Category Archives: Christmas

Don’t Go Nuts! Three Ways to Crack the Christmas Crazies.

Christmas Crazies, anyone?

If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.

At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.

No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.

Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.

Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies

 

1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God. Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?

He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.

Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.

 What would Jesus do?

 

Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you are the source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.

The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a

This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9

I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6

2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds.  Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.

To change a life, change the thoughts.

 

To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.

Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer29:11

Be prepared.

 

3) Fuel your body by choosing health. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Comfort-eating and drinking or other self-medicating behaviors feel good in the moment, but we pay later. Poverty always focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.

Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

 

So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and  take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.

Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.

This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.

***

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2

Wait a Minute, Christmas. One More Thing Before You Go.

Christmas flew by like mad this year.

A red and green blur.  I know it happened.  I was there.  And with trails of glitter and packages of hot chocolate scattered everywhere, I even have proof.  I just thought it would last a little longer.

Not sure what made the difference.

It could have been the hedgehog.

hedgehog-468229_640

New additions to the family always make the nights and days run together.  This hedgehog, an early Christmas gift, is no exception.  After a month of heat lamps and meal worms and animal psychology, we have learned why hedgehogs are considered “Advanced Pets.”

But, she is worth it.

Creation is magnificent, far away and up close.  I love her quills and the way she rolls herself into a safe little ball.  This creature lives to please no man.  Or woman.  She is not a best friend, but more of a mirror.  And a test.  But more on that another day.

Caring for the new hedgehog added one more thing to a long list this season.  And add to that, the scared and hungry kitty cat that followed us home after a late night bike ride.

cat-1814315_640

She chose us.  What could we do.

So now we have three pets when only weeks ago, we had one.  A trifecta of fur and comfort and delight.  And all of it running around the base of our Christmas tree.

It’s been busy, to say the least.  And some things I don’t mind letting go.

I didn’t wrap the gifts in the kids’ stockings this year.

I didn’t cook a big Christmas dinner.  We got takeout.  Please.  Don’t judge me.

My breakfast casserole was a runny bust.

My monkey bread was burned.

hefekranz-99984_640

I just can’t do it all.  And you know what?  My family is still blessed, and we made wonderful memories.  I think one of them even said it was their happiest Christmas yet.  And I’m sure it was the cat’s best Christmas ever.  She spent the whole day with her head in a food bag.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her no.  It was Christmas, after all.

But there is one thing I don’t want to leave behind.

On Christmas Eve, when my kids were much younger, we used to have a birthday party for Jesus.  Kids love a birthday party.  They get it.  It’s a great way to explain the exchange that Jesus provides.

birthday-947438_640

Wait a minute.  You mean it’s His birthday party, but I get presents?  

Yes.  That’s the way He is.  Pretty cool, huh?

And then they get to blow out candles and eat cake.

At some point, they usually ask, “but, what can I give Him?”  And we talk about all the things we can give.  What it looks like to give a whole life.  He gave His for ours, now we give Him back everything we can.  And it looks like love.

The love of God is not that complicated if we will let it be simple.

The birthday cake is the culmination of our party.  And with my kids getting older and all of us more health conscious, I’m not even sure we will do it this year.  But the cake itself is not the end game, the candles are.

candle-322510_640

I don’t know on what wonderful website I found this idea years ago, or I would link it here.  I was searching the internet,  “How to make Christmas more meaningful for kids.”

After wading through pages of Bethlehem dot-to-dots and Baby Jesus coloring sheets, I found this beautiful idea, as simple as a birthday cake.

Light.

Here’s how it goes.

Make Christmas More Meaningful:  

A Light Celebration at Home.

 

On Christmas Eve, after dark and after supper, I call the kids to the table.  And in the middle of the table, I line up tons of candles.  I have a menorah I use, and a candle nativity that my grandmother gave me.  And a birthday cake covered in candles.  Although this year, I think I’ll use my mini Christmas village instead of the cake.  Five tiny houses, each with a little light inside.  It doesn’t really matter what you use, just pull together every candle you can find.

christmas-decoration-1886233_640

I turn off all the lights and grab the matches or lighter, whatever I have.

It’s pitch dark in the room, and I talk to the kids about darkness.  How some people only know darkness.  How darkness is heavy, and it feeds our fears, and it makes us feel alone.  It keeps us from seeing all the blessings: it hides the good things that are all around us.  And it either makes us defensive, or it makes us sleepy and unaware.

