Christmas · Giving · simple · Uncategorized

Simple Christmas

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This Christmas season hasn’t at all been what I had hoped it would be.  It started out well (at least what I typically define as “well”) but for some reason after we returned home from visiting family in Illinois for Thanksgiving I just could not for the life of me get my act together.

I decorated for Christmas before we left for Illinois, because I knew I would be tired when we got home, and I worked on Christmas cards during our drive there, because let’s be honest….what is there really to do when one is stuck in a car driving for 12 hours?

I’ve worked so hard to simplify Christmas from year’s past.  To lower expectations.  To not overschedule and overcommercialize, and yet this year I realized that despite how little we choose to do every year for Christmas, my expectations of what I thought Christmas should be still weren’t simple at all.  They were just that…expectations.

We arrived back home on December 2nd from Illinois, and Dave finally had a chance to put up the Christmas lights on December 14th.  I told him to forget it, because it was a lot of work for only a few weeks, but he said “No, I like seeing them when I get home.”  So up they went anyway.  It took me until the 3rd week of advent to even get our advent wreath lit.  We were gone for the first Sunday in advent and the 2nd I was just still too exhausted from travel, so last week we did 3 in 1, and you know what….that’s ok.

Our family advent devotions have been sporadic at best, and I always like to bake Christmas cookies because well….it’s tradition, and it’s something we “should” do right??  Or is it?  Traditions are good things, but they shouldn’t turn into expectations or more pressure on ourselves.  I couldn’t bring myself to let the kids mix the dough with me for the cookies because honestly….the 3 of them together all at one time is still really really hard.  They fight, and bicker, and battle for control, and it rarely ends up “good” so I ended up making the dough myself, and decided we could bake them and decorate them together.  I mixed up the dough early Sunday morning thinking I might bake 1 batch with the kids that afternoon…..that’s when child #1 got sick so I let it go….then child #2 was coughing…and I knew that no children would be touching these cookies, but I needed to make them soon or the dough would go bad so finally I just did it myself.

But I realized part of what I love about the tradition of baking cookies is doing it together and now it was just me making cookies and leaving my kids out.

The cookies are all baked now, but I haven’t frosted the cut outs because I can’t bring myself to do without the kids….because in the middle of all of that child #3 got sick and I honestly don’t even know when the coughing will stop to allow them to participate or I may just end up doing it on my own.

I was almost in tears yesterday morning as I took the 2 girls to the doctor and 1 of them was diagnosed with Strep, the other finally had her fever break after being home from school for 3 days, and now just when I thought I could catch a break, another one gets to stay home from school.

I spent the day yesterday deep cleaning, disinfecting, and let’s be honest…lathering myself in a vat of hand sanitizer to hopefully prevent myself from catching whatever the kids had.

Anyway, I digress….I have just been feeling like a failure as a mom this Christmas.  The same lie I struggle with all the time…”You’re not enough….”

And I struggle to combat those lies with truth as I compare myself to what everyone else accomplishes at Christmas time….

An HGTV Christmas decorated house…

All the festivals and tree lightings one can fit into their schedule during the month of December….

We don’t have an elf on the shelf or counter or whatever the heck they are called…

No one believes in Santa anymore in our house which quite honestly is a relief.  I never really knew how to handle the Santa thing anyway, and honestly, my kids would probably tell you that this Christmas has been just as magical as any other.  They don’t place expectations on Christmas like I do….or can I saw “we?”  I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that struggles with this…

However when I look around me at what we did get to do I realize we still did a lot, and it’s good, and it’s ok, and it’s just enough….

We did get to decorate the tree

The kids did get to eat some of the cookies.

They got to buy presents for each other wrap and start wrapping them.

They got to play in the snow

We did get to drink hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie

And light the advent wreath (even if it was starting on week 3).

Every year we place a Giving Manger at the base of the tree that Dave built when Abby was a baby.  We then place pieces of straw in the manger when we catch each other doing random acts of kindness, and this year our manager for baby Jesus still sits empty because life has been so full and chaotic that it’s just honestly been really hard to think about one more thing….

But isn’t that the same type of manger that Jesus was born into?  An empty one?

And so despite my best efforts in the past few years to simplify our Christmas, this year I was humbled to realize that our Christmas was still way more than God ever meant for it to be.

