Doin' It Halfway Since 1996

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Category Archives: Motherhood

Never Beyond: On Giving Myself a Second Chance Every Day

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’ve been posting on Grace, Forgiveness, and Second Chances.

Tuesday I posted about Casey Anthony and Absent Parents; Yesterday about broken relationships.

Flickr Photo by user darrenjsylvester

If I had two personalities, I’m sure that one would be named Judgmental Jackie and the other would be named Martha the False Martyr.

Here’s a conversation the two women would have regularly:

JJ: Wow Martha, you sure slept in late today. Do you plan on even doing anything today?

MM: You’re right. I stayed up too late last night. The day’s almost over. I might as well go back to bed.

JJ: You know, I have this friend who has ten children. She gets up at 5, nurses her baby, gets breakfast going, has her children ready to go by six. Then they all have devotions at the kitchen table before sitting down to a five-course breakfast. She also homeschools and all her children play at least three instruments. They’re very intelligent. The three oldest ones are spelling bee champions. I think she only cooks whole foods, in fact, I’m sure she does. Her children are all so well-behaved, polite and responsible. She and her husband have the perfect marriage. They never argue and they’re so happy. Even though she’s had ten children, she still looks as fit and young as she did on the day she graduated from high school. I think she’s working on writing her third novel too. She’s amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible mother, a terrible wife, and just an all around terrible person.

JJ: You know what you need? More prayer time. More devotion time. More Bible study. I’m pretty sure that you aren’t doing all you can to be closer to God. You’d better work on that. I have a friend who is a missionary overseas and she cares for orphans. She’s pretty amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible Christian. I could try and try and try and I’ll never be as good as your overseas missionary friend.

JJ: You know what else? Your house is a wreck. Why can’t you keep it clean? It’s amazing that you can get anything done in this house. You need a schedule. You need to clean more.

MM: I am a pig. An awful, terrible, no good, can’t do anything right pig.

JJ: There’s something else I’ve noticed about you Martha. You have a lot of anger. You yell a lot. You aren’t patient. When you do yell, you are very, very mean. You’re also very ungrateful. Don’t you know that people would kill to have what you have? But you’re just so angry all the time.

MM: I’m a terrible, terrible human being.

JJ: And you remember how you were such a terrible friend to that one girl when you were in middle school? You were so mean to her! You talked behind her back. You made fun of her to other people. You pretty much ruined her life. Even though you haven’t talked to her in years, you probably made her lose faith in all humanity and are the reason why she can’t have healthy friendships.

MM: Wow. I didn’t even think about how badly I might have hurt her. How can anyone even like me? I can’t believe that anyone is even my friend.

JJ: I’m pretty sure you’re the worst person ever.

MM: I’m pretty sure you’re right.

All day long, Judgmental Jackie would verbally quarterback sack Martha the False Martyr.

All day long, Martha the False Martyr would believe it all, take it to heart, and fall into a very deep depression because she was such a terrible, weak, unloved, ugly human being.

Do you ever tell yourself your own set of lies? Do you find yourself believing those lies?

I have hated myself more than anyone else ever could.

I have disappointed myself in so many ways. I haven’t lived up to the unattainable perfection I’ve expected of myself. I accuse myself almost every day of not being smart enough or good enough or Christian enough or diligent enough or whatever enough.

I am the accused. I am my own judge, jury, bailiff, and prosecutor. Every day, I’m on trial.

And every day, I give myself the same sentence, “GUILTY!”

Guilty of pride. Guilty of anger. Guilty of disbelief. Guilty of lust. Guilty of hatred. Guilty of doing what I shouldn’t and not doing what I should. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

At the end of every trial I throw myself into the cell of false rehabilitation in the prison of if you just try harder.

But my verdict doesn’t matter.

Because forever and always I wear a crown on my head that says, “NOT GUILTY!” And underneath it says, “Debt is Paid In Full”.

By my standards I am an utter failure. A mess. Unforgivable.

By God’s standards I am loved. I am chosen. I am Forgiven.

I have to stop living in my self-made prison of lies and accusations.

I have to believe what God says about me, not what I say about me.

I have to believe that I am never beyond his extension of grace, that I am never beyond his healing touch, that I am never beyond his using me to glorify himself.

I have to forgive myself for being human. Because He has.

He’s paid for my fallen humanity.

