The Habit of Celebration

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“Make sure that the good ground of you home includes an abundance of laughter, parties, celebrations, presents, candles, Christmas trees, gifts, surprises, rocky road ice cream, jokes, backyard picnics, vacations, mountain bikes, bike rides, swimming, fishing and games.  At the various houses in which our family has lived, we have had things like a swing set, a tree house, a tent, sleeping bags, a basketball hoop, baseballs, gloves and bats.”  Seven Habits of a Healthy Home

The Guire family was  prepping for a double birthday party when a horrendous summer storm hit. Water seeped into the garage and came showering out of the foyer light. The pool quickly filled with debris. I felt like cancelling and sending everyone home. Instead my extended family pitched in and we cleaned up water, son Damian fished the branches out of the pool. My brother found the source of foyer shower, the huge picture window in my bedroom.

Celebration is a choice.  If our family had waited until all the circumstances were perfect before we celebrated life, we never would.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (Amplified Bible)

He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favorable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

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This scripture puts it plainly.  If I wait for conditions to be favorable, or for everything to be perfect, than I will never sow, nor will I reap.  If I want to reap a harvest of memories with my children, then I must sow the habit of celebration over and over again.  I never know which memories will stick.  Every once and awhile, my children will speak of a bad memory from their past, but more often than not, they share good family memories.  “Remember when we went hiking at Cooper’s Rock?”  “Remember when we made cards at my birthday party?”  “Remember when we roller bladed up and down the boardwalk at the beach?”  Each one of these memories were probably preceded by unfavorable conditions.  

While speaking to the Mom to Mom group at church, I was asked the question, “Well, what if I plan a fun activity, such as making cookies and my kid says she doesn’t want to do it?”  My answer?  “Do it anyway!”  I have found that no matter what ‘fun’ thing you have planned, there will be naysayers.  The naysayers may drag their feet and complain, but years from now, it may be a fond memory.  I am often surprised when my kids mention one of these events as a favorite memory when I remember during the actual event he/she didn’t want to participate.  Sometimes hurt children are afraid to participate.  If the situation is a new scenario for them, they may feel out of control.  If the event has a history and the child has bad memories, he may think that it will end up the same way.  An example from my life is long car trips.  In my childhood these were scary times for me.  My father would become tense and angry as soon as we got in the car.  I began to associate trips with anger.  I didn’t want to get in the car and go to the mountains or the beach or anywhere.  Even today, in my adult life, I must remind myself  that trips are not bad things.

In her article “Hopes and Prayers”,  Joyce Maynard describes what happens to many of us.  “We’re so consumed with the feeding, the dressing, the buckling into our car seats, the finding of bathrooms, and the counting of heads,” she says, “that we sometimes forget that there is any greater mission to raising children than making sure the crusts are cut off the sandwiches and that everybody gets a balloon.”  Joyce Maynard, Parenting, May 1994: pg. 51

 It is easy to get stuck in the rut of feeding and clothing children and trying to deal with each phobia or medical issues, reading articles on attachment, talking to other  parents about what to do, etc..  It becomes exhausting and overwhelming.  All the joy is sucked  out of life when there is no celebration.  

Celebration can be simple.  It doesn’t have to cost money. It can be a trip to the park. A ride on the trail. A hike to the creek to build a dam. A swim day with friends. What can you do to celebrate today?

The Whole House Team recorded a podcast on this subject!

Find it on iTunes here.

Find it on Podomatic here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Whole House Craft and Cookie Day

The Whole House Craft and Cookie Day! It’s today! We are making cookies and doing some Christmas 🎄 crafts! It will be loud and crazy. Lots of kids and moms and sugar! Do you do a Christmas Craft Day?

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Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, yeah, right? I couldn’t do this! My kids would whine, fight and that would be the end of it.

Can I tell you something? You’re probably right. Your kids may whine. Some of them may not want to do every craft or cookie. Things might go wrong. It won’t be perfect.  Do it anyway.

WHAT?! Yes, do it anyway! Forming a habit of celebration means things won’t be exactly the way you picture them. It will be worth it in the long run. Every time you practice the habit of celebration, you build a memory. Every time you build a memory with your child, you are reinforcing connection.

I have had some cookie days gone wrong, so I speak from experience. I’m preaching to the Guire here. I have four boys who liked to make cookie mounds and messes on cookie days. This totally messed with perfectionist Mama until I changed my attitude. And it was hard to change my attitude. I wanted perfectly decorated cookies like you see on the Instagram accounts and Pinterest.

One year, I drove to my daughter’s house in another state and left my cookie dough at home. Everyone thought I would have tons of cookie dough, so no one else made any.  Daughter Audrey ran out to get some. We used store bought that year (perfectionist me loses again). And…we had a blast!

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When we remember the goal and purpose of the habit of celebration, it makes it easier to practice it. When we expect the celebration to be perfect, we are less likely to practice the habit.

The goal of celebration is time spend together, celebrating people, not things. The purpose of celebration is connection. We connect with our children, family and friends. We when participate in celebration with a light, joyful attitude, the connection grows. When we expect perfect circumstances and perfectly behaved children, we will be disappointed and our attitudes will sour (been there, done that).

Let’s build some memories this year! Plan a cookie and craft day. Don’t stress about it looking like Pinterest Perfect Posts. Make it real and fun. Practice the habit of celebration and build some memories!

Side of Grief

“Aunt __________ had a stroke,” the voice on the other end of the line said. The bottom fell out from under me. I gripped the counter for support.

