Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Why

My nerd - mama heart got such a shivery rush today.

Sam read.

Our calendar has a Christmas themed picture and Sam looked up at it and sounded out the letters.  "Hhhhh ... ooooo .... hhhhh ... ooooo ... hhhhh ... ooooo. Ho Ho Ho. What is that?"

I got goosebumps. He read.

I'm so glad I got to see it.

And then he lost his first tooth and didn't it just grow in a few days ago and can you please tell me how he can be almost five years old? 

Was I actually the person who wrote about the grace of time passing just yesterday?

:)

But it's just as true, even when the days whirl by and you ache to hold on, to slow the beauty down, to savour the goodness.
And I don't want anything bad to happen and I want to freeze time and keep them safe and glad always. 

But ... sadness and hurt and suffering will come.

It will.

All that extraordinary Christmas joy - angels and heaven-sent baby and a star of wonder - wasn't the whole story.
Eight days after that glory, Simeon told Mary that Jesus would suffer - and a sword would pierce her own soul also. And He did.

Because some things are worth it.

Adult teeth are worth losing baby teeth for.  Months of learning letters is easily worth the lifelong bliss of being able to read.

And you - and I - were worth the agony of the cross.

We're the why.

We're why he came to earth, why he knew sorrow from the inside out, why he ached and suffered and His mama's soul was pierced through.

He looked at us and shouted, "worth it!"

And I'm pretty sure Mary agrees.

The most staggering Christmas gift of all is that He thinks we're worth it.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! Merriest of Christmases, friends!
Xo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ordinary Grace

My morning started out rather worse than usual.

Sam left the lid up and neglected to flush the toilet, and Kachi thought it was a perfect place to splash. After that mess was cleaned up,  Vava was hyper at breakfast and spilled her orange juice in a big spray all over the place.  Again, Kachi thought it was a great place to splash.  So everybody ended up in the tub, and Kachi promptly pooped in it.

And it wasn't an ordinary day. It was my last 8 hours before holiday company, so there was a lot of bedding and laundry and vacuuming to do already, without these bonus labours.

So of course Kachi would poop in the tub and Sam would put Vava in a chokehold because he wanted the toy crocodile and Vava would have a huge meltdown because I called her Vava when she was pretending to be Brown Horse a.k.a. Filly.

Right? Because life.

But it's Christmas and the world is ripe with grace.  And grace came in its usual way: moment by moment, with each tick of the clock.

(The grace of time passing is one I usually overlook. I look for bolder graces and more extraordinary miracles; interruptions in the soul.)

But time passes and messes are cleanable and chokeholds can be replaced with hugs. 

Time passes.  Time passes.

And in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son ...

He's still doing that. Sending forth His Son in the fullness of time. Into my life, into yours.  And maybe you're feeling trapped and looking for a miracle and begging Him to come, save! And maybe I'm knee-deep in the frazzled middle of a sticky morning, praying, "help!" And maybe the incredible, ordinary miracle is that we aren't trapped, we aren't stuck, because we are flowing through, flowing with ... time. 

Straight to Him. Every one of us.

And that's the promise of Christmas. God sent Him, in the fullness of time. In God's time, He is coming back. And grace moves us inevitably closer to Him with every passing minute.

Even when some minutes seem longer than others ;).

Time passes. For aching hearts and tired bodies and weary hands. Take heart this Christmas in an ordinary grace.

Time passes.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fullness of God

This afternoon, I took a nap. The littlest two were sleeping and Sam was playing with Lego, so I laid down on the couch and pulled a blanket up to my chin.

I couldn't seem to turn my mind off,  so I asked Sam if he could help me fall asleep by singing me the cozy song and drawing a heart on my face (that's how I cuddle him to sleep at night).

There just might be nothing sweeter in the world than the voice of my tender Sam singing, "go to sweep, pwe-ciss mama; go to sweep daw-wing mama," while his little paw sketches a heart around my face.

(And it worked ... I had a great nap.)

And it gave me that spiraling feeling of time folding in on itself, because for so long I've been the one taking care of Sam but suddenly he was able to take care of me.

And I wonder what it was like, for Jesus to lay aside His might and glory and lie, helpless, in the care of the mama and papa he'd created. I wonder what it was like to look up at those faces and see them full of care and love for him. To be held, Almighty God, in the trembling love-wracked arms of his own dear creation.  To receive care, to be handled and cuddled and swaddled and kissed and fed and comforted and treasured: a baby, in the arms of his children. (Did he know how scared they were? How overwhelmed and unqualified they must have felt?)

