Tis the season, I guess. I am wiped out- there is so much “good stuff” to do. Parties to go to, gifts to buy, things to volunteer for. It is good. It is a season of celebrating. The birth of Jesus? Come on! Is there anything better? It is fun! It is special and it comes only once a year. But jeez… why am I so tired? And empty. And dreading the next party, Christmas cookie making extravaganza, and invitation? The striving to achieve my to do list is in my face. The concept of seeing if I can surpass my personal best with all I am packing into my day is here. The survival mentality is a close friend. How does this happen? And it is all rooted in goodness, and joy and family, and making things count. And yet, I find myself wanting to crawl into a hole.
I have had this sort of nagging that I can’t write right now. I have nothing. I am so depleted. I haven’t been taking the time to listen to God. I haven’t been quiet. I haven’t been meeting with Jesus. I haven’t been filling up. I am empty. I always want to give, to speak, to love out of the overflow of my heart- not scraping together the dust and remnants as an offering.
I really have wanted this Christmas season to matter. I don’t want to just get to December 25th and say “Oh yeh, Happy Birthday Jesus” and move on. I have wanted to bring Him into our days all month long as we celebrate His birth. At the end of November I checked out my trusty “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” Pinterest board (this NEVER happens, by the way. I don’t remember to plan things before the actual day/ event. This was a pretty big deal). I had pinned a website that presented this idea for kids. I completely took that idea and put it into action for my kids. I went to the dollar store and bought little tins for each kid. I put their names on the tins and we had a little conversation at the dinner table. We talked about how it was almost the day that Jesus was born. We talked about some ideas that we had that would be wonderful gifts to give to our Savior. The kids had great ideas- loving one another, listening and respecting, being kind to others that weren’t kind, playing with kids that needed a friend, giving, etc. We discussed how those were ways that Jesus asked us to live and to love. We told our children that we were on a mission to honor the ways that they were loving others. The kids would get money in their tins for these sorts of things. I also (totally from the website, not at all my own idea) emailed their teachers and asked them to tell me times that the teachers saw this in my kids. It has been great to hear the teacher’s perspectives and have their involvement. So, the kids are on a daily mission to find ways to love, to serve, and to give a gift to Jesus. They tell us what they did sometimes (I love that they are more aware) and we see them doing things and we are able to call the good to light and we put money in their tin each time. It has been fun! And also to keep things real- it has been kind of a pain too. To remember to ask the kids, to find money for their tins (ie: digging through the couches for change), to talk through the comparison issues that arise “Why does he/ she have more money in their tin?”. BUT, the concept, the idea is fun. Maybe next year I will just use one tin and have all the kids dump into that one- then no one can keep track of how much who has.
So, where does this money go that my kids earn? Well, that is to be determined. We have been talking about different options. We will pool all of this together on Christmas and decide as a family who to give this money to- Someone in need? Someone who could use a special blessing? Whomever God choses.
Also, we have been doing the Advent Reading Plan from the Jesus Storybook Bible (my favorite). I printed out this sheet that I found to guide us through the reading process. It turns out- it is just reading the 1st 24 stories in the Bible. Pretty simple. I like that. That should work for me. We started out strong. We read for like three whole days in a row. Then, we are out late for a few nights so we missed some nights. There was a few nights of…. Discussing some important issues that couldn’t be resolved that involved who got to sit by who and who was touching who while the story was being read so it was decided that we couldn’t handle the story any more that night and we would try again later. So, things like this have set back my good intentions. We may need to sit down on Christmas Eve and read like 10 stories to catch up. It’s fine. Maybe we will have a seating chart figured out by that time. Maybe I will just read to them while they are sleeping and call it good. I don’t know.
