Because Christmas Keeps Coming

I’m reliving the past as I sit at home Sunday morning with a vomiting kiddo, on the cusp of Christmas once again and the thoughts stir in my head about the Incarnation, the mess, the chaos, the Word, and what’s this all about anyway?!

Then I start to sense that perhaps I’ve thought these thoughts before, perhaps these feelings are all too familiar. Maybe, could it be, I’ve actually written these thoughts down before. One advantage to having an overstuffed memory is that everything seems new all the time! I’ve been known to sit down to a movie I’ve seen before with almost no recollection of it whatsoever. Maybe that’s why writing the same themes over and over again never gets old.

And maybe that’s why Christmas comes every year. Because our finitude makes us needy for reminders. Chesterton says, “But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.”

And also, perhaps knowing this world is for finite people, he’d know that that’s how often we’d need reminded that he is good. He is God. He did it, again–the sun gave warmth and light. Maybe he knows that I’d forget, even in just a day, that he does that sort of incomprehensible thing.

So, to remind myself of the lessons of yesteryear, I’m linking up to my previous Christmas posts. If they all sound strangely similar, let’s just say God doesn’t tire of teaching me the same lesson. I’m so thankful that Christmas keeps coming.

A Christmas Misadventure (With Stitches)

What Vomit Under the Christmas Tree Teaches Me About the Glorious Incarnation

Christmas in Pictures

What’s With All This Stuff?! It’s Christmas Of Course!

A Mom’s Made-Up Holiness at Christmas

 

 

 

A Hot Mess of Glory, or, Our Garden and Us

I’ve said before that a garden is a metaphor for most all of life and it seems I’ve only uncovered a minuscule amount of all that could be learned there. Joe Rigney says that Scripture is the lens through which we read the world and it seems to me there’s a plot of content to be unearthed.

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We came home to our garden after over a week of neglect and discovered a hot mess of weeds and growth. Thankfully not all weeds, lots of good growth, lots to harvest and enjoy.

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Which reminded me of my life, weeds alongside food, sin alongside growth. It’s discouraging the rate of weed growth when ignored, just like it’s discouraging how quickly entangled sin gets in my life when I ignore it. But God is gracious and He produces good things, good growth, even where sin is present. But it can’t go on like that without the weeds or sin taking over. It must be sorted out, pulled, dug up, repented of, killed. Again and again. Every day.

purple cabbage, herbs
purple cabbage, herbs

When I look at the pics of our garden at the end of May, I remember just how it felt–like it was all under control. Like there was a place for everything and everything in its place. Like I was waiting for miracles that I could count on. Like, if I did this right, there would be no more stinging nettle.. ever. Like an experiment that was bound to be a wild success. Like I was going to sit on my bench and watch all my garden dreams come true. And if I’m being honest, like the same way I felt when we got married and when we first had kids. It felt like: We Got This.

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When I put the bench in the garden I thought it would be there for me to sit on, to rest and soak in all the beauty. Ha! The real reason it’s there, which I didn’t foresee, is for me to have a place to set my tools and to put the baskets of produce waiting to be hauled up and to give Titus a place to stand at while I’m frantically getting as much done as I can. It’s there for the gladiolas to lean against as they shoot up tall. I don’t think I’ve sat on it since the day I put it there.

pumpkin
pumpkin

And that’s a lot like life. Everything is sentimental, with soft edges, on the front end. It’s also a giant underestimation. When our first three children were 3, 1, and newborn, it was easy to be sentimental about them and their future. Even with the crazy little years, there is an element of control that parents have that slips away in larger chunks as they grow. This can be either scary or purposeful– or some of both if you’re like me, but it’s definitely not sentimental. wpid-sadwreath.jpg

The wreath that announced “Our Garden” has lost its little sign and drooped, even while the truth of the matter is, this is more Our Garden than ever. More work, more sweat, more investment, but now lacking the sentiment that got us started. Same with raising kids. The vision statement for our family and homeschool, the 1, 5, and 10 year goals–they haven’t been consulted in years. All that intentionality and hopefulness, it was a good thing, still is, it’s just not a theory anymore.

tomato
tomato

It’s hard to be sentimental about garden growth when your wielding a tiller and sweat is dripping off your nose and down your back and your hands are burning from pulling up the stinging nettle without gloves–again. Now I know–stinging nettle is never gone. It creeps in, it has to be pulled every time.

