The Curse

I have not been able to put my thoughts on the Women’s March in writing yet.  I’ll get there but it is taking time.  In the meantime, I keep coming back to this piece I wrote years ago about Genesis 3:16-19 and my experience of being a woman…

It all seemed so exciting.
I prayed.
I practiced.
I waited.
The test was positive, I made the call.
He was dumbfounded but this is what we had been waiting for.

I was tired.
I was hungry yet nauseated.
Then it kicked.
Like the thrill of a first kiss
It did flips inside of me.

Suddenly, it was no longer an “it“ but a he.
I could not hide the smile on my face.
My growing belly contained a name, a human, a separate being.

Nine months I waited.
He grew.
I grew.
Stretch marks…
My body was bursting at the seams.

Then the day came.
It was time.
I was well prepared for this.
You are told to have a plan.
My plan included drugs.

I labored.
I felt pain.
My pain was relieved.
But in doing so, this stopped my labor.

The doctor pumped my body full of meds to try to move the process along.
It didn’t work.
The nurse stopped the flow of all medication to my veins.

Then I felt pain.
Like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The curse.

I felt the pain, but in some odd way
I was thankful for it.
It was my action that resulted in a curse.
Experiencing it first hand made me feel like
In some way,
I was paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

Hours later, the curse,
The pain
Was overshadowed
By the perfect being I held in my arms.
The miracle of birth, of life, of this boy.

My awareness of the curse did not last very long.
That time.

Still, every spring
I am reminded.

I plan and shop.
I till and weed.
I fill, and plant, and water, and feed.
Why do I not reap what I sow?

The sun beats down.
The weeds grow tall and numerous.
My hands are blistered.
My neck is browned.
The only thing that flourishes is poison on my land.

My miracle son comes inside at night
Filthy, from dirt and sweat, and heat.
His body is torn and bruised and the poison has found it’s way inside.
Bumps form, up and down his legs.
His arms.
His face.

And my fruit withers and dies.
The unripe growths that do form
Nourish the bugs, the deer, not my family.

There is no need for me to toil and sweat
In the dirt, with the weeds.
For I can purchase any and all food that
My heart would desire.

Still pulling the roots that run deep
Through my soil,
I feel as though I am experiencing the curse
And in some small way,
I am paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

Even still I am aware every now and then
When I think about my future.
When I think about my gifts
Of this curse.

I’ve been told since childhood
That my dreams would be limited.

“And he will rule over you.”
Period.

The curse.

Still, I take my sentence.
Dutifully. Like a man…
With my hands in a fist as I experience this side of the curse
In some small way,
I feel that I am paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

As I sit now and curse my nature
And curse this world
And curse this blasted curse
I am reminded that

An hour of pain,
A season of sweat,
And a lifetime of wanting more
Does NOT pay the price for what my sins have incurred.

My
Sins
Incurred
Death.

There is nothing I can do
To
Make
Things
Right.

Between me and the ground.
Between me and this world.
Between me and my God.

Because it was already done for me.
The price —
Death
has already been paid.

For me.

Happy Birthday, Jesus

When I was younger, every year on my birthday, my mom would look at the clock and tell me exactly what she was doing at that time on the day of my birth.

“Eight years ago right now, Dr. Anstey was making me walk up and down the stairs to induce labor.”

“Fourteen years ago right now, I was seeing your face for the very first time.”

I imagine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, would do the same thing every year on his birthday.

“Eleven years ago right now, a bunch of strange shepherds burst into our little room telling us amazing stories about how angels came and sang about your birth.  They came to see you, because you are the one we’ve all waited centuries for.  You, my sweet, growing baby, are the hope of this world.”

Maybe she still makes her way over to Jesus in Heaven and whispers in his ear, “2012 years ago right now, the inn keeper found some extra space in his stable.  Joseph made a nice bed of hay for me to lay in as you prepared to enter this world.  It smelled of donkeys, but I’m so thankful that we had a place to stay.”

I wrote this last year, trying to bring reality to the story I’d heard so many times.  Here is the story of Jesus’ birth as I imagine it may have really happened:

God had promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people.  Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be.  I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior.  They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this:  He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years.   People probably lost hope over the centuries.  They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.

