Quote ~ from the movie Parenthood

Grandma: "You know, when I was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick so excited and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out if it."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twas' the Night Before Christmas Eve

Tonight has not been a good night.  I’m way behind, have tons to do and not even close to being ready for tomorrow, Christmas Eve!  My family went to dinner this evening; I stayed behind to finish up some shopping.  I arrived at the garage door, arms full of packages, my family was already home.  At the door I heard what sounded like screaming and horsing around.  When the Middle Child opened the door for me, I was overwhelmed!  My husband’s childhood Christmas tree, which we have used for years and years was on the floor with ornaments all around it.  Earlier in the month I told the kids “this Christmas tree is on its last leg, I don’t think it’s going to make it after this year”.  I guess I was wrong it didn’t make it through this year.  The wooden pole that held all the branches snapped in two.  My brother the Stuntman was over and of course had a movie quote appropriate for the moment.  After the Director said “yep the wood snapped” without missing a beat, the Stuntman piped up “Gee, do they still make wooden Christmas trees?” (From A Charlie Brown Christmas Linus Van Pelt: [after Linus and Charlie Brown discover the little tree]).

Feeling more overwhelmed than I was before, I began to panic!  After several phone calls we thought we found a tree.  The Director and I headed out the door in search of a new one.  Guess what!  There are no decent artificial trees to be found any where!  Wal-Mart only had Christmas chocolates left and already had up 4th of July stuff!  What in the heck happened to New Years, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Memorial Day?!  Anyway, as the night played out, I thought of another fateful night, before Christmas Eve, many years ago, when Oldest was five.  I wrote the following after a long night in the ER in 1999.  Enjoy!

Twas the night before Christmas Eve, 1999, the children were screaming and all was not fine.

The house was trashed; the outlook was fair, that Mama would have enough time to prepare.

The children horsed around instead of going to bed; one got hit with a snow globe, right in the head.

Mama became frantic and Daddy remained tranquil, as the oldest child’s mouth with blood it did fill.

When towels, bibs and wash clothes began to fly, all Mama needed was one to wet, oh my!

A gash Daddy assessed, was what he had, a trip to the emergency room, boy mama was mad.

Dumped the youngest (now known as the Organized Child) with a friend, and off to the hospital, for a lip to mend.

Daddy rode in back to help sop up the blood; Mama drove like a tornado plowing through mud.

Hurry to the emergency room only to wait, what was the outcome what would be the fate.

More rapid than postmen, the triage he came; to my son he tried to call but didn’t understand his name.

Was it first name or was it last, oh what could it be?  He just motioned for us to come over, the two of them and me.

Into the triage area for vitals, to evaluate, it won’t be long now, back to the other room, only to wait.

Mama’s off to fill out paperwork, while Daddy comforts Oldest, as Mama tells the lady “I’m going bizerk!”

Finally back to the ER, they all went to see, just how bad the assessment of the gash would be.

The nurse he came in, and gave us the news, Mama wanted to cry like she had the baby blues.

Papoosing her oldest and stitches it would take, to fix his little lip, oh for goodness sake.

Mama and Daddy tried to prepare the little man, as the nurse Jesse came over and began.

A mustache of goo, to numb his lip, so that when suturing began Oldest would not flip.

Papoosed on a board, Oldest was handling it well, the doctor entered to start and Mama left before ill, she fell.

His voice they heard, when the shot it was given, Mama would have cried, had she been with him.

In entered another nurse, to talk and distract, while the doctor and Jesse used three stitches, to hold his lip in tact.

When Mama returned, a baby she heard screaming, O please Lord, don’t let that be my child screaming.

Out came the other nurse and said he was fine, they were talking of boots and bikes and Oldest was done crying.

When the door opened wide the doctor he departed, the air in the room was very light hearted.

Jesse gave the follow up instructions in a flash; he explained very thoroughly how to care for the gash.

He said Oldest did great, better than most adults he had seen.  Mama new he was brave, like the Little Toaster he’d been.

With instructions in hand, we were sent on our way, only to return for a check-up on Christmas day.

Weary and worn as we drove out of site, Mama was exhausted; this has not been a good night.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Are Your Ready?!

Christmas is almost here, are you ready?  Not only am I not ready in the worldly sense (shopping, house clean, wrapping, food bought and prepared, favorite movies watched etc.), I am really not ready in the spiritual sense.  Almost every year I vow that this will be the year I really prepare during advent, for the coming of our savior.  Almost every year I start out with a bang and quickly go down hill.  This year I didn't even start with a pop, let alone a bang.  I am really not in the Christmas spirit and I'm feeling very uninspired.

