Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Take Time To Breathe

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Hands down.  There is something magical about the lights, the decorations, the yards of colored ribbon and wrapping paper, the giving.

This morning, the eve of Christmas, when I woke up, I was completely overwhelmed, not with a list of " to do's" but with  peace.  Those of you that know me, may wonder how a mom of so many can not have a list a mile long of to do's and don't forgets the day before Christmas.  Simply put, if it is not done now, it will not get done!  I refuse to rush through this day, in a effort to accomplish a list of things that no one but me will notice going un-done, knowing that in doing so, striving for perfection in my mind,  I would sabotage my all time favorite thing about Christmas, Candlelight service tonight.  

"What?," you may ask, "is so special about tonight's candle light service?"  Honestly, part of it is tradition.  Growing up we always made the trek to church on Christmas Eve.  Special clothing, and shoes, heading out in the dark, holding a candle with a real flame... I remember far more Christmas Eve's attending than not over the years.   When my kids were younger we went, and most eve's did not get through the entire service without a crying baby, a meltdown, snoring children, vomiting children or a burnt finger because of dripping wax, but tradition, over the years has morphed for me to a time of reflection and respite from the busyness of the season.

As I herd the family into the church, I feel a great sense of pride in the fact that these, straggling, sometimes hostile beings call me; "mom".  That they look to me for guidance and direction, for love and for grace.  No matter their ages or stages in life, as I look at each of them, perfectly trimmed out in their Christmas best, sitting in a LONG row, I grow warm inside, feeling that this moment in time, they are perfection in the dim  candle light, angelic looking, sweet, tender beings that are being molded and formed by the Prince and I into men and women that love the Lord and one another. (We do not always succeed, but we do strive to lead them in this way.) Despite the fact that I will have to say at least three times, "back to the back, crack to the crack, seat to the seat", to get those teen age boys into proper seated posture, I know that in my heart I am blessed. 

I love the words of the carols that will be sung.  Even though Sleepy has been singing all these years  "Haste, Haste to bring Him lard," instead of  "Haste, Haste to bring Him laud", which we now share a giggle over, I will be transported over 2000 years to the glorious time of Christ's birth.  Considering the star that guided them, is the same sky that I look at every day, mesmerizes me.  Considering my Savior's lowly start, born in a manger, I count my blessings.  I praise the Lord for his provisions, just as the babe was provided for, so are my family and our household, those that I love. The voices of the choir and the congregation will blend in harmony which will give me pause to consider if this is what the heavenly hosts sound like...

The words of the pastor will encourage, will challenge and will recharge me.  If my focus is out of line tonight, then this will be the time to refocus my perspective and focus on Christ.  The reason that I celebrate this season, this holiday. 

The flickering lights of the candles, while alone would generate little light, as an entire congregation, lights the church with a soft glow.  Reminding me that alone, my light does shines, but when combined with the light of my family, friends and other believers, there is the ability to impact an entire community with the light and truth of God's word. 

The actions of the corporate structure of the church will bless others less fortunate than my family, as we always conclude the Christmas Eve service with a benevolence offering.  Serving to remind me that once again, my gift may be small, but combined can be the difference to a person or family in need. 

By this point in the service, the dwarfs will be getting antsy. I will be sending the "hairy" eye to more than a few, indicating that they need to hold it together for another few moments.  We will then conclude with a couple annual photos by the church's large decorated Christmas tree before heading home for the evening's festivities.  But in our going, I will be prepared for what tomorrow will bring. Great joy, anticipations recognized, joy that comes from within, not based on my circumstances, but laced in the truth of God's word and the promises that He has made to each of us in his Word. 

Isaiah 9:6-7
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

A very warm and heartfelt greeting to you and yours on this the eve of Christmas.  Our family of many, wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It is not a problem.

There have been years that we were gifted trees, and there have been years that we have only decorated with live trees, and some years where we only decorated with artificial trees.  There were some years that we never put up a single tree, however somewhere over the last 24 Christmas's I have accidentally acquired a bundle of trees. 

Now you wonder how does one accidentally acquire so many trees?  I can't say that I really have an answer to that.  Not all of the trees are large, as a matter of fact there is a good portion of the them that are tall skinny pencil trees and another portion of them that are under two feet in height. However the end result is the same, the halls are all decked and there are,when I count them all up, 16 Christmas trees decorating my house. 

Here is the run down of the trees:
2 tall thin lighted trees flanking my Christmas carolers with
2 one foot shrub like trees by their feet,
2 gold lighted trees standing at attention at the charging/docking station in the kitchen,
2 small trees on the table as center pieces, (mind you it is a 12 foot table)
1 three foot gingerbread/cookie cutter themed tree in the kitchen window,
1 music themed tree in the music room,
1 live family room tree, with all the sentimental/family ornaments,
1 silver tree in the middle female dwarfs room,
1 hunting themed tree in the male dwarfs room,
1 Steeler's themed tree in another male dwarf,
1 tall skinny tree in another female dwarfs room,
1 small tree in a pot, in the master bedroom. 

Double check my math, because any friend of mine knows that math is not my strong suit, but I get 16. Counting from upstairs to down or down to up the number I arrive at is 16.

While most people would say that 16 trees is indicative of some sort of ailment or illness.  I would like to go on the record and say simply, I love trees! It is not a problem.  I actually love Christmas and decorating for it.  I have many Nativity scenes, tons of angels, several antique Santa pieces, a pile of gingerbread items and a host of reindeer, rolls of ribbon, piles of wreaths, yards of fabric and tons of twinkling lights!. 

My most favorite thing about decorating for Christmas is that I find great joy in it.  It is relaxing.  Yes, I recognize that many it seems excessive and over the top, and to be honest there have been years when I have done hardly any decorating because of the stage of life that I was in, but the joy that it brings to me is the reason that more years than not,  I go all out for the season.   I enjoy removing my normal household decorations and boxing them up to replace them with the themed items for each room.  I enjoy unpacking the items that have been collected over the last 24 years, and reliving the memories that go with the decorations and the ornaments.  I love sharing the stories with the children, so that some day when I am gone, and they separate all my things seven ways,  they can share the stories with their children, my grandchildren.

Do I think that everyone should go all out for Christmas decorating - No.  However I think that if it brings you joy, not stress, and helps you focus on the wonderful memories of holidays past, and is part of creating good memories for the current day, then YES,  by all means go all out! Decorate until your heart is filled to overflowing!

There are no rules for the holidays.  We are the ones that impose these crazy traditions on ourselves and implement to do lists that are unreasonable, as we try to be all things to all people.  It is okay to let things drop.  This year I am not sending out a family Christmas card.  I was becoming crabby and stressed over trying to organize 8 kids, 2 adults, matching outfits (or at least coordinating)  and a photographer for that "perfect" holiday shot.  I caught myself mid rant about this impossible task, and realized, that indeed this year, with so many of the kids working, playing basketball, and other outside responsibilities, a family photograph this holiday was impossible, or at least not possible without a significant portion of my Christmas joy being sapped,  so I scrapped the whole idea.  No card.

I know this is common sense, but I think it bears repeating, the problem becomes when this activity or any other, causes you to lose your focus. If you get stressed out because your can't get it all done, or because your children or spouse are in the way, or just the thought of the prospects of doing this project brings a grimace to your face not a smile, then perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the situation.

Really 16 trees, and I don't make this stuff up!