Then one day God approached an angel.  “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding.  Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?!  This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years.  Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.

Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news.  Still they had to wait another 9 months.  The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come.  They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem.  But the wheels were set in motion.  Joseph and Mary set off on their journey.  They took their time and arrived about seven days later.  There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.

Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction.  The angels waited with eager expectation.  They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on.  “Breathe,” they chanted.  “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!

After much labor, He was born.  He was here.  God was on earth.  It was done.  Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife.  He would be beaten and bruised.  Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus.  He would have to work hard and study harder.  He would have to feast and fast.  He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders.  But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby.  As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.

The angels cheered!  God, in heaven, wept over the beauty that is new life.  Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die.  Over the pride he had in his newborn baby.

Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night.  Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration.  Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge.  Something big just happened.  The One that people had prophesied for years about was here.  The new King.  And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.

Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them.  It was a being of some sort.  Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them.  They were terrified!  What was going on?  The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke.  He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited.  He had to spread the good news!!!

“Calm down, don’t be afraid.  Shh, shh.  Listen up!  I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you!  You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!”  The shepherds stopped, stunned.  The sheep calmed, too.  They all listened intently to what this being had to say.  “Today, just now… He’s here!!!”  The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief.  “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem!  He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for.  He’s the Messiah, the LORD!  Go, find him!  He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in strips of cloth.  GO!”

ANGELS-IN-PRAISE

An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer.  They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing.  I assure you they did not stand still like a choir.  The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels.  They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration.  Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.

The shepherds stood in silence.  They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream.  “What just happened?” they asked each other.  “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said.  They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy.  They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.

Then they found it.  I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were.  And there He was.  “So, it’s true?  This is the One?  This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”

Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him.  This is God’s son.  He will save us all”

The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes.  What an amazing night.  Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!!  They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets.  They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them.  They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping.  They fell to their knees and started crying.  “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise.  You said that He would come and he is here.  You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said.  You told me.  You let me be a part of this night.  I will never forget this.  I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story.  May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all.  May it be as you said.  Thank you!”

Baby-Jesus-mary

And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in.  She didn’t get any sleep that night.  The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true.  She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart.  For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history.  A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth.  It. Was. Huge.

 

May God remind you on this Christmas Eve of the amazing things he’s done to save you.  And may you and yours be blessed this Christmas season as you celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Santa Update

Here’s a quick update on how life has been since the Santa Reveal of 2012.

I’ve had some positive feedback from people saying that their kids found out early too.  I’ve had some other feedback where most people are confirming my fears that it’s just way too early for my boys not to believe in Santa anymore.

I’ve tried not to get depressed about it.

Today our neighbor boys walked in the house, saw our Christmas tree and blurted out, “There is no Santa, YOU put the gifts under the tree!”  To which Randall replied, “I don’t come in your house and put gifts under your tree.”

Turns out they don’t have a tree. Their religion doesn’t allow them to celebrate Christmas at all.  That makes sense that his parents would tell him young that there is no Santa.  But I made sure to let them know that SOME people still believe in Santa and they can’t go around telling people he’s not real.

I asked my boys how they were feeling after The Talk the other night.  I made sure that they knew that sometimes adults tell stories about Santa, and not all of them are true, but when we tell you anything about Jesus, it’s always true.  “There are some things in life that you have to just believe in, even if you can’t see it.  Santa’s not one of those things, but God is.  I promise you, I’ve never told you a lie about God.  Every thing I’ve ever said about Jesus is absolutely true. And you can trust that.”

Isaac said quietly, “I still believe in Santa.”  That’s my boy.  Asher said, “I don’t,” loud and clear.  I told them they could believe whatever they wanted about Santa, but I was a firm believer.

And for the record:

This boy is on Santa’s nice list.

This boy is still to be determined.

 

Heartbroken

I am heartbroken. I’m devastated.

It happened.

Just like I knew it one day would, but it happened way too early.

My boys asked the question we, as parents, thought would one day come. We had an answer all rehearsed, but “the talk” never goes exactly as planned, does it?

