Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bad Dreams

Sam's been talking about bad dreams a lot lately.  Apparently, he had one where Spiderman took him (he's never seen Spiderman), and he called for me and called for me but I didn't come.

It kills me. 

I hold his little face and I look into his eyes and I promise him this: 

I will come for you.
I will always come for you.

I've had to repeat it a few times, because the fear from his dream comes back and grabs him and he tells me about it again.

I understand that kind of fear.

The news has been pretty awful lately.  Murdered children.  Missing women.  Torture.  Hate. Greed.  I try not to dwell on it and I hold my kids' hands tight.  The planet spins and the nausea rises and is there any waking from this nightmare?

And Christmas - 

That star that stabbed into the darkness and poured down on the Light of the World born in a stable - 

Christmas is nothing less than God taking our face in His hands, looking into our eyes and promising us

I will come for you.
I will always come for you.
All the way to a stable, all the way to the cross -
I will always come for you.

Hold your loved ones tight and celebrate because He came - at Christmas.
xo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Love You

This afternoon I gave the three kids a bath.  Vava adores baths, and Sam and Kachi enjoy them too.  When I tell Vava it's bathtime, she doesn't just hear those words ... she hears I love you.  Sometimes we have an idyllic hour, where the big littles laugh and play with bubbles while Kachi floats blissfully before being tucked, clean and sweet, into fresh jams.

Today was not that day.

I had washed Sam and Vava, and was peeling off Kachi's clothes so he could join them.  Vava started wailing, and wanted out.  Since my hands were as free as they'd be for ten minutes, I laid Kachi down, pulled Vava from the tub, and quickly began to dry & lotion her.  She didn't stop crying, and finally I could make out the words "back in."  I double checked, and yes - she wanted to keep bathing.  By this time, Kachi was beginning to cry for his bottle, and Sam was slowly but surely turning the bathroom floor into a river.  Lo and behold, as soon as Vava got into the tub, she wanted back out.  (Join the club, sister!  What happened to happy hour?)

We finished the bath with sobbing in stereo.  Kachi got a lick and a promise - maybe minus the lick - while the bathroom floor got a (definitely overdue) thorough cleaning.  

It seemed to be a day like that - things just piling up on each other, and I would have had to be an octopus to have enough hands to deal with everything.  Why did I bother with a bath again? For my (now sobbing) Vava?  I just wanted to say I love you.

It gets that way at Christmas especially.  Trying to squeeze in a few extra ways to say I love you - buying presents, baking treats, planning parties, writing cards - can overflow the schedule.  It's busy.  But Christmas will pass all too quickly.  The good memories will shine bright, and the exhaustion will be forgotten.  The love we kindle, the friendships we affirm, the joy we nourish ... worth the busyness.

What we do for the least, Jesus counts as done for Him.  He hears I love you in the late-night gift-wrapping.  He hears I love you in the Christmas hamper you pack.  He hears I love you when you choose patience with the screeching toddler ...

I want Him to hear I love you.

And I fully intend to nap slack-jawed on the couch come January ;).
xo.

Let Every Heart

My lovely, wonderful, smart, gorgeous, amazing niece arrived today.
I haven't seen her for two years.  TWO YEARS!  She's here for almost a week, and it's better than a treeful of presents. 
I keep calling Vava by her name.  Seeing them together is kind of bending my mind a bit, because I remember adoring spending time with her when she was Vava's age - smart as a whip, and unbelievably cute - except now she's the age I was back then.  It's weird how time folds in on itself.
I got her room ready last night.  I put a zillion blankets on her bed, because our guest room is chilly.  I filled up the humidifier, emptied the garbage can, fluffed the pillows.  I found out what some of her favourite foods are and made sure to have them on hand. It made me so happy to get things ready for her.
And that's Advent, isn't it - preparing room for Him, getting my heart in order to celebrate and welcome His arrival. It reminds me to pause and ask if I'm preparing Him room every day.  Taking time to do what He loves - show mercy, generosity, hospitality?  Love my brothers and sisters?  Forgive, and seek forgiveness? 
I've got sparkly lights up all through my house, but what I really need to do is make sure His light is glowing in this corner of the dark world, for His glory and my blessing and the blessing of those around me.
And unlike my tree, that is the kind of Christmas decoration I want to leave up all year round ;). 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Kachi turned 2 months old today.  He's adorable.  He loves to coo and babble and try to imitate conversation.  Patrick and I are both sure he can say hi, and he has a fairly awesome fist-bump record.  He's a hulking 14 lbs, and as tough as Sam and Vava can make him.  He loves to be sung to, and he relaxes with evident bliss in the tub.

