Saturday, December 6, 2008

25 Days of CHRISTmas - December 6, 2008

Today was a lazy and relaxed day. My kids were off at grandma's house all day making Christmas cookies, it's a tradition they have developed over the last couple years. (Watch for the pictures that they apparently took on Monday's weekend update over at the family blog.) Neal was at work, he's working Saturdays this month so the shop can shut down between Christmas and New Year's (and he can recuperate from his impending knee surgery.)

I had a long list of things I should have done, and I didn't do a single one. Well, I guess I did do a couple loads of laundry, but not much else. I probably would have stayed in my pajamas all day except I had to drive the kids to my mom's house for the cookie event. I did do some top secret Christmas work, but I can't go into detail because you never know who might stop by and read your blog.

"On the sixth day of CHRISTmas my true Love gave to me... a little peace and quiet."

It's a rare commodity around here, and probably why it's so hard to work when I have it, every moment has to be relished. Of course, I can never get anything done when they're around either, so I guess I will have a clean house some other day.

It's gone now, the quiet at least. The kids came home with dozens of cookies that they made, and there was chaos over the unveiling, arguments over whose is whose. Now in there is a barrage of knock knock jokes being told in the background, continual interruptions... I know, I know, there are lots of moms who will tell me I will some day miss these days, and they are probably right, but sometimes in the midst of them there is something to be said for a short break. It was needed, the quiet peace, and it was enjoyed.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

25 Days of CHRISTmas - December 5, 2008

I think I am actually feeling the CHRISTmas spirit. There is something wonderful about looking for the Lord in my day, looking for gifts and blessings from Him. Sometimes I will suddenly be in the midst of experiencing something fun or wonderful, and I think "is this my gift, is this what I am going to want to share about in tonight's post?" Or other days I have come home and set down and reflected on the whole day, I've even had a day I had to choose between blessings to share about the one that blessed me most.

Today was a really good day, but choosing the gift was really easy, deciding how to describe it is the challenge. Should I call it good news? (Not THE Good News, but good news just the same); or should I called it answered prayer or an unexpected blessing? How about the gift of a praise report? Any one of these would be a good description of the gift I got today, but not the description I decided on.

"On the fifth day of CHRISTmas my true Love gave to me... the gift of hope."

I have shared somewhat at length here about the struggles my son Ethan has been having at school. He's had a hard time, with the kids, settling in and especially with his teacher and getting into trouble. Today when I picked him up he told me he was on "happy blue" on his behavior chart; that was the fourth time just this week! I cannot express to you how miraculous that is. When I picked him up, Ethan came running up to tell me and he handed me a note. Actually first he handed me the note, so there was a long concerning moment before he told me about "happy blue"... you know how notes home can be. But when I opened it it said Ethan is getting an award at chapel next week! (Ssshhh... don't tell Ethan, it's a surprise!) When Victoria got her award last month for "respect and kindness" my heart was low because I thought Ethan would never have a shot at getting acknowledged for his fine character. (Even though I believe he has it!)

I have actually been avoiding Ethan's teacher most of the week, I just didn't want to hear any negativity, because it seemed even if she had something good to say there was always a negative counterpart. But when I opened the note she called me over and said she could tell me what it was for. She told me how when she looked at the list of possible awards she got excited when she saw "wisdom" because she knew that fit him.... Did you catch that? She was actually looking for something good about Ethan! I said, "It's been a good week, huh?" and she said "Yeah! It's like he's a different kid." Wow, dare I say it... I don't think he's the only one being different!

This is the first weekend all year long that I'm not dreading Monday. I have hope that maybe... just maybe we've reached a turning point, and yuo know what? Hope is a very good feeling!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

25 Days of CHRISTmas - December 4, 2008

Well, last night I went to bed, as I described in last night's post, with my heart feeling very full.... Apparently the gravitational effects of laying flat on my back for six hours (that's right, I only got 6 hours of sleep) emptied that cardiovascular organ of mine right out!