The older neighbor boy exposed my boys to some information that they were way too young to hear.

I guess I should be thankful that they came to us to verify the information.

Still, I’m saddened that we had to have the conversation at all.

Randall took Isaac home from church on Saturday night. I had Asher in the car with me. We put the boys in bed and Randall and I got in bed ourselves and Randall told me that he and Isaac had talked about Algebra in the car. Three days later, Randall confessed what they had really talked about.

Isaac asked Randall the question.

I heard Asher ask Isaac the same question all week long. They must have talked about it at one point before Isaac got The Talk from Randall. I was in another room every time so I didn’t feel the need to answer quite yet, but I heard Isaac ignore the question three or four different times this week alone.

And then it happened. The boys and I were on our way out the door last night. Randall was holding Asher in his arms, saying goodbye, when Asher blurted out:

Do you think Santa is real?

Can you hear my heart breaking?

I replied quickly that Santa absolutely is real. His name was Nicholas and a long time ago he secretly gave presents to needy kids. And we keep his spirit alive every Christmas by giving to people we love. I confessed that Randall and I were the ones who put the presents under the tree, but Santa is absolutely real and you can tell everyone you know that you still believe in Santa.  I do!

We also mentioned that it’s a secret you learn, and you don’t get to tell anyone else.

Randall confessed that when he and Isaac had the talk in the car on Saturday, he told Isaac, “Don’t tell Asher, or your mom.”

It was a short conversation.

Asher accepted the news and went on with his evening. I dropped the boys off at my parents house last night and went to volunteer with my 11th grade girls at church.

My parents said they were asking the boys about Santa and talking about the elves and the boys seemed pretty quiet about it all.

I talked to my girls at church about it. We went around the whole circle and each told our memory of the moment we found out that our parents were putting the presents under our trees and signing Santa’s name.  It’s a defining moment in every kid’s life.  You never forget the moment you learned the truth about Santa.

I honestly had to blink away some tears.

I was told years ago to pay attention to tears. Your emotions tell you what’s going on in your heart. I’m really trying to figure out the root of my devastation of this simple conversation I had to have with my boys.

I think it represents the loss of magic at Christmas. I think it’s the loss of childlike wonder at it all. I think that conversation last night means the loss of a huge piece of childhood. As I listened to my 11th graders tell their stories, the majority of the girls were in third grade when they found out for sure. Isaac is in second grade and Asher is only 5! I am so angry at our 5th grade neighbor friend! He stole my kids childhood!

I don’t know how to have Christmas anymore. I don’t know if I should leave some gifts unwrapped (because Santa doesn’t wrap his gifts). I don’t know how to talk about presents with my kids. I don’t know if we should not visit Santa this year. I don’t know how to do Christmas!

I know there are a lot of Christians out there who never emphasize Santa because they fear that their kids will lump Jesus in with all of the other fictional characters we talk about.

I guess there is still wonder and magic and mystery about Christmas. I guess I can emphasize the truth about the indescribable event that happened 2000 years ago that we celebrate every year. Maybe I should be sad that we’ve never looked at the virgin birth of a perfect son who was fully human and fully God with as much wonder as we look at a fictional, albeit jolly man in a fuzzy red suit.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Santa. I’m his biggest fan! But maybe our Christmases are just going to be different from now on but not for the worse.

But for old times sake.  Here’s Santa through the years:

I’m convinced he’s the real one.

Just last year my boys sat in Santa’s lap as he read their cards and wish lists together.

 

<tear>   <sigh>

 

All Season Long

Christmas season is officially upon us. We are less than a month away. My Christmas shopping is mostly done. Each year I seem to take on a huge DIY project. This year is no different, but hopefully will take less time.

I’m always doing my best to slow down and take in every moment of the Christmas Season. I want to savor every moment of joy with my family, every second of magic and wonder surrounded by twinkling lights and glorious scents.

Christmas has always been filled with magic for me. Magic isn’t the right word. Not hocus pocus illusions, but wonder and awe and…

I think our speaker this weekend at church gave me the word for it.  It’s indescribable.

