Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Did Mary Know?

I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian family.  I knew the story and songs about the virgin Mary wayyyyyyyy before I ever understood what a virgin even was.  However, I think that I finally came to understand the depth of the birth of Jesus ten years ago when I gave birth to my first son.  I went into his birth pretty cocky -- I had a 19 month old daughter and was doing well balancing work and raising her.  I thought I had motherhood in the bag.  Then in the delivery room during a quiet moment with my son, I realized that I had to not just raise him to be a decent person, but I had to help him become a man -- and this was a much more daunting task than raising a girl. 

Then as I marveled over his tiny features and his headful of dark black hair, I begin to think of another baby boy.  One who was born 2000 years before.  And I thought of the Christmas carol, "Mary Did You Know?"  Did she?

Think about it.  Here's Mary, at probably 13 or 14, who gets approached by an angel (scary), is told that she is to have a baby -- before she's married to her betrothed (scarier -- in her society, she could have been stoned to death), and that this child would be the son of God (scariest).  Wow!  What an enormous privilege -- but what an overwhelming responsibility.  I cannot imagine being faced with that enormity.

The privilege part is that she had the blessing of carrying the baby.  She was the first to feel His tiny butterfly movements in her womb. She was the first to feel His kicks to her ribs and bladder as He grew.  She was the one to feel the back pain and pangs of labor as He entered into the world in His human form.  She was the one to nestle Him to her breast and kiss His sweet, soft brow.  She was the one who was up with Him at 3 A.M.  She was the one who saw His adorable first smiles, and tooth, and tottering steps.  We are all blessed with raising children of God, but she birthed God's only begotten son.  Was she not in awe at every move He made?

The Scripture tells us in Luke 1: 32 that Gabriel told Mary that the baby she carried would be, "great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."  Mary realized the honor in this calling.  In verse 49 of Luke 1, she said, "for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name."

But in that moment, did she realize that her son, begotten from the one and only true God, would be the Messiah?  The carol lyrics questions rather Mary was aware of the miracles that Jesus would perform --giving sight to the blind, walking on water-- but it also asks if she knew that He had come to be a deliverer.  And did she understand that this child was indeed the Messiah; could she have ever fathomed what He would truly endure to be that deliverer.

As she kissed His brow and wiped His cheek, did she know that one day He would be horribly ridiculed, arrested and beaten, and hanged from a cross to deliver the people of the world of their sins.  I doubt that in her earthly mind, she could look at her newborn and know the entirety of the story or the importance that He held for eternity.  But God did.  He knew long before He ever allowed Jesus to become a seed in Mary's womb exactly what the end would be like.  What a sacrifice!  Do we truly comprehend and appreciate that?

I think not.  I would not allow my son to die for the sins of anyone  -- especially not the thieving, lying, murderous heathens of the world that I don't even know.  But God in His awesomeness gave that to us.  We are all His children and He loves each of us.  Thankfully, because of God's sacrifice, my son doesn't even have to die for his own sins.  He's accepted Jesus as his Savior. So when his time comes to leave this lowly life on earth, he will reign forever with the One who made it all possible.

I enter these last few days of preparation of our celebration of Jesus's birth in absolute awe.  Please take a moment and think of the sacrifice that was made for you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

In the December 2010 issue of Parents magazine, a question / answer block discussed a parent who was concerned about explaining that Santa is real without coming right out and lying to him.  The answer was provided by Glen Eliot, M.D. Ph.D., who is the chief psychiatrist and medical director of Children's Health Council in Palo Alto, California.  He stated that it was important for the son to understand that it's not Santa that Christmas is all about... "it's the qualities he represents -- such as caring and generosity."  REALLY?

Disney's Family Fun Dec. 2010 / Jan. 2011 issue featured an article entitled, "Readers' Favorite Holiday Traditions" in which ten families shared their traditions for reconnecting with the true meaning of the holiday.  These traditions range from decorating for the holidays, to helping those in need, to refocusing on family.  One mom even commented that she and her husband started their tradition to help their family "focus on the true meaning of the season -- helping others."  AMAZING.

