I’m Taller in the Fall, and Other Confessions for the Season

It’s so exciting to feel the beginnings of fall weather. Just when I’m about to convince myself to go against my better judgement and buy new clothes because I’m so completely OVER these four shirts, two shorts, and two pairs of flops, we start getting highs in the 80s. This isn’t quite cool enough to pull out the jeans just yet, but it’s a promise of cooler tomorrows. Soon it will be highs in the 60s and 70s, and boy is that jeans and boots weather! No need to go shopping. I forgot how much I grew to hate these four sweaters last February, so they’re all new to me now! And besides, I’m noticeably taller in boots (probably only to myself), and therefore I feel prettier. You have to be tall to be a model, and now by being a couple of inches closer to “tall,” I am noticeably prettier (probably only to myself).

As much as I love this change of seasons — which is only 16% less than I love the transition from winter to spring — fall always brings with it some anxiety about the days to come. So, confession time. I’m going to start slow.

I love pumpkins. However, I stopped buying them because I’m the only one who enjoys carving them, and carving while others watch TV is lame. I also stopped buying them because it seems to be a little bit of a waste… “Hey, let’s buy a few large vegetables and put them on our porch until they rot. Yeah!!!” Doesn’t make sense, even though they’re adorable and I love them. Strangely enough, I did end up buying one just today simply because it’s in my homeschool curriculum to carve a pumpkin next week. Did someone say gross motor skills? Oh yeah, let’s carve that pumpkin and make a big mess! (And don’t forget about counting seeds and working on fine motor skills as we pick them up.)

I hate decorating. I suck at it. While I truly have appreciations when others do it well — it’s truly a reflection of God’s creativity at work in people who do — I don’t really value it enough to stress myself out over it in my own home. And so the holidays, with all their extensive decorating expectations, make me feel incredibly awkward, inadequate, and dull. If I try, it looks like a toddler did it. If I don’t, I’m a Scrooge. So last year, I just did the tree and the nativity. I LOVED that. Just enough festivity to make me smile, and completely within my abilities. (Oh yeah, the tree was definitely pre-lit!)

I don’t really know what to do about Halloween. It’s on the edges of my conscience that maybe I shouldn’t participate because it’s evil, but then it’s also on the edges that there’s nothing wrong with dressing your kid like a dragon (A DRAGON! HE’S A DRAGON THIS YEAR!) and actually interacting with neighbors who are not usually willing to talk to you. But, I’m just not into it. I read about some families just doing a movie night and having junk food and lots of fun together with their kids, and I LOVE that idea, but tragically, my husband is not as lame as I am and would never go for this.

I’m not into Santa. Speaking of ruining my kid’s childhood — because I’m obviously dancing on that line due to my reservations about Halloween — let’s just move right on into the biggest holiday of the season. I have a major problem with lying to my kid, so I have thus far not done the Santa thing. (Before you get defensive about the “lying” part — it IS lying. It is. Even if it’s “just for fun.”) Anyway, so I obviously take a lot of flack for this. Every year. I’m the bad mom for not lying. I’m stealing the magic from Christmas because I focus on the God who grew in a human woman’s womb and entered our world to rescue us from eternity apart from Him, even when that’s all in the world any of us deserved. Right, that’s less amazing than the myth of Santa.

Shopping for Christmas presents makes me cry every year. Every year at some point in December in some store, I just stop and let the tears fall because I am at a total loss. By Christmas, I’ve made it through 14 family birthdays in the fall alone, and now it’s time to get another something for all of these people again, and then some. I don’t dislike giving gifts; in fact, I love it. It’s so exciting to see someone open something you just know they’ll love! The problem is that I rarely experience this elation, despite the myriad of opportunities I have this time of year. I just don’t have very good gift-buying skills or intuition, and I desperately don’t want to give people crap wrapped in paper just so they have something to open. I experience such anxiety over this every year that I always reach the end of my rope and confess to my husband that I wish I could withdraw from all gift giving and receiving for the rest of my life! It’s so sad, and I feel like the worst person in the world for saying this, but it’s true. I want to be good at this. I want to enjoy it. I decide every year that this year will be better, that I will shop early, that I will do great research on family members about what they want, and that I, too, will experience Christmas cheer as I shop for the perfect gift. But try as I might, I still end up I tears every year because I have no idea what anybody wants, or, if I do, I can’t find it or can’t afford it. This is my saddest and most embarrassing confession, so let’s end with something happier!

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year. No, it isn’t as important as Christmas or Easter, obviously, but as far as enjoyment level, it’s tops! No presents! No lies! It’s not usually too cold! DELICIOUS food! Oooh and pumpkin cheesecake pie, amen. Love.

To sum up, aside from pumpkin carving and pumpkin cheesecake pie, I just kinda have my sights on January. Cold, quiet January. Silence retreat, anyone? Oh yeah.

What about you? Any confessions? This is a safe space. 🙂

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Moving Toward Minimalism in Holidays

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The Reliques and us!

