Ringing Out in the Middle of It All

This morning at breakfast the kids and I prayed, “Thank you Jesus for today, and please help us to remember that our real joy is found in You.”

It’s something that I am learning in this season of life where there are so many things waiting to make me forget.  Lack of sleep from a night-waking baby and early-waking kids. It’s winter, so someone is either getting sick, currently sick, or just getting over being sick. The kids bicker and fight. My plans go awry. The tap starts leaking. The van breaks down. Messes are made, stress grows, frustrations mount and tempers flare. We grow tired of waiting for things to improve and begin to believe things will always be this way.

And then, ringing out in the middle of it all – “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing!”

Can it be so? Can we really find joy in the middle of even this? I am beginning to discover this sweet truth – the more I dwell on Jesus as my real joy, the more buoyant my spirit is becoming, even in the face of plain ol’ day-to-day challenges.

I am catching glimpses of His glory right here in the middle of the ordinary: the belly laughs of my kids, my husband’s hand on my shoulder as we pass each other in the kitchen, the sun that streams through the front window during these very short days, the glow of the stars in the long evenings and nights. So many beautiful things – such incredible reminders that God is good, and God keeps His promises – bringing everlasting joy to our hearts in the gift of a tiny baby, His only Son.

On Sunday we’ll light the Advent candle of joy. As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, may it remind us that we can rejoice in HIM, and in every opportunity to rely on His power in our weakness.

Let these words from 1 Peter be a beautiful balm to your weary soul. REJOICE – the King has come!

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Yes! Lord Jesus, as we celebrate your first coming, may we await your Second coming with great joy in our hearts!

christmas cookies

Sharing cookies always brings a smile!

The Time Machine: Strong-Willed Much?

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

This morning I’m sharing more thoughts on this Sunday’s Advent theme of Peace. My life is still every bit as crazy as it was when I first wrote it, since we’ve added a baby to the mix this year. Four kids almost seven and under is BUSY and finding a moment of peace can be tough, so I find myself praying this prayer again this season.

***

I’ve heard that strong-willed parents create strong willed children.

Oh my.  I must be very strong-willed.  Haha!

But seriously, though.  This week we’ve been spending time thinking about the next theme of Advent.

Peace.

What in the world is that when you’re butting heads with an almost 5 year old over a scooter, helping an almost 3 year old sort through her very big emotions about sandwiches, and keeping an almost 1 year old from biting her sisters while she pulls every book off the bottom shelves?

Whew.  I am feeling weary today, friends.  I understand that the care and raising of tiny humans makes up only a short season in a person’s life.  I have it on good authority (from friends who have been here) that these years are formative and important, and that the way I am spending this time is going to make a difference in the future.  I know that one day I will look back on these ridiculous moments and remember them with complete fondness and not even a hint of frustration.  I may even laugh about them!  (hmm.  Not quite there yet.)

But most of all, I believe that parenting is actually simply running to Jesus every single step of the way – in the amazing moments and the not-so-amazing moments.  (An awesome thing I read in a book called “Hoodwinked” by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk!)

The funny thing is, every day is filled with both.   Isn’t that some sweet kindness from the Lord?

Jesus, be my peace in the middle of this chaos.

Be my hope when despair sneaks in.

Be my joy when sorrow knocks on my heart’s door.

And be my love when I feel spent.

nestled in the tree

Nestled in a tree

The Deepest Peace We Will Ever Find

Micah 5:2-5a (NIV)

” ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.’

Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be our peace…”

***

It dawned on me last night that there are only three weeks until Christmas.

Oh. Well. Perfect opportunity to PANIC!

Once December hits, time seems to speed up. There’s shopping and wrapping and baking and making, sandwiched between regular life and fun activities and all the things.

Can we really get it all done in time to actually sit back and enjoy The Big Day?

Phew. Wouldn’t that be amazing? I am goal-oriented, so when I can accomplish something on The List (my running list of what needs to happen), it’s two thumbs up and a happy dance.