cukes
cukes

And I also know that there is no fence that keeps sin away from my kids. Don’t get me wrong, fences are a good thing and faithful parents use them. But they aren’t impenetrable. Sin is within and without. It has to be pulled every time. And as they get older, it takes more and more cooperation and initiative on their part and less sheer will and determination on mine. They must take up this mantle and I must transition from primary enforcer of sin management to primary encourager/instructor of sin management. Not to mention being an encourager of growth and godliness. And even with my oldest only entering 6th grade, already I feel that process of trust and letting go start its slow release.

romaine
romaine

Sometimes we get fruit we don’t expect, like carrots and tomatoes. I thought for sure we’d have cukes and zukes, but didn’t know if our soil was right for carrots and tomatoes. Lo and behold, I’ve got a bumper crop on my hands. Not only are the weeds more prolific than I imagined, so has been the produce.

beans
beans

When the garden is in its giving season, it’s easy to almost resent all that growth. I don’t know what to do with more beans! I don’t need any more lettuce! I’ve shredded enough zucchini for ridiculous amounts of bread! But that’s just like our God to give us more than we could ask or think.

broccoli and cauliflower
broccoli and cauliflower

God’s given us five children and I can’t remember a morning where I’ve awakened and thought, We Got This. I can’t remember a moment where it all felt within my grasp and control. I can’t ever remember thinking in regard to Titus’s special needs, “This is just what I’d planned for!” For me, there’s been no such thing as “planned parenthood.” Because God’s actually exploded my tiny plans and vision for our family. It’s been harder and better than I bargained for.

strawberry patch
strawberry patch

I thought we were raising a family of easy-going cucumbers, but he’s given me variety and bounty and spice and sweetness and just plain more goodness than I knew was good for me. So rather than resent all that bounty, I must remember that bounty isn’t for hoarding, but sharing–both in our garden and in our home. We’ve been entrusted with Gospel bounty, not to let it go to waste, but to enjoy and share.

glads
glads

Oh, the prayer of my heart is that this would be true of our family–sharing His goodness, unafraid of the toil that makes growth possible, covered in sweat and abounding in every good work, leaving behind sentimentality for the greater blessing of living.

Embracing Life as a Succulent

Life around here continues to be chapter after chapter in The Chronicles of the Sleep-Deprived. We’re actually on chapter 11, but who’s counting.

This state of affairs has me pondering succulent plants, at least for the few moments of the day when I am coherent enough to do such a thing as ponder.

North Shore succulent
North Shore succulent

Succulent plants are quite amazing. Their thick fleshy leaves retain water. They’re basically like a pregnant lady’s ankles. They can survive in very dry climates and make use of dew as a water source. They grow between a rock and hard place. They are unusually beautiful.

As there seems to be no quick fix to our sleep troubles, I’m praying for God to sustain us like succulents. Through bleariness, may we be storing up water in our leaves and apportioning it at just the right time. It can be challenging to be deep in the Word when my ability to focus lasts approximately 2.8 seconds. It’s challenging to read anything at all, which I dislike, because I love to read.

Trying to focus on reading is like trying to focus on the big E on the eye chart during a rock concert with the fog machines on full blast. I know it’s an E, but am I supposed to say “E”? No, wait, I think it’s about what direction it’s pointing. Is it left or right? Well, my left or the E’s left? Wait, if it’s pointing up, that’s North, right? What’s this book about again? And why am I still on page 3 after a month of reading?

At this point in our lives, it’s time to take the truth that’s been written on our hearts, planted and rooted over many years, and apply it. This may not be the time for learning and deep study. But, a short children’s memory verse is enough to uphold a weary heart. The Lord says to Jeremiah, “I am watching over my word to perform it.” And so He is. May His simple truths go deep into our fleshy limbs. May the water of the Word be stored up in every nook and cranny of our being, giving life even in the dry, sleepless seasons.

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And for any of you praying for us, pray for Titus and his sleep and night time comfort. We love him so. He is a happy boy who delights us all the day, and, continues to want our close company all the night. This has worsened with his starting baby food as he seems to be uncomfortable. We very much appreciate all the prayers and care that we have received. They are a cool cup of water in Jesus’ name!

The Hostas Underneath the Snow

Spring matters more than ever at our house, because the resurrection matters more than ever.

Lewis calls spring the “waiting room of the world,” a “nothing time.” I have felt begrudgingly similar toward my least favorite season. I’d take the known cold of winter over being jerked around by the seemingly false promises of spring. I love warmth and buds, but every year I find myself in a malaise of disappointment, wondering if it will actually come round.