I just love that he came as a baby. That he came to us vulnerable and needy. That he knows what it's like to cry for someone else to care for him.

Take this gift, friend: our Saviour knows our weaknesses. He is touched by them. He remembers we are dust ... because He became dust, with us. 

Fullness of God in helpless babe.
He's sweet, isn't he?

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Brother

Today was Sam's first official Christmas vacation day.

It was so fantastic having him at home.  We've missed him this school year, our bright Sam,  gone every day during the good parts. Evenings and weekends just have a different flavour than the long playful hours of a toddlery weekday.

I was surprised to find him so nonchalantly independent. He and Vava wanted to make a cushion-slide on the stairs. I used to make those almost daily, last winter, so I was ready to get to work when somehow they'd already done it ... and they'd made it taller and steeper than I used to, too.

Kachi and Vava seemed to expand - growing brighter and braver - as if his unique qualities spread to them through the air, from laughter and shrieks of delight.

They adore their big brother.  I adore their big brother :).

And Jesus - well, it's kind of like he's our big brother, and he's away. And when he returns to take us home to our Father, how bright and brave our hearts will be! How we long to be like him!  And while we wait, we re-read the story of His adoption, when he adopted flesh and came into this world. We share stories of His courage and goodness and tell each other how he has loved us, and we adore him and try to imitate him in the way of small siblings the world over.

And on his birthday, we all get to blow out candles and exchange presents.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ways to Say I Love You

When I sang the cozy song to my kids tonight, I didn't get to sing "go to sleep, precious Vava." No, she was indignant and emphatic about that.
"I not Vava! I a mama unicorn."

So I sang the cozy song to Mama Unicorn.

And then I didn't get to sing "go to sleep, precious Sam." He was wearing his race car driver costume to bed, and he wanted me to sing to his hat.

So I sang the cozy song to his hat.

Because when it comes to saying I love you, the best way to say it is in the language of the listener.

If I had refused, and insisted on singing it my way, they might have heard the correct words with their ears, but their hearts would have heard you don't matter.

So I entered their imaginary world and played along. I sang goodnight to a unicorn and a hat, because that was how they were able to hear I love you.

It's kind of like Christmas.

I am sure God could have spoken His Word of love to us in a beautiful language that we don't understand. 

But He chose to speak to us in the simplest Word, and become one of us. A baby. He entered our world and lived as one of us and died for all of us and declared, blood-red, it is finished! And rose again in triumph to take us home to our Father.

God, veiled in flesh.
With us.
For us.

Because the best way to say I love you is in the language of the listener.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Treasures

My kids are such precious little goons. I love the silly, sweet, surprising things they do and say.
Today Kachi told Patrick, "I love you!"  That's one of the dearest things to hear.
And Vava told me she's glad my hair is turning white because she doesn't like it brown. I'm glad someone is happy about it hehe ;).
And when we went outside to play this afternoon, Sam told Vava to get on the sled so he could pull her around the yard (her favourite).
I know these are pretty unremarkable moments, but I love them, and Patrick loves them. They're treasures to us.

Twice in chapter 2 of Luke's gospel we read that Mary treasured things in her heart. He writes that she treasured the shepherds' testimony of the angel's announcement, and she treasured Jesus' assertion that He must be busy with His Father's work.

The repetition of that phrase makes me wonder if Luke sat down with Mary, and she opened up her heart to him and poured out her treasure trove. I wonder if she unwrapped each story like a precious gem, each moment of delight and wonder and revelation.

I picture tears rolling down glad cheeks as she shared her stories of Jesus, of God's son, her boy.  I'm sure Luke would have lost track of time, just listening.   There's something so warming and filling about sharing true stories of the Lord's goodness, something so precious when we hear of Him being kind and generous and beautiful to someone.

We always want to hear things about the people we love.

I will never get tired of hearing people tell me about my kids. When I come home from an evening out, I want the babysitter to tell me everything. And when Patrick and I are alone together, you know what we talk about?  The kids.  We unwrap the tiniest details and share them with each other.

I think God loves it when we do that too; when we unwrap our treasured thoughts and memories and moments with Jesus and thank Him for His Son.  When we share with each other the things we've seen and heard and known of Him, the treasures we keep in our hearts ... we're giving good gifts to each other, and to Him.

