Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To resolve or not to resolve... that is the question!

Resolutions... do you make them? Do you laugh at them? Do they only add more stress in your life once you've written them on the tablet of your heart and vowed to be successful in your endeavors?

I usually make resolutions, and I usually don't accomplish them. Well, I can't say that I have ever accomplished a resolution in my life. But just this morning, I read a blog post by a writing agent who has the notion this year that she will just make a list of the way she wants to feel this year and use that as her guide instead of making specific empty goals. Because that's usually what our goals center around anyway, isn't it? The way we want to feel.

So.... how do I want to feel?

The first word that comes to mind is light. I want to feel weightless. I want to defy gravity. I don't want the weight of the world around me to affect me on the inside. None of it. Not stress about money, bills, kids. Not the way other people think or feel about me. Not the size of my jeans. I want to be motivated by my insides, my soul, by the depth of my love for my family and my Lord, and by the plan that my Lord has for me. I want to soar above the earthliness on wings of an eagle.

"... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 31

I also want to feel love, loved, full of love. Not love as in, "Oh, I love Hershey's kisses!" But love as in 1 Corinthians 13. Real love. For my husband, for my kids, for the lady who rings up my groceries at Publix. Love through Christ for all who cross my path. Love to the fullest and without limits. I want to accept and feel the love God beams down upon my soul, and I want to reciprocate it to those around me.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7

Maybe I could combine those two words and blend the thoughts into one word... freedom. Freedom in Christ. That's how I really want to feel. Free in God's love and mercy. Released from the past and living in the today. Free from resolutions. Free from the world.

So here's to a new year. Here's to feeling light and loved and free from all the crap of the world that threatens to swallow us up. Here's to stepping into a new year full of hope and promise. And not just for me, but for all who read these words.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another come and gone...






Another come and gone. More presents that had been carefully wrapped and placed under the tree carelessly torn open and tossed to the side. More sleepy smile, bedhead pictures on Christmas morning. More memories. More to be thankful for. Maybe the last all-children-in-the-house-still-believing year. More family moments you could have done without, and even more you're glad you didn't miss. A couple more calories than you should have eaten. More Barbie shoes to step on. More chargers in the household to keep up with. More clear candy plastic canes filled with M&Ms. More ornaments to add to the collection and put in the attic for storage. Another come and gone. And now almost another year to begin...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The ghost of Christmas past...

I was visited by the ghost of Christmas past on Sunday.

I hit the rewind button on Sunday morning as I sat down to put my makeup on for the day at my mom and dad's house celebrating Christmas with my two brothers and their whole families. I was so excited for us all to be together. It usually only happens once a year, but there have been several years that one or two of us couldn't make it, and this year promised all Tew-related folks to be present.

A year ago... a year ago. My mom had just been to the doctor, and we had been informed that her cancer had returned. It wasn't common knowledge, though. We had decided to wait until we had all the test results before sharing the information with any and all. So it was this weight in my soul, on my heart, on top of my shoulders, and in the very tips of my toes. My mom's cancer permeated every fiber of my being and thought. A year ago, I couldn't help but look forward in terms of her illness. What would the next Christmas look like? Would she be well? Have hair? Be able to fret about and prepare the meal as she enjoys so much? In the inner most part of me was the most awful question of all, one I dared not utter aloud, but pondered it in silence instead... would she still be here next Christmas? I'd be lying if I told you her leaving me never crossed my mind. The fear of and the pain in asking myself that question forced me to put it in the back of my mind, but it emerged from the dark corners every now and again haunting me like the ghost of Christmas future.

Last Christmas... I wouldn't relive it for the world. Even though in my home it was the best Christmas yet. My children had one of the best years they had ever had. The excitement level was off the meter, but the stress in my heart was unbearable. My mother was sick again, though she didn't look sick or act sick. The cancer was back, and it was threatening more than just her life. It was threatening my ability to live in the moment, to appreciate the present day.
This year, the joy bubbles over in my heart. My mom is still here. She's still alive, here to enjoy another Christmas. She still has all her hair, was still able to fry the bacon for our brunch, was still able to do all she wanted to do. By the lovely grace of God, my mother is still here. He is amazing.

