Stars

How easy it is to go on auto pilot during the Christmas season.

*Decorate tree and house – Check

*Play Christmas CDs – Check

*Sing Christmas carols in church – Check

*Participate or attend Christmas programs – Check

*Plan Christmas festivities – Check

*Attend Christmas parties – Check

*Buy and wrap presents not leaving anyone out – Check

*Try to tame concerns about how much money is being spent – Check

*Attend Christmas Eve Service – Check

*Read Christmas story – Check

*Open presents – Check

*Get together for big meals – Check

*Take everything down and put away – Check

Routine. Habits. Traditions. But is that what this season is about? No.

We participate in all these great things during Christmas, many of which may even be very spiritual, but still often miss the opportunity to truly let the real meaning of this season penetrate our hearts.

We can recite the Christmas story like we retell a grocery shopping happening last week. We know all the words to traditional Christmas carols like we know the national anthem. We know Jesus was born to a virgin like we know an acquaintance that had an unexpected baby.

It too often is just rote.

Our Lord Jesus was rich – the eternal Son of God in heaven!! Yet He set aside His glory and became poor. He accepted the restrictions of a baby and was born as an infant in a filthy stable in the lowliest of circumstances. Why? To identify with us, and to be able to truly represent humanity so He could later take the enormous weight of our multitude of sins upon himself, die a gruesome death and rise again—just so we could spend eternity with Him.

He became poor so we could become eternally rich! What sacrifice! What unfathomable love!!

When you sing Christmas carols or attend a Christmas program this year, ponder the lyrics to the familiar carols and let their meaning penetrate your heart. When you read the Christmas story, meditate on the FULL story – the redeeming grace of God, the perfect and everlasting love of Christ, the sacrifice and substitution of Jesus for our sins, the hope we have because of our rich eternal inheritance forevermore as a result of this one Holy Night.

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New-Picture-6

I’m no skilled seamstress. Really, I’m not. I’m just not afraid to try. So when my daughter was two, the adorable pintsize denim dress and matching hat I made her hid the evidence of my self-taught amateur seamstressing. As the years went on, I made a fleece winter jacket with matching hat, a quilt, skirts, jumpers, matching doll clothes, and Halloween costumes. She thought I could sew just about anything.

But no sewing project was like the infamous Dalmatians-with-fire-hydrants-print pajamas I made one winter.

This would be a great time to reiterate I taught myself how to sew when I was in my 20s.  To this day, I still don’t understand all the instructional jargon of patterns and only decipher it mainly by looking at the pictures. I steer away from complicated patterns, am notorious for excluding the interfacing steps, always have handy my trusty (what I call) “thread-puller-outer,” and usually make it up as I go. For the record “It’s so Easy” patterns do not mean it’s really that easy for an amateur like me! Just saying.

But I’ve digressed.

The doggie-print pajamas … it was in the early days of my learning and I just could not figure out where the pattern picture said to put the Velcro on the shoulders. Was it the wrong side of the back piece or the right side of the front piece or vice versa? After spending hours trying to figure it out, I sewed it how I thought would work best only to realize I sewed it all wrong. But it was too late–my daughter had already seen the finished product and insisted putting them on. She loved them. She adored them. Much to my dismay, she wore them all the time.

I kept my chuckles to myself as the upside-wrong-side-down Velcro attachments were just a continual magnet for her long red hair. Stuck hair and all, she loved the pajamas and still thought I could sew anything.

A few weeks ago, I tackled my biggest sewing project ever—a long formal dress for my daughter. She had a big event coming up and wanted a specific type of dress and was worried we couldn’t find one like it. So I opened my mouth …

“I could make one.”

And so the project began. The pattern she chose didn’t even boast it was easy. After hours of talking to the pattern somehow thinking it would miraculously talk back to me in non-pattern language, researching online how to do the pleats, and staring (a whole lot of staring) at the pictures, I finished even with my daughter’s requests of customizations. (Remember, she still thinks I can sew anything.) I have to say the dress turned out beautifully and my daughter loved it.

As I worked on this formal dress, discussions of past sewing projects emerged. We laughed hysterically reminiscing about her beloved doggie-print pajamas. She still looks fondly on those pajamas claiming the hair sticking in the backwards Velcro made no difference to her because she loved that I made them for her.

It got me thinking about the impact of the little things we do for our kids. Who would have thought that frustrating winter night creating what I deemed a pajama DIY disaster eleven years ago, would produce such a fond treasure for my daughter. She didn’t see the imperfections–she saw that I took time to make her something special.

It makes one pause and think doesn’t it?

Christmas is around the corner. As parents, we feel pressure to spend money we don’t have in excess, but perhaps we just need to look at what we do for our children differently. One never knows how the little things we do or make for them will be a lasting treasure for years to come.

Just saying …

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Butterfly

As the holidays approach, stress usually brews. The endless parties to attend, the school programs and concerts, presents to buy and wrap, dwindling checkbook register figures, traffic, baking, and figuring out family plans. The missing ingredient is often the joy of Christmas.

What comes to mind is the drama I wrote a few years back about the dysfunctional Funk family trying to get through the holidays. The eldest daughter named Joy, was anything but joyful yet she tried to make everything perfect to ensure there would be joy … but everything fell apart. Isn’t that how we operate sometimes? We strive to have things in order or find a resolution to a problem to ensure we will have peace, joy, and happiness. Yet we’re losing the battle. If only life was so cut, dry, and simple.

I find that this journey in life isn’t about resolutions to problems, but in finding the joy, peace, and happiness in our lives that God offers regardless of our situation. That is far easier said than done, because life gets messy sometimes.

So how do we find the joy this holiday season regardless of our circumstances?

  1. Keep Perspective: Pick up God’s point of view rather than our own. That requires we first step back from the emotions of a situation and allow ourselves to view it from a wider angle. Then we can look to see what God wants us to learn.
  2. Keep Breathing: We may have overscheduled ourselves and it can’t be changed now, but we can make a conscious choice to take a few minutes out for ourselves to breathe and relax. It helps us to do #1 above. Take a longer shower in the morning and just relax in those extra minutes or unwind from your day by reading before you go to bed. Understand we need to chill out each day before we can tackle the next day with calm and perspective.
  3. Remember the Reason: Remember what Christmas is about. It’s not about presents, parties, programs, full schedules, finances, or even family gatherings. Christmas is about remembering the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ! It’s the time we celebrate His birth knowing He came to earth to live and die just so we could have life everlasting with Him. What a gift!

So go ahead and receive the joy, peace, and happiness that comes from this greatest gift of Jesus Christ. It’s not dependent on your circumstances and isn’t something you have to add to your bursting schedule. Celebrate the JOY this Christmas.

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