I wish for you a few moments of treasure - sharing this Christmas. I hope you take a quiet time to unwrap your thoughts and memories of Jesus in God's presence,  and thank Him for His gift, His darling.

His treasure.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Manger / The Throne


"The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David."

I wonder if those words echoed in her ears, as they rode into the city of David.
I wonder if her heart faltered, or if it beat strong with hope,
As You were born
And she placed You
In no royal crib.

I like to think that she was the sort of woman
Who could see Your throne already
Who was not blinded by the temporary manger.

The kind of woman
To whom dreams came easily
With the kind of breadth in her soul
That comes from expecting You.

I love that our story mimics Yours
And that we, too, have an inheritance
We don't yet see,
A Word from One greater than Gabriel.

And in this Bethlehem-waiting
(This smelly stable! This helpless infancy!)
We are filled and grow in hope
With the kind of breadth in the soul
That comes from expecting You.

-
He's coming!
Merry Christmas, friends!
Xo.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gifts In It

Today was a hard day.  My heart and body are weary.  It was a hard day ... but there were gifts in it.

Sam pushing the wagon, making it lighter as we walked him to school.

D. picking up Patrick so I could have the car.

Friends popping by with Christmas goodies.

Help carrying the tantruming kids to the car.

Kachi's delight in a bowl of strawberries.

Gifts spread out, just for me, in the drudgey trudging.  They shine like stars.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Bedtime Prayer, for Kachi

Kachi was so ready for bed tonight.

He'd had a full day of playing, throwing food on the floor, and chasing his siblings around.

He grabbed his blankies, soother, and crawled up the stairs.

He laid down for a clean diaper, fresh jams.

Then he snuggled down while I prayed for him.

Sweet baby boy, Jesus came for you.

Came as a baby, just like you.

And lived Christmas, and died to give - well, all the forever gifts, the good and perfects gifts. He stooped so low under that tree -

I pray you will receive them and unwrap them with all the wild joy of your bright self.

I pray you will love him and that tree forever.

Merry Christmas, love.
Xo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Especially at Christmas

Today I made such a rookie mistake. 

It was as if I thought I had no children, and had never gone shopping before.

At 430 this afternoon, I "popped into the grocery store" to "pick up a few things" before getting Patrick from work at 5.

Riiiight.

Ten days before Christmas with a cart full of kids.

It was a madhouse. It actually took us 20 minutes to weave our way around the carts and displays to grab the four  essentials on our list (and a few things we bumped into and couldn't pass up). 

Then the lineups to pay were enormous.

And Sam was beyond tired.

And after finally wrestling everything back into the cart, we were walking out at 5:05 (I'm sorry darling!) straight into a maelstrom of rushing and bad manners.

The woman in front of us drove her cart into the back of an old lady who was walking with a walker. She rolled her eyes as the old lady's husband stopped to help her, blocking the exit.

I was appalled, and wanted to stop to help, when I noticed Sam shrieking "Mama mama mama I want money!" He loves to donate to the Salvation Army Christmas kettle, but this time, as I explained to him, I didn't have any cash.

Instead of walking past and saying Merry Christmas, Sam ran up to the kettle staffer and put up his hand like a stop sign. "We don't have any money," he yelled, shaking his head, "Mama has no money left!"

I managed to get Sam out of the baffled volunteer's face and out of the store while someone else tended to the older couple ... and I had to bite my tongue as we went by cart-bully lady.

I was frazzled, angry, embarrassed, and late.

I packed the groceries and kids into the truck with more speed than grace, and proceeded to rant at every careless driver from intercity to the south end.

And God knocked on my heart and reminded me that it's Christmas.

Oh yes, I agreed, and you'd think that people would spread a little kindness and good cheer! You'd think they'd show some grace and patience at this time of year especially!

Yes, he agreed, especially those who love the manger, with its gift of outrageous mercy, of unfathomable grace.

Oh.

Yes.

Quite.

You'd think I would.

I'd been the clangiest of cymbals. The emptiest rage. My heart was jostled and ugliness spilled out. Self-righteousness, self-preservation, and selfishness were pumping out full-blast.