This Christmas, I want to live in the present. In the today. Not in what may be next year or what was last year. In the now. In the beautiful gift of life we have all been given. It's more than just my mom... it's my two beautiful, healthy children, it's the miracle if life growing inside my best friend's womb, it's another year of marriage with my husband, it's one more smile from my aging grandparents. God's grace and mercy and blessings that He's spread across my life never cease to amaze me. Perhaps I am more aware of them here lately than I have ever been in my life.

So here's my Christmas verse for all who are reading this post...
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23

His love. His compassions. His faithfulness. They are perfect. They are just what I need in the moment. They never fail. And today, I praise Him for His blessings on my life. And I want to live in them today knowing full well all I have is this one day. No need to worry about tomorrow or yesterday, either. Just today.

Merry Christmas friends!

Friday, December 17, 2010

In the quiet moments...

In the quiet of this morning, my eyes still heavy from sleep, I heard two little voices in the dining room at the base of the Christmas tree.

"I wish it was Christmas day..."
"I wish it was Christmas Eve cause then we could open these presents and then Santa would come..." (Being nine, David is a little more savvy on the logistics of gift receiving around here.)
"Oh, yeah... then I wish it was Christmas Eve."
"But guess what? We get to go to Gammie's on Sunday and open presents there."
"We do? David, you're gonna love what I got you..."
"Is it a toy?"
"Oh, yeah... it's a toy and it's something you're gonna really like!"

I could go on, but I fear my transcription of the conversation doesn't really do it the justice it deserves. Hard to convey the gently sweetness of their voices talking back and forth in the stillness of the morning about what they picked out for each other and for me. Hard to convey in words the excitement in their hearts. In that moment, it was even harder for me to believe that my children were old enough to get themselves out of bed and wander into the dining room and have a coherent conversation with one another. Seems like just yesterday I was feeding them their bottles and wiping their spit-up of their chin or my shoulder. How has it come to be that they sit and discuss their anticipation of Christmas?

There are so many moments with children that are stressful. And, at Christmas, the stress seems to multiply with the worry about what to get them, how to make ways to fill their dreams, answering the questions about how many days left and how many presents and when we'll be opening them over and over. Sometimes, for me at least, the joy of my children is overshadowed with the earthly reality - the reality of taking care of, disciplining, homework, laundry, wiping up spills, preparing snacks and meals, getting them up and out the door in the morning. But there are these beautiful moments, quiet and still, that happen when you need them most to remind you of the pure joy of your children. That they do love you and each other. That they are still simple and innocent. And they are mine. God gave them to me. Some days, I'm ready to give them back, but this morning, I cherished for a moment just how blessed I am to have them in my life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

So why in the world am I blogging?????????????

Wow. In case you haven't heard, CHRISTMAS IS NEXT WEEK. LIKE ONE WEEK AWAY. And what you haven't heard yet is that I am TOTALLY ABOUT TO LOSE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was already behind. As most households have to do, I was waiting on that December 10th paycheck to get out there in the masses and finish up the present searching. Problem is our one and only paycheck for the month was delayed until the 13th. So that put me back a few extra days. No biggie. Had the thing to do at David's school scheduled for Tuesday, so I had planned to spend the day shopping yesterday sans children. Here's where we insert THE FLU.

David walked up to me Tuesday night around 6:30 saying his head hurt... a quick press of a button and beeping sound of the ear thermometer alerted me to his 102.7 fever. GREAT. I couldn't get him into the doctor yesterday morning, so I drug him out with me. In my defense, he really doesn't feel all that bad. As long as I keep the fever at bay, he's good. Not 100%, but good. So we got a few things accomplished, but for obvious reasons there were a lot of things I couldn't purchase with him with me.

So, here I am, just a matter of days away from Christmas, and I have one of the longest lists of things to do this close to the actual day than I have ever experienced. My family thing is this Sunday, so there are those obvious things that have to be taken care of for that. And the not knowing of who will be next in the household to be stricken gives me the extra shot of anxiety to get out there today and spin like a tornado until all is done. Thankfully, Scott is off today and can take care of sick man and allow me to run the streets. Hopefully he will keep him jacked up on Motrin and Tylenol so his fever will stay down. I am sure I will have to leave written instructions.

