On Christmas Lists

It’s that time of year when its 80 degrees outside, supposed to be fall, yet holidays are coming. The main way that I know the holidays are coming is that there are holiday things in the grocery store seasonal aisle. And, all that really means is that there will be that holiday sometime in the next 6 months.

But, each year the whole Christmas List thing gets a little stressful. I see that seasonal aisle and I know I cannot escape it much longer. Christmas shopping.

Follow along to see how it plays out in our family. Beware, you might get stressed.

In our house, I usually start asking our kids what they’re thinking for Christmas in about October. Kind of a shot over the bow type situation on a casual walk…just feeling them out.

Our kids lists’ are kind of funny sometimes. One year our middle kid asked for a new mattress after discovering that the absolute cheapest mattress at IKEA wasn’t his jam after a few months. He’s all in to comfort.

This year he asked for a certain gaming controller then we looked it up on Amazon. We decided maybe he should go to college rather than have that controller.

Then, my husband and I think of things they might like or need. Ok now, that is truly a deep experience in figuring out how well we really know our kids. Are they still in to LEGO Star Wars or have they moved on? Is my daughter going for atheleisure or is she going for smart casual these days?

I don’t know! Who am I as a mother to not know these things!? Ack. Insecurity.

My husband is a very frugal man. Not cheap. Frugal. There’s a difference. The wish list then morphs into an ever narrowing target as he hones in on the bulls eye of Christmas gifts. The gifts that will be used, loved, and passed on to grandkids. The criteria is tight and rigorous.

They usually like the gifts he thinks of the best, better than my gifts. Yes, we compete for the affections of our children and we don’t like to face it.

My contribution is usually in the category I’ll call whimsy. What will be fun for them? Refer back to that paragraph on whether I really know my kids and you’ll see that’s like shooting an arrow with absolutely no archery training.

Ha. It could land literally anywhere and sometimes hits the bulls eye but only sometimes.

So, if you have powers of interpretation, are you seeing that my husband and I have some interesting conversations as we put together the list on our pretty modest budget?

You’re smart then. Give yourself a pat on the back. I bet you’re trying to figure out what number on the Enneagram we are. We are too.

I haven’t even gotten to the list strategy wherein we need to give suggestions to other members of the family. In the past, I’d make the mistake of giving out the choice bulls-eye gifts to other members of the family, much to my husband’s consternation.

Then we, the parents, would have another “date” breakfast to deal with more stress trying to figure out still more great gifts so our kids knew we loved and knew them the absolute best on Christmas morning.

Ok, maybe you’ve noticed that we haven’t even gotten past the kids at this point? True, true. We have not! Next up, what do we get parents and grandparents and cousins and siblings and….phew.

Merry Christmas? Not feeling it yet.

The past few years, I’ve come to the end of all this gift listing, strategizing, planning and just could not muster up the energy for my own list. What do I want? I have no idea…go figure it out. It probably has to do with clothes, kitchen gadgets, or travel.

Heck, just give me cash if you’re as worn out as I am and I’ll decide in March after I’ve recovered from the holidays.

So, the holidays are coming and you can pray for us. That’s the point of this blog post. We need prayer!

On Egg Hunts

Months after the Easter egg hunt in our apartment complex in Asia, the kids and their friends found another Easter egg. A real egg. Left rotting for months outside in a climate of 110% humidity. Yuck.

We hid them pretty good, I guess. It was the find of a century in their minds, a marvel of discovery for a kid who played multiple times a week in that area. Then, one day, bam, an Easter egg!

It was disgusting. They didn’t eat it, fortunately. But, it provided tons of laughter amongst the childhood community in the area. That time we found the Easter egg! It gave them hope to continue looking for a plastic egg that might still have viable candy. They gained new focus in their outdoor play for a while.

Still, yuck.

Watching kids hunt for Easter eggs is pretty hilarious. Early on, we had to teach them to go get the egg. They were uninterested until they realized there was candy inside the plastic ones. Our oldest would then find the plastic eggs, pop them open, eat the candy, drop the egg. She preyed upon her little friend who hadn’t yet discovered the treasures inside her eggs by eating her friends candy too.

As they get older, the hunt evolved. It became about winning. Getting the most eggs. So, we met the challenge and tried to teach consideration. We established quotas and hid the eggs with a little more craftiness. But, whoever met their quota first “won”. What can I say? Human nature gravitates towards selfishness.