While all of these traditions and focus on being nice and doing good are honorable, not once did either of these articles ever get close to the real meaning of Christmas. Christmas is not about caring or generosity, or decorating your yard and putting up a tree, or selecting just the right gift for each person.  Sure, all of these activities are fun symbolic ways to mark the season,  but the real meaning of Christmas is JESUS!!

Several years ago my dear friend Melissa wowed me by saying that she didn't have her children believe in Santa.  My kids had always gotten up on Christmas morning to find brimming stockings and piles of toys under the tree, and my initial reaction, was wow! how sad that they would miss that.  But then I thought about it.  And then I talked to my husband about it.  And we realized that Melissa was on quite the right track.

And so, as my oldest two didn't really believe in Santa anymore anyway, we decided it was a good time to segue into our family focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.  My three little ones (well, okay two of them -- the baby is oblivious) know that Santa is a fun story, but he is not bringing them anything on Christmas. 

The kids will  still get up on Christmas morning and get stockings full of stuff and there is already a huge pile of presents under my tree.  But their stockings are anchored around a small nativity.  And on Christmas Eve instead of putting out cookies for the jolly old fake guy, we'll be making a birthday cake for the King of Kings.  As each member of the family takes a turn at opening presents, we will reflect upon the Magi coming to a baby Jesus many years ago.  We've already been having conversations about why Jesus was born, and what His birth, life, death, resurrection, and upcoming return means to us and for us.  My five-year-old Emma especially is asking questions to piece it all together.

So while the tree with its colorful balls is pretty, and the packages are wrapped with bright, pretty paper.  And we've watched Santa movies (The Polar Express is on at this moment.), thank goodness my family knows that the true meaning of Christmas is JESUS!!!!

"But the angel said to them," Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy tht will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord."
                                                                                                       Luke 2: 10-11

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pool Balls

It is my prayer that through my everyday life, my children will see a life that at least attempts to take a stab at living the way the Bible outlines.  I know I'm not perfect -- and I could give you a list of references to attest to this -- but I do try to do things the right way. 

I know that there are events in my mundane life that show my children integrity.  I have been honest about my kids' ages even though it means I  had to pay for a buffet for a kid that was one day over three.  I've trudged back into stores to pay for something that got tucked behind a diaper bag or sleeping child or was snitched away by sticky baby fingers.  I have been kind to people that my children know have hurt me.  I have helped people when we barely had enough money to help ourselves.  I have my children in church even on days when the weather is gross or I feel yucky because that's where they need to be.

I firmly believe that children will grow up and live life close to the pattern that they saw as a child. Since I want them to have successful, honest, productive lives, I must provide these patterns for them.  (Sorry, kids, you will probably never have an uncluttered house if you pattern that after me.)  

But sometimes I feel that I forget to have the real conversations with them.  My oldest two children have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (Thank you God!), but just because they have salvation doesn't mean that there aren't a ton of eternal conversations that we should have both so that they can understand their salvation better and so that they can be positive, vocal, knowledgable witnesses for Christ.  However, every once in a while something happens, and I think, aha! I haven't done such a terrible job after all.

We spent Thanksgiving in Tennessee at my brother in law's house.  He has a kid's dream "play room" in the back of his house complete with TV, Wii, fooze ball, air hockey, pool, and probably some other things I never saw.  My oldest Jayla and I spent some time playing pool.  She is intensely competitive for 11 and gave me quite a bit of ribbing whenever I got ahead.  I refuse to "let" her win, so she was pleased whenever she got ahead and plucky when I was winning.  But during our competition, we ended up having a very interesting conversation when I was leading about a very "un-Biblical" event.  Here goes:

(I was stripes; she was solids)
Jayla: I think that the striped balls are the evil balls.
Me: Why's that?
Jayla: Their sin makes them have stripes.
Me: Or... they are the good ones.  The 8-ball is the "bad" ball -- you don't want to sink it because you automatically lose and it's dark like it's sin-filled.  The solid balls are all still full of sin so they have the "colorful lives."  But the white ball is like Jesus -- nothing good can be done without Him being in the middle of it.  It's through Him that you make it to the pocket.  The striped balls still have their solid color representing their sin, but they also have a white stripe because Jesus has redeemed and forgiven them.
Jayla: Poor Jesus.  He gets all beat up.
Me: And isn't that the way it was?  He was beaten and flogged and nailed to a cross for your sin.
Jayla: Wow.  It's your turn.