So today, I will leave us all with a Scripture that I need above all others:
Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

I think I will repeat this verse in my mind today as I bustle about...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A day with fifth graders...

I had never been so glad to be done with anything in all my life as I was when I stepped out of that classroom yesterday afternoon after nearly seven hours on my feet in not-the-best-choice footwear.

My day began at 5:45, a time that in my humble opinion is too early in the day to do anything, especially when it's 12 degrees outside and still dark. Too early to be fighting the battle with the shower trying to find that perfect balance of hot and cold water. A hair to the right, too cold; a hair to the left, too hot; somewhere in the middle of a hair and another hair, just perfect. I also fought a battle the entire time before leaving for school with David - he had run a low grade fever the night before, and woke up with it that morning as well, and though he was under the 100.9 mark of real fever as defined by the Shelby County Board of Education (his was 99.7), the mother in me struggled with the notion of sending him to school as his cough sounded much like that of a large male seal looking for his mate in the crowd. Off we went, though to face the day, and I was glad when I arrived and realized that several volunteers were not able to attend due to their children's or their own illness.

We started the day discussing the concept of an entrepreneur, and we did an activity in which the children were divided into groups, given a topic, and asked to work together to form a business idea and create an advertisement for their business. I was amazed at how the students totally got into this activity and how creative they were. One group had the medical topic card, and they decided they would start a business to research and create a medicine that would enable humans to live forever. How imaginative is that? Another group did a car designing company, one an amusement park, another a football/cheer leading training facility. They were so smart and intuitive. And they kept asking me questions like, "Do we have to do such-and-such?" My answer was always, "You can do whatever you want to do..." Their eyes were bright with wonder at the notion that there were really no rules... and no grades...

I had this one little boy, however, that just wasn't having it. He didn't like the activity, he didn't like the group he was in, and I was beginning to think he didn't like life in general. How sad to be only 10 or 11 and not like life already. What on earth does he have to look forward to? What will he be like when he has to start paying bills and raising kids? I was amazed at his disposition as I had never been around a child like that, and I set out on a personal mission to make him smile. For the second activity, we played a game board, and he refused to join any of the groups. So I sat in the floor and played with him and finally got him to grin when he won the game. He really was a smart boy, just belligerent and grumpy and unwilling to cooperate with anyone consistently. Later in the day he told a fellow classmate that his dream of playing football for the University of Alabama was stupid. I was floored, and I was very glad that his teacher stepped in to discipline him for that one. I tired to explain to the children that you should dream big and work toward your goals, and I even shared with them that I am currently pursuing my dream of writing a novel.

There were five activities in all, and the final was an absolute nightmare. It involved a large spool of string, 29 children, and my desire for a shot of tequila or two or three. And I don't even shoot tequila - never have - but if there's anything that will make you want to try, I promise it's a 8,000 feet of white string, one belligerent, aggressive boy, and 26 other fifth graders. Just sayin'.

I was glad I had the opportunity to do it. Very glad, actually. It was so interesting to see all the different types of children in one classroom. Early on in the day, one of the kids looked at me and asked, "How come you are so nice? How is that possible?" So I answered him as honestly as I could by telling him, "Because I don't have to be here everyday..." And the poor things - well, their teacher is pregnant, due in April, and carrying so low that I am guessing she won't it out of the month of March. She can't be comfortable, and from what I saw, she's a no-nonsense type of teacher. Don't get me wrong, she was kind. But she certainly had a tight handle on the classroom. Very tight. I am thinking the students are looking forward to her maternity leave.

On my way out, I told the volunteer coordinator for the elementary schools that I want to do Madalyn's class. How fun... the little kids are so much fun. They are still pretty happy to be there, so it's a totally different experience from the poor fifth graders that actually thought I was nice because I came in there and saved them from their workload and allowed them to play games all day. Wow - I do sound pretty fantastic when I think about it that way...

