His Birthday

 

It was cold here. For almost a week. And by cold, let me qualify that it stayed under 65 degrees Farenheit all day long.  Mornings were in the thirties to forties. Then the cold went away and summer returned.  As much as I’m grateful not to live where it’s stuck near freezing for the next several months, I am ready for a break from 80 degrees. We wore these outfits last week, one of the days it was cold.

Jax’s face in photo one is how he looks when he’s not feeling well, or is grumpy.  He has an actual upset-crying face too, but this is just his grumpy face.  How is it that even snotty-nosed, grumpy babies manage to be adorable and lovable?

We’re nearly ready for Christmas.  In the last few days I’ve baked five pies (three pumpkin, two pecan), seven dozen muffins (zucchini and cranberry nut), lemon bar cookies, and white chocolate dipped roasted pecans.  The last is incredibly addicting, and thus incredibly dangerous.

I’ve also spent two nights wrapping gifts well past my bedtime.  I tried wrapping some small stocking stuffers with Jax awake, and it was a no-go.  I thought he’d be entertained by all the boxes and spools of ribbon and empty rolls of paper and bins of various wrapping goodies.  But he wasn’t.  The only three things he wanted to play with were the only three things I couldn’t let him have: my scissors, my scotch tape dispenser, and the wrapping paper I was trying to use.  I did loan him the sharpie (lid on) I was using to label things, and that lasted several minutes.  So I had to resort to completing my wrapping during his nap and during my precious night sleeping hours.  It will be worth it!

A trick we use when traveling with wrapped gifts is to double-wrap everything.  The first layer is your wrapping paper of choice.  The second layer is clear cellophane wrap. Not the kind you use for leftovers, but what you find on a roll in the gift wrap section.  It takes time, because you’re wrapping everything twice.  But the cellophane holds up to the trunk, or your luggage, or wherever you’re carting gifts in.  It will usually hold together and prevent tears or blemishes on your wrapped gifts.  My sister thought of it first, and we’ve been doing it ever since.  It also adds a glossy sheen to the gift, which makes the wrapping paper look expensive!

In addition to preparing our baked goods and wrapped gifts, we’ve been preparing our hearts.

In her sermon a couple weeks ago, my mom said something that really struck home: “Christmas isn’t your kids’ birthday. Or your birthday. Or your friends’ birthday. It’s JESUS’ birthday. So in all the chaos and busyness and gift giving, could we tone it down a bit and do something to honor and celebrate Jesus?  On your kids’ birthday, lavish them, bless them, make the day all about celebrating them.  But on Jesus’ birthday, could we spend some time and money lavishing HIM?  Blessing Him?  Celebrating Him?”  She challenged us to think of ways we could do so.

I get so grieved this time of year with all the excess.  Even the excess in my own heart and life, and the excess I greedily think I want more of.

I felt like she really said it well, and little family of three is ready to make some changes to make it more about Jesus’ birthday.

Benjamin suggested we bake Jesus a birthday cake.  Sounds great, but instead of eating it, maybe we can take it over to the home of someone who will be alone this Christmas.

I’m still wrestling through this.  Wrestling through how Christmas looks, and how I wish it looked in our home.  Wrestling through our Christmas budget, and how it’s spent.  Wrestling through the selfish greed of my own heart, and the disappointment in my own desires so far away from His.

If any of my readers have ways they have celebrated Jesus’ birthday by meaningful, faith-filled acts, I’d love to hear about them.  We’re going to do one or two small things this year, but want to expand in the coming years the percentage of our time and money we spend at Christmas, to more of Jesus’ heart and work, and less of our own.  I’d love to hear how other families have wrestled through this, and ways you have found to reduce the noise and excess, and focus on simplicity, giving and celebration.

Merry

 

 

We look a bit like something you’d hang on a wall or wrap around a gift.  It’s not every day you can wear red and green without people wondering if you’ve permanently joined ranks with Buddy the Elf.  I couldn’t resist at least one outfit (okay, maybe a few more), that were overtly Christmas-y.  ‘Tis the Season.

We wore these outfits to church on Sunday.  I might have begged Benjamin to wear something other than a faded tee shirt and hole-y shorts that looked like he’d slept in them, and Crocs with wall paint from when we painted Jax’s nursery (before he was born).  I thought he did well selecting his outfit to match us.

