Category Archives: Advent Conspiracy

Surrender

Worship Fully.

Spend Less.

Give More.

Love All.

When I got into the car this evening, the radio played the song “Surrender” by U2 (my boys).  Seemed appropriate since my friend surrendered her physical existence this evening.  Yvonne, thank you for your sweet presence and wonderful legacy:  thank you for being who you were, surrendered to Christ.

That’s Why We Give?

Worship Fully:  Didn’t make it to corporate worship this morning – sniffles, aches, and sleepyheads.  But I tried to slow down the day, not engage in the hustle and bustle of being at home (laundry, cleaning, etc.).  The tree was decorated, manger scenes played with, and some cleaning happened, but that was during quiet time, so it doesn’t count, right?  🙂

Spend Less:  Like I said, I was going to spend less time doing the things I feel *need* to get done.  Normally I would dive into the laundry with the air of martyrdom about me while everyone else rested.  Instead, I sat.  I sat with a baby on my lap and looked at the tree.  In the evening Jason asked if he could help start laundry:  who am I to say no? 🙂

Give More:  Today I gave more thought as to why we give at all.  At lunch time while reading a Parenting Magazine  I came across a section explaining brief synopsis to give to kids about the variety of holidays occurring this time of year.  The Christmas explanation stated that we give presents in remembrance of the magi who gave gifts to the Baby Jesus.  For some odd reason I’ve never made that connection.  I would say something about St. Nick giving gifts and celebration of Christ’s birth, but I never tied it to the Magi.

Which got me thinking:  if it’s in remembrance of that event, then the whole Christmas holiday is really mucked up!  Obviously.  But really:  if we’re going to be like the magi, we should be giving gifts to Christ, not each other.  True, I could use a Quaker principle as a cop-out, “But I’m giving to that of Christ in others!”  🙂  But how is giving a DVD player to another person honoring the birth of the Christ child?  Yes, the magi’s gifts were extremely costly, so we need to spend ourselves into debt?  OR we give of something that’s truly costly to us.  For myself:  it’s my quiet time – I *love* to be by myself, to think and write and read and be.  To give that time to my kids, to do something they want to do whether I find it a good use of time or not, that is costly to me.  And I think that might be honoring of Christ ….  Just some interesting thoughts.

Love All:  I don’t know that I loved all today, but I certainly felt loved by my family.  I’ve been feeling under the weather, and my husband took care of the kids this morning.  He held the baby when she cried, he front-packed her while sorting through gobs of laundry, and he asked repeatedly how he could help today.  My sons gave me lots of hugs, cuddles, and made all sorts of appropriate yummy noises when I made them hot (lukewarm) cocoa with marshmallows and candy cane bits.  And my daughter made all sorts of gummy smiley faces at me.  I am truly blessed by these people in the small things and the big things.

Rattle …. and Hum

Worship Fully:  Family attended Jason’s work Christmas extravaganza, minus the real worship aspect of it (too bloomin’ cold!).  But I think connecting with friends, watching kids decorate cookies and go bizerk, and reflecting on the season counts.

Spend Less:  Money – not so much.  After my grocery shopping trip, my husband asked, “What?  Did you buy out the whole baking section?”  To which I responded:  “Yeah.”  Cookie baking is my love language, and now is a great time to stock up the potential blessings.  🙂

Give More:  Normally I use the self check at the grocery store, but today I decided to take the baking isle, I mean, my cart to a “normal” checkout line.  I enjoy the self check because I can keep my ear buds in, listening to the word puzzles on A Way With Words while scanning to my heart’s content.  But today:  not so much.  Instead, I chatted with the clerk and found out that a) she has two daughters very close together, one that wants to bake cookies all the time, which she had a problem with (I had to share why that’s a good thing); 2) she makes an awesome homemade pizza (sometimes using a Pillsbury box mix marketed as cinnamon rolls – hmmm); iii) she’s eaten at the pizza shop that my husband worked at in high school – small world!  So, I gave of my free ears, and my attention, and I think that made the few minutes of shopping closure enjoyable for both.

