A Moment to Remember

We all need more moments like these. Or at least I know I do.

Complete abandon, going down screaming with joy, one hand raised in the air in triumph, with no concern about what’s at the bottom.

Have one of those moments today.

Let’s do it.

Ben_slide

Christmas Gifts

The stockings are hung, the presents are wrapped, the goodies are baked.  We’ve rehearsed our Christmas Eve KidStuf show, decorated for the Christmas Eve candlelight service, watched the favorite Christmas classics, and even cleaned the house.  We’ve bought the last minute presents and should be sitting back relaxing and enjoying it.

But I’m on day two of migraines and getting enough relief to barely function but nothing more.  And Michael is on week three of an episode that hasn’t landed him in the hospital but has made me contemplate the need for it many times.  So just like usual, I’m feeling a bit sorry for us, and mostly for him.  He should be able to enjoy this season, but we’re here once again and he’s struggling with the emotional battlefield that creates.

But God keeps sending us these small surprises that help keep us going, and remind me that we’re not forgotten.

First, there was this gift.

As I dug through my wrapping paper supplies, which includes old Christmas cards that I use as tags, I saw handwriting that I hadn’t seen in years.  6 1/2 years actually.

Austin’s last Christmas with us we made quite a few sweet memories.  One of them was him helping me with Michael’s Christmas gift.  Austin was a computer whiz, and I asked him to set up and configure the new laptop that he’d helped me find.  He met me at Panera and we drank coffee while he worked on it, to make sure Michael didn’t see.  He then bought a warranty to go with it as Michael’s gift, and what I found was his handwritten note saying that he’d bought him a warranty.

It’s the kind of thing I’d normally throw away, and I’m not sure why I kept it.  I’m not sure how it sat in that box of supplies for so long without me seeing it either.  But as I sat wrapping presents this year, with Michael asleep near me, and me hoping for a miracle for him this year, I got a small one of my own.  A reminder of my brother and of the love he had for us.

Later that night, last night, another completely unexpected gift was given.

A small company, UnMarketing, who says to ‘Stop Marketing, Start Engaging’ did just that through granting items from wish lists for a fairly large group of people.  They asked you to send them Amazon wish lists, and they’d be selecting some people to pick an item off the list and send it.  No questions, no fuss, no contest.  They didn’t make you share it to win it, or like them on Facebook, or fill out an application.

Within 10 minutes, two items off of Michael’s Christmas list were ordered and a personal note sent about why the man behind this chose those- he didn’t just throw money (which was cool enough on it’s own) but he took time to connect.  They weren’t high ticket items, but they’re items that he’ll love.

And with those two gifts, I’m reminded….

We’re loved, we’re taken care of, we’re not forgotten.

I wish I didn’t have to write a post like this every year- that I didn’t struggle with balancing the great and true Joy of the God we’re celebrating and the kids who have my heart with the heartache of this illness and my brother being missing.  I often feel like I’ve said as much as I can say on these topics, and have nothing more to give.

But maybe, you’re like me and facing the same things year after year and needing the reminder that just because you are doesn’t mean you’re forgotten, or unloved.

He loves us more than we can know, which is after all why we have Christmas to celebrate.

Merry Christmas my friends.

 

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009

 

Fake

Pleather
Artificial sweetener
Hair color

Plants
Chemically processed food

Fake things are all around us, and in this day and age we’re so used to them we barely realize the difference.  Some of them are okay, and some of them are very bad.  Artificial sweetener?  More and more research proves that it is no good.   Food that starts real is quickly processed until it is closer to plastic than food, and on it goes.

And then there are….

White lies
Plastered smiles
Boastful stories
Passing “how are you’s”

We consume these without a problem, as we hear and see them as often as the real.  But even worse, we give them out to be consumed, rather than the truth.  It’s so much easier than the truth, so much less messy for us and for others.  We put up our fake smiles and we accept others without questioning, and we all go on.

It’s no wonder that we often have a hard time finding joy in life and living life to the full potential that God meant for us to.  He gave us real tangible things, and souls of emotion and passion.  We found ways to manufacture these things.  But they don’t come close to the real thing.

I’m tired of fake.  About six weeks ago I started cutting out the fake food- no artificial anything, nothing processed with chemicals, nothing I ate most of the time.  What a change.  Now I taste food for what it really is- salty or sweet, crunchy or soft, all as it was meant to be.  I’m seeing a change in my health too, and I feel good.

I’m making some changes personally too, still holding back when I should, but working on not being fake either.  It’s tough.

But I’m reminded time and time again, that it’s how we were designed, how our world was designed.  So getting back to that, is the real deal.

Real, not faked, Joy

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.

Choosing Joy

A few days ago I wrote half a blog post that I couldn’t get finished for some reason.   I was reminded of it this morning, how I’d written about choosing to be happy even in times where that’s tough.  Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote:

“When I was a teenager, the words that could irritate me like no other were “decide to be happy”- usually coming from my dad when something in my teen world wasn’t going quite right- and in the life of a teenage girl, things usually aren’t.  I knew he was right but that didn’t make me like it any more.”

Well, things aren’t going quite right for us this week.  It’s Christmas, the most magical time, a time I truly love.  And today and tomorrow are my favorite days of the year.  Tonight’s plan was our KidStuf show at church, with Michael and I on stage and our boys in the audience, with our amazing and talented team helping prepare hearts of kids of all ages for Christmas.  Then, we were to have dinner with a group of friends we call family, and would end the night with a beautiful candlelight service.  Tomorrow morning we’d wake up to the awe and wonder of our boys’ faces as they discovered the tree transformed with gifts from Santa and gifts from us.  We’d have a relaxing day and one of our favorite meals (a big pot of shrimp boil) before packing the car and making the drive to see Michael’s family for a few days.  As with every day, especially days like this, we would miss Austin and wish he was there.  But it would be a magical time regardless.

view from the room this morning

Instead, I’m writing from Michael’s hospital room yet again, and making sure that all bases are covered for Santa to still visit, and the rest of Christmas Day to be postponed until we’re home.  We won’t be able to reschedule Christmas Eve with our family of friends, or reschedule the trip to West Virginia anytime soon (much too long a drive for a weekend visit, much too expensive to fly and tough to schedule with Drew in school).

Today’s a day I truly have to choose to be happy, but I have to dig deeper than just happy.  Happy is a feeling that is influenced by circumstances, but Joy is part of who you are.  Joy is knowing that no matter the circumstances, no matter the feelings of the moment, your soul has peace.  I could get away with giving into the disappointment today, it’s understandable.  But I won’t.  I choose joy.

I’m joyful for the reason for Christmas, for a savior who was born to change the world.  I’m joyful for the promises made that no matter our circumstances, there is reason for joy.

All around us there are people needing to choose joy because of things happening that make it so difficult.  I see it here- from staff who will be working, to families wishing they were anywhere else.  I see it in those I love who are missing someone or are struggling to provide.  But I’ve seen people choosing joy already today- nurses and food services staff who are cheerful and give no clue they’d rather be home, and family members wishing Merry Christmas to those they see.  And we have many around us choosing to help us find joy by loving us in their own ways, as they have so many times.   What I’ve realized, is that when we choose joy for ourselves, we can’t help but spread it to others as well.

Merry Christmas my friends, what a joyous day it is.