Yet, spring is reminding me that God does keep his promises. Even when it’s April and a snowstorm. Or, May and a snowstorm. Even when it seems like death wins. I must not mistake the hints of God’s goodness and promise-keeping that are all around in the thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze cycle of spring, for the taunts of the enemy, who’s hoping I don’t notice the hostas underneath the snow.

Think of Jesus and the thaw/freeze cycle of his final week. Triumphal entry=thaw. Cleansing the temple=freeze. Lament over Jerusalem=freeze. Teaching and explaining parables=thaw. Plotting of Pharisees=freeze. Last supper=thaw. Gethsemane=freeze. Questioned by Pilate/Herod=freeze. Release offered by Pilate=thaw. Crucifixion=freeze. Resurrection=thaw. Humanly this is difficult to grasp in the moment, but this is all one massive thaw, just like spring. It seems back and forth, but it’s really the trajectory of resurrection, and the freezing is necessary for the ultimate thaw.

Winter is the setting and the stage for redemption. It is the stark backdrop to the glories that are coming.  And for those who have gone deep into that winter, those for whom winter has been the bleakest and coldest, who have refused to take the road of bitterness and have thrown themselves on the grace of God, perhaps the glories will be all the brighter.

We bid farewell to winter as the big melt was underway on Saturday. Tom took the kids for the last sledding trip down the hill.

four kids, a dad and a sled.
four kids, a dad and a sled.
Whoops, falling off.
Whoops, falling off.
All set!
All set!
And they're off!
And they’re off!

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Goodbye winter.
Goodbye winter.

 

Grateful Uncertainty

I’m very thankful for the support and love we’ve received since the post on Sunday, mainly in the form of emails and facebook comments. If you’ve ever wondered whether you can minister to someone through technology via email, facebook comments, or texts, be assured, you can. And we have been the humbled recipients of that.

I, especially, have felt buoyed and strengthened, almost normal at times.

A friend asked me a week or two ago, if I was feeling ministered to by the Lord. And as I stopped to think about it, the answer was a definite yes. It seemed the Lord was going out of His way to make his care and presence obvious. A 9 month pregnant friend drove all the way across the Cities in the snow to bring us a meal the evening of the MRI, another friend who lives 5 states away had a package delivered the day we received the bad news of his MRI results with the beautiful lyric, “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” Even the music on the annoyingly chipper radio seemed subdued and reverent. And there were many other things that will stay anonymous, but were real kindnesses from God through His people.

Yet I’ve been the toddler whose dad is is giving them a hug after some big disappointment and they are kicking, screaming, crying and simply want what they want. They don’t want the comfort until they’ve come to accept the reality that they’re being denied something. I’m beginning to accept our reality, which means I’m slowly feeling His embrace as the loving thing that it is.

Right now I am incredibly grateful for the uncertainty that we are walking in. Initially after the MRI it seemed likely that Titus had this degenerative and fatal condition, but after a group of doctors met to discuss it last Friday, they still believe there is another option and that Titus could “just” have a static disability that would not get worse with time, but would reveal itself as he grows. What blessed uncertainty. If I’m given the choice between really bad news and waiting with a more hopeful option in play, I prefer the latter.

The uncertainty has allowed me to put the scary diagnosis possibilities on the back shelf of my brain and stay in the present, day by day realities. There will be more testing and eye surgery next month and therapy, but overall, the uncertainty has removed some of the paralysis, so I can just be thankful for Titus: thankful that he’s chubby, that he smiles, that he turns his head more now, that he coos. And mostly just thankful that he’s our son.

The Lord has hidden some things from us regarding Titus and he’s chosen to place us on this journey of heartache and unknowns. It’s a journey that is requiring me to learn how to receive. I know that it’s more blessed to give than receive, and I’ve always wanted the bigger blessing.

But God’s got a humbling work to do in me. He’s got steadfast love and compassion spilling out everywhere, they’re coming out of his fingertips through his people, and only a fool would turn away from that kind of receiving.

walking in the tall grass
walking in the tall grass

Please pray for Titus and all of us. We can’t see what’s in front of us, but we know who we’re following and He’s never led us astray.

A Hard Providence from Our Loving God

The past two months have been hard. Well, even longer than that, but especially the past two months.