But.  When light comes in, it changes everything.  It changes the way we feel.  It changes what we are able to see.  It changes the way we are able to move in our space.

sky-690293_640

And I light the first candle.

I tell them the story of Christ,  the Light of the World.   And at every key point, I light another candle.

I explain to them that it’s not really his birthday in December, that he was born in September sometime during the Feast of Tabernacles.  When Christ said “I come to dwell among you,” the word he used for dwell was literally “tabernacle.” I want to reinforce to them the idea  of the festivals and the reveal of the centuries in this one man.

And, interestingly, with his birthday during Tabernacles, that would put His conception during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.  And I share with them that we are either in Hanukkah every year during Christmas or very close, and that the Light of the World came into the world during the Festival of Lights.

God put Jesus inside of Mary during or near the Festival of Lights.  Mary pondered these things in her heart.

hanukkah-1934637_640

And I light a candle.

I keep telling them the story, how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, how they stayed in a stable, how the wise men followed the star, and the shepherds heeded their bright angel.  And for every twist and turn, I light a candle.

As I talk to them, the room becomes brighter and brighter and brighter.

And when the last candle is lit, we look at them all for a few minutes.  The dark room is cozy now, and the nativity spins as the heat from the candles moves the figures through their paces.  We listen to a couple of songs.  I think this year we will use this one by Lauren Daigle and this song by Kari Jobe.

This last thing, our inheritance, our commission.  That as He is the Light of the World, He also calls us to carry light.  That we, too, are this bright Light of love.

They love to hear the story, they listen still, and they are big now.  And I am overcome by the light, flickering on their faces.

And here we are in January.  And Christmas flew by this year.  And I still haven’t done it.

Today’s the day.  It’s never too late, or too early, to revisit this story.  Never too late to ponder these things in your heart and to soak in love that lights up the dark.

***

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Gen1:3

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jn8:12

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Mt5:14-16

But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.  Lk2:19

Leah the Weak: An Unexpected Story of Christmas.

December is a story time of year.

Mostly about a baby, a star, and those who came to see the prophecies of history fulfilled.

But recently, I read a story, not about three wise men, but about three people in a love triangle.  Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.

You may know the story, but here’s a recap:  Jacob, the son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, sets out on a long camel ride to find a wife.  He also happens to be outrunning the murderous rage of his brother, Esau, after stealing Esau’s inheritance.

“Jacob” is a word for “deceiver” in Hebrew.  So far, Jacob is living up to his name.

ch4avmdbr4q-sylwia-bartyzel

When he arrives at his kinsman’s home, Jacob agrees to work for the man.  He sees the man’s younger daughter, Rachel, and immediately falls in love and wants to marry her.  He has also seen Rachel’s older sister, Leah, and, for whatever reason, he is not interested.

The girls’ father, Laban, agrees to allow Jacob to marry Rachel if he will work for him for seven years.  So Jacob does, and seven years pass.  The wedding day arrives.

But–and this is where it gets tricky–on the wedding night and unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban somehow substitutes Leah in Rachel’s place as the bride.

Jacob discovers the switch in the morning when the sun comes up.

setting-947134_640

After pondering this one for some years, I have decided  it does not pay to ask many questions here.  There are only sordid and potentially embarrassing answers for everyone involved.   I’m planning to ask God to explain how this is all completely edifying when I get to Heaven.  Leaving it at that for now.

But, the point is, Laban deceived Jacob.

Jacob goes to Laban, understandably angry, and says “What is this you have done to me?  Why have you deceived me?”

Laban says to Jacob, like it all makes perfect sense, “Oh.  It’s not our custom to marry the younger daughter first, so I gave you Leah.  Wait a week, and you can marry Rachel, too, if you will work for me another seven years.”

So, without feeling like he has much choice, Jacob agrees.

For years I heard this story taught as a morality tale of sowing deception and reaping deception.

Jacob deceived Esau and stole his birthright–scandalous!  How dare he!  And so, he got what he deserved when Laban deceived him with Leah for a bride, instead of the woman he loved.

law-1063249_640

Leah, the weak-eyed, unmarriageable, older daughter.  Leah, given as some kind of cosmic punishment to Jacob the Deceiver.