The manger matters. The selflessness, the extraordinary lengths to which Love went for me needs to affect my response in a late - afternoon mob. The fact that I am loved all the way from heaven to earth needs to set my feet in a quiet place of gratitude, so that when I see cruelty or thoughtlessness I can choose to give the benefit of the doubt. God's infinite care for us must remind me that I am free to care for others, to be considerate, gentle, even when I'm cut off or trapped behind slowness. It must matter in the ugliness of rush hour if it matters at all.

Especially at Christmas.
Especially to those who love the God who came into this world as a helpless baby.
Especially to road-ragey late mamas like me.
Especially at Christmas.

I'm glad it's not over yet. :)

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Thing with Feathers

I've always loved birds in a Christmas tree.

Our first ornament as a couple was a bird that a friend made - turquoise and red, with a long plume of a tail and a pert little beak.  It seemed springish and hopeful and just right for our tree.

It's rather the worse for wear. The kids love it, and in spite of their efforts to be gentle, its tail is frayed and its beak is plain gone.

Tonight I bought six new birds to join it.  There were lots of different ones to choose from - hanging feathered silhouettes, plump purple ones with feet that cling and claw around the branch - but I finally settled on small sparkly nestlers that almost hide in the tree.

I don't really know why I love Christmas birds - it certainly doesn't come from a love of partridge, in or out of a pear tree, nor any number of french hens - but I always get a sense of lightness and hope when I see birds.

I probably owe that to Emily Dickinson: hope is the thing with feathers - that perches in the soul ...

And Christmas is a time of hope beyond reason.  Christmas movies, Christmas miracles, Christmas romances ... all testify to the fact that our weary hearts hope, and hope, persist in hope.  Who can look at that God-filled manger, and not feel a swell of hope?  We are part of a bigger story. We are not all there is. Our hearts beat like determined wings.

In hope.

I pray this Christmas finds you with an inexplicable thing-with-feathers perched in your soul. I pray that the weight of winter might be displaced with a dart of bright-winged hope.  I pray for the wild sweetness of spring, winging its way to your heart.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

God Rest Ye Merry

This evening we went out for supper.
As a family.
Of five.
To the house of a family from church. (Feel the pressure mounting?  We don't take our human tornadoes out much yet ;) )

They greeted us with boxes of the best-loved toys. They laughed at Kachi's table-drumming during dinner. And they only laughed more when Vava literally held her nose because she didn't want to smell the luscious lasagne. (!!!!)

And then their grown daughters took our kids downstairs so we could enjoy dessert and a chat in peace.

It was like a vacation.
It was wonderful.
It was kindness with skin on.

Now, it's just a hunch, but I'm betting they don't greet every guest with an introduction to their favourite old toys. I imagine they don't usually bring out highchairs and bright plastic cups.  I am pretty confident that they put thought into meeting our specific needs and carefully planned for our family's pleasure.

They didn't welcome us into their home so we could worry about serving them. They welcomed and served us in love: giving us joy brought gladness to their own hearts.

I love that we have a God who delights to welcome us, serve us, and plans ahead for our pleasure. 

He didn't send Jesus as a king for us to pamper and spoil.  He didn't send Jesus as a conqueror to terrorize and defeat us. No ... He sent Him low, to serve us in love.

We needed a Saviour.
A humble Saviour, full of compassion and welcome.
And being welcomed, though undeserving, we too have the privilege to welcome others.  To plan for their pleasure. To serve them in love, for the joy of it.

His hospitable heart shines bright in the faces of his children.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Come, Jesus

Our little Vava got sick tonight.

I was out when Patrick texted me she was sick, and on my way home, my heart repeated one of her own tiny urgent prayers. 

"Come, Jesus! Help, Jesus!"

The cry of every longing heart.

This beautiful carol says it best.

And the answer: he did come, and when he left, he sent the Comforter.

We are so blessed.  When we suffer, it is not without hope.  When we cry out, we are heard.  When we weep, we are not alone.  Whatever sorrow we endure, it will accomplish his purpose and it will end.

Because God is with us.
(God! With us! Rejoice -- rejoice!)

However you are suffering, however you cry out, I pray for  His comfort in your heart.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dear Refugees

Dear Refugees:

I love seeing the pictures of you arriving. Some of you are carrying more,  some carrying less. You are all carrying in yourselves your own stock of talents and failures, shocks and sorrows, and countless astonishing stories.  You are finally here, and the sight of you is beautiful.

I am so grateful that our nation is doing for you what I'd pray it would do for me, if our situations were reversed. 

