Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Hindsight

As I sit here tonight, I still smell our minty Christmas cookies, am finding bits of wrapping paper tucked into corners of our home, and am eagerly relaxing in the glow of many twinkling lights. Christmas is over but much of it still surrounds me as I sink, tired, into the warmth of our love seat.

This season can be stressful, can't it? There are so many expectations, so much that must get done and it all culminates into one twenty four period that feels as though it must be just right. But, when the rubber hits the road, it is rarely perfect... though always real. When we tuck our children into bed that night, the hopes of it fall silent and we are left with what it really was... a day. A day of memories. A day of lessons. A day of laughter and of nostalgia and of traditions. A day of good food, loving family, long history. A day.

So, here we are tonight. We have processed through it and need to find a way to embrace the wonder of what was and release the disappointment of what did not happen as we had hoped. For our family, the day was good. I was grateful to be here with my husband and children and enjoyed cooking and playing and staying in jammies all day long. We took our time and tried to really be present with our kids as they laughed and talked and thought.

Some of our highlights:
1. Watching Noah and Benjamin use our Nativity set to act out the true meaning of Christmas as Josiah and Elizabeth looked on, giggling.
2. Taking time to open presents... even stopping in the middle to eat a huge breakfast before finishing the task at hand.
3. Watching deer walk down the street in perfectly white snow, right in the middle of that big meal.
4. Playing two new games with our whole family and realizing that the kids are old enough now that we can actually play two new games!
5. Watching, in utter amazement, as Noah and Benjamin both assembled HUGE Lego projects... Noah working for almost 5 hours to create his most wanted gift!
6. Smiling as I watched Josiah and Elizabeth create a new way of playing that incorporated both her new Bitty Baby and his new purple light saber.
7. Opening a gift from my dear husband that will help me to share videos with all of you... Yay, Flip video!
7. Listening to our kids process through our traditional Christmas Devotions and hearing the story of the birth of Christ in a new way, in their sweet voices.

Yes, it was a good day. I am tired but when I think it through, I am content. The house was not perfect, the ham was a little dry and I have way too many leftovers. But, the memories we made are worth keeping and the story we told was (and is!) important and it was good.

My friends, think back on your day and release your expectations. Remember the giggles, the early morning start, the look on the faces of your children as they opened presents in jammies with bedhead and tuck it all away. Years from now, we may not remember what presents we fought to find or what menu we slaved over in an effort to make the day "just-so". But, we will remember these simple moments and we will see then, clearer than we may see now, what mattered more than any of the rest.

So, as I sit here in the darkness and rest my weary bones, I leave with you my favorite memory of Christmas 2008. Blessings to you and yours...

video

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blog Rewind: Jesus Left Out


It was totally my fault. I remembered on Friday, on Saturday, and at 3:30 AM on Monday morning. The preschool had sent out a reminder about Monday's show and tell and the directions were simple. "Please have your child bring something that shows the baby Jesus."

It was totally my fault. I had a good plan. Josiah could bring the baby Jesus from the PlayMobile Nativity set and Elizabeth could bring the baby Jesus from the advent calendar we were not using nearly regularly enough. But, the morning got away from us and we left in a hurry and while I felt like we were forgetting something, I didn't know what so we piled in the van and shivered on our way through the 18 degree morning.


Against the odds we were on time for preschool and it was not until I was ready to leave my little ones to their busy morning that I overheard a comment about the show and tell.
Turning to the nearest of the many compassionate teachers, I said, "I completely forgot the show and tell..."


She tried to comfort me, really she did. But, I knew my kids should have this item and it was my job to be sure that they, at 4 and 5, had what they needed for school.


Eager to save the day, I said, "I will run to the grocery store next door and buy a Christmas card with Jesus on it and run it right back for them to share with their class. "
She tried to talk me out of it. I should have listened. She told me that they had old Christmas cards but I said no and ran out the door. How hard could this be, to find a Christmas card with Jesus on it on December 17?


I had a date to meet friends for coffee... a special morning and one which I looked forward to very much. So, I had to hurry to bring Jesus to preschool so I could savor those moments of conversation and caffeine and comfort in the midst of this busy, chilly season.


Into the Jewel I ran... surely a grocery store set in the midst of conservative community would have a Christmas card with a picture of the Holy family on front. Naively, on my way in, I thought maybe I would splurge on a cute ornament that would fit the occasion... not only saving the day but providing my kids with a story for years to come.


I quickly found the "Holiday" aisle and began to sort through all the varied paraphernalia. I found Santa in spades and sports cars (no kidding) and sparkly letters that spelled out JOY. I found houses decorated, and much about Rudolf and starry skies. Christmas cards for photos and money and a good belly laugh... but NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with any hint of Jesus could be found.


