#Perfect

May I be honest?  The past few weeks have been a bit rough.  Cancer is dying {can I get a hands-raised hallelujah?!} but the chemo rounds are getting tougher on sweet ginger’s body.  More side effects like nausea, fatigue & chemo brain are creeping in. He’s a bit more, let’s say ornery, for good reason. And my patience often feels fleeting.  Cancer, chemo, all of it is just plain no fun!

Now how about we throw Christmas in the mix?  Why not?  I will admit up-front that online shopping has saved the gift giving aspect of the holiday.  I have not stepped foot in an actual brick & mortar since Black Friday.  This has no doubt helped to save my sanity.  And while the boxes are filing up nearly all my adequate hiding spaces, I would say that shopping has come to a close.  That’s the good news.  Cancer cannot win the gift giving battle!

I think what has been getting to me…is all the “perfect” Christmases I see everyone else having out there.  And by everyone, I mean a bunch of people who mostly I don’t even know.  Don’t.  Even.  Know.  And by perfect Christmases I mean the ridiculously faux, staged, photoshop perfected, do-people-even-live-in-your-home posts filling my Instagram & Facebook feeds.  I don’t know most of the folks & I know that there’s no way their homes looks like that 100% of the time.  Yet for some reason my Christmas feels downtrodden and frankly lacking when their homes, cookies, decor, Christmas lights, trees, parties with every ounce of their perfection fill my screen.  Here’s the amazing tree at the nurse’s station on the oncology floor:

The “perfect” tree for the cancer kids of the 7th floor.

For many, who are in far worse circumstances than ours, this is the only Christmas tree that they will be enjoying this season.  It hardly compares to the ones coming across the wi-fi.  And I have spent too much of my recent days a bit on the angry side about that.

OK!  I’ll say it so you don’t have to.  Jealous much?  Yes, I would agree.  There is a jealous covetousness that sits inside of this little annoyance of mine.  Jealous.  Covetous.  Ugly.  Really…I’ll say it..:: I really just want a perfect Christmas, not a cancer Christmas.

A “Perfect” Christmas

What exactly is a perfect Christmas?  From my feeds, I might conclude it’s in the tree, the decor, the food, the parties.  So what to do about that?  I could cancel my Instagram & Facebook accounts.  But I don’t actually think that would solve the root of my problem.  Instead it would perhaps just mask it for a while.  I would say the best go-to is always…wait for it…prayer & the Word.  So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  And here’s how the story looks this morning.

Yesterday, while feeding the chickens in temperatures that make your face hurt, I was complaining {pretend you’re shocked} about all the frozen poop in the coop {that’s a fun rhyme} it occurred to me that Jesus was born in a stable…basically a big chicken coop.  The poop in that stable was likely not frozen and instead horribly stinky.  And that is where Mary delivered him.  Mary.  What on earth would have gone through her mind if they’d had Instagram back at Jesus’ birth?  All her other friends would be posting full make-up smiles holding precious pink newborns wrapped in striped blankets from clean beds with hashtags like #perfectbundle and #amazingdelivery, while she was holding her precious bundle in some old strips of cloth Joseph found on the ground of the stable and shook off.  There would have been dirty animals, straw & stinky poop in the background of her photo with Jesus.  Not exactly hashtag worthy?

But as I envisioned this, about the King being born in a dirty old barn, I couldn’t help but smile.  Jesus really isn’t interested in our “perfect” Christmases.  His Christmas {if you can call it that} was less than picture perfect.  He isn’t necessarily impressed with our picture worthy Christmas decor or our Christmas cookies or parties or any of the things we pretend are perfect & post for some “likes” and accolades on social media.  All those things I’ve been jealous of lately.  Jesus came for people.  Christmas is about people.  Christmas {coupled together with Easter} is the gospel…the whole story…the perfect story.  Christmas is about Jesus.  Coming to earth so humbly it’s ridiculous. Remembering this, made my jealous rage {yep rage} seem so misplaced.  And rather silly, really.

Mary’s Instagram would have looked absurd.  Imagine it.  Baby Jesus in a feeding trough-#cozy.  Holding baby Jesus while the cows lick his face-#madcowsnotspreadthroughsalivaright.  Selfie with Mary, Joseph & baby Jesus in the barn-#atleastitscovered.  Jesus surrounded by dirty, stinky shepherds leaning in, touching baby Jesus’ face-#strangementouchingmybaby. Mary holding Jesus while wise men bow with amazing gifts-#theybroughtembalmingfliud.  These pictures would have been so foolish by our current Christmas standards but each embodies the Perfect Christmas. And each should have #perfect.