The best birthday present I ever got was last year. My ♥awesomely♥wonderful♥husband♥ organized a surprise benefit concert for me, featuring Heath Aldridge and The Reliques. The money raised went to one of my very favorite charities, Voice of the Martyrs. I was so surprised and so delighted that I cried! I had never, ever had such an awesome birthday. I was SO happy to NOT receive presents, and to instead know that something truly useful and meaningful was being done with my friends’ and family members’ money. It was the best celebration ever.

(Side note: If you ever want to give me a present for my birthday or Christmas, you can never, ever go wrong by donating to VOM or to Take Root. In my name or not, I don’t care. I will be more excited about a gift like this than about really any other present you can think of — really!)

I struggle with holidays for many reasons, but gift-giving is one of the biggest. While I do want to celebrate and to see the people I love smiling and happy, I feel unsettled by trying to accomplish this with stuff. The whole ordeal — especially at Christmas — is just becoming increasingly contrary to my interest in shedding some of the earthly treasures I’ve stored up for myself:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-21

How does it then make sense to suspend that belief during holidays? Giving more stuff to people who (like me) already have so much stuff that there are boxes of stuff in their attics and in closets and maybe even in storage facilities… are these treasures in heaven? Where are our hearts? We have SO MUCH STUFF. We don’t need more stuff.

So is the answer to stop giving gifts? I doubt it. Gift-giving is Biblical. The wise men brought gifts to young King Jesus. God gives us gifts. Christians are called to give generously to God, to each other, and to the needy. My issue is not gift-giving in itself, but that American gift-giving is a little bit out of hand. And so, I’ve been really thinking about it. For years. While I typically still default to something material and not necessarily needed, because that’s what I know and because I often run out of time, I’ve been trying to slowly change.

100_2755For Mother’s Day, I made face, foot, and body scrubs. It took a little time and a couple of errands to get the supplies and ingredients, but I had fun with this project! It was fairly inexpensive to do, but more meaningful (I think) than many other gifts I could have simply bought.

For Father’s Day for my husband, I took him — just us! — on a canoe trip. I gave an experience, a memory, a great date doing something active and outdoors. I know my husband loves that kind of thing, and I know we don’t do enough of it, especially since the baby came. So I surprised him. He loved it! It was so much better than a tie.

canoeangela canoejustin

For my son’s upcoming birthdays, (yes, plural on purpose!), I’m working on a perpetual gift. I have a scrapbook in which I will, every year, add a personal birthday letter from me. I’ll also include on the page some pictures from the year. He’ll have that to look forward to every birthday — even though I know that for several of them later on, he will act like he’s too cool to care! It will be such a great keepsake in years to come, and he will have a tangible expression of my love even after I am gone.

For Christmas, oh man. I don’t know yet. Any ideas? 😉

While embracing the spirit of giving, I want to also learn how to give meaningful gifts. I’m working on it, and I’m open to suggestions!

TDOT: (Embarrassingly Belated) Days Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, and Thirty

So it’s been so long that I almost let it go. But then I remembered that “TDOT” is thirty days. I only did twenty-seven, and that’s really a stretch anyway since I combined so many posts toward the end! Still, I made a commitment. Although I lagged on my posts, November really was a month of more thanksgiving for me, and it has extended through now as I reflect on Advent. God is teaching me so many things; I’m being stretched and pulled and challenged and sometimes frustrated by His relentless love for me that refuses to let me stay where I am. Oh, how He loves us so.

On Wednesday, November 28, I struggled a bit, wrestling with the darkness of my heart. I didn’t have many answers, but I was thankful for the God who does have them. The Advent reading for the day, Jeremiah 33:14-15, talked about justice and righteousness to come, knowing that one day we will be fully delivered from oppression and darkness:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

On Thursday, November 29, I was so thankful to be able to teach an Advent lesson on the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the ladies at my church. It was a challenging lesson to prepare, and I spent a long time on it, wading through way more Scripture passages than most one-hour meetings would tackle. Although I was afraid of being boring or of talking too much, I took my husband’s advice and just went with it; I told the Advent story from Mary’s perspective. I learned so much from her, and the best thing I learned was that, for all of her unique and miraculous experiences with the Savior of the world as her Son, her last appearance in the Bible leaves her exactly where we are, praying and waiting for the fullness of the Second Advent:

…as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

(Acts 1:9-14 ESV)

On Friday, November 30, I was so thankful to share in the joy of my pastor and his wife as they shared the 20-week sonogram findings of their miracle baby! Hallelujah and praise the Lord, for He is good, and the little blessing is growing strong and healthy. 😀  Reminds me of the little tune I made up to sing to my blessing baby while he was growing in my belly (it doesn’t rhyme–I can’t do that.) :

Little baaaaby
You’re so sweet and tiiiiiiny
I just wanna hooold you
So grow big ‘n’ strong!

I am so thankful.

TDOT: Days Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, and Twenty-Seven

So, I haven’t been posting primarily because of the inconvenience. I have a million little, underlying reasons, but that’s the biggest one. If I had set out to share my daily thanks simply via Facebook status, like most rational people, then this wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, I decided to make a blog post every day.