We’ve been dealt a blow regarding our son, Titus James. Without going into great detail, it is enough to say that he has some brain abnormalities and we do not yet know what all that will mean for his life and abilities, or even the length of his life.  The doctor tells us that we should do as much as we can to help him grow and develop, regardless of how bad it might be, and so, between doctor visits and lots of testing, that’s what we’ll do.

This has been a hard and bitter providence as we’ve contemplated the grim worst case scenarios told to us by the doctors. I feel as though I’m on the Dawn Treader in Narnia in the Lone Islands approaching the terrifying darkness: The Island Where Dreams Come True, and the terror sets in as we realize, just as Lucy and Edmund and Eustace did, it’s really our worst nightmare come true. I cannot contemplate anything worse on this earth than losing a child.

Regarding this possibility, I’ve moved from grief to denial to grief to hope to grief to denial to grief to acceptance and so on. I am slowly getting some footing, for today at least. Our journey with Titus is largely hidden from us. We don’t know what it will be, we don’t have a concrete diagnosis, we don’t understand all that’s going on in his brain. But I’m finding real comfort in remembering that God does know all these things. Nothing is hidden from him.

And here’s what I know for myself: I know that tomorrow I’m going to get up and love Titus and each one of the people under our roof. Tomorrow I’m going to fix food and teach little people and get my oldest to her orthodontist appt. I’m going to do tummy time and sweep the floor and have the fireplace going. I’m going to light a candle and put on Christmas music and really smile at each of the kids. And I’m going to cherish every moment with the baby son that I longed for and prayed for and was finally given. He is a tender undeserved gift.

And some days I’m just going to scrape by and dinner won’t be made and the house will be a mess and I’ll rewash the same load of laundry in the washer for a week because I’m too tired and sad and overwhelmed to figure out how to get it to the dryer. And no matter which type of day I’m having, my God will still be kindhearted.

I also know that we can’t walk this road alone. The past few months have felt lonely, lonely because we knew even less than we know now–just a vague: something’s not right. And how do you ask for prayer for that? Most people just want to convince you that everything’s fine. And I wanted to believe it so badly.

So, I will write about this trial, when I have the ability. I’ll ask for prayers. I’ll accept the (beautiful undeserved) support from God’s people who love us and love Titus, I’ll share as much of my heart as I’m able. And when I’m not, I’ll still be here, probably more in need than ever. But the Lord has not forgotten us. He has not forsaken us. Our pastor quoted part of this passage today and it was a balm:

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands..” Is. 49:13-16

No, just as I can never forget for one millisecond my nursing son, even more so the Lord cannot and will not forget us. So whenever I’m feeling despair, I will remember that the Lord has compassion on his afflicted. He has graven us on his hands. He’s written our names in a Book. He became weak for us: the weak. He became helpless for us: the helpless. And he loves this son of mine immeasurably. He made my son in His own image and because of Titus, my picture of God is becoming more of who He really is. I have a lot to learn.

Moving Houses, Keeping Home

We moved. Not a far away move, but a move nonetheless. We’ve been in our new home 4 weeks.

4 weeks is long enough to know that changing houses can feel like a whole new world, yet it’s also long enough to know that all the basics are still the same.

Children still love to gather flowers for their mom.

wild flowers
wild flowers

Mantles must still be dusted. Dusting is no respecter of mantles or anything else–it applies itself quite broadly.

wpid-mantle.jpgLaundry waits for no one. Clothes get just as dirty here as they did there. Sheets still have to be changed. Even with the joys of a laundry shoot, the clothes don’t put themselves away at a new house.

wpid-laundry.jpgFlowers still need watered. Grass needs mowed. Weeds need pulled. Kids need to help out. Parents need to keep on keeping on.

wpid-mowing.jpgThe old iron horse head still must have his place on the deck, keeping guard, watching us eat, getting pooped on by birds.

wpid-ironhorsehead.jpgAnd our little family has moved, but we haven’t changed. We still need the Lord as much as ever–even more. We still need Him to grant life and faith and repentance and growth. We still trust Jesus for all He’s done for us and for His steadfast intercession. We still depend on the Spirit to be our daily Helper, our Guide, our Groaner. We still ask for His fruit.

What a surprise to notice that, before the old blossoms have died, a new and promising shoot has sprung up on my orchid. He has supplied new life–fruitfulness multiplied. May it be so in this home.

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In 4 short weeks the Lord has proved, again, that He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, forever. He doesn’t forsake His children when they change homes. He doesn’t leave them alone or cast them out.

