consider Lent

absolutelyspeechless:

(Posted originally in 2013)

Originally posted on Absolutely speechless:

Today is Ash Wednesday.

The first day of the season of Lent, leading up to Easter.

Growing up, that didn’t mean much to me. We didn’t pay much attention to the church calendar.

That was for Catholics. Or Lutherans. Or some others like that.

As I have grown older however, the importance of Lent in regards to Easter has grown as well–both personally, and in my understanding of it for the growth and maturity of the Church.

Maybe you don’t share that belief or understanding. That’s okay.

But I’m going to lay out why I think Lent is important, and why we should consider observing it.

Lent is about remembering our Lord’s sacrifice for us, confessing how little we appreciate and value it, thanking Him for it, and focusing on it, to prepare ourselves for the highest day of celebration in the church calendar–Resurrection Day, or Easter.

How do we…

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Simplifying Christmas

(I was asked to speak to our MOPS group about “Keeping Christ in Christmas”. This post is an “edited for easier reading than an oral presentation” version.)

Confession: I may not be the best person to tell you about how to “keep Christ in Christmas”.

I am pretty sure I have more Christmas failures, than Christmas successes.

In fact, I have had some serious Christmas anxiety for much of my adult life.

It reappears in some form or other, every year. (Usually right around the time that the stores start gearing up for Christmas. So around Halloween….)

I have had anxiety about keeping Christ in Christmas.

I have had anxiety about my anxiety.

I am somewhat anxious even talking about this.

And what does it even mean, to “keep Christ in Christmas”? Isn’t Christ already in Christmas? I mean, his name is in it pretty prominently. What does Christmas mean? What is it all about?

(At this point, I could just queue up “A Charlie Brown Christmas” video and let Linus take over, but instead we will press on and unpack things a bit.)

Christmas comes from the Old English words Cristes moesse, ‘the mass or festival of Christ’.

The festival of Christ. It’s a “holy day” or, holiday.

Christmas is about celebrating Christ.

So the first thing I have to tell you is good news: Jesus doesn’t want you to be burdened about celebrating his birth.

He doesn’t want you to feel pressure about celebrating in the “right” or “perfect” way.

He says, in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Tell me. Does that sound like someone who wants you to be all frazzled or stressed out about celebrating his birth?

I don’t think so.

Guess what? Jesus doesn’t care if your tree decorations are color coordinated with the pillows in your family room.

He doesn’t care whether or not you make cut out cookies decorated with homemade, piped frosting .

He doesn’t care if you send out personalized Christmas cards with a photo of your entire family in Santa hats and striped shirts.

(Note: all of those things are fine: if you like doing those things, and you want to do those things, and it doesn’t make you all crazy and distracted and difficult to be around, then go for it.)

But it doesn’t make a difference to him, really.

Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, and the fact that he is the gift we needed most—the only gift we need.

He loves you whether you do those things, or not. You can’t change his love for you.

He doesn’t want you to be burdened.

That’s good news!

But the thing is, it’s pretty easy to shift our focus away from him, and instead look at other things. And soon, we are feeling stressed out. And frazzled. And pressured. And we wonder, “why isn’t Christmas feeling the way I want it to? What’s happening to me? What’s going on?”

Because the truth is, we do feel pressured.

Pressure from the culture around us.

Pressure from our families.

Pressure from ourselves.

Some things that can be areas of pressure:

Gift giving

  • it becomes a burden and an expectation
  • you have to give so-and-so a gift
  • it’s a race to get the “hot” toy
  • pressure to spend as much as your neighbor or your kids’ friends’ parents
  • the weight of the supposed expectations of your child or loved one
  • costs and trying to stay on budget

[Personally hard for me—not a gift giver by nature— I like to give gifts that are special or have a significance (I love it when I find those), but often feel under a time pressure because I have to get something by December 25, and nothing looks “right”, and I’m worried that the recipient won’t like it or will be disappointed with it (and by extension, me….because even though it’s a gift for them, it’s all about ME)]

Decor

  • we feel embarrassed if our house doesn’t have outside lights or a inflatable snowman
  • our tree and house has to look like HGTV decorated it
  • we see a million different cool ideas on Pinterest and wear ourselves out trying to do it all
  • our “stuff” isn’t as put together (or whatever) as our friends/neighbors’ stuff is