And yet, even if I actually get to that coffee and shortbread in front of the tree with my feet up because the last of the wrapping is finally done, there’s still the business of a peaceful heart to consider. In spite of all the headlines and circumstances we face, our hearts know that true peace is so much more than a break from all the rushing around.

Peace is the deep breath that flows from a place of absolute confidence that God is good and He can be trusted to keep His promises.

We’re celebrating this entire season because of the Prince of Peace, who brought “the peace that passes all understanding” to guard our hearts and our minds.

When there is no end of chaos in sight.

When there is no sign of change on the horizon.

When there is no space for a moment to breathe.

“And He will be our peace.”

When anxiety wraps its fingers around your throat and begins to squeeze.

When fear bangs on the door of your heart in the night.

When turmoil brings darkness to cloud your mind.

“And He will be our peace.”

The deepest peace we will ever find is peace with God, through Jesus Christ, securing our future beyond this life.

Peace on earth – let it be so, and let it reign in me today, now, even in this moment.

Thank you Jesus!

coffee and tree

The Time Machine – This Doesn’t Look How I Thought it Would

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

Today I’m sharing something from just last year, something that I’m still learning moment by moment. 

***

The little clay sheep was unrecognizable. But for once in my life I was happy to leave it alone, instead of “fixing it”.

We had this brilliant idea of making our own Nativity set this year out of air-dry clay. And by “we” I mean me. My oldest asked if we could bring out the clay and make something together. But what? Christmas is coming so I suggested we make Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. That, of course, evolved into the whole cast of characters.

First, we made the stable out of an old cereal box and brown construction paper and the girls drew and cut out the Star of Bethlehem. We’ll glue that to the top later on.

Out came the clay. She worked on Mary as her younger sister squished Baby Jesus flat. I helped her make him more like a little swaddled baby and she used a green toothpick to carve out his eyes, nose and mouth. Then we worked on the manger and Joseph. I watched as she took that toothpick and again carefully shaped his features.

At one point, the oldest paused to survey her Mary. “This doesn’t look how I thought it would.”

Sometimes the kids have these one-liners that pretty much sum things up in general, you know? haha! But I digress.

“It’s okay,” I assured her. “Sculpting takes practice.”

“We need sheep!” she cried. She formed a sheep out of several balls of clay, and her sister squished and poked her lump of clay into something that did not resemble a sheep at all.  But there it was. Done for the day. We’ll add the shepherds, angel and wisemen later.

When I suggested we make our own Nativity set, I had a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t be getting perfect figurines fired in our old-fashioned kiln, hand-painted with the greatest detail and then placed in a fine cedar stable with fresh straw from the neighbour’s farm.

Nope. More like little clay blobs, one with arms outstretched, standing in an old Cheerios box, awaiting a coat of cheap poster paint.

I don’t know why I see such beauty in the plainness of life, but when I looked at that “craft” on our piano later that night, I was amazed. My daughter’s Mary has her arms outstretched, as if she’s worshiping. Surprisingly, it really touched my heart.

To a bystander, it probably all looks ready for the heap. When I tried to move Joseph his arm fell off – so we’ll have to figure that out. But you know, when I look at these figures, I see something infinitely more valuable than an answer to that internal question “have you done something with the kids today?”.

Of course I see all the important things – spending time together, enjoying their creativity, celebrating THE best time of the year, teaching a true story about Jesus.

But I also see evidence of God’s amazing power to free someone from the prison of perfectionism.

Since becoming a mom, God has been whittling away at my perfectionist tendencies and my desperate need for control of all the things. These little clay blobs mean more to me than a thousand perfect Nativity sets. They stand for the gradual transformation from a tough to tender heart.

MY well-controlled life has become OUR beautiful, messy life.

MY orderly home has become OUR lived-in home.

MY perfect Christmas has become OUR wonderfully imperfect Christmas.

What freedom I’m finding in this brand new place!

nativity set 2016