The most precious thing he does, though, is look up into my face, gaze right into my eyes, and break out into a winsome smile.  I don't know how he does it, but he manages to make a drooly, toothless grin the deepest joy of my day.  I love the sweet weight of him cuddling in close, the way his fingers curl around my collar, his lips moving as he dreams.

I think it reveals something spectacularly dear and lovable about God's character that He chose to come to us as a baby.  Sweet and small and snugglable.  How astonishingly kind, for Him to choose such tenderness.

Gift.  Every facet of His enterprise ... gift.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ear-Noculars

Patrick and I started watching Community this week, and it's making us laugh.  It's not my favourite or anything, but tonight one of the episodes grabbed my heart a little bit.

One of the characters, Pierce, buys ear-noculars, and continually eavesdrops on distant conversations.  In the last moments of the show we see him sitting on a bench without them. His classmate, Jeff, asks him what happened to them.  Pierce says he got rid of them, and then explains that he thinks we were designed to hear whatever people are saying when they're close ... because the people who are close to us are the people we love. 

It made me think about what I say to the people who are close to me.  I hope they hear I love you.  

And it made me think of Jesus ... who came all the way here so that He could be close to us.  So we could hear Him - and He could hear us - up close and in person.

Sometimes I think my soundtrack is on a continuous loop - my alarm buzzing, spoon clinking in my coffee mug, kids saying hilarious things, whining, crying, microwave beeping, more spoon clinking, phone beeping, water running, kids laughing, patrick praying, quietness, snoring, repeat.  It's easy to get absorbed in the sounds of my life.  It's easy to ignore other sounds, keep them in the background, tell myself I'll pay attention to them later.

Christmas reminds me to look up from my busy days and listen close.  Listen close to the song that star sang over Bethlehem.  Listen close to the glory of angelsong in the night.  Listen close to the willing surrender and meekness.  Listen close to the Father who placed His most precious darling right here in our world and came all the way into human skin to say Merry Christmas.  To me.

Merry Christmas, friends.
xo.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yes, Switchfoot -

My lovely friend, I'm praying for you.

Your heart, stretched and tired
Like crumpled paper.

(Mine too.)

It seems like one batch of trouble
Barely ends
Before another one
Is bubbling over.

I've always thought it strange
The tense He used, when 
(Before the cross)
He assured His disciples about troublesome days to come.

In this world you will have trouble
But -
Take heart;
I have overcome the world.

Not I shall, but
I have overcome.
Already.
Before the cross.

Could it be
That He overcame the world
Just by being?

(My daughter was asking about shadows
And I found myself explaining that nothing casts a shadow on the sun.
Light and dark cannot dwell together.
Light always trumps dark.)

In His sheer existence, He
- Incorruptible, Glorious, True - 
Overcomes the world
And all its trouble.

When the world presses in
And you just want to hide under your pillow
And tell everyone you aren't home -
I pray that you will find the deepest soul-rest
In His sheer existence
And that the message of incorruptible triumph
Will resonate from beyond Bethlehem's manger:

In this world you will have trouble
But -
Take heart;
I have overcome the world!



xo.
ps: this song.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Comfort and Joy

Today, we were driving down the road and Sam peered ahead through the front window.  He stared intently into the distance, then finally concluded, "that's either a flashlight, or a bear with two thirsty dogs."

I don't even know.  I can't wrap my head around the mental processes that come up with that kind of result.  But I love it.  I laughed so hard I cried.  

