Category Archives: Faith

The most wonderful time of the year

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It is December. I feel equal parts prepared and unprepared. I have been purchasing gifts on Amazon on a daily basis and stuffing the boxes that come a few days later into one of our front closets… furiously shouting at the children to look away whenever I open the accordion doors keeping all the treasures at bay. I need to assess where I am sometime soon, for all my advanced shopping, I am fearful I going to end up scrambling the week before Christmas because I have forgotten someone important (not you, Simon, you are taken care of… also, stay OUT of the front closet).

We decorated the house for Christmas over the weekend, putting up more Christmas lights than we ever have before thanks to the many handy indoor and outdoor plugs that are everywhere around the “new” house. Yesterday afternoon I wrapped the bannister going downstairs in garland and lights and when Simon got home he said, “I see Christmas threw up on the stairway.” What a scrooge.

I think I am a closet Christmas-aholic, I just never lived up to my potential in previous years but the “new” house as brought it out in me – I nearly gave in an got an Elf on the Shelf for the boys, but I held back because we already have an advent calendar (Star Wars Lego from last year), an advent book and Christmas books that we read daily but I was almost won over by the cute postures and posts I saw on Instagram. I’m not trying to be an overachiever, but cashing in on a little Christmas wonder is a beautiful thing.

I have so many happy memories of the season from my childhood and I hope my kids will as well. I hope they remember fondly playing with their Little People Nativity, their small tree all their own on their dresser, the glee of opening the advent calendar each morning and reading the real story of Christmas from our Advent book each evening.

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Jesus’ birth brings us the ultimate reason for the season and we need to remember not to forget that in the hustle and bustle. It also gives us the opportunity to celebrate the wonder and joy beyond the religious in our every day lives. Nothing beats the warm glow of Christmas lights in a quiet, still house. A glass of egg nog or a mug of hot cocoa shared with friends. Annual gatherings of friends, neighbors, co-workers and family that just don’t happen the rest of the year. Making Christmas goodies and treats to be shared with the important people in our lives. All because a tiny baby was born one holy night, giving us the greatest gift on earth… faith and salvation.

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If you like the artwork above, you can purchase your own here.

We All Fall Down

Can we all agree that there are few things as mortifying as falling down in front of people? Any people, really. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you if I would rather fall in front of a group of strangers or a group of people I know. I’d rather not do it at all. It is embarrassing. Unless you are a comedian, prone to doing pratfalls engineered specifically for getting laughs, falling down is likely something you’d rather not do. Which is funny (isn’t it ironic?) because few of us can go through life without falling down.

I have fallen up stairs. I have gracelessly tumbled down stairs. I have tripped over my own feet, my children’s feet and cracks in the sidewalk that must have jumped out at me. I have fallen on my way into daycare, outside of my doctor’s office and numerous times while enjoying nature. Each time, there is that moment where I hope and pray that maybe – no matter how many people are around – no one saw what just happened.

Liam took a dramatic spill while we were at the neighborhood Halloween party, skinning his knee a bit but more than anything, bruising his ego. Physically he was fine, but his gentle spirit was a little worse for the wear. His neighborhood buddy, a fellow second grader, approached him gracefully, putting his arm around my guy and walking him over to a chair – telling him that he was okay. I sat with him for a few minutes and told him he was fine (because he was) and then urged him to get back up and go play. I could tell he felt embarrassed, despite the fact that no one laughed at him or made fun of him, it’s just how it goes. After a semi-reasonable amount of time, he was back at it again, doing the very things that had made him fall down in the first place, thankfully not shying away from something he obviously enjoyed simply because he had taken a spill.

A few days later, I pointed out a bruise on Liam’s knee and he reminded me it was from Halloween and that fall. Which got the idea of falling – both literally and figuratively – on my mind. I started wondering how you engender in your kids the idea that we all fall down and despite how embarrassing it might be at the time, that embarrassment shouldn’t paralyze us because it (falling) happens to everyone – how much better would you feel if you weren’t the only one who fell at that very moment? You wouldn’t feel so alone… but in reality, we aren’t alone in the experience because we have all be there in one way or another, just at a different time. In this instance, Liam came around and got back to doing what he had been doing, he didn’t let it scare him off or keep him away from enjoying something simply because he had fallen. Sometimes, though, the fear of a possibility does keep us from moving forward, from revisiting situations where we could get hurt or trying new things where the ground isn’t certain. For Liam, I hope the next time it happens, he responds the same way and keeps moving forward, keeps persevering.

And what gifts are the people are who come alongside us when we fall and help us get up off the ground, again both literally and figuratively. Those people make it possible for us to lift our chins up when all we want to do is bury our heads. Liam’s friend comforted him, showing him empathy and compassion, which enabled him to get back in the game (or onto the scooter, as the case was). The people in our lives who speak truth and bolster us up are so very necessary if we want to recover from a fall; they share the burden.

