the Christmas tree

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Our vicarage pastor used to say it wasn’t a real Christmas without a fake tree.

At the time I thought the statement came awfully close to Christmas heresy.  And from a pastor of all people.  I almost choked on my hot chocolate.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it, though there was nothing more to make, for his mind was made up.  No sense in arguing.

So I pitied the man.  He obviously didn’t have the childhood Christmas memories that I had–where the entire point of having a real tree was rooted in the purpose of finding it.   How thrill ran alongside sleigh bells in the chase of the children in search of the perfect God-sent fir.

But a few adult attempts of tree-hunting with toddlers and infants in the wind and the rain will humble you.  Then there was our school’s Christmas auction a few years back.  Some Bible study friends bought me raffle tickets for my birthday and won me the prized pre-lit showcase.

This is the true meaning of Christmas.  Love impacts our world and changes things, you see.  Thankfully, I can now say with a blessed assurance, it doesn’t matter whether your tree is fake or found.  Or how long it takes for the Light to return or the lights to go on.

Christmas will always be real.

she who hoped in God

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
~Hebrews 11:9~

It had been a long day, another long day. Little ones were in bed. Dishes slept in the sink.  Morning sickness stayed up, wide awake since the daybreak. I found Mom on the sofa tucked away in the dark. With her oldest child in college and her youngest already five, Mom knew what this meant–she was starting all over. She had yet to tell Grandma and was nervous to do so. She was several weeks pregnant–again.

Yes, again.

I knelt down beside her. She opened her eyes. I didn’t say much but I told her the truth. I had watched through the years as this truth became real. “Children are a blessing, and God will provide.” Perhaps it seems trite, like a well-rehearsed platitude, but that’s what Mom had taught me to say, so I said it. She was more than my mom in this moment of weakness. She was human, a woman, a sister, my friend–and now, real as ever, needed truth shared in love.

“I’ll always be happy for you, Mom.”

There were other moments like that, when Mom would lose heart. Her friends, after all, had been “done” now for years. But why was this so unusual? Why the deep shame? Why should a woman, twenty years married, feel embarrassed by a pregnancy?  She would ask me those questions when the doubt would creep in. I didn’t have answers, only ears to give a listen. Thankfully her sadness never lingered too long. Lucky for her—my mom loved babies.

And it was all new again. She spent the summer shopping rummage sales. Each find brought her more and more joy. The hand-me-down crib. The bag full of barely used sleepers and onesies. Our church planned a shower. We walked through Babies “R” Us, in search of a high chair, while she told me stories of my baby days sleeping in a drawer. Grandma even sent money to put toward a gift, Mom’s favorite of all—the new car seat and stroller.

That summer I decided not to return to Concordia University.  I learned many wonderful things in Seward, Nebraska, but as the oldest daughter, a sense of duty toward my parents and younger siblings called me back home. I continued taking classes at the local community college, but my higher education went on outside of the classroom. My most memorable lessons, good and bad, remain the ones I learned by living them.  Since I’ve always had a hunger for hands on learning I asked Mom if she’d mind me being present for the birth. I was thrilled when she said I could be there.

Come September she was ready as one can expect when you’re expecting. Dad, Mom, and I left for the hospital early in the morning. Thanks and praise be to God, a healthy nine-pound baby arrived by late-afternoon. At the age of nineteen, I watched my forty-three-year old mother, a vocal fan of epidurals, quietly deliver a baby girl into the world. Dad stood at Mom’s bedside, holding her hand, reading Hebrews 11 aloud through his tears as she pushed.

“By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.”
~Hebrews 11:11~

Hannah Faith was my parents’ eighth child.

It was an honor to witness the miracle of life.  I tasted the privilege of motherhood that year. For the year of Hannah’s infancy, I gave her bottles, changed her diapers, got up with her in the night so Mom could sleep, and took her for rides in my car just for fun.  One day while playing with Hannah Mom said to me, “The only baby you’ll ever love more is your own.”

Two years later truth again became real. My husband and I had been married a year.  College completion was still a few years away. But at the age of twenty-one, come September, our first child was born. I still remember the details, but most of all, I remember him. The first time I saw my son’s face I knew. My heart possessed a tender love like no other I’d known. And it was all new again. We were starting our story.

This you learn quickly–every mother has a story.

So you’re having a baby?  Fear not and take heart.  You begin a blessed journey of many who have gone before, including a young mother from Nazareth, the Virgin who bore our Savior.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, with Truth and Hope as our guide.

Children are a blessing and God will provide.

~~~

“Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven, and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
~Hebrews 11:12~

social media generation

social media Somewhere in the summer I set Facebook aside.

There were no hard feelings involved–and I haven’t stayed away completely.  But I wanted and needed to cut back.  Something inside me wanted a change.  Summer break with the kids home felt like the perfect time.  I didn’t want the short summer days with my kids wasted away by wasted scrolling.

I never regret the time spent with His little ones.

Every so often I wonder about the long term effects of social media on parenting.  Facebook is too young to know the difference between good and bad, right and wrong.  No studies exist from those gone before decrying how they’d give anything to go back and chuck their phone out the window instead of their time.

I’m not gonna wait around for the research.