Sunday, December 25, 2016

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I love that Christmas was on a Sunday this year. It seemed right. My heart was a little more tender and a little more focused on Christ's birthday. During a typical week, I prepare for church on Saturday night - laying out clothes, packing bags, and preparing my heart. It seemed fitting to prepare for Jesus' birthday in the same way. We were at home, just the four of us the night before. We planned to attend the morning service at my church.

I will admit, that when I found out there was no childcare provided for this morning, my heart skipped a few beats. I love, love, love our preschool program at my church. I love that our kids learn Bible verses and Biblical concepts before they are even 2 years old. And I love that my husband and I can worship in our own service while our kids worship with other preschoolers. I am glad that all the wonderful teachers could take a weekend off, but I was super nervous to see how Nora (2 years old) would handle "big church." 

At first, I was even thinking, "Should we attempt it? Should we just have our own little church service at home and avoid the drama?" But that didn't feel right. 

I prepped my purse in a different way, stuffing it with coloring sheets, these magical water books, stickers, snacks...I prepped my children by telling them over and over the importance of being quiet. But I forgot to prep my heart. 

We arrived in our seats before the service began. The kids were excited to see all the twinkle lights and the big screens. Hudson was trying hard to keep that flip up seat from eating him whole. And I was nervous about how they would respond to the service for "big people." 

The Christmas carols began. I held one child and my husband held the other. The kids were in awe. And I felt in awe myself. I was so thankful to have my little family worshiping together this Christmas morning. The kids didn't know all the words to the familiar-to-me carols, but they knew we were celebrating Jesus' birthday. They stuck nativity stickers to the bulletin while our Pastor shared about Jesus' purpose in coming to earth. With each aspect of the service, my heart felt a little fuller. 

Music was mixed in between the sermon points. In the middle of the service, we sang one of my favorite Christmas songs.  O Come, All Ye Faithful. As we sang the chorus, tears spilled down my face. Nora even wiped a tear off my cheek. This is what Christmas is all about. This is what I want my kids to understand. This is what we have been preparing for. 

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

We'll praise His name forever
We'll praise His name forever
We'll praise His name forever 
Christ the Lord

All the preparations. All the anticipation. Even our getting ready for church this morning. It was all so that I could remind my children that we were made to worship the Lord. What I privilege I have, as a mother, to bring my children along side me to celebrate Christ's birth. 

It's the song I could have sang as we got dressed, brushed hair, wiped oatmeal off faces, buckled car seats, and packed my purse. 

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

And for those who are wondering, the kids did amazing in "big church." Nora may have had 3 applesauce squeezies and a lot of pretzels, but we were together as a family. We came and we worshiped Christ the Lord.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Card Wreath

Sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite things. As a child, I can remember that my Nanny taped her cards around the door frames in her home. I can remember flipping through a huge stack of received cards at my Maw-Maw's kitchen table. And I remember watching my mom address card after card to send out to friends and family. A friend recently told me that she views Christmas cards as a way to send a hug across the miles.

I have chip clip racks that hold a lot of our cards, hooked onto the side of our hutch or kitchen cabinets. But I like to find new ways each year to feature the cards that we receive.

The other day, I picked up a $3 wire wreath form at Hobby Lobby. It had wired greenery ties already attached to the frame. The purpose of the wreath is to weave burlap strips to create a fuller wreath. But, I decided to repurpose mine.

Using clothespins, I have been clipping our cards onto the wreath form.

The "branches" are flexible, allowing me to bend the around the cards to make them more visible.

And if you wanted to make things even more festive, you could always add some washi tape to your clothes pins.

A regular wire wreath form would work in the same way, but I am loving the Christmasy touch that the bits of greenery add.

And if you are looking for a way to corral those rolls of wrapping paper, mine are hanging out inside an upside-down wooden stool.

Don't be afraid to repurspose items you already own - They say "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Stovetop Simmer Starter Kit

I often associate memories and feelings with scents. My new favorite addition to our holiday home is a simmering potpourri pot! The whole house quickly smells like Christmas - and I am just using peels from an orange and a few branches from a tree outside.

For my favors at our Christmas tea (read more about that wonderful night here), I gave each lady her own stovetop simmer starter kit. 

Once you understand the concept, you will find yourself throwing all kinds of things into your pot of simmering water. 

The instructions are simple.
Toss orange peels, a handful of cranberries, and some spices (I like a cinnamon stick and some whole cloves) into a small pot. Cover the ingredients with water and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add water every thirty minutes or so. As the pot steams, your home will be filled with wonderful scents.

Some have said they forget about having to add water. If that's the case, set yourself a timer to remind you to check the water levels!

I found this handy printable already prepared for me here. The clear bags can be found on the party isle at Walmart - 20/$.97.

Most days, I save orange peels (or sliced oranges) and apple peels/core from preparing my kid's lunches, add some spices and some days I even add pine or cedar branches to the pot.  A super simple recipe is orange peel and a tablespoon or so of vanilla extract. The possibilities are endless. And it makes an adorable, affordable gift. 

I love that I can step out my backdoor, grab a tree branch, save some peels and make my home smell welcoming and cozy! Do any of you have any favorite combinations? 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Be a mom like Mary...

This year, I have thought a lot about a famous mother. Maybe the most famous mother ever. I felt it was only appropriate to talk about her today at my mom's meeting.

Mary. She's well known - even among unbelivers. One of my commentaries said that "Adoration of her is ageless, classless, raceless and timeless."

