Appreciating the Season, Loving the Reason

 I love this season.   I love the music of the season, whether it’s a majestic “Hark, How the Bells,” a tranquil “Silent Night,” or the fun of trying to remember what my true love gave to me on each of the “12 Days of Christmas.”   It’s always hilarious how no one forgets the partridge in the pear tree, or the five golden rings?    I love spending time with family, and I love the extra affection put onto each plate on Christmas Day.

Having said that, I wish I felt more “Christmas-y” this year.   Jamie spoke of the trend of dwindling Christmas cards, and I concur.   Of course, I’ve yet to send out my own holiday cards.

This year, we’re traveling out of town immediately after Christmas, so we chose not to decorate since we won’t be here to enjoy it.   Besides, the money we normally spend on a Christmas tree is the money that we could spend on a tank of gas.

The lack of Christmas ritual might not be helping me, but that’s really not it.    Every year, I fight the tendency to overload myself with activity such that I have time to just rest and reflect.     This year, I’ve lost the fight.     Just this weekend, I turned down 2 parties so that we could relax at home; then the kids informed me that they have a party at church on Sunday afternoon.    Oh, well, so much for that relaxation strategy, huh?

And our poor kids.   It’s been a busy time for them, too.   In fact, today is our last day at school, and the kids just simply dragged.   They’ve had good reason.     In one weekend alone, they performed in two parades.     I posted on last year some thoughts about the parades, the true meaning of Christmas, and how good it felt to walk through our little country town saying, “Merry Christmas” during this politically correct age in which we now live.    My opinions haven’t changed, but I did update the pictures as all three of our treasures marched this year rather than only the oldest.

    This year’s team features six tinier tikes, including our youngest.   They range in age from 5-7 years of age.   The parade walking took more out of them, but they made it.

The older kids were regular veterans at the venues this year.

There was also the Christmas play, in which the older two were choreographers, and our son danced–a tap number to Mary Mary’s big-band sounding rendition of “He’s the Greatest.”

Personally, I’m determined to quiet my spirit and just spend some time loving on the Lord.   So, with school over today and dance over as of last week, I consider this my time for me and the Lord.    Every time I think about it, I just stop and say, “thank you.”   Because of our trip out of town, my normal fasting into the new year will not happen, but I’m still believing Him to speak to me regarding direction for 2011.     I’m told it will be a good season, though I’m not sure of what the details of that word mean.   While that prophecy unfolds, I’m excited about next week–about loving on the Father, operating in faith by executing some plans that have collected dust, and basking in the Word.     May God bless your plans as well.

Advertisements

1st Semester Progress Report (pt. 1)

I am not sure that I could capture well all that has happened in the last two weeks, friends, but I do hope to document the highlights over the last 1-2 weeks. After all, this blog is the chronicles of our family.

The older two were drafted volunteered to help our church children’s ministry with the annual Christmas play, and the associated practices taken up every weekend we have right up until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Parade season is also fast approaching, as is the beginning of the competition season, so dance has consumed the time that isn’t spent on school and church. I am quickly finding myself in the very position that I don’t like to be in at this time of year—too busy with the season to reflect on the Reason. I refuse, however, to give up that reflective time, and will be saying “no, thanks” to some opportunities that sound, at least on the outside, like great opportunities.

This week finds us unexpectedly on the road. My dear husband was asked to take a trip for week—on the same week as Thanksgiving, no less—and we chose to tag along. Writing while riding takes me back several years to when we traveled like this regularly, before job transfers and job changes. In fact, I’ve seen all but one region of Texas in my 20+ years of living here, thanks to the hubby’s jobs. Some prefer a plane ride (though nowadays that means you enjoy being felt up by strangers), but I love the freedom of the car—plenty of time to kick my shoes off, read, blog 🙂 , or just to sight-see when it’s my turn to drive. We were laughing on yesterday about our earliest work/ family trips when we began homeschooling. The children were small then, and I had to be very creative with meal times as the reality of quitting my full-time job began to settle on us both. I can remember going to vegsource.com and finding recipes like potatoes with chic peas and green onions. It wasn’t fancy, but it was filling, tasty, and most of all, inexpensive. I also recall being stunned at the difference in our lifestyle, and a bit apprehensive about whether the changes were really worth it, but we held hands with all the excitement of fear of brand new homeschoolers. Looking back now, it seems silly to fret so, but I’m so glad that we never gave in to all the uncertainties.