“Perfect Christmas” myth

  • we want our kids to have the “perfect Christmas”, so we load up on activities and excitement and gifts and sweets and whatever we think that is that will make it perfect and homey and with a holiday hue, complete with soft edges and instagram filters

We feel pressure from those around us:

  • parents and in-laws: over-gifting, or giving your children gifts that do not integrate well with your family values
  • disagreements with family or spouse about where you’re going to spend the holiday
  • disagreements about how you’re going to celebrate the holiday (Santa: yes or no? How? gifts on xmas eve or xmas day? where? when? what traditions do we want to keep from our childhoods, which ones do we want to chuck?)
  • invitations to things that will over schedule us, but we feel like we need to go to, or else we will be disappointing someone

We also feel pressure from ourselves.

  • Christmas memories—if we have good childhood memories, we want it to look like that. If we had bad childhood memories, we want it to look the OPPOSITE of that.
  • fitting in “all the things” into our already overstuffed calendar
  • Pinterest –worthy family traditions: cookies, decorating, crafts, looking at lights

Listen: lot of these can be fine and good in themselves, but they can also have a tendency to draw our eyes away from the point of the season.

It can all get to be too much.

So.  What do we do about it?

First of all, we need to take a deep breath, and remember point 1.

This holiday is not about all the peripherals.

It is about remembering Jesus’ birth, anticipating it, celebrating it, worshipping him, and focusing on the greatest gift we were ever given: the gift of Jesus, who came to live the life we couldn’t live, die the death we should have died, forgive us, and draw us into relationship with God.

That’s what it’s about.

So everything we do should be in light of, and through the lens of, that.

How do we do that?

Tools and tips to simplify your Christmas 

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation. We can encourage that in our kids and ourselves through the use of a variety of things.

  •  Advent wreath (candle lit once a week, with Bible readings to go along with it; final candle lit on Christmas). Some churches do this in their services every week during Advent, but whether yours does or doesn’t, you can do it at home with your family. (resource list below) Jesus is the light of the world, come to dispel the darkness. Advent candles in the wreath help remind us of this.
  •  Jesse tree —25 readings with 25 ornaments to go on a small tree or branch or even a drawing of a tree on paper, taped to a wall: tracing the story of the promise of a Savior through the Bible, and culminating with the birth of Christ (resources below)
  •  Advent calendars—something with 25 pockets or windows that open, counting down to Christmas with a treat and activity in each pocket, preferably pointing toward giving and doing for others as well as just fun activities together.(watch a Christmas movie; take cookies to a neighbor; etc.)
  • Child-friendly nativity sets –help reinforce the Bible story of Jesus being born as a baby. We have a magnetic board with nativity figures that our kids (and now grandkids) enjoyed. You can make homemade ones out of whatever you’re crafty with (wood, clay, fabric, etc.) if you want; there are also ones by Fisher Price or other companies (just search online for child friendly nativity sets).

Your kid will probably add a T-rex or a Spiderman action figure to the scene. Don’t freak out about it. The point is to incorporate the story into a familiar, daily part of life.

  • Do not neglect going to church during this time. It’s where we celebrate and anticipate, with our extended, eternal family; where we worship and re-focus our sights on the One we are celebrating.

A de-emphasis on gifts
Gifts are traditional part of Christmas, and remind us of the greatest gift that we ever got: Jesus. They serve that purpose, as well as being a way to love others through our generosity.

Gifts are great—they just need to be managed well.

Things to remember in the giving:

  • A quote from Chuck Jaffe: “No one who loves you wants you to go into debt so they can have a gift, and gifts that last a lifetime—or that change a life—typically aren’t bought on impulse.”
  • Make and keep a budget. You don’t want to be paying for those gifts well into the New Year. Other options: Think about gifts you can make, or non-monetary gifts of time and service.
  • A gift is exactly that: a GIFT. Although obviously you want the recipient to be pleased with it, it is not your responsibility to make sure that they do. Try to be thoughtful about the gift, give it, and then let how it is received be their thing. Once it passes out of your hands into theirs, it is not yours to manage or worry about anymore.
  • You want to be generous, especially with your kids—but how to keep it under control? Some ways that can help:

a) — 3 gifts; if you want to be super-spiritual about it, you can say it’s like the 3 wise men :). It helps scale it back, and keeps it within reason. Some people like to do “one to read, one to wear, one to play with”.

