My goal for Christmas 2014 was to be purposeful and peaceful.
I made a conscious decision to not fill our calendar to the brim, and was a little more selective on things like treats to make, decorating, and all the Christmas traditions that are fun but not absolutely necessary.
Since my brother Rex moved back to Washington, I didn’t feel like I needed to spend every possible moment with him for the 7 days a year he would be home like in the past. Thus, I made the decision not to stay the night at my folks’ house on Christmas Eve. Spreading out family events would hopefully keep me from being so completely worn out.
My biggest desire for Christmas was to feel better. I wanted to feel better so that I could be less cranky with the kids, and actually be present, enjoying them enjoying Christmas. But in the months leading up to Christmas, it was made clear to me that no matter how hard I tried with diet, etc. “feeling good” just wasn’t something I could control. And so, somewhere in the midst of my struggles, the Lord showed me that my goal should be to walk in the peace of Christ Jesus no matter my physical state. I wanted my own way so bad. I was missing the whole point of trusting Him in all things, and knowing He will make good of all things.
So in that surrendered state, I enjoyed our evening Advent with the candles lit most every night. David hid baby Jesus from our Nativity set and gave the girls the clue, “What has Jesus done to our sins?” After a week or two of frustration, Kadie came up with the answer, “He washes them!” They found Him in the bottom drawer of our front-loading washing machine. I enjoyed David playing Christmas carols all month. I was so thankful for his gracious love that remained steadfast in my shaky emotional health at times. And I am very thankful for doctors that helped me with my hormones and depression by helping my gallbladder and liver, etc.
In reflecting about why Christmas is such a magical time, I found myself thinking a lot about stories, and what makes us love them so much. Of course, the most wonderful story of Jesus’ birth, and the angels singing (oh, how I wish I could have been with those shepherds to hear their song!) have been playing through my mind.
But then there are other Christmas stories that make me feel touched or inspired. I heard the story of Saint Nicholas on the radio, about how he was in a storm on the sea. The men on the boat heard he was a man of God, and so, they asked him to pray. He lifted his hands and prayed the the storm would stop and it did! Meanwhile, several leaders in a church in Turkey were all given a vision that the next man to walk into their church, who had the name Nicholas, would be their new bishop. That very hour, Nicholas had landed in port and went to the nearest church to praise the Lord for stopping the storm. He was then made their bishop. He had inherited wealth from his family, but he gave it to the poor, and then others gave him money which he gave to the poor. He disguised himself and sneaked around at night, dropping money into the window of the poor families who had daughters with no dowry. These girls were saved from being taken into slavery and prostitution because of Saint Nicholas. Once, the money he dropped fell into some stockings that were hung by the fire to dry. He was always giving gifts to the poor children, and it was his desire that others would love God and give to others as well.
In my mind, a good story usually has some kind of darkness in it, but also a small light called hope. That little light grows brighter in the midst of struggles, and in the end it shines brightest when God has made good come out of it all.
Not that I seek to dramatize my life, but the events of this Christmas are a story I wish to write out since photos and videos cannot capture it all. As mentioned earlier, I had some emotional sickness stemming from some physical stressors in my body, that left me feeling wiped out, sad about being “Monster Mommy”, and afraid of the instant rage “Hulk-thing” happening again around Christmas time. That was my darkness. But my loving husband and my forgiving children were gifts from the Lord through it all. Doctor Libby and Doctor Morter helped bring me stability. Thank you God for helping me!
The Friday before Christmas break, Violet’s class was to have a gingerbread man frosting party. I was stressing about what to do since our recent symptoms prevented us from having our nut flour cookies. After worrying about it for some time, I decided to just stop worrying and pray about it. I let it go. The next day, the Lord put in my head to cut out gingerbread men out of butternut squash. We tried it out and the kids loved it! They got their own slab of slightly firmer squash and happily cut out all kinds of Christmas cookie shapes. A few raisin eyes and some coconut sprinkles and viola! Violet wasn’t phased at all by the other kids’ cookies with frosting and candies. She was very absorbed into making her orange squash man all cute and delicious with the toppings glued on with a little “frosting” made of coconut oil, honey and cinnamon.
There was a low point one evening when Violet accidentally saw her gift from her sister. Kadie was so upset that the surprise was ruined. After her tears subsided, I told her we could still wrap it in a way that would be fun for Vi to open, even if she knew what it was. And so we decided, since Violet loves chicken so much, to make a chicken drumstick out of paper bags. Delighted with our results, we showed Violet her gift. She got all excited thinking we were giving her a piece of chicken inside, that she started to cry when we told her it wasn’t really chicken and that she had to wait till Christmas to open it.
The Sunday before Christmas, AJ Swoboda spoke at our church. He always challenges my thinking. Some of my notes from his sermon are as follows:
God pitched His tent and dwelled with us. We walked with Him, talked with Him, we touched Him, we felt Him, we saw Him. There’s a difference between having a picture of someone, and knowing them. There’s a difference between having a picture of a wife and having a wife. There’s a big difference between having ideas and theologies (a glamour shot) about Jesus, and actually knowing Jesus. He is who we worship, not our theologies of Him.