It is all me. God hasn’t moved or distanced himself, it has been me not coming, filling, and praising. Yes, there has been good stuff. Yes, God is still God and He is present and I am so very thankful for that. But what I am finding is even in my good intentions, even in the things I am doing what matters most to Him is time spent with Him. What a gift. For Him and for me. How can we lay aside all of the things and give Him our adoration, our thanksgiving, our focus and attention? It needs to start for me there. Being quiet and still. And maybe to say no to some parties (but who wants to miss a party?) and say no to some things that can be good and “traditions” even. Can we present our time even in this season to Him? What about asking Him “Lord, what can I give you as a gift?” I wonder what He would say? Wouldn’t it be so great to give our Jesus exactly what He wants for His Birthday? I would really like to.
As I have been feeling like I haven’t been looking for God lately in my recent weeks, God showed up for me the past few days- like a fresh breath of air that was unexpected.
I was talking with my older brother this week. God used him to encourage me and speak to my heart. We don’t get to talk very often and I really cherished this time. He reminded me to continue to be real- even when there wasn’t a big story. He reminded me of the original plan- be obedient to God in writing and sharing even when it might not look pretty. He encouraged me to be real in the “nothing” that I was fighting against.
My week has been… full. My husband is out of town for 5 nights for a training (not great timing), I am working, I have three kids schedules to figure out and there are a few things that I had committed to awhile ago that were finishing up this week. God has shown me this week the amazing blessing that friends and family are. What a huge gift. They have totally picked up my slack with time, food, shuttling kids around, and moral support. My Dad cooked me two of my three meals the other day- so sweet! It is so good to not have to do life alone or try to pretend to have it all together.
I met with the area Director of Young Lives a few months ago. Young Lives is a branch of Young Life and it is a Christian group that happens for young, single moms (high school ages). This is an amazing group and they love these moms so beautifully. I went to my first club last month. It was an honor to be there. They have a little “store” for the mom’s to come and shop. The store is stocked by donations from the community and the moms can get for free what they need that the store has. A group from a church over an hour away comes to these monthly meetings and provides a whole meal for the mom’s and their child(ren)! Amazing! After dinner there is childcare provided and the moms have an opportunity to go to the group meeting by themselves. It is there that a talk is given and a group discussion takes place. They have the opportunity to be filled on so many levels- food, time, spiritual, heart connection. These people who run Young Lives truly love and care about these girls (moms) and their babies. It is beautiful.
When I met with the Young Lives Director I asked her what they were most in need of. The Director responded that they could really use sponsors to take on each family and buy Christmas presents for the mom’s and their children. I knew that there were some awesome mom’s in my local community that would love to be able to love on these younger mom’s. It has been such a gift this week to watch this all come together. I met with the Director, I went home that day and put the word out to a group of mom’s. Bam! These women in the community Blew. Me. Away. As the families got sponsored almost immediately (truly- in one day all had sponsors so much so we doubled up on some girls!), as the gifts poured in, as the love abounded…. I cried. Every. Time. That is Jesus. That is how He asks us to live and to love. That is tangible and practical and to those in need.
So, today was the day that all gifts were to be collected and picked up by. I can’t get over it. In a world that is depressing and dark, full of anger and hate, selfishness and pride and entitlement… we have light and joy, we have peace, and love that surpasses understanding. We have so much to celebrate. We can give back to our Savior and King in so many ways. We can say yes to those in need. We can bring Him in to our days, we can do less in order to give him more. So you see, I have seen Jesus- through family and friends coming alongside, through the enormous generosity of others to buy, to go above and beyond for those in need, in the love and excitement in my children as they look to love like Jesus. I may not have been looking, but Jesus is still showing up. I just love Him so.
This is a good place for me to put down what God has for my heart. I love how He speaks and reminds. I love how He is ever present. I am committing to slow down, to sit, to be quiet and to ask Jesus “What can I give to you this Christmas?” Want to join me in asking this too? I would love it, but even more, I believe HE would love it!
God, we desire to honor you above all else. We give you permission to speak and to direct us. Please pour your truth out and help us to have eyes for you and you alone. I pray against comparison and judgment and that you would use this time to go deeper in each of us. We love you desperately.
This song was so good for my heart this morning. Hope it touches yours as well.