OR if a rhyme helps you to remember, some do this: (it’s 4 gifts, but the principle is the same):

something to wear

something to read

something you want

something you need

(By the way—there may not have been only 3 wise men. It’s traditional to think that, because there were three gifts, but it is never specified in the Bible.

Maybe there were more than three, and they all chipped in for the presents. Those were some expensive gifts, you know. :))

b) Gifts between siblings—how do handle that?

When our kids were young, I remember wanting to cultivate generosity between the siblings. So we had each child go shopping with us, to get gifts for their siblings.

This worked okay until we got past two or three kids.

Then it became a nightmare. By the time we reached seven children, I was at my breaking point; trying to find affordable gifts they could all give each other without it all just being crap, not to mention—7 kids times 6 siblings=42 gifts!!?

(@##%$%^%^$#@*!)

My dear husband, when I was wailing to him about it and how I was so stressed out, said, “Why are we doing this?” (which, by the way, is a good question to ask about all of our holiday traditions, instead of just mindlessly doing them)

He suggested that we have each child give one gift to one of their siblings. We would rotate which person was giving to whom, each year, so that eventually everyone would have an opportunity to both give and receive from every other sibling.

Problem solved.

It also resulted in a) spending less money, and b) each person receiving a nicer gift, instead of 7 crappy ones.

(We still do this rotation of gift giving, with most of our kids in the adult phase of life.)

c) Gifts from grandparents, etc: it may be too late to do this for this year, but have a discussion about it, at a non-holiday time–what you would prefer to see happen, etc.

If they are not on board with it, and over-gift, or give inappropriately, be gracious and thankful, then quietly give away excess or things you don’t really want your kids to have. You don’t need to make a big deal of it—try to handle with kindness, knowing that they are most likely giving out of the best intentions and with love for their grandchildren.

Similarly with expectations of visiting for the holidays, try to have those conversations ahead of time, at a time that isn’t laden with holiday pressure. Grandparents and extended relatives will probably always be disappointed that they don’t get ALL the time with the kids that they want. Try to be fair yet firm in both expectations and how it’s carried out.

Yet, do what is best for your family. (If it’s a toxic environment, don’t feel obligated to be a part of that.)

d) Being generous to others

Look for and do something generous this season–something that helps your family remember that everything we have is a gift from God, and that we are called to be generous people.

Ideas for giving to those around us who have less:

  • Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes/Samaritan’s Purse
  • Food for the Hungry—We usually purchased a goat for a family through the Food for the Hungry organization. A goat provided for milk for them, and was also a way for them to make money for their family. We put the picture from the catalog on the refrigerator to remind us of them, and to pray for the family or community that would be receiving it.
  • Angel Tree/local charities—grab an ornament with child’s name, and go and shop for their needs.
  • Compassion International—a one-time gift or sponsoring a child

Decide what traditions and activities you really enjoy, and want to keep. Then get rid of the rest of them.

(IMPORTANT : discuss with your spouse, if you have one!)

Examples:

a) décor—do however much or little you want. My sister-in-law really, really enjoys Christmas décor, and her home is decked out from mid-November on. I find that I am only comfortable doing what I can get done in basically one day. Beyond that, I lose interest, and can only keep thinking about what a hassle it will be to take it all down! I do enough that the rest of the family is okay with it and it looks moderately festive; I don’t do more than I want to. (If others in your family want more décor, then have them do it, if they are old enough/able to.)

One tradition in decor that I have kept is giving an ornament per child, each year. Some years I have purchased them (a good time is post-Christmas sales, although the selection may not be what you want); other years I have made simple ones.

Then when the kid grows up and moves out, they can take “their” ornaments to start their own tradition.

b) Cooking and baking: I have narrowed down my Christmas baking to a few types of cookies that are our favorites. (And I usually try to get my kids to help me—which is actually a help, now that they are older)

It wasn’t a “help” when they were younger—it would have been much easier to do it myself–but it was something that I persevered in doing, because it was an important memory / activity to me. (and hopefully to them :))

Bu, if it is not your thing, don’t feel obligated to do it! Get one of those Pillsbury Christmas cookie things and do that, buy ready made at the bakery–or skip it altogether if you want.