He’s paid for yours too.

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Never Beyond: On Forgiving Absent Parents

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’m posting on forgiveness, grace, and second chances. Join me?

POTSC Never Beyond Poster - Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony.

If you don’t know who she is, I’d be surprised. Her trial was one of the most highly televised trials in our country’s history. Twitter and Facebook allowed for to-the-minute updates about testimonies, and ultimately her verdict. I barely followed the trial. I was on vacation when I heard she was not guilty. BUT I heard about her. I knew the gist of the case. I understood why people were so angry when she received a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

The trial revolved around her lying, her excessive partying, the absence of remorse that her daughter was missing, and then evidence showing that she killed her own child.

The prosecution could not prove to a jury that she did it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

So, today, she walks free.

A lot of people are mad about that.

When I consider Casey Anthony, grace, and second chances, I’m forced to reconcile my opinions about absent parents.

You know, the ones who left. The ones who checked out emotionally. The ones who’ve shrugged their responsibilities and expected someone else to pick up the slack. Even the one who the entire world just “knows” killed her own daughter.

I believe parenting is one of the highest responsibilities we as humans can have. We are supposed to love our children. Protect them. Give them the best that we can give. I take my responsibility very seriously.

I’ve known a few absent parents in my day. I don’t like them.

If you know me at all, if you’ve spent any time with me fact to face, you know about one in particular. You know how I feel about her, about how she acts, about what she did, about who she is.

If you don’t know me personally, let’s just say that my opinion of this particular person is low. I’ve yelled at her like I’ve never yelled at another human being. I’ve said things to her and about her I never thought I would say. I find her to be the worst brand of parent. I have placed at the same level others have placed Casey Anthony. Without classifying it as such, I’d say that if I were to hate another person, how I feel about her is as close to hate as I can get.

Those are not words of a person redeemed by grace.

The truth is that a person who embraces grace should never feel that way about another human being. A person who embraces grace loves. A person who embraces grace forgives.

But for this particular woman, I’ve drawn the line in the sand. I’ve put her into a box labeled, “unforgivable” thrown it on some random storage shelf in the back of my mind and tried to forget all the horrible things that transpired in our dealings with each other.

I put her in that box because it’s easier to focus on all her faults than to accept my own blame. It’s easier to focus on how much I think of the awful things she did than to own up to my own sin. It’s easier to nitpick at all her splinters and attempt to hold them up to my plank and say, “See! She’s so much worse than I am.”

But when I think about People of the Second Chance, when I think about Never Beyond, when I think about Casey Anthony, I’m wondering if it’s time to get that box back out, sort through every single heart-wrenching reality, accept what happened, forgive her, forgive myself, and move on.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that. I’m still very mad and hurt by everything that happened.

I still wear it on my sleeve like a combat badge because I want the world to see how I was wounded in the battle, but I still survived the war.

I want people to agree with me, to tell me I’m in the right, that it’s ok to still be mad.

I want to give up on this woman who I consider to be as bad as everyone thinks Casey Anthony is.

But that’s not what grace looks like, does it?

God hasn’t given up on me. God hasn’t given up on Casey Anthony. And God hasn’t given up on the woman at whom I can’t seem to stop pointing my finger.

I have held onto this anger and it has become a millstone around my neck. I’ve fallen further and further into the depths of my own self-righteousness. I’m drowning myself in my own bitterness and self-pity. To hold on to this is to dig my own grave.

My duty isn’t to judge and evaluate every single action, weighing it against some high moral code that I myself can’t even reach. My job, no my privilege, is to forgive. Not once. Not twice. But seventy time seven. To remember what happened, to confess it, to lay it down at the cross, and realize that everything that happened is cancelled debt.

Cancelled debt. Paid for. Made new. Whole. Restored. Reconciled. Renewed. Holy and blameless in His sight.

That’s what forgiveness looks like. That’s what grace makes us.

Both of us.

Her AND Me.

Who is your unforgivable person? What would it look like if you forgave?

At home. Mom, stay . . .

Read the title of this post like you would if you were talking to a dog.

I’m just gonna be honest with you.

Today was one of those days.