After multiple moves from hospital to hospital and some new factors, the prognosis is not good. Aunt _______ has a special place in my heart, only seven years my senior and a writer (journalist) with a quick wit and a heart for hurting children. She has been a constant fixture in my life and is famous for our coffee dates that last for hours while we talk about everything and nothing.

Grief sucks energy and leaves me drained. To add to that, over the past several weeks my family has suffered its share. A dear aunt from the other side of the family slipped away far too quickly. I got a text at 4:30 am that she was gone. My sister-in-law spent nearly a week in the hospital while I was on vacation (and no one told me). That news shook me. I called her as soon as I heard and was relieved to hear her voice on the other end.

I’m a deep, slow processor. While others are microwaves, I’m a woodburning stove, the embers burn slowly. I almost didn’t write this post because my processor is still creaking slowly away, but I felt I had to share this message, one I have experienced over and over: Grief and joy co-exist. I didn’t used to believe this. I thought that I could be happy or sad. Turns out joy is not happiness. It’s a fruit. It need to seed, to flower and then to produce a tiny fruit that matures until it is ready to harvest.

Charles Dickens said it best:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Fifteen years ago I had two seasons burst forth at the same time. My new kids came home from Poland and at the same time, my Bud (step-father) labored to breathe in ICU. I had the joy of my whole family together at last and the grief of losing Bud. He died a week into the kids’ new life in the states.

Last week, with the devestating news of my aunt pressing on me, I almost cancelled Camp Lemon-Lime, a family camp here at my home for the kids and grandkids. I followed through because I know joy and grief can and should co-exist. He prepares a table for me in the presence of mine enemies. He provides daily manna. I trust that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and He is good. He gives good gifts.

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Ready to swim!

We swam, jumped on the trampoline, ate S’mores every night while we sat round the campfire and watched the fireflies light up in the distance. I napped in a hammock one afternoon while the grandkids napped after two swim sessions. I battled it out in the pool with sponge balls and laughed hard and long with Sam and Theo, Jerry, Adam and Rafal. Audrey, Amerey and I chatted and read aloud to one another while lounging in lawn chairs on the front lawn. And…sometimes I cried quietly, sometimes out loud.

Camp Lemon-Lime Let me help you with those!
Let me fix those for you!

In the midst of all the fun, a dear friend was wounded deeply. I shot her a few texts and said some prayers and wished I had some sturdy, strong boxing gloves I could put on and to into the ring for her.

Camp Lemon-Lime Pip and Hunter

Camp Lemon-Lime ended Sunday. Jerry and I drove the hour and a half to visit my aunt. The situations are still there, active, living, breathing, causing pain and suffering, yet, my joy is there too. I have a brown paper bag full of memories, moments of connections, play-doh at the dining room table and a long story telling, jumping on the trampoline like popcorn. Sweet conversations that begin with, “Ni Ni, COME!”

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Please show your pregnant belly, Amerey. Going for a walk. Lucy has her backpack with her Wendy doll safely tucked inside.
Camp Lemon-Lime Sam
Night Swim/kayaking with help from Uncles Hunter and Gregory creating some white water!

There is sometimes snow in summer. Seventy degree days in December. Joy and grief blast in at once. Weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning with tousled heads and bowls of cereal in the library pouring over nature guides.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday!

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Presents? Presence!

Years ago, one of my husbands employees was visiting our home over the Christmas holiday.  She oohed and ahhhed over the tree and seven stockings hung over the fireplace.

“My mom just throws a Walmart bag at us on Christmas day and says “here’s your stuff”,” then she cried over holidays never celebrated, sweet memories never made.

For me Christmas isn’t about the presents, it’s about the presence.  We celebrate Christ’s birth because he chose to humble himself and come as an infant, a helpless babe, to feel the chill of a frosty night, hear the bleating of sheep, smell the dung of the donkey, feel himself wrapped in humanity.   Shepherds, the outcast wanderers, came to celebrate his birth.For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!- Luke 3:11  Angels sang. Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor].-Luke 3:14  A celebration.

Christmas should be celebrated!  I am not going to delve into the historic incorrectness of the holiday.  Children don’t understand that, they only understand what they learn from us.  Legalistic, historically- correct parents can take the joy out of any holiday.

Celebrate.
My family has many Christmas traditions.  Advent.  Candles.  Reading of the Scriptures.  Reading the historical account in Luke on Christmas morn of the birth of Jesus.  We discuss the political climate of times, Roman rule, the need for a savior, the misunderstandings, we settle down and marinate in the season.

There are cookie baking days, present wrapping, board game playing, movies, coffee (eggnog latte please, Uncle Robert!), lengthy discussions about politics and words in speed scrabble.   It’s not about the presents, it’s about the presence.  Jesus came to earth, not to banish the Roman oppression (that would come later) and overthrow the government.  Instead, he came to fulfill the requirement of a sacrifice for sin and to restore a family, a covenant.  We now have access to our Father in heaven who we CAN run to with open arms and cry, “ABBA, Father!”  God, the Father celebrates us,  He could not wait to send us the gift of His SON, wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 3:12)!   Jesus came to restore us to a right relationship with the heavenly Father, to offer us the gift of eternal salvation, but He doesn’t stop there!  The final Word of the Old Testament before four hundred years of prophetic silence?

And he shall turn and reconcile the hearts of the [estranged] fathers to the [ungodly] children and the hearts of the [rebellious] children to [the piety of] their fathers…. Malachi 3: 6

Oh happy day!  Family. Presence.  Celebrate your family!  Celebrate with your children, aunts, uncles, kits, cats, sacks and wives!  WE have a family because of  Christ’s birth!