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Category Archives: Meaningful Holidays

The Gift of Elf-ing

the gift of elf-ing

I have a confession to make. I love elf-ing. Yes, that is the verb form of elf, and no, it is not in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I am not referring to the infamous The Elf on the Shelf (which, while cute, I don’t participate in, by the way, because I stay away from traditions I know I will fail).

While I love the movie Elf, that is not where I’m going with this.

Love me some J.R.R. Tolkien Middle-Earth, Rivendell Elves of The Lord of the Rings fame, but those graceful, immortal, pointy-eared creatures are not what I had in mind either.

The elf-ing I am talking about does not require striped tights and a springy hat. I don’t have to wear green. I merely have to consider the following questions to get started:

WHO:

Who needs extra love this season?

Is there anyone I would like to bless to show my appreciation for who that person is, what (he or) she has meant to me, or what (he or) she has done for me?

WHAT:

With this person in mind, how is love best communicated to her:

Acts of service?

Words expressed, written or verbal?

Something homemade?

The gift of my time and my presence?

Financial blessing?

WHEN:

When I plan the best timing of such a delivery, I want to consider: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Fighting “Still”—and Other Struggles of the Season

Fighting Still—and Other Struggles of the SeasonI am not very good at keeping still. In fact, I turn still into a such a multitasking event that I defeat its entire purpose. Last night, for example, I sat down to watch The Peanuts Movie with my youngest son, and I turned it into a moment of buying a subscription to a creation science magazine for my oldest child for Christmas.

I was always the child who had to play a board game with myself or work on a scrapbook project while watching television. Even when my friends would come over to play Barbies, I would sing commercial ditties or manage multiple tasks at once. Ask any one of my childhood friends, and she will tell you I drove her nuts! Being at rest is not a concept I have ever understood. I have always been driven and project-focused. The night of my bridal shower, I stayed up late for hours to make sure all thank-you notes were immediately written, stamped, and addressed.

For a long time, I chalked it up to an amazing work ethic. I was the ant of Proverbs 6—and proud of it!

Proverbs 6:6-9, ESV

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?

Right now, for example, I am writing an email reply to my mother while

–looking for dressy heels for my daughter at Famous Footwear online, 

–writing this article, 

–checking on the dogs, 

–and thinking about the school evaluation forms I have to fill out and promptly sign and return to special education office in the school district. 

I also might stop and wrap one present.

I might be productive, but I certainly am not focused.

What does still mean for you?

My still consists of the few moments Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Expectant Like Mary

Expectant Like Mary

This year, I made myself a promise that I would buy 95 percent of Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve even managed to ship a few care packages and boxes of presents already. I think I learned from previous years that if I want a peaceful, Christ-focused Advent season, I have to be organized, planned, and efficient.

Two years ago, my father passed away on December 2. Advent was a blur. I don’t even remember if I shopped. This is a difficult time of year for that and other reasons, and I am choosing to spend December reading about shepherds watching their flocks by night, singing worship carols, and focusing on Immanuel, God with us. I want to create more family time, play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, The Christmas Story, and Elf. I can’t wait to cuddle my dogs on cold nights and breathe in Christmas candles and essential oils diffusing in every room. I look forward to my daughter baking cookies and filling the house with the delightful smells of Christmas.

I want to be expectant in my heart and soul, like Mary, mother of the Christ, my heart trusting in my God.

Luke 1:46-50, ESV

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

What about you? Did you anticipate the fun or the stress of last-minute grocery runs for the cranberry sauce, post-Thanksgiving cleanup, Black Friday shopping, crowds, traffic, and the tensions that can be both beautiful and stretch us taut when around extra family during the holidays? Did you put up your Christmas tree? Lights?

Is there anticipation in the air—or just weariness?

Whatever season you are in, wherever the needle on your stress gauge is at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Father of the Fatherless

Father of the FatherlessPsalm 68:5, ESV, David singing
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

It’s Father’s Day again. [When I first wrote this, it was my first one without my father.] For many of you, a fatherless Father’s Day has been a reality for some time now. Maybe he was never in the picture, or perhaps your loss happened along the way.

For me, it has been six months, and I’m so thankful I’m not breaking out in hives at the thought of writing this holiday column. It doesn’t mean I’m not still tender. I certainly can’t forget the amazing father God gave me. I honor him in my own private ways. My breath caught in my chest when it was time to purchase cards this year. I stood in the card aisle for quite a while just taking my new normal in. It’s moments like that one when I cry out quietly in my spirit: “Oh, God, I miss him. Give him a hug for me, Jesus!”

I lost my earthly father, but the beautiful promise of heaven is that I still have my heavenly Father, and so do you, if you choose Him for yourself.

