Monday, January 31, 2011

Jesus' Birthday, Part 3

Well, long after most people have retired the Christmas decorations, carols and recollections, I am finally returning to my little series on celebrating Jesus' birthday. Go ahead and call me habitually tardy. At least I can try to finish what I started!

If you read parts 1 and 2, you may remember that Christmas 2010 found us in a unique situation (unique for our family, that is). For starters, we didn't have to travel anywhere on the 25th. For another thing, we had already opened our presents, opting to separate the gift exchange from our celebration of Jesus' birthday.

So what did we do on Christmas Day? Well, with little people, postponing breakfast is never really a smart option. So we started with a simple but hearty morning feast that included rare treats such as orange juice (big hit with the kids) and sparkling apple cider (not so much a hit). During the meal, Dave read us the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, and the delicious smell of baking cake began to fill the house.

When the food was gone, we cleared the table and piled on the couch for our very favorite retelling of the Christmas story, the gorgeously illustrated This Is the Star. Then it was back to the table for "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus," blowing out candles, and chowing down on gooey Honeybun Cake (which, though yummy, was so astonishingly sweet that even I, Sweet Tooth Queen, may not repeat it).

Next on the agenda: birthday presents for the King! (We know several different families who approach this in different ways--more on that to come.) When the kids got up that morning, there were four white envelopes on the tree, each dangling from the end of a long ribbon. On each of the envelopes was a name: Daddy, Mommy, Meg, Matthew. (Esme was a little too young to get it this year.) Everybody grabbed an envelope and headed for the computer to visit the Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree for children who are awaiting adoption. In each of our envelopes was a check. And each of us had the chance to choose one child to whose adoption grant we wanted to donate. We wrote notes to the Reece's Rainbow folks to explain our checks. We prayed for each of the children we chose, asking God to send their forever families very soon, and to let them learn to love Jesus. Then Dave and the kids tramped across the street in the lightly falling snow to deposit four envelopes in the outgoing mail.

Before lunch and naps, we watched The Miracle Maker together. This movie is a claymation-like account of Jesus' life, from the beginning of his ministry to his post-resurrection ascent into Heaven. I found it to be fairly well done and quite moving.

During the quiet afternoon, I worked on our first Christmas puzzle, and the kids joined me as they woke up from their naps. Unfortunately, we didn't begin this large jigsaw early enough to complete it on Christmas Day, which was my hope. Oh, well. We'll start earlier next year. (One word of praise for the puzzle itself: I was so happy when I got it! For one thing, Mary and Joseph actually look Jewish! No offense to any art-history lovers, but I really do dislike all the classic paintings of blond-headed Madonnas and babies. And this Mary also looks weary and even a little sweaty, like she just [go figure] went through labor and childbirth! Plus there are lots of cute animal details for kids to enjoy.)

When everyone was awake, we launched another new tradition: our Christmas notebooks. We started with five, bright red, three-ring binders. We decorated them with coloring pages featuring Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the stable. Then we had everybody answer two questions each: What is your favorite thing about Advent and Christmas this year? and What do you love most about Jesus? Meg was able to write down her own answers this year; Matthew dictated his. Then we had Meg draw a picture of anything "Christmas"--her choice. She chose the shepherds.(Matthew's attention span was shot after the questions.) Then we clipped the questions and answers and the picture into our binders. We're hoping to do this every year, and watch how the answers to those same two questions change and expand and nuance as we all grow in our love for Christ.

We ended our very merry Christmas with Daddy's favorite dinner--lasagna--since we don't know what Jesus' birthday meal of choice would be. Then we turned out all the lights except for the Christmas tree and listened to Mr. B's rendition of the Christmas Story, courtesy of the GirlTalk ladies. Our kids just loved this. And it was great to end the night dancing and goofing off to Mr. B.'s "Christmas Boogie." (Funny side note: Mike Bradshaw/Mr. B used a little ditty called "Born on Christmas Day" to tie his story together... this is actually a modified version of a song that my mom wrote for my preschool Epiphany program circa 1984. And I bet Mr. B doesn't even know the fascinating historical trivia behind his theme song!)

So... that was our Christmas. And what did we make of having an entire day dedicated wholly to celebrating Jesus' birth and life... and doing very little else?

