(Author: Jon Bloom)
Each year Christmas night finds members of my family feeling some melancholy. After weeks of anticipation, the Christmas celebrations have flashed by us and are suddenly gone. And we're left standing, watching the Christmas taillights and music fade into the night.
But it's possible that this moment of melancholy may be the best teaching moment of the whole season. Because as long as the beautiful gifts remain unopened around the tree and the events are still ahead of us, they can appear to be the hope we are waiting for. But when the tree is empty and events are past, we realize we are longing for a lasting hope.
So last night, as Pam and I tucked our kids into bed, we talked about a few things with them:
* Gifts and events can't fill the soul. God gives us such things to enjoy. They are expressions of his generosity as well as ours, but gifts and celebrations themselves are not designed to satisfy. They're designed to point us to the Giver. Gifts are like sunbeams. We are not meant to love sunbeams but the Sun.
* Putting our hope in gifts will leave us empty. Many people live their lives looking for the right sunbeam to make them happy. But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul's deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, "Is that all?" because we know deep down that's not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.
* It is more blessed to give than receive. What kind of happiness this Christmas felt richer, getting the presents that you wanted or making someone else happy with something that you gave to them? Receiving is a blessing, but Jesus is right—giving is a greater blessing. A greedy soul lives in a small, lonely world. A generous soul lives in a wide world of love.
It's just like God to let the glitter and flash of the celebrations (even in his honor) to pass and then to come to us in the quiet, even melancholic void they leave. Because often that's when we are most likely to understand the hope he intends for us to have at Christmas.
(Author: Jon Bloom)
i guess i could say that i love the month before christmas, and the day after christmas. today was a day of refocusing on what matters and realizing that we are really blessed to be the family that we are. to have what we have. and to experience all that we experience.
the kids spent all day playing with their gifts. it was a sweet sight given my emotion of last night. eric asked them at the table this morning what their favorite part of christmas was and they all answered................playing with their cousins. not even a mention about presents. interesting, given my frustrations of yesterday. maybe i should take a cue from the kids and realize that there is much more to christmas than gifts under the tree.
being one day removed, i again am of the mindset that i would give anything to bring home another little girl. even if it means small christmases and a few less things in our closets. of course i want leah-joy more than i want those things.
i am embarrassed that i get caught up in the culture of things. but i would be lying if i didn't admit that i enjoy them. i like to dress stylish, i love a nice home, i enjoy my kids looking cute. i know those aren't the most important things in life, but they are values to me. and i don't think that is bad. it is when those things take a hold of my heart to the point that i can't see the bigger picture that they move from values to idols.
and so a new year is on the horizon. so far, i have three things i would like to change.
1)a new commitment to fiscal frugality. if we are going to adopt another little girl we have to begin now to live as if there was a 5th child in the picture. and save what we can for the impending adoption expenses. we have to buckle our belts a little tighter and it will require some sacrifices.
2)a commitment to writing down things that i would like to get as gifts. i think this would go a long way to helping maximize the joy of birthdays and holidays if i can do my part to help eric buy me gifts. we are both so stinking practical we tend to just pick out our own gifts and the fun of gift-giving is lost (or return things...and we know how i feel about that! see last post.) this year, i want to give him a specific list and he can go shopping! what fun to have a surprise (go figure)! even more fun when #1 is in effect and our disposable income is less than it has been being. when that's the case, the holidays and birthdays become a lot more significant - at least in the gift-giving arena.
3)a commitment to losing some weight. okay, i know this is a cheesy, everyone-says-it new year's resolution. and i know i am not in an extreme situation in this category. but it bothers me that i have put on so much weight this year. i would like to blame it on the medication i have been taking since last december but i don't think that's the whole picture. it BOTHERS me. i wake up thinking about it, i go to bed thinking about it. it needs to change.
if i can make those 3 happen, i will be a better person. but i know its not just me that has to make it happen. well, maybe the gift thing is just me. but the other two are matters of self-control, which i have to remind myself is a fruit of the spirit. it is a God-given character trait which means its me and God doing the work to make it happen. which would mean it might be helpful to talk to him a bit more often. hmmm...maybe i have four things to work on.
i always say that i love christmas. and i do. but a more accurate statement would be to say that i love the month before christmas. all of the fun things to do and the anticipation of what will be.
i can't remember a christmas night when i didn't go to bed sad.