I've been feeling a little soul-frayed.  Just tired.  Every day seems to steamroll from one hour to the next, and tomorrow morning begins before I realize that today's ended.  You know?  Just a blur.

I'm so glad for my silly kids.  I'm so glad for Sam making me laugh, because goodness knows I wouldn't stop to do it without his irresistible prompting. 

This morning, Sam and Vava were anxiously awaiting sunrise.  They wanted to go to playgroup, but I told them we wouldn't go until it was light out.  When breakfast was over, Sam suddenly realized it was daylight.  "Oh look!" he exclaimed in genuine surprise, "Thank you, God, for making the sun shine!"  His gratitude took my breath away.  I think, this morning, God sent the sunrise just for him - and glory shone from His glad heart.

I'm trying to let every scrap of joy shine straight into my bleary, tired heart.  Soak up the laughter, luxuriate in delight - gratefully, gladly unwrapping every gift He sends me.  

Thank you, God, for sunrise ... and for flashlights and bears and two thirsty dogs.
xo.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Love Has a Way

Like most women, I suppose, I have a bad habit of standing before the mirror and criticizing everything I can find.  This morning, I unintentionally made an exception.  I saw, unmistakably present up high on my forehead, an age spot.  An age spot.  And my heart thrilled.
I laughed when I realized the absurdity of my response, but there it was, as evident as my age spot - what I was feeling was happiness, plain and simple.
You see, when I was young, my heart was knit tight into the heart of a very kind, very loving, impossibly dear old man.  He was thin and had a hookish nose, and yes - his hands and face were generously covered in age spots.
I can't see him as anything other than beautiful.  So when I see myself starting to look like him, even a little bit, I'm glad.

It's love ... love makes all the difference.  Love has this way of making everything beautiful.

I pulled out my photo album and tried to see if my Grampie was actually a handsome man - if perhaps those age spots were distinguished, well-placed, artistic.  I couldn't tell.  I couldn't see anything but how wonderful he was.  But I suspect that someone who didn't know him might not think his photos to be anything extraordinary.

I think the traditions of Christmas are kind of like a photo album.

To someone looking on, someone who doesn't know Jesus, the whole thing must seem a bit silly.  Excessive, even.  A month of counting down, to a day that likely wasn't the actual day of His birth, with candles and nativity scenes?  Sunday school plays and the same boring hymns, year after year?

But for those of us who know His love, Christmas is warmer and brighter than sun-soaked August.  We love to turn back the pages, again and again, to see His face.

The Christmas story? We don't just see a poor family with a baby sleeping in a manger.  We see glorious God, making Himself humble, coming to take our place.  We see love ... and love has a way of making everything beautiful.








Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Like Us.

This morning, all three kids were in the tub together.  Sam was playing pretty vigorously and I warned him not to splash on Kachi's face. 

"Or Jesus will cry?" he asked, "Little Jesus?"

"Jesus wants us to be kind to each other, yes - but He's not a baby anymore," I explained.

"Is He a big boy like me?" Sam asked.

"No, He grew all the way up," I answered, "but He was a boy like you. He was a baby, and a kid, and a grown-up." 

"Like Baby Kachi?  Like me and Vava? Like you and Papa?" Sam asked.

"Yes ... like all of us."

Like all of us. :)  That's the reason for all the comfort and joy, for everyone telling you to be of good cheer, for the thrill of hope ... He became one of us. That first Christmas day dawned a day of grace, God with us, Jesus, Son of man!

Like you, friend :).
xo.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent(ure)


Vava woke up from her nap yesterday, and said, in her soft voice and ordinary way,

"I'm feeling brave.  Let's do something awesome."

 I love this kid.  I wanted to pack our suitcases and hop on a plane to Zambia.  Because I love it there, and going there - alone, without knowing a soul before I arrived - is probably the bravest, awesomest thing I've done.  

I went because God asked me.  He gave me that restless stirring in my soul that wouldn't settle until I went.  When I told Him yes, I felt the wildest flare of adventure, and the deepest sense of rest.  The boldest sort of peace. 