I’ve always felt a kind of camaraderie with Leah.  Whatever “weak-eyed” means in scripture, some scholars have suggested that she was cross eyed with poor vision.

I was a cross eyed kid.

I have worn glasses since I was four, and I had two surgeries as a child to correct my eyes.  But over the years, if I forgot a contact, or if I’m very tired, one eye might drift a little at times.  I don’t know if anyone else notices, but I do.

person-947709_640

I remember being at a family reunion and seeing an older cousin with the same crossed eyes.  She was tall and slender, very fashionably dressed in a tailored  yellow top and a green pencil skirt.  Her hair was thick and dark and wavy, and she wore spectacular red cateye glasses with little jewels on the frames.

But her standout feature was, unfortunately, those extreme crossed eyes.

It’s so hard to know where to look when someone has an eye off, how to know which eye is looking at you. And your own eyes dart back and forth, trying to find the active eye, like a Poe novel come to life.

I can say that, because I am sometimes that girl with the wandering eye.  And, for the record, I can tell you, just pick one.  They are both working fine, most likely.

Just pick one.

eye-211610_640

Anyway.

I’ve always kind of felt for Leah, this weak-eyed woman.  Handed around like property, an unloved wife, accused as a man-stealer for the rest of time.

In the story, God brings sons from Leah and Rachel.  He uses this strange setup to fulfill the prophecies over Abraham, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  From these women come twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel.

And these sons, the majority of them come, not from Rachel, but from Leah.  At that time, children were considered proof that a wife was a good one, that she was pleasing to God Himself.

The sons were a vindication.

pregnant-woman-1866000_640

Reading this story today, I went back with the same old perspective. Jacob the deceiver meets his match in his sneaky old uncle, Laban,  and gets stuck with this unbeautiful, unlovable bride.

For a minute I wondered if Laban had had faith that God would provide a husband for Leah, could she have married someone who loved her?  And Rachel and Jacob, could they have had their fairy tale?

And then, I was arrested by this thought.

No.

God did it.

As wacky and sad as it seems for one minute, God did it just like that.

It hit me.  If Jacob got two wives for his “punishment,” that’s a strange punishment indeed, especially for that time. Leah was no punishment.

Leah was Jacob’s double blessing.

Leah was abundance.

Jacob comes out of this deal with two wives instead of one.  In the context of the time, God Is blessing Jacob in spite of his failure, not punishing him for it.  Aside from the inherent blessing of companionship, wives were a sign of wealth.  And a source of sons.  The more wives, the more sons.  And more sons and more wives meant increased standing in the community.

Jacob did not get what he “deserved,” some kind of Bride-from-Hell-Smackdown from On High.  No.

Jacob got mercy.  He got grace.  He got a heavy portion, pressed down and running over.  He got abundance for his sin, rather than devastation.

That’s more like the God I know.

And Leah had more retribution than just bringing forth many sons.  Leah was not born to bring punishment.  She was not born for another man or lineage.  She was born for this one.  She was born to fulfill a prophecy and give birth to nations.  And to a saviour.

You may remember this part of the story, too.  Leah’s fourth son was called “I will praise the Lord,” or “Judah.”

And Judah.

Judah, through many generations, brings forth Jesus Christ.

And Rachel has her sons, too.  Both women were exactly where they needed to be.  The great Joseph comes from Rachel, a man who saved Israel in Egypt, a man who foreshadows the coming of his even  greater cousin, Jesus.

Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

lion-588144_640

Leah the Weak, through God’s grace, becomes Leah the Lioness.

The mother of a lion.

The mother of The Lion.

God loves to use the weak to bring forth strength.

There are many women like this in the lineage of Christ. Tamar, the seductress.  Bathsheba, the exhibitionist.   Rahab, the prostitute.

Women despised by their culture.  But redeemed and honored by time and by scripture.

Sometimes we do not always see our vindication, our reparations.  We don’t always get to see the full fruit of our labors.

But these things are coming.  Our sacrifice is not wasted.  Our efforts are not in vain.  Our pain and tears and weakness do not go unseen.  And they do not go unredeemed.

Leah, Rachel, Jacob, Laban.  Small figures in an epic tale.  A huge plan that spans millennia to bring love to all mankind in the form of one tiny child.

