Category Archives: 2017

My First Advent: A Recap

This was my first year to celebrate Advent. It is not something that has been a part of my tradition or religious background in the past.

This year some friends introduced me to an advent study For All by Sacred Holidays. It was a workbook with a session to study each day for the three weeks leading up to Christmas. I decided quickly that I wanted, that I needed to do this. And having a group of friends to debrief the study with was also very helpful.

I got so excited about Advent that I began studying on my own. As I did the introduction to my Advent study in preparation, God begin speaking to me about how I could share during Advent with others who might also not be familiar with this practice. I suddenly had an idea to do a series of Advent videos each Sunday during the season. (links at the bottom)

So Advent became for me something pretty significant. Not only was I committed to carving out time each day to do my personal study book, but I was also creating a video each week to share with others. It was such a good motivator for me to study and really listen to what God was saying during this season.

Several things stand out to me that I learned during this time. I saw parallels between Christ’s first and second coming that I had never considered before. I learned to see peace as “completeness”, and Christ as the completer of all things. I saw how the prophets Anna and Simeon got to see Christ because they were anxiously waiting and anticipating and looking for him.  So many parts of the birth story stood out to me in new ways this year.

I also learned a lot personally in this journey. To navigate technology more independently. To be more flexible in my planning and be comfortable with sometimes working down to the wire.  To trust God to use me, sometimes in spite of myself. That even things you really want to do can sometimes feel very hard in the moment, but you must persevere.

It’s a bit sad that Advent and the Christmas season are over. But I will try to hold some of that anticipation and expectation for Christ’s return in my heart for all year.

Links to Advent Videos:

Advent Intro & Resources

Advent Week 1: Hope

Advent Week 2: Peace

Advent Week 3: Joy

Advent Week 4: Love

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Christmas Decorating Brilliance

In recent years, my teenagers seem to be less interested in Christmas decorating. “Putting out the decorations” usually means that they help for five minutes and then sit around drinking cocoa and eating cookies while I do the rest. It’s not my favorite thing for that reason. But this year we did something so smart!

A friend and I decided to join forces this year to combat the disinterested teenagers and the overwhelmingness that decorating can be for moms. We made it new and fresh again.

So we planned a Christmas decorating extravaganza weekend. We sent an invitation to our kids. We decorated at my house Saturday afternoon and her house Sunday afternoon. We put our two party planner Pinterest daughters in charge of snacks. They went shopping together and bought all the stuff and then the kids made the snacks together for both days.

So just as we got into my boxes on Saturday, I started to panic. That is when my friend jumped in to action and got it done. Here’s my favorite part of the day: my technically minded and traditional son collaborating with her creativity and eye.  They got my railing done while I was wandering around trying to figure out where to begin.

The kids had so much fun together. Decorating with friends was less boring. They helped each other decorate the little trees for their bedrooms and loved that too.

We also shared items we found. A couple of decorations from my house went to hers and visa versa. It was a fun weekend. The end result was two decorated houses and a lot of happy kids and two happy mamas.

Everything is more fun with friends. We found this was a way to maintain tradition but bring a freshness and excitement that we could all get behind. (And did I mention…this let the dads off the hook complete?)

Christmas Tree Shelf 2017

Every year we have a weird Christmas tree. It has been the source of much of my writing. I’ll include links at the bottom of this post in case you need to catch up.

This year we spent some time negotiating the tree decision over Thanksgiving break. In the end, we decided to go with an idea that Lydia had actually last year that didn’t make the cut. A shelf tree.

Nathan and Lydia, and then Nathan and Abby, spent several hours building circular shelves of varying sizes. They actually used the center of our last year’s tree as the center pole. They painted it green by combining all the random green paints they found in our house. And so stands our shelf tree.

I definitely didn’t love it. It actually reminds me of something from Dr. Seuss. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t look like a tree. And where to hang ornaments?

So we decided to staple branches on to it to give it some dimension. Then the kids added a few ornaments. And one present.

 

It ended up like this. I still didn’t love it.  Actually I had to put a cute tree outside by my swing to help distract me from this eye sore and allow me to just let it be whatever it was going to be.

We hit a low point when people starting putting their dishes on the big empty shelves of the tree. Really, people. This is just my life.

I decided it would at least look better with gifts. And I believe it does. It’s still not a tree in my mind, but it’s something festive. And no less than I would expect from my family.

Our Christmas tree is much more a reflection of our entire family than it is of me. My children and husband are creative and out-of-the-box and oh so much fun. They plan and scheme and discuss and compromise and work together each year on our Christmas tree. They stretch me and my preconceived ideas about Christmas in a good way. There are other parts of Christmas that will reflect me, but I’ve given this area over to them.  I made the decision that this is okay and that it’s how I want it to be.

Esqueleto the Christmas Tree

A Christmas Tree Story

Decorating Chubby

My Family Likes Weird Christmas Trees

First World Problems: Whining About a Bridge

There’s a bridge over the interstate very near where we live that was recently hit by a tanker and closed down.  It’s going to be closed for months.

This is the bridge that I take every day to take the kids to school. To go to church and work. To buy groceries. To do all the things. And now it’s closed.

The first day I was in denial. The second day I literally cried. It hurts my head to try to figure out which back roads are the best  to take depending on where I’m going.

Several years ago I lived on a small island. I know what island life is like. I know what it’s like to be in a remote location and far away from the people and things you love and need. Well, I’ve lived in the United States a while now. I guess I’ve become a spoiled first-world brat, because I suddenly feel like I live on an island again.

If you add 5 minutes to about 6 trips a day, then you can see I’m losing about 3.5 hours of my week because of this bridge. Like the hours just vanish. Those are probably the hours I was gonna clean the toilets or be a really awesome mom. Think of all the possibilities just down the tubes.