Monday, December 13, 2010

What the heck was I thinking??????

Several weeks ago, I answered an email from David's 4th grade teacher entitled EMERGENCY NEED FOR VOLUNTEERS. What good stay-at-home-mom of two school aged children wouldn't? The need for volunteers centered around a non-profit organization, Junior Achievement, that goes into the schools and provides information about jobs, skills, and finances to children. Of course, Junior Achievement relies on the support of volunteers for the actual classroom instruction time. So, I replied to the email - sure, I can volunteer. What I didn't realize is that David's school participates in a program called JA in One Day where an entire five week curriculum is presented in one day.

One day. A full day. As in 7:45 - 2:45. Like, I have to be up, dressed, ready to go, alert and alive, and remain in that state for an entire day.

When that realization hit me, I made a pledge to myself to delete all emails in the future with subjects similar to EMERGENCY NEED FOR VOLUNTEERS without even opening to read it. I will not be duped again.

Being the professional procrastinator I am, I have spent the past two and half hours tearing apart sheets and sheets and sheets and sheets of perforated games cards for the various activities we will be engaging in tomorrow. I really had no idea that the bulk of my prep time would be spent tearing apart card stock instead of reading over material. All game stuff is separated, in individual bags or envelopes, and ready to go. Me, on the other hand, not so much ready to go...

It's the week before Christmas. My list of things to do is far longer than the list of things done. And I will be spending an entire day in a class of 5th graders talking about jobs, job skills, and globalization - things of which I know nothing about since I haven't worked in ten years or completed college. I can hear myself now, "You know, students, had I completed college and actually began a career in any field other than motherhood, then I might have a list of job skills such as those we are discussing today."

I know what you're all thinking, and it's not true. I am not downing myself when I make the above statement. Just stating the obvious. The volunteer booklet that outlines the curriculum tells me in several locations to use my career, education, and expertise to exhibit the key points on the lesson. Hmmmmmm. I'll have to be creative with my delivery.

So tomorrow, you won't find me at Walmart completing the shopping list or in my living room floor wrapping gifts. You'll find me in a classroom of 5th graders discussing the relevancy of job skills and entrepreneurship. Can I instead discuss the need for the boys to pick a profitable field so that they can support their family, and stress with the girls to look for that certain fire in the eyes of a man that shows he has the determination to make something of himself one day and support you to stay at home with your children?

I think I better stick to the script...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa Shop...

I volunteered to work the Santa Shop at Madalyn's elementary school on Tuesday and Wednesday. Of all the things I have volunteered to do over the years, this was the one thing I looked the most forward to. I couldn't wait to see what the kids would pick out for their loved ones, and I practiced the phrase, "Oh... they will definitely LOVE that..." without laughing over and over again in the mirror to prepare myself.

There's something about children. Simplistic minds. Pure love. On the first day, a third grade girl was immediately drawn to a car washing kit similar to the one pictured below. As though drawn by magnetic force right toward it, she honed in on it and said to me, "I'm getting that for my dad!" I believe she had $12 with her, and the kit alone was $7, so I had to work with her to help her find the rest of the gifts she wanted to buy and still be able to get that car washing kit for her dad. She wouldn't budge on that, and I thought it was so sweet to watch her process through all the things she needed to get and manage it all with only $12. I could tell she didn't live in a home of abundance, and yet her joy was no different from the children who had more money to spend.
One of the things that was so difficult for me was seeing the wide ranges of economic status. Some kids came with $40 plus, while some children brought change and a couple of dollar bills. Since we were not allowed to give cash back on the check, the children whose parents wrote a check (and most were for $20 or $30) were required to spend the entire amount. So some children struggled to spend all they had while others struggled to get everything with what little they had. Both were equally as heartbreaking. Watching a child fret over having to pick something off the table that they didn't really want or need was just as upsetting to them as it was to the child who had to put something back on the table because they didn't have enough funds to purchase. I had never seen the pain of having too much and too little displayed in such a manner right before my eyes. I have always believed that the middle is the place to be, and my time at the Santa Shop confirmed that.