The kids are excited about this week as well, and the fact that I relaxed the schedule a bit, given the trip. They are only responsible for math and reading this week, with a reading day planned for the trip home. Speaking of school, we only have three weeks left in the semester after this one. With the end of the semester approaching, it is always appropriate to assess where we are and whether we are moving in the right path.

The youngest is performing well enough in reading that I’m trying to make a decision as to whether or not to spend money on more formal curriculum to build her reading skills. When I read Bob Jones’ scope and sequence for the 3rd grade reading workbook, there are some areas that she’s not learned—formally. Is it worth it? I think not, but I’m also having to evaluate, for myself, what’s really bothering me about the hole that a lack of formal studies in this area creates. I’m convinced that .what really bugs me—and it’s the same feeling I get watching my son—is that the kids have more free time than I’m comfortable with. That wouldn’t be so bad if they both used the time in productive ways. I’ll sort that out at another time.

The other quandary is what to do with her science studies. She asked to learn about the human body, and I thought it was so convenient that Apologia published a brand new anatomy and physiology text. As my dear friend Kysha says, this was not a good fit for our family. The text is way over the little one’s head, and she now says, “I didn’t know it’d be so gross!” So in trying to get direction from a child, I now realize that I should have followed my first mind, saved my money, and begun with either Zoology or Botany. So, as if I didn’t get enough the first time, I explained to her what I thought about our predicament. She says, “Well, Mom, can we just do two sciences?” Oh, boy.

I pray the Lord is blessing your week(s) as well. More to say, but I’ll stop for now. All the way here, we felt this shake that gradually grew worse. We found out 30 miles outside of town that our mud flap had cut into a tire, causing a slow leak. BUT, we made it, Praise God. He is sooooooo good.

Parade Fun, and Christmas Thoughts

I mentioned in my last post that the dance center’s performance team marched in two parades this past weekend.    For most team parents, this meant getting the child to and from the parade, and (in many cases) standing on the sidelines to cheer the kid on as they performed.   For us, it also meant walking—all five of us—in the parade.   How do we get ourselves into these situations?!!!    Somehow, our knack for offering to “help out where we can” often lands us in some interesting places.   This time, little brother wound up carrying the boom-box of Christmas tunes, dad helped carry the parade banner, and little sister and I walked behind as the first line of defense against the float behind us.   We were too busy keeping up to take any pictures of this, but the oldest was still the headliner.

 

parade; christmas; marching; performing; team

 

For some strange reason, this parade always brings the cold weather.    Honestly, it was 60-70 degrees all week before this parade; the night we walked it was in the 50’s and dropping.    Some of you reading this will laugh that I thought 50 degrees was cold, but bear in mind that we were out in it at night for almost 3 hours, and of all the places for our group to line up, we were right on the water.   The wind chill had to be in the 40’s, so even though we layered up, we still wound up snuggling just to have a chance at staying warm.    Thankfully, someone with more knowledge about how to stay warm over an extended amount of time (her family had a deer lease) brought disposable hand warmers for us all.   I’d never seen these!   They looked too good to be true, but once they heated up, it felt soooooooo good to stick our hands in our pockets and be refreshingly warmed all over again.   The girls were able to muster this shot once we all felt better.

 

 

parade; christmas; marching; performing; team

 

Sunday’s parade was much warmer, but a fog so thick you could cut it with a knife rolled in.   Amazingly enough, the fog didn’t come until after the parade was finished, which meant an interesting walk back to the car.   Yet, the girls were still in a festive mood.