Keep the Christmas meal simple, if you don’t enjoy cooking. Or go all out, if you love it! Make sure you have enough time to actually enjoy it with loved ones, so that you don’t feel grumpy and like everyone is taking you for granted. (They may be, but try to structure it so you don’t feel like they are :)). Ask for help when you can—don’t be a martyr.

c) Christmas cards/letter: I have always done a Christmas letter—because I enjoyed it. I liked writing it, and I like that I have a yearly record of sorts of what happened in our family. I found, however, that it was starting to be a stressful thing for me, and NOT enjoyable, because I wouldn’t get it done early, and then felt the pressure of having to get it done, printed, mailed by Christmas, and the whole thing was a heavy burden. My solution was to take it out of the Christmas season altogether, and now I send a “Christmas in July” letter. Sometimes it actually gets sent out in July; other times, later. I think it was October this year.

Get this—no one has ever complained that they didn’t get the letter in December. They all are happy to receive it, whenever it comes!

Again: decide what things are important to you; be realistic about your time and resources; forget the rest.

How can you get started on a simpler Christmas?

Or how can you start planning for next year?

I found an article on The Art of Simple that had some good tips for simplifying the Christmas season.

It’s by Tsh Oxenreider (I couldn’t find the original link when I looked for it, so I’m writing it all out.)

1. Write down some descriptive words. What 3-5 words describe your ideal current holiday season? (Ideal is not=magazine picture perfect, but what’s best for everyone in your family in your current situation.)

My words: joyful, prayerful, fun, people-centric, restful, celebrating the birth of Jesus

2) Update your calendar—kids’ school performances, work parties, day you have a babysitter to go shopping, when you’re getting together with friends or relatives, etc. Make sure you have everything on the calendar.

3) Evaluate your family’s commitments. Look at the big picture. Is there enough white space? Are there blank boxes?

If so, good. If not, you’re booked. Don’t accept any more commitments.

(note from me: It’s good to have some blank boxes, by the way. That’s where you can fill in spontaneous things, or just have time to rest.)

4) List the rest of your priorities. Keep them realistic (jetting off to Barbados and leaving the kids behind = probably not realistic), but keep them light-hearted as well. Think of the fun things you’d like to do.

Then, for the rest of the holiday season, make those more of a priority than doing what you feel like you should do. Do the things you need to do (pay bills, get enough sleep, etc). But don’t do things just because you’re supposed to. Keep your words from the first task in mind when planning your to-do- list. i.e. restful, joyful, fun, celebrating Jesus, etc.

Keep it simple.

5) Smile, laugh, and relax. Remember your life’s priorities during the holidays, and respect them. Don’t force it to be more than it is, yet don’t neglect its spiritual remembrance. Reflect on your childhood holiday memories (the good ones).

I’ll bet you most of your good holiday memories have to do with family, friends, and a general festive atmosphere. If you’re like me, you barely remember all the gifts and all the events.

That is from Tsh at The Art of Simple. There are also some other good posts on simplifying Christmas at their site (see resources below).

To sum up: do not worry about having the “perfect” Christmas. No Christmas is perfect. That’s an impossible goal. What is it that you think will make it perfect? Think about it. Even if all of those things magically came together, then what? You will probably feel even more pressure to have it be perfect next year, and the year after, and the year after.

Perfection is a harsh taskmaster. And it is highly overrated. Perfect is what the magazines and Pinterest and blogs and everyone else tries to sell you. But life is imperfect, and so is Christmas.

When you are feeling the pressure of having Christmas look a certain way, just remember this: the first Christmas was in a dirty barn, and the gifts showed up way late. :)

The most important thing at that Christmas is still the most important thing in our Christmases now—the arrival of a Savior.

When the angels announced his birth, they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14

Peace.

Jesus does not want you to be stressed out at the celebration of his birth. He wants you to fix your eyes on him and why he came, and be at peace.