Yesterday, we had a little boy that came in with an envelope that had two $1 bills and $4.75 in change. I could tell that it was probably all his mom had to give him. We all worked with him as he picked out something for his mom, his grandmother, and of course a little something for himself. He kept coming up fifty cents short, so I threw it in for him. And then there was this other sweet boy who had $5. That's all he had, and he said all he needed to buy for was his daddy. That broke my heart because I had to wonder why he wasn't buying for mom. He was drawn to a $3 measuring tape, but he also had a little red fire truck in his arms that he wanted for himself. And you know the mom in me told him I wanted him to have it even though he didn't have enough. I threw in the $3... how could I not? It was heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking.

In the down time, one of the PTO board members told me that there were around 30 children in the school that were considered homeless. Granted, our school is large - around 950 children. But it's kindergarten through third grade. These kids are young, way too young to be worried about not having food or a warm place to call home. This morning I received an email from our home owner's association saying that we will be collecting food items or money to help the children in need at the elementary school make it through the Christmas break. My heart can't handle it. I can't help but wonder if I saw any of those children some through the Santa Shop in the two days I worked.

Life. It's unfair, unequal, unforgiving. My family has faced "financial difficulty" over the past couple of years, but we've still got our home and food in the pantry. My kids may not have all they want, but they have all they need. And yet I feel they don't appreciate anything, not because they haven't been taught better at home but more because of this society of overindulgence and abundance. But how can I teach them, how can their little brains wrap around the idea that some children don't have anything to eat at home, and some don't even have a place to call home.

Today I want to focus my prayer on those innocent souls who suffer everyday. Whose stomachs churn in hunger at night. Who don't know where they'll sleep next week. Who may not believe in Santa because he never comes. I pray for them, I pray that God will wrap His loving arms around them and warm their soul. I pray that we will all look for opportunities to help these children in our own communities. And I pray that my children will be kind every day to those around them and realize how fortunate they are.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finding God in surprising packages...

About a week and a half ago, I sat down in my chair in the living room, television on in front of me still on NBC from my morning viewing of the Today Show. I leave the TV on nearly all day long for noise even when I am not in the room or planning on watching anything. Waste of energy, I know, but old habit. It was the noon hour, and Pat Robertson was on interviewing a strange looking dude. The words below his heavily tatted body and weird countenance told me he was Brian Welch, former member of the band Korn. I've never been a big heavy metal gal myself, but seeing these polar opposites sitting across from one another discussing the Lord made me turn up the volume and tune in my ears.

Brian Welch was promoting his new book, Stronger: Forty Days of Metal and Spirituality. Beyond the long dark braids that covered his scalp, beyond the dark eyeliner, beyond the multi-colored tattoos that covered his arms, there was a light in his eyes as he recited words from the Scriptures and shared his personal testimony from when he turned his life over to Jesus. I was so amazed by his story that I went on Amazon and ordered his book. I had to read it. Turns out he's written several books. Turns out he's got some amazing things to say.

Now, before I lose some of my incredibly conservative readers, I'm not saying that you should order the book and read it. It's not for everyone. He talks a lot about his experiences with drugs and alcohol and his life as a rocker. But what amazes me the most about what I've read thus far is his transparency. He's so open about where he's been, how empty and lost he felt during those times though he was on top of the entertainment world, and how Jesus has rescued him from his personal prison of drug and alcohol addiction. He is an amazing witness to a segment of the population that a ton of stuffy, suit wearing, crew cut sporting Christians just can't reach effectively. In fact, I would rather hear a testimony like his than of that stuffy one I just mentioned above. There's something in the story of redemption from a life further gone than mine that makes me feel more hopeful. Is that twisted thinking? I don't know... maybe. But in hearing how low he's been, it makes me more confident that I can be redeemed. And I think that's just human nature.

Reading the book has also added fuel to my flame, to my desire to be a witness, for my longing to finish my story and get it out there, to the hope that lives within me for my written words to someday demonstrate God's love and mercy to all who read them. I am not banking on sitting along side Pat Robertson on the TV anytime soon - not so sure I would ever want to. He kinda creeps me out a little. I may or may not go to hell for actually saying and thinking that about Pat Robertson, but you should all know I try to be honest here. Back to the point... I want to use what I've got, my experiences, my life, my mistakes, to honor God. Brian Welch continues to do so, and I am amazed. Amazed and challenged.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bittersweet...

