An Angel’s Reason for the Season

Photo Dec 09, 11 14 49 PMChristmas is full of so many things.  Presents, trees, lights, santas, cookies, music, elves, cards, wrapping, stockings…the list goes on forever and ever.  All of these things, in and of themselves are wonderful things that can add to the traditions and memories of our families but I think that sometimes we can find ourselves literally completely wrapped up in it all.  From my own experience, I know the season can become more about the endless shopping that needs to be done or the numerous parties that need to be attended or the mounds of gifts that are placed under the tree and somewhere in it all the real reason for the season is completely lost.

Noticing the ever-increasing need to always have more things our family has found it important to keep the focus on the season of Christmas centered the REASON for Christmas.  While there is always that innate excitement for Christmas morning, we have worked to direct the focus of that morning on the most precious gift ever given and the countdown towards that day on God’s Love and the sacrifice that was made when he came to Earth as a baby so long ago.

While trying to keep it simple, one of the God-centered traditions we started last year was our Christmas Angel tradition. It seemed that many people where doing the ever-popular Christmas Elf and while I love seeing Facebook posts that show all the trouble those sneaky little elves have gotten themselves into, it just didn’t cover the true meaning of Christmas (and well, since our kids know the Santa “truth”…I guess it really wouldn’t have been as much fun anyway). So for us we have a sweet angel doll that is hidden each night.  The kids take turns each morning, (because arguments break out otherwise…nobody said they were the angels) walking around the house in search of the hidden angel.  Placed with the angel is a specific act of love and kindness that becomes the focus of that day.  For us, some of the acts are things that can be done within the family and many are things that are done outside of the family.  Below are just a few ideas for some of the service tasks that have been (or will be) delivered by our Christmas Angel.

*  Write 3 notes of kindness to your sibling and hide them somewhere in the house where they will be found
*  Make a special treat and deliver to the postman, and/or trash collector
*  Buy a gift card for the person in line behind us and hand it to them on the way out
*  Write a card/letter to somebody special and mail
*  Sponsor a child and go shopping
*  Make a card or special treat for the teacher, pastor, bus driver, neighbor, etc
*  Ride around and look at Christmas lights and leave a note for those that really made your night
*  Take some money to the library and pay for somebody else’s fees 
*  Do 3 extra specials for a sibling and a parent
*  Surprise somebody with a phone call
*  Drop change in the Salvation Army bucket
*  Head to the park with a handful of stickers and pass them out to the kids that you see
*  Deliver donuts to the firehouse/police station
*  Go caroling at a nursing home

Photo Dec 09, 11 14 58 PM

In our house the kids are so excited to find Angel’s new hiding place each morning and usually even more excited to discover what things they will be working on for that day.  Hopefully in the process, they are learning more and more about the TRUE meaning of Christmas and are able to spread more and more of it’s joy throughout the season.

NOTE:  For those who are interested I’ve also found that there is an official Christmas Angel set that can be purchased at an affordable price.  While I do not have this particular Angel I know it is based on the same principal and even comes with a book.  They have both a boy and a girl version.  The boy, in particular is really, really cute!  I’m not sure how we’d ever get rid of our already loved Angel but if the year comes that we must, or she needs a boy backup, I know I’ll be heading their way.  And no, I’m not getting anything for saying that…they really are pretty cute.  Now, off to hide Angel with her next Christmas act of love!

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Busy Bees

Rest time hit today and I decided to pick up the camera and head outside.  In the herb garden the rosemary has bloomed and there was a great number of bees busily moving from one bloom to another indulging in the sweetness of the plant’s nectar.  It’s not very often that I will hang around a bunch of bees but these guys were so pre-occupied that I knew I could hang without causing too  much distraction.  I watched and photographed them for quite some time.  As I watched I was reminded of all of the pieces in God’s beautiful creation and significance that each plays on the other.  These bees were busy!  They were moving back and forth from bloom to stem back to bloom and onto leaves.  They barely stopped.  They had a job to do and a limited time to do it.  They were following the pattern that God set up for them many many years ago.  No distractions, just the playing out of that which is before them.  It was one beautiful thing to watch.