Thank you Jesus, for humbling yourself—for confining yourself, the Lord of all creation, to Mary’s womb for nine months. For humbling yourself to live as a human on this imperfect world, with the rest of us imperfect people. For giving us the gift of yourself, and making a way for forgiveness, and peace with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Help us to look to you this season, with anticipation and joy. May we resist outside, or inside, pressures, and rest in the peace that you give us, the peace that defies all understanding, but which we desperately need. Help us to return to you daily, for your peace, in this Christmas season, and all the year long. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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Resource list

Advent resources (several gathered here in one place): http://theartofsimple.net/advent-resources/

Jesus StoryBook Jesse Tree/Advent readings

Giving to community:

Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan’s Purse

 Food for the Hungry

 Compassion International

On simplifying Christmas:

The Art of Simple

How to simplify the holidays without feeling like a Scrooge

How we help curb the ‘I want that!’s at Christmas

It’s the next step

(Belated post from August….)

We traveled to Nebraska and back, to take our son, our sixth child, to college.

And prior to, during, and after the trip, I received the well-meaning question: “How are you doing with that?”

Meaning, are you okay, are you sad, did you cry when you dropped him off, are you going to miss having him around?

(The answers to the above are : yes, no, no, yes.)

To be honest, there seems to be an assumption that I should be bawling my eyes out over my adult child beginning a new phase of his life—not completely detached from his parents (after all, we still do pay the bills), but largely separate in many ways.

I know my general personality of unsentimentality/non-nostalgic/dead inside is part of what is going on in my general reaction to this life-change, but I just keep thinking: Isn’t this what we’ve been working for, all these years?

From the moment our children are born, all of our nurturing and caregiving are pointed toward helping our kids become more independent: teaching them to nurse/eat from a bottle (which is more independent than when they just absorbed it via an umbilical cord, yes?); helping them to sleep by themselves; to self-soothe; to sit upright; to use a spoon; to walk; to talk; to do chores; to ride a bike; to write, and read, and learn, and on and on and on.  To eventually become an adult who is able to think and make decisions and care for one’s self, and to be a responsible, productive, loving member of society.

So to have my kid leave home and pursue a job or education or an entreprenurial adventure or whatever—that’s all part of the independence that we, his father and he and our family and community and I, have been working toward for 18 years. And now it’s time for him to experience the next step of that.

He’s excited about it.

And that’s why it’s hard for me to be all that sad about it. Do I miss having him around? Of course. Do I sometimes look at the photos of the chubby little one year old and get a little nostalgic (while conveniently forgetting the difficulty/chaos that many of those days were)? Sure.

But overall? I am glad that we made it this far, by God’s grace; that he loves God,  plays well with others, and seems to be reasonably well-adjusted.

The reality is that he doesn’t belong to us. We were his stewards for a time; he belongs to God. We were not meant to hang on to him; we were to lead and guide him as best we could, and gradually give him more and more responsibility and independence, so that he could go out on his own at the proper time. He is not someone we were to mold in our own image. He is uniquely created to be the man God has created him to be.

We’ve given him the tools that we could; it’s his job now to do with them what he will.

It’s what we’ve been working for, for 18 years.

Yeah, he will still always be this cute little kid to me, in some ways.

But the man that he is becoming is moving on to the next phase.

And he’s not the only one who’s ready–and excited– about it.

 

 

I’m back

Hey there.
Yeah, you, reading this.
Hi.
It’s been awhile.
Since May, to be exact.
I won’t apologize for not blogging, because 1) it’s my blog and I can do what I want with it, and b) I’m not monetizing it or trying to build a “platform” or anything like that. So, yeah.

The break has been good for me. And I don’t promise that I will be blogging regularly. But I do have a few ideas. And who knows? Maybe one or two of them will actually make their way here, as opposed to the posts I started and then deleted throughout the summer.

To dip my toe back in the water, I will start with something easy: a sewing post.
(Half [or more] of you are disappointed and may switch to something else. I won’t be offended.)

I bought some fabric back when I was gathering stuff for the Easter outfits, and this one didn’t get used back then.

fabric

Cute, huh? And it was a perfect choice for a little ruffle top for Ambrose’s first birthday.

I chose another Oliver + s pattern–a free one, available online.  The directions are so clear on all of Liesl’s patterns; I really appreciate that. And of course, they always turn out so sweet (providing I follow said directions correctly). 

