25 Days of Survival Tips: Count down to Christmas, Day 25

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Open the present!

This is the day! It is finally here! It’s Christmas. We have read the history of Jesus’ birth. The coffee pot brews cup after cup while adults wipe sleep from their puffy eyes and children bounce around the tree waiting for the present master to hand them a gift. All too soon, after a flurry of paper, the gifts sit in neat stacks beside the tree. Opened. Ooed and Ahhed over and then set aside.

Hmmm. Isn’t that we do with Jesus? Set up the nativity scene for a month. Gaze at it under twinkle lights or if you are fortunate, go watch a live performance of one (I was an angel in one once, man was I cold, but, best time ever). Keep Christmas Christian we chant. Kind of silly, huh? I can only keep it for me. I choose to have Christ in Christmas or not. I can set him aside or have a greater revelation of Him year after year, I can pray to have the eyes of my understanding opened. Open the present.

By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),

And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength,

Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places],

 Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named [above every title that can be conferred], not only in this age and in this world, but also in the age and the world which are to come.- Ephesians 1:18-21

He is present. We each have the opportunity to have our hearts flooded with light, to know the unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power.  As we celebrate Christ taking authority and setting up dominion in this world, let us practice it. Not put it in pile to be played with in a theology debate next Christmas. Join in the joy and  don’t set the gift aside!

Merry Christmas!

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25 Days of Survival Tips: Count down to Christmas, Day 24

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Celebrate the EVE..

One of my fondest childhood memories is midnight mass. Sitting in the choir loft with my mama and  listening to her beautiful voice and hearing the gospel readings. It made the night seem so much shorter. After mass, my sister and I giggled in her bedroom for hours (my poor mama)! Then a few short hours later, it was Christmas morning.

But, oh the EVE.Such a short word for such a long day. What seems like a few hours to adults can seem like years to children. Tomorrow is the day that everyone is waiting for. It is THE DAY. We pound that into their little heads. Wonderful things happen on Christmas. Jesus is born. We read the Christmas history in Luke 2. We open presents.

The best remedy? Do something. Celebrate the day.

  • Play a game.or two.
  • Go outside for a walk.
  • Make a special meal.
  • Get out a puzzle.
  • Go visit a nursing home.
  • Go caroling in your neighborhood.
  • Have kids exchange gifts with their siblings.
  • Open the Christmas pajamas.
  • Do a craft.
  • Re-enact the Christmas story

Celebrate the EVE!

25 Days of Survival Tips: Count down to Christmas, Day 23

51695-img_0058Tip 23- It had better not be perfect!

Every year when the kids and I were putting up the Christmas tree, my Spock-like tendencies came out. Every candle had to be perfectly spaced. The ribbons had to be equal distance apart.  All the lights had to be white and homemade ornaments had to go on the back side of the tree. I wish I could go back and time and change those practices. I cannot. But, you can learn from my mistakes. Part of my habit was personality. Part perfectionism. I wanted the tree to be perfect. I’m not sure who the tree was being perfect for. It wasn’t for the kids. They would rather have popcorn and homemade ornaments. Colored lights. They wanted colored lights.

The problem with perfect? It doesn’t help children. It leaves them wanting. It makes them feel as if they don’t measure up. The last thing a child from a hard place needs is the expectation of perfectionism. They are wrapped in control that leaves them in manipulation mode. To add perfectionism to that ballgame spells disaster. Instead we need flexibility. Fun. Willingness to bend. Willingness to bend down and see where they are and join them.

“in the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down from heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”

Kids who have come from traumatic beginnings or kids who have just had a hard day need us to descend to their depths in order to help them reascend into joy. This is the Christ-like Christmas act. This is not perfect. It is messy. It is not self serving. It is bowing down to serve. It is paper chains strung across the living room. It is flour all over the flour when baking. It is globs of shapeless cookies with mountains of icing. It is sloppily wrapped gifts with half a yard of tape around them. It is falling asleep on the floor under the Christmas tree with a child who pops out of bed like a batch of popcorn. It is joy in imperfection. Bend down to bring those in your world up with you.

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25 Days of Survival Tips: Count down to Christmas, Day 22

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Watch the dead time.

“When is everyone coming?” is a question I hear often before Christmas or “what are we going to do today?’ While I have a list a mile long of what I need to do (not all Christmas related because life goes on) and presents to wrap to boot my answer is usually stilted or short, “We are not going anywhere today!” or “I have a bunch of stuff to do!” My doing sometimes creates dead time for children. Dead time has no purpose.

Waiting. Remember the waiting? Yes, it seems to be more intense the closer it is to Christmas. Kids are on break. There are long hours for them and much preparation for us Moms. Family coming to town means we need to clean, shop and plan. We Moms sneak away to wrap presents. And for kids this is sometimes dead time. It can create havoc. It creates whiny kids wondering what is coming next and if it is EVER going to happen.