I don’t post this to judge anyone.  Please don’t take it that way.  I think these pictures of trees and decor and parties are beautiful. I just needed to realign my heart, remember what Christmas is really about, and appreciate my cancer Christmas.  When I look at Mary, I can see that this Christmas perhaps is closer to the Christmas Mary experienced…dirty, ugly, less-than-ideal.  But because of Jesus–absolutely perfect.  If your Christmas is not exactly Instagram-worthy, remember neither was Mary’s.  But she treasured up every, single moment.

Luke 2:19 – But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Count Your Many Blessings

In these early hours while the house is still quiet and before the bird gets ready for his big debut, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect for just a moment on this year & the abundance that I have to be thankful for.  Especially looking back over the last two months since sweet ginger was diagnosed, it’s easy to look to all the struggle, pain, unknown and inconvenience and pitch a tent in the land of the whining complainer.  I don’t want to spend time there {I don’t usually like the people that live in that place}.  I want to march on through & spend time in a land where blessing are counted.

I am thankful for the obvious things – friends and family.  But this year I am specifically thankful for those who have come alongside us, who have cared for, prayed for, thought of & loved us.  I am extra blessed by those people who have been able to let me remain “normal”…let me just be me.  I am thankful for people near and far.  I am blessed by so many, many people and their love.

I am thankful for oncology researchers, doctors and nurses.  I had no idea how much love poured from within the walls of the sterile hospital.  These men and women have literally held us up these last two months.  To those who pour their hearts and lives into childhood cancer, there are few words that express my gratitude.  You are a blessing to me!

I am thankful for sweet ginger hair’s friends.  In rough and tumble days, the kids that love my kid are truly a blessing beyond words.  They come hang out, they bring food, they organize t-shirt & bracelet sales, they send cards, they shave their heads & bring a bald boy hats…they are the most amazing group of kids ever.  And I am thankful for the friends of my other two kiddos too.  They provide relief, normalcy, a place to hang out and be a kid.  I am thankful for the friends of my kids {and their parents} more than I ever thought I could be.

People top my list of this year of blessings.  I could live my entire life without a new car, without a bigger chicken coop, without a Fixer Upper-worthy home. But I cannot live without the love and kindness of the people I share this life with. The things that fill my heart are things that just cannot be bought.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.  -Psalm 100

 

Stop Trying So Hard

Wed in the WordI finished up with the book of Mark while on vacation last week.  I enjoyed reading a book of Scripture through from start to finish one chapter a day.  Thanks to Courtney over at Good Morning Girls for walking us through the Bible that way.  Next she is starting Deuteronomy.  I would love to say that I’m over-the-moon excited for that Old Testament gem, but… I haven’t decided if I’ll be tagging along when it starts or venturing off on my own.


 

For today though, I find myself stuck in a great place.  Luke.  With Easter still firmly in my front thought {that may be like forethought} you know, the thought that is just right there waiting to be turned over & over in your mind until you’ve examined every single angle it holds and played with it until it sinks deep into your soul.  Please say you do this too.  I don’t want to be the weird one.  Again.  ha ha.  so…

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed [or blasphemed] at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I very much find myself believing that those two who hung on crosses on either side of Jesus represent the whole of humanity.  You’ve got the one who is hanging there, likely beaten and bloody and dying, hurling abuse at Jesus in the midst of his their horrific situation.  And in the next breath, while meant to be sarcastic in tone most likely, he is suggesting that Jesus prove himself by getting them all out of this predicament.  “If you are really who you say you are, which by the way is why you find yourself hanging here dying, then prove it and save yourself…and me too.  Then I will believe”

On the other side of Jesus you see another likely bruised and beaten and dying fellow.  This man has clearly lived a life with less than excellent choices.  He admits that he has wronged and deserves the punishment for which he finds himself.  But in this moment, he sees Jesus.  He recognizes who Jesus is.  He understands that Jesus will reign over a kingdom.  He doesn’t ask Jesus to prove himself, he doesn’t question why the King of kings would find himself dying on a cross.  He simply believes.  And he asks him only to remember him. “I believe you are the King & I ask you to simply remember me when you are in your Kingdom.”

Such contrast.  The one who mocks Jesus and will not believe He is the King of kings unless He has proof.  The one who sees Jesus and without any proof at all believes that He is the King and will reign in His Kingdom forever.  Pride versus humility.  Proof versus faith.