Sometimes I feel like the bee.  I am always busy buzzing around from one thing to another.  I always feel like I have things to do and am always strapped to get them done in a limited amount of time.  However, unlike the bee I am not just following the pattern of nature.  I am given the choices.

I read an excerpt from a book the other day that pointed out that we, as humans, are the only species that have to ask “what should I eat?”.  While it was food that I was researching at the time, this statement really made me think about us humans and the abundances of choices that are in front of us for everything we do.

For all other animals there are no “choices”.  There is simply the “what is”.  The rabbit does not look at the abundance of my garden vegetables in front of him and contemplate which one he wishes to devour first nor does the blue bird spend a huge amount of time strategizing in which tree he will build his nest.  They just do what God created them to do.

Now think about us.  Just visualize the aisle of a grocery store and the immense number of salad dressings that exist and one can go crazy with the choices that we have to make.  That’s just salad dressing?  As humans, we have to make choices on just about everything.  What will we eat?  When will we eat?  How much will we eat?  How will we spend out money?  How will we earn that money that money that we spend?  What time will we go to bed?  What time will we wake up?  How will we do the laundry?  What detergent will we use when we do it?  What will we wear today?  What will our children wear today?  What book will we pick up?  Will we pick up a book?  How will be spend our time?

Those are just the simple ones.  We are also confronted each and every moment with even greater choices that impact who we are as individuals and who those around us are as individuals.  Wow, choices come with some great responsibility.

I love choices.  I like that I don’t have to follow the mold that is set up by those around me.  I like that I can do what I want to to do, essentially when I want to do it.  But I also want to remember the bees.  The bees do what is natural.  They gather the nectar and pollenate the plants.  They mate and lay eggs.  They even occasionally sting.  Their goal is for survival and work to accomplish that by doing nothing but what God intended for them to do.

Yes, my goal is different. My goal is to live out the glory of God.  But, I am not so sure that all the choices I make and all of the busyness I create for myself exemplifies that true plan.   Maybe, there are days that I need to set back, let nature lead the way and get busy like the bee; forgetting all of the choices that are in front of me and simply let God set the pattern for how things should go.  Beautiful busy bees!

FYI, Now I have an itching for a macro lens.  I have an interest to get even closer to those busy bees.

Linking up with Brooke at One Beautiful Thing

My Beautiful Thing

I wrote earlier this week about how sleep deprived I felt in these earliest stages of Littlest Man’s life and confessed the full blown temper tantrum that I threw on a day I was unable to take a much needed nap.

I mentioned at the end of that post, that although some of these days have been rough, I do not wish them to pass too quickly.  I cherish these moments.  The sweet and the tender.  With every bit of my being I hold them close to my heart knowing that one day I will look back and wonder just where did those moments go.

One of my ‘bestest’ friends, at Surprised by Life is hosting a weekly photography challenge called “One Beautiful Thing”.  The goal is to capture one picture a week to remind us of the beauty God created around us.

I love photography.  I love how it captures those moments in our lives that are either changed or completely gone in a second.  I love how it focuses on the detail of life and carries it forward to the generations that come.  I love how it sparks memories and allows for interpretation.  I wish I were better at it!

So, as a gift to myself, I am participating.  I challenge myself, however, to not become disappointed when the subjects (i.e. my children) do not want to participate or when the captured photo does not match my own vision.  Whether it be the smiling (or crying) faces of my kids or the the sunset off of my front porch I want to use my camera to capture the beautiful life that God has so wonderfully gifted to me.

I love the picture above.  I took it when the other two were napping and I had a few, quiet, undisturbed minutes to enjoy this sweet, newest addition to our family.  These moments are few and far between as noted by the chaos that often erupts when I settle down to nurse.  I am so glad I was able to capture the  expression on his face, and the peacefulness he had as he began to drift off to sleep himself.

