It's that time of year again (not that I need to tell anyone else that). The non-stop Christmas station "Holly" is back up on XM radio. Our pastor (love you, Pastor Dave!) has given his annual talk on Christmas traditions that includes discussion of orange danish, epiphany, cheesecake, and the true spirit of the season. We're slated to light the advent candle next Sunday, which, if you heard about last year, you'll know why I'm throwing my hands up in the air and asking for another large dose of grace.
Pinterest is near meltdown mode. I've sworn off attempting any more craft creations because -- it's time to face reality once and for all here -- I'm not crafty. People are posting shining happy photos on Facebook of chopping down Christmas trees and cutting cookie dough. Someone's packing Christmas boxes with their kiddos for the poor and someone else is creating a Advent Calendar complete with little treats for the children to open each day that directly link to the Christmas story.
I wonder and wonder: How to instill a tradition that means something? How do get us through the holiday with a little less "Where's the rest of my presents?" (that was Ethan at his birthday, literally) and a little more, "What can I give?" How to stop the kids early from getting on the treadmill of going through the motions and doing, doing, doing but rather to stop and reflect and breathe...to understand what Christmas is and what it is not.
This is not as easy as it sounds. My kids are not saints, they are typical kids. In addition, Ethan doesn't like dealing with abstract concepts, and it's very hard to just sit him down and have a serious talk. Every time I've attempted sitting around and talking about the Bible's Christmas story, or flipping through catalogs to see where we might donate and help others, using in part some of their money earned raking leaves, he's up and gone. He wants nothing to do with it. My children are not sweet and wide-eyed, full of earnest desire to unselfishly give to others.
They're kind of like me.
I think: What can I give them? I think: Am I giving them what matters, what will matter when they need it most?
I remember a video we watched in our MOPS group not long ago. It was about helping your kids to be brave. They talked about letting them try and fail...letting loose some of the cords we hold onto way too long...urging them to do the hard thing, to not give up.
All week, in the midst of Christmas and expectations coming on like a winter blast, I think of the video, and I think of Sunday, at church.
There is a boy, a young teenager, whose body has been ravaged by cancer. Part of one leg has been amputated. There are nodules on his lungs. He just had a mass the size of a hand removed from his brain. And yet - he holds on to no resentment. A few months ago, God came into his life. Today, somehow, he is not swayed by everything happening to him. "It doesn't matter," he says, "because Jesus is my friend."
There is a woman, middle-aged, who had not just a marriage but a love story. She came to our MOPS group several times to share. I'd rarely met someone who seemed so passionately, madly in love after years and years of marriage. She and her husband used to hold a Valentine's Dance at our church and dress up and ballroom dance. This smiling joy of a man developed a malignant brain tumor last year and died earlier this week. Through a surely broken heart and unspeakable pain, she is shining through with an unshakeable peace and a steadfast faith. She's immersed herself in worship; in spending time with God. She mourns, yet rejoices. She hangs on to the hope that lies far beyond this present world and this simple, drab shadow of a life compared to all that is to come.
This Christmas my kids are going to fight and ask for too many presents. They'll snitch dough and the too-thin reindeer legs will break off the sugar cookies. Chloe will most likely devour a few tree needles before I can catch her. We may send off our donations at the last-minute, and Ethan may or may not care.
I can't wave the wand and make them "good little Christians." And maybe that's not what God even wants. Maybe He just wants an earnestness of heart and a trust that holds on even as it falters. Maybe he just wants a mom who still fiercely loves her children before they've arrived at spiritual maturity. Maybe He needs us to just take our baby steps and He'll meet us there.
I think I have to remember: Some things aren't taught as much as they are lived. And some seeds will only sprout when the test inevitably comes.
Maybe I need a new prayer. Maybe I need to pray that my kids will be not good, but brave. Brave enough to hold on. Brave enough to trust. Brave enough to rest. Brave enough to know they are always loved, in the midst of every storm. Brave enough to not grow up and put aside their faith as one would a childhood myth. Brave enough to believe. Like the boy and the woman who have lost so much, in different ways, yet know that they are found.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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This was beautiful and real and I loved it.
very lovely thoughts
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