Grace and Truth
God is described as being a moth, and also a lion. He is grace, but He is also truth. How to survive your family Christmas gatherings: It’s incredibly easy to see your family members’ shortcomings. To have a truly authentic relationship you need both grace and truth! There are some who are all grace. They are afraid to hurt anybody’s feelings. But they don’t say what really needs to be said at times. Not authentic. Then there are some who are all truth…
Christmas isn’t about giving. It’s about receiving…. our Savior! It’s not easy. It’s painful. You are marginalized. You look funny to family and coworkers. Stop living by your “Math Brain”- by the probabilities of God. Live in your “Faith Brain”- the promises of God.
Three days before Christmas, we went to our neighbors’ house to participate in a little Nativity pageant. Violet, who loves to be on stage, was a beaming angel standing on a stool above shepherds and Bruce the sheep. Kadie was Mary, who had a large three and a half year old baby Jesus lay his head on her lap. Children make a lot of life magical. Especially at Christmas time.
The next morning was Christmas Eve! Over the Columbia River and through the woods of Battle Ground, to grandmother’s house we went! After lunch, I was helping mom put away food in their nice new refrigerator. I then gave myself a concussion by standing up into the prominent freezer door handle.
Apparently my mom has hit her head on it twice before. (Dad has now taken the handles off.) I grabbed ice for my head, and laid down, weeping. It didn’t hurt so much as it had hit the “cry button” on me. I saw flashing lights, I couldn’t really open my eyes and I couldn’t put sentences together very well. David and I debated going back home to get my microcurrent machine which has a set protocol of frequencies for concussions. I felt terrible to ask him to drive back for it, but he was full of compassion for me and headed out. Five minutes later he called to say he was coming back to get me and take Bruce with us so he could take his nap in the car, and I could start treating on our way back. Thus we drove all the way back to Beaverton, Bruce napped, and I ran the thirty minute treatment twice as we crawled in traffic all the way back to Battle Ground. I was so thankful for the treatment! It helped take the lights away, my head pain dimmed a bit, I stopped crying, and I could open my eyes and talk normal again. I love Frequency Specific Microcurrent! I’m thankful for David literally driving the extra mile for me. We missed out on some family time, but in a way, it was exactly the peaceful togetherness we needed in our holidays.
When we finally got back to my parents’ house and got out to stretch our tired legs, David and I took a moment to hug and kiss. Meanwhile Bruce, still strapped into his car seat, shouted “Mommy! Mommy! Are you kissing Daddy?”
He repeated it again when we didn’t answer. We broke away, laughing, and said, “Yes.”
After some silence Bruce said, “Oh… that’s a good idea.”
We walked into the basement to find my brother Travis doing his usual last minute Christmas gift thing. This time he was making a scrapbook for his girlfriend. I jumped in to help him with some more ideas for page layout designs. He was absolutely gleeful at how good it was turning out. His laugh… I love it! Won’t ever forget it.
It was a special treat that my mom had baked almond flour cookies with raisins on top, and that we got to eat some after all! Thanks Lord!
At the gift-opening time, the girls were super excited to get their most-wished-for gifts of an Elsa and Anna doll. Bruce was just as excited to get socks from Uncle Cory and Aunt Arianne. He kept exclaiming about them and was super happy to put them on and show them off. How many times have I inwardly groaned at getting socks from relatives as a child?! My little guy inspires me to enjoy life so much more!
We had all pitched in and got Rex a toaster oven. At some point, I started smelling something burning. I kept asking what that burning smell was. I started to imagine the toaster oven cooking while still in it’s box. How absurd is that? It’s not plugged in! Mom reassured me it was drippings in the bottom of her oven which they just turned on to heat up apple dumplings.
After some more gift openings, my ears picked up some strange ticking noise. I got a little alarmed by it and asked everybody what that ticking sound was. Everyone hushed and we all looked at Rex’s toaster oven, still in it’s box. He picked it up and there, on the floor, rolled some sort of cat toy that was a motorized ball with a raccoon like tail. It had gotten turned on, and stuck, whapping the box over and over again. Man! That blow to my head must have hit a paranoia button on me!
The uncles pitched in and got Bruce a toy drum set! We groan about it, but I actually asked for it on his list! Crazy, I know. But let me tell you. He has been banging on pots and pans and lids everyday for a month or two; always to his favorite song: Chris Tomlin’s “Our God.” And yes, he was even more excited about the drums than the socks. He was jumping up and down. What was so funny to me was that I could tell Uncle Cory really wanted a turn to play the drums. “Bruce, I think Uncle Cory wants a turn now,” I said.
“I do.” said Cory sheepishly. It took some persuading, but Bruce impressed us by giving up his drumsticks.
Then came the singing of carols. I know my Gram loves the 12 Days of Christmas, but after an hour of noisy instruments and singing, I was a bit done. Plus the flashing lights and head pain were coming back. I know that years down the road I’d miss the noise and singing, but maybe two hours is too much, as nobody gets to relax or doing anything else as it is so very loud. Also, I feel like I have sung the songs many times all month long. But enough of my “Grinch moment.” My 89 year old Gram loves it, and the tears in her eyes afterwards, when she was telling me just how much she loves our family was worth it.