 

parade; christmas; marching; performing; team

 

Walking in a parade or two was great exercise; it also gives an introvert a lot of time to think.   I thought about how good it felt, particularly with everything going on in the world right now, to smile and say, “Merry Christmas.”   Much of what I thought about was a conversation I’d had just the day before with my mother-in-law.    The church where I met her, and subsequently met my husband, has moved past the position of Christmas being too commercialized and secularized.   For the last several years, that church has been on a “there is no Christ in Christmas” campaign.    Much of what the church espouses comes from the perspective that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, along with the pagan origins of the Christmas tree and the red-suited, “ho, ho, ho” version of Santa Claus that we see all over the stores and television.   So there is no Christmas music (not even Christian songs that are categorized as Christmas music, like “Silent Night” or “O Come, All Ye Faithful”), no encouragement to give gifts or do any of the other traditional things that we associate with this season.    Though much of their perspective is a matter of fact, as my mother-in-law says, it’s never been about a tree for us.   My father-in-law adds that celebrating Jesus, even if it’s technically in the wrong season, is never a bad thing.    I say this knowing that there are whole Christian sects that do not celebrate Christmas or any other holiday.    My mil’s concern, and I think she’s right on target with this, is that Christmas is a wonderful time to minister to the lost, whether you buy into all the traditional trappings or not.   Because of the adamant determination of her church (we left years ago) to depart from what we associate with Christmas, they’ve all but lost the chance to show people Jesus at this time through giving, through sharing, and through loving.    As one example, there was a vendor who donated to her church bicycles.    The bicycles were for children of incarcerated parents.     The leaders of the church actually met to decide whether or not to accept the bicycles, and if they accepted and then distributed the bicycles, would it be a violation of the “Christ is not in Christmas” policies.   Huh?   It sounds a lot like Karen’s comment below that her church stopped having services during Christmas week.

 

 All of this flowed through my mind, and then came throbbing to the front when pastor described us, the church, as the frog sitting in a pot of water that is gradually heated to boiling.   As a child, I remember our school Christmas programs, where the songs mentioned above, as well as others like “Amen” with its lyric ‘see the little baby (Amen)/ lying in a manger (Amen)/ on Christmas morning (Amen, Amen, Amen) were part of the school chorus’ repertoire.    Now those songs are replaced with the more politically correct harmonies about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”    Don’t get me wrong; Nat King Cole’s rendition of that particular classic is one of my favorite songs of the season, but it will never replace “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”    Our ability to celebrate this holiday is slowly being taken away from us with each expressed “Happy Holidays,” Merry Xmas,” or even the mention of, as one university where I teach says, a “winter break.”    No one denies the right of others to celebrate Hanukkah or even Kwanzaa; this would be the mark of the intolerant.    One of my mantras during this politically correct age is that ‘toleration’ really means that the Christian is expected to tolerate everyone; no one tolerates the Christian.

 

So as I walked with one hand on my six-year-old and the other in the air, my spirit was uplifted as my smile met other smiles and echoes of “Merry Christmas.”    I mused about our traditions and how they’ve developed over the years.   This almost made me laugh out loud.   I reflected upon our earliest Christmases B. C.—before children.     I was so determined that we would have our own traditions, though I had no clue of what they would be.    So with that agenda in mind, I fought my husband’s contentment to go to his parent’s house for the entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and assuredly hurt my mil’s feelings with such an unsettling, though unspoken, announcement of how her family traditions were changing.   Mind you, it wasn’t as if we were rushing off because we had other plans; we didn’t actually do anything worth remembering when we left her home.   It was simply my way of trying to say that we, the two of us, were our own family now.    

 

Fast forward almost 20 years, much of what we do during this time is geared toward the kids’ happiness—at least that’s the way I saw it.    The teacher in me wants them to learn the lyrics to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and other popular tunes because they are a part of our cultural literacy—at least for now—so I play our favorite seasonal soundtracks.   We always buy a tree, even if it’s late in the season.   Gifts are always set out on early—oh, so early–on the 25th, as if Santa really did bring them during the night (HA HA).    And though I stopped helping decorate the tree—just didn’t feel like it anymore and the kids were happy to take over, I still enjoy the Hallmark ornaments that I’ve bought over the years—half-price after Christmas is over.

 

I don’t want to be the frog in the pot that doesn’t realize the water’s grown hotter until it’s too late.   If only for the generations that will come from me, I will fight to keep our once-laughable traditions alive.    More than anything else, I’ll make a special effort to say those magical words that are currently threatened with extinction:

 

Merry Christmas.

parade; christmas; marching; performing; team