We don’t know if Jesus took the time to respond to the disbeliever – it isn’t recorded in the passage.  But we do hear {read} Jesus’ words to the thief who had faith.  “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This is the part that really gets me.  Whispers to me deep in my heart past where my thinking & logic can reach.  This man, sentenced to die for his crimes which he agrees he committed {read:: has not made great life choices}, has likely not been to church {synagog} in maybe forever, has likely not tithed or served or ever done a random act of kindness {you know, paying for the persons meal behind him at Starbucks}.  He is moments away from death, so it’s unlikely he’ll have time to join a Bible study or attend a conference or even be baptized.  He has no time to do anything other than call out in complete belief to Jesus.

If Christianity was based on weighing the “good” things against the “bad” things and hoping that the scale leaned more to the “good” side, this thief would be in bad, sorry shape.  But Jesus has no concern.  He didn’t say, “Look, I will remember you, but unfortunately I won’t be seeing you.  You see you didn’t do anything to earn your way into my Kingdom.  Not a single thing.  And look at the really awful things you did that were against my teachings.  And, by the way, I was everywhere teaching in this area, so I know you’ve heard of me before today and could have followed me sooner.  It’s unfortunate.  My Kingdom’s pretty amazing.  Paradise, actually.”  Instead, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

He didn’t do a single thing.  Not one.  No baptism, no meal delivery, no volunteering in the church nursery.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  He believed Jesus was who He said He was.  Reminds me of an Old Testament guy Abram.  {Genesis 15:6}  He believed the Lord for the absurd & it was counted to him as righteousness.  This man, hanging next to Jesus believed the absurd too – that Jesus was the Son of God with a Kingdom that would never end and it too was counted to him as righteousness.  His belief alone.

I find myself trying too hard sometimes.  A lot of the time.  I may say with my mouth, “I am saved by grace, not by works” but do I live that?  Not that I shouldn’t be tithing & serving & being kind – I should.  But I should do that as an overflow of my faith rather than a stepping stool to achieve it.  How do I know the difference in the two?  I suppose it’s all about the heart.  Do I serve with joy?  Do I give with a cheerful heart?  Do I love with grace & kindness the way that Jesus loved?  Is my “doing” out of humility?  Or do I go-go-go-go trying to prove something?  Am I wanting to win the approval of others?  Am I striving to be “better” than someone else, do more, earn more “heaven-points” {like gold stars on a chore chart}?  This “doing” is powered by pride.

It’s a battle us humans all face.  It’s in our nature.  But it’s so clear that Jesus & His Kingdom don’t operate that way.  He invited the man hanging beside Him to join Him.  Even though that man could do nothing but believe before his final breath.  Believing was enough.  Believing is enough.  Good enough.

day 18 :: He is Called Jesus

It’s a favorite of mine…this story about Simeon.  Luke 2:25-35

It’s not normally a part of any Christmas celebration, but I just had to include it in my advent cards this year.  Plus I love, love, love this song by Todd Agnew.  Take a listen to it here.

Simeon waited on the promise of the Lord.  And when he saw the baby Jesus, he took him in his arms and proclaimed:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Like the wise men, Simeon held on tightly to a promise from God, believing it would be fulfilled. He waited & watched for God’s salvation. He was ready {albeit old} when that fulfilled promise was brought to him.  simeon

{click on the picture for this printable coloring sheet}

day 15 :: Almost There

Today’s Christmas song {Almost There} is a flashback to two artist from my younger years – Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith.  A simple & beautiful song.

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free printable advent cards

Today’s verse is an absolute favorite of mine!

Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The angels had heralded the shepherds, reporting on the breaking news.  The shepherds had gone “without haste” to see what the angels had spoken of.  They didn’t sit around to discuss whether they should go.  They didn’t form a committee to talk about the best way to proceed.  They just went.  And although there are times in which planning, preparation and committee formation are vital, there are times when it is obvious that going without haste is the best choice.  This was one of those occasions.

The shepherds found the situation exactly as had been reported.  Mary, Joseph, a baby wrapped in cloth.  Exactly as reported.  From there the shepherds, we are told, made known what they had seen & heard.  They heralded the news to others.

