Hope-filled Christmastime

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Christmastime.

It’s my favorite holiday.  Life becomes really hectic, but I love the traditions and the connection of family.

I was decorating this past weekend in preparation for our staff open house we host each year.  In a matter of a couple of days, our home is transformed into all things Christmas!  Sometimes I feel the stress and pressure.

This  year I was feeling old.

That’s really the only way I can describe it.  My oldest is in college and home for the holiday.  I have a teenager and another that isn’t, but sure seems like it.  I don’t have the little littles running around anymore.  The memories are running like a movie through my heart.

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As I was working with my smaller artificial trees that light up our office, the branches were looking tired and drooping kind of low.  I realized I have been using these trees for 11 years, at least.  No wonder they are looking a little tired.

That’s pretty good…artificial trees being used for that many years!  Especially after all our moves!   But, that served to make me feel OLD.

This all combined to make me feel like a middle-aged frump.  Now, I know you are trying to figure out how I made that jump.  I’m not sure…maybe it’s hormones.  But, I began to realize, many of my decorations and collections I have had for or started 25 years ago—some ornaments, longer than that.  My one tree only holds the beautiful ornaments from my childhood.  When you are newly married or a young momma, you don’t always think about such things.  But, alas, I am neither.

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So, as I am surrounded by so much history and memories I have to stop and think.  And remember.

Christmas has always been such a big focus for us.

We love this season passionately.  Just ask anyone who has helped us move over the years.  Friends tease me each November about the many Christmas boxes I have and the work that means for my guys.  I can’t help that we love Christmas!  Each one is different.  But, each have been special.

Some Christmases were during times of waiting for dreams to come to pass.  Some years were leaner than others.  There were a few where the stress got the better of me.  After a while, though, I learned how to set the boundaries I needed in order to make the holidays the best I could for my family and me.

Most have been years full of blessing and joy.

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Over the years, I have learned a beautiful rhythm.  It requires flexibility and letting go of the “perfect shiny ideal” of what Christmas should look like.  Each year there is an underlying rhythm that guides our holiday, yet, they are different and beautifully unique.  However, we do keep some constants with our traditions.

Christmastime is an amazing opportunity for traditions.  Our traditions are important for keeping each other connected.  Traditions are not chaos-inducing schedule fillers.  Children need them for a touchstone.  Ours aren’t incredibly elaborate, just constant.   So many chances for making memories!

The last two or three years I have endeavored to add in a focus on Advent.  Keeping Jesus as the focus isn’t our problem, He is the centrality of our holiday.  But, sometimes it is challenging gathering everyone together at the same time to stop and sit for a while.  But, yesterday’s focus for this Advent season was hope.  I began to think about the power of hope in life and the holidays.

I have had seasons of life where I lost hope.  Lost hope that things would get better or ever turn around for good.  Following my firstborn’s birth I struggled with postpartum depression.  We had very little money and times were difficult.  My hope meter was rather low.  Just a few years ago, we were facing insurmountable odds and it seemed our enemies far outnumbered our friends.  My hope quickly dwindled.

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I am convinced we can face anything if we hold on to hope.

Hope doesn’t come from our circumstances or our finances.  Hope comes from our belief that Christ has our back and will not leave us or forsake us.  We are able to keep an eternal perspective in mind.  When challenges are bombarding us, if we keep an eternal focus, we can hold on to hope.  Without hope, people perish.  He came that day so long ago to bring us hope.

HE is our HOPE.

This blog post has been a challenge to get published this week.  Whew!  The holidays, decorating, doctor’s appointments, homeschooling, oh my!  I missed my personal deadline for getting this posted.  We all have high demands on our time during the holidays.  But, I decided to offer myself some grace and knew you’d understand and probably can relate to the hustling and bustling!

It’s a busy, but hope-filled season in our home. 

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The years have come and gone so fast.

My firstborn is now a Sophomore in college and my others are quickly growing up.

My Christmas collections and ornaments are getting older by the year.

I decided the other day, I can either get really sad as I’m feeling older, or I can focus on the fact that really I’m not and there is so much life and hope in my future.  Sure, my babies aren’t tiny littles anymore (and oh, how I loved those stages and what Christmas looked like then), but life rolls in stages.

And, this stage is stunningly beautiful.  It has been hand-crafted by God for me and mine.  Such beautiful hope lives in that!

Take a few minutes to sit down, light some sparkling candles, drink something comforting and warm, and reflect on the goodness you have experienced and set your sights on the HOPE of a beautiful tomorrow!

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Merry Christmastime!