There were beads in the ears. There was arguing. There was ungratefulness (from the grownup as well as the children). There was one dress-up princess crown (out of the six or seven that we have in our dress up box) that the girls couldn’t seem to share. And there was this:

Today I wondered to myself, “Why did I decide to be a stay at home mom?” Today I started reminiscing about my working days, before I had children, when I could fit into my cute business-casual clothes. I don’t even think I have any of my suits anymore. And even if I did, none of them would fit. Some days, I wonder, if I ever decide to go back to work, what will I put on my resume?

  • Proficient at cleaning urine, feces (human and canine), and vomit, while suppressing gag reflex
  • Supplier of magic kisses; they make pain and tears disappear instantly
  • Well-versed at the art of breastfeeding and swaddling.
  • Multi-tasker extraordinaire – can email, tweet, facebook, prepare a meal, write a check, and change a diaper simultaneously
  • Fluent in sarcasm, but not the good kind.

Would you hire me?

Le sigh.

Even as I write this, the tension in my shoulders persists, my head’s starting to ache, and I still want to throw myself on the ground and have a mommy meltdown. I want to run out the doors kicking and screaming just to get a few moments to myself where I don’t have to think about where someone’s shoe is or if they’re climbing something they’re not supposed to climb or if they’re writing on the walls in blue sharpie.

But, this is MY life.

And it isn’t always like this.

And even when it is, it’s still a good life.

Because I’m raising two little girls who decided to this without prompting (even though it was the wrong cleaner and even though they actually made it a little worse):

Because they needed to clean up their little sister’s mess. Because they wanted to make mom happy. Because mom works so hard. Because, “we want to show mom that we love her.”

Hmmmmmm . . .

Maybe I’m not so bad at my job.

Or maybe, just maybe, in my failings as a parent, as a wife, as a human being, God’s grace still shines through. Somewhere in this mess of a woman is a dim reflection of Christ who reaches out to my children, who loves them, who teaches them, who nurtures their tender little souls.

So, here I’ll stay. It may be a dirty mirror, but somehow, it’s enough. Somehow, it’s sufficient.

To Breastfeed (in public) or not?

Tomorrow is trash/recycling day. I’m gathering it all for Destination: Curb and something caught my eye as I was making sure I didn’t miss any coupons from Sunday’s paper.

This article about a woman who was approached about her choice to breastfeed in public.

Here’s an interview that a local news station did with her (by the way, my favorite part of this news story is the guy with the beard at the end of the interview – he’s so salt of the earth, matter of fact. Love it).

I tried to find out and see if the “nurse-in” actually happened, but I can’t find that anyone did a story on it. I haven’t seen evidence that it happened, or that it was as big a deal as the news made it out to be.

I am a proponent of breastfeeding. I nursed all three of my babies longer than most women do (I used to lament joke about how I had been pregnant or nursing without break for five years). I used to nurse in public, but I was most always discreet about doing it. I had a homemade nursing cover that I kept in my diaper bag. If I ever did have to nurse in public, I did so in a way that few people actually knew or could tell what I was doing.

I appreciate the irony that this woman pointed out, that what she was doing was much less offensive and inappropriate as the Victoria’s Secret ad she sat near (that’s another post entirely). I also appreciate that she takes her right to breastfeed so seriously.

However, I don’t believe a nurse-in will change the minds of those who are against breastfeeding in public.

The point of a nurse-in, from what I can tell, is to throw breastfeeding in the face of naysayers. It’s to say, “Look at me, I’m exercising my rights and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Or, in other words, “Nanny nanny boo boo. I’m lactating and I can nurse. Let me shove it in your face.”

How does this help the cause of breastfeeding? All it does is make those who are uncomfortable with mothers who breastfeed in public even more against and uncomfortable with it. I believe that breastfeeding mothers should ere on the side of discretion when it comes to nursing in public.

The bottom line is that people aren’t bothered by a mother with a baby. Or a baby who is eating.

The problem most people have with breastfeeding in public is that the mother’s ta-tas might accidentally make an appearance. A child might see them. Someone’s husband might notice. Impressionable teenage boys might catch a glimpse.

Therein lies the problem, folks.

While I’m sure there are very few exceptions, the majority of lactating women aren’t exhibitionists. Women who breastfeed don’t wear sexy, lacy bras. Nursing bras are functional. And I can tell you from experience, I never felt sexy in one. Breastfeeding mothers don’t see their breasts as an opportunity to get men to lust after them (as, say, the aforementioned Victoria’s Secret models). They see their breasts as a body part with a function that coincides with mothering. And that’s it.

