• Last night Jeremiah and I had something close to a perfect night. I poured two cups of steaming apple cider into holly-leaved Christmas mugs, while he dusted away yesterday’s ashes from our fireplace and nurtured a new fire in its stead. I plugged in the twinkling white lights of our Christmas tree, and Jeremiah chose a Christmas record to crackle softly in the background. Then, we met on the over-stuffed leather couch and cuddled up next to our friendly elk skin. My friend Lauren lent me a book filled with Christmas short-stories from accomplished authors. Jeremiah took his time to select our first story, and then he read it aloud to us. I chose a second and did the same. The stories were sweet, and it was fun to listen to Jeremiah read out loud. However, the true beauty of last night wasn’t in the stories; it was in the feeling.

    What is it that we all strive to feel during the Christmas season? There is some nebulous sensation that we can’t explain–we can only strive to recreate. I believe it starts in childhood, in a time when there was magic and mystery surrounding Christmas, along with love and security. The mystery of God coming to earth as a baby–just like we did. The magic of Santa with his flying sleigh and his ability to bring toys down the chimney and into our den–even though we didn’t even have a chimney:) The love you felt from family coming from far away to share the season with you, and the security of being nestled in your bed on Christmas Eve surrounded by a family that loved you. When you take some of these big sensations and combine them with all the beloved traditions of Christmas, you find, somewhere in that mix, the feeling we all want to re-create year after year. I pray we all find that feeling we long for and that we can hold onto it long enough to let it resonate within us enough to last until next year.

  • I remember being in the 7th grade and having a major life dilemma over whether or not to ask Mom to buy me a pair of $72 Calvin Klein jeans like everybody else had. I felt like they were just too expensive to ask for, and I settled on a pair of bobo (no name brand in case any of you aren’t familiar with that terminology) jeans that I thought made me look skinny. That was a Thursday afternoon, and I arrived at school that next rainy Friday morning sporting my new jeans AND my new purple and white Asic shoes. Always one to want to preserve the newness of my clothes as long as possible, I gave myself a quick cuff on the bottom of my jeans to ensure they wouldn’t be muddied by the rain…I knew it wasn’t cool, but I wanted to protect those bobo jeans all the same. Now, if you know my family very well you know that being early anywhere, especially to school, was a miracle in itself, but the Lord had a lesson to teach me that day and He somehow got me to Girard Middle School at least 10 minutes early that morning.

    I look out at this “early” crowd standing in huddles in the band room–where apparently early people go when it’s raining and the school hasn’t opened yet–and was faced with a frantic decision. Everyone stops to look at the new person in the room, and I had to decide where I belonged. There was definitely a cool group, sitting back by the drums, and it held more familiar faces to me than any other group, but still they weren’t what I would call my friends. My friends lie somewhere in between. I wouldn’t say that I was a dork in middle school…I just wasn’t the cool of the cool either. I didn’t drink or do crazy things with boys or have super human self-confidence, and without at least one of these traits, I don’t think if was possible to be elite at Girard Middle. So, I have this decision to make, and maybe it was the new skinny bobo jeans that I was feeling oh-so-good about myself in, but I decided to go for it. I headed straight towards the cool guys in the percussion section.

    I think that God’s grace has allowed me to block out exactly what the hurtful comments were that I was met with when I entered that circle. I remember it was Wesley Carpenter that started them and a few other guys threw in a joke here or there, but the basic jist was, “Why are your tight jeans ROLLED up, and why are your tennis shoes so WHITE.” To their defense, they were probably insecure boys trying to be funny to one another, but I was so mortified it was everything I could do not to burst into tears on the spot. I tried to laugh at myself with them, but it was one of those times when laughs do nothing but jiggle your already unstable emotions and I found myself dangerously on the brink of losing it.

    I went home that afternoon, and Mom could see by my face that something had gone wrong. I was too embarrassed to tell her at first. I knew she had been the supreme cool girl at my age and I didn’t want her to know how far her daughter had fallen from the tree. I also new she would feel bad about my jeans…and it wasn’t her fault. Well, she kept prodding and I finally burst, literally, into the tears I’d been holding back all day. I gave her the kindest version I could of what I’d endured, and then admitted that I just didn’t know if I could stand to go to the football game that night and risk the ridicule again. Then, Mom did something that I will never forget. She had to take my other three sisters to ten other places that afternoon, so she called Aunt Alice and asked her to take me to the mall as quick as she could and buy me the best pair of Calvin Klein jeans we could find!

    I recall that whole long experience just to pose a question that has been bothering me since yesterday. I got a new pair of jeans (they were actually a gift from Mrs. Maddox) that cost about three what those expensive Calvin Kleins cost Mom in middle school. I certainly don’t feel like my self-esteem is tied to my jeans like they were back then, so why do I feel the need to spend that kind of money on a pair of blue jeans? Sure they fit great, and they are made out of good material, and I’ll wear them all the time…but couldn’t I get some cheaper ones that fit just as well??? I have admitted something to myself, and I honestly don’t know if it is wrong or not. I can wear clothes from Wal-Mart and be happy, but there is something about putting on a dress, a pair of jeans, or perfume that I know is expensive that makes me feel extra special. There is something about the luxury of it that is exiting to me. Is that wrong? I don’t feel like my self-worth comes from the brand of clothes I’m wearing like it did in 7th grade, but what if I’m just deceiving myself?

  • There is a ten minute period every morning that I dearly covet. It happens right after Pace and I see Jeremiah out the door. Then, we go into the kitchen and I pour her a bottle of milk, and we head back to the bedroom. I prop Pace up against the pillows and hand her her bottle, and finally, I tuck us both tightly under the covers. I lay my face right up next to hers, so that my lips are almost touching her ear, and then I begin to pray. I pray out loud–only in a whisper–but out loud nonetheless. The first prayer that always springs out of my mouth is to thank God for how much I love that little girl. The next, is to marvel that He could love her even more than Jeremiah and I do! Then I pray for the husband He is preparing for her–that he will love God and cherish Pace. I continue to have my normal prayer time, asking that God make me into the mother and wife that He wants me to be, that Jeremiah have a blessed and productive day, and all the other things He lays on my heart.

    What I need to admit, is that it takes some discipline for me to hold on to that time. My moments where Pace is completely content, like when she is drinking that bottle, seem so few and far between. I am constantly fighting off guilt that I should be using that quiet time to get things done instead of lying there and enjoying feeling her beside me and feeling the Lord meet us there. But now, after typing this out, I realize that those guilty feelings are nothing but Satan trying to distract me. The enemy is so cunning! He can take a truth, like the fact that God delights in our productivity and not in laziness, and twist it to make us feel like He values our productivity over spending time with Him, or spending quality time with those we love. Standing back it seems so clear, but in the moment it is always a true decision I have to make. Thank you Lord for clarity.