When I first heard about your treacherous journeys, I wept. My small son asked why I was crying, and I explained as simply as I could that bad guys chased you away, and now you had no safe home. He cried and said you should come here, that he wanted to share his house with you. He has remembered to pray for you, unprompted, almost every day since (he prays for you, for parents who don't have children, and for ducks).  I told him that some of you arrived today and he wants to go meet you. As soon as some of you trickle north, we'll find you and bring you warm presents.

Because ... well, want to apologize, Canadian - style, for the very cold cold.  I'm so sorry that you are arriving in winter. I hope you are given warm clothes and blankets and soup from now til May. 
But while I'm sorry you're arriving in winter, I'm so very glad you are coming at Christmas time.  My favourite Christmas Story is the one of a Middle Eastern family seeking refuge.

I pray the faces you meet are wreathed with welcoming smiles. I pray the hands that stretch toward you are filled with helpful gifts. And I pray that you find peace, at Christmas time and all year long.

Merry Christmas, friends.
God bless you.
Xo.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Jesus Story

At bedtime tonight, Sam had a meltdown.  He'd had a full day, with his Christmas concert, a friend over, and a trip to the store on top of his everyday busyness. 

After a good snack and some one-on-one time reading with Patrick, Sam wanted one more story.

"I want the Jesus story!" he shrieked, then burst into loud, unreasonable sobs. When he finally came tearfully into their room, Vava hopped out of bed and ran to comfort him. He pushed her down.  "Leave me alone," he snarled, then demanded of Patrick again, "read me the Jesus story!"

Patrick turned down Sam's bed, and said quietly, "you already had a story,  and what you just did was not okay. You don't deserve the Jesus story."

And then we laughed - and let Sam have the Jesus story after all. Because ... none of us deserve the Jesus story, but we get it.

None of us deserve a God who would choose to identify Himself with the poor, weak, and helpless ... but He came, babe in the manger, for us.  None of us deserve a gospel of forgiveness, while He met justice on our behalf.

That Jesus story?
We don't deserve it.
But we get it anyway.

Joy to the world, friends!
Xo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

First Star I See Tonight

I have a confession to make.

I got so tired of reading and rereading Kachi's favourite book to him that I hid it. (Not to be mean or deprive him, but to allow myself a chance to enjoy it with him again sometime.)

And the good thing?  He brought me a new book on repeat today - a Christmas book :).

I love that God is an author, that Jesus is the Word, that the Holy Spirit breathed the scriptures through human scribes.  I love all the nerdy images and repetition and stories within stories. And I was struck afresh today by the rightness, the layers, the beauty, of the star imagery. 

In the beginning, He spoke the stars into fiery existence. 
At His birth, they testified of His deity.

A star led the wise men to Jesus.
(The light always leads to Jesus.)

The star, of course, shone bright in day and night, but it was only possible to see it in the dark.
Jesus' presence with us doesn't change ... but oh, how gladly we cling to His promised presence when darkness falls!

That star - that special star - was a radiant announcement of His life.

I saw a special star today, actually.  My heart-sister's Grandmother passed away today, and Facebook lit up like the night sky with stories and photos and memories of her. I've never met her, but I can see how beautiful and joyful and ready to laugh she was. Stars may or may not have announced her birth, but bright memories spark like fireworks in her passing.

And stars guide us home.
Home.
Where we are loved and valued and welcomed and held tight in God's arms.

Whether we're ancient wise men or modern wise women or just tired mamas longing to be wise ...

that star will guide us home.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fake Trees and the Incarnation

I love the scent and uneven shape of a real Christmas tree.  We always had real trees when I was growing up - no plastic pretenders for us!

My one true love, on the other hand, has no sentimental attachment to a real tree. He dislikes the inevitable sap in our car, disposing of the tree come January, and finding needles in the house til summertime.

But he knows I love it, so he gives in.  Our first few years in our house, we bought real trees. Oh, the gorgeous, fresh, natural smells!

Last year he sent me out on tree duty and told me to bring home whatever one I wanted.  In a rare moment of holiday selflessness, I came home with a fake tree -- pre-lit and slim, perfect for its little corner.

Because when Patrick told me to get whatever I wanted, I saw that I could get a real tree and make only me happy ... or I could get a fake tree, and make him happy ... which, in turn, makes me a whole lot happier than the scent of fresh fir.

It's just a silly little tree, but it kind of reminds me of what Jesus did: why He came and why we even celebrate Christmas at all.