However, society, in general, sees breasts as serving a sexual purpose, and therefore, are inappropriate anywhere but on a porn video and in the bedroom.

Until we can change the idea that breasts only = sex, breastfeeding in public will be an issue.

Until men stop making sexual objects of women and their body parts, breastfeeding in public will be an issue.

Until ALL women (breastfeeding or not) learn how to be modest so that men can stop making sexual objects of women and their body parts, breastfeeding in public will be an issue.

Balancing my Caps

I’m going to try to make this short. Seriously. Stop laughing. I can write a short post. I can!

Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately.

I’m sitting here, at 10 p.m., just 27 minutes after sticking a turkey in the oven to cook (yes, I did), I’m wondering if I’m ever going to find a way to divide my time evenly and prioritize my responsibilities.

I’m a night owl (obviously, I mean, I’m cooking at 10 p.m.), but I want to be a morning person. Or at least I think I need to become a morning person. I’m not good at breakfast. I’ve found a crutch in caffeine. If my morning goes badly (which it almost always does), it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

I wonder if I’m ever going to figure this out?

I can sit down and write out lists and plans and schedules for myself, but I won’t follow them (believe me, I’ve tried). Or, I’ll start and do well for a few days. Then by day five or six I’ll fizzle and wonder what happened.

Balance. How do I balance all the caps that I wear on my head? Because most of the time, those caps must be worn simultaneously, no matter how much they clash with each other (wife, mother, cook, housekeeper, teacher, chauffeur, etc.). Then I have a whole pile of caps that I want to put on, but can find little or no available time to get them out of the closet and wear them (writer, long-distance runner, sewer, decorator). I feel like the peddler in “Caps for Sale” precariously walking down the road of life, ever so slowly and carefully, as to not disturb the caps on my head.

I try to sit down for a rest and the monkeys in the tree (I happen to have three) grab them all off of my head and scatter them all about. I get to the same point as the peddler, without words, shaking my fists and jumping up and down.


Oh goodness.

I find myself undone. Throwing a fit. Letting my inner toddler out. She’s not cute. No, not at all.

I find myself, at the end of the day, cooking a turkey and pondering the turning point of the day that took me down the road that led me to the tree, that let the monkeys take all the caps off my head, that led to my undoing.

Yet, in the midst of all those caps, it’s missing. The cap labeled “Child of God” is nowhere to be found (it’s probably underneath a pile of laundry or in a bag of canned goods I have yet to put away). For some reason, I forget that all this balancing I’m doing is just another prideful way to say, “I can do it without you God.” I forget that all these caps don’t have to sit precariously on my head, teeter tottering as I walk down the road. He offers to carry them. Why don’t I let him? Why don’t I give up all these caps and let him give them to me as HE sees fit? Even more, why don’t I stop to rest at HIS feet, instead of some random tree (called Netflix, youtube, facebook, itunes – you get the point).

I don’t know. I can’t give you a reason other than that I’m a sinful, broken person. I’m forgetful. Like the Children of Israel, I so often forget that I’ve been delivered and given blessing upon blessing. My tunnel vision leads me to complaint after complaint and a spirit of ungratefulness that forgets that grace is enough.

Grace is enough to carry me through the next hour and fifteen minutes until the turkey I started too late at night is finished cooking. It’s enough to carry me through the rest of the night. It’s enough to get me out of bed to put on that mother hat. It’s enough to show me the best way to teach my daughter. It’s enough to finally fold and put away all the laundry sitting in piles in the play room. It’s enough. It’s enough. It’s enough.

MiniMe

My mother and my Grandmother agree that she is my little clone, that she looks just like I did when I was her age.

No wonder so many people love me. I hope that in addition to inheriting my striking good looks and winning personality, she also inherits my, ahem, modesty.

Have a happy Wednesday, people. Be back tomorrow. I’m working on some good stuff for the next few days.

Stop over to parentingbydummies.com to link up your Wordful Wednesday posts.

2011, I look forward to meeting you

I’m not a resolution girl. I try and try and try to make them, and well, being halfway and all, they just don’t work out. So, this isn’t a resolution post, even though I’m excited for what 2011 will bring. It HAS to be better than 2010. So many frustrating/difficult/exhausting/overwhelming things happened in 2010. I just have to say that I’m glad that 2010 is over and 2011 is here with the promise of a New Year.