When He gives a gift, even a physical one, He gives it as a loving Father who delights in His child. Our response to the gift says something about us, not Him. Our suspicion, our stiff-arming, or on the other hand, our clutching and grasping, our gorging for more, all reflect on us. But His gifts are good and a child in the secure arms of Jesus simply says, “Thank you,” and gets to work making good use of the talents on loan.

May you do that for us, Lord. Put us to work for your kingdom, through the gift of a home on loan from you. What joy is found in these small renderings, for from him and through him and to him are all things. He gets the glory while our joy knows no bounds.

We have changed houses, but our home will always be kept in Him.

Jesus, Bread and Easter: Give the Children Something GOOD to Taste

This has been a crazy Easter season. The day we found out we were having a little boy, we also signed an agreement to sell our house. After devoting my life to a “show-ready” house and battling with the trials of pregnancy, there is nothing I’d love more than a laid back, contemplative Easter season.

Alas, the Lord has other ways to reveal His glory than in stillness alone. He also shows up when we’re doing our jobs, cleaning, schooling, working hard, feeding mouths.

Thursday was just such a day. We had to be out of the house for hours for an inspection. My folks are so gracious and let us come hang out at their place whenever we have to be gone for a showing etc. The night before I’d made dough for bread that has to rise overnight. So, I baked it just before we left and brought it along with us for lunch.

On the way over to my folks, I thought that the crusty bread would be a perfect way to illustrate the whole Easter story and we could still eat it for lunch.

Here’s what we did. We cut the loaf about 1/3 of the way in, then we tore out all the hot delicious innards and ate them.

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My kids like it plain, with occasional dips of nutella. I like mine with PB and honey.

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While we were doing this we talked about the Last Supper and how Jesus called himself the Bread of Life. How he said things like, “This is my body, broken for you.” The bread tasted wonderfully, as warm bread tends to do. This is an essential part of teaching my kids. If it tastes bad, how can they have a foundation to understand, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”?

The big part of the bread crust becomes the tomb, the smaller portion becomes the stone that covers the tomb.

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We saved a chunk of bread and Eliza fashioned a little man out of it.

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When we got home that evening, the kids found sticks from the dead flower bed remnants and we made crosses, tied up with yarn.

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It sat on the counter Thursday night, as I pondered how to set it up properly. Today the kids enacted Jesus on the cross and put him in the tomb. Then tonight, I pulled out some river rocks and serving tray and arranged it so that the crosses would stand up. The bread tomb is on a green towel, to look like a small hill.

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This is the little “project” that isn’t. It isn’t anything at all, but real life. Real bread that we were making, a real meal that we were eating, to remind us of our real Savior. This isn’t a show put on for kids. This isn’t different from the truth that we live in every single day. This is His body, broken for us.

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This is our table where we gather to enjoy gifts from His hand. Won’t you taste and see this Easter? He is GOOD.

The Not-So-Pitiful Truth

A dear friend recently loaned me a book called, Stepping Heavenward: One Woman’s Journey to Godliness, by Elizabeth Prentiss written in the mid-1800’s. It has been highly enjoyable and insightful. It is the fictional diary of a woman from her youth through her marriage, subsequent motherhood and many shattering trials.

At one part of the main character’s journal she has just had her third child and meets with some unpleasantness from her less than approving sister-in-law. She addresses this situation so perfectly that I had to retell it here:

“Martha takes a most prosaic view of this proceeding, in which she detects malice prepense on my part. She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing.

Well! This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other. Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost.. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!”

She describes just how I feel with the coming of our 5th child. Having been parted from one in miscarriage before Evangeline and having weaned and quieted my soul as we asked and waited for this one, it feels a great privilege to be tired and sick from pregnancy.

In my Father’s world, in his Book, it is understood what a blessing these little ones are. Who could think of pitying the woman so blessed? Who could pity a woman with so much potential and clay under her roof?

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Some pity is a kind of shocked compassion that cannot fathom what a life so spent for others must be like. This pity is confounded as to what such a life  might be like. It is baffled and a little scared and therefore, pitying. It actually worries that you aren’t taking enough time for yourself and that your personal growth will be stunted by so much sacrifice (is there any other way to grow than to sacrifice for others?!). Another form of pity is laced with disdain and condescension. The kind of pity that feels badly that you are so dumb as to have got yourself into such a mess. Don’t you know what causes those?!