But Mary.  Mary ‘treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart’.  She had delivered the promised Messiah.  She had done so in a less than ideal location. They had no cradle.  They had no blanket, just some strips of cloth to cover their newborn with.  The first visitors were lowly shepherds.  Stinky, dirty shepherds.  Some women may have questioned the wisdom of the circumstances surrounding the arrival of the King.  Some women might have felt robbed of a grand event with pomp and circumstance & “worthy” visitors.  Some women may have believed that this was wrong and certainly a mistake.  But Mary.  God chose her for a reason, and I can see a glimpse of her character in these simple verses.  Her heart.  Mary treasured these moments – no matter how ridiculously strange they must have seemed.  Because let’s be honest, the fact that deity, the Word made flesh, the Great I Am was born a baby in a stable and the first to visit were some of the ‘less thans’ of the time does seem ridiculous.  But Mary held on to those memories, treasured them up.  They must have carried her throughout her life.

I also am always struck that Mary treasured but didn’t herald.  The angels heralded, the shepherds heralded, but Mary pondered.  Mary didn’t herald.  Mary didn’t appear to need to convince anyone else of the events of Jesus’ birth.  She treasured and pondered.  Of course there was no social media at the birth of Jesus {obvious comment there, yes}  But consider it a second.  Instagram.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Can you even?  The shepherd’s Instagram would have been lit up like a Christmas tree with all the selfies of them and the angels and with Mary, Joseph and the baby. Tweeting #wemettheKing #theMessiaharrived #angelssaiditwesawit. Can you even imagine?  But what about Mary?  From these verses I believe we wouldn’t have seen a post or selfie from Mary with the baby.  Her feed would have been silent as she lived in the moment.  Treasured her baby, her family, her God.  Her memories would have been stored in her heart.  Sometimes it’s not our job to herald.  Sometimes it’s our job to treasure.  Wisdom dictates when.  Mary knew she must treasure rather than herald.

Elfailure

And so it begins.  Day 3.

Elfailure.

I awoke, bounded down the stairs ready for my day.  I lie.  I drag my sorry self out of bed, barely moving with all sort of stinky breath and eye goop & basically fall down the stairs with only the smell of fresh coffee to propel me forward.  It’s early.  It’s dark.  It’s early.  Coffee.

Small children follow shortly there after.  {They’re not that small…but, please give me this}  As if in a slow motion iPhone video I hear the littlest Weed hopping down the stairs, my eyes widen as I scour the room for our little guy with a red stocking cap.  Oh pickles!  He’s still hugging the fat angel snowman.  Same as yesterday.  Agh!  I grab him & throw him into the closest place I can find.  Kid. You. Not.  The elf was launched in the air as not-so-little child rounds the corner into the room, landing just in the knick of time.

“where’s Flory?  he’s not still hugging the fat snowman.”

“not sure.  haven’t seen that crazy elf all morning.”

“Ohhhhhh, here he is.  Silly Flory!”

Here he is.

IMG_2424

What’s that?  You can’t see him?  It’s like Where’s Waldo.  Play along here with me.  I’m in the middle of elfailure, remember?  Can you find him? Wait.  Here.  I’ll zoom in:

IMG_2425

There he is.  Silly Flory!  Pinterest worthy, don’t you think?  Elf thrown in the poinsettia.  Original.  And it’s a new record for me.  Three days to elfailure this year.  I usually can make it at least a week.  bummer.  3 days.

So my big question is:  Who are you people?  Who are you parents who move that darn little elf every.single.night into fun and exciting predicaments.  Some of you are sewing outfits for your little elf to wear…outfits.  Who are you people?  I googled it.  Creative Elf Ideas.  Do you know what I got?  A hole load of creative ideas {and some mildly inappropriate ones}.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.  Elf arrangements that actually occurred.  Parents took time to arrange their elves in cute situations.  And then snapped a success picture for Pinterest. Who are you people?  I want to gleam your elf wisdom.  I want to peak inside your ideas, into your brain, into your creativity.  I want to be you.  Not the mom that throws her elf into a poinsettia.  Who does that?

Oh, this little elf.  He stresses me out.  I have ideas.  I do. Big ideas.  Fun ideas.  Amazing Pinterest-worthy ideas.  But I forget.  I finish up the night.  I’m sleepy-eyed.  I make the coffee {or watch the hubs make the coffee}.  I kiss the kids.  I go to bed.  I forget the elf.  elforget=elfailure!

It’s just too much.  My parents.  Now they had it made.  $2 to the German Club at the local high school & me and my big bro had a calendar filled with daily chocolate rations.  My parents had zero responsibility at that point.  My big bro and I always remembered the chocolate after dinner.  Always.  And we had to open the little door on the cardboard calendar right along the perforation to get that treat.  My parents did squat.  Who invented this blasted elf that requires so much of me?  So much.  It is too much.  Too much.