This is a timely and also timeless message. Wars ravage, terrorists attack, senseless acts of violence prevail, human trafficking spreads.

Can you imagine if we all saw ourselves as we truly are: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Collecting Jars: A Mother’s Obedience

It’s Mother’s Day once again, and after going through every card in the store, my son settled on making one for us to send. The occasion can be an amazing day or a painful day for so many for a variety of reasons: recent loss, unfulfilled motherhood, a difficult mother relationship, abandonment, etc.

I’m not the gushy Mother’s Day type. I consider it the highest privilege and best job I’ve ever had, but we avoid the crowds and keep it low-key in our house. It’s sandwiched between my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary every year. There is plenty to celebrate in the month of May. We all simply want to be together. We don’t live near any of our family, so it has become a day to ourselves.

Collecting Jars_As I was preparing to write on the topic, I wanted to focus on an often overlooked mother in the Old Testament. She has much to teach us, and yet, her name wasn’t even included in the account. She is simply “the wife of one of the sons of the prophets.”

Ever feel like a description like that one? (Well, maybe not the prophet part!)

2 Kings 4:1-7, ESV, Anonymous author, possibly Jeremiah the Prophet

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”

And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”

Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.

Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”

So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.

When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

First, let’s take a look at her situation. Her husband Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Reshaped by Love: The Cross Before Me

Reshaped by LoveBleary-eyed with bed hair still wisping across my path of vision, I glanced down at the floor in front of the coffee maker. A shiny glimmer caught my eye, and as I wearily bent down to investigate, I saw that it was our cross cookie cutter, sharp side up, looking abandoned and almost unrecognizable against the dark browns of the coffee floor mat. I hadn’t seen it in at least a year. It usually resides in the small utensil drawer where infrequently used items like bamboo skewers and honey stirrers keep each other company. It was clear someone haphazardly tossing clean items from the dishwasher had jarred it free, not noticing it took a slight plunge to the floor. I know the child capable of this, and it gave me a pre-coffee smile, which is admittedly very difficult to achieve.

It reminded me of another time I found a wooden toy snake slithering along my floor near a 4 inch wooden cross made at Vacation Bible School. I was struck that day by the reality of spiritual warfare and how that sneaky serpent had been trying to get the upper hand ever since the Garden of Eden. But the cross. Christ on the cross put that snake under the heel of Jesus.

But this cross…the one waiting for me on a sleepy Thursday morning? It was a very powerful reminder of the road to Calvary, the one my Jesus walked this coming week so long ago.

Like the cookie cutter cross that at one point shaped many preschool Sunday School lessons in Play-Doh, the real truth of the cross Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Part 2: How to Make Holidays More Joyful

when-youre-in-pain_-how-to-make-holidays-more-joyful-2Last week, I listed five very basic, non-festive ways to find more peace and joy during the upcoming holidays if you’re dealing with loss or a difficult season of life. This time I want to focus on how to get through the celebrations, parties, gifting, and busy schedule on the low energy you may be feeling.

1. Simplify your calendar.

Another way of saying this is: Choose your events wisely.

Do not overload your schedule. While this may be great advice during any holiday season, it is especially important when you are feeling depleted, sad, or stressed. You do not have to see The Nutcracker, attend your neighbor’s open house, or participate in five Secret Santas or white elephant gift exchanges just because you have in past years.

You also do not need to focus on anyone else’s expectations or worry about letting people down. If they are true relationships, they will have grace for your “free pass” year. Introvert or extrovert, you only have so much energy to go around when your strength is spent right now getting through the day to day.

While some people may not understand because their expectation levels do not match your reality at the moment, this is a good way for them to learn to respond with grace to those who are hurting. Or maybe you need space from people with inflexible demands right now. Either way, do not carry the extra weight around of pleasing other people.

Because I’m introverted, I limited my holidays outings to two occasions last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas: an open house at a friend’s house and a women’s Christmas tea. I also cancelled my involvement in Small Business Saturday at my church and a meal at someone else’s home. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had the enthusiasm for a few events, even though they were difficult because my father’s passing was still fresh.

I remember wanting to return home after the first five minutes at the open house because I met some very outgoing people who wanted to engage at a high intellectual level when I really just wanted to sit in the comforting presence of a few people I knew and sip something warm. I am very glad I made myself go, but I am also thankful I graciously stopped the conversation to be with low-engaging folks in the other room. I just needed to be with people, so I didn’t isolate, but I had no ability to fake holiday cheer.

Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

2. Be a minimalist in décor.

I have teens and a tween at home. Skipping all holiday décor was not a Read the rest of this entry »

 

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