All I really wanted this Christmas…

As Christmas day quickly approached a few weeks ago, my house was filled with shrieking, jumping, and count-downing [yes – that is a word, I declare]. The month of December was literally laughing in my face as it slid on by without a hint of showing mercy and slowing down. Our house filled with shrieks, jumps and countdowns expressed by my children – yes… and also, by me.

I was throwing a fit of anticipation, resisting the temptation to be suckered into Christmas anxiety. I was the one shrieking, declaring – I will not lose my cool this Christmas! I was the one jumping, staking my claim – this would be the Christmas I would enjoy every moment of! I was the one count-downing, sweating as each day passed more quickly than the last – with more to do and less time to finish … Christmas.

Finish … Christmas?! What the heck is wrong with this statement???

As December 25th drew near, I almost lost all I really wanted for Christmas. It was subtle, and it crept in momentarily… I was the one setting ridiculous impossible enjoy – every – moment of Christmas goals for our family. I was the one losing myself in the chaos of my mind wrapped up in thoughts of presents, coupons, sales, mailing and wrapping packages, decorating the house, cleaning the house, and planning the meals… I was the one having an anxiety attack in Target, pacing the aisles, waiting… for our eldest daughter to pick out elf pajamas she absolutely had to wear for the Christmas party she was hosting with her friends.

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She does look pretty darn cute as an elf 😉

Snap. That’s when it happened. In the Target aisle.

“I can’t do this anymore! I won’t do this anymore!”

I stopped the madness and took the kids outside of Target. “Let’s go back to the car, pick up the reusable bags I left in the trunk, and start over.”

Okay mom.

They understood. They saw me unraveling and helped me pull it back together. We went to the car, picked up the reusable bags, went back into Target and all I really wanted for Christmas wasn’t lost anymore. I found it – again.

Wonder. The Wonder of Moments. Joy-filled Moments. The Wonder of laughter, peace, simplicity, enjoying each other, being fully present together. (Even while shopping at Target.)

The next day, after the Target panic attack, I went to my women’s Bible study. Just a week shy of Christmas day, naturally the conversation turned to the potential –and sometimes inevitable– stress of Christmas. Why do we always put this pressure on ourselves? To create the “perfect” Christmas? Why do we put ourselves thru this year after year? *One friend described Christmas as an orgasm that never happens. Another friend piped in – I don’t want to fake it! HA! We were rolling in laughter – yes, at our women’s Bible study. Because the truth is this – There’s this pressure to have a grand, unforgettable, life-changing Christmas experience, and sometimes it just. doesn’t. happen.

All I want for Christmas is to be wrapped up in The Wonder of Emmanuel ~ God. With. Us.

Every Christmas, the dreaded gingerbread house taunts me. I suck at making them. The kids have made them at school, and I’m at home, praising the Lord I didn’t have to. It is always a chore. But this year the kids are being homeschooled, and Trader Joes came to our rescue! We decided to buy a Gingerbread House kit from TJ’s and the kids were excited about it. Whew. I stopped sweating over that stress. Every time we went into TJ’s to pick up groceries, the kids would ask – can we get our Gingerbread House this time? No – next time.

Until the next time they were out of Gingerbread Houses!!! Noooooo!!! Say it isn’t Soooooo!!! 

I briefly freaked out and calmed down, and said “Kids, I will get you a Gingerbread House kit if it’s the last thing I do!!!” I scrambled and called the next Trader Joes closest to us, desperation in my voice – “Do you have anymore Gingerbread Houses in stock? Ummm… let me check. (pause – panicked – moments – waiting). Yes, we have TWO left! Okay-can you put it on hold for me? We’ll be there in the morning to pick it up.”

The next day, we went to pick it up and the TJ’s associate I had spoken to went to the back to find it. He came back – ma’am I’m sorry, it was sold. I had your name on it, but someone must have sold the last TWO we had. I almost started crying… no – not really… but he could see the disappointment in my face and the kids. “Is this a gift?” He asked. “No, my kids and I were going to put it together for fun.” …you know, making Christmas memories that could be destroyed and possibly ruined forever if we don’t build a Gingerbread House together!!! “Well, we do have a few left we were planning to donate because the boxes were damaged slightly. If you don’t mind.” What?! Do we mind?! No way!! This is the Best. News. Ever!!! So the associate came back a few moments later with the perfect Gingerbread House box kit just for us. The best part – it was free 🙂 Thank you Trader Joes!!!