Is it me, or is there a small ‘heart’ shape created by his hands? That, right along with his smile, seems to be saying to me,”Mommy, I know what I’m doing. You just enjoy!”

And because there was no way I could upload just one, I also included this beautifully sweet picture as well.

Don’t forget to join me each Thursday as I link up to Surprised by Life to show off my own beautiful pictures.

One Beautiful Thing

Sleep Deprived

I planned a nap, you’re going to get this post instead.

At 2:45, after a more tiring morning, all kids were in their rooms for their afternoon nap.  Pretty Girl should be down for 2-3 hours, BroBro for about 2, and Littlest Man was due to be woken for his next nursing at 4:00.  My mind wondered.  Just what was it I should do with this precious quiet time?

There was the to-do list; long, and growing by the minute.  There was the book; intriguing and too often neglected.  There was the exhaustion; overbearing and almost overwhelming.

Which one would win the battle?  The list, the book or the nap?  NAP?  I needed a nap!

Littlest Man turned 8 weeks old today.  Oh, the moments have been so precious….but oh so tiring.  Sleep deprivation has been harder this time around.  Maybe it is due to the fact that caring for an infant is not “new” or maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m a few years older, or maybe it’s just because there’s a 4 and 2 year old sibling that alone keep me on my toes but whatever the reason, I am tired.

Both BroBro and Pretty Girl started sleeping through the night at exactly 7 1/2 weeks.  I think that maybe I was hopeing Littlest Man would do the same.  Well, 7 1/2 weeks have come and gone and a full night’s sleep has not yet been gained.  Now, at a few days past that mark I have started to feel frustrated. I think I knew I could make it to that point, almost giving myself a goal point.  Now, I just feel tired.

So why is it that I have a blog post during this time; this sweet time when I should have taken that much needed nap?  At 2:45 everyone was down and asleep and I was just about to lay my head back and close my eyes but at 3:15 Littlest Man was awake and screaming his presence.  As I listened to his cries and begged him to sleep his scheduled 45  minutes more, I too began to cry.  I needed this time and I was frustrated.  I wanted to hurl myself on the ground and throw a tantrum just like my 2 year old daughter.  

Torture in it’s rawest form, sleep deprivation has left me grumpy, impatient, frustrated, and emotional.  It has given me days that I have been so tired that I have lost my balance just standing in one spot and many more where I have found it virtually impossible to think clearly.  Not only have I felt miserable myself but I have felt that I have made the life of those around me also miserable.  I have earned no “Mother of the Year” awards lately.  With most days resulting in total chaos, I have felt almost incompetent to handle the day-to-day situations that arise from staying at home with 3 young children.

But wait, it hasn’t be TOTAL chaos.  I recently read the following two posts:   The Crazy Comes in Waves and Toot Your Horn that seemed to hit this very struggle that I am currently facing.  Both of them pointed out the importance of focusing on the positives of each day rather than dwelling on the struggles.  As I read both of them, I nodded my head in agreement.  Noting that this was me!  This is where I am right now.  How right they were.  Not every moment has been chaos.  Not every minute has been stressful.  I have had many good days.  I have had several where I have felt rested.  We have continued to work on school.  We have made it to our music class, library time, and playdates.  We have read books and played with toys.  We have had fun.  God placed those posts in my reader for a reason.  And he did it twice because because he knew I was just tired enough to only half pay attention the first time.

I can do this.  Sleep will come and with the help of God I will survive and so will my family.  I do NOT pray these days to pass quickly.  I know way to well how the moment they are gone is the same moment I wish them back but I do pray for my own continued patience as I savor the next few nights…or weeks…or do I dare even say months of precious, baby-hoding sleep-deprivated time.

Please Lord, help me to not just nod my head in agreement as I read these words of hope and encouragement but to live them out when I am struggling the most.