I can honestly answer that it was one of the most enjoyable Christmases I've had. Now, it definitely felt different than a day with presents. At some point in the day, I did have the thought, "I don't know... does this feel like Christmas?" And then I thought, "I don't care!" The thing is, I want our Christmases to exalt Jesus more--and that should feel different. It's going to feel different, especially at first, and especially to someone like me, who's been doing the American Dream version of Christmas for 30ish years now.

Life is full, after all. There are enough people, activities, traditions, questions, ideas, tasks, demands and opportunities to keep us busy for more years than we have to live. Our hearts and minds are full. Our calendars are full. And for us, Christmas Day was very full. We really didn't have space for more of Jesus unless we were willing to get rid of something else first.

So, yeah, it felt a little weird to set presents aside, and to postpone our time with extended family. It even felt a teeny, tiny bit sad. But it also gave us the space we needed to delight in Jesus Christ more fully this Christmas. And it might, just might, have given our children a truer sense of the glory and mystery of Christ's coming. And that would be worth a little bit of sacrifice.

Wouldn't it?

(Stay tuned for a final post with links and practical ideas that have helped, inspired, encouraged and provoked me as I've thought about celebrating Christmas.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NOT a Happy Baby

Does anyone know that lilting, little ditty "Goin' Courtin'", from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? I have a (slightly) modified version of it that I've been singing to my kids for several years. My version only has two words. Every time you would ordinarily sing the words goin' courtin', you substitute the words happy baby. And for all of the words in between the goin' courtin's, (which, if you are like me, you do not know anyway), you just sing doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-dee-doo. Sing along with me now:

Happy baby, happy baby
Happy baby, happy baby
Happy baby, happy baby
Happy Baaaa-bee

(If you are confused, I will gladly perform my masterpiece for you on request.)

All this to build up to the fact that I have NOT been singing the Happy Baby song to Esme this week. Um, ear-infection, anyone? Um, grumpiness, anyone? And even more clingy, fussy clinginess than usual? Yup.

After almost a week of Cranky Baby, I needed some visual reminders of who my littlest sweetheart is when she's not afflicted with ear pus. (Sorry.) So today I am posting some pictures of Esme from happier days of yore. (And by "yore," I mean anything before last Friday.)





Did I mention that these pictures all feature my biggest Sweetheart and True Love as well? He's so good to his Cranky Baby. (Oh, and he's great with Esme too.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meggie Boo

Who is our Meg--our long-legged, five year old girl--becoming?

Meg is increasingly into "realistic" drawing, but she still often gravitates toward scribbling, piling lots of colors on top of each other, and creating more abstract artwork like this piece.

Meg and Matthew both sport outfits styled by Meg in the above shot. Apparently, they were "being super heroes." I guess the shirts tied over the shoulders a la '80's prepsters are supposed to be capes?

Meg very rarely colors in the way I expect--it's always a blue face and orange arms and purple hair and a yellow dress, or a red face and green hair and a pink dress... Whether this is standard or unusual for someone her age I don't quite know (or care), but her choices intrigue me.

I recently treated Meg to a home mani/pedi session with her new, purple nail polish from her Christmas stocking. Anyone who has not raised a little girl could never believe the excitement and joy this event generated. And, no, this wasn't the first time I painted her nails.

I love this portrait Meg recently drew. Don't know if you can read her caption, but it says "Matthew and Curious George." There are some notable resemblances between her subjects and their real-life counterparts.

A few months ago at dinner, Dave was leading our Bible time, and as part of an illustration he asked, "Meg, would you like to live in a big house some day, and have lots of toys and a big yard with a pony in it?" "No," said Meg decisively. "I'd like to live in a medium house with a husband and lots of children." (This still makes me smile from ear to ear when I think of it.)

This girl just keeps bringing us more and more joy. We love watching her grow and learn and blossom. And we love getting to be her family!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Does anyone remember that TV show from the '80s? OK, so I don't really remember it--I was like eight years old when it aired. But I remember knowing it existed, and associating it with my parents, since they were thirtysomethings at the time.

Yesterday I turned 31. And now I'm officially a thirtysomething too.


I really like birthdays. I hate the fact that our culture treats aging like some kind of inevitable, creeping disaster that has to be staved off and warred against. King Solomon would not approve this mentality, methinks.