Ben mentioned that the word we translate as “indescribable” was used only once in the Bible.  It’s in 2 Corinthians 9 that Paul gives thanks for the indescribable gift of grace which comes through Jesus.

When the God of the universe became human… there just aren’t words to describe that event.

Why God chose to send his Son to die, so that we could live… the whole act is just… indescribable.

That’s Christmas for me.  I can tell you about the warmth I feel in the glow of twinkling lights.  I can tell you about the joy I experience when I see the delight in my boys’ faces.  I can tell you about the contentment I receive when I’m surrounded by family and friends in a number of get togethers that will happen in the next month.

But the whole of the Christmas Season; the magic of it all, is just indescribable.

So Ben reminded us to soak it up.  Chew our food, savor each moment, and enjoy it.

Christmas is busy.  Things have to get done.  Houses need to be cleaned and decorated, gifts need to be bought, wrapped, and given.  For me, savoring the moment means I’m going to view my favorite things about this season through the lens of the indescribable gift of Jesus.

When I’m decorating my tree with my boys this afternoon, I’m going to thank God for the gift that they are to me.  I’m going to remember how Mary, Jesus’ own mother, sat back, took in the moments she shared with her baby boy, and cherished them in her heart forever.

When I’m thoroughly enjoying baking Christmas cookies in my kitchen, I’m going to slow down and savor the moments.  I’m going to thank God for his provision.  Not only does he give me my daily bread, but sugar and butter as well.

As I shop for, wrap, and exchange gifts this year I’m going to remember the gifts that were given to a little boy that would foreshadow the reason he came to this earth.  And the ultimate gift that was given to me because of his life, death, and resurrection.

I am dearly loved.  And so are you.  And I’m going to bask in the light of that thought all season long.

 

Seasons

I’ve always had a hard time determining what my favorite season is.  It seems that as each new season turns, I welcome the change.  I dream of winter and the holidays and the family and comfort food that it brings,

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but when spring comes around, I am so ready for new life and flower buds and awakening trees.

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Everyone loves summer, right?  We get to play out in the sun and go on vacations and swim.

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But fall really must be my favorite.  It brings with it cooler weather (usually) and beautiful colors in the trees.  I absolutely love jacket weather, crunchy leaves, and pumpkins.

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Every new season brings the joy of change for me.  I don’t like monotony.  Though I know the benefits of it, I am not one for routine.

 

Asher started full day kindergarten today.

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He was so visibly excited and had no sign of apprehension.

So, now I find myself in a new season of life.  And I am full of possibilities… and apprehension, myself.

I was reminded to “run with endurance the race God has set before me” this morning when I read Hebrews 12.  But what if you don’t know which race you’re running?

People ask me what I’m going to do now that both boys are in school and I shrug and say, “We’ll see!”  God has given me some talents and passions and I want to spend my free time using those, but what will come of it?!  I don’t know yet.

I guess the verse says to run the race that has been set before you, not sprint to the finish line.  Maybe we don’t have to know which race we’re running, quite yet.  Maybe, in obedience, we just set one foot in front of the other.

I teach a class at my church and actually talk about the blessing it can be when God doesn’t reveal his big picture to us at the beginning.  If Paul had known what he’d encounter on the race God set before him, he may never have started.  Ship wreck, imprisonment, stoning, running for your life all to spread the news that Jesus really is who he said he was.  Even if God had just said, “Paul, you’re going to spread my story throughout the known world through a bunch of soldiers and other gentiles,” it may have been too much for him to handle the first day.

Today is my first day.  It’s new, it’s a change, it’s good and exciting.  But today, I’m going to write one word at a time.  Take one breath at a time.  Say one prayer at a time.  And tomorrow, I’ll do the same.

What will come of it?

We’ll see.

No Longer Her Son

As I prepare my heart for Easter I’ve been reading through all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion.  Because I am a mother, I can’t help but imagine the reality of the situation through Mary’s eyes.

 

Here it is, as I imagine it:

 

 

She didn’t even know how she had come to this point.  The beginning was miraculous to say the least.  The old priest, Simeon told her about the prophecies, but that was 33 years ago.  It seems like a long time ago, but it has been such a short time that she had with her son.