OK, not quite, but it really was a tough morning. Today was library day for the littler kids at school and a lost library book by a child who'd been told every day this week to find it sort of put me in that lecturing mother mode, and that's just never a fun place to be. And I tend to be one of those moms who plays that role with just a little too much gusto. I had to ban him from library use for the day (because the lesson about keeping it where I told him, and looking when I'd asked him needed to be driven home... oops, I guess I just outed Ethan.) He was dropped at school not feeling very happy.

Pick up in the afternoon didn't kick off very well either. Victoria was putting on a full court press to go into the bathroom and put her tights back on. These were the very same tights she had her teacher call me about just before lunch asking permission to take them off. I wasn't on board with a stop in the restroom to change when as soon as we get home they have to take their uniforms off anyway, but she was, let's just say, relentless... I asked her, "Victoria, does whining at me get you your way or does it get you in trouble?" She knew the right answer, didn't care, so my blood pressure was on a slow steady rise the whole dramatic walk out to the car. (A filling of the heart that isn't nearly so positive.) And the sentencing of a 20 minute time out came swiftly.

As I was putting the kids in the car Ethan informed me he did not eat his whole lunch, to which Victoria proudly responded that she ate all of hers. For some reason in that moment it occurred to me that I had ordered hot lunch for her today and never should have packed her one in the first place. Brilliantly (not) I made the realization out loud. Which set off a whole new dramatic turn about the elusive bean and cheese burrito that had been lost to my daughter forever.

"On the fourth day of CHRISTmas my true Love gave to me... the gift of a reprieve."

We all had a complaint, many somewhat valid. Everyone was unhappy with someone, as for me, I was unhappy with everyone, including myself. (Wasting $4 kind of burns my butt.) It was a pivotal moment at which I announced, "That's it! We ALL messed up today, we all blew it! Let's just let it go and start over." Ethan said, "Yeah mom, should we just forget it like we don't remember it happened?" I told him, "Yes, let's just let it go."

My daughter is no slacker, she said, "That means I don't have to have my time out, right?" No, she didn't. Grace in action! And a call home to Jake solved the problem of the missing library book. (It was on the desk in the boys room. When Ethan heard that he said, "that was really dumb, huh?" Yeah, huh.) Victoria came home and put on some old stained tights with runs up the front of them, and she was happy with that. I'm still irked by the $4, but I choose to just LET IT GO!!!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Christmas Upside Down - AWESOME!

This is definitely worth watching and a blessed addition to 25 Days of CHRISTmas. Go down and pause the music player at the bottom of this page before clicking play to watch the video. I hope you enjoy it!

Upside Down from Pace Hartfield on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

25 Days of CHRISTmas - December 3, 2008

Right now, I feel the best I've felt in a long time. I'm not sure how to describe it... it's my heart, it feels very... full.

This morning was a pretty great morning. My wonderful husband called me on the phone to pray for our kids before they got off on their day. Then I prayed with all the kids, even though it was in the midst of morning busyness, each taking our turns, calling out our prayers from different rooms. On the way driving Ethan and Victoria to school I started to sing and they joined right in. We sang "This Is the Day" (echo, the Lord has made.. I will rejoice...and be glad in it..) , then Joy to the World (my most favorite Christmas carol - Tori wanted to switch to Rudolph, but I kept her on point with my intention to focus...) And then we sang one more little song, the words go like this...

Oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down at you with love, so be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh be careful little ears what you hear, oh be careful little ears what you hear, for the Father up above is looking down at you with love, so be careful little ears what you hear.
Oh be careful little mouth what you say, oh be careful little mouth what you say, for the Father up above is looking down at you with love, so be careful little mouth what you say.
Oh be careful little hands what you do, oh be careful little hands what you do, for the Father up above is looking down at you with love, so be careful little hands what you do.
Oh be careful little feet where you go, oh be careful little feet where you go, for the Father up above is looking down at you with love, so be careful little feet where you go.

As I sang it it was part prayer, part exhortation to my children. Watching them in the rear view mirror sing along, it touched my heart.

On the third day of CHRISTmas my true love gave to me.... the gift of perspective.

Yes, I know, there are many of you out there fully blessed already, each and every day, with the gift of perspective. Alas, I am not one of you. So when I have that clarity, it is nothing if not a gift from my true Love.

