Slowing, Focusing. How Pictures from Haiti Help Me See.

I sit here on Christmas Eve eve.  I’m tired.  We’ve done a lot of good things this week, but I’m tired of doing and ready to rest.  I could have done less, yes.  But then I would probably be sitting here today wishing I had done more to share with others this Christmas.  And isn’t that the strange way our minds work…no matter what we do, what we do is wrong.

As I look at the calendar pages, past Christmas into next week which runs quickly into January I am amazed that in just a little over a month I will (Lord willing) be able to see, meet, and hold my sweet girl in Haiti.  And I think of the pictures brought to us by sweet friends who were visiting their daughter also waiting in Haiti and of the expression on her face as she looked at a picture of us.

And I am floored.

First of all, the hope and love I saw in her eyes.  Perhaps not a full experience of love, but more than I ever expected to see this soon.  I feel entirely unworthy of any such affections and I am humbled.

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Second, though, I think of the hope she has for a future.  The way she longs for her future home.  For a family.  For security.  For love.  And I think of our own longings and hope for our future.  That this world is not our home anymore than Haiti is her permanent home and how Haiti is to America as America is to Heaven, yet the dichotomy is even greater.  And I think of how my Jesus, He left that heavenly home to come rescue me, you, her.  All of us.  He came to our dingy, dirty, sin-soaked world and lived like us and ate like us and walked like us and did everything like us except sin.  And as I sit here trying to bite my tired, hormone-infused tongue as I answer the same question for the I-don’t-know-how-manyth-time, I marvel at how He did this life sinlessly since I can’t even do an hour that way.  And as I marvel at the how, I can’t help but contemplate the why.  Why would He do that?  Why would He love a broken humanity that much?  Why would He give up everything to come to this dirty, broken world to save a dirty, broken people?

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Because He loves us.  Because His very nature is love.  He is also goodness and holiness and righteousness and justice and glory.  But He is love and it is that love the compelled Him to come, to live, to die, to save.  And that is the most incredible gift and that is what Christmas is about and that is why Christmas is not the beginnning any more than Good Friday is the end because He has always been and always will be and He has known us since before time and because of His death and resurrection we can know Him for all eternity to come.

He is glorious and He is worthy and He is love.  And He is our hope, our true hope.

This Christmas, as I finally finish up all of this baking and cleaning and stuff that in a lot of ways matters only to me, I feel my heart settling, slowing, and focusing.  Focusing on a little girl in Haiti who waits expectantly and with hope for an earthly family to love her and take her home.  And focusing on a Savior who loved humanity so much He chose to be born in a stable, live life as a man, and die on a tree.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Christmas Traditions

We’ve had a fun month and in particular a fun week of doing some old and new things to prepare for Christmas.

We started out by reading Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree devotional.  This is our second year reading this wonderful collection.  It is free to download on her website.

Another favorite is Max Lucado’s One Incredible Moment.  A collection of stories from a variety of his books, we read one a day throughout December.  It’s a wonderful way to reflect on the incredible gift of Jesus.

This Christmas season, Matt told me I could spend some money updating our Christmas decorations.  I didn’t actually end up spending too much, but it did get my wheels turning and help me to look at our decorations to see what could be updated or changed or redone.  It’s been fun!  We did some different/new things this year that I’ve really liked, most of them involving cardstock, pictures, ornaments, and ribbon.

First, inspired by a photo posted by my friend Kristen last Christmas, we tied ornaments to ribbon and hung them from the curtain rods in all of the front windows.  I haven’t been able to get a very good picture, but they look so lovely, if I may say so myself.  😉

December 18, 2011  One of my favorite Christmas decorations - ornaments hanging in the front windows - inspired by a friend.  Not a great representation; will have to try to get a better angle another time.

I also decided to try something new with Christmas cards this year.  We have two doorways that I drape garlands over.  This year I bought black cardstock and some pretty ribbon.  I pulled out the old decorative scrapbooking scissors and as Christmas pictures came in, I would adhere the pictures to the card stock, cut a pretty edge, put ribbon on the back, and hang it from the garland.  It’s fun to see our friends and family’s smiling faces as we enter our home.

December 14, 2011  How we displayed our Christmas cards this year.

December 14, 2011  Technically not taken on the 14th, but a better angle on the same thing.

For gift tags this year I decided to print a bunch of pictures from the past year.  Some of our girls don’t like to know who is getting what so I had to get creative.  So, once again taking black cardstock, decorative scissors, and ribbon, on one side of the card stock I put a picture of who the gift was to, on the other side I put a group or family picture.  I taped them by the ribbon to the box with the individual picture facing down.  I only did this on our gifts to the girls, so there wasn’t any need to indicate who they were from.  It’s so fun to see all their lovely faces on the packages under our tree.