Of course I have guilt about my feelings for so many reasons, the biggest being that there are so many people in the world that are suffering, right now.  Me, I'm just cranky and uninspired.  I am truly blessed with a great family and wonderful friends.  I have a fairly, lovely, roof over my head, clothes to wear, and enough food for a three day Christmas feast.  So why do I feel so cranky and disconnected?! 

I could say that part of it is the weather, where I live it is so hot right now that it feels like summer.  I just have a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit in shorts and flip flops.  I want to pull out my boots and cute hats and gloves.  I want to wear my Grandma's wool cape.  I want a roaring fire in the fireplace on Christmas morning.  I want to wake up to a blanket of snow outside.  And what I really long for is a quiet, simple Christmas.

Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to having all of my family here on Christmas, we have a lot of traditions that make the time special.  It is always chaotic and ALWAYS a lot of fun.  I'm just sort of overwhelmed this year, it's been a rough year, and I think I'm longing for quiet and simplicity in every area of my life right now.  My world feels like its going 100 miles an hour, every year I say this year will be different but somehow I never get around to making it different.

The thing that bothers me most this year ,though, is how disconnected spiritually I feel.  I'm longing for quiet, peace and time to spend with the Lord.  And not just a minute here or there or in the bathroom.  I'm talking enough time, to quiet my thoughts and self, to really meditate, and just be in the presence of the Lord.  To be in the stable, and be in awe of the tiny King ,that came so that I may have life and have it abundantly.  I do have an abundant life, I am truly blessed.  But I overlook my abundance because the busyness and the messes of life pull my sights away from the true gifts in my life.

I'm tired; I'm physically, mentally and spiritually tired!  I'm tired of wearing my CRANKY PANTS!  I want to laugh, to be peace filled, and feel the Holy Spirit's presence in my every day life.

I found myself drawn to the song by Faith Hill Where are you Christmas this year.  The words, though I had heard them many times before, rang out with such clarity and touched the bottom of my soul!

"Where Are You Christmas"

Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can't I hear music play

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too

Where are you Christmas
Do you remember
The one you used to know
I'm not the same one
See what the time's done
Is that why you have let me go

Christmas is here
Everywhere, oh
Christmas is here
If you care, oh

If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time

I feel you Christmas
I know I've found you
You never fade away
The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love

Where are you Christmas
Fill your heart with love

“If there is love in your heart and your mind, you will feel like Christmas all the time”
God is love!  Why can’t I stay focused on God?  If I did, my entire year would feel like Christmas!  The words make me cry, I feel every one of those words down in the depth of my soul!  I want to feel Christmas all the time.  I so, very much, want to be so connected with the tiny babe, my savior, that my heart aches.  Why can’t I get past the mess of life and stay connected?

I assumed the saints had it going on!  If St. John of the Cross talks about the Dark Night of the Soul and Blessed Mother Teresa was spiritually dry for years and years where does that leave me?  At first this really depressed me, I mean really!  These people are saints and blessed!  But, then it hit me, they struggled just like I am and they made it to sainthood anyway.  That is amazing news!  They struggled just like me!  They still made it!  So, I may feel disconnected and uninspired right now, but I have hope that I will find and feel Christmas very soon.  Then I will be able to proclaim “I feel you Christmas, I know I've found you, You never fade away, The joy of Christmas, Stays here inside us, Fills each and every heart with love.  I think the saints knew this all along; it’s what kept them going during dark nights and spiritual dryness.  I am inspired to live by their example.

I’m going to act as if I have found Christmas, as I search for that connection.  I’m going to wait patiently as God does His work, in my dark night.  I love Wikipedia’s description of the Dark Night of the Soul, “Although individuals may for a time seem to outwardly decline in their practices of virtue, in reality they become more virtuous, as they are being virtuous less for the spiritual rewards (ecstasies in the cases of the first night) obtained and more out of a true love for God. It is this purgatory, a purgation of the soul, that brings purity and union with God.”  I really want the purity and Union with God, so I’m hanging on for the ride!  One day I hope that I will be partying in Heaven with the King of Kings too!  Want to join me?!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 ASV

Picture of Baby Jesus from blogs.voices.com

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fake, Fraud, Farce

One of my favorite holiday movies is Christmas in Connecticut.

While I’ve seen the one from 1992, my favorite is the one made in 1945 starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan.