This post is mainly an excuse apology post explaining my absence from mid-December on.

We left a week or so before Christmas on a back and forth and back and forth trip to visit our families in the Midwest. I was consumed with all things holiday (gifts, good food, family, friends, and not in that order particularly). My mother and I are in the VERY beginning stages of the ideas of what could be an incredible book and/or book series, which is really exciting overall. I don’t even know how to go about starting to get into the book business, but this idea has the potential to be incredible. In the midst of all that, Hubs and I came to a decision we’ve been mulling over for years.

After next week, we will be a homeschooling family. There is some paperwork involved into being able to homeschool legally in the state that we live. So I’ve been consumed with that lately. And the blog, it got sidelined. Love blogging and love the blogging community, but it had to be put on hold while life happened.

But, I’m back. And now I have a whole new topic to add to the mix. It’s overwhelming and scary, but also exciting and full of promise. It was not a decision we came to lightly, not at all. But we feel led to do it. When the Lord calls to obedience, it’s a serious offense to ignore. So, I’m stepping out in faith (or jumping off the ledge, if you read my last post) and trusting that this is the right thing to do. The next few months will be full of trial and error, AND a lot of praying, I am sure.

On a totally different note:

My GPS was stolen from my minivan tonight from the parking lot of Target. Boo.

Apparently, the Target where I shop is right along the bus line. And it’s not uncommon for things like this to happen. Especially when I’m a dope and forget to lock the doors of my minivan that has an alarm system on it.

As I was driving home after submitting my report to the police and Target security, my inner Anne Frank came out. I know that the person who took it probably will sell it and use it for inappropriate things. However, I’d like to believe that the person who stole it has children at home to feed and they need to buy groceries. Wishful thinking, I know. But there’s a part of me that just wants to believe that someone who would do this needs the money more than I do right now. My family teased me for wanting to see the best in even the worst people. I guess they were right.

Thankfully, they didn’t take anything else (as I guess there’s not a huge market for car seats, hand sanitizer, or Christian kids’ CDs — there was little else in the van). And while I’m worried that my home address was programed into the GPS, they didn’t take the garage door opener. So, I’m hoping they aren’t interested in breaking into my home as well. I’m sure I won’t sleep well tonight. But, if I find myself awake, I’ll be praying.

Can I just give props to my wonderful Hubs? He’s so gracious when I make mistakes. He just told me that it was going to be ok and to not sweat it. What kind of husband does that? Mine does! I love that guy.

So, here’s to the promise of 2011, and a fond (relieved) adios to 2010. If I wasn’t a week late in celebrating it, I wouldn’t be me. Nice to meet you, 2011. The pleasure’s all mine.

The SAHM Paycheck

I’m a Stay-at-home-mom. While it can be a joy, it’s still a job. The hours are long, the pay is crap, and there’s no such thing as a sick day (which I was reminded of again last week). I don’t get stock options or contribute to a 401K. Paid vacations are non-existent and forget about health insurance. In fact, I haven’t had a real paycheck in a long time.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I get paid in other ways. My “paychecks” have different deductions and bonuses. In the deductions column you’ll find these items: sleep, sanity, a girlish figure, and date nights. The bonus column, however, has many benefits like: two year-old bear hugs, funny five year-old phrases, I love yous, dancing to the end credits from favorite movies, slobbery kisses (of the human variety, not canine).

But my favorite bonus is the one labeled SMILES. I get a lot of those. They come in many forms: during a visit from the tickle monster, when they play nicely enjoying being sisters and friends, while making brownies with Grandma. LOVE the smile. I’ll work harder for the smile. A smile softens the crazed hurry-up-get-your-clothes-on-brush-your-teeth-get-on-your-shoes-why-aren’t-you-moving-faster mama beast and turns her into putty. The kid-smile is SAHM gold.

So, I’m sharing a few of my favorite smile moments with you because I am participating in the Invisalign Teen Bright Smiles Holiday Photo Contest with Dumb Mom at parenting by dummies. Want a chance to win $250 Amazon Gift Code? You gotta do it by midnight tonight.