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After all the fuss, we had a blast making it, but it didn’t taste very good. Similar to cardboard with sugar on top. Oh well, it was all worth it – no doubt 😉

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All I wanted for Christmas was to lose myself in the Wonder of it all. The first time Jesus came to earth. The first Christmas as a baby. As Emmanuel God with us. God coming as a child. The Wonder! I want to be wrapped up in the child-like Wonder of it all. Now Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is in full swing. Yet nothing about Jesus has changed. He has been, still is and always will be Emmanuel ~ God. With. Us! He is with me. I can forever be wrapped up and lost in His Wonder. And that’s all I want for Christmas ~ and every day in between.

What did you want this Christmas? Did you lose yourself in His Wonder or in stress and anxiety? Please share – don’t be shy – we’ve all been there!

In Him, Leslie

*I hope you won’t be offended – all stories necessary for the authenticity of this post!

the incredible shrinking church

God's Sandbox

sometimes the smallest ones can make the biggest difference…

A few years ago, we began to see our church grow while our church attendance declined simultaneously. Although people were leaving (for various reasons) something bigger in our church was stirring. The outside of our church body was shrinking, yet the core of our church body was growing stronger. Our souls were laid bare before God. We surrendered to His leading, His guidance, grace and wisdom, even as people left.  Last summer, our attendance hit at an all-time low, yet we knew God was moving in our midst. I personally struggled thru some of the families leaving, yet deep within my soul, the Lord assured me He was to be trusted thru this. My perspective began to shift. The smaller our church became, I grew more confident. This may seem backward… But God.

He whispered to my spirit and reminded me of Gideon. Gideon was the least in his father’s house… his clan was the weakest in Manasseh, yet he was called a ‘mighty man of valor’. The Israelites were being oppressed by the Midianites, they felt they had been forsaken by God, but God was calling Gideon to rise up… when the Lord spoke to Gideon He said, “but I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16) Gideon went thru his own process of testing and trusting God, his own journey of doubt and fear. His journey continued as He trusted God to be faithful to His word and calling… and Gideon prepared to defeat the Midianites.

He gathered an army of 32,000. Whoa. No problem. We’ve got a huge army. The Midianites will be no match for us! But God… He was probably chuckling as Gideon was gathering his army… Oh Gideon, don’t you remember what I told you about striking the Midianites as ‘one man’? You are the least in your family… from the weakest clan… This is why I chose you. So God reduced Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300 men, sending home those who were fearful, trembling and kneeling down to lap water with their hands.

With a small army of 300, Gideon and his men defeated Midian. God shrunk this army so no one would boast Israel saved themselves. With the reminder of Gideon’s journey, God was shaking the foundation of my own heart… my need to keep all trust in Him, to boast solely in Him and take my eyes of any circumstances. Regardless of our shrinking church, I know our church is incredible! God was challenging my foundation of fully trusting in Him. Knowing without doubt – He. Is. With. Me. He is with our incredible shrinking church!

Often God chooses and uses the few – the weak – the least, to change the world. The foolish to shame the wise. The weak to shame the strong. So that the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:25-31)

Moses lacking eloquence of speech, leading the Israelites on an exodus out of Egypt from the clenches of a stubborn pharaoh…

Joshua and Caleb 2 spies fully following God, ready and willing to go after the land promised to them…

David the small in stature shepherding over-looked son of Jesse, killing the giant Goliath…

Jonathan and his armor bearer climbing the hill defeating the Philistines…

Elijah challenging over 400 prophets of Baal to an altar duel calling down fire from heaven…

Little children, the greatest in the Kingdom of God and our example, Jesus teaches for us all to become more child-like…

and Jesus beginning His ministry with 12 simple fishers of men set apart to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.

I know our small church is incredible. More importantly, I know the people within our church walls are people God is using to share Jesus with our community, to reach the earth for His Glory! God is searching the earth for hearts ready to trust Him… surrendered and willing to be poured out for Him… people and churches ready to be used to advance His Kingdom – In spite of our past, our size, our circumstances, our weaknesses – He. Is. With. Us. We can trust. 1 Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

And the story rages on. . . In Him, Leslie

Let the little children… interrupt.