We urged them to hunt even when they didn’t want to hunt and the only eggs left were the second class citizens of Easter egg hunts, the hard-boiled eggs sweating off their color dye in the grass. Go get the half-cracked, weird grey egg that got dipped in all the dye cups! we cheered to no avail.

Kind of explains the mystery of the undiscovered egg I guess.

One year I had to intervene to prevent a potty training kid from practicing in the Easter hunt area. Hey, don’t judge. We were in another country where this was not frowned upon for kids. We took advantage of the freedoms! It was a great place to potty train. Not the egg hunt area, the country.img_5535

Then there were adults who wanted to continue their family traditions of ultra competitive egg hunts. You know who you are. Those were the most fun to watch. Grown ups dressed in their Easter finest in an all out physical scramble to find the most eggs. Hilarious!

Last year, we introduced Cascarones to our celebration. Smashing eggs filled with confetti on each other fits our family life stage. It’s fun. Its violent. We play together. We’re adapting.

In all of the evolution of Easter traditions in our family, though, the one thread through it all is new life in Christ. The symbol of the egg in Easter.

Go find it, search aggressively for it, don’t let others get in your way, enjoy the treasures that reside within, help others find it, celebrate it with others.

Just find the new life, the breath of life, offered to all through Jesus’ sacrifice to free us from the deathly effects of sin.

Read more here and here.

Blood, The Color of Love

I reached up and opened a card. It looked promising. I read the inscription which dashed all my sentimental hopes. My only hope these days for meaningful inscriptions is a blank note and my own pen.

Valentine’s Day gets a lot wrong. Romance for romance sake. Elaborate, one-time displays of affection honored more than the constancy of daily warmth in the grind of life. Crude and scoffing cards meant to illicit laughter at the expense of respect.

But, it gets one thing right. The color of love is red.DSC_0039

Red is the color of blood, the color of oxygen infusing a liquid that brings life to the body. Red is the color of the dirt from which God created man in His image. God delighted in man. God loves humans. God loves you. God loves me.

Then, God loved enough to take on a body that pumped blood. After that, He loved enough to be tempted in every single temptation. He knows our pain, our sorrow, our sin. He took on all the hurt, pain, wrong, and disgusting perversion of every person on the planet and bled for it.

The color of love seeped through the pores of His skin and offered us release from death. We, the living dead, can be born from above.

Last year and again this year, I read the uproar about movies and porn and abuse, my heart aches and it was and is appropriate to grieve. Grey is what we get when we forget that love requires the unselfish giving of ourselves to another.

Grey is the color of death and death brings mourning…or it should.

But, red. Red is the color of life.

 

Embracing Another New Year

One minute it was 2016, then it was 2017 sometime in the middle of 10 Things I Hate About You, probably when Heath Ledger sings in the bleachers. Or maybe when Julia Stiles reads her poem to Heath in class. Great moments.

Anyway, 2016 passed to 2017 and I’m still surprised, trying to find my footing in a new year.

Last New Year’s surprised me too. It was the first of many markers that came and went without my dad. Christmas came and went rather uneventfully, but the new year brought more sadness than anticipated. Another year different from the one he died. Another year more of him not here with us. Something about that number change drove reality in deeper.

This year seems to be similar. Christmas came and went and I missed my dad in so many ways. But a new year put another year in between then and now and it just feels like a really, really long time. Too long without his presence in my life and the lives of all who loved him.

It’s a dissonant note in a season of  resolutions, moving on, organizing, cleaning, looking forward, gaining control. It’s weird to feel a stuck in the past. If I could just make a resolution, a plan, or buy a container for the mess, I’d be moving forward and that would feel good.

There are some things in our lives, though, that can’t be contained neatly. Like grief. And, there is so, so much I cannot control. Like my dad not being here with us. So much I must respond to when I wish I could just change it.

It reminds me of the woman in the wonderful book The Help who slip covered everything in her house in a desperate effort to be more than she was in reality, to cover the pain of what she felt was less than. Instead of face herself, she controlled everything and everyone around her to conform to her desired image. It cost her so much.

The dangers of slip-covering the reality of life are real. Even the sadness of something like losing a father.