There are “My mom really is a ROCK STAR!” smiles (Billy Idol, eat your heart out):

There are “At the Park” Smiles:

There are “First Day of School” and “Aren’t our flowers just lovely?” smiles:

There are middle of the night “There’s no way we’re going back to bed anytime soon” smiles:

There are “I just made my first snow man” smiles:

There are “This isn’t a moving box, it’s a boat!” smiles:

There are the “It’s my first birthday and I’ve discovered that I like chocolate cake” smiles:

And finally, there are the “I’m running full-throttle to my mom because I love her” smiles:

These are my pay stubs. I’ve heard that I need to keep these indefinitely because in ten years or so, I may have to report that I was indeed able to make them smile at some point in their lives. I’ve heard that sweet, smiling little girls turn into irrational, unidentifiable, scary creatures after age 11 or 12 (and if my girls are destined to be anything like me, then we’re all in a lot of trouble). But I won’t think about that today. I’ll think about it tomorrow. For now, I’ll let my kids keep thinking I’m a rock star and savor these precious smiles.

Why I Heart Christmas: New Traditions Edition

This is No. 4 in the four-part series “Why I heart Christmas”.

Click on the links to check out previous posts, A little Background, The Sibling Edition, and The Husband Edition.

Sorry this post is a little late, folks. We had some last minute house guests, which led to impromptu grocery shopping and house cleaning. And also, I was having a hard time loading pictures and videos. I’d better get the hang of this if I’m going to ever become a serious blogger, huh?

I think this post is my favorite to write of the bunch. I think because it’s so open with possibility. The girls are young and each Christmas brings a new age with new awareness and understanding of this special holiday.

First and foremost, this will probably cause a little controversy, but Hubs and I have chosen to NOT do the Santa thing in our household. The bottom line is because we don’t want to lie to our children, no matter how innocent or fun the lie is. (I need to insert here that in between starting this post and writing this sentence, we went to Chic-fil-A for Kids’ Night. Guess who was making an appearance? Santa. The kids giggled and were giddy. Firstborn Diva Child said, “I knew you weren’t telling the truth! Santa’s real! He’s here!” And Drama Queen Middle Child said, “Don’t you know he’s real mom?” Here’s a little picture from the encounter).

We do several fun things throughout the season to prepare for Christmas.

Like most families, we decorate the Christmas tree. I think my firstborn Diva child is going to enjoy it as much as I do. She loves ornaments. Our favorite is the Peanuts ornament. It’s shows Linus on the stage. We went to great lengths to get this ornament for her after seeing it some friends’ house a few years ago. Long story short, we tried to get it at several stores where we lived and we tried to get it online. They were sold out. I asked my mom to ask around. She called all the Hallmark stores in her city and found one that had the store model left. She drove to the other side of town to pick it up. She mailed us the box. When I received the package, it was empty. I called my mom who called the store who found it stashed somewhere in the back room. Then the battery was dead. So, all in all, when you consider the time spent hunting and procuring it, the gas used going to the store twice, postage, and the replacement battery, not to mention the cost of the ornament itself, we probably spent somewhere in the ball park of $60 to $70 on this ornament. I don’t think about that. I think about how much my girls love it. And how each time they push the button, they hear the Christmas story. Here’s what it looks like and does, in case you were wondering what ornament is worth that much money (FYI, this is a video I took of our ornament).

This year, one of my favorite bloggers, Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience wrote and gave a free Jesse Tree Devotional, complete with pictures to make ornaments. If you don’t know what a Jesse Tree is, it’s a daily devotional starting at the beginning of Advent. It goes through the history of Jesus’ lineage up to his birth. It helps those of us who are believers see our own lineage of grace. This is the first year I’ve done a purposeful daily advent devotional with the girls. Sometimes I don’t think they’re listening, but they remember which stories go with the ornaments hanging on the pine branches we cut from our huge backyard tree. Here’s a picture of our Jesse Tree, in progress.

I just have to interject here that if you haven’t discovered Ann Voskamp and A Holy Experience, take a few minutes today to peruse her blog. Everything she has ever posted that I have read has left me hopeful and encouraged. Her’s is a quiet voice in the noisiness of the internet. A quiet respite, a salve to the wearied soul. I have read her blog for years and as long as she continues to write, I will read.

In the past I have made these pancakes.