Gray hair is a crown of glory;it is gained in a righteous life.
Proverbs 16:31

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.
Proverbs 17:6

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
Proverbs 20:29

You know, I get that my body is losing the glory of the strength of my youth. I look in the mirror every day, and believe me... I get that. I sure as heck don't look like I did when I was 21. But by God's grace, I am a wiser woman, and a happier one, than I was at 21. And I don't have the desire to relive all of the hard work, the heartache, the sin and repentance and just... the daily grinding that have made me wiser and happier.

Don't get me wrong. These last ten years of my life have been full of transformation and light and abundant life. They've been full of laughter and delight and sweetness and incredible milestones. I treasure these things. But I'm not sure I'd want to relive even these moments, as dear and as rich as they were.

You know what I want? As I fall asleep each night, I want to remember that, by God's grace alone, I am one day closer to Heaven. Whether those hours have brought me smiles or tears, I want to thank God that He has used them to make me wiser. I want to rejoice that I am one earth's-revolution closer to seeing the face of Jesus. And then I want to fall asleep, unafraid of the next day's hard work, heartache, sin, repentance and just... the daily grind.

The only way that this can be is through the unstoppable love of Christ. He alone enables the hard work. He infuses the heartache with hope. He forgives my sin and woos me to repentance. He makes the daily grind worth it.

On January 16, 1992, the day I turned 12, the beloved pastor of my childhood church, Reid Earnest, died. Nineteen years later, as I dropped my children off in their Sunday school classes, another dear friend went home to be with the Lord. His name was John Spiro. He and his wife Kathy have been wonderful friends to my family. I've had the great privilege of doing music and drama with them, absorbing their story, laughing with them, being cheered by them. John literally left his mark on our home, having painted much of its interior. And he certainly leaves his mark on our hearts. Everything in me aches for Kathy and the three amazing kids whom she and John adopted.

Every year that goes by now adds to the friends and acquaintances who await me in Heaven. If God lets me live long enough to gain the crown of a gray head and a righteous life, I fully expect to reach the point where I'll know more people in Heaven than I do on Earth. I don't expect the process that leads to that point to be fun or easy. But I know that Jesus will be there.

21 years--Jesus was there. 31 years--Jesus is here. 32 years--Jesus will be there. 42--He's there. 52, 62, 92--He'll still be there. And on the day that I die and find my heart's true desire, I hope all the dear saints who've gone before me gather to welcome me Home.

But if I get my wish, I won't even notice them for a long, long time. Because you know Who will be there. And I want His face to be the very first one I see.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Coughing in the New Year

That's what I did. Believe me, the traditional "ringing in" the New Year is a much better idea. I actually coughed so much and so hard between December 19th (when my cold started) and last weekend that I pulled a muscle down near the right half of my rib cage. I wouldn't recommend it.

But anyway! God is graciously allowing me to recover now, and we are starting to try and pull ourselves back together. Slowly.

One huge blessing (emphasis on "huge") to our kids was a Christmas presents they received from Grandma Dawn and Grandpa Tom. It helped keep them busy and smiling when I was at my lowest, sicky yuckness. It looked like this....

and this...

and then this!

All three kids LOVED decorating and playing in this cute cardboard cottage from They called it "The House," and got a kick out of asking our visitors, "Do you have a House in your house?" Tee-hee hee. Meg and Matthew also loved abusing and battering The House, which is why The House now resides in The Recycling Pile. (Sniff, sniff. I get a little too attached to my children's playthings.) But, wow, it sure was good fun while it lasted. Even if it did take up a solid half of our little living room.




In the absence of The House, I "invented" a new game for the kids last night, which was an instant hit. It's called Challenge, and it involves me creating individualized series of activities for each kid to complete as quickly as possible. For example, "Meg, your challenge is to do one leap, one soutenu (a ballet turn), skip to the kitchen, whirl around on the sit-and-spin, boogie back into the living room, write your name on the easel and do one more leap." "Matthew, your challenge is to clap your hands three times, do a somersault, shoot one basket, run around the table with the doll stroller and do four bounces on the bouncy ball." The kids are eating it up. And it's great exercise for cooped-up, antsy, little bodies.

And that's a greatly overdue update from the Wilcox household. Happy 2011, everyone!