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You know that thing where people attempt things they’ve seen on Pinterest and fail miserably and hashtag “nail it” on Instagram? Well I had 2 such moments this weekend as I attempted to embrace Easter mom awesomeness.

I’ve got these two friends. We’ll call them Shmannon and Shmulia. And they are awesome. And lest you think I’m doing that thing where I play up another’s strengths but am secretly making fun of it, let me assure you, I genuinely mean they are awesome. From the birth of my first child I have gone to these 2 friends for much advice as I’ve attempted to figure out how one does this mom thing.

These friends are pretty different from one another, and from me, but one thing they have in common is that they are both super intentional with traditions and memory-making with their families. They do it in different ways, but both place a ton of value on making lasting and meaningful memories with their kids as they raise them into adulthood.

I want to be more like this and so I often watch what they do and attempt to emulate their memory making efforts. So this Easter weekend found me deciding to make Easter magical and meaningful for goodness sake, and these two lovely ladies provided my source material. Each year I have watched them do the following with their big families:

From one family, it’s the Easter egg decorating. With 5 kids ranging from 19 to 9, you’d think the egg decorating would have subsided, but no, it’s still a thing, and all their kids love it. And each year I think, gosh, we should do this. Look at how much fun those kids are still having. My kids need these memories!!

From the other family, it’s the Resurrection rolls. You know, those rolls you bake marshmallows into and they magically disappear when you bake them so that the insides of the rolls are empty, like the empty tomb.  And every year I think, surely this can’t be too hard…and it seems like fodder for such meaningful  conversations with one’s children about what the resurrection means and why it’s important. Let’s do this kids!

Every year I think it, but I don’t follow through. But this year, for some perplexing reason, I decided it was the year I would stop being lame and start doing fun things with my kids. These kids need some memories, gosh darn it, and I’m providing them. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN.

There was also the fact that I’ve been a little grumpy with them lately and was possibly a bit motivated by guilt. Let’s replace the grumpy mommy memories with some fun mommy memories, guys.

Now let me just pause and remind everyone that because my husband is a pastor, I do a lot of solo parenting on Easter weekend, which I don’t mind, but it does maybe mean I shouldn’t try to tackle large “fun” activities by myself on Sunday morning at 9:30am. Just maybe.

But I wasn’t really thinking and so I forged ahead with this plan to do awesome fun things this year.

Hence last night’s egg decorating…adventure.  The eggs got decorated. And only one cracked. But at one point I growled “STOP TOUCHING THE CUPS OF EGG DYE PLEASE” in a scary voice and all kids looked at me with terror in their eyes. And I was still removing glitter from Titus’ hair this morning. And certain eggs turned out like this…

…Which is less than impressive. What is even happening here.

And then this morning, though I hadn’t yet done my hair and I knew I was pushing it on time, I decided we HAD to make these resurrection rolls. I won’t go into the grizzly details, but let’s just say one child was fake crying the entire time and I led my kids in a deep conversation about the empty tomb that ended with the question “Ok, but can I eat this marshmallow that’s covered in cinnamon sugar, please?”

Also, these are the ugliest rolls you’ve ever seen (And that cookie sheet is in rough shape. Yikes).

Guys. I seriously nailed it.

But, you know, the funny thing is that my kids, in spite of how messy I felt everything was, LOVED that we did these things. One even prayed that she was so glad we decorated eggs. They were thrilled to open the rolls (ugly though they were), and find that, indeed, the tomb was empty. And I know that next year as Easter approaches, they will be begging to do it all again.

And, to get a bit more serious for a minute, doing fun things with kids just is a lot of work, and the reason I avoid it isn’t because I’m “just not that type of mom,” although I’ll say that sometimes. Usually it’s just because I don’t want to make the effort it takes to pull it off.

But it’s during these memory making moments that the good stuff generally happens. There’s room for questions and chatting and building closeness. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it in the moment, these activities all strung together make for a childhood of family togetherness, something worth fighting for.

And particularly this weekend, with the celebration of the resurrection, these conversations we have, as chaotic as they feel, are really important. It’s vital that these kids not be only hearing these things in the church classroom. The home is where they find out how that theology mingles with every day messy life.

So even though I’m exhausted from all of these Easter shenanigans, I’m glad we made room for them, and I intend to do it all again next year. But maybe not an hour before we go to church.

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From The Friendly Beasts, a French hymn from the 12th century. I love this version.

 Jesus our Brother, kind and good

Was humbly born in a stable rude

And the friendly beasts around Him stood

Jesus our brother, kind and good.

This song is admittedly somewhat silly. It’s kind of in the same category as “The Little Drummer Boy.” Like even after several listens you’re not totally sure what it’s about. BUT, I will love this song forever because my kids school has the preschoolers do it for the yearly Christmas program and it is quite literally the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

Titus was the only one of my kids to do this program and he was a dove. He “cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry.” And Josh and I could not stop grinning in the audience because, well, Titus was a DOVE. And Titus SANG.

