“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.”
—The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (20 December 1943), para. 5, p. 499; quoted in The Quotable Lewis, (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989), 335.
I'll post pictures later...
Tonight's major gifts were the boys' suits of armor.
Before we started opening, I sat on the couch with Cameron and Ben and reminded them of what we were going to do, and why. We talked about how God gave us the gift of Jesus out of His great love for us, and we give gifts to each other to remind one another of the grace and love poured out for us by the Father.
This was a chance to talk about how Mommy and Daddy give the boys gifts no matter if they're good or bad, but because we love them, just as God gave us Christ even when we did not deserve it. Romans 5:8 says, "But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (This is also, incidently, one of the major differences between Santa Claus and God -- one that I didn't completely think through before I read Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in Our Traditions. Santa keeps a record of who's good and bad and gives gifts accordingly. )
It is so rich to me to be able to speak freely about this with my children. I am a sinner, they are sinners, and we sin against one another all the tme. Yet we love because God first loved us. Christmas is a time to express that love in a generous way.
I think at least one of the boys got the message -- on the way home from our errands this morning, Cameron said, "I know what Christmas is all about. We give gifts because God gave us Jesus. And we can enjoy our gifts just like we can enjoy Jesus every day. It's not just about being selfish with your presents, it's about enjoying them."
Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.
I checked my email this morning and found no shipment notice, and continued to fret (why oh why?!). I called them again, expecting to have to speak to a manager about upgrading my shipping or changing the shipping destination (having them send it to my in-laws in Indiana instead). But once again, I was pleasantly surprised. The nice man who answered the phone said, "well, it went out later than expected since you had a personalized item in your order, but it is scheduled to arrive at your house tomorrow." I think they upgraded my shipping for free, because it's coming via FedEx. Oh Hooray!! I would have hugged that man if I could have!! Thank you Lord for tending to the small details in my life!!
I remember a ladies' Bible study that I attended once when we were discussing Heaven. Numerous women spoke about their desire to see Christ. An older woman spoke and said, "I know I'll be excited to see Jesus, but I think the first thing I'll think is, 'No more sin!! Hooray!!' " I can relate to that...I can't imagine the lightness that will come with that moment.
As Christians we either feed the flesh or feed the spirit. We cannot do both. Perhaps I've been feeding my flesh too much lately, and that's why I feel the weight of it. How do I feed my flesh? By worrying about what people think...by busying myself with matters of the day to day instead of the eternal (this is easy in December!)....and the list goes on. It must be my business instead to discipline my thoughts and actions towards godliness. In those terms, it sounds like pure drugery, but in fact it is the most satisfying, and most "lightening" thing I could do.
Anyway, sorry for the rambling nature of this post. I awoke at 5:10 this morning and worried over trivial things for a good twenty minutes before getting up to take a deep breath and meditate on what's important.
Currently rolling around in my brain...
- the remaining items left to purchase on my Christmas shopping list
- an impromptu grocery list
- a list of stuff to pack for our trip this weekend
- the lyrics to "Labor of Love" by Andrew Peterson
some of it is on paper, some is not...
And here's a quote I found on AP's website that I enjoyed...
The Baby of Bethlehem was born so I could become right with God - and not only right with Him, but indwelt, directed, and empowered by Him. That infinite inheritance is available in the here and now - Christ is now our peace, our patience, our holiness, our love, our life. He is our all in all. But in order to access that inheritance, we have to let go of the mindset of self-effort, of self-improvement, of self-actualization. I don’t at all mean our actions shouldn’t be good actions - but what we must recognize is at the heart of our inner being, Christ lives, and we are complete in Him, holy, and acceptable to God. We don't start at the bottom of the mountain of holiness and start the climb; God has put us at the top in Christ. All that remains is to rely on the indwelling overcomer. That is why Paul could say both, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” and “I press forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” “When I am weak, then I am strong,’” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We are to trust violently in the indwelling Spirit, always reaching to trust more fully. We “cease from our own works” but “labor to enter His rest.” We move over from self-effort to putting our concentration on inner reliance, from trying to be good to living from His indwelling righteousness. -- Ron Block
Here's a documentary on the making of the project.
And I am determined to bring more friends with us next year! So clear your calendars, everyone! You won't be sorry!
(and happy birthday to David's mom, Cathy, too!)
I have narrowed down our extremely large collection to a few choice picture books that I heartily recommend.
1. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
A simply-told story of the first Christmas eve from the animals' perspective. Beautiful illustrations.
3. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey By Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
4. Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters by Patricia C. and Fredrick L. McKissack, illustrated by John Thompson
Daddy: That would be very sad, wouldn't it? Ben, would you want to sell Jonathan as a slave?
Ben: (with a sad expression) No.
