Buying presents for the holidays can be a huge source of stress for me. Though I have come a long way in my healing from Approval Addiction, I tend to over-think everything when it comes time to give someone something. It doesn’t help that gift-giving isn’t my love language and that makes me have a large lack of intuition when it comes to trying to bless others with a tangible blessing.
When going through the story of Jesus birth in Matthew 2:1-12 I lingered on the account of the wise men who came from the East to give the blessed baby gifts. The men traveled a long distance, coming from a far land, to bow down before the Christ and give him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
If you know me, you won’t be surprised to learn that rules and guidelines make me feel secure. When I read the story of the wise men my heart found a little peace. I had a Biblical example of how to give presents.
If you want to make gifts special for the season, perhaps one of these tips will help you as well.
As you go out to do shopping and open your computers to browse, I hope some of these thoughts give you peace. I love how Christmas gives us the opportunity to bless so many around us.
Note that wrapping the present and making it look pretty wasn’t listed? However, I like lovely things and I will still be curling ribbons while I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
What do you think about when shopping for those you hold close in your heart?
I bit my lip and carefully rolled the frozen bit of fudge into the hot coating. I dumped it on the wax paper. Adela dutifully dusted the top with sprinkles. We grinned at each other. One down and about 200 more to go.
There are about 20 people on my list this year to receive a little box of bon bons. They are for our neighbors and mailman and friends. Obviously, I am not helping anyone get through the holidays in a healthy manner, but I don’t do this only to give someone precious to me a smile. I do it because for a few hours I relive memories of my mother.
I can’t remember the first year she made them, but I remember the soft chocolate gleam against wax paper. I remember sneaking little bits of fudge until my stomach felt raw. I remember mom’s concentration and how enthusiastic she was to visit those neighbors and drop off those little packages.
Goodness, I miss her. I am not the only one for whom the holidays beckon back a thousand memories that make our heart sting. No matter how many Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays we make it through, it always feels strange and a little empty without our lost loved ones.
I turned and dumped another bit of fudge onto Micaela’s tray. She chuckled and smashed it between her chubby fingers. The sound of her laughter soothed that pain. One after another the bon bons were dipped and decorated. Adela snitched sprinkles. I shook my head and pretended not to see.
God, how thankful I am for movement. Movement helps me remember to breath. Movement helps life keep going forward despite the pain. Movement brings new memories and moments of love.
If I couldn’t move and do something, I might be lost in the pain instead of going forward into the love and memories.
It took a few days but the bon bons were made and packaged. They are meant to bless others, but they have already blessed me and mine more.
Do you find the holidays hard? If so, are there traditions you hold on to that help you move beyond the pain and relive good memories?
I remember holding Adela when she was first born. That overwhelming love I had for her awed me. I kept thinking that I couldn’t believe that she had been inside me, that she had grown, developed, and been “knit together” the past nine months.
Have you ever read through the story of Jesus’ birth and saw it through the perspective of a mother? Mary was an imperfect human, too. But God chose her to give birth to His son. After Jesus was born I am sure Mary looked down at His perfect body and sweet face and held all that love for Him as a mother does. Yet, there would have been another note of awe, for she knew she held the King of Kings.
Sometimes, when my mind ponders that momentous event of the birth of my savior, it occurs to me that my own children were born with God’s special plans in mind. Unlike Mary, I have no idea what my daughters will do someday. I might be holding in my arms a future doctor, president, child therapist, or dog trainer. But, whoever they will become, they are part of God’s plan and the assignment of mothering them is a precious, awe-inspiring thought.
I would love to know more about how Mary parented her eldest son. What I do know is this: She carried him and gave birth to him. She nursed him. She with Joseph kept Jesus safe. She became worried and went to find Him when He stayed behind at the temples. She scolded Him when she felt she had reason. She tried to keep Him close. She was faithfully near him during the crucifixion. She also gave birth to and raised other children, Jesus’ siblings. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
Though Jesus came to her as the Prince of Peace, her life was busy and full without fail.
Motherhood. I have no idea what my kids will become. But, I do know that in this moment they need me and that I am here for them. I will never stop being their mother. I will never stop loving them and looking at them in awe, the little souls that are my daughters.
What is it that awes you most about the birth of our Lord Savior, Jesus Christ?
I grinned at the little green plants scattered over my tiny garden plot. I wouldn’t have to plant marigolds. Seeds from the year before had germinated and grew everywhere. Carefully I weeded around them. The marigolds would ward off bugs from my squash, pumpkin, and tomato plants.
Now, as a disclaimer, I am not a very good gardener. Part of this is because I have nearly zero passion for growing anything. If my only two house plants were to die tomorrow I would shrug and toss their shriveled remains in the dumpster. However, I love fresh vegetables. So, the summer vigilance of watering and occasional weeding is incorporated into our lives.
It was about mid August when I noticed the squash were not producing that much, the pumpkins had only found space for two round fruits, and my tomatoes were taking a long time to ripen. When I brought it up to my husband he gave me a lot of ribbing. Hadn’t I noticed that the marigolds had taken over the garden?
Life is much like gardening. We have to sow seeds. We have to water the good things and weed out the bad. We have to wait to see the fruits of our labor. And, we have to be cautious not to let something that seems good to overshadow and take up all the space in our life.
