Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Christmas Gift

With Christmas still around us in our eyes, ears, and mouths and the hope of Epiphany looming ahead, I present a guest post along those themes from my sister, Rachel Miller. 

Like years past I spent the last several weeks planning and plotting and watching for sales and shipping deals in order to find the perfect gifts for my kids: three deliciously beautiful blonde boys ages 5 months, 2 years, and 5 years old.  All of the fretting and sweating and logistical maneuvering was all worth it to see their eyes light up when they tore back the wrapping paper and saw their new favorite toy/game/shirt/whatever.  Also as in years past, my husband and I agreed to not buy each other Christmas gifts to wrap and place under the tree.  I truly am OK with that decision, but this year I am especially thankful for it.  I think if I had a gift under the tree to unwrap, I might have missed the completely perfect gift that God gave me this Christmas.  God allowed me to clearly see his own son, Jesus Christ, in each of my children for the first time.

First Sebastian, my sweet chubby 5 month old.  As we rested and nursed quietly this afternoon I thought about the fact that this is how Mary and Jesus spent the first Christmas.  Mary, exhausted from travel and childbirth, probably spent most if not all of Christmas Day resting, cuddling, and nursing God's own son as best she could in a barn. I'm sure we both kissed chubby fingers, traced the curve of an ear, gently rubbed a tiny back.  What a beautiful reminder of Jesus' humble beginnings and Sebastian's potential to be an extraordinary force in this world.  Thank you, God.

Then Nathan, my crazy intense 2 year old.  Our pastor spoke of the Magi at the Christmas Eve service.  He stated that, while most nativity scenes show the three kings offering their lavish gifts to a newborn Jesus in the manger, it's more likely that it took them several months, if not over a year, to follow the star and find Jesus.  He asked us to imagine the chaos it would have caused in the streets of Bethlehem when this caravan of wealthy VIPs entered the city in search of Jesus, all to find a toddler not so different from the ones squirming in the pews that night.  I could see it in my mind's eye.  I could see the look of surprise, yet quiet understanding in Nathan's enormous eyes as the wise men presented their gifts.  I could see his heart-melting dimpled smile, and even hear him trying out some of the new words describing his gifts: gold ... muh ... frank-a-tents, all the while giggling.  A reminder of how God will use my seemingly ordinary Nathan to do remarkable things for his kingdom.  Thank you, God.

Finally Kameron, my firstborn.  Five years ago at this time I really identified with Mary as I was only days away from becoming a mother for the first time as well!  As I listened to Kameron have an in depth conversation with his aunt about Thomas the Tank Engine and all of his railway friends, I thought of Jesus as a young boy in the temple.  I specifically had a vision of a boy not much older than Kameron surrounded by the elders in the temple, speaking to them with authority about theological and spiritual matters.  Ok, clearly Thomas the Tank Engine is not as deep of a subject, but I had never seen him speak with such passion and authority about the name, number, size, color, and unique characteristics of an impressive number of engines.  I could picture Kameron in the midst of a spirited debate with the elders, educating them on the attributes of God the Father in his sweet yet matter-of-fact voice.  A reminder of how God uses the mouths of even children like my Kameron to speak his truth to the world. Thank you, God.

Gifts under the Christmas tree are nice, and I still enjoy the thrill of hunting the perfect present, but nothing compares to the gift of clearly seeing Christ in your kids for the first time.  I pray that all Christians experience similar revelations in their journey of faith.

When Rachel is not working her day job wielding her red tape machete or pushing beer-leavened baked goods on the side, she is home with her three boys ages 5 years, 2 years, and 5 months eating homemade pizza and ice cream made by her culinary gifted husband, Kal.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

This Spot

I’m sitting on our small couch, feet up on the ottoman, lights out, Christmas tree on.  From this spot, I can see the TV, the fireplace, outside through one of the small windows, the whole living room – all of those things now quiet and dark.  From this spot I have rested, nursed three babies, cried, slept, laughed, worked, and watched.  Gazed out at children running around the room, the seasons changing outside, and my life passing by faster than I can imagine.

From this spot I have sat very still with three sleeping babies in my arms (each at different times), looking down at their cherub faces, curled up fists, and listening to their sweet sighs.  As I sat here in this spot, I looked outside and observed every season change.  Marveling at bare trees showing fuzzy patches of green, bursting forth in swaying leaves, turning gold, yellow, red and blowing away.  Squinting hard to find the first snowflakes of winter silently floating down.  Gazing down at my youngest child – messy toddler hair sticking to her sweet cheeks, thumb in her mouth, hard sleep weighing on my arm. 