I was perplexed. How could this be? Surely this was an overlook on the part of this one store. So, already late for coffee, I ran to another store... to a strip mall... to another grocery store... to a hardware store... and I swear I am telling the truth when I say there was not one Jesus to be found! There was no ornament or decoration or gift card or representation of any kind that showed the true reason for this most important of days... he was absent completely from all of it. By the time I pulled out of the last store, I was late and frustrated and ANGRY. It is not that I have never lived "in the world". I have and I remember it well. But, even when I lived in that place, I know He was there. I remember him there, even in the days before I knew Him at all.


Something about that made me profoundly sad. I sat in the van, unsure what to do, and prayed.
"My dear Jesus, I am so sorry. I am so very, very sorry. I am sorry that we have left you out, that you are lost in the midst of it all. I am sorry that the world that NEEDS you right now cannot find you in the middle of the time when we celebrate your very coming to be with us, when we celebrate the beginning of your wondrous plan. And whatever my part, I am sorry for that...for not demanding better... for not expecting better... for not remembering today. I am sorry... and I remember now. I see you now. I will not leave you out."


In my sadness, I pulled close to the one who loves me best. In my sadness, my eyes were opened and was reminded how important that central focus really is. I had not really forgotten. I just think I had not really remembered.


One more store. I talked myself into it the whole drive there. It was an old fashioned "five and dime" in the center of town. In I walked and 5 minutes later, out I came with two different Jesus ornaments in my possession to hand to my little ones, waiting at school. I hoped it wasn't too late. That wish hit me deeply... I hope it isn't too late. Suddenly it was not about the ornaments or about preschool or about the coffee with friends that had started without me. It was about a bigger picture. With Jesus in my hand, I rang the preschool doorbell and hoped it was not too late... for my kids... for my family... for this town and this country and this world to know that that which I held tightly in my grip is more important that the rest of it, by far.


It was totally my fault... but in the end, I found the reason for it all and a lesson that I hold inside of me tonight. We cannot leave Him out... not from the stores, not from this season, not from our world.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blog Rewind: Waiting

It seems a whole lot of my life is spent waiting. I am more aware of this now, as my children eagerly await the celebration of Christmas, counting down the days, the hours, the minutes until the 25th. I think this lifestyle of waiting must be one of those things that you really become aware of once you begin your family.

Throughout pregnancy, you wait. Wait to tell, wait to show, wait to feel that baby kick. You wait to deliver, wait while you labor, and wait to see that little one's face. Oddly, you think that this is the end of the waiting.... but instead, it is only the beginning.

A new little one in your arms, you begin to wait for all new things. You wait for attachment, wait to adjust to nursing, wait for the baby to roll over, to crawl, to walk. You wait for preschool, wait for Kindergarten, and then find yourself crying on the sidewalk in the wake of big yellow bus.

Today, I wait in line to pick up my preschoolers, wait at the door for my school aged kids to come home and wait to see what will become of them all... of US all.

In a society that teaches us to tap our feet impatiently at the very thought of waiting, I want to ground myself in something much more timeless. Especially now, in the season of Advent, I want to seek the heart of Mary who knew, even at a young age, to "ponder these things up in her heart". She knew she was part of something miraculous and while I certainly cannot compare raising my four sweet babies to raising the Son of God, I do not want to miss those miracles happening around me.

Today, Josiah, who was born with an arm that would do nothing but hang limply at his side, waved that healed arm enthusiastically to greet me after a morning at preschool. Today, Elizabeth, who came to us with an ear for Chinese and took her precious time to learn to talk, chatted INCESSANTLY on our drive in the van. Today, Benjamin, who surprised us with a hole in his heart, beat his older brother home, running like a wild man from the bus to our house. Today, our oldest and most shy child came home and talked about how he was given a leadership job in his small group at school and how much he liked taking a position up front. This is the same child who a year ago would have rather stayed home than act as a leader!

There are so many things to ponder during the long waits of my life... so many miracles that surround me as I fly from activity to activity, nearly missing the whole of it to tend to that which likely is not important at all. Today, I choose to sit. I choose to watch. I choose to ponder and wonder and in doing so tie myself to the story that calls to me throughout this Christmas season. Today, I will still my tapping foot, stay present in this one moment, and try to see what is miraculous all around.

This sounds like a full and joyous journey... with room for beauty and story and grace.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blog Rewind: Boots to Sandals


Snow hit Chicago about a week ago. It was the first REAL snow and it stuck! Our kids were bubbling over with winter joy and just could not wait one more second to get outside and run and play and roll in that gorgeous blanket of white.