 

It was just hours ago that James, her younger son, came flying through the door in the middle of the night announcing that He had just been arrested.  Before she got to him he had been tried, and mocked.  Spit on and beaten.  She saw Pilate order him flogged.  She couldn’t bare to watch as the lead tipped whip thrashed against her son’s bare back, ripping the skin and muscles to shreds.  Maybe that would be punishment enough, maybe Pilate would convince the crowd to set him free.  But still he was sentenced to death; the most humiliating death on a cross.

 

She screamed, she yelled, he was innocent!  More innocent than any human who has ever lived on this earth.  He had done literally NOTHING to deserve punishment, much less death.  And she knew!  She was his mother.  Not once did she need to break out the rod with Jesus.  Not once did he ever disobey.  Not once did he make fun of his brothers, or make them feel inferior to his perfection.  Not once did he retaliate when others ridiculed him and poked fun.  He was PERFECT. 

 

So how did it come to pass that here he was, sentenced to death, beaten, mocked, bruised and bloodied, carrying his own weapon of demise down the streets toward Golgotha?

 

He stumbled, she cried out in pain for her son.  “Someone help him!  Oh God, please, someone help my baby!”  Then someone stepped out.  Removed the blood stained cross beam from his shoulders and helped him up.  “God bless that man, whoever he is.” She prayed.

 

John, Jesus’ closest friend found Mary in the crowd.  He held her up and walked with her to the hill.  She could barely support her own weight from the angst she carried for her son.

 

At nine in the morning, up on the hill that they call “Skull Hill,” a hill she had always avoided and never looked upon for fear of the gruesome events that happened there, her son was nailed to the cross beams and raised up onto the cross.  She watched in horror as her son suffered and struggled to breathe.  It was more than she could bare, she bent over and heaved onto the grass.

 

The soldiers placed bets and rolled dice for his clothes.  Even the thieves dying themselves on the crosses next to Jesus mocked him.  “So you’re the Messiah, are you?  Prove it by saving yourself!”

 

“Yes, Jesus, yes, no one would blame you.  Save yourself.  I know you can.  I believe you are the Messiah.  Show them!” Mary sobbed quietly to her self.  If she could, she would do anything for her baby to stop the pain.  But even she knew that as much as she wanted to take his place and make the sacrifice herself, or let her son live and show his power, it had to be this way.  No other death could do what Jesus’ sacrifice would do: save all of humanity.  It would free us all from the bondage of sin and death.  For our freedom, an innocent man had to die.

 

As blood continued to drip from his forehead, arms, feet, and back, Jesus saw her in the crowd standing beside his friend John.  He knew that her heart was breaking and since her husband had past years before she would need the support of another son.  “Dear Woman, John is your son, now.  John, she is your mother.”  Suddenly Mary realized, that he was no longer her baby.  No longer her son at all.  He was her Savior.   And not just hers, but the Savior of all the world.  It was a heartfelt offer both she, and John, would take.  From now on John would be her son, and Jesus would be her Messiah.

 

Around noon the sky went dark.  The atmosphere mirrored that of her heart.  For three more hours they stood with him.  At three in the afternoon, he cried out, louder that she thought he had energy for, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” And then, “It is finished.

 

And then, Jesus died with his beloved friend and mother in view.  Really, he died with us all in view.  With the weight of all our sin on his shoulders he breathed his last breath and gave up his spirit. 

 

The mocking crowd quieted at his cries.  “Surely this was the Son of God,” one of the soldiers said aloud.  When the ground began to shake, rocks split apart, people could not deny that this was no ordinary man.  The curtain in the Temple separating the holiest of holy places was torn in two from top to bottom in a way that only God, himself, could have done.

 

But that last shout that Jesus uttered rang in the peoples’ ears.  God has abandoned us.  We killed the Messiah.  Even Satan, the Enemy, thought he had won.

 

The Sabbath passed.  A day of rest that should have been celebrated, was a day of mourning.  A day when His followers had felt completely abandoned by their God.  They hid.  They made plans to move on.