He left His perfect holy beautiful heaven, and came here, to be wrapped up in ordinary flesh; poor and lowly and mocked and crucified.  Not because the incarnation made Him happy ... but because it purchased our salvation and brings us as adopted children into the loving arms of our Father. And He considered the sacrifice worthwhile.  Coming here, to rescue us, made Him happy.

Merriest of Christmases, friends!
Jesus came for us. ♡
Xo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Stretching my Grinch-Heart

Sam has the biggest heart.

One of his little friends often shows up at mealtime, and Sam's first reaction is always, "can he eat with us, mama?"

And you know what?  I don't always feel like saying yes. I miss Sam, now that so many of his waking hours are spent at school. My favourite evenings are homey ones with just the five of us, being cozy and usually silly, playing on the living room floor. I want to soak up Sam as much as I can because he is growing so quickly. Frankly, I'd rather not share. So I want to say no.

But more than that, I want Sam to be generous. I want to foster his welcoming spirit. I want to create space for him to be friendly and kind and inclusive.  So I say yes, and set another place at the table, and help his friend take off his coat.

I think Christmas traditions do the same thing for me. They train my actions, regardless of my mood or short-term perspective, and they stretch out my Grinchy preset.

The traditions of decorating a tree, stringing up lights, listening to Christmas music make me inclined to celebrate with friends and neighbours, even when my heart is tired and a (discouragingly large) part of me just wants to nap, and sleep, and nap some more. 

The tradition of giving to those in less fortunate circumstances makes me remember the needy, and adjusts my eyesight to see all the blessed ways I can give all year long.

The tradition of singing Christmas carols pulls my thoughts out of my own life and sends my mind flying back to that starry night in Bethlehem, that enormous gift, that great Father-heart bursting with love for us.

I don't always feel like my thoughts are scintillating or new, but my own little Christmas tradition is to write a Christmas post daily from the 1st to the 24th of December. And maybe it's just another dumb post for people to scroll past and that's totally okay.  Because this is a tradition that trains my heart's eye away from its self-centered focus and upward to catch a glimpse of God's irresistible love.

The next time Sam asks to include his friend at supper time, I'm probably going to have the same argument in my heart: "Unnngh ... no ... but ... okay ... of course, yes."  And tomorrow night I'm going to sit down in front of my screen and think, "unngh ... this is lame ... I don't have anything new to say ... I should just delete my blog and link to Ann Voskamp instead ...." 

And then I'm going to keep writing anyway.

Because I want that glimpse, I want to stretch beyond myself, I want a heart that answers yes, a heart in the habit of loving.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Apply to Skinned Knees, Etc.

Tonight we took the kids for groceries.

I think this was the first time Kachi rode in the cart alone - at Superstore, the carts have double seats, so he always has a buddy.  But both Sam and Vava have decided they are big enough to walk, and they enjoyed the freedom and chance to move a bit more.

As we left the store, Kachi was riding in the cart, Sam was pushing, and Vava was pulling.  (I bet you can see where this is going.)  Suddenly, Vava tripped, skinning her knee, and the cart ran right over her foot.  I scooped her up as she wailed, and tried to distract her.

"Look at the big black sky!" I pointed, "Look at the stars!"
She howled louder and pressed her face against my shoulder. "It's scary," she sobbed, "I don't like that big dark!"
"But do you know who made it?" I asked, "And who made the stars?"
"Jesus," she cried, reaching up, forgetting her injuries, "I want Him to come to me!"

And that's just it, isn't it - the whole gorgeous truth, the amazing story of Christmas - Emmanuel, God with us.  Jesus came to us.  So I told her that He really came, He was actually here, under the big dark sky He made, far away from the song of the stars.  He came to us, and He came to take us home with Him.

And when we're sad, or lonely, or scared, or crying in a parking lot with a skinned knee, that message is exactly what we need, exactly what settles the ache, exactly what gives us hope.

He came.
To us.
For us.

Merry Christmas, friends.
xo.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christmas Present

Today, one of my very gifted friends hosted a fabulous ladies' brunch. From creamsicle punch to crispy bacon, beautiful decorations to sparkly napkins, everything was perfect.

It was such a happy morning - no kids, just beauty and yumminess and laughs.  Every single minute we enjoyed the results of her labour of love. She thought of all the ways to provide comfort and joy to her friends - the Christmasiest of kindnesses.