Titus, from the get-go, has not been all that into singing. We do a lot of singing in our house, but getting him to join in has always been somewhat like pulling teeth. Somehow, though, The Friendly Beasts brought out the singer in Titus, and now, a year later, he can sing this entire ancient hymn, word for word.

So this is one of our favorite songs, in spite of its silliness.

What’s not silly, though, is that first stanza. I was thinking about that stanza today, about Jesus as our brother. Our Elder Brother. Always kind, always good. But also able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Our Brother.

Sometimes I think we forget about this aspect of our relationship with Christ. He’s a baby, born in a manger. A Teacher, instructing in parables. A Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise. A Savior, crucified and risen and seated at the right hand of the Father. But He’s also the Brother of those who have believed.

This morning our pastor preached about the Christ who left heaven to come and bring us home.  It is there he waits for us as our Brother. He is there sympathizing with our weaknesses, loving us through our trials, strengthening us by His sanctifying grace. He is our family, our comfort, our forever home.

This season, I want to remember that this Jesus is not just a babe in a manger, but my family, my home. He is a brother, ready to save, love, sympathize, comfort, rejoice, sustain. He gave Himself for the weak and the weary, the needy and desperate. He gave Himself for me.

He is our Brother, kind and good.

“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2: 11)

 

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From Joy to the World, a traditional Christmas carol written by famous hymn writer Isaac Watts in the 18th century. Here’s a great version.

 He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love

It has certainly been a tumultuous political season, one which has left people I know on both sides of the spectrum feeling saddened and uncertain, whether their candidate won or not. There has been a lot of fear-based thinking, and it’s led a lot of people to say questionable and hurtful things.

I think one of the things at the core of this is that we all want to dwell in safety. We all desire peace. And we all have different ideas about how that might happen.

As Christians, our responsibility in this whole mess is to remember that there is only One who has the right idea about how that might happen. The perfect idea. There is only one real solution for the nations raging all around.

If we don’t believe in His sovereignty, we stand on the shaky ground of our own sufficiency, and if history teaches us anything, it’s that not one person’s sufficiency ever saved them. So, if He is sovereign, and if we cannot control all that is around us, our comfort lies in trusting that He is wiser, kinder, more righteous, and more loving than we could ever be.

In our eyes, it often seems that His purposes are strange, even unfair. But Scripture teaches that time and time again He makes nations and people prove His righteousness and His love to a dying world. He will bring glory to Himself, even if it’s not in the way that makes sense to us.

Take heart that while Satan still roams this earth, looking to destroy and devour, He has ultimately lost already to a God who rules, and will continue to rule, with truth and grace.

“He shall judge between nations,

            and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

 and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

            and their spears into pruning hooks;

 nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

            neither shall they learn war anymore.

  O house of Jacob,

            Come, let us walk

            In the light of the Lord.” (Is. 2:4-5)

 

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From O Holy Night, originally a French Christmas carol by Adolphe Adam. I’m partial to this version from the album Comfort and Joy by Folk Angel

A thrill of hope

The weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks

A new and glorious morn

I love these few short lines because of the picture it evokes of a people finally getting the rest they have been desperately longing for. The world is weary, but a thrill of hope brings rejoicing.

I don’t know about you, but I feel weary a lot of the time. That’s not a complaint, but more a fact of life. And I think it is for many people. Life is hard work, and it leaves us spent and longing for rest.

But this word in this beloved song implies more than just simple life-weariness. It’s the weariness of waiting and waiting for the fulfillment of a promise that seems far off and distant. The people of God had waited a long time for the Messiah. How long, O Lord?

But then, Jesus. A thrill of hope. Everything is about to change. The weariness of waiting can turn to rejoicing. The night is over, a glorious morn is dawning.

This side of the cross, of course, we still experience the weariness. How long must I wait for an answer to my prayers? How long must I suffer these present trials? How long until you return, Lord, and our rest is forever, untainted by sin?

BUT, this side of the cross, there is a place to take our weariness. The babe, Jesus, Son of God, became the burden-bearer of the believer. He tells us to bring our weariness to him, and he will renew our strength. Although we do not yet see Him, He is near to us in our time of need.

Rejoice, weary one. He is near to you in your neediness. Cast your burdens on Him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28)

 

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From Still Still Still by Future of Forestry

Light, light, light

Let all the earth be light

The holy star its news ablazing

Son of hope for nations raising

Light, light, light

Let all the earth be light

Tonight our power went out for about an hour. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Tallahassee, where we like to leave all our ancient trees standing so that when the slightest storm comes through we’re all plunged into darkness.

But it actually brought a few moments of blessed peace in our home. Suddenly homework was fun, completed by lanterns and candles. The children quieted down and crawled around with flashlights, speaking to each other in hushed, secretive tones. A pizza was ordered, relieving the dinner burden.

I walked around the living room and lit the candles, settling down on the couch to enjoy the peaceful, low-lit room. But the thing is that all of our enjoyment of the power outage came from bringing light into it. The flashlights, the lanterns, the candles.