Tonight was the first performance (of three) on the children's Christmas program at our church. I was proud watching my daughter sing up there, proud of herself and feeling wonderful in her new glasses. And as the children sang about the names of God and who Christ is, what this CHRISTmas is truly about, it filled my heart and blessed me. The hassles of bills, and surgeries and even my children's struggles dimmed in the light of who my true Love is. I had considered it a burden to have three showings of this musical in my future... now I can hardly wait to go back Friday night!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

25 Days of CHRISTmas - December 2, 2008

So today was a little challenging, trying to pick out the one thing in the day that I felt like was a gift from the Lord. It was confirmed today Neal will be having surgery, turns out my daughter needed glasses and we had the expense (sudden and somewhat unexpected) of the exam and the glasses. (And because she has expressed fears of being rejected if she wore glasses I spent a little more on a pair she liked.) The troubles with Ethan don't seem much better, and in fact I have concerns about how much he could be exacerbating the problem now. It was kind of a muddy uphill kind of day.

I did get a very nice note of encouragement from a man in our church when I sent out the most recent prayer request. It's the second or third such letter he's sent me. I considered the possibility it would be what I counted today.

So a few minutes ago I did my nightly ritual of blog checking, numbers on my own, posts on those I follow, and as I did I scanned down the page of our family blog and the post I wrote about my daughter and her new glasses. So here goes...

On the second day of CHRISTmas my true Love gave to me.... my daughter's smile.

She looks so lovely and loved, sure of who she is and who she belongs to. Why do we lose that? After we bought the glasses I thought she looked just adorable (honestly the picture doesn't do her justice) and I said it two or three times as we walked out of the Lens Crafters. She turned to me beaming, "I know, I do!" And she does, and in that moment, no fear of being called "four eyes" or friends disapproving were of any issue. She saw herself clearly, and it was reflected in her smile, and that is a gift to me from my true Love, and so I thank Him for it.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 1, 2008

25 Days of CHRISTmas - December 1, 2008

OK, so I'd like to commit to doing this every day for the next 25 days, but in all likelihood, it won't work out, as demonstrated by the historic 30 Days of Praise, which to this day remain 3 days shy of completion. (I still stand on the implication that I never really said they would be 30 consecutive days... Yeah, that's the slippery slope I'm standing on.) Anyway, once again I digress.

So I have already confessed I've caught a bit of the bah-humbugs, and am struggling to find the Christmas spirit; so I am, for the sake of my family and self, trying to truly seek it. I'm looking for the Christ in CHRISTmas, the "reason for the season," the whole truth behind the hoopla.

Truly Christmas is not about the gifts we give or get, but rather about the Gift already given some 2000 years ago in a manger in a far off land. (Sounds almost magical, but is actually absolute unadulterated fact.) And this Gift given continually gives, He is in the heart of all that is good and all that truly matters, Author and Finisher of my faith. (I speak these things in faith through struggles of feelings amidst challenging times.) So I have decided one way to find my Christ in CHRISTmas is to look for Him each day in my daily life. Every day, EVERY day, He is working in my life, the Bible tells me so, and I need to be watchful. So for the 25 days of Christmas it is my goal to share (each day?) the gift "My true Love gave to me..." And I am going to share with you here the gift I have unwrapped each of the days that I continue this post series. (And I figure since I have also used a bit of the 12 Days of Christmas in my plan, I have a little grace on how many days I manage to stick with the task at hand betweennow and December 25th.)

So, here we go...

"On the first day of CHRISTmas my true love gave to me... a burden to pray."

This is truly a gift for me. People all the time tell me, "you're such a prayer warrior." Oh how I desperately wish that were true. I will pray, in the moment as I'm asked, I've even thrown people off because I'll just grab them and do it right then in the middle of wherever. And yes, when I pray, I often pray scripture, even authoritatively, but it's not because I am a prayer warrior. It's because if I don't do it then, I might not do it at all. And as for the praying of scripture, well, it's the only way I can be somewhat certain I'm praying correctly.

I do think about prayer a lot, and I'm hoping God gives partial credit on intending to pray, that thinking I should pray for the person maybe, sort of, kind of counts as an actual prayer. Maybe? But as I myself would define a prayer warrior, I do not qualify. I know those precious people, given to intercession, I have many of them on my speed dial for when crises arise. But me, I fall far from the calloused knees of the warriors of prayer.

