?
Sunday night was amazing. The handbells played, the youth choir sang, and the adult choir cantata went off with very few hiccups. Hearts were blessed, and we give all the glory to God. At such times we all wear black, walk in and stand just so, and minimize distractions. Soloist and readers are humble. We want the focus to be on God, not on us. And these things are all good and for the glory of God. But there was great concern among many that a choir member would leave in the middle of the performance. I get why that would be bad. When Elijah was a baby I didn't even sing in the choir our of concern
that my pager would go off, and I would have to slink out of the exit. I understand that Satan could use such a distraction to pull someone's heart away from a spiritual moment. But the fact that it becomes such a big deal for people has gotten under my spiritual skin and causes me to want to ask others the question I have asked myself:
Why is your worship of God so fragile that it can be destroyed by such trivial things?
If I am truly worshiping then although my focus may shift to the mother ushering her child out the back door, I will immediately refocus rather than wonder why they can't remember to "go potty" before the service. I won't be annoyed by the person texting (who is possibly using a Bible app) or whose cell phone rings or who never sings or smiles or that family who always walks in late for the service. My focus will be heavenward to praise and inward to seek His will for me. Too often we find people at which we can roll our eyes and think "there they go again" rather than looking at all that needs to change within our own hearts. Let's worship the King of Kings with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and it wouldn't hurt to love everyone in the sanctuary as we love ourselves.
One of my church responsibilities is planning the preschool Happy Birthday Jesus party. This year no Saturdays were available so we moved it to the Bible Study hour, making it super easy on me. Basically my job was to walk around looking as if I had done something while the Sunday School teachers did all the work. The children were adorable in the dress up room, sang their hearts out in the music room, and made a cute Baby Jesus necklace in the craft room. (Jamie was adamant that Elijah had made a necklace for me and not for himself.) I attempted to tell the story of Jesus' birth to the whole group using the kids' Veggie Tale nativity set, but between the little ones wanting to grab the pieces and Elijah wanting to grab me it was mostly a fiasco.
Caitlyn was in demand that afternoon as Daddy wanted her to help decorate our porch, my mom wanted her to help make Christmas cookies, and I had two advent crafts to complete. You can imagine that she enjoyed the attention.
Months of preparation culminated in a grand cantata Sunday night. The youth choir sang, handbells played, and the orchestra and adult choir shared the message of Jesus from our hearts. Jamie did a great job playing trumpet! It was so special to have my parents and other friends able to come worship with us that night!
To say I lost it yesterday would be the understatement of the year. Having gone to bed super late the night before because of choir practice, Caitlyn was exhibiting every bit of her 5 year old strong willedness. She vacillated between screaming and the silent treatment of acting as though she couldn't hear a word I said. I kept checking for earbuds and an IPod hidden beneath those golden tresses. I inconstantly jumped from taking pennies from her obedience cup, forcing a nap (which didn't take place), sending her to her room, yelling, and even smacking her bottom once. When we said prayers last night the kids and I had a confession time. I confessed my yelling and the smack (which to my chagrin Caitlyn said she thought had been funny) and prayed to do better today.
So this morning when Caitlyn started in with the whiny-screamy-fussiness I had a sudden stroke of genius. I looked at Elijah and said, "Get out your air guitar! Caitlyn's a hard rocker!" We started screaming things heavy metal style while playing our air and nose guitars. Miraculously it snapped her out of her funk all three times! Elijah's amazing air guitar ability was probably the key, but maybe I can handle being a mom after all.
Heard around our house this week:
When asked to make an animal sound, Elijah will intentionally make a different animal sound for comedic effect - class clown! He also says "good" and nods his head in an effort to get out of trouble and convince us of his (sometimes false) sincerity in striving to "be good."
Caitlyn: Mom, I know who I'm going to marry when I grow up - Elijah! But don't worry, you can live with us!
Caitlyn: (Responding to the Christmas song Have you seen that child?) Oh no I haven't seen that child. Where did you put that child?
Caitlyn: (Playing with her Lego men) This is the way we go to prison, go to prison, go to prison. This is the way we go to prison, early in the morning. (Later I heard her singing "President Obaaaaama" in her room. I can only hope the Lego men received a last minute pardon.)
Caitlyn often has me tell her stories while we go potty in public places. Last Friday I was making up a story about a child who learned not to be greedy at Christmas and was leading to what the real meaning of Christmas is. Caitlyn said "Oh! Oh! I know the best gift of Christmas! It's about Baby Jesus!" (My heart swelled with joy and pride.) "Jesus got the BEST Christmas gifts - Gold and Jewels!" (Maybe we still need to do some work here....)
Although I complete most of my shopping before Thanksgiving I do not do anything "Christmasy" until the advent of Advent. The first weekend of December certainly got the ball rolling! Friday Caitlyn and I went to a hilarious production of Junie B in Jingle Bells Batman Smells. On the way back we witnessed the wedding of some friends and brought their daughter home for a sleepover. I knew we had a crazy Saturday planned since I needed to make six lasagnas for the Youth Christmas party, but Santa and Mrs. Claus were in Harrisburg that night. (We go every year to the tree lighting with our neighbors to both avoid the mall and maintain Santa continuity through the years.) Just before we needed to leave, Elijah came up the stairs looking like this --->
I knew those marks were a bit too uniform to be self-inflicted and marched right downstairs to confront the girls. Caitlyn confessed immediately with the self defense or "But it was fun, and he liked it!" Now, I am not personally a fan of making a big deal out of the naughty or nice list, Elves on the Shelf, and things of that ilk. I have tried to emphasize that we do good for the sake of doing good and to glorify God. But I was so annoyed that my child would look like he'd been in a knife fight at his Santa pictures that I said, "You'll have to tell Santa what you did! He already knows anyway." Caitlyn replied with trepidation, "Is he going to put me on... the naughty list?" With a shake of my head I replied through pursed lips, "I don't know, Caitlyn... I just don't know."
In the end after scrubbing Elijah's face, the long wait in line, petting several dogs, and listening to Christmas carols I decided to not traumatize my child with a forced Santa interrogation. I let her hug on Santa and Mrs. Claus, eat kettle corn, and ride the horse drawn carriage. Afterwards we enjoyed a local church's "Walk Through Bethlehem" which culminated in a nativity scene.