As I read Luke 1-2 this past week, I read it from a mother's perspective. I read this familiar passage with new eyes, trying to envision the emotions of this mother. Yes, she was carrying and would raise the Son of God - but she was a mom just like me. She had longs nights. I'm sure she felt insecure in her abilities. And despite being part of one of the greatest miracles (the virgin birth), she was probably talked about, judged, lost friends and could have lost her fiance (had he not believed what the angel told him).

She came from humble beginnings. The angel Gabriel and her cousin Elisabeth both called her "blessed among women." (Luke 1:28,42). But I don't read of her exalting herself.

As I read the Christmas story with my "mom eyes," I was struck with two key things that I wanted to remember -

1.  She said "yes" to the Lord

She was a mom like me. She just did what the Lord asked her to do.

Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have
said about me come true."  Luke 1:38, NLT

It's also worth mentioning that she went to a relative that could give her encouragement and wise counsel. She went to her cousin Elisabeth (also experiencing a miracle) who spoke truth in Mary's circumstances.

"You are blessed because you believed that the Lord
would do what He said."  Luke 1:45, NLT

I love that it doesn't say, "You're super awesome because you are Jesus' mom." Instead, it says that Mary is blessed simply for believing that God was gonna do what He said. I am not part of this historical-miraculous birth , but I can say yes to the things the Lord asks me to do.

2.  She managed motherhood the right way

A famous passage regarding Mary's perspective in all the Christmas happenings is found in Luke 2:19

but Mary kept all these things in her heart
and thought about them often." 

After they finally found a place to sleep for the night, Jesus was born, shepherds rushed in to worship the new King, a star was in the sky... but Mary "pondered all these things in her heart."

And I love that her response to the angel's news is recorded as a mini prayer and praise session in Luke 1:46-55.

Mary responded, "Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For He took notice of His lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed..." Luke 1:46-48, NLT

She didn't panic to friends and family. In fact, there's no mention of her having any kind of public panic. She took it to the Lord first.

These two instances in Scripture show me that Mary held on to the good things that the Lord was doing in her life and praised God for who He was in the midst of uncertainty.

I want to be known as someone who takes things to the Lord FIRST. I think this decision protects your kids and family. I remember retelling to Jeremiah one evening about the craziness of the day. He let me vent and then said calmly, "Do you hate your life?"   "NO!" I said, "I love my life." His non-judgmental question made me realize that I was portraying the image that this mom life was horrible, and that's not something I want my kids to pick up on. I don't want them thinking that they make my life hard or frustrating. If I take my anxiety and complaints to the Lord first, there's no way that could happen. I've got to remember that I need to give the Lord a chance to work instead of going to others to fix my problems.

I left my moms a Christmas challenge and a tea bag.

1. Get a hot drink and sit by the twinkle lights
2. Read Luke 1-2 from a mom perspective
3. Think about praying Mary's prayer from Luke 1:38 about a difficult situation in your life
4. Ponder the good things that the Lord has done, and talk to Him FIRST about the trying times.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Be Brave: SBC Christmas Tea 2016

Be Brave - the 2016 theme from our annual Christmas Tea.

We all have to be brave at some point in our life. It may be the first day of kindergarten. It may be the day you lose a spouse. It may be the day you receive devastating news. Or the day you bring home a brand new baby.

As Christmas approaches, I can't help but think of how brave Mary had to be. She was probably judged. She was probably scared. It probably wasn't how she expected her first pregnancy to happen. Yet, she was carrying the Son of God. She was to give birth and raise the Messiah. Her scary circumstances were for a greater good.

I view the Christmas story differently now that I am a mother.  I'm not comparing myself with Mary, but I do think she felt some of the same emotions that I experience as a mother. We moms are in this together.

Expectations and assumptions are common reasons for discouragement in my life. I research, plan and make lists for big events, picturing my emotions. Time after time, that day arrives and I don’t feel the way I decided I should feel.  I am continuously learning that the Lord is the one who orders my steps…not me.

When my son, Hudson was born, I had all these images in my head of the first time I would see his face. I assumed family would be there to capture the moment in a frame-worthy photograph.  I had always dreamed of becoming a mother and I had decided that my first moments holding my new baby would be magical.  (Read Part 1 and part 2 of Hudson's birth story)

But the Lord continues to want to teach me the lesson that “It’s not about me. My life is not my own. His plans are not my plans.” After a surprise case of eclampsia, my son was delivered seven weeks prematurely. I still have no memory of the 3 days surrounding his birth. I don’t remember the first time that I held him.  It was not as I had planned.

Due to a lengthy period of unconsciousness, I had to relearn some things. I had trouble putting words together for quite some time.  But the Lord put a song in my heart. “Our God is Greater. Our God is stronger. God, You are higher than any other. Our God is HEALER, awesome in power. Our God.”

As doctors marveled at our situation, our God was praised. As Hudson was released from the hospital after just 17 days, our God was seen as being awesome and strong. As I recovered, our God was seen as Healer. Our God. He had greater plans.

Instead of feeling discouraged that my birth story didn’t unfold the way I’d expected, I am humbled to remember that God saw fit to show His greatness and strength through our lives. And the next time I face days of uncertainty and disappointment, I am praying for the courage to look for the greatness of our God. If I enter circumstances expecting God to show up, I will never be disappointed.

I Samuel 7:12   “…Up to this point, the Lord has helped us.”

The evening at the tea was filled with great conversation, yummy food, and encouraging testimonies of God's faithfulness. 

Like a gaggle of geese squawk encouragement at the goose flying in the front, this group of ladies prayed for and encouraged our sisters in Christ. 

Our scary circumstances may be different, but our God is the same. His plan is perfect and He is always good. 

 So, be brave, sisters. Be brave.