Right now there are many for whom I think to pray, and I'm trying hard, dare I say asking God's help to actually remember to pray; a friend's ailing mother, a couple of coaches I don't think know the Lord, a friend facing relational challenges, there is an entire list. Today I even stuck a sticky note of names on my computer monitor at work to help me remember. I'm trying to use certain regular indicators in my day as reminders, for example a friend who dreads going to her job, I'm trying to use my own dread of dropping Ethan at school as a catalyst to pray for her.

So tonight as I sat watching Victoria in her gymnastics class, when the overwhelming burden to pray for each of these precious people came upon me, I knew it was not of self, it was a gift, from the Gift who is ever and faithfully working in my life and on my behalf to grow me into a woman of God... maybe even someday a warrior in prayer.

Thank you my true Love, for this gift You have given me today. Merry CHRISTmas.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In Search Of

If you're old enough, you might remember the the TV series back from the late 70s/ early 80's. If I try really hard I can close my eyes and hear the voice of Mr. Spock, aka Leonard Nimoy giving the description of that week's episode, they would search for a variety of different things. The intro went through the list, "extraterrestrials, magic & witchcraft, missing persons, myths & monster, lost civilizations, strange phenomena." Then the voice claim over explaining how they were just exploring a possible explanation based on "theory and conjecture," that it was by no means "the only one." They definitely hedged their bets. Ah, but I once again digress.

My whole rabbit trail of thought began with the sense that I find myself "in search of" the Christmas spirit. November has been a long month, working toward the end of what has been a long year. I am finding myself somewhat disheartened by the pressures of Christmas that lie ahead. Yesterday morning I started my Christmas shopping. I found myself suddenly longing for the days of old when I used to be so organized and prepared, having every gift bought and wrapped by Halloween. It may have actually only been one Christmas that I managed that, but I did so enjoy it, and do remember it fondly. Every year I swear I will achieve it again, and every year the Christmas season sneaks up on me. This year though it seems like it snuck up so much more swiftly and so much father into it, a disadvantage of the late Thanksgiving holiday, I suppose.

So anyway, yesterday I did do most of the big item shopping for my children online. I got pretty purposeful in the whole thing, and Neal mistook my determination to get it done, and done properly for a touch of the Christmas spirit. It wasn't. I spent all of today addressing Christmas cards. After several years of failing to send them I was determined we would manage to get them out on time this year. I spent a lot of the day barking at my children as they kept interrupting me as I addressed some 93 cards at last count. Still no bite of the Christmas bug.

I look to the event of the coming days not at all excited, but rather burdened by three performances of the children's program, a 4 night commitment to our women's event. I even forgot to invite people as I got lost in death, funerals, fires and medical issues over the last few weeks. I'm exhausted.

Today Neal got to decorating the outside of our house for the holiday. It's a big thing for him and the kids, he really tries to be the brightest home on the block, and we have actually had neighbors complain if we didn't come home and turn on our lights at night. As he was working outside Victoria wandered in a couple times with a few indoor decorations she found. I let her put them up, but I wasn't in to it at all. The thought of getting and decorating a Christmas tree? Fuggetaboutit. Not looking forward to it, at all.

So I find myself In Search Of the elusive and mysterious Christmas spirit. I need to find the "magical" feelings of childhood and joy. I want to be excited about the celebrating of the birth of my Savior. I want to truly share in the joy of my children and husband instead of just worrying about whether or not I can fake it well enough not to rip them off of it instead. I wish Christmas spirit could be found in a pretty package, and not one that says "Do Not Open til December 25th."

I'm sorry if this post is depressing, it's not my intention, but this blog is my place of transparency. I envy all the poeple I have heard say, or read their words stating that they "love this time of year." This year, I just don't find myself there... yet, I pray in Jesus' name.

Lord, let me find You in the holiday season. Help me not to focus on the lists or events, help me not to be overwhelmed by the tasks. I pray You would help me to remember the true meaning of CHRISTmas. I don't want to celebrate a holiday, I want to celebrate YOU.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Hmmm... what was that? I think I just felt a little Christmas Spirit....