This world has been plunged into darkness, friends. Even someone who doesn’t understand or believe in the Messiah can agree, yes this world is a dark place. Sometimes in our comfortable, privileged lives, we can try and hide from it for a little while, but it always makes itself known again.

Racism, abuse, terrorism, shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, poverty, neglect, orphans, widows, divorce, betrayal, oppression, disease, and death with its painful sting. The darkness rears its ugly head, and there is no hiding from it.

Lately I feel the heavy burden of these things. But in this season of both remembering and anticipating Christ’s coming, the burden eases as I remember that the light of Christ has shone on our darkened world. And even in the midst of all of the above, there is, there can be, hope, joy, and love.

No, we cannot hide from the darkness, but we get to do something better. We get to shine the light into it. We light the candles and the lanterns of the gospel. We herald the good news that One has come who will, in His perfect timing, undo all that has been sad and turn even death itself backward when He returns to set everything right.

Have hope and rest in the light of Christ, brothers and sisters. Let every twinkle light on the tree and every candle lit and every fireplace blazing remind you of the beautiful light of Jesus that breaks through our darkened hearts and makes us whole again.

“The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

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From This is the Christ by Sandra McCracken

This is the Christ our God and Lord

Who in all need shall aid afford

He will himself our savior be

And from our sins will set us free

Freedom. Something we all long for. Wars have been fought for it, lives lost, nations and peoples divided. It’s important enough to die for, the right to freedom. But when we think of this kind of freedom, it’s not the kind of “free” that came with the advent of our Savior Jesus.

Maybe you want freedom from some struggle or trial. Maybe all you desire this Christmas is to be free of an oppressive or abusive relationship. Or perhaps free from a disease that is destroying your body. Or freedom from grief or despair.

Or perhaps you just want the freedom to be you. You don’t want to be hindered by the expectations or demands of others. You want the freedom to live your life as you see fit, with no barriers to prevent you from achieving your goals or fulfillment or joy.

These kind of freedoms seem to promise joy, but in fact are often the very things ideas that enslave us. We can only have joy if we have the thing. Without it, we are without hope.

Whatever freedom means to you in this moment, I encourage you to envision a different kind of freedom that makes all of the above concerns seem like mere momentary distractions. Freedom that is so huge, it makes all other freedoms seem small and light.

The freedom of Christ says that you are free from the weight of the burden of your sin. Every evil thought, deed, word forgiven when God became man. He arrived a as a little babe in Bethlehem and grew to be a perfect man. He died on a bloody cross and took that we deserved on Himself. And we became free.

Free to die to self. Free to love unconditionally. Free to serve and sacrifice. Free from all self-centeredness. Not because we are good. But because He is good.

He offered us aid for the greatest need we have. And we are set free.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

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The Advent season is probably my favorite time of year. Aside from all of the tradition and holiday goodness that I enjoy, I treasure the weeks leading up to Christmas as I remember what it really means that God became flesh and dwelt among us as a helpless babe.

One of the things I especially enjoy during these weeks is the music. There are, of course, some really fun, silly songs. But there are some beautiful worship songs as well. And I find that listening to these songs often turns my heart toward the Savior in the midst of the busyness and distraction.

This year, because of my love for this season, and also because I kind of love writing, I’m going to do a little Advent post each day. Since Advent songs are my jam, I’ll share song lyrics I love and some thoughts about them.

It’s my own version of an Advent devotional…with a Christmas playlist as a nice little bonus!

Happy Advent season!

Day 1

From Who Would Have Dreamed by Sovereign Grace Music

He will carry our curse

And death he’ll reverse

So we can be daughters and sons

Who would have dreamed

Or ever foreseen

That we could hold God in our hands?

The Giver of life

Was born in the night

Revealing God’s glorious plan

To save the World

As the Advent season begins I find myself moved by songs such as this, reminded that there’s more to it all than sentimentality or tradition. It’s life-changing, soul-changing, world-changing. It’s the best news of all time.

And it’s not just a thing that randomly happened. It’s a plan “from time eternal,” to save lost souls.

To say “who would have dreamed,” is to refer to us, mere humans, who couldn’t imagine God incarnate come down to live and breathe among us. Because there was, of course, One who wasn’t surprised by these events at all. He dreamed it all along.

This is the One who saw a cursed people and determined to sacrifice his beloved Son to carry the curse rather than let them perish. He reversed the sting of death. And he made all who would believe his own children.

The thing about Christmas is that it all of the events in Bethlehem all those years ago didn’t happen in a vacuum. They were planned. With a purpose. For thousands of years – from the very beginning – history was moving toward this moment. And all that happened after points back to it.

The One who gave life from the beginning would give life anew. Life eternal, which could not be taken away. He promised deliverance, and he keeps his promises.

It’s good to celebrate the birth. This is when it all began to change. But it’s only meaningful when you remember all that came before and all that’s come since. Jesus met humanity’s greatest need, and He changed everything. He’s changing everything still.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)