Daddy: No, that's right. And why not?
Ben: Because he is too little.
Scene: Mommy and boys shopping in Target's dollar section.
Target customer: (loudly) One, two, three, FOUR boys! Are they all related?
Target customer: But these three (indicating Cameron, Ben, and Andrew) are triplets, right?
Target customer: So these (indicating Cameron and Ben) are twins?
Mommy: No, they're all singletons.
Target customer's husband: (mumbling) I guess we know what you've been doing for the past few years.
Ben: (excited to have this conversation, as he always is) We have SIX PEOPLE in our family!!! Four boys, one mommy, and two dads!
Target customer: (not missing a beat) Oh, well, that's good!
Mommy: No, Ben, you have ONE daddy!
Ben: Oh. (to Target customer) We have one dad, and he has a brother!!
Mommy: Yes, and he is your UNCLE!
Last night I was in flannel pajamas, a fleece bathrobe, under flannel sheets and an electric blanket turned up to 8 as well as a quilt, and I couldn't stop shaking.
I'm drinking lots of tea and water and taking Ibuprofen...I feel a bit better this morning but I am a long way from being well.
Just please pray that we have an uneventful day here.
1. "Hark the Herald" Is there any better Christmas lyric than "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th'Incarnate Deity" ? It's the perfect mix of doctrine and poetry.
2. "Mary's Boy Child" I think this goes back to my childhood, when a Boston DJ would raise money by playing the song for a certain amount of donations.
3. "I Wonder as I Wander" -- "for poor orn'ry people like you and like I"
4. "The Friendly Beasts" -- a lovely picture of the stable
5. "The Holly and the Ivy" -- a good reminder of the cross
6. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
7. "Christmas in Hollis" -- Run DMC, on "A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 2" "It's Christmastime in Hollis Queens, Mom's cookin' chicken and collard greens."
8. "Bells will be ringing" -- The Eagles. I'm such a sucker for a sad love song.
9. "Mele Kalikimaka" -- Bing Crosby. It never fails to make me laugh. It makes me laugh harder when David tries to sing it and usually ends up saying something like "Merry Christmas in Hawaii."
10. "Joy to the World" I love any song that tells of Christ's second Advent...it makes Christmas seem more...permanent, somehow.
11. "O Holy Night" "He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger"
12. "Ding, Dong Merrily on High"
13. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" -- with Miss Piggy's "ba-dum-bump-bump"
And a few that didn't make the list...
1. "The warm and Fuzzy time of the year" -- Billy Gilman. Ask yourself one question...would this song have any success if it weren't sung by ... Billy Gilman?
2. "The Christmas shoes" -- Yes, we all cried when we heard it the first time. Just goes to show you how overplaying a song can really ruin it for everyone. (are you listening, DJs?)
3. "Dance into Christmas" -- Elton John. What?!
4. "Last Christmas" -- George Michael. Everybody sing along..."Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, the very next day, you gave it away...."
5. "Grown up Christmas List" Please see #2.
6. "Hey Santa" -- Wilson Phillips. More proof that artists shouldn't try to compose their own Christmas songs. Just stick to the old standards, please (with the possible exception of #7 in the list above).
7. "All I Want for Christmas is You" -- Mariah Carey. See #6.
I am trying hard to not feel like a terrible mother for not having caught this earlier, and it seems that Jonathan may have two similarities to me: 1) a high pain tolerance (he was waking at night, but only for five minutes at a go, and he was usually comforted by an extra blanket or some Motrin) and 2) small middle-ear structures (I was extremely suceptible to ear infections as a young child). But still, at the end of the day, I feel badly that he had to go through this.
The good news is that as soon as his eardrum ruptured, he was in a much better mood. I guess the pressure was finally relieved. My friend Beth even commented on how chatty he was yesterday, and he slept better last night than he has in a week or two. I guess we're out of the woods now, as long as we keep up the medicine.
-decorating the tree...
-emptying the mailbox. Does anyone else feel like they're being assaulted with catalogs? I think LL Bean is trying to bury me!
- enjoying the weather. It's finally gotten cold enough to pass for fall/winter here. On Saturday we went on a fun walk with some friends through Charlotte's burgeoning arts district, NoDa. The weather was sunny, clear, crisp and cold...perfect for a walk!
- on Sunday the kids and I stayed home from church because Ben and Jonathan were sick. I ironed most of the morning. I am so far behind I may never catch up!
- Christmas shopping. Mostly online this year.
- Advent calendars, paper ones from relatives and our felt one that we use every year.- Today I'm taking Jonathan to the doctor, because I think he may have an ear infection. He's had a fever off and on for about a week now, and this morning as I tried to clean excess drainage from his ears, he screamed like he was being tortured.
What have you been up to?