And then Dad broke out the microphone for Bruce to sing a solo of “Our God.” And then Uncle Travis got a hold of the microphone and started talking in a deep MC voice, giving a “shout out” for Mom, who cooked a good turkey… for David who drove Jenni with a concussion all the way to Beaverton and back again…to Gram and her lemon bars and 1 year old fruit cake… at which point we all cracked up and Dad cut the power to the mic. It had been fun day, but it was time to go home.
Christmas morning was quiet. The kids delighted in their very own apple and honey stick and gold dollar coin in their stockings. Oh, and Frozen stickers too. The girls like my old dolly tea set and dolly clothes I had found in my cedar chest. David and I had also published a story that the girls and I made up about adventures with Peter Pan shortly after our Disneyland trip. It has pictures drawn by Kadie and me. So cute! Bruce delighted in his Olaf socks and wanted to wear them over his SmartWool socks from Christmas Eve he was still wearing. David got me tickets to see Chris Tomlin and my new favorite band Rend Collective! I had got him an I-owe-you to resize his wedding ring that now had to be worn on his middle finger.
After lunch we went to David’s parents house to eat more and hang out. I treated my concussion again. Napped with Bruce. Then enjoyed Jack and Rachel arriving to exchange gifts and sing. I gave Rachel a gentle initiation into the family by giving her a box inside a box inside a box gift. Our family has occasionally done it with bags inside bags inside bags, or even duct taped layers. Jack enjoyed his personalized ping pong paddle that had his crazy face on it along with the words “I spank ping pong balls.”
It’s kind of fun playing carols with David’s dad playing on the Erhu (a two-stringed instrument). Both Rachel and I enjoyed how into it he got. The kids were a little stir-crazy and after we moved the drum set to another room and banished them to it if they wanted to be noisy, Kadie came out, asking us to go to Rachel’s studio as was mentioned earlier. We didn’t really have all that much time before having to meet family at the restaurant, but we did it anyways. And I’m so glad we did!
The studio was all beautiful with tree and lights. They recently expanded, and it was all very lovely. We danced and kicked around soft soccer balls. It was hard to tear away from all the lively fun. When we arrived at Hong Kong Cafe, there was no room for us at the two large tables filled with some of our relatives, and then a bunch of people I didn’t recognize. It was a bit of a bummer because, while we cannot eat out anymore, we had brought our thermoses of food, and had wanted to be part of the family for Christmas dinner. David’s parents were nice, and sat with us while we ate our own food. But there were people waiting to get in and eat. And there were a few seats left at our party’s tables. So after we ate, politely saying “no” to David’s mom’s offers to order special veggies for us, and trying to console Kadie in her sadness of staring at white rice, we gave some gifts to relatives and said our goodbyes. It turned a little sour for us, as I was wondering if our relatives invited a bunch of their friends to sit with them, and so there wasn’t room for us. I guess I learned that it would be better to just go visit David’s grandma and Benson’s mom at their house, or invite them here. It’s too noisy to really talk in Chinese restaurants on Christmas day anyway. I guess we’ll have another chance to visit for Chinese New Year in a couple of months.
After recovering for a day, I had a burst of energy to clean house. The next day I was wiped out and I sat around watching David clean house. I’m loving things tidied up! I am going to try my friend’s decluttering challenge this year: getting rid of 2015 things in the year 2015!
David and I have really nice neighbors who watched our kids so we could go get David’s ring sized. We made the most of our freedom and hit the library, had a lunch date at Cruise In Diner (organic free range burgers in lettuce), and even found some pants that fit David at Goodwill. Score!
Another night, the girls had a blast jumping on beds with Amelia, who came for a sleepover. The kids and I had another down day while David worked, and then New Year’s Eve I had an appointment with Dr. Libby who put my head and neck back together. I love Dr. Libby! And I know I said it before, but I love microcurrent!
That evening, Rex and my folks came over to eat hot dogs, banana splits, play computer games, a few other games, and work a puzzle. As we were counting down to midnight, Rex packed up his computer just in time to say “Happy New Year!” drink a little sparkling cider with us, and then take off for home. He likes to have some fun, but then he also likes his sleep.
New Year day morning, we took the kids to Chuck E Cheese since our plan to take Bruce for his birthday was canceled by the wind storm and power outage several weeks ago. What a fun time with both sets of grandparents there, and the bonus of our neighbors! After a quick lunch, Dad, David and I met up with Rex again, Tracy, and Jack and Rachel at the movie theater for the final Hobbit movie. What an epic finish to the series! And what an epic start to our new year!
We are looking forward to this new year with David’s birthday coming up, Jack and Rachel’s wedding, our 10th anniversary, and maybe trying another 5K run. Tonight our family wrote a new prayer for the year. Some of it comes from Romans 12:2 …”We want what You want for us. We know Your plan is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Happy New Year everyone! God’s blessings to you.