In this spot, the moments of my life are performed before me as I struggle to grasp them.  Snapshots in my mind play out – if I am still enough to capture them.  Yet I am not usually still.  I spend less and less time here in this spot and somehow, I am sure that I am missing it all.  Someone please tell me it is not too late…not too late to sit here quietly, smiling, holding on to these three.  For in this spot – this quiet, comfortable, ordinary spot, I have experienced more life than I have ever before and wonder if I will ever again. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Is

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was that quiet go-to-grandmas-eat-lots-of-food-and-be-bored-the-rest-of-the-day holiday.  Compared to Christmas, Thanksgiving was just a halfhearted warm up act.  Sure, it was nice to be with family and share a big, hearty meal, but it was not a big deal to me.

Over the years, my perspective has changed.  We first started hosting Thanksgiving nine years ago.  We had just bought our house that summer and I said offhandedly that it would be great to host a holiday, but not this year because it was just too soon.  We hosted anyway – hectic, learning, and chaotic, but I’m glad we did it.  

The next year, I was pregnant with our first child.  The idea of being thankful seemed so important, so integral to how life should be that I was grateful that this was our holiday to host.  I made handmade card invitations, started to buy Thanksgiving d├ęcor, looked for ways to make this OUR holiday.  We started speaking out our thankfulness before the prayer and I was brought to tears nearly every time.  

Each year that passes, I am overwhelmed by all that I have to be thankful for.  It seems to me that over time this holiday – Thanksgiving – is what should matter most.  

Thanksgiving is:

  • Friends and family together sharing and loving each other – even when we don’t understand or like each other all the time.
  • Reminiscing, laughing, storytelling, traditions.
  • Food, warmth, pumpkins, turkey, and stuffing.
  • Brokenness…realizing that all we have – life, health, shelter, food, breath is a gift from God – grace for this moment – undeserved favor.

How can we not bow before God and offer thanks for each moment?  How can we forget that each moment of life is a gift?  I don’t live this thankfulness as I should – today being a prime example of my irritation and anger and shaking of my fist at all that annoys and inconveniences me – even the people that should matter the most. 

So come Thanksgiving, come to us broken ones – so that we can weigh down time with grace and peace and a bit of joy to move us forward. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Growing Up?

As the years go by and I watch my children grow, I’m convinced that I should know what I’m doing, where I’m going, exactly what I want.  But instead of it all becoming clear, it’s as if my vision grows cloudy.
Over the past year and five months I feel like I’ve tried a little bit of everything – simple things maybe, but important for me to pass through for some reason.  I have:

  • Started my own business and worked it
  • Cut coupons
  • Joined a women’s Bible study
  • Baked bread and pizza dough
  • Made homemade soup
  • Went on play dates
  • Joined MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers)
  • Read books and discussed them with friends
  • Started reading the Bible and stuck with it
  • Got to know my neighbors better
  • Enjoyed picnics
  • Crafted coffee drinks
  • Drank new local beers
  • Edited a friend’s book
  • Wrote a bit
  • Started a venture in direct sales
  • Shopped resale shops
  • Drafted letters and emails and thank you notes

I really enjoyed all of those things listed and it was great to try so many new things in that time.  As I mentioned in a previous post, God has asked me to start stripping away many of these things.  As I’ve removed some of them, I found that others in the list are no longer enjoyable to me and have naturally fizzled out.  It has all left me a bit confounded by it all.  Many of the things I used to crave doing when I was working are just no longer exciting now that I have the time for them, but what is frustrating is that there are so few things on this list now that I’m wondering what is wrong with me.  Is this disinterest from God – where my heart, soul, and mind lay open waiting for His Spirit to work?  Or is it more sinister – a stealing of joy in this everyday life – getting lost in the mundane instead of celebrating it?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but rest assured, I am looking and praying and searching for this path that God is leading me onward to.  I’m finding that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I’m surprised at the many people my age who identify with what I’m going through.  I think that if we continually stand open to the Spirit’s leading, this may happen to us often.  And trust me, I’m not truly open yet, but I feel as though God is chipping away at this stone, cold heart.  The process is slow and painful and I don’t know what it all means or where it will all lead.  But I’m trying my best to be still and open to the possibilities.