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security." - Deitrich Bonhoeffer.

I want to teach my kids to follow that voice. Not to follow the safe paths, the ducks-in-a-row paths, but to chase hard after the voice of God and settle for nothing less than the peace of being true to Him.  (Even if they have a deep-down horror of snakes and He tells them to go live where they will see snakes, maybe even touch them.  Even then.)

When Mary turned up pregnant, Joseph was prepared to do the good thing.  He supposed she had slept with someone else, and prepared to quietly divorce her, instead of exacting his legal rights against her.  It was a gentle, safe course.  But an angel came to him in a dream and brought a message from God - marry her.  This child is the Son of God, she hasn't sinned against you. And this babe will save His people from their sins.

It's all kinds of crazy.  It takes all kinds of bravery to do something this awesome.  To trust against logic.  To step into God's will when He's asking you to do something outside of your comfort zone.  To acknowledge the restlessness and dare to seek His peace.  

I think Joseph woke up from his dream feeling wild and sure.  I think he looked at his betrothed and said,

"I'm feeling brave.  Let's do something awesome."

Wishing you that extraordinary peace, friends.   
xo.

O Come O Come Emmanuel

In 2009, after we'd miscarried again, I couldn't seem to stop crying.  Any time my heart was touched, I overflowed. Everything lovely - and certainly everything sad - gave me pain. 

My mom had tickets to a ladies' event at the Full Gospel church, and she invited me to come.  It was in their beautiful new building, with soft lighting and pleasant seating.  The worship music and prayer were deep and sincere and - yes - made me cry. 

I'm not a pretty cry-er.  My eyes get fiercely, horror-movie red, and my nose runs.  It's pretty embarrassing, and the last thing I want is someone noticing me.  It was right at this sob-tacular time that an old friend of my mom's recognized her, and came over for a hug.  My mom quietly explained my sore heart, and I found myself wrapped in kind arms and a tender voice began to pray for me. 

Before we left that day, she told me she was going to keep on regularly praying for me, that God would bless me with children.  Five years later, with three wonderful kids and my hours full to bursting (and my heart), I am so so glad for her prayers. 

The precious thing is, we haven't been in touch.  All this time, she's been praying for me, not knowing that her prayers have long been richly answered.  And recently my mom spoke with her again, and told her the good news -

It made me think of all those who were praying for the Messiah, before Jesus came.  They weren't all informed of His birth.  The Shepherds knew, the Magi knew, Anna and Simeon knew ... but most of them?  They just kept right on praying. And waiting. And waiting. In hope.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel.

The Saviour has come.  The prayers have been heard.  The baby is born.

He hears.  He's here.  Our God is with us.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Love Is Worth

We watched Twelve Years A Slave tonight. It was so hard, so gut-wrenching I had to keep turning away. There was one horrifying part where a mother and her children were sold to separate buyers. There are no words ...

I thought about my own kids and their personalities. If we were separated, how would they fare? Would Sam continue to be the buoyant, determined little scrapper I love? Would Vava be tender and kind, in an abrasive, abusive setting?

I want them to be stone-strong, impervious to the injury and violence of the world. I half wish I could barricade their souls against threat or attack. My heart constricts at the thought of what life might bring their way.

The prophet Simeon told Mary about this feeling when she & Joseph took Jesus to be presented in the temple. Knowing what would happen to that sweet babe, Simeon warned her that a sword would pierce her soul also ...

That's a pretty good description of the weight we bear for those we love. A sword piercing the soul. 

But who would trade it in? Would I give up loving these children so as to not suffer pain? Never.

Love is worth the sword in the soul.

Ask Mary as she bows and says "I am the servant of the Lord." Ask Joseph as he worships the babe his virgin wife brought into the world. Ask the Magi who left all, to bow before this crownless King. Ask Jesus, as he leaves glory and radiant splendour for a hateful world.

Yes. It will hurt.

But ... Christmas shows us the truth, God's glorious heart laid bare in the manger:

Love is worth the sword in the soul.