Both kinds of pity feel bizarre when expressed to the woman who could not have dared to hope for such blessings and is being poured out and sacrificing, yes, but is reaping the reward of laughter and learning and youthfulness all around. And more so, has found the deep satisfaction of teaching Christ’s ways all day and night to these ripe minds and tender souls. Could anything else be as fulfilling? Difficulties come, long days are many, but the acknowledgement of it isn’t a complaint, but a reality. It’s God’s will.

Bodies may be spent, faces may be tired, time may be pinched, but deep joy is there–not always chipper, but real. So when I meet with pity or disdain for the life of mothering and teaching and training and sacrificing for, Lord willing, 5 souls, may I be as dumbfounded as ever.

What’s With All This Stuff?! It’s Christmas, Of Course!

We’ve enjoyed decorating our house for Christmas. Putting up the tree is always a highlight–getting out the ornaments is like opening presents. Remembering and talking about them is like nostalgia deja vu.

My favorites are the nativity, the angel choir, the homemade ones, the ones that were gifts from friends and family, the ones that were handed down and the ones I bought for Tom’s and my first Christmas. I guess that’s all of them.

unpacking the ornaments
unpacking the ornaments

I know there can be some hesitation on the part of serious Christians about going all out with a tree and presents and cookies and stockings and on and on. I have shared that hesitation in many ways. We don’t want the tree to overshadow the nativity. We don’t want the presents to overshadow the baby. We don’t want the anticipation of cookies to outdo advent.

Over the years of having a family and sorting these things out, I happily embrace the tree, the presents, the cookies, the stockings and all the rest of the good gifts and joy that come with Christmas time, even Jingle Bell Rock. One thing I’ve learned is that in our home, Jesus can’t be overshadowed.

I spent a number of years being very suspicious of anything earthy. I mean anything too physical, too material. For me, thoughts and ideas and beliefs were often disconnected from stuff, from my senses. To me, the material was often opportunity for sin. But what is the incarnation if not physical? Christmas reminds me of the material state of things–and God’s good with that. He made it that way.

And what if all this stuff, all this material, isn’t only opportunity for sin (which of course it is), but for good works? What if I’m supposed to look at the tree, not mainly with stand-offish suspicion (like, hey Mr. Tree, don’t be too much fun, or too much work!), but as a way to do something awesome for my family that surrounds and supports Jesus coming?

What if the presents aren’t a way to spoil them rotten, but a way to show the lavish love of Jesus? Now, I have to have a side-bar here, because I’d show myself quite ignorant if I didn’t say something about our culture’s tendency to overwhelm (in a bad way) kids with stuff. When the kids come up from the present-induced stupor of junk junk and more junk, I don’t think that mirrors the lavish love of God. And, if the junk is just a continuation of the junk that they’re getting all year at every hint of desire or whine, that’s gonna be real ugly. So, give your kids good gifts–not ones that are by their nature anti-social, soul-shriveling, real-man-hindering blech. Yes, I’m looking at you video games! And let Christmas giving flow from good and thoughtful giving all year–not entitlement. Side-bar over.

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All the extras: the tree, the stockings, the food, the ornaments, the lights, they serve Him. They make a big deal of Him. It’s our job to draw the lines. We parents draw the lines between Jesus and the tree, Jesus and the stockings, Jesus and the food. If we don’t see the connections ourselves, then they very well might skew the meaning of Christmas into a gooey, sentimental, whine-a-thon for more stuff.

Parenting is connecting the dots. It’s actually more than that. A dot-to-dot is parenting 101. If your kids are older than two, you better starting getting out the paint-by-number. If they’re 8, find the watercolors. And if you’ve got teenagers, I hope you’ve got the oil paints out and are cooking up something masterful to behold.

As the kids grow, our parenting better go from connecting the dots of Christmas to beautiful tapestries that weave the story into everything we see. And if you’re weaving tapestries for your two-year-old (or painting masterpieces, don’t ask me to keep metaphors straight), all’s well. He’ll grow into it. Just be sure and sprinkle some sugar on top, cause that’s what Christians do, we give things the right flavor.

So this year, let’s look for opportunities for good works in Jesus’ name. Let’s get physical. Let’s let our deeds match our ideas, our beliefs, our high and lofty thoughts about the Incarnation. Let’s adorn this doctrine of Gospel with good works and good words. Let’s ornament our family’s hearts with words fitly spoken, with joy and love–and let’s mirror that with the ornaments on our tree that celebrate the one who made love and joy and fitting words possible.

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“showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
(Titus 2:10-14 ESV)

“A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”
(Proverbs 25:11-12 ESV)