The Big Green Monster Machine

 

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What a whirlwind!  We’ve been on a 3 week going and coming and going again.  Reconnecting with long time friends, seeing great sights, chilling, revisiting old haunts and just living it up.  The five of us going in different directions, coming together and hitting the ground running.  To me, it feels like summer has come and gone, even though our homeschool doesn’t really start for another couple weeks.

We’ve experienced great firsts and made many memories.  After visiting my brother and his family in Michigan, and my guys hanging in Florida for a week at a conference, we all met back home just in time to pack my oldest off for his Sophomore year at university.  Not much of a breather and not a lot of time to get too emotional!

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I’m so grateful for a positive experience for him.  It is true.  A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.  And, a mom is truly happiest when her’s are thriving and doing well.  My goodness!  I couldn’t have dreamed or hoped for better for this child!  Anyway, life doesn’t have to be free of challenge and struggle to be joyous.

We did experience a first.  Not my favorite of firsts, by any means.  We had to say goodbye to my oldest and leave him behind as the rest of us flew off to Cali.  It was a work trip with a hefty dose of vacation fun thrown in.  Not our usual type of vacationing, but this hasn’t been a usual sort of summer, either.  We’ve NEVER not vacationed together!  We do family vacations.  I’m not sure a mom is ever really ready to have an MIA on vacation (unless, of course, you think vacation is only a vacation without the kiddos!).  This momma doesn’t, and this wasn’t my original plan.  But, I have to say, I did okay….but please, don’t make me do it again any time soon!  This child had to move in early due to some new responsibilities on campus and it just couldn’t be helped this time around.  Anyway, we all missed him, and were glad to see him and our much loved fur baby when we returned.

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I did learn something along the way!  What’s better than having fun and learning something along the way?  Sometimes, you just have to throw caution to the wind and ride the big, green monster machine!

Visiting my brother isn’t something I’ve been able to do in quite some time.  Visiting his home and family earlier this month was great fun!  He and his beautiful wife live in a bucolic setting in Michigan and showed me the very best time!  Now, his approach to fun (he is a guy, after all) is on a different scale than mine.  I’ll get to that in a moment!

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Growing up he and I saved our money to buy a go kart.  It was red and had a bright orange safety flag—my favorite feature as a kid—that flapped in the breeze the faster we went.  We lived in a subdivision, and I know we didn’t go too terribly fast.  It felt great as a kid.  Keep in mind, it has been a few years since I’ve plopped myself down in anything that resembles a kart.  My brother has gone big on the karting action.  He and his boys have a big, lime green dune buggy.

On, a small side note, he let my 11 year old daughter drive the big green dune buggy.  The only driving experience she has ever had is driving the motor cars at the Magic Kingdom.  You have to press the gas pedal all the way to the metal to get that sucker to move.  Yeah.  You see where I’m headed with this!  You know, hearing his recounting of zooming off over the hills and the terror it struck in him, brought some crazy sisterly happiness and satisfaction to my heart.  Sheer awesomeness!

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Somehow, I managed to not make it onto the passenger manifest until the very end of our stay.  I wasn’t in any need of speed, whatsoever.  But, when your younger brother says, “Sis, please ride it,”  gosh, golly.  I stepped on and made him swear not to do any daredevil stunts or endanger my life.  We hit the trail and rounded the lake.  Bugs flying and sun setting.  And, what a thrill!  It felt like being a kid again.  I’m good at being sewn up and walking straight.  I do serious and responsible well.  I manage my life and make calculated risks.  (Is that really risk?)

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And, you know, gosh darn it!  Everybody needs a spin on a big green monster dune buggy at some point in their life!  Let the wind fly, eat the bugs, jump the hills and make the wild turns.  Watch the sun set and realize the amazingness of it all!  Let your hair down and abandon some of that adultish reserve.  Maybe you don’t have that problem.  Good for you!  Me?  I needed the reminder from that big green dune buggy.

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Thanks, baby brother, for helping me to free up a bit!  You’ll never guess!  The next morning before leaving, I asked for another spin on the ‘ol green monster!  That twilight ride was amazing.  I needed another fix before hitting the road in more sensible transportation.

I’m so glad I did it.  Sometimes, baby brothers can know best!  Really.  Just sometimes!  Here’s what I think!  You need to go find a big green monster of some sort.  Not literally….unless you just want to, of course.  Take some time to bring back the wonder and the child-likeness of letting go and letting your hair down.  Occasionally, we need the reminder that life is dull if we don’t open up to adventure.  Try something new.  Get out of your same every day rut.  Go live!

Here’s to great summer memories and adventures.  There is some time left before the days get shorter and the rush hits fast.  Go out and make the most of this one beautiful life!

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