So, today, with children back in school and the house quiet, I am endeavoring to respond to the life God has graciously given me before moving on. It means counting the joy and also counting the grief, resisting the urge to slipcover things that need stripping, and loving what needs to be embraced in its current state.

The really ugly chair that inspires parts of this post, a craigslist find that must be loved a while longer in its current state.

There are things I want from this year for sure, but to rush into those feels like building on sand. For today, I survey the terrain…and write because that’s how I do this reflection business.

 

 

Blood, The Color of Love

I reached up and opened a card. It looked promising. I read the inscription which dashed all my sentimental hopes. My only hope these days for meaningful inscriptions is a blank note and my own pen.

Valentine’s Day gets a lot wrong. Romance for romance sake. Elaborate, one-time displays of affection honored more than the constancy of daily warmth in the grind of life. Crude and scoffing cards meant to illicit laughter at the expense of respect.

But, it gets one thing right. The color of love is red.DSC_0039

Red is the color of blood, the color of oxygen infusing a liquid that brings life to the body. Red is the color of the dirt from which God created man in His image. God delighted in man. God loves humans. God loves you. God loves me.

Then, God loved enough to take on a body that pumped blood. After that, He loved enough to be tempted in every single temptation. He knows our pain, our sorrow, our sin. He took on all the hurt, pain, wrong, and disgusting perversion of every person on the planet and bled for it.

The color of love seeped through the pores of His skin and offered us release from death. We, the living dead, can be born from above.

Last year and again this year, I read the uproar about movies and porn and abuse, my heart aches and it was and is appropriate to grieve. Grey is what we get when we forget that love requires the unselfish giving of ourselves to another.

Grey is the color of death and death brings mourning…or it should.

But, red. Red is the color of life.

 

Thanksgiving

Our first year overseas Thanksgiving surprised me by ranking my most difficult holiday.  My cultural adjustment curve dipped lowest right around Thanksgiving making it the perfect storm for a flurry of emotions that first year overseas. I figured I’d be sad at Christmas so Thanksgiving sadness caught me off guard.  Add to that the fact that it was my first time to celebrate a holiday away from family and…well…Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving each year since delivered a host of treasured memories.  One year I picked up our roasted turkeys at the local hotel.  The staff and I tried to figure out how I was going to take them home.  None of us considered this problem beforehand for some mysterious reason.  I ended up riding home in a taxi with two hot turkeys stuffed into plastic shopping bags!  DSC_0031

Then came the year when a terrible stomach virus passed through our midst at Thanksgiving.  26 of us gathered that year and, well, sickness spread pretty fast in that environment and through the following weekend.  Leftovers did not get eaten that year and it took me a year or so to overcome my aversion to some traditional foods.  Some even gave a very descriptive name to the weekend following Thanksgiving which I will not share here.  Let’s just say that year lives on in infamy.

A few year later we started celebrating Thanksgiving with more than just Americans.  I regret it took me that long to take Thanksgiving across cultures.  A turkey is huge but to someone who never laid eyes on anything other than a skinny chicken, a turkey is…well…it’s hard to give you a good picture of the excitement that bird caused.  My friends sampled all the traditional items and we thoroughly enjoyed our feast.

But what really moves my heart at Thanksgiving now is that I learn to celebrate Thanksgiving more and more each year.  We all love a feast and we all love food and we all love the decorations.  But, what I love more than all of that is the time of thanksgiving.  It is the point of our celebration and my non-American friends do not forget it like I am prone to do.  They do not get as distracted by pecan pie, turkey, and stuffing or American football.  I enjoy all those things but I fall prey to making them too central.

Last year I remember the tears we shed as we gave thanks to the Lord for the years events.  Every year has its pain and its joy.  We cried, we laughed and we sacrificed the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Because giving thanks is a sacrifice.  The painful things yielded fruit and we knew it but we still cried.

These celebrations go to the heart of the first thanksgiving.  I think the Pilgrims knew the sacrifice of giving thanks in a foreign land, with foreign food, with native people in the midst of a year marked by death and suffering.  They gave thanks and I’m sure they cried in the midst of such a sacrifice.  The foods they ate were not traditional to them…I remember this as I dip into some delicious fried rice and watch my children sample lumpia from the Philippines.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving and I anticipate spending a lot of time cooking and preparing.  But I also anticipate even more the time when we express our thankfulness with laughter and tears.