Christmas Musings

Here I sit, basking in the glow of the Christmas tree lights on a quiet early morning. The kiddos are still abed, the Hero has left for work, and a bird is singing outside the window. It is 4 days until Christmas and as I enjoy my coffee and breathe a sigh of relief at having finished the Christmas shopping, I begin to muse…

I have a confession to make. Although we have bought & decorated a tree, made & bought & wrapped gifts, sung carols, read the Christmas story and watched the Nutcracker ballet, I do not feel “Christmas-y.” Yes, here I sit on December 20th with everything except Christmas Spirit. I’ve tried manufacturing the peace & joy of the season by going through all the normal motions of preparation and tradition but I still don’t feel it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Scrooge “bah humbugging” everything. I’m simply empty, hollow…perhaps even feeling dead inside. As though my heart needs a jolt from a Holy AED.

I don’t know that the feeling is altogether new or just related to Christmas, perhaps its been coming on for a while. Perhaps a dozen little factors have at last compiled and I’m feeling the effects. It hasn’t been a bad year…in fact, for the most part, its been great! Except for one thing. I’m soul-hungry. Somewhere in all that has gone on this year I stopped purposefully feeding my heart, nurturing the connection to the Life-giver and slowly my heart has slipped into unconsciousness, unresponsiveness.

In this (very) rare moment of quiet and solitude, I just want to sit and soak it in– the peace of this moment. I want it to permeate my soul, wash away all the shadows, turmoil, worries inside. But as a bubble bursts all too easily, I know– and perhaps even fear– that this feeling of peace will shatter as soon as small voices break the silence. The day will have to begin– meals & cleaning, conflict resolution & correction, Christmas preparations and everything else. (side note: my children are not the issue, they are merely the noise factor in this equation)

How does one hold to the peace of quiet, still solitude when surrounded by noise and activity…when unable to be physically still because the to-do list demands otherwise? How does one wake up a comatose heart and fill it with the wonder, joy, and peace of the celebration of Christmas– God’s gift of love beyond all we can imagine?

For me, today begins with a desperate 911 call to the Creator, Sustainor, Life-giver. The One who is Joy and Hope and Peace. The One who heals and revives hearts. The Babe in the manger, the Savior on the cross and the Father willing to sacrifice, to suffer so much out of love because He wants a relationship with us– with me.

In desperation to hear His voice, to feel revived, I begin to read…from scripture, from a devotional book. Suddenly, I am struck.

Revelation 3:1 I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive but you are dead.

“We live under Christ’s watchful eye. He isn’t looking to be sure we are busy, but to see that we are obedient to His Guiding Spirit. He watches not just to see what we are doing but looking at our hearts, also at why we are doing it” Henry & Richard Blackaby (emphasis mine)

1 Samuel 16:7 …for the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.

It is always about the heart, isn’t it? What you do and how you do it are less important than the why…the heart attitude and motivation behind it.

And the musings take a bit of a turn…

What does this have to do with Christmas?

Christmas in our house is a busy season. I love to fill the calendar with special events and activities for my kiddos. We bake treats and decorate gingerbread, play with fake snow, make gifts and set up our Christmas village.  While I will admit that some of our past projects have been a little too ambitious, not a single one has been bad or sinful. But what about the heart? Why do all the activities, the crafts…because that is how Christmas is “done”? To impress others with my planning, organization, craftiness, and talented children? To win the Pinterest-mother-of-the-year award? Hmm…

What if…what if we just got back to the heart?

I’m coming back to the heart of worship,

And its all about You, all about You, Jesus,

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it,

When its all about You, its all about You, Jesus.

What if our focus changed.  Forget the trappings of Christmas and just worship. Worship with all of our hearts a Savior willing to sacrifice everything out of love for us. Could we maybe get less caught up in perfect decorations, stunning party food, and blow-their-socks-off presents and instead got caught up in the overwhelming realization of the depth of God’s love for us?

I can’t speak for anyone else but I know that this is a season that gets busy, overscheduled, stressful and tiring no matter how much I hope and plan to make it otherwise.  And it is so very easy to miss Christ in Christmas. No matter how many times we parrot “Jesus is the reason for the season!” The words become part of the routine, the habit, what we do not the why behind it.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like we all are in preparation for the biggest party of the year. Months of preparation and planning. Countless hours on Pinterest choosing just the right DIY tablescape.  Multiple shopping trips looking for just. the. right. gift. Not to mention the menu planning.

At last, it is time for the party…the guests arrive and are suitably awed by our decorations. The food is delicious…everyone raves. Each gift is spot-on perfection. In fact, the party is so stunning, so grand that no one notices what is missing.

The guest of honor has been left outside.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.