That Christmas comes despite all the decorations, cards, cookies, and presents….babies come when they are ready, and new life is born into this word simply.  Jesus was born into absolute nothingness….a stable where his bed was a manger, and his mother was an engaged young virgin, and his earthly father was a carpenter, and that was good enough for a King.

There are still some things left that I would like to do before Christmas and over the kids break….

  • Driving around looking at Christmas lights with hot chocolate and Dunkin Donuts munchkins or Christmas cookies
  • Wrapping presents
  • Daily advent readings
  • A few more presents to buy
  • Making a Gingerbread House with the kids
  • Time for the kids to get together with friends since it’s so hard to do during the school year.

 

But I’m choosing to give myself grace.  To remind myself that I tried, and it just didn’t all work out this year, and that’s ok.  I’m not sure if I am going to get through this whole list….some presents may end up “wrapped” in a grocery bag, but even that’s ok, because God never intended for us to put all these expectations on ourselves when we were in the midst of celebrating his son’s birthday.  No, God wanted, and still wants us to just receive this precious gift…to not do anything else in return, other than accept what a beautiful gift of selfless love that Jesus birth was.  Quite honestly there is nothing else more beautiful in all the world than the fact that God sent His one and only Son to live a life here, and ultimately sacrifice His life for us, because of how much He loves us.

 

Blessings,

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Christmas · Foster Care/Adoption · Giving · Uncategorized

Christmas Giving and Dirty Hands

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This week when I was running some errands and listening to the radio in the car, I heard the radio host talking about giving at Christmas time.  Often times I tune out a lot of the talking portions from hosts on the radio and listen more intently to music, but the subject piqued my interest so I paused to listen for a moment.

As he went on he was talking about really considering what we are “giving” to this year at Christmas, and if the cause was something good to give to or not.  Typically in past years I probably would have nodded in agreement, and in this particular moment it wasn’t that I disagreed with the host, but that I wished he would have talked about giving at an even deeper level.

You see, this time every year despite who we are, our religious affiliations, or our political stance, almost everyone I know seems to be more readily giving or willing to give during the Christmas season.  Which is absolutely beautiful, and I love that part of Christmas, but this particular message made me stop to pause and reflect more deeply for a moment past how much more quickly I press “buy” on my amazon account, grab my checkbook to write to a needy cause, or say “yes” when at the grocery store to donate dollars to a local food bank this time of year….I realize how often my “giving” comes in the form of my finances, and a box checked on my checklist than an event deeper sacrifice that comes from giving of my time, and choosing to get my hands dirty.

Getting our “hands dirty” goes way beyond giving of our finances.  Getting our hands dirty means willingly being obedient to whatever God leads us to do despite whether it inconveniences us or not….

  • Turning around when we see the homeless man, and grabbing a few groceries for him or a sandwich at the nearest fast food restaurant even if it means we just got back from the store and have to go back again
  • Showing up at a friends house who is struggling with postpartum depression with coffee, a smile, and a listening ear.  Maybe help fold laundry or do dishes if it’s needed and she seems ok with it.
  • Go on a mission trip
  • Help at a food bank or serve meals at a shelter
  • Get involved in organizations like Big Brother Big Sister, Boys and Girls Clubs, or youth groups and give kids positive role models to look up to.
  • Bring groceries to a family in need
  • Help a widow or struggling family with home projects that they don’t have the knowledge or resources to be able to complete on their own
  • Foster/Adopt a child

I could go on, and on….there are endless opportunities surrounding us in our own communities of ways we can serve others by getting our hands dirty, and these needs don’t just exist at Christmas…they exist all year round.

In this journey of foster care we often get praised for the work we are doing, and the encouragement is so helpful especially on the hard days, but even we must still remember that yes, we maybe currently fostering, but our own checklist isn’t “done.”  This maybe something that God wants us to focus our energy and attention on most right now in this moment, but if we open our eyes and our hearts to really listen he often times gives us more assignments even in the midst of busy-ness, and if we don’t stop to pause and reflect, we may miss it….we miss HIS best yes.

I pray that this season reminds us most of what God sent His son to us for….

He was the Servant King, and His life is a reflection of what He desires for us to become.