It is impossible for me to write a blog post every day. Really. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Excuses aside, I have still been thankful! I just haven’t been blogging about it. Here is what I’ve been thankful for every day since I last blogged:

Saturday

  • My nephew turned 16! Thankfully, he can’t drive until next month when he takes his test. 😉 Happy birthday Brad!
  • My brother-in-law turned –! Once you get past 21, you don’t need to report it anymore. Happy birthday Matt!

Sunday

  • Homemade sushi! I hadn’t had sushi in forever — since before pregnancy a year ago — so I was super excited when my husband got a wild hair and decided he wanted to make some! He makes an awesome California roll! Nom nom.
  • I found out that my friend, Amanda, will be having her baby this week! I am SO excited to meet little Macy and squish her cheeks. Prayers for a safe delivery for momma and baby.

Monday

  • My Moby wrap again! Bubs has days where he just refuses to nap, which makes for a fussy Bubs, which makes for an irritated momma. It’s nice to be able to put him into the Moby where, if he doesn’t get a full nap, he can at least snooze happily for a while as I get a few things done. I can’t exactly do P90X while he’s in there, but I can do some things. Thanks again, Rebecca!
  • My beautiful tree that little Bubs helped me decorate Sunday, and that we’re now enjoying. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Today

  • Socks! It’s chilly.
  • The Gospel according to John. I love the literary beauty and theological richness that is chapter one, and I’m so glad that the Good Morning Girls Advent study has me meditating there today!

What are you thanking the Lord for today? 

TDOT: Days Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three

Yesterday, I was thankful for:

  • Turkey!!!!! Stuffing, mac ‘n’ cheese, rolls, smashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, pie, cake, ice cream, et cetera, et cetera… (For my baby’s nutrition, I am also thankful for roughly seventeen green beans and the one broccoli that I allowed on my plates at lunch and dinner. It was for him.)
  • Time spent with family. Since I have SO MUCH family, I didn’t get to see everyone, but I was thankful to see who I could this year!

Today, I’m thankful for:

  • NOT Black Friday shopping!
  • My husband being home! And organizing and cleaning my kitchen for me! What a great guy. I love his face! 
  • Dancing and singing Christmas music with Bubs in the living room, which is waaaaaay “funner” than shopping! He’s so excited for his first Christmas as a bigger-than-a-sesame-seed baby, and the music is so much easier to hear and enjoy on the outside of Mommy’s tummy! (And just wait until he takes a gander at our Christmas tree! Ooooh doggy, will he love that!)
  • Story time! We read three whole books on his floor before nap time. He loved it! Sweet Bubs. If he doesn’t end up liking to read, it won’t be for lack of my trying!

What are you thanking the Lord for today? 

TDOT: Day Seven

Today I’m extra thankful: 

  1. For P90x again! Long after I posted yesterday, I had my husband help me with measurements to track my progress after 30 days. I have lost 3 pounds, one dress size, and 5.5 inches overall! Wow! That’s definitely a motivator; I’m glad the program suggested that I do my measurements every 30 days!
  2. That my hope was and is in Christ, and not in Romney or Obama. There were some awfully heated status updates on Facebook last night, many of which I understand. The presidency is an important and powerful office, and the decisions made under each administration can and do directly affect us as citizens. This can be good or bad, depending on who you are and what you believe in, I suppose. But even if we do, as some people are saying, become a socialist country, I know that ultimately I will die and be free with Christ. My life in the U.S.A. will be but a blip in eternity. This is only for a season.
  3. That I have a godly, wise, and responsible husband. This is another reason that I’m not so emotionally affected by the election results. We are disappointed, to be sure. Although we did personally experience a lot of “change” under Obama’s leadership, it was all for the worse.  The bottom line, however, is that we were not caught off-guard or unprepared by the outcome of the election. I am infinitely grateful that I married a smart man who leads this family in fiscal responsibility, and that we’ve been living below our means since we got married. He’s been planning for the future, and he’s been planning to have much more of his earnings taken away from him. My husband, who has a wise father, who has a wise Father, was discerning enough to look at his contract, see the dollar amount, and only bank on about half of it, refusing also to incur debt simply to keep up appearances. I am blessed to know that as long as he is working, we should be able to put food on our table.
  4. For freedom of speech. I’m so glad that we can all voice our opinions — liberal, conservative, gay, straight, pro-life, pro-choice, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, Rastafari — without fear of government officials knocking down our door and dragging us to jail or worse. Now that is definitely something to be thankful for.

What are you thanking the Lord for today? 

TDOT: Day Six

 

Today, I’m thankful for:

  1. P90x! I’m on day 30, and I’m seeing results! I was in my pre-pregnancy jeans over two weeks ago, at just 2½ months post-partum! I have literally worked my butt off. 😉 Thanks Chantel and Alison for letting me borrow the DVDs and workout paraphernalia!
  2. The right to vote. I will not forget how much of a sacrifice it was, and continues to be, for me to be able to make my voice heard where it counts. (Although it would count more in another state, but that’s neither here nor there.)
  3. Central heating in my house! (It got chilly.)
  4. Lunch with my momma at my favorite restaurant today! Yummy.

 

What are you thanking the Lord for today?