Let the little children… interrupt. 

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For to such, belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.

The tug on your shirt… they brush against your leg, they press up close, practically up your butt… you know your child is there, waiting patiently to tell you the next chapter their imagination just unfolded… or they say to you, ‘Mommy, watch this! Did you see what I just did? …Mommy, are you watching? Mommy, did you hear me?’ but you are talking… maybe you are ready to listen, maybe not… maybe it’s an important conversation you are in… maybe not.

Growing up, maybe you heard from your parents or other adults, “Be quiet – don’t interrupt an adult while they’re speaking… or… kids should be seen – not heard.” At times, I’ve observed parents say to their children, “Don’t interrupt an adult while they’re speaking…” or something similar… and it struck me – I rarely say that to mine. (((gasp))) I must be a horrible mom.

Either my kids must have impecable manners – and never interrupt… or my kids must have no manners – and must not have any respect for adults.

Adults always have something wonderful to say… well, sometimes.  Adults are always full of wisdom… well, sometimes. Kids should always be ‘shooshed’ when an adult is speaking… well, sometimes. Kids should never interrupt an adult. Well… no.

I love talking about world issues and injustice. I love talking about Jesus or whatever you believe in… I’ll have a good healthy go-round about beliefs anytime, but I can grow bored in other adult conversation rather quickly… oh really, your vacuum broke and you had to decide which model of Dyson to purchase… oh wow, your shopping spree included five new cardigans you don’t need… oh no, your 4,000 square house is too small… that’s rough. oh I’m sorry, your refrigerator stopped working and your ice cream spoiled… It happens. At this point in adult conversations, I zone out.  There’s not much else to say…

I am an advocate for manners, and kids listening to their parents, not being rude, and not developing a habit of interrupting adults… however, at times our children need to be heard and we are too busy talking and not listening.

Children need to be heard. We need to give them a voice, and their voices need to be validated.

In Matthew 18:1-4 The disciples question Jesus, “‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly I say to you (adults), unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” Later in Matthew 19:13-15 Jesus speaks to a crowd of adults, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Adults, let’s be frank. We need to shut up sometimes. We need to stop talking… and listen… to each other, and to our children. I am guilty of being a parent who doesn’t listen well… and I’ve also grown as an adult, who is a better listener.

Adults, we need to listen now – when our children are saying things that don’t. even. make. sense. Telling us the stories unlocked from inside their imagination. They need to know we are listening to the nonsense they are saying and become engaged in the conversation with them. I long to hear their stories of roller skating dinosaurs, unicorn super heroes and all the details of the worm they found while digging in the yard and named “Wormy”… Engaging in these conversations are teachable moments.  In the freedom to tell stories, they also learn to listen to each others stories, and grow in their ability to communicate.

“I love my mom because she listens to me.” My oldest is a conversational vault. Only certain keys, turned at the right time, in the right place, unlock certain places in her heart. I never know when she will open up the treasure of her thoughts. I need to be ready listen to her, even when I’m tired, and she’s ready to have a deep discussion about poverty and the future of our planet an hour past her bedtime.

When we listen, we will hear some of the best wisdom and truth comes from the mouths of babes. Recently, our 4 year old was telling me, “I know why you like God… because He made me the way I am… and because He made our family… and that’s all I fink.” 🙂

Last week, the kids were discussing the ultra-serious life-altering decision of …what they will be when they grow up. Salem tells his sisters, “I’m gonna be whatever God calls me to be when I grow up.” Yep.

Are we always hearing spiritual wisdom out of the mouths of the babes at our house? Um…no.  We have our share of burping, farting and booger stories.  We have our share of long detailed stories about dora and boots, Legos and little boy, Barbie and Cupcake Diaries, and we have long drawn out times of drama, crying, yelling, wailing and gnashing of teeth … okay, not really that last part.

Listen between the crazy stories … even if you can’t understand what your 2 year old is saying.

Listen between the silliness … there is always room for more laughter! Old people need to laugh more.

Listen between the seriousness … you never know when the vault might be unlocked for the treasure to be heard.