When I was a little girl, my Grandmother Norris, my mom's mom, would have me over to help her put up her Christmas tree. That was back in the day when no one put up their tree before Thanksgiving or the month of December, back when the mall didn't dare hang a wreath until the day after Thanksgiving shoppers arrived, back when lights were always big and multi-colored. They were simpler times, fake-bearded Santas, Polaroid pictures at the mall, stockings with names in glue and glitter on the cuff. Much less sophisticated. Just less of everything in general.

I have vivid memories of helping my grandmother decorate her tree. It was artificial, and the one in my home was always real. I recall the stringing of the lights, the placing of the ornaments, the weird smell of plastic in place of the fresh scent of pine. There was the white ceramic tree that was lit from within which my grandmother made herself in ceramics class (trend of the 70's in the South) with little plastic things resembling Christmas light bulbs that stuck into holes. I loved filling in the holes one by one, strategically placing the colors so that there were no two reds or greens side by side.

Yesterday, my kids and I made the hour drive to my grandmother's home, the same house she has lived in since before I was born, to help my mom put out the Christmas tree. Memories flooded my heart on the drive down, of all the Thanksgivings and Christmas tree nights and Christmas Eves spent in that home. Of all the cornbread dressing and turkey and Co-Cola (as my grandmother pronounces it). Of all the love. Of all the history and family inside that little brick home.

It was a much different experience yesterday than when I was little. My grandmother sat on the couch, mostly silent, watching my children place ornaments on her tree. She smiled a lot, but spoke little, and she never even stood up the whole two hours we were there. She is fading. Quickly. And my heart just hurts in knowing that one of the sweetest parts of my history will be leaving the earth soon.

I know that in years to come I will carry one of the most bittersweet Christmas memories with me... of my grandmother saying, "I don't remember my Christmas tree ever looking so pretty..." Of her sweet smile. Of her watching my children with such joy, though she can barely hear what they are saying. Of her telling me, "You just let them put the ornaments wherever they want to." It's a far cry from the grandmother of my childhood, but I've been so blessed to see her live this long. 91 years of life. More and more amazing each time I think of it.

Thank you, Lord, for such a loving grandmother who has provided me with a heart full of memories and love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do you really believe?

"Mama... Aaron doesn't believe in Santa. He thinks your parents go to Walmart and buy all the stuff..."

"Why? That's so sad..." I stood combing his hair in the bathroom this morning, nervous anticipation clumping in the back of my throat, trying to decide if I should cough it up or swallow it back down. Yeah, he's nine, but he's still my baby, and I want him to believe.

"Well, I told him I don't think it's your parents. I believe in Santa."

"I do, too, David... I do, too..."

I struggled a couple of years ago with the whole concept of Santa when David finally reached to age to pose questions like how does Santa make it to all the houses and how can he be at the mall and still be at the North Pole getting toys ready. I felt like I was caught in an endless trail of lies trying to explain things away. Then I opted for a different approach to answering his curiosity. I told him as close to the truth as I could... that I don't know how Santa does all he does, and that he has a lot of helpers all over the world. I mean, that's all true, right?

I honestly don't know how Santa does what he's able to do. How he manages to get all those gifts together for just our house. How he finds the time, the money, the energy, the hiding places. In and of itself, our house is a Christmas miracle. But the miracle happens year after year no matter what. And Santa does have lots of helpers all over the place who work to carry out the magic of his name and keep his spirit alive in the hearts of the young and old. They come in all forms... some with not-so-convincing fake beards, some in the shape of little stuffed toy-like elves purchased in stores that come alive and night and do funny stuff while children sleep, some who share the contents of their wallets with perfect strangers so they can have a wish fulfilled, some who donate food so that the unfortunate can have a good meal. Santa has all kinds of helpers. It's more than just one man.