What good news! He doesn’t go home brokenhearted about being left out of His own party. He stands, waits, ready to come in. He even knocks, calling to us, wanting us to experience the fullness of the celebration– the joy only He brings.

Whatever you do the Christmas…tree or no tree…Griswold-style decorations or none at all…40 types of Christmas treats, or 1, or none…gifts, no gifts…keeping tradition, skipping them or making new ones…whatever floats your boat, whatever works for you. But do this one thing: OPEN THE DOOR.

Let Christ in to your Christmas. Let all your doing be motivated by a heart full of praise. Let this be a season of worship. After all, what are we celebrating but our great God and His great Gift of Love to us? The Babe in the manger who became the Savior on the cross and the Father willing to sacrifice, to suffer so much out of love because He wants a relationship with us. Because He wants to come in and dine (fellowship) with us. Sin closed the door, Jesus unlocked it but the last part is up to us.

Just open the door.

Hands & Feet

Today, this brother

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Is flying to meet up with this girl (and some other people)

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To serve these people

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In this country

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Together they are being the hands & feet of Christ. In Africa, they are serving…here at home, they are inspiring this kid

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Who is attacking lessons in reading & writing so he can study scripture and will be prepared when his time comes to go tell and he is looking for opportunities to go tell right here at home…at 6 years old.

I am humbled and convicted. My eyes are blurred with tears.

The world is full of needs– from the homeless in your neighborhood to orphans in Guatemala to widows in Uganda and so many more! Do you care? Are you praying, giving, going? Are you being the hands & feet of Christ? Are you letting His light shine through your life…not just in big, get-everyone’s-attention kind of ways but in every little choice you make each day?

Are you living your life to make great the name of God or to make great your own name?

When I say “you” I hear the question pointed at myself. What about me…what am I doing? For today, I am praying…for the group in & headed to Uganda…for my son and his burning desire to go tell…for you, as you muse with me on how we can be hands & feet.

Rocking & Winning

- sisters rock. Especially mine. 2 have had babies in the past month and the other completed a 5k mud run. They are awesome friends and support and they tell it like it is. We can converse in movie quotes and disagree without having a falling out. I’m telling ya, they rock.

- my kiddos understand the meaning of the number 24601…that’s a win

- one of my kiddos dubbed a local pond “the lake of shining waters” – also a win!

- a group of men from our church took time out of their busy lives and drove to Georgia this weekend to attend Johnny Hunt’s men’s conference so they could grow and be challenged as men, husbands and fathers. That ROCKS.

- introduced my kids to this secret buddy idea (http://www.jessicalynette.com/12-habits/games-that-encourage-the-habit-of-noticing-others-needs/) and they took action on it, before I even assigned buddies! WIN

- texting and blogging is turning an acquaintanceship into a friendship…even though we live an ocean apart. (ok, technically, its a gulf but its still A LOT OF WATER!) That rocks!

- my baby brother taught my son to tie his shoes. That’s a win!

- my reluctant reader decided to teach a younger sibling to read…the lesson was successful. That’s a rockin’ win!

- long-overdue date with my Hero…great food and conversation. Win!

- and speaking of my Hero…he ROCKS. Just sayin’.

- Jesus has more grace for us than we can handle. That rocks.

- actually, He doesn’t just rock, He *is* the Rock and He has defeated the enemy eternally. That means, because of the ROCK, I WIN.

What’s rocking and winning in your neck of the woods?

Perspective

I’m typing this just before bed and I’m bone tired. Just been one of those weeks. One thing on top of another.

In the past few days, though, I’ve been hit with a fresh dose of perspective. You know, the kind that makes you feel like you got punched in the gut by a semi truck?

And it got me to musing…

- my washing machine broke, I cannot wash clothes…somewhere a mother has nothing to feed her children.

- my baby is not feeling well and is very clingy and fussy…somewhere a set of parents are clinging to each other mourning the loss of their child

- someone treated me rudely…somewhere a young girl has been torn from her family and shipped across the globe to be mistreated, used, and abused

- my husband failed to communicate…somewhere a widow is reeling in shock from her sudden loss

- my kiddos are playing too loud & rowdy and won’t settle down…somewhere a family sits around a hospital bed praying for the best, that their precious one will be well & rowdy again soon

- I’m tired of beginning again, of starting over tomorrow…somewhere, someone just found out that they are all out of “tomorrows”

Suddenly my lot isn’t so bad. My complaints are turned to praises. My discontent & ungratefulness melt away.

When in doubt, check your perspective.

Triple Birthday Day

December 30th is, perhaps, the biggest day of the year around here. You see, my Nana, my Hero, and my first-born were all born on that day! Woohoo!

They each are so special to me and are huge blessings in my life.

Nana, the matriarch on my Mom’s side of the family, is a big part of the Spiritual foundation of our whole extended family. Her relationship with Christ and example of hard work, generosity, faithfulness, and love have influenced us all.