So much hope was wrapped up in swaddling cloths in a manger that first Christmas.  A king who would be far different from any other king who ever lived.    A baby, born in the image of God who chose to sacrifice His life for us, and get His own hands dirty that we too could live.

 

Blessings,

 

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Life · Mental Illness

Just Be

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I’ve been thinking about something the last week or so.  My mind wandered over the last 7 years since I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and it made me sad.  Mostly sad because I’ve never known motherhood without my thyroid disease, and it’s side effects.  This morning my feelings about this came to a head as I broke down mourning the loss of all the moments that I wish I had given or could give my children.  In particular about Christmas, but all the moments came rushing to mind like a roaring river from over the years about all the ways I had “failed” my kids.

Comparison can be a raging wildfire.  When we stare at others, and what they have, or at their talents, and feel subpar because we aren’t doing or accomplishing the same, or in this instance, I was becoming a victim of not meeting my own expectations about what I should or should not be doing during the Christmas season with my children.  There have been times when comparison snuck in because I was watching what others did with their children, and felt like a failure for not having done the same.

In the past few years, I have simplified Christmas.  We pick a few favorite activities to do outside of the home, but mostly I try to do a few simple things at home to keep us focused on Jesus this season so we don’t get too focused on toys, Santa, and all the delicious treats that typically accompany the holiday. But even with how much I have simplified things, sometimes it’s still too much, and that’s where I found myself this morning.  The expectations of my “normal” December list of To-Dos, and how fatigued and irritable I have felt with my thyroid levels being off became too much, even if in previous years the list was fine…this year it’s still just too much, and I sat in that for awhile, and I battled those thoughts…

“Come on Bridget!  You seriously hardly do anything compared to other families, get your crap together!”

“You already missed the first Advent reading, looks like you are off to a great start!”(obviously in a sarcastic tone- then I proceeded to gather my children around the table last night at bedtime in order to redeem myself which only ended in disobedient, distracted children that left me really frustrated and even more like a failure than before I started!)

As I sat down, and thought about all of these things this morning, and had a little time with Jesus, I remembered what I know from previous experience….that sometimes when I feel this way….when I’m too tired but to just exist, or my hormones are all out of whack, and my anxiety is like a ticking time bomb….sometimes the only strength I can muster up is to literally just be.  Not even to make the craft with my kids, or engage in the fun Christmas activity, it’s just to show up, and be.  And that breaks my heart, because I see so many amazingly, wonderful things that I could be doing to engage with my kids especially at Christmas time, and in my lack, all I have the strength to do somedays is just be.

As I cried out to God this morning, frustrated at my lack….me…the Type A, always able to get it done reliable girl who probably in a different life would have helped create Pinterest, can hardly even muster up the strength to do any of it without breaking…I  was reminded of what His word says in Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God!”

I opened my bible to read the rest of that chapter, and just felt relief wash over me as I read the words….

VS 1-5 “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come, and the mountains crumble into the sea.  Let the oceans roar and foam.  Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  A river brings joy to the city of our God the sacred home of the Most High.  God dwells in that city.  It cannot be destroyed.  From the very break of day GOD WILL PROTECT IT.

He is ALWAYS ready to HELP IN TIMES OF TROUBLE!

DON’T FEAR–  let the earthquakes come!  Let the mountains crumble!  Let the oceans roar and waters surge because WE CANNOT BE DESTROYED!  HE WILL PROTECT US!

And just like that…peace.  Peace to know that it’s ok to “Just Be” sometimes.  To just lean in, and rest in Him.  To allow Him to be my source, and strength instead of me trying to muster up the strength on my own to do things that I just can’t do right now.

So I wanted to share this with you today too friends.  Permission to just be…..in whatever way that looks for you and your family in this season and always.  Go be that! Not be who others are…be you!  Who God created you to be!  Now I don’t say this as an excuse to be lazy.  We can get stuck there too, but permission to not put stress on yourself to do things that don’t matter.  Press into Him, and see what He really wants for you and your family.  Maybe this Christmas that is to dominate at all the Pinterest crafts you can get your hands on, or visit every Christmas festival within driving distance, or maybe like me, it’s a season of feeling overwhelmed, and stressed, and that you too need to know it’s ok to Just Be.

Sending love to you friends!  May Jesus alone fill your cup this holiday season!

Blessings,

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