Another friend who was there had just hosted a neighbourhood Christmas party last night. She was all aglow as she talked about meeting her neighbours and having them in her home.

It's sweet and good, being on either side of the invitation. God's hospitable heart calls us to love ... and be loved.  To serve and be served. To labour and rest.  To give and receive. 

Wishing you His deepest joy this Christmas, dear friends!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Something Really Important

We were chatting, just about to start supper, when Vava scowled at us and said, "shh!  I've got something Really Important to say to Jesus!"

Then she focused herself - closing her eyes and opening them toward the sky, little arms aloft.

"Dear Jesus," she sighed, sinking into the moment as if she'd been waiting to say this all day, "I just love you so much."

It's my favourite prayer.

It's the minor key, the harmony to heaven's Christmas melody, when God stretched His arms down and sent His Son to us, for us, saying, "Dear World, I just love you so much."

Merry Christmas, friends!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Giant Baby

Sam and Vava's favourite game lately is Giant Baby.

The idea of the game started back when Kachi first learned to crawl.  He would make his way over to the train track or car mat and grab Sam's car or Vava's train, then throw it across the room or shove it in his mouth.  Sam & Vava, lost in their miniature play world, would make their still-safe vehicles race away from the Giant Baby who was causing all the mayhem. Kachi, always eager to follow his siblings, would crawl after them, and they would shriek in delicious pretend-fright.

Now that he can run, and navigate stairs like a boss, they play this all the time. 

This afternoon, I was vacuuming the bedrooms, and Sam and Vava were running from Giant Baby.  Kachi was gleefully chasing them in and out of every room, clutching his ragged blankie in one hand and holding a monster truck in the other.  Sam's hair was full of sweat from running so hard, and Vava was pink-cheeked and sparkly-eyed.  The giggles and happiness and glad-we're-together-ness caught at my heart. 

I love my weird kids... especially in the way they love each other. 


And it gets me, because I have amazing sisters and a wonderful brother, and we have so many special, strange, shared moments and memories.  And I know there were occasionally times when I would have packed them up and traded them in for the peace and quiet and concentrated attention of single-childhood, but I am so glad that God placed me in my family, with my brother and sisters. 

And I feel the same way about my brothers and sisters in the church.  We get on each other's nerves sometimes, sure, and sometimes we have to have a talk with our Father, but together we have this inexplicable, beautiful, generous, joyful bond in Jesus ...

I'm so glad that God takes the lonely and places us in families (Psalm 68:6). 

Have fun celebrating Christmas together, friends. 

And if you're looking for a game to play, you probably can't go wrong with Giant Baby.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I've Asked God for, for Christmas

I took the kids to the walk-in clinic at the end of our street today.  It turns out that Vava & Kachi have ear infections, so I'm glad we went, but it's always a little trying to keep three busy littles at a waiting-room level of appropriate behaviour.  It's especially hard lately, because the clinic is under construction, so half of the seating area is walled off.  There isn't extra space for driving toy cars or setting up the entire herd of plastic ponies you brought.  There definitely isn't any good space for a wagon or stroller to hang out.  So you know.  It's crammy.  And people are cranky, because they're already sick.

But our walk-in has the nicest staff on earth.  I am always grateful for their kindness and warmth.

On our way there, Sam asked if he could push Kachi's stroller.  I let him, but when we had to cross a busy street, I took over.  He was so upset.  He yelled and turned his back and refused to cross when traffic thinned.  I had to pull out the big guns and threaten to take his TV privileges away for the rest of the week before he finally, sulkily, came along.

Near the end of our visit, when both Sam and Vava had been examined and only Kachi remained, Patrick knocked on the door and joined us.  (I felt an angels-singing kind of relief, let me tell you!  2:3 is a much nicer ratio of parents to kids.)  He took the big littles home, and I was left in the relatively quiet presence of just one sick baby and gentle NP.

When we were all done, I was strapping Kachi back into his stroller, and the nurse practitioner mentioned she'd been outside on our way in, and had seen Sam pushing Kachi on the way to the clinic.  Embarrassment whooshed in, I could feel the red flooding my face as I remembered his tantrum and my angry response.

"What a helpful boy.  And I could tell he really loves his brother," she continued, eyes crinkled and smiling, warm, "he was so careful to steer around every single puddle."

Ohhhh my heart. Oh my cranky tired heart.