Family 081Happy Birthday Nana!

And then, my Hero. This guy is special, y’all. He loves and accepts me, he stays calm in almost every situation, he is an amazing dad (and has been since his 22nd birthday 😊), he works with a level of focus and commitment rarely seen, he will work all day and as soon as he gets home jump in to whatever he can do to help me around the house (like folding laundry!!) after a good wrestle with the kiddos, of course. The only thing he really doesn’t like is being recognized or being the center of attention, so I decided against a big party to celebrate turning 30 on the 30th and settled on a quieter day instead.

P8Happy Birthday Owen!

Last, but not least, my first-born son, Patrick. This is his 8th birthday but it seems like it has only been days since he was born, not years!

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After 42 weeks of pregnancy (yep, he was LATE), plus 21 hours of labor, our 9lb 6oz little guy arrived…and we became the Johnson Family.

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How can I describe Patrick to you?

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Patrick shares his Daddy’s love for barbeque and already spends lots of time planning out his future restaurants…including drawing them out on graph paper, just like Daddy.

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The name Patrick means “leads with righteousness” and his leadership skills are obvious in our home and on every sports team he has been on. He likes to make plans and encourage everyone to keep going until it is done.

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When I am having a bad day I can always count on Patrick to write me an “I love mom” note or jump in to help me without being asked.

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He has a hilarious sense of humor…and better yet has taken to tossing out his witty comebacks with a british-esque accent. Love. It.

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He has fabulous fashion sense…when dressing up at least, everything else is sports shorts.

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Last year he decorated his own birthday cake…reinacting a scene from Star Wars…’cause he’s just awesome like that.

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He’s into LEGOs and sports and all things military and once confused Hootie and the Blowfish with Jonah and the Whale.

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He is just a straight-up awesome kiddo. He has been my “big helper” since he could walk and I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Happy Birthday Patrick!

Works for me: The Spouse 4 Gift Formula

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Christmas is coming! Are you ready?

I don’t know about you but we try to keep the presents from holding center stage in our celebration.  They are, however, a part of it.

There are all sorts of suggestions on how to give gifts to your children– 3 gifts to represent the Magi’s gifts, 4 gifts (want, need, wear, read), no gifts and donating or giving to others instead– but what I want to know is: what does one give a spouse?!?!?!

I think there are a few people who do well at this, you know, the ones with giving gifts as a love language.

Then there is the rest of us. The ones who said “lets not do gifts” but then, suspicious that the other spouse did rushes to CVS on Christmas Eve to find something…anything.  Or the ones who bust the budget on a completely misguided attempt at what they wanted or needed.

Why is it that the ones we love most and know best are the hardest ones to choose a gift for? Argh!

This year, I am saying “no more!” to my gift giving frustration and I am offering my formula to you in hopes that your gift-giving and Christmas celebration will be more relaxed and enjoyable as a result.

**A few notes: Consider this formula fodder for brainstorming,a place to start.  Each gift can be adjusted to fit your budget (from on-the-cheap to extravagant) and personality (if he doesn’t like to read, ignore the book suggestions…unless he might like an audio version).  Also, as a wife, I wrote this thinking about my husband but I believe the formula would work just as well for husbands to choose gifts for their wives.**

The Spouse 4 Gift Formula -

1) A gift for him as a man. This could be something he needs or wants (like clothes, shoes, a book) or something for his favorite hobby (fishing rod, golf balls & tees, a specialty tool) or something you know he likes (gift card to his favorite restaurant or store) or an item for his collection. This is where you really consider his tastes and interests, things he has mentioned wanting, and how he likes to spend his time.  You could stretch this category to include something he may need for work.

2) A gift for him as a Christian.  It is important to encourage our spouses in their personal walk with Christ, so give a gift that does that. Print out & laminate verse cards for the passage he wants to memorize, a devotional or Bible study book, a new Bible…maybe even arrangements to attend a Men’s Conference.

3) A gift for him as a husband. Plan a special date night or a whole year of dates, find a book you can read & discuss together (so many options here! Could be about marriage or any topic you are both interested in or the latest fiction bestseller or a classic), create some “love coupons” or buy something for you to wear for him…not gonna go any further on this one, I think you get the idea.

4) A gift for him as a father. Plan a family fun day, a gift card or supplies for an activity he can do with the kiddos (model to build, puzzle, bowling, movie…) framed pictures for his desk at work, put together a Hero kit. This is a great time to have the kiddos make or choose a gift!

That’s it.  Now I haven’t told you exactly what to give but hopefully I’ve given you a starting place to think about your man and ways that you can bless him in each area of his life.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Don’t forget to came back after Dec 25th and let me know what you gave. :-)