Monday, December 15, 2014

Are you weary?

Y'all, I'm weary. I'm weary of hate-filled internet comments and of having to explain that racism does indeed exist and that gay people can be Christians too.  I'm weary of keeping up with homework and school projects and trying to remember to send in the money for the Christmas gifts. I'm weary of grieving my dad and helping my kids grieve because Grandpa's not with us this Christmas.  I'm weary when I leave work and go home and cry because of all the hurt I've seen that comes from mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. I'm weary of giant piles of laundry and messy kitchens.

I don't have it together. I rarely do. I'm the mom who reads the email about not sending in the project early just AFTER having sent the project in early. I'm the mom who has twice now shown up an hour early to pick up my child from preschool because I forgot that he had soccer.  I'm the mom who bought all the supplies two months ago to make wonderful homemade vanilla extract for Christmas presents... and still haven't made the vanilla. It takes 8 weeks to make. And I keep forgetting to move our $%& Elf on the Shelf.

In fact, just to keep things real, I posted this picture to FB today. Me, no makeup, displaying my various crafting- and clumsiness-related injuries.

But you know what? That is all okay. I don't have to have it together. Because this is the season that we celebrate redemption.  I don't claim to have all the answers to religion or God or how one "gets to heaven"... but I do believe this: God wants to restore us.  When I read the Bible about heaven, it looks like justice and peace and joy. No more drug addiction, no more hunger, no more homelessness, no more racism or sexism. No more mom-guilt, no more grieving. No more giant piles of laundry or bickering children. No more weariness.

And God uses us to bring that redemption about. We get to be part of ending racism and injustice. We can work to alleviate the pain of poverty and addiction.  This season, we celebrate the birth of a baby who came to restore and redeem, showing us exactly how we can live in ways that bring peace and hope to others. He showed us how to bring restoration to this broken world. And then sacrificed himself to restore all of us back to God, once and for all. What an amazing gift.

So I lay my weariness and all my failures at the feet of the God who created me, thankful that I get to be part of his plan to bring peace and hope. And if you are weary too, I invite you to join me. We don't have to have it all together and we don't have to have all the answers. But we do have the honor of being part of the solution. That alone brings me hope.

May we find real hope and peace in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, in the idea of God's active work to restore brokenness, and may we find rest in the fact that we don't ever need to be perfect. His love covers it all. Always has, always will.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Do You Do Santa? (and other ways we judge each other during the holiday season)

It's such a harmless-sounding question: Do you do Santa? Or "Do you have an Elf on the Shelf?"

But here's the problem. Sometimes there is an implied "correct" reply.  It's the same kind of idea behind "Do you breastfeed?" or even the seemingly-innocuous, "What books is your child reading now?"

I know some families who don't do Santa. They feel it's a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas. That is wonderful! If not doing Santa helps your family focus more on what's important, you should absolutely stick to it!  But we need to remember that all families are different. Families who don't do Santa do not love Jesus any more or less than families who do.  There's no hierarchy here. I would love to declare Christmas a "Judgement-free zone."

Here is my take on this: so many things in my life are a distraction from Jesus this time of year: swim team practice, Tae Kwon Do, homework, crafty projects & sewing, cooking dinner, Santa, Elf on the Shelf.  Every family decides where they want to draw the line.  And sometimes that line is different from year to year (or month to month!!) In our family, we draw the line on the other side of Santa.  He comes on Christmas Eve and drops off a present or two for the kids but he's certainly not the focus of our lives for a month.  And we have an Elf because it's fun.  I do love the magic of Christmas when the kids are little. And those things, for us, don't distract us from Jesus any more or less than the rest of what we do in our lives. So I'm truly not worried about Santa.

Let's put that fat old guy in the corner for a moment, shall we? Here are the ways we make the Christmas season more meaningful:

1. Our "Jesse Tree": A few years ago, my husband came up with a readings for every night of December for the Christmas story and I made advent pocket trees and a little ornament for each reading.

We have a little tabletop tree and every night, we read part of the story of Jesus and the kids take turns taking an ornament out and placing it on the tree. The tree sits as our table centerpiece so we can see all the ornaments and talk about the Christmas story. The kids look forward to it every night!

2. We continue to serve the way we do all year. Honestly, there isn't a whole lot of "extra" serving or giving we do at Christmastime. We really have made it our practice to serve and give all year long. While I think it is wonderful to do extra at Christmas, I have a hard time fitting in too much more. We typically do an Angel Tree gift or a Samaritan's Purse box and we do one extra breakfast for our homeless friends on Christmas morning but we don't do all that much "extra" on top of our regular stuff. Maybe we should do more. And maybe one day we will. But for now, adding more stress (even for good things) actually distracts me from the "reason for the season."  So give yourself a break. It is okay if you don't do (fill-in-the-blank).

3. We spend less! I try to make as many Christmas gifts as I can or give "time together" instead of just "stuff." We spend as little time as possible this season talking about the "stuff." And our church does a big Christmas offering and splits it between local homeless ministry and Heart for Africa. I take the money I saved and we donate it to that! It helps me when I make my purchases: I think, "would I rather my money go to this piece of plastic or to help with our local homeless friends or Heart for Africa?" Makes the decision a lot easier. We don't send Christmas Cards anymore either (oh the hypocrisy... because I LOVE getting them!) and donate what we would have spent on those too.

4. We spend more! You read that right. Sometimes spending more is the way to go. We try to buy fair-trade items as Christmas presents. Typically, I spend way more on stocking stuffers than I used to because I fill our stockings with fair-trade goodies!  It may cost more, but the gift of a sustainable wage is worth every penny! I can love Jesus in the way I spend my money.

Cheers, mamas! Whether you do Santa or not, whether you have a lazy Elf or a crazy-creative one, let's not judge one another! We all want to have meaningful, joyful, peaceful seasons. Let's stand together instead of apart. Love abounds when we do this, especially when we do it over things we do differently.

And instead of focusing on whether or not you "do Santa," I'd love to hear the ways you make this time of year more meaningful for your family!