And just that quick we were on to playing pool.  But I had my moment.  And I know that I've done my part to make sure that my baby girl is in Heaven with me forever.

I pray that God will give me the wisdom and opportunities to guide my other three children in that same direction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Birthday

Yesterday was my son's 3rd birthday.  And it was a good one.  From the Buzz and Woody cake to the Cars rug that looks like Radiator Springs to his special dinner (including mashed potatoes and French fries mind you), he had a great day.  Despite the fact that he is utterly convinced that he just turned six, he really enjoyed turning three.

Last night as he and I lay on my bed "watching" TV, we were talking about his day.  I was asking him what his favorite part was, and then I began to describe to him (as I do with all of my kids on each of their birthdays) what his first day outside of me was like.  I told him about the torrential floods and tornadoes in Pensacola that sent me into labor, and how I drove to the hospital in rain so heavy I could barely see the roads.  I told him about climbing the stairs to the top floor of the hospital and then down to the bottom trying to make him drop enough that they'd keep me.  I told him about stopping in the middle of a contraction, looking at my nurse, and asking her if she went to church with me.  I told him about his little screeching screams as he took his first breaths.

And then it hit me.  To me, his birthday isn't about his gifts or cake or special dinner.  It's about me
taking the time to remember when his life and mine were separated.  The time when my body was no longer his shelter and when he began to develop his own life outside of me.  His own personality, his own likes and dislikes .. his own temper tantrums.  He's not just my baby anymore; he's his own person. 

I've been given this special, special gift from God to be the one that knew my children first.  From their first flutterings to their personalities to the pangs (and pains) of giving birth.  And I've been give the special gift of being their mom.  Sometimes in the rush of each day as we try to homeschool, and make it to piano or art, or to one of a hundred trips a weekto the store, I seem to forget to stop and remember how special they are.I forget to notice how quickly they are growing and changing.  I look at them and gasp realizing that I have a daughter as tall as me,  I have a son who looks more and more like a man each day, I have a daughter who is suffering greatly from middle child syndrome, I have a son who is struggling to not just be a "little kid", and I have a baby girl who, gulp, isn't much of a baby anymore.  I need to take the time to stop and appreciate each of their changes and growths.  They are all growing older and don't need me as much as each day goes on, and then I will no longer be the center of attnetion anymore.I might then get to go to the bathroom alone, but I imagine I'll be just a bit lonely too.

And then it occurs to me that my relationship with God centers much around this same pattern.  I get busy doing my list of to-do's and don't stop to praise Him as I should.  I don't stop to talk to Him -- unless I'm needing something.  I allow my Bible study to fall to the end of my to-do list instead of keeping it first.  And I can figuratively picture Him waiting patiently for me to stop, center, and re-focus my attention on Him.  He is after all, my heavenly father.  And just as I remember longingly the first days that I held my children, and I cling to the memory of their soft heads sleeping on my shoulder, and their first smiles, and their first teetering steps, and their first ride on a bike, and their first overnight trips, and the list goes on and on,  He clings to my memories. He remembers my first steps, my first smiles, all of my tears, trials, and tribulations.  He remembers when I asked Him to come into my life, when I've been on my face in tears pleading for His intervention,  when I've lifted my voice in praise of His name.  And thank goodness, he's patient and loving, and He clings to me. 

I'm glad Sean's birthday was all that it was.  The memories of his 3rd birthday are just as special as his first.  I might not ever cook mashed potatoes and fries together in one meal again.  I may not get him to take his Buzz Lightyear pajamas off for several days.  I may not be able to convince him before the cake is gone that the red icing is NOT blood as Emma has told him it is.  But I will have the change to remember it all again  and to remember how precious he is to me.