 

Then Sunday morning came.  Mary cried all the way there.  She didn’t want to see his lifeless body again.  That bloodied and broken body was not her son.  But she would care for him one last time. She brought spices that she had carefully prepared to the tomb.  But Jesus was not there. Oh no.  He had risen!  Her son, no, her Savior, was healed and whole again.  God had won.  Satan was defeated.   Death was conquered.

 

Because of the sacrifice that Jesus made, grace and freedom now belong to the world.  Grace and freedom from sin, freedom to live life to the fullest potential is ours because He gave his son in the ultimate sacrifice… for me.

 

 

True Sacrifice

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Fact: Parenting is hard.

                                                And gross and fun and frustrating and wonderful.

Fact: I am imperfect.

                                                Oh, so flawed…

I am still learning how to parent.   I question if I’m screwing up my kids by not letting them do things.  I question if I’m screwing up my kids by letting them do other things.  Every day is a new experiment and quite honestly, I don’t know how I’m doing. 

Fact: My imperfection, as a parent and as a person, affects my boys.

                                                 Ugh.

 

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We learned this weekend at church that we should look to God as our example for how to parent.  We can take cues from how He loves us, and pass that love on to our kids.  God loves us unconditionally.  He loves us enough to give us rules and guidelines and we should do the same for our kids.  

But so much more than that, God loves us enough to sacrifice everything for us.  To give us grace and mercy and even to give up his own life for us.

When I think about that example and how I live up to it, I know I would give my life for my boys.  When they’re sick or hurt, it breaks my heart and I wish I could take that pain on myself to stop their suffering.  I would absolutely make the ultimate sacrifice for my boys.

But that’s not what is called of me on a daily basis.  My kids don’t need me to give up my life for them.  They need me to give up my selfishness for them.  They need my time.  They need my attention.  They need me to LIVE for them, not die for them.

Believe it or not, that’s a much harder sacrifice for me.

This blog was originally started as an online baby book for my boys, to record their milestones and remember them at each stage of growth.  It’s now a place where I am recording how much my boys have taught me and how I’ve grown.  But I pray that someday, Isaac and Asher will look back and read these words from their young mother.

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Isaac and Asher:  I hope you know how much I love you.  I hope you know I would do anything for you.  My goal as a parent is to love you well and teach you to be godly men who love others more than yourselves.  I hope that is apparent to you.  Today’s lesson in godliness is that you must give each other grace.  I am human and this whole parenting thing will always be new to me.  I have made mistakes and I will continue to make mistakes and I know that it is very likely that you will be in counseling one day because of the way I have parented you.  I am so sorry for that.  Please forgive me and please extend some grace my way.

 

God, I thank you for showing us how to raise our kids.  It seems counter-intuitive to say “no” because of our love, but it is evident that you love us by the boundaries you’ve given us.  You want us to live full, guilt-free, joy filled lives and the limits you’ve given us guide us towards that full life. I beg you to give me wisdom and help me to make wise choices when it comes to raising my boys.  I pray that you and my boys both will forgive me when I screw up.  Just as you forgive and forget our mistakes, I pray that my faults won’t leave a lasting impression on my kids.  May they be able to overcome my imperfection and learn from my faults.  But more than anything, I pray that You help me achieve my parenting goal, may these boys grow up to be godly men who put You and others before themselves. May I learn that lesson as well, and love my boys more than I love my own time. God, I cannot do this alone.  Thank you that I don’t have to.  Thank you for Randall who compliments me perfectly.  Thank you for a community of people who care enough about my boys to have the same goal.  Thank you most of all, for never giving up on us and for never once leaving us to do this on our own.

Imagine

Well, Christmas season is over.  I took down all of the Christmas decorations this week.  I sent my boys back to school today.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with my family this season.  I intentionally made my schedule less hectic and planned for time to just be with my family while they were in town.  Still, we kept busy.  We hit the Magic House and the Science Center and two Christmas Eve services, we celebrated Christmas three times in one day and hit the road 12 hours later for Oklahoma City to do it all again.