We’ve come up with some possible compromises. We could park one of our vehicles on each side of the bridge and walk across each time. We could pass the kids over the bridge to meet up with friends. Because it is so close, yet so far away to get anywhere. Did I mention wanting to cry?

Let’s also talk about how every detour route basically has construction. It’s like they decided to work on every single road around here all at the same time. There are wrecks, and lane closures and construction zones like all the places. I feel like I’m playing a game of mini golf where you have  to avoid the hazards every time I get out and go somewhere.

So this is my post complaining about the bridge. And next I will tell you my deep thoughts and what I’m actually learning through this inconvenience.

Refusing to Stay Stuck

Sometimes Nathan and I hit a point of being stuck on an issue. We listen to each other, try talking it out for a good while, and still find that neither of us can budge from our stance.

Stuck is when I hear his words but they don’t change my thinking at all. I’m not feeling them.  I so hate it when we are not on the same page.

When I get stuck, I have some choices.

One is to move on and pretend it never happened. Might seem okay in the beginning.  Might even feel like forgiving and forgetting, and hey, that’s good right?  Here’s the problem with that:

It did happen, and that wall that the two of us hit is gonna stay right there. The more walls we build up, the farther the distance between us. Each tiny place where we make the choice to be okay staying stuck will keep us from having the muscle to work through the “stuck” on big issues.

So how do you get unstuck?

I wish I had a fool-proof answer. I don’t. But I can tell you some things that have helped me.

1. Refuse to stay stuck.

Recognize that you are stuck, and refuse to be okay with that. It may take hours, days or weeks to understand each other, but decide that it will be worth it.

2. Make extra time to navigate the stuck.

These aren’t conversations you want to have lingering around the dinner table or in the 5 minutes between two errands.  It will take work that won’t be fun. But make the time.

3. Continue showing the love.

Being stuck can make me feel mad at him and mad at me. I don’t wanna deal with it. But as long as we are still devoting time to work on the issue, we can continue to have fun together and love each other well in all the other areas. We don’t have to put all the other good stuff on hold while we navigate this.

4. Ask for help.

In our most recent case,  we asked another couple. They mostly just listened, asked questions that guided our discussions and then carefully offered us a few suggestions and feedback. It definitely helped us navigate things better.

If you work at it but you are still stuck, you could always work through it with a professional.

One thing I know for sure: Getting unstuck will be worth it in the end. Do the work and don’t settle.

Do Not Quit

How do you decide whether or not to throw in the towel when a situation feels hopeless?

Recently I found myself in that place. I didn’t  have any fight left and I was ready to quit on something in my life.  There were some good circumstantial reasons to do just that and be justified. I found myself face to face with the question:

“Will I quit? Is this the point where I just can’t anymore in this situation?”

That  week as I was struggling, I opened a new book that I didn’t know much about.  The book was Looking for Lovely. I did the book study with friends, and it was admittedly chosen a lot for the fact that it has a beautiful cover. See?

The first paragraph was about persevering and not quitting. It’s actually what the whole entire book is about that I would study almost daily over the next six weeks.

Every day as I filled in the blanks and read the verses, I was reminded of why we persevere, how it develops character and how we can remain hopeful. There is no doubt in my mind that these weeks were chosen by God for me to be focusing on this concept.

Sometimes we can find peace in quitting something as God releases us from one thing and into another. But in this season, God tells me not to quit.

Don’t quit just because it’s hard.

Don’t quit just because there are dark days.

Persevere because of the character it builds and the hope that is coming.

Set a Wide and Generous Table

Set a wide and generous table.

I’ve been thinking a lot about simple hospitality, the good things that happen around a table and making yourself more vulnerable to others.

I live in a modest log cabin in the woods by a pond. We live a beautifully simple life without a lot of bells and whistles. Our home is never going to be featured in Southern Living. But there are things that can make my home a wonderful space for people.

I think Jesus shared a meal around the table with all kinds of people and just made room for them without asking questions. I bet it was simple instead of fancy, but that the company is what mattered the most.

I recently felt prompted to make some space in my life. And then I quickly thought of people I could invite into that space. But would I do it?

Scary stuff to invite people in. To invite people  that you hardly know. I mean, all the thoughts.

 Will this conversation be awkward?

Will a “no” feel like rejection?  

Will they think I’m desperate for friends? 

The bottom line is that you have to decide that it doesn’t matter.  Be okay with possibly looking like a crazy person. Certainly be okay with a no, because you’ll get a lot of those. Whatever happens will be okay and  the risk of doing this thing will be worth it.

And so I said yes. For me, it meant hard work to clear out a space for those God wanted to bring. And yes, I mean like even physical hard work. Cleaning up my home beyond what is just normally needed to create space for people and an environment for a group. Getting out the extra chairs. Putting away the cluttery art projects.

It meant cleaning off and cleaning up my back yard. It’s paying attention to small details that create spaces for conversation and connection. Making it look like you are expecting people to sit and linger in a conversation.

And as I spent the time on these tasks, I found that they are physical representations of what was mostly happening in my heart.

That’s the hardest work of all. I’m cleaning up in there. Like my back yard, junk just seems to show up there that I don’t want. I’ve got to get rid of some junk to make space for people. To make space to love people.

And how cool is it to have friends who jumped in it with me? They did the physical hard work with me of clean up. They helped me sort through and process my emotional junk too. And then our tribe showed up to welcome new people with us to the point that my load in the end was very little.

So here’s what I’m going to do.  Keep making room for people. Keep having open seats at the table. Try to keep things more cleaned up and welcoming on the outside, but also on the inside of me. Sometimes it won’t be the easiest way or the most comfortable way. But there’s something rich that happens if you’re willing.