and tonight's no different. i feel sad that my kids didn't get to open tons of presents. that the thrill of a mountain of gifts that takes 3 hours to get through wasn't part of their christmas memories. i feel sad that i am apparently so picky that once again i chose my own gifts, wrapped them, and handed them to eric to "give" me. no anticipation there. i feel sad that no matter what i choose for eric it is never right. he always chooses to take it back. i HATE that. it hurts my feelings and makes me say to him (with a very grinchy heart), 'forget it! i am never buying you anything again.' who wants to put time and energy into something only to have them take it back. buy your own stupid gifts. (hmmm...sounds like someone else)
i hate christmas nite. i feel sad and torn. i love that my kids go to bed tonight with presents i know they will enjoy for a long time. there were no gifts given that will break tomorrow or be tossed aside within a few days. but they didn't have lots to open. the magic of christmas was limited to a few presents, and then it was over. the american image of present after present with piles of boxes didn't happen in our house this year. that makes me sad. i want to give my kids lots of presents! good ones. i want to spend hundreds of dollars on each kid and have christmas last the whole day. i love presents. i love the joyful faces. i love the screams of delight. i love big bear hugs when they get exactly what they wanted.
if i am looking for the other side, i can be happy that we don't have credit cards to pay off and that ache that comes with financial strain is not part of my christmas. we were frugal, we spent what we had, and no more. and for that i am proud. that part makes me smile. but sometimes it seems like it would be a better choice to go down the other path. to spend lavishly and just enjoy the moment. embrace the gift-giving. throw the frugality out the window.
i hate that i don't have a lot of money. i know it isn't what life is about and i know i own the most important things, but let's face it; money may not buy happiness but it buys a lot of other things. i would love to get the kids a crazy amount of presents and see their big eyes and grins. i dream of boxes from the Gap just for me, some perfume, a couple things for the house, and a piece of jewelry. i want to give my family members a few gifts and not just one. there is a part of me that gets angry that i can't do that. that my kids will have to go to school and realize they didn't get everything that everyone else did. i get angry when i hear anna claire say with sweetness and a tender heart, "that's all? i only have one more gift?" yep, that's all. life stinks. merry christmas.
i get that my heart is completely in the wrong place and what i should be doing if i were a good christian is meditating on Jesus and be thankful for him and forgetting all the material things of this world. but i'm not. nope, not there. i am sad and trying to hold back tears. i hate this night.
and there's that thing about adopting another little girl. and the wallet gets thinner and the presents get less. and i don't care, because i want to hold another little girl. but i do care, because i am crying tonight. over presents. over stupid material things that are not going to matter in a month.
i hate christmas night.
and while i am in a bad mood, let's talk about the other thing i hate. tight jeans. as in used-to-fit-but-are-now-too-tight jeans. i hate them. and christmas reminds me that a year has passed, that the jeans are tighter than before, and i have once again had no will-power to confront the obvious. one of these days i would love to wake up and not have my waistline be the first thought of the day.
i am sad. and angry. and discontent. and frustrated. at myself. at everyone else.
i have always thought highly of teachers. now that i have small people who are in their classes, i think that they should be living in mansions and vacationing on their yachts.
15 days until school is back in session. if i ever had thoughts of home-schooling (which i haven't except for when i wonder if i would kill or be killed)i have confirmed that i am not called to that arena of education. praise jesus for public school. i don't care how much is wrong with them, this person is thanking God for free, quality, out-of-my-house education.
so, today was the official first day of CHRISTMAS break (just wanted to make sure everyone knows that we are off for CHRISTMAS, not winter). around 10:00 i realized i better get a plan...quick. there is a reason why we belong to the pool in the summer. 4 high energy kids in a relatively small house makes for fun...right? right.
off to the mall we went. upon entering dillards i had one woman look at me and start laughing. i am not sure why except that at that point the kids probably could have been heard by the old ladies in the upstairs lingerie department. did i mention our kids are a little loud? quick, be quiet, try and stifle their christmas excitement at least until we pass the snooty rich women shopping for jewelry in dillards.
then we went to Gap (my favorite store in case you are looking for gifts). i had to do a price adjustment, which was the whole reason we went to the mall. and for those who don't know about price adjustments, they are God's gift to frugal and thrifty, hoping to be fashionable, women. before i went to the register i of course had to look around for any great deals.
josiah, "mooom, this is boring. can you hurry up."
anna claire, "josiah, fashion takes time."
i am not kidding. she really said that. i thought i was going to pee in my pants.
then it was off to mcdonalds at the food court. special treat in our house. order, sit down, get everyone situated with their food..."moooommmyy. i have to pee." and when lydia says she has to go, i better get her there. now what is one to do? i had four kids with their lunch on the table. it wasn't like we were almost finished. we had JUST sat down. so my options are take lydia to the bathroom and leave the three by themselves (WHO would do THAT?) or, bag up all their food, take everyone to the bathroom (which would take about 5 times as long) and then get back to the table with cold food. i won't tell you what i did. let's just say i am hoping social services doesn't make a visit tomorrow thanks to an anonymous tipster.
so then we went to old navy, my other favorite store. i knew i was taking a risk but all of their stuff was 60% off or more and then i go back in two weeks after christmas and get a price adjustment and i can get all of ac's clothes for next year for $1.99! well worth a little chaos. that was relatively uneventful except for the herding cats that was continually happening. i swear that store just breeds loudness and raucous behavior in children.
then, we headed out to the van. we walked nicely through the mall. mother duck and all her ducklings walking behind (by now the stroller was full of bags). we got to dillards where we were parked, walked past the snooty jewelry section (there must be bermuda triangleness around there) and i stop to look behind and make sure everyone is following. just imagine...
micah is on the floor. face down. sweatshirt hood up over his head. josiah is dragging him by the hood. pulling him along as he screams - which i couldn't hear because his face was mopping the floor. oh my gosh! what in the world are you doing?