It was about that time that we realized that our 10 year old son had outgrown ALL his snow gear! The snow pants and boots were way to small and he was going to miss out on all the fun! In addition to missing a lot of play in his yard, he would not be allowed to play outside at school, either. We carefully chose our children's school and one thing that we love is that they are offered 3 recesses each day, sun or snow! But, without the right right supplies, Noah would be watching all the fun on the playground through the windows of his classroom.

So, we packed up all four kids and headed out to find boots and snow pants for our first-born. (As an aside, we were not in the store long before I remembered WHY I do not take all four of my kids shopping at once... even with the help of my dear husband!) We arrived at Target, found the boot aisle and began to shop. Well, we tried to begin to shop. : ) The shelves were nearly empty and the sizes available were not my son's. I found a Target employee and asked for assistance. After three Target employees came to help us, all of them on high tech walkie talkies, AND after they explained that their extra stock was kept at a remote location could not be available to us until well into the next day, we were told that they had NO boots in my son's size in the store or in the mysterious remote location.

Given the fact that the winter season has not yet officially begun and the fact that this was the first actual winter weather to hit our area, I asked what I felt was a logical question.

"When will you be getting more boots?"

In an attitude I would prefer to not see again, one of the Target employees said, "Oh, we will not be getting any more boots in!". She then giggled AT ME, and continued, "We are making room for the sandals!"

Instinctually, I checked the date setting on my watch. Um... it is December, isn't it? I didn't accidentally sleep through four months and miss winter, did I? I said nothing, wrapped my children back up and headed off to Wal-Mart.

I am tired of being rushed from one season to the next. Truth be told, I will never need sandals in December... or January or February or even March! In Chicago, we will likely see little sun or grass until April and in my mind, it is best for me to spend these waiting months enjoying the season in which I am immersed.

In the past ten years, most stores have come to believe that every day is part of a marketing season and I have come to hate the way they sell their goods. A couple years ago, I shopped on December 26th and found Valentine's Day decorations being put up around the store. Still dressed in red and green, with a wilted fir tree in my living room, I could not have been more discouraged. I was not ready to think about February. I wanted to think about today. We are being "marketed" to death and in the mean time, what we need is rarely available at the time we need it. Target would like me to shop for boots in August but I just won't do it. We needed school shoes in August, which I was likely supposed to buy in June.

So, after all of this, my son now has boots and snow pants that fit. I am grateful to Wal-Mart for that. And I am more sure than ever that there is wisdom in a One Day at at Time approach to life. Today is December 11. Christmas has not come and gone but is in full swing. I want to listen to carols, sip hot cider, plan my gift giving and wear warm shoes. I do not want to think about warmer days when the glory of cold, blowy days and snowball fights and snowmen has just come to pass.

Stop pushing me, Target! My kids are only young once and I do not want to be in such a rush to get from season to season that I miss them laughing in the yard, with snowflakes on faces, making angels in the snow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Our Blog Giveaway Winner!

I thought you might like the opportunity to meet Kelli who won the last blog givewaway. I sent her some questions and she has answered them below. Enjoy!

How long have you been married?
I have been married to Scott for 6 years.


How many children do you have and what are their ages?
We have 3 kids, Trott -4, Adri-2 1/2 and Bree-7 weeks


What is your most surprising parenting moment?
My most surprising parenting moment is that each child is so different and that there will be different kind of struggles with each one and what works with one won't work with the other and that I can't control them even though I would like to.


What is your favorite mommy moments?
My favorite mommy moments are knowing that each day I have three smiling children that will hug me, kiss me and say I love you numerous times throughout the day and that I can do the same in return.


What words of wisdom do you have to share?
My mommy words of wisdom is something I have to keep telling myself. Take the time to stop and enjoy them. I catch myself so often saying "just a minute, I have to finish this" Just put it down and go play or listen to what they are saying, it will be well worth it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blog Giveaway Winner!

After two very busy weeks, I am now able to announce our blog winner! The winner of the Nativity Devotional Set is Kelli! Watch the blog for more information about Kelli coming up soon.

Now, I know mentioned to you that there was something in it for all of you... Here is the deal! If you commented on my blog during the blog giveaway, you can purchase a Nativity Devotional Booklet at the reduced rate of 7.00 and pay NO shipping at all. If you would like to purchase this booklet to use at home with your own Nativity set, contact me through my website (www.NadiaSwearingen-Friesen.com) and let me know. PayPal is preferred for this special deal but I am able to work with you on other payment sources if PayPal will not work for you. Please remember that this reduced rate and free shipping offer is for those who entered the giveaway by commenting on the giveaway posts.

The devotional booklet has not been available for purchase without a Nativity set, until now! Quantities are very limited but I will do my best to fill each order.

Congratulations to Kelli for winning the whole set!
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