Advent traditions

During the former years at our church, Advent came part of my favorite time of year.  I say the same thing every year at this time, but it was like Christmas, my favorite time of year, stretched out in time to last three whole months longer.

I wanted life to be perfect, and pretty much I still do.

It seems like every year there’s this pressure to make it mean something.  Every Christmas, in the same way every summer, feels like a time you can’t get back.  People talk about the commercialization of Christmas and the extra stress that causes for people.  Besides the normal shopping lists and schedules, this isn’t where I feel the biggest stress.  It has more to do with the spiritual side.  I need to be teaching my kids about Jesus.  We need to be having special Advent devotions.  I feel a nagging sense of guilt when I can’t or don’t keep up.  There’s always this feeling like it’s never enough.

Knowing this, that every year there tends to be the not enough-ness feeling, I’m trying to embrace it thinking back on past years.  Some of the traditions I always hoped I would do with my kids but couldn’t do when they were smaller–the cinnamon ornaments and gingerbread houses–we’re actually getting to do more of now.  Other things, like the Jesse Tree we’ve never yet made, or the Ann Voskamp kid book that barely got looked at, or the felt Advent calendar going days now forgotten, I’m just having to let go of.  There comes this point where there is nothing left for me but to lean into the rest of trusting God’s love and care for my children.  I do my best to pass on the faith, but each one of my children will walk their own path.

I hope that doesn’t sound too much like resignation.  I’m basically saying I can’t do it all, and that will pretty much always be the way that it is.  I’m also not saying that in time every single dream will come true. I’m saying that somehow we learn to adapt.

Christmas shopping problems

Toys R’ Us is closed this year.

It’s not like I bought a ton at Toys R’ Us, but it was, for me, a Christmas place of inspiration–all the toys I didn’t want, that Really Cool Big Thing that tempted me greatly, a train set perfect for under the tree. It’s been a regular stop in my shopping each year. I don’t even know where to go to get ideas now.

Toys R’ Us is now Big Lots so I guess we’ll start there.

star of wonder

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The boys wanted to do something different this year and I thought to myself, “Well why the heck not?”  The first year we moved here I found a Rudolph train to be running around the tree for them on Christmas morning.  To my delight they loved the train, and while we were putting up our tree this year, they asked if we could set the train up now.  Is there not plenty of delayed gratification here for all of us?

God truly does provide joy for us in the now.  I know we don’t always feel it, and I’m not saying if you’re not feeling it then you better figure out some way to find joy.  So many times I think joy finds us.  He shows up the next morning after a night of feeling sad.  He shows up in the Toys ‘R Us train with a home.  He shows up in the hungry cats looking for food.  I’m certain there’s a Christian world version of fairy dust.

I remember one time my grandma and I were talking on the phone about happy things that had happened in our days.  I must have been sounding like this was some strange and random wild sequence of events, for she exclaimed, in what felt like a fountain of joy out of nowhere, “Oh Honey, let’s give God the credit!”  My dad scolded me once for the very same thing.  “Why do you keep saying that it all “just happened”?

I’m not trying to compare my parenting to God (HA!), but just for a minute, you can think about all the ways God answers prayers, in the “yes” the “no” the silence and “not yet”.  But then how many times,  when God was creating the world for mankind, did He laugh out loud at the thought of a whale, or a star, and then think to himself,

“Well, why the heck not?”

None of this has yet a thing to do with Jesus.

Jesus, boundless love, I do not wish to leave you out.  For what greater gift has there ever been than You?  Every whale depicts your greatness, every star declares your glory. You were daily the delight of Your Father, the bitter and sweet piercing sword of Your mother. What joy did you see when You came to the earth? Who’s face did You seek when You carried the cross? In what language did the Bethlehem star hear Your voice?

the old way

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Something in the old way isn’t working anymore.

There is too much pain, too much grief in my heart.

I’ve been running too long on the faith-fumes of elders, and I’m in this strange place of trying to refigure where it is I stand, on what it means to be a woman, on what it means to be a wife, to be a mother, to be a Christian when he says “to live is Christ”.

There’s a guy named Derek Webb.  He used to be in a Christian band.  He’s an atheist now, divorced from his wife.  I read his words, the ones he claims are the truest and free. It doesn’t sound like the old him at all.  He sounds like a new man who no longer lives, but might yet hope to live again.

The time for grief is over he says.  I get it. You can’t remain in the sadness forever. But how did Christianity wound us so badly? Who’s fault is it we missed what it meant? No sex before marriage. No divorce once you’re married. Go and let your light shine before men.  This is nowhere near the point of what it means to be a Christian.

The spirit of the age out there wants us to spill, but there still remains a right and a wrong way to speak.  There’s not a clearer writer in the Bible than Paul. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is wholesome in building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

There’s a deep and gnarled cynicism threatening my heart, like a vampire poised to sink his teeth into my neck.  Every tear is like a poison to my faith, and yet, AND YET, how much greater then the HOPE when I hear the words of glory, “He will wipe away EVERY tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.”

Rejoice, dear friends.

The former things are passing on.

a little Christmas

“Nothing lasts forever”, I said to my grandma.

I wasn’t even thinking about Mary and Joseph or the first little Christmas there under the star.  There existed no animosity between us, only pondering of lifetimes, changes and truths. The words we exchanged found a soft place to land, and it seemed like my point had in breaths been well-taken.  Grandma waited for a moment, and then she made hers.

“Salvation does”.