We all stumble, we all fall (some of us more spectacularly so than others) and when we do, we have two choices: stay down and give up, or pick ourselves up and move forward – the pathway traversed a bit easier if we have help and companionship.

We all fall down.

And we all (should) get up again. Because we can. Because things will get better. Because falling isn’t the end of the story, sometimes it’s just the beginning.
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comfort

ememby_comfortNo other words needed.

On anger

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You might say I have a bit of a temper. Well, you might say this if you lived in my household or witnessed me with my kids and my husband. I have what is called a “short fuse” or, more accurately, a hidden short fuse because my having a temper isn’t something most people would attribute to me, though I regularly say that patience is not a virtue I was given. Usually I am fairly amicable, easy-going and (I think) pleasant to be around but it seems that if you live with me, you get the short end of the stick. I’m not sure if being agreeable elsewhere means I don’t have enough patience for the people I come home to or if it’s just normal that you have the least amount of patience for those you know best and trust most to see you at your worst. Probably some of both. And probably something we all can relate to in some way – our families don’t always get our best selves.

Either way, I still have a temper and it’s not really my most winning feature. I was looking for verses to post here and I came across Proverbs 22 which is full of wise sayings (some of my favorites are the smaller type – click on the image to embiggen) but the one that jumped out at me is: do not make friends with a hot-tempered person. Ahem. Oh that.

And what was that a few verses earlier about starting children off on the way they should go? Perhaps by setting a better example? My children are also a little short-tempered (and strong-willed, but that’s for another post)… something they were in part born with but also I think something they’ve learned over time as a conditioned response to their family when they are frustrated by some or all of the other members (Simon also has a temper – our children were bound to carry on tradition). I’ve also seen the boys’ tempers manifested when they are at daycare (hello, Jack and his biting habits this summer) and with friends (at a play date just today) and this is not something I want to see continue. It is not okay with me and they need to figure out other ways to deal with their frustrations, but first, I have to figure out other ways to deal with my frustrations. I need to follow the example of my Father, highlighted many times in the Bible, “[He is] slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” When I start following His example, I can only hope that my kids will turn and follow mine and then we can all make better friends (and parents).

A year of contentment

ememby_yearofcontentmentWe were going around the circle in our small group, sharing our prayer requests and things we were planning for the coming year and I realized what I wanted for my/our life: a year of contentment. Almost immediately after saying it out loud, I followed it up with saying, but if Simon were to switch to first shift at work, I’d take that, too – that’s the kind of change that I’d welcome to throw a wrench in the gears. Gee, I don’t ask for much.

This has definitely been a year of change and I’m well aware that God answers prayers in ways we aren’t always expecting, despite what our hopes may be and sometimes He goes above and beyond what we could even imagine (this house is our above and beyond because it is so much more than the dwelling itself). So I realize that in praying for a year of contentment, I could be opening up the door to God teaching me to be content, despite the circumstances (Note to God: I’ve got finding contentment in all situations down pat – not perfected by any means, but I’m willing to learn other lessons.) And I’m not praying for boring, or hum drum, but just simple contentment.

From Simon’s mom leaving this world last July to our move on July 1st, it was as near to a year as you can get and it has been quite a year. Plus, there is almost another year in advance of her passing that we were making plans to visit and then saying goodbye and after our move there has been a good three months of settling in, unpacking and adjustment, so we are all set to chill – to take a minute. Now, I can’t make that actually happen, but I can prepare my heart and mind and focus on the things that matter. Enjoying the every day, not looking for the next best thing and not preparing for another great adventure, or a great sadness (though most great sadnesses cannot be planned). Life is an adventure. And life is good and life brings with it hardship. That’s life. But making this house a home, starting a book club and entertaining friends and family whenever we can, these things will do me just fine.

Life is seldom boring, but we are also seldom content. We crave change and excitement and when we don’t, it tends to come looking for us and rocking our boats in ways we weren’t prepared for. And that may still happen to me, to any of us, but in the meantime… I’m going to strive for contentment, though I know I can make no promises to myself that it will fully happen. There are little things that I’ve already been doing that certainly lend themselves to contentment… figuring out ways to deal with the kids and their unsavory behaviors (an allowance system has been put in place and rather than yelling or punishing when they do something on the offense/deduction list, I simply say “That’s ten cents” and mark a tally down on their post-it note); keeping track of things I’m grateful for (dear friends, I need to revive our year of gratitude… you know who you are) and revisiting the things I love like reading, crafting and hanging out with my favorite people (girl’s nights out and date nights/days with my Australian hubby – FTW). And then I know I also need to re-focus on my spiritual life and look to God for my ultimate contentment, the rest is just filling my life with nice things, but without building it all on the rock, I will get easily washed away when the rain comes down or the flood waters rise.

Please join me in praying for contentment, in seeking it out. And please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on contentment – maybe we can get there together.

Also, if you’re going to tell me I’m crazy or unrealistic in hoping for a year of contentment – just can it. That’s what I have my husband for and I’m not married to the rest of you so I don’t have to hear it from you.