I prefer the paper patterns which I can then transfer to freezer paper patterns; but in this case, it was available by PDF for free. So I muscled through the hassle of printing, taping, cutting, etc.  

That part was a pain.

But the sewing?

It went together like a breeze.

Which a ruffly top should–waving in the breeze is what it’s made for.

I made an 18-24 month size, because it was the smallest size available. Rosie just turned one, but she’s long and lean, and I figured that a little big is a good thing–it can go from a dress/tunic to a shirt, as she grows.

The ruffles are cut on a bias and left to fray gently over time.

Here it is, without a model:

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I really like the vintage-y feel of this cute cotton fabric. (Woodland Fairies by Natalie Lymer of Cinderberry Stitches)

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And now for the real live model.

(Well, not live live.

Photos.  You get it.)

“Fashion show, fashion show, fashion show at lunch!”

(points if you recognize that reference)

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A little elastic in the back helps it to not be too gappy. 

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I think she likes it. Or else she’s just happy to have control of the remote.

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Happy first birthday, Rosie-girl! 

 

(photos courtesy of Sarah Odum)

Monday–oops, Tuesday miscellany

  • Back from travels to LA, where we not only got in some continuing medical education credits for Marc, but also got to hang out with and enjoy our son and daughter-in-law, Marc (Jr)  and Kaylee. It was sweet to be able to see their space, meet their cat, see Kaylee’s workspace, see Marc’s workspace (that would be: their apartment :)), experience some of their favorite haunts around the town, and have some good, more in-depth conversations.  These are some cool people.  We’re glad we know them. :) Kaylee, Marc, Marc
  • I can now add LA to the list of large cities that I have successfully driven in, assisted by my awesome navigator, Marc. (I am a terrible navigator and also get carsick if I look down too much–so this arrangement works well for us. )  Other cities on the list: Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Seattle….there might be some others that I’m forgetting.  I’m thinking that if I can drive in LA, I can probably drive most anywhere. Also–it is true what they say about LA traffic–although getting around at 9 am on Sunday was pretty easy-breezy. :)
  • While we were in LA, Matt was with the high school band on a trip to Victoria, BC: two parades and a concert. He is now an international traveler. :)
  • Goals achieved: celebrating son-in-law Andrew’s official commencement and receiving of his doctorate! And we will celebrate Zach’s high school graduation in a couple of weeks (I know–they run on a later schedule out here)!
  • Anna and friends are here for a few days on their beginning of summer west coast trip. It’s nice to be a destination spot, as well as a free room and board spot. :)
  • I’m in that time lull, sewing-wise: post-Easter, pre-birthdays or Christmas. I think I am going to to try to do a “summer sewing school” for myself–doing the classes that I have signed up for on Craftsy, and honing some of my skills, while I make something for myself. The first item will either be the Sassy Librarian blouse or else the Ultimate T shirt.
  • We were thinking about re-doing our bathroom, but when we discovered more “soft” spots in our deck, our priorities shifted. New deck is in the works; the only question now is, will it be done before the kids come to visit in late June??
  • Blog posts rolling around in my head: books read update (since November–yikes); thoughts on grief; thoughts on memorizing/meditating on Scripture. Maybe if I list them here, I will be more likely to actually write them.

God’s economy

We sold our house in Nebraska; we closed on it in March.

After seventeen months on the market.

Seventeen. 

Two mortgages for seventeen months.

Needless to say, we were quite relieved and thankful for the sale to finally happen.

There was a lot of waiting, and wondering, and impatience, and then peace, and then impatience and wondering again, during that time.

“Come on, God!  What’s the deal? You are the one who moved us; why aren’t you selling this house?!”

(interspersed with times of peace, where I acknowledged that God knows what he’s doing, he has it under control, he is taking care of us, I need not worry, etc.)

I was reading in Matthew 26 recently (v. 6-13). Jesus is reclining at the table, when a woman comes and breaks open a flask made out of alabaster, filled with expensive ointment, and pours it over Jesus’ head. The disciples are indignant about it, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

Jesus, though, was not upset about this extravagance, but instead praises the woman for her generosity and love toward him.