As much as I care about what Jax and I are wearing on a given day, Benjamin could equally care less.  Perhaps that’s why I was attracted to him – so I could reform his wardrobe.

Jax’s pants were a thrift-store steal.  Polo Ralph Lauren corduroys in immaculate condition.  And I got them on half-off day so I think they cost a buck fifty.  His irresistible socks were a gift.

We are happy and merry and bright this time of year.  Excited to be finding steals for ones we love.  Joyful to be investing some of our Christmas funds for those without.  Happily looking forward to celebrating with family and friends.

| Filed under Christmas, fashion

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like

For some reason, that is the song I can’t get out of my head right now.  (You’re welcome for sticking it in your head now too!).  Probably because everywhere I go, Christmas is starting to pop up with sparkles and lights and bows.

Because we rent from my parents’, and my mom does a beautiful job decorating for Christmas, I haven’t decorated our side of the house since we moved here.  Every year, my mom asks me to decoarte my place, and I tell her I’m too busy.  This year, I’m decorating.  At least a little.

My nativity is up on the piano, and I’m going to hang a few wreaths today in place of some art work.

I feel accomplished for the shopping I have completed, and overwhelmed by the shopping I have yet to do!  A little bit at a time, I keep reminding myself.  I do a lot of purchasing and wrapping and card sending for my job as well, so I think that’s part of my rush to get it all done in time.

Last night my mom and I went to Target to purchase some Christmas toys, or decorations that function as toys.  She replace so many things in the house.  She has Christmas dishes, so all the usual dishes get put away.  She has Christmas dish towels and Christmas toys and Christmas books. All the toys she keeps in different parts of the house for Jax and other kids get put away.  But there weren’t quite enough to bring out.  Target has a tree decor station that is nearly all soft, stuffed things.  We bought a couple little dolls, a dog, some reindeer, some bells.

I understand why it’s hard sometimes not to spoil your kids with too much stuff.  They see it, and it makes their face light up, and a little giggle erupt from their belly, and you just want to repeat that moment over and over and over.  To see their little face light up, to hear giggles and peals of laughter bubbling out.  So you buy the thing.  And another thing, and another, when the old one loses its ability to bring out that delightful reaction in your child.  I’ve been trying to think of creative ways to delight Jax like this, that don’t involve buying some trinket.

I did find one – ice cubes.  The problem with ice cubes is they melt so fast in little hands, he can’t really hold them.  They just slip away from his grasp.  So I pulled out cheesecloth, cut out a square, and tied it around the ice cube.  Oh, heaven.  He ate four ice cubes this way, with his hands and face all red from the cold, oblivious to the chill.  I totally need to market this idea and sell it for ten dollars.  Organic cotton teething toy!  Just insert an ice cube!  I could be a millionaire in no time.

On a different note, this awesome necklace is a gift from my boss.  I wore it pregnant, here.  I started our outfits this morning wanting to wear these red capris.  I grabbed this shirt for Jax, which led me to my navy poncho sweater for me.  The navy and red looked a bit too predictable, so I went for a bold accessory.  If I had bronze or gold flats, I would wear those instead of these trusty Croc loafers.

A Little Less Selfish

Today we’ll be cooking up a storm.  Just a small storm, since our guests are bringing part of the meal too.

My parents have this amazing value for including and welcoming people into our home.  It’s true at all times of year, but especially true at Thanksgiving.  I used to get upset about it, because gathering a bunch of different, sometimes awkward, people into our home on a holiday just seemed to take away from “family only” time.  HOW SELFISH.  I am now SO grateful to my mom for inspiring me to open my heart more, give a little more, make space for people.  Especially those who are alone.  What a terrible time of year to be alone.

So this year, when she asked me who we should invite, I started suggesting all the lonely people we know who might not have a place to go.  As it turns out, our church has the same heart that my parents do, and most of these folks were already welcomed in someone else’s home.

It’s something about this American culture that makes us selfish with our holidays instead of generous with them.  It convinces us we need to eat more, buy more, accumulate more, want more, MUST HAVE MORE.  Ugh.