December 17, 2011  Photos as gift tags on Christmas presents.

One more decorating thing, I think…  We have a beautiful old fireplace in our dining room, but it doesn’t work nor does it have a cover to hide the gas elements or whatever they’re called.  For years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make that part of it more attractive.  Well, this year I decided to carry the ornament idea into the dining room.  I hung ornaments from the same ribbon as I used in the windows, from the inside of the fireplace.  They look lovely!  Now I’ll have to figure out what to put there once the decorations come down!  

We’ve also watched some of our favorite movies – The Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street (the old version), and Elf.  There are still a few I would like to watch.  They include How the Grinch Stole Christmas (maybe I’ll take this one for the kids to watch tomorrow night at my parents’), The Nativity (planned for Christmas Eve sometime), The Christmas Story (on Christmas Day since it usually runs all day long).  The only one I’m still trying to fit in is Christmas Vacation.  We won’t let the girls watch that one yet, so maybe late one night this weekend.

We also got a little crafty this season (thank you, Pinterest).  Grace is working on a couple of different things on her own, but yesterday everyone sat down together and painted ornaments.  So easy, so fun, and so beautiful! 

And let’s not forget all of the food we’ve made this month.  Craziness!

Oh, it’s been a fun season of doing something different!  I’m looking forward to this weekend and resting, relaxing, and celebrating His coming with those we love most.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Carrying Christmas On

Christmas draws closer by the moment.  As I’ve said, the “hustle and bustle” are over here and we are enjoying slowing down – watching movies, reading books, baking yummy foods, just feeling a greater sense of rest.

I love the beginning of the Christmas season.  Putting up the decorations.  The delicious smells.  The warmth.  The wonder and anticipation.  The excitement of so many special traditions about to be done again.  And each day that passes is somewhat bittersweet, knowing that soon the wonder will be over and life will go on (yes, I have a bit of an inner Eeyore).

But someone shared recently in church that Christmas isn’t the beginning, any more than Good Friday is the end.  This Jesus, He is the one who was and is and is to come.  So how can we live in the light of Christmas year round?  Can we carry this wonder and joy into the new year?  Can we experience the mystery of God taking on human flesh on a rainy spring day?  Can we delight in the thought of baby Jesus swaddled in the manger when it’s 90 degrees in July?  Can we continue to imagine the wise men bowing low as leaves turn gold?

Can we live, as Simeon did, always in anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah?  Because He is coming again, you know.  We live in a long advent now, always awaiting His return, and shouldn’t our joy and hope be even greater because we know that He is coming back and He will come as a conquering King and He will make all things right?

I do have that inner-Eeyore, a tendency to get down when life gets uncomfortable or inconvenient or just plain mundane.  But I want to carry the wonder of Christmas with me, to remember that something even greater is coming, and that we are to wait with eager anticipation for His glory to be revealed.

December 21, 2011  He truly is the reason for every season.

I’m not sure yet what this looks like, this carrying of Christmas through the year, but I want to continue this sense of wonder and joy, amazement at all He is and is doing and is going to do.  Perhaps this is part of what the counting of gifts does.  Keeps our eyes open to His goodness to us, His love for us, not just once a year under a tree, but year round as He shows us He loved us enough to die on a tree.

And that is what it’s about, isn’t it?  The wonder of it all is that He does love us enough that He came to take on flesh, live life as a man, and die for one such as me, such as you.  The wonder of it all!

One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a Virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He

Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He

Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

‘Cause living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore

Death could not hold Him
The grave could not keep Him from rising again

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
Glorious day

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my beloved one bringing
My Savior Jesus is mine

Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day
Glorious day, oh, glorious day

(by Casting Crowns)

Oh, Lord, as Christmas comes and goes, let me never forget the wonder of you.  Let me carry through the coming year the mystery of you coming as a babe to die as a man – for me, for all of us.  Oh, glorious day!

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

How My Eyes Were Opened To Contentment Today

This week has been one of those weeks.  A week when I wrestle old demons.  This one born of temperament stubbornly resurfaces on a regular basis.  That old foe Discouragement he shows up when lists grow long and things go undone and it seems I will never get it right.  And how is it the Christmas season only seems to accentuate my inadequacies?