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What do you think? Are kids given too little or too much of a voice today?

Thanks for reading, sharing and joining us on this journey! In Him, Leslie

Happy Mothers Day – this is what my kids think of me…

Happy (now belated) Mothers Day – this is what my kids think of me.

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I’m always late. I’m even posting this blog later than planned – the day after Mothers Day – when no. one. cares. about their Mothers or Mothers Day blogs anymore.

I’m always fussing about their earwax and toenails. Ewww… Well, it’s what we moms do. Dirty ears and jagged toenails are a pet peeve of mine.

I’m always smelling the butt of their jeans. Are they wearable for another day? Oh, is this TMI? Sorry, you don’t have to read any further.

I’m always asking them to keep their rooms clean, when mine looks like the laundry piles went to war with my shoes and paperwork. :-/

I’m always eating their random leftovers… the tiny pieces of whatever we ate for dinner… I can’t stand to throw away even a bite of food.

I always cringe when I hear the sound of them opening the “craft cabinet”. Oh. You want to make mommy another glittery gooey scribbling? …and you want to paint me 10,000 pictures of robots? …and you want to pull out all the beads to create another necklace to give to all your preschool friends? That is so precious. I’m not proud of this – but I’m anticipating the mess which will inevitably be strewn all over the kitchen table at precisely dinner time. I know, I know, I should relax.

I’m always grumpy when my girls ask to paint their nails… The mess. The smell. The impatience of my 4 year old whining, waiting for her nails to dry. I know, I know, I need to relax and let ’em do whatever they want.

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Sigh… I know, I’m not that bad of a mom.

When I rammed my knee into the bedroom doorframe, a few unmentionable words slipped out thru gritted teeth. I could feel the anger rising up within me. Selah witnessed the whole debacle. “Mommy, are you okay?… I feel bad about you.” At the sound of her sweet words, I began to calm down and then felt Soleil slip her arms around my waist. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Sorry I’m a bad example sometimes.” Soleil replied, “It’s okay mommy – we just ignore the things you don’t do well.”

Best. Answer. Ever. I love my honest children. They are a truly gift from God. 

What do children honestly think of their mothers, anyway?
 I interviewed my kids, along with the projects they made for me school. The combined answers they came up with touched my heart and made me laugh. I realized I’m a pretty predictable person and my kids know me so well.

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I will now share with you what my kids truly think of me. I know – you can’t wait to read the rest of this story! These are their combined answers 🙂 …

Selah thinks I’m 15 years old. Thank you very much. Salem asked, “Mommy, how old are you in real life”? Soleil without skipping a beat answers, “She’s 35!” Well guys, I hate to break it to ya, I’m actually 37. . . “You are?!” [Gasp]

Mommy likes to take pictures on her phone… Mommy likes to Worship. Yes. and Yes!

The best thing mom cooks is… Everything. and Brownies. Yep, I’m a good cook. But I suck at making chocolate chip cookies, so the brownies suffice.

Her favorite food is…  probably brownies. Biscuits. Indian food. Yep, these are all true. I love food.

Her favorite store is… the girls unanimously answered – Trader Joe’s. Salem said 5 Bean. Truth from the mouths of babes.

She is really good at… Singing. Cooking. Cuddling. Awe… yep, I’m pretty good at all those things 🙂

If I could give mommy a gift… I would give you a 5 Bean gift card. Holla!!!

Mommy is… funny. She likes when I tell her jokes. She is always entertaining us with song and dance. Yes, this is true. I think I’m the funniest person on earth and I’m constantly cracking myself up.

My favorite thing to do with Mommy is… Go to the park. Swing together. Go bike riding. Cuddle. Yes Yes and Yes!

I love Mommy because… she gives me smooth kisses. I’m not sure what Selah meant by ‘smooth kisses’ but it was adorable, nonetheless. I love to kiss my kids whether they like it or not. 

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I love my kids. Sure, they drive me up the wall and make me want to run out of the house sometimes… but I wouldn’t stay gone for long. I’d miss them too much.

I hope all you MOMs out there were shown love by your kids this Mothers Day… and I pray it continues for a lifetime.

Thanks for joining us on this journey. Feel free to share our story 🙂 In Him, Leslie