Love All:  Instead of talking about how I did or did not love all today, I’d rather focus on a woman who is known for her love.

When I first attended Women’s Bible Fellowship, I hadn’t participated in a group activity for some time, and I’m certain I had spitup on my shoulder.  I was late, having to sneak in and take a seat up front at a table with women I didn’t know, which almost had me run for the hills, but then women started sharing about how their summers were.  One woman stood up and talked about her breast reconstructive surgery and how women had thrown her a party when it was done, complete with a cake shaped like a boob.  My two thoughts:  I can’t believe these pillars of the church community are talking about things like boobs – they must be real people after all! and if they can talk about boobs within five minutes of the gathering starting, then I can be okay here.

This wonderful woman had had cancer, fought it, won, and then had a relapse.  Recovery, and another relapse.  And now she’s within days of leaving us physically.  Our women have prayed over her, the church community has prayed over her, friends have experienced insomnia and deep soul groanings over her suffering and imminent passing.  She is a woman I did not know well personally, but she embodied warmth and acceptance and love that only comes from knowing Christ.  She persisted in praying for everyone, loving them even if they didn’t appear to want to be loved.  She walked with people through hard times, and she allowed us to walk with her through these past years of pain.

I’m sure I saw her as a tyke.  Her uncle was my childhood pastor, and her family was known for their musical abilities, so I’m sure they came to my church and performed.  Such beautiful harmonies I’ve heard her family blend together, most recently as they’ve sung hymns and songs of praise to her in her sun room to help ease her pain and do the thing they seem to love best:  worship the Lord together.

This evening an update was given stating that she now has the “death rattle”:  a sound in the chest present hours or days before passing.  To think that a body capable of creating such beautiful sounds is now involuntarily giving off that kind of noise:  I don’t want that to be the last thing her family hears!

But then I realize that it’s only for a short while, and hopefully their memories of her past songs, words, actions – the natural hum of her true self will reign dominant as she’ll be singing as she was created to with the other saints.  And I hope, oh I hope, her family and loved ones will feel that hum in their daily lives, because you know she’ll be interceding like nothing else.  Lord, transform that rattle into a hum; thank you for letting Christ love us through her; may we continue with the melody today and everyday.

Adjusting the Focus

Worship Fully – pondered on Luke 15:  what kind of lady looks for a coin that hard when she has other coins?  What coins have I deemed as lost and non-findable?

Spend Less – I plan on spending less time focusing on the things I do wrong or don’t want in my life.  A parenting book I read (can’t remember amongst the slew) talked about focusing on the behavior or action or element you’d like to see rather than always pointing out what you don’t want to see, because chances are you’ll keep seeing more of that.

Give More – I gave more time to letting the kids decorate the house (although there was definitely room for more gracious comments on my behalf, rather than “Stop using Baby Jesus to beat up your brother!”)

Love All – Today I wanted to love my friend by watching her little boy (and likewise love my children by letting them have a playmate come visit), but the playmate got sick.  So I sent my friend cookies because apparently baking is my love language.

Tonight I planned a wonderful family night at the Art Walk event in Newberg:  gathering at the local bookstore to hear the NFC Brass play holiday music and enjoy the company of the listeners.

My boys planned on finding a friend at the event, getting the toys, shooting everyone in sight, and running amuck.  Really:  A Muck.

When my focus is on their behavior and my enjoyment is dependent on it, I lose every time:  oh so crabby.  But when my focus is on realizing that my eldest didn’t run quite as much amuck as he has in the past, and that I got to talk with a few adults, and that this too shall pass, and that I will have GREAT compassion for young parents with crazy amuck running boys in the future, I am able to deem this an okay evening.