Last night I slumped off to sleep.  Heavy.  Weary.  Burdened.  I awoke this morning much the same.  With coffee in hand and Bible in my lap, I curled up on the couch with lamp and Christmas tree light to illuminate and asked, cried nearly, “Lord, I need to hear from you today.”  And in only following along on my Bible-In-A-Year plan, today is Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v. 1)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (v. 18)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (v. 26)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (vv. 31-32)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (v. 37)

And the verse from Streams today…

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And from Jesus Calling, yesterday’s reading…

“Your needs and My riches are a perfect fit.  I never meant for you to be self-sufficient.  Instead, I designed you to need Me not only for daily bread but also for fulfillment of deep yearnings.  I carefully crafted your longings and feelings of incompleteness to point you to Me.”

Oh, and Ann, from yesterday, with her words on disappointment and how it’s all about praise, not perfection.

And after all of this I stood in the shower, thanking Him for hearing me and answering me so quickly and for His great love toward me.  And He continues to speak, to minister.  And I realize that it is not this season or our schedules that are the problem.  It is my expectation.  I want something I cannot have right now.  I want slow, but that is not the season we are in.  With four active children, a business, ministry, and more, this is not the season for slow and we will all be much happier if I would just stop fighting it and embrace the crazy a little more.  We are making memories and doing good things and all of this can be a blessing if I can change my perspective and be myself a blessing to my family by being fully here in the crazy and being joyful in the midst of it.

And my heart is lighter as I realize all of this and I know all of those things that can weigh heavy will get finished and Christmas will be wonderful because it is not about how much I was able to do in preparation for the holiday but about being fully present to worship the One who came to ransom me and about pointing their hearts (the girls’ hearts) toward that same One.  It’s about setting a tone that makes them want more of Him.  And with a little more than two weeks left til Christmas, that is my prayer.  These things on my lists, they still need to be done.  But they can be done with a light heart when done out of love for Him and for others rather than a love for my own sense of accomplishment.

God is good to hear the cries of this broken vessel.  He is merciful to continue to remove the burdens I keep picking back up.  He is worthy of my love and worship.  He is good and He is the reason for the hope that I have and the joy of this season.  May His name be praised.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Reflecting

It’s Monday morning.  Life is moving at a slower pace today.  It is 8:45 a.m. and (thankfully) the house is still so quiet.

As I sit here this morning I cannot help reflecting and praying.

I think of a friend who’s son is in routine surgery right now and even though it is perhaps mundane for the doctors, a mother’s heart breaks to see her child in pain.

I think of another friend, a couple from our Sunday school, who will today – and perhaps already have – deliver(ed) their child, their third.  A child who has been washed in prayer by countless saints for healing, for miracles.  But most of all, for God’s will.  I pray for them as they begin an uncertain journey.  I know they would appreciate your prayers as well.

I think this morning of my husband who today celebrates nearly three and a half decades on this earth.  I think of how thankful I am for him, how he is my steady rock and my soft place to fall.  I think of how I don’t ever want to do this life without him and how my life is changed because he was born 34 years ago today.

And I think today of my Savior, whose birth we celebrated with much fanfare and joy and anticipation just two days ago.  I  think of what it might have been like for Mary two thousand years ago.  A two day old son.  Was she just starting to come out of the exhausted fog of birth?  Or was she just entering it?  As she “treasured up all these things and pondered them”, surely she had no idea what lay ahead.  I think of my Lord as a tiny infant.  God, who took on skin and sin, so I might be clothed in righteousness.  Him, who bound up all glory in an earthly tent, to show His faithfulness unto death.

Christmas is past.  As we walk toward the new year, may we keep the heart of Christmas – the wonder, the delight, the thankfulness – at all that He has done, all that He has given.

0977.  fifty degrees on the last day of autumn

0978.  desperate, overwhelming exhaustion

0979.  losing “the list”


0980.  running buddy back on her feet

0981.  Mahner-time for the girls

0982.  client gifts delivered

0983.  shopping DONE!


0984.  geese in flight

0985.  surprise email encouragement


0986.  oreo cookie gifts

0987.  an unexpected gift from a friend

0988.  new blender

0989.  gps that makes 34 deliveries so much easier

0990.  days that will now get longer

0991.  the freedom to sleep in


0992.  Beloved home on Christmas Eve

0993.  family celebrations

0994.  anticipation

0995.  singing Happy Birthday to Jesus


0996.  slow Christmas morning

0997.  leisurely days

0998.  birthday of my best friend


Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.

~ Psalm 105:1-6

~ Sara

Time and Balance – Keeping Our Eyes on Him

As we wind down into Christmas, I hope that you are exercising balance and finding time for those that you love most.  Today will be our last day of school and I know that I am looking forward to spending some time with the girls, baking Christmas treats, reading cherished Christmas stories, and watching favorite movies.

I pray that we will all be able to sift through our “to do’s” and postpone any that are not essential.  Let this week leading into Christmas be one filled with making memories and focusing on the Savior.