Ugh in my own heart for the places where this is true.  I usually put together a Christmas wish list, excited for the various things I might get that don’t fit into our own budget.  Then a few weeks later, I usually want to trash the whole list and give all our money away, and all my gift money away, to people who don’t have enough.  Or anything.

This time of year makes me feel so darn selfish and sick with myself.

Today I’m going to a grocery store laden with two hundred kinds of cereal and a hundred kinds of cookies and ten kinds of bottled water.  When there are people starving to death on a few grains of rice and water pulled from a mud hole.

Tomorrow I’m going to stuff my belly until it aches with a delicious menu many people spent hours preparing.  I’ll be moderating my intake so I don’t gain the ten pounds the average American accumulates during the holiday season.  When there are people who can make a living from the $20 gift of a basket of chicks.

I’ve made a wish list including things like an $80 pair of flats or a $60 pair of boots (although the flats are Tom’s, so at least some of that money is charitable, providing shoes for someone in need).  When there are people who walk miles a day over terrible terrain in just the bare soles of their feet.

And I have to actually work to remind myself that I really DON’T NEED ALL THIS STUFF.  I tend to write the word stuff as Stuff.  Because it is an entity. An entity that draws us in day after day, sucking us into its greedy talons and poisoning us with its desire.  We are surrounded, no, saturated, marinated, in it this time of year especially.

So I try to center myself.  Try to spend more time in prayer.  Try to set aside funds for outreach, reducing the money in the “me, me, and more ME” bucket, to increase the resources in the “serve, love, die to self” bucket.

I’m really a selfish, disgustingly self-loving, self-serving person.  And the only thing in me that has a thread of goodness and graciousness and generosity is the power and spirit of Christ.  I want to live more in His thoughts, and less in my own.

I’d like to think perhaps we could give it ALL away, instead of just some of it.

I’d like my kids to be less selfish than I am, to be inspired to open their hands and hearts.  To welcome unusual people into their homes at Thanksgiving, and use some of their Christmas funds to buy chicks and cows and water.

I want it to not take so much effort to remember to give away.  I want it to be my nature, my default, my first desire and greatest joy.  I know it is HIS.

I’ll never be perfect, but I’ll never stop trying to grow.  Lord, help me be a little less selfish. And a little more like You.

Here’s some charities that I support this time of year (and throughout the year).

Charity: Water.  Building water wells…this cause is important to me because in some of the countries where Charity: Water works, one in five children will die before their fifth birthday, due to disease caused by dirty drinking water.  One in five.  Think of five kids you know (perhaps that many are in your family), and imagine one of them gone before age five.  And all they need to live a little longer is clean water.  I raised money to build a $5,000 water well for my thirtieth birthday.  It was one of the things I’m most proud of accomplishing thus far in life.  Charity Water requires the villagers to support the water project, often by paying a portion of it, or doing much of the manual labor, and learning to maintain their water point.  So we know the villages these are going into are also invested in the project, to keep their water source functioning.

Heifer International.  Giving animals, a renewable resource, to families.  This cause is important to me because the animals given to families can reproduce more animals.  And Heifer requires each family to “pass on” the gift, by donating an offspring of their own animal to another family within a year or two.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  We usually purchase an animal of some kind as part of our Christmas budget.

Samaritan’s Purse.  Filling shoe boxes with toys, candy, school supplies, and hygiene essentials for kids who otherwise don’t get Christmas.  This cause is important to me because the children are also given tracts in their own language talking about Jesus.  He is the best Gift of all.  It doesn’t cost much at all (about $10 to fill a shoe box and $7 to ship it), and has a huge impact.  I also like knowing there is one particular kid who gets the particular box I filled.  We filled two boxes this year.  Our church was also a collection point for folks in the community to drop off boxes.  We collected over 1,300 boxes from the community, and over 120 boxes from our own church (which I don’t even think 120 people GO to our church, so that was more than one box per person!).

HERS | Blouse thrifted | Tank Old Navy | Shorts Old Navy | Shoes Crocs Malindi | Necklace yard sale | Sweater Target

HIS | Shirt Tonka (love, love the sweet pastel trucks) | Pants Genuine Baby by Oshkosh

| Filed under Christmas, fashion, God moments, soapboxes