As I was reading this passage, I was struck with how my attitude toward our house in Nebraska and its (in my mind) late-in-coming sale was so similar to that of the disciples.  “Why isn’t this selling? We could be giving so much more to you, if we weren’t spending so much on the mortgage and the upkeep of that house!  (plus we could be using it for other good things that we want, and paying off debt, and etc. etc. for us….) Don’t you know what you’re doing, God?!  Come on, get with it—sell the dang house!”

It came to me that even as I confessed with my mouth that the house belonged to God (and in my heart, I did believe that), there was still a part of me that struggled to understand God’s ways, and was in essence criticizing the way God was doing things.

Criticizing the way God was using his house.  His property. What belongs to him.

I was critical of the God of the universe and his so-called wastefulness.

In my mind during the months when the house sat, I sometimes indulged in the daydream/thought that it probably was going to be that we would end up selling it for way more than we thought we would, and that was the reason it was sitting so long!

Because there had to be a reason, that made sense to me…..right?

But the reality is, God’s ways are not my ways. Even when his ways don’t make sense to me, or wouldn’t be the way that I would do things.  (If they always aligned perfectly, wouldn’t that make me….God?)

I confessed my critical attitude, and again affirmed that the house belonged to God; whatever he wanted to do with it, it was his to do.  Whatever he wanted to do with our finances, it was his to do. Whatever he wanted to do with whatever was ours, it’s really his, and just ours to steward, so he can do what he wants with it.

I confessed it.

Again, and again, and again.

Daily.

And slowly, it became a reality in my heart.

There is a peace and a freedom that comes with actually believing and acting as if God is sovereign and in control, and will take care of you. (It’s called trust. :)) I didn’t have to worry about when and how the house would sell and whether we would make money or lose money or just break even. It was his, and his to dispense with.  He knew our situation, he knew what was going on, he knew what he was doing.

And finally, at just the right time, it sold.

We ended up breaking even on the house sale.  We didn’t have to bring money to the table, to close on it.

And we were grateful for that.

I was also grateful for the reminder that all I have belongs to him, and I don’t have to worry that he won’t take care of us.

I am so thankful that he knows me, and he knows what I need, more than I do.

He knows that my heart tends toward putting my trust in financial security instead of the One who owns the universe.

He knows that I don’t like waste and inefficiency.

He knows that I don’t always understand what he is doing.

But he is gently teaching me that, in His economy, everything is accounted for, and there is no waste.

Do you hear that, heart of mine?

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.

And he is working out a greater harvest in me, something far more valuable than dollars and cents, than I can even imagine.

Easter outfits 2014: part 2

As promised: actual little people in actual outfits, actually sewn by a grammie in Washington and sent to them to wear on Easter.

And they FIT.

First, the Minnesotans.

MN 1

MN2

MN3

Ah, the sweetness of siblings.  Till they start pulling each other’s hair or something.

It looks like everything fits! Bethany said she loves how Addie looks like a 1950s housewife. :)

Addie1

And look—it was even warm enough to stroll along on the starting-to-get-green Minnesota grass.  At least long enough for a photo.

Addie2

Can’t leave without a photo of the whole beautiful family.

Hansens

Gnaw on that wrist, Townsend.  Gnaw away!

As you can see in this photo, T’s pants are a bit long.  But that’s no biggie, especially if he lengthens out faster than his waist expands. (It could go either way, at this age.)

I still love how they coordinate with that Lotta Jansdotter fabric, without being carbon copies of each other.

Travel with me down to Texas now.

Ambrose 1

Ambrose 2

It fits!  With a little room to grow.

I forgot to mention in the first post that there are pockets on this dress.  Not that Rosie needs them for her iPhone, or can even put rocks and precious treasures from her walks outside yet; but they are a sweet detail that her mama appreciated. :)

Sarah and Rosie

Matt and Rosie

What a sweet family, y’all!

(throwback to Christmas: note the custom made tie :) :))

Seeing the kids in the clothes made me so happy. It’s the icing on the sewing cake!

Happy Easter and beyond, everyone!

(photos:  Bethany Hansen; Sarah Odum.  Patterns:  Oliver + S Library Dress, Art Museum Vest and Trousers, Playtime Dress)