Talk to My Face

Worship Fully – sang a few songs at Bible Study during worship time, but also whispered with my friend (face to face conversation is severely lacking in my life:  I steal it where I can)

Spend Less – short trip to the grocery store (probably not necessary, but more of a time killer); less time online; more time Christmas-ing the house with the kids

Give More – unplugged the headphones and conversed with adults; stopped talking and listened to others (some); let the kids help me decorate the house (this is giving for a perfectionist such as myself)

Love All – crabby times happened with the small tykes; found myself having more grace for strangers than for those closest to me – hmmm

Today was Pajama Day at my son’s school.  I’m not sure what Pajama Day entails other than wearing the comfy slumber wear out of the house, in the car, and in the classroom where tykes normally don “outdoor clothes”.  While this was a fine event last year, this year my son would have none of it.  He stormed around the house, making very declarative statements:  “I’m NOT going to school!”

I knew what was going on:  he was having a hard time adjusting to something new.  A few weeks ago he was invited to a birthday party, and while he was excited initially, suddenly he had a change of heart.  Instead of poo-pooing it, I let him talk; instead of dismissing him, I looked him in the face, just like I ask of him:  “If you want to talk to me, don’t holler from the other room – talk to my face.”  Finally he said, “There will be too many kids there, and we’ll get wild, and it will be too exciting, and I’ll get nervous.”

Oh, son, I’m so there with you.  And I was so happy that he recognized that about himself!  So I repeated it back to him and said it was fine if he didn’t want to go.  Then we talked through some scenarios, and he latched onto one, feeling that the excitement would be manageable.

So this morning I tried the same:  looking him in the face, listening, repeating back.  Except he didn’t come to a place where wearing pjs was okay, so he went to school with his regular clothes, knowing that his friends would ask questions.  I felt nervous dropping him off when he curled up at the first questions arose, and I felt similar when I picked him up, but he was okay.  The teacher said it sparked some good discussion in class, and I felt his choice was respected:  might not be fun, but it was his choice and not my desire.

While he was not wearing pajamas at school, I was at Bible Study, worshiping with wonderful women, making faces at my darling daughter who’s decided to respond to interactions in the world.  I’ve been having a hard time getting into the specific study element this semester:  my perfectionism kicks in, and I want to do all or nothing.  But I am reading the chapters of Luke for the week:  this week was all about the Lost (chapters 15-16).  When the facilitator asked if we had any thoughts, I almost dove into my typical babblings, rambling on, verbally processing stuff that doesn’t make much sense and probably leaves the group wondering if I know how to form coherent thoughts (the answer is:  seldom).

But today, I felt the Holy Clap Over the Mouth, and I listened.  People shared their anxiety over feeling secure, opening their lives to strangers, engaging the poor, protecting our children while letting them experience some of the darkness present in this world, speaking freedom to a friend whose time on earth is coming to an end when others aren’t ready to share in speaking that release.  How does the story of Lazarus and the rich man relate to us?  Someone mentioned cutting back on the food bill:  how just because we have access to abundance doesn’t mean we should partake of it.

I don’t have answers.  But it felt like a loving thing to simply shut up and listen:  not just listen, but look each person in the face.

Human

Worship Fully – hmm, I read the Bible and some devotions …

Spend Less – I didn’t spend money, but I did spend time in the kitchen when I could’ve been with my kids, creative energy building up my Cafe World when I could’ve done something truly productive, and positive words for friends online rather than saying them to the people I live with.

Give More – I gave some patience and understanding to a preschooler who’s nervous about Pajama Day tomorrow, some time reading books to small boys, and some yummy homemade food to my family.

Love All – I do in my head.  And when they’re in bed:  boy, I really love my kids when they’re in bed.  But then they get up.  And speak.  And all my idealistic feelings go out the door, which is a good thing really, because love is a choice more than a feeling.

I’m human, and it’s hard for me to come to terms with that.  God doesn’t blame me for my failings.  Watchman Nee’s book “The Normal Christian Life” talks about humans as sin factories:  because of the fall, we produce sin.  Do we blame car factories for making cars?  Nope.  God doesn’t blame me for sinning, for falling short.  But God loves us all too much to leave us that way, and He can transform those little/big sin products into Christ’s body.  If I let Him.

Catching up on my Oswald Chamber’s reading for the day, I was struck by this:  “God never coerces us. In one mood we wish He would make us do the thing, and in another mood we wish He would leave us alone. Whenever God’s will is in the ascendant, all compulsion is gone. When we choose deliberately to obey Him, then He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with all His almighty power.”