"he wouldn't come so i was trying to help."
right, okay. maybe we need to have a talk about appropriate encouragement techniques.
you know, it's never a dull moment in our house. and as much as there is chaos that follows us like Pigpen's dust cloud, so does the joy of children. and that, my friends, is why we would love to have another one. the joy is unspeakable. not necessarily unhearable...
do you know that i have been messing around with this stupid blog for the better part of today? i think i have erased the background four different times. it drives me CRAZY that i have no idea what i am doing. i don't do well with wanting something done and being completely ignorant! (talk to eric about that...it is affectionately referred to as 'ashleigh mode' in our house) i want one of those cool header things and i am totally inept. i need a blogger friend who will have mercy on me. anyone? anyone?
I haven’t updated in a while. I sort of feel like I have to have something profound to say before I write. Which I have nothing. Not even any really good kid stories.
Which I suppose is a story in itself.
That there have been no stories.
We have moved into a new phase of our family the last few weeks. It’s as if everyone grew up a little and suddenly the dynamics are new. Micah has morphed into a big boy and suddenly wants to play with all of Josiah's toys. Josiah in turn has been very gracious and ‘allowed’ him to barge into the Lego land that is also known as Josiah’s room. It did require me explaining to him that we were not going to have ‘micah legos’ and ‘josiah legos’ and that they would need to work out some sort of deal, but amazingly (and with great maternal pride) I watched Josiah welcome micah into big boy world. And with that turn in events there seems to have come about a new brother camaraderie that wasn’t there before. The great masculine bonding experience of wrestling has come upon our house and the boys go at it frequently. And again, with great care, Josiah plays with his little brother and takes care of him. I am so proud of the big brother of the house.
The girls continue to be best buddies. It is amazing to watch how maternal Anna Claire is. Quite astounding, especially since her mother is NOT so caring and gracious much of the time (the story of kids crouching in the corner quivering and afraid of their mother will have to come another time)
We have seen a new side of the adoption story the last several weeks. On a handful of occasions Lydia has started to cry with a primal terror that is far different than a normal cry. As far as we can tell, it seems to come when she thinks we are gone but when we really aren’t. In other words, we haven’t told her we are leaving and suddenly she thinks we are not there. One time it was when I went out to the van to start it up to get warm and she was still at the breakfast table and suddenly saw me leaving. Another time was when everyone else was camping and I was still in the bedroom. She walked down the hall in the morning and seemed to realize she was alone. She does great when we leave her and she knows about it. But it is the times when she is caught off guard that fear grips her little soul.
At first it bothered me a bit. That feeling of ‘oh no, I can’t do a thing about this. What is her life going to be like?’ (I realize that is moving ahead a little bit but seriously, I think about how adoption will affect her!) but then I realized that OF COURSE she remembers her loved ones leaving and never coming back. I would like to sweep that memory under the rug but that would be denying her reality. She was 2 ½ when we came to get her so certainly she has a very vivid memory of being taken away. I think about if Micah had gone to china this summer and left us and how he would be reacting. So of course it would make sense that Lydia would have elements of terror in her heart when she thinks we are gone. And in her case she was taken away from her foster family 3 weeks before we got there and moved to the orphanage. And then we came. So she has two very recent and clear memories of being left.
Sometimes that’s scary. The unknowns of adoption. The fact that when she plays with her babydolls they are always crying.
She is grieving. We saw that in china but now we see it here. it’s a helpless place to be as a mom, unable to ‘fix’ her problems. I can hold her and thankfully she does lay right on my chest like a little newborn and snuggle into me. She lets me hold her and rub her head. But she cries and cries and I only wish I knew what was in her heart.
It does go away. Usually in about 10 minutes. And it hasn’t happened a lot, but definitely a noticeable amount of times. Such that we are now very conscious to tell her when we are leaving her, even if it is to run outside for a second. And i have begun talking to her much more about always being her mommy, never leaving, always loving her. I thought those conversations would be saved for when she was a bit older but I guess not. and they really aren’t conversations, they are a one-way dialogue of me speaking truth and love into her sweet soul.
I hope she hears me.
And just for laughs…tonight at dinner, Anna Claire was spending the night with Grammy and Pops, and Eric remarked at how different it was with only 3 kids. Josiah piped up, “man, it’s like only 3 instead of 1000!” not sure if that is a commentary on his sister…or 4 kids…or an 8 year old’s love of exaggeration. But it made me smile. Just wait…5’s coming.