The older I get, the more I realize that Santa is not so much about all the presents, though that must be the most exciting part for the little ones. Santa is more about love and the act of giving through that emotion. And the more mind tumbles the concept over and over, the magic of Christmas mimics my faith in someone else... another concept that young and old ponder the magnitude of... God. How is He everywhere all the time? How does he hear my prayers and the rest of the prayers being offered up simultaneously? How does He always know what I need and find a way to provide it no matter if I've been naughty or nice? Wrapping my brain around the miracle of God's love is kinda like one of our kids trying to get the logistics of Santa flying around the world in one night delivering toys to children's homes. It's inconceivable, yet it happens. Every Christmas morning, my children get up and find that though it doesn't make sense to their minds, Santa has come.

Every day, something reminds me that God's love for me makes zero sense. I lose my cool and yell at my kids. I gossip. I say something hurtful to my spouse. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I do and say things that do not honor the One who made me. Yet He keeps showing up for me. Every morning, I am new and fresh and whole in His eyes, and He loves me the same as He did the day before and the day before that one. It makes no sense to me, but He keeps on doing it.

Let me share a portion of my favorite Psalm. I wept when I read it - really read it - for the first time. There I sat in my chair, crying like an idiot because I was so humbled and overwhelmed by the magnitude of God.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I go from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139: 1 - 10

That's only half of it, but to me, that's the miracle of God. He's before me, behind me, over me, and under me. He's there when I make the good decisions and the bad ones. He knows where I am going and where I've been. And the glory of it all is that he, unlike most humans on this earth, understands the why of what I do. And I love how David says that this knowledge is too wonderful for him - too lofty for him to attain. In today's terms, I would think he'd say, "Wow, this is totally over my head how God does this." In other words, I don't understand how He's able to do it, but I know that He does.

I know that He does. I believe. I believe He knows me, He knows my footsteps, my thoughts, my whens and wheres and whys. I believe He holds me in His right hand. I believe it more today than I ever have. And I am so thankful.

Long after I stopped believing in Santa, I still woke up year after year to a stocking full of goodies and gifts left during the night. Funny how Santa did that for me even when I didn't believe in him. Funny how my parents loved me so much they wanted me to have that joy year after year, right up until I got married. Funny how God passes down His love that way... from Heavenly Father to earthly parents. Funny how now it's gone right through me and onto my children. Funny how believing in something that's bigger than anything you can wrap your mind around can sustain through the generations.

Do you really believe? I do.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

That's what children are good for...


Children... they keep things interesting, don't they? Always keep you on your toes, never sure of what lies around the corner or under foot or in a jewelry box.

Last night, while Madalyn was in the bath tub, I was bustling about her room straightening and putting things away. You know, doing what Madalyn should have done the past two nights when I asked her to, but she didn't. Look - I am a pretty good mom, but the one thing I have always slacked on is making my children clean up their own messes. But we all have our faults, right? Anywho... I'm cleaning up her room for her, and jewelry is all over the place, as usual. When I find the jewelry all over the room, I try to put it back in its proper place - in one of the four or five jewelry boxes Madalyn has in her room.

I moved over to the chest of drawers to put some things in the little silver plated heart shaped jewelry box. I opened it to find it already full of none other than pistachio shells. Yes, pistachio shells. Not little plastic rings or beads or rubber animal bracelets but freaking nut shells. Exhibit A:

Pretty little jewelry box full of nut shells.

A few weeks ago, I did a thorough cleaning of David's room and was surprised to find close to twenty hickory nuts all over the room. They were every where. Under the dresser, on top of his TV, in his box of hot wheels. I am still uncertain what the hickory nuts were all about, and now we've added in the pistachios.

Are my children squirrels? Are they little programmed hoarders of nuts who are terrified they won't make it through the long cold winter without tucking something away? At least Madalyn feels more sure she'll eat... she just hoards the shells, which technically could be ingested in a tight spot, but it wouldn't be the most desired snack.

What is the deal with the NUTS? Forget the fact that I clean up my children's rooms... forget the fact that they are disgusting and still need to learn to clean up after themselves... what do the nuts mean? And why are the children hiding them in these weird places?

Kids. Definitely keep you wondering, you know.