Oh, how I hope this human chooses daily to follow and obey.

Rich with Manna

Today marks my experiment of being (more – hopefully) intentional in:

  • Worshiping fully
  • Spending less
  • Giving more
  • Loving all

Boy howdy, I don’t think I did all that well.  Today looked like any normal day:  family up, dressed, fed; dropping people off at their locations; errands and their aftermath; picking up people; feeding, feeding, and more feeding; managing quiet times (not so much); more feeding; cleaning up from feeding; cleaning up from the day; counting the minutes until I can go to bed.

Before bed I was listening to a podcast from Woodland Hills.  The pastor spoke on breaking the generation sin involved in the cycle of poverty.  He said that we are rich because we don’t have to worry about where our food will come from for the next meal.  And here I was, mildly worried because we were down to two slices of bread and thawing milk from the freezer — the freezer that’s packed to the gills with veggies and fruit and butter and freezer meals, etc.  My cupboards have staples of beans (a half dozen kinds) along with other grains and dried fruits.  Flour, sugar, jello (so.much.jello), cereals, soda:  we have more than enough, and yet I found myself anxious, wondering what to feed the boys when they couldn’t have their pb’n’j.

When I have too much, I am taking from others who don’t have enough.

And goodness, it takes a lot of time managing all that stuff:  shopping, unloading groceries, food prep, making sure food doesn’t go bad or stale, eating, etc.  Hello, Israelite taking too much manna!

Our recent community newsletter (it’s nice living in a town that’s small enough to have a newsletter) noted that the local food pantry is in need of goods.  Also, a number of friends in crisis seem to be in need of some freezer meals.  Perhaps that’s a way I’m being led to give more …

Holiday Present

Holiday priorities certainly change over time.

As a small tyke holidays consisted of brightly colored classrooms, projects with glue and glitter that were supposed to be “pretty gifts” to others who made “oh my how … nice” faces, dressing up in new tights and a frilly dress for the church/school/piano recital, being plied with sugar and excitement and gifts and new events — all while being told to calm down.

As a high schooler the holidays were a time to start learning how to buy presents that weren’t made out of glue and glitter and complaining about the traditions you formerly loved OR complaining that the parents are tired of putting on the traditions you find utterly necessary.

As a college student the holidays were spent detwitching from cramming for finals, eating real food for the first time in forever, sleeping while the family’s awake and being awake while the family’s asleep, and running to the store on the 24th of December because apparently blessing the family with one’s presence isn’t a good enough gift.

As a single person the holidays were for trying to figure out how to live with others while you’re used to living by yourself and for overspending in an attempt to compensate for those years of glue and glitter or nothing.

As a young married person the holidays are a time of negotiation:  who to spend time with, where, what will be eaten, what will be worn, how will presents be wrapped, how will the days look, what traditions will carry over, what traditions will be left behind, and how many people are going to be unsatisfied (so says the melancholy personality type :)).

Now, as a mother of three tykes, the holidays have a whole new meaning.  It feels like it’s all Up To Me:  to create traditions, to buy gifts, to make meals, to plan events, to do crafts, to sing songs, to visit all the family members:  to make Everyone Happy and Content with the Magic of the Season.

And it’s so.not.possible.

Now, this is a pressure I totally placed on myself.  It’s an attempt to fill a role I cannot, nor should not, nor have been asked, to fill.  At the root it’s about trying to measure up, mask insecurity.  And it’s about taking the focus off of Christ and onto the family, or more pointedly, myself.

And I don’t want to celebrate myself.  I do that on a daily basis by making choices that please or comfort me.

Advent Conspiracy has laid out four thoughts for helping bring the focus back to Christ, the meaning of His birth and life and death and life above and beyond, and to the body of Christ.

  • Worship Fully
  • Spend Less
  • Give More
  • Love All

And so this holiday season, for this month of December, I hope to use these phrases to refocus my attention, to orient myself towards my Savior, the one who came without glue and glitter and self-centered desires.