I am an elfailure.  Perhaps I will embrace it.  Perhaps Flory will be stuck in the poinsettia plant all advent season.  I will faithfully take a daily picture of him.  Still.In.The.Poinsettia.  *Sigh*  I must up my game.  Or not.  I just can’t decide.  I love that stupid elf.  And I hate him.  Ugh!  Where’s my chocolate?

elfailure


Back to advent {elfless advent}

Here we are at Day 4 already in our advent adventure.  Today the song is a great one.  Son of God by Michael W. Smith.  Simple words, lyrically, but so powerful in their meaning.  “Heaven’s perfect plan unfolds, son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Today, just read over these two verses and consider Mary.  She would soon be pregnant with the Son of God.  Wow!  Too much to even comprehend.

 

Day 3 :: Joy to the World

I’m pointing you to one of my favorite versions of Joy to the World this morning.  It’s Joy Has Come (Joy to the World) from Mark Alan.  If you’re not familiar with this artist – well, you should be, he is fabulous!  And this acoustic Christmas album plays frequently in the Christmas playlist rotation around here.

Luke 1:31-33

31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

We left Mary yesterday with the angel Gabriel getting ready to share some news with her.   And what news that would be.  She was going to have a baby!  And not just any baby – Jesus.

I cannot even imagine what is going on in Mary’s mind.  If she was floored by the angels first couple of statements, this news certainly was the whipped cream on top of an unimaginable conversation.  {although it’s a pretty much one-sided conversation at this point…so is that still a conversation?  or a lecture?  no matter}

I imagine Mary knew the prophecy.  {Isaiah 7:14}  She must have known that this was the story.  But I bet she never saw herself being a key character in its fulfillment.  Oh, boy.  The questions that must have filled her thoughts, spinning & twirling inside:  How?  Does Joseph know?  What will my parents think?  Why me?  What will my friends say?  I’m scared.  I’m anxious.  I’m not sure about this.

It’s clear that God’s plan was in motion.  The redemption story was unfolding.  The good new of great joy which should be for all people was beginning.  God was keeping his promises.

Advent Cards :: free printable

Can you believe that tomorrow is already the first of December?  Every year, I think I have so much time to prepare for Christmas & somehow it sneaks up on me each and every year.

This year, I decided to throw together some advent cards to prepare for Christmas…& remember it’s meaning.  A little walk through Scripture day by day as we get closer to the 25th.  I started with this set.  It is the classic Christmas story from Scripture.  A great place to start when looking at what the Bible says about the day we celebrate as Christmas.  Classic!

Classic Christmas Cards

 

And then as often happens in my world…I got a bit carried away.  Heaven forbid I do anything just a little.  It’s a blessing.  It’s a curse.  So I also came up with this set with a different name of Jesus for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas morning.  I absolutely LOVE this set with it’s different Scripture passages than what I am normally reading at Christmas time.  I see these as a great reminder of who we are celebrating this season…Jesus!

names of jesus advent

 

And again because I seldom just stop with “that’s good enough” {hence the name of my blog} I took it another step farther.  And let me tell you, this may be the creme de la creme of my advent card ideas.  Perhaps you’ll hate it.  That’s ok.  I adore them.  I decided to create a card for each day leading up to the twenty fifth of December that paired a Christmas carol with a Scripture passage.  I.  Know.  Why haven’t I thought of this before.  I’m so very, very excited to listen each day to the carol and read over the passage with my family.  I.  Know!  So here’s that set.   Some of the carols are old familiar ones that you’ve likely heard a bazillion times & know by heart.  Others may be brand new to you.  I’ve tried to include the artist who sings it {or at least the one who sings it that I’m familiar with}  so that you can easily find it.  All should be available on iTunes.  {please note this set will not print out in numerical order…it makes me a bit anxious 😉 but it is what it is…good enough}

christmas carol advent cards

I printed these off on some 65# white cardstock.  Then I cut them apart using the cutting guides on each sheet and used my ever-trusty corner rounder from Creative Memories to finish them off.  So easy!  I think we’ll have all 3 sets around the house this Christmas.

I hope you enjoy these} and that the Scripture of the season fills your home.  Jesus is the entire reason for everything we are preparing for this time of year & taking just a moment to learn a bit more about him & the story we celebrate is a treasure worth unwrapping!  Let me know which set you like best & how you’re using them this Christmas!

Names of Jesus Advent cards pdf

Christmas Carol Advent cards pdf

Classic Advent cards pdf