One little lion.  In a manger.  Leah’s son, and Rahab’s, and Bathsheba’s, and Tamar’s.

And Mary’s.

And God’s.

astronomy-1867616_640

The unspeakable beauty of a God who takes a thing that the world calls weak and ugly to bring forth the greatest miracle.

The beauty of a God who might even sometimes ask us to endure some embarrassment or inconvenience–after all, what is a lazy eye in the scheme of things?

He might sometimes ask us to lay down our pride and our ease for something greater.  For the ones that come after.

Leah was willing.

Jesus Christ was willing.

And I am thankful.

Thankful for eyes to see this Christmas.

Thankful for His coming and His sacrifice and His strength in our weakness, in my weakness.  So thankful.

***

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2Cor12:9

Call It Good. One Way to Beat Holiday Pressure.

I wrapped Christmas presents today.

I have all this cute, adorable, beautiful, sparkly paper.  And one really ugly roll. I don’t know why I bought it.

Well, actually, I do.  I found it on sale for seventy cents a roll.  Seventy cents.   And it’s one of those never-ending value rolls. Like, a million square feet.

I keep wrapping a gift with it here and there, hoping no one will notice.  I try to stick them on the bottom of the pile.

In fact, this roll of paper is so ugly and huge, it may last me my entire life as a caution, a reminder not to shop like that ever again, throwing my seventy cents around without any thought to the consequences.

It literally seems to get bigger every time I cut it.  It could outlast me.

But, dear God.  I hope not.

Anyway.

My daughter and I wrapped presents today, with mostly the cute paper.

We were wrapping them to send to loved ones nearly a continent away.  They are trinkets really, but I pray these friends feel all the love that we can’t be there to give.

paper-933661_640

As we wrapped, and I checked one more thing off my Christmas list, I felt so organized.  I was on time, early even.

And then, I hesitated.

I looked at those gifts packed in that box with so much joy and love and anticipation.  Those gifts, wrapped in cheerful patterns, with their messy edges and wrinkly tape, names written, and hearts drawn on the paper with markers.

First, I smiled.

Then, I hesitated.

And then, I criticized.

There were no fluffy bows.  No glittery package toppers.  No pretty tags.

They were nowhere close to perfect.

For one second, as I thought of our beautiful friends, I didn’t think these presents were good enough.  I considered taking them all out and rewrapping them, the way I used to wrap presents.  Before I had kids.  Before I started homeschooling.  Before I realized that energy is a perishable commodity, and I simply can not do it all.

I didn’t know it was a luxury back then.

u6fdue2x11g-roberto-nickson

But I have learned my lesson in a million ways.

Some things just have to be declared good enough.

My sister says the secret to success is, sometimes, lower standards.  She laughs when she says it, but she is a wise woman.

And that’s my reality today.

I have other boxes, other appointments, other errands.

I either send these presents now, as they are, or it will not get done.  And our friends would miss a blessing.  And I would find this package in July, under a pile of sweaters, and realize I never sent it.  And then stick it back in the closet with good intentions to try for Christmas next year.

And it would never get done.

Again.

heart-1693304_640

I looked at those gifts.  I even lifted one out and studied it in my hand, and I immediately heard this, “Do they need to be perfect? Or do they need to be good?”

And I set that gift right back in the box.

And I am not looking back.

Except.  Maybe to do something with that hideous paper.

My oldest daughter suggested that we burn it.  It’s that ugly.

Or, maybe we’ll just call it a lesson learned.

And good enough.

***

Perfection is the enemy of the good, and enough is as good as a feast. 

I pray your holidays are good enough.  Not in the sense of settling, but in the sense of a deep contentment and enjoyment of the messy, real life and true love all around you.

Take a deep breath.  Let some of it go.  It’s not all going to get done anyway.  

Let someone help you, even the kids.  Especially the kids.  Their work will be messy.  But a present wrapped, a cookie decorated, an ornament hung by a child is adorable, and the people who love them will love that they tried.    And the kids will feel like they matter.  And they will be one year closer to learning how to do what needs to be done.  

And they will remember that you valued them enough to let them do the big stuff.

Not one of us is perfect.  Holding ourselves and others to that kind of standard is the worst fun killer ever.  And it may be the worst love killer, too.

Just send the packages.  

And receive them.  And all of it.  With grace.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1Pet4:8