She was right.
She was so right.

We had looked at the same thing.
I saw Sam's disobedience and demand for control.
She saw his love for Kachi and his heart of service.

This is what I'm asking God for, for Christmas: eyes that see the best.  Eyes that see joy and beauty and love, no matter what kind of package it's wrapped in.  Eyes that see out past my own blustery agenda, eyes that see His heart reflected great and small.

I want those eyes.  Those are really lovely eyes.

I walked home quickly, pushing the stroller with the unencumbered ease of a mama who does not need to wait for toddler feet and toddler legs.  I saw Patrick and Sam and Vava just about to go inside, and called hello.  Soon, Sam came running toward me in his big winter boots.

"Hey mama," he asked, "can I push Kachi?"

You bet, kiddo.
You bet.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Come Ye To Bethlehem

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem 
Come and adore Him, born the King of angels  
O come let us adore Him ...
Christ the Lord!

We sang that in church this week, and as always, it got me right in the heart.

Come to Bethlehem - come adoring - to see the arrival of Heaven's king, our king, right here with us.

That's my favourite part of this time of year.  Coming to Bethlehem, coming to kneel in starry-eyed gratitude at the feet of my Saviour.

I like to think about that little town, crowded and bursting with visitors, who had all rushed home for the census.  I can imagine it would have felt kind of like my hometown on Thanksgiving weekend - bumping into people you know, catching up on half-forgotten friends, distant relatives suddenly knocking at your door hoping for a warm meal and welcome.

The innkeeper would have been thrilled and filled and more than a little stressed out, sending servants left and right, and stretching his wits to find one more nook or cranny to tuck a bed.

I think kids would have been the first to have to give up their beds, bunking in with cousins in haylofts or spreading out blankets under the stars.  I imagine the starry sky hazed over with woodsmoke, as extra fires cooked extra meals; and the lineup at the village wells stretched long in the dark.

I can imagine myself there, distant family sleeping wall-to-wall throughout the house.  I picture stepping over aunts and uncles to check on the kids in their makeshift bed in the storeroom.  Patrick and I gave up our bed for Great Auntie, and spread blankets in the tiny kitchen, where we could enjoy the sweet luxury of sleeping alone.

I like to think that if I had wandered out into the night for a breath of cool air, and had seen that poor young mama come riding into town with birth pangs, I would have given up my makeshift kitchen bed too.  I would have lined a basket with towels, aprons, anything soft for that tiny new darling to sleep in, til morning would allow me to find our cradle.  I would have held water to her lips, and brought bread for that huge rush of hunger after the baby came.  I would have done what I could - even without knowing she was bearing the Son of God.

But if we had known?

The whole town would have shifted.  Someone bustling and officious would have arranged everyone's best things for Mary's comfort, for Jesus' well-being.  Donations would have poured in, volunteers would have thronged the place, and that mewling newborn cry would have been met with tender murmurs from a crowd of hopeful caregivers.

Of course, we didn't know.  And we weren't there.  And there was no room, no room at all, and Mary brought her baby into the world in a stable, and laid him in a manger.

The crazy and beautiful thing (one crazy and beautiful thing; there are so many) is that He counts it as if we did.  Whenever we reach out in love, in mercy, in justice, to serve the needy, He counts it as if we served Him.

Check out what He says in Matthew chapter 25, verses 31-46:
 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

In His eyes, we are in Bethlehem.  We do have a chance to serve Him, to wrap Him in warm clothes, to bring Him good food, to welcome Him, a stranger.  Every scrap of kindness, hospitality, mercy, justice we do - He appreciates it as if we were serving Him.  He aligns Himself with the needy - didn't He make Himself poor for our sake? - and honours any service we offer to those in need as if we gave to Him.

But He counts the opposite as unto Him, too.  When we choose not to give to the poor; when we ignore oppression and close our hearts to the hungry, the sick; when we close our door to those who seek refuge ... we do it as to Him.

I don't know about you, but there are times when I struggle to know what His will is in any given circumstance.  My fear, my selfishness, my laziness clouds the way.  But He leaves me no excuse when it comes to this.  It's really clear.  Keeping the Christ in Christmas looks an awful lot like - no, it looks exactly like - seeking out and helping all who need refuge.

Let that holy night in Bethlehem stir our hearts, Christians! Let us swing our doors wide and welcome the weary travelers however we possibly can.

#RefugeesWelcome.