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In OKC we hit a lego exhibit and the lego store.  We shopped, we visited the Oklahoma City Memorial and museum, we played a lot of games and celebrated some more.  I stayed up way too late reading but slept in longer than I have in years. Over the break, I finished reading the book Havah: the story of Eve by Tosca Lee.  The fictional book is written in the voice of Eve, the first woman.  It was beautiful and poetic and haunting.  Though I’m not sure I agree with a few small points of the book’s theology, it gives imagination to a short story in the Bible and brings it to life as the reality it may have been.  It imagines the relationship between the first man and woman and their Creator.  But the part that haunted me most was the description of the DEPTH of the fall. We don’t even realize how far we now stand from how we were created to be.

That’s our problem with every Bible story.  We read the words and we commit them to memory, but we don’t give life to them by imagining the reality of the story.  That’s the problem with the Christmas story.  We’ve heard it so many times.  We know it backward and forward.  We can recite it in our heads in Linus’ voice “And the glory of the Lord shown round about them and they were sore afraid.”  This year, I got out four different nativity sets and played with them with my boys over the holdiay.  We told the story of Jesus’ birth in our own voices just like we’ve read it in Luke chapter 2.  It was fun.

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But can we imagine how it really must have been?  More than the words, but the sights, the sounds, the feelings?  I’m sure we have the nativity picture in our heads of a bright star over a stable and angels singing over shepherds but here’s the deal:  God promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people.  Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be.  I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior.  They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this:  He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years.   People probably lost hope over the centuries.  They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.

Then one day God approached an angel.  “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding.  Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?!  This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years.  Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.

Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news.  Still they had to wait another 9 months.  The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come.  They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem.  But the wheels were set in motion.  Joseph and Mary set off on their journey.  They took their time and arrived about seven days later.  There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.

Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction.  The angels waited with eager expectation.  They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on.  “Breathe,” they chanted.  “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!

After much labor, He was born.  He was here.  God was on earth.  It was done.  Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife.  He would be beaten and bruised.  Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus.  He would have to work hard and study harder.  He would have to feast and fast.  He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders.  But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby.  As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.

The angels cheered!  God, in heaven wept over the beauty that is new life.  Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die.  Over the pride he had in his newborn son.

Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night.  Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration.  Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge.  Something big just happened.  The One that people had prophesied for years about was here.  The new King.  And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.

Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them.  It was a being of some sort.  Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them.  They were terrified!  What was going on?  The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke.  He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited.  He had to spread the good news!!!

“Calm down, don’t be afraid.  Shh, shh.  Listen up!  I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you!  You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!”  The shepherds stopped, stunned.  The sheep calmed, too.  They all listened intently to what this being had to say.  “Today, just now… He’s here!!!”  The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief.  “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem!  He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for.  He’s the Messiah, the LORD!  Go, find him!  He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in cloths.  GO!”

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An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer.  They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing.  I assure you they did not stand still like a choir.  The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels.  They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration.  Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.

The shepherds stood in silence.  They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream.  “What just happened?” they asked each other.  “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said.  They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy.  They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.

Then they found it.  I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were.  And there He was.  “So, it’s true?  This is the One?  This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”

Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him.  This is God’s son.  He will save us all”

The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes.  What an amazing night.  Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!!  They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets.  They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them.  They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping.  They fell to their knees and started crying.  “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise.  You said that He would come and he is here.  You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said.  You told me.  You let me be a part of this night.  I will never forget this.  I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story.  May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all.  May it be as you said.  Thank you!”

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And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in.  She didn’t get any sleep that night.  The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true.  She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart.  For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history.  A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth.  It was huge.

And we recite the story in Linus’ drone.  It. was. huge. Much bigger than I can even imagine.

 

God, may we be surprised by your story.  May we never grow bored with the miracles that you have performed.  Give us a glimpse into the reality of your story.  You created us with an imagination, help us to remember to use it like children do on a regular basis.  And thank you for inviting US into your story.  Thank you for using regular people to spread your word and good news.  Thank you for giving us hope that we can be used in spectacular ways even though we don’t feel like spectacular people. You are the God of the poor, of the normal, of us.  Thank you for giving up Heaven and coming to earth.  May we never forget your sacrifice.  May Christmas always seem like a huge deal and something to celebrate with whoops and hollers and singing and dancing.