Christmas doesn’t have to be condensed to one day and if it is, it can be a let down. All that dead time for this? All that waiting for this? Dad’s too tired on Christmas Eve to play. Mom is ready for a nap after Christmas dinner?

It’s tough, I know. Grownups are tired. Kids are wired.

Try to fill the dead time with short activities during the day. Give the kids some Christmas jobs.

  • wrapping a present or two
  • helping with baking
  • cleaning
  • get the board games out before company comes and play a few warm-up rounds
  • have them run errands with you and TALK and LISTEN
  • purchase a few easy meals that are a special treat and have the kids help make them
  • help them make home made gifts

Turn the dead time into life skill time. Before long the children will be adults. Prepare them by training them in participation now!

25 Days of Survival Tips: Count down to Christmas, Day 21

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Christmas has needs.

I paced back and forth at the front of the house where large windows looked out over the front yard and the mailbox. The mailbox- what had been a symbol of Christmas cards and good news had become my worst enemy. I dreaded the mailman coming bringing bills and more bills, and yet I watched, waited, worried. When the mail truck pulled up to my box, I hid behind the curtains, afraid he would see me and hand deliver bills that said, “FINAL NOTICE”. I imagined him shaking his head in pity me as he saw the stack of bills.

I’ve lived there, deep in the pit of need where my prayers were only about my lack: Mortgage payments. Groceries. Presents. How do you have a silent night when your mind is full of the need? Of worry? Of the reality of the barrenness of now? I’m not going to tell you how to shop smarter or spend less (there are plenty of great blogs and books about that). The truth is you cannot shop smarter with nothing. It is not a great deal if you have nothing.

Almost eight years ago, we moved to our current home and still owned a home in another city.It sat on the market for a year and a half. We paid two mortgages for that length of time. A few years before that we lost our family owned business. We ate through our savings, our kids college funds and put the rest of our money into a house that the downturn in the market swallowed up. We went from being middle class to on the edge of homeless.

I don’t share this info often because I don’t enjoy pity parties anymore. I’m not inviting you to one. I do, however enjoy empathy parties with a healthy dose of encouragement. That is what this post is for. Encouragement. I have talked to many, adoptive families over the years and all of them have something in common- after the adoption comes the Job syndrome. Sometimes it’s years down the road. Sometimes, just months or days. It can come in different packages, loss of heath for parent or child, loss of finances, behavior issues, trouble attaching,_________(fill in the blank). The Job syndrome is a whole book in itself, I’ll keep it brief your sake, you get the picture, right?

Christmas has needs. It needs us to step outside of our every day stress and receive it. That is difficult to do when we are full of worry and the wight of the world on our shoulders. So, how do we except the gift of Christmas when we cannot buy our children the gifts we want to? Or buy the groceries we need to make the traditional dinner? How do we meet Christ in the morning when we are so weighed down and depressed we cannot get out of bed? How do we celebrate when our children from hard places have had every trigger activated and are out of control?

1. Accept your now.

You may not be where you want to be financially or physically, just remember a healthy part of getting on the right path is enjoying something in your now that you can remember later. Play games with your kids. Cut own snowflakes. Sing Christmas carols. Make gifts.  Watch for points of connection and behaviors you want to encourage. Mention them aloud to your children. Before you know it, you will have a parcel full of wonderful memories. The kids won’t remember the lean years as much as they remember the celebration.

2. Prepare for your future now.

I’m not talking about getting a financial plan. Those are great, but the bottom can fall out of those too. Ask me. I know. I’m talking about your heart. If you believe your child will always struggle or always make things a struggle then it will become reality. Instead, look for pinpricks of light and believe that God is doing a great work in the child that He put in your care. Instead of thinking that your Christmases will always be full of lack and need, focus on the blessings you have. Thank the Father for them. Often. Keep a list or a thankful tree (it doesn’t have to be November to do this). This is heart preparation for the future blessings. It makes things well with your soul.

3. Rest in HIM.

I can’t say this often enough. I do say it often because the Lord leads me to verses often that hi-light REST. His rest is not the same as ours. It’s not vegging in front of the TV ignoring the  issues, it’s digging deep into His word. It’s dialoguing with Him. Tell Him your concerns.Don’t just make requests. When you do, trust Him to supply. He will. The Christmas that was the most lean for us financially, friends of mine gave me gifts for my children that were perfect for them. We didn’t spend lots of money. We didn’t have it. We did celebrate. I bet if you asked my kids if they remember a ‘bad’ Christmas, they would say “NO!”. The great thing about the need of Christmas is –

“You don’t have to make Christmas…..You can rest in Christ…..You can breathe easy in Christ.”- Ann Voskamp

Christmas needs us to rest in Christ.