In the movie Elizabeth Lane played by Barbara Stanwyck has the original old fashioned blog, she’s a famous journalist, and she is one of the country’s leading food writers.  Her column runs in a nationally syndicated woman’s magazine.  In her columns she describes her perfect Connecticut farm life, married with a child, and boasts of her excellent cooking.  She posts her recipes for all to try.  She’s appears to be the Martha Stewart of the forties.  But, the truth is she is a single New Yorker, living in a one room apartment and she can’t even boil water.  All of her wonderful recipes come from her dear, uncle figure, friend, Felix, owner of a renowned restaurant.

The war hero Jefferson Jones played by Dennis Morgan is recovering from several days stranded at sea.  His nurse is set on getting him to marry her, while he goes along with it in order to get good meals; he has no intention of tying the knot.  The nurse in her determined state to get a ring, contacts the publisher of the magazine that Elizabeth Lane works for.  She concocts a scheme which would allow Jefferson Jones to visit Elizabeth Lane at her home in Connecticut for a down, home, traditional, farm, Christmas with all the trimmings, all along hoping that a wonderful warm home will entice old Jeffey Boy to pop the question.

The publisher of the magazine Alexander Yardley played by Sydney Greenstreet is a stickler for truth.  Trying to dig herself out, Elizabeth visits Mr. Yardley explaining that she can’t possibly have Mr. Jones for Christmas.  At the end of the meeting not only is Jones coming for Christmas but so is Mr. Yardley.  Through several series of events, Elizabeth manages to get a Connecticut farm house, husband and baby with which to keep up her ruse.  When Jones and Yardley arrive all begins to unravel especially when it is obvious that Elizabeth is falling in love with Jefferson.  In the end she is exposed as a fraud.  I won’t tell you the ending but it does end very nicely.

As I watched the movie this year, I felt very much like Elizabeth Lane.  Now don’t get me wrong, I truly am an unorganized, discombobulated, stay-at-home wife, mother, homeschooler, small business owner and SHE (sidetracked home executive).  I really am married and I really do have five kids (17 – 3).  What I mean is this.  Often when we are out we get lots of comments on how well behaved our children are, what a beautiful family we have.  If one of the kids goes some place with out me or the Director, we often hear back how well behaved the child was, or how respectful they were, or what a delight it was to be around them.  As I begin to help head up our churches VBS program each year, I will hear how well organized I am or how they can’t possibly imagine how I do it all, stay home with ALL five kids, homeschool them, and volunteer too.

As I listen to these comments I keep a calm demeanor, smile and often reply “thank you, please pray for me”.  When asked how do I do it, I want to scream out I’M NOT DOING IT!!  My kids while most of the times are great in public (for which I’m grateful) are banshee’s at home.  Often, I’m disorganized, overwhelmed, frustrated and angry.  My marriage has ups and downs; my home is not the calm, peaceful serene environment that I wish it was.  And I am not the Proverbs 31 woman that I long to be.  I am NOT doing it, most of the time I’m hanging on by a thread.  I had a friend once describe it this way, I’m like a duck, on top of the water I appear to be gliding along peacefully, but under the water I’m paddling like there’s no tomorrow to stay afloat.  I feel like a FRAUD!  I feel like Elizabeth Lane!

In the end of Christmas in Connecticut all works out well, everything is wrapped up nicely like a beautiful Christmas package.  But reality isn’t a movie, life often does not get wrapped up beautifully, time and again it is as Professor Hinkle from Frosty the Snowman says “Messy, Messy, Messy”.  So how do I ensure that all will work out when I am found out?  I don’t think there are any guarantees that it will all work out, but I can spend a lot of time on my knees praying for the grace to let go of my false beliefs.  Grace to accept that the current events in my life are not just messes, it is part of God’s plan to grow me, groom me, and bring me to the person I am called to be.  Grace to know when I have messed up and grace to know when to ask for forgiveness and grace to know when to change my ways.

With grace comes acceptance.  Acceptance that this is how it’s going to be right now.  Acceptance that I need to change my attitude and my behavior.  Acceptance that I am loved by the King of Kings regardless of the messes I’m in or the messes I make.  I’m not sure that the end of my life it will be wrapped up like a beautiful Christmas package.  However, I do hope that my family, friends and mostly God will recognize that I tried, I messed up, apologized and tried again and again and again a thousand times over.  Because without prayer for grace, grace for acceptance and acceptance of what it is right now, this very minute, I don’t think I have the gumption to try over and over again.  It is only by God’s grace that I am able to see through the mess and seek His will for my life, again and again and again.  It is only by God’s mercy and grace that I can clear my name and not be a fraud!

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
 Romans 12:1-2

(Pictures taken from still shots of the movie Christmas in Connecticut)