As I tossed bright blooms over my garden fence I considered the marigolds that I have to keep in check in my own life. The first one that came to mind is my protection over my girls. It is important that I care for them, but if I put too strong a bubble over their world, they will be left with little room for growth and relationships with others. Another “marigold” is my writing. I would love to devote oodles of time and resources into this dream, but each time I start to give too much to my books or blog, the happiness of my home falters. And, if I don’t have a happy home, I really don’t have a happy life either.
We all have marigolds. I know friends who are good at taking pride in their appearance, which is a totally healthy attitude, but it can start to take up too much time and money. Others might struggle with their personal drive in their careers, developing their homes, or even level of fitness. Even good things can throw the garden of our life out of balance and before we know it there is little fruit to harvest.
So, next year, I will be mindful of the marigolds and remember that you can have too much of a good thing.
The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
Have you ever found that your devotion to one aspect of your life has started to overshadow everything else? What do you do to find balance again?
There is a precious and good work being done as we raise children and be help-mates to our spouses. And, if there is something that the Devil attacks on a regular basis, it is our hearts and homes. It feels like there is little we can do to protect our family from the evil of the world, sometimes, even the evil in our own heads.
Our Christian world is under attack and the intensity of the war increases each day.
This is my challenge to you: Each morning, for a week, I want you to concentrate on prayerfully clothing yourself in the armor of God.
Belt of Truth: God’s truths will negate the lies that attack your heart and head.
Breastplate of Righteousness: Carry out your day with the power of righteous living. When temptations knock, we are protected as God strengthens us to do what is right.
Sandals of Peace: Purposefully choose peace as you interact with family, friends, and strangers. We can choose not to pick fights or finish them. We can choose to cultivate goodwill with and between others.
Shield of Faith: Faith in God’s love, goodness, and power will “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” So when the devil tries to make you feel unloved, unappreciated, overworked, or misplaced we can thwart those attacks by our belief in the care and promises of our awesome God.
Helmet of Salvation: Rejoice as you place this helmet on your head. You are God’s chosen one, His child. Your helmet not only protects, it also marks you as one of His own. And the Enemy must respect to Whom you belong.
Sword of the Spirit: Let the power of God’s word, both in the Bible, and spoken through the Holy Spirit, be what you use to fight back in today’s battle. This means you need to invest time in both studying the Bible and praying with God.
Living in this world is never going to be easy, but it can be full of victory claimed daily as we put on the Armor of God. Let it strengthen and guide You as you fight for the good works done in your home and heart today.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Have you experienced a way in which the armor of God powerfully protected your family or marriage?
The bus pulled up and my heart flipped. I laughed at myself. Adela has been in school for months now, but her arrival still feels exciting and joyful each day. Her pigtails danced in the brisk fall wind as she ran to the front door.
She bolted into my arms with one great big hug, her mouth already spewing out her chatter about the day. I tightened my hug and thanked God for her happiness.
The next hour was filled with activity. The girls fought because Micaela wanted to play and Adela wanted to eat her snack. Adela groaned and complained as we started homework. There were tears when I made Adela erase some of her work and a tantrum from Micaela when I had to take away a toy too loud for her sister to concentrate.
By the time I started dinner I was already exhausted, but my heart was full. There is nothing easy about this mothering-job, but it is seriously the best thing ever. Every day I get to devote my life to my family. I don’t have to struggle with many other demands of the world. I get to 24/7 bring my mind, body, and emotions to work for the people that hold the most real-estate in my heart.
I am thankful for this attitude. I haven’t always felt this way. There have definitely been seasons when I would have loved to take the girls to a daycare and be able to wear a different hat. There are days when I have deeply envied mothers who got to work part-time or even full-time and get out of the house regularly. However, God never lets me settle into pity parties. He constantly reminds me of my blessings, that I get to be this person for my girls and my husband. Most of all, God reminds me that I get to be this person, do this job, for my own heart.
I am so blessed to be proud and thankful for how I spend each and every day.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Do you look back on your day, fulfilling God’s calling for you, and feel His blessings?
Adela was making Halloween plans by the first of September. She wanted to be a monster. Not a cute fluffy monster or a funny monster. No, she wanted to be a nasty, ugly, scary monster.
I took comfort in the fact that she is five and Halloween was still a couple months away. I hoped she would change her mind.
I honestly don’t know what to do about Halloween. Growing up, I loved this holiday. I simply loved getting to dress up as something out of the ordinary. The candy and the suspense of the day was a bonus. However, today, as a mom, I wonder what is the best way to “do” Halloween?
According to history.com, Halloween is a combination of Celtic and Roman tradition. The holiday gets its name because All Saints Day is November 1st and it used to be called "All Hallows Day" making the 31st "All Hallows Eve" hence the name Halloween.
Honestly, my soul doesn’t think much of a day where we honor the belief that ghosts and spirits have yearly come on a single night to wreck havoc. But, the day was also meant to celebrate harvest and community.
A couple weeks ago, Adela settled on being a ghost. I wasn’t thrilled. I still don’t know how to handle this. I know this is just one little event in a lifetime of raising a child not to conform to the ways of those around us. As I question the holiday, I am more aware than ever of all the ways I have learned to not blink an eye at everything that we take for granted as "normal" in our society.
I sigh as my heart and mind argue back and forth. There are no perfect answers here, but I can do some things to make the most out of this day:
I can do those things with a cheerful heart.
May you all have