I may try my hand at Rudolph or Santa-shaped pancakes (see we still talk about and do Santa, we just don’t teach that he’s real). We actually have a family tradition that goes along with pancakes. It’s another from my mother-in-law. She reads “Little Black Sambo” (which is about a little boy in India whose mother makes him pancakes out of tiger ghee – you have to read it to understand it). She would read it on Christmas Eve and then fix pancakes for Breakfast on Christmas morning. Then we use Alton Brown’s recipe for Instant Pancake Mix. So good. Yes, pancakes are in order soon.

When I became a mother, one of the gifts my mother gave me for Christmas was “The ADVENTure of Christmas” by Lisa Whelchel. It’s only until recently that I felt that I could use some of the ideas in this book with the kids. There are all sorts of recipes (we’re SO trying Wassail this year), crafts (we might make some “Reindeer Evangelists” – candy canes made up as reindeer), and historical facts and stories about the traditions of Christmas. The artwork is fun and captivating. Most importantly, it takes some of the well-known holiday traditions and points them toward why our family celebrates the season, Jesus. I’m so excited to get to use it this year (here it is on her website, here it is on amazon.com).

Here are some websites I’ve found with some great ideas for this season:

Check out my friend Sarah’s blog, Mashed Bananas. While she is an incredible writer, she’s even a more incredible mom. Here are a few things she did one year with her kids. Really. She’s uber-mom. Uber-fun-mom. Indoor “paper snow ball” fight? Fun. Homemade snowflakes and hot chocolate? Yum. Then there’s the Santa pancakes I’m totally stealing. Here’s what she did the year before that, a homemade advent calendar made out of match boxes. I’m not nearly that ambitious, but if you are, it’s a super cute idea.

I love what this homeschooling mom (Our Homeschool Fun) has done with her kids. Check out the Christmas Trees made of wooden craft sticks. Love it!

Family Fun Magazine always has creative homemade gift ideas that the kids can do. I actually purchased the supplies to make these fun felt pens last year, but didn’t get to it (we had a lot going on). I think the girls would love to do it this year and give them to the relatives. I also saw these little bowling boys that I thought would be fun to make for my nephews.

And finally, there’s World Vision. We support a little boy named Jose in El Salvador. Because we do, we receive mail from World Vision throughout the year. We’ve been leafing through their Christmas 2010 Gift Catalog trying to figure out what the perfect gift to purchase might be. Do we buy a chicken or a goat or clean drinking water or a Ger for a family in Mongolia? The girls want to buy baby chickens. I’m thinking about a goat. It’s a great way to give to those in need out of the great abundance God has given our family.

While I have always loved Christmas, I think I love it more now. Being a mother and watching my children experience it is far better than experiencing it myself. It is my earnest hope and sincerest prayer that they learn the reason why this holiday is so special. It’s about an all-powerful, infinitely loving, exceedingly just, all gracious God humbling himself into the form of a helpless infant to save the fallen world he so lovingly created. I pray that as our family grows and matures that our faith will as well.

Sour Grapes into Fine Wine

Today, I will choose to see the positives in my life instead of the negatives. Today will be a half-full day, even if it’s a half-full glass of wine or coffee or tea . . . whatever the drink of choice is to calm the nerves and have a mommy time out.

Instead of seeing: the messes all over the house.

I will choose to see: signs of life, of playing, of living, of laughing, of imagining, of childhood.

Instead of seeing: the dirty dishes in the sink.

I will choose to see: that we are well-fed and well-nourished.

Instead of seeing: the less than perfect mom body that covers my bones.

I will choose to see: a beautiful vessel that houses the Holy Spirit and serves as the hands and feet of God.

Instead of seeing: the empty roll of toilet paper that I have to change once again.

I will choose to see: that two of my three children are potty-trained and I don’t have to change three sets of diapers.

Instead of seeing: an enemy in my two year-old who refuses to go down for a much-needed nap.

I will choose to see: that my “… struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Instead of seeing: groceries that need to be put away.

I will choose to see: an abundance of food and the absence of fear as to whether or not I’ll be able to feed my children tonight.

Instead of seeing: the piles of laundry that need to be washed, folded, and put away.

I will choose to see: that we have warm clothing. That I have technology in a washing machine that makes the job so much easier.

Instead of seeing: the bills that have to be paid.

I will choose to see: that we live in a comfortable home with running water, electricity, ability to communicate with our friends and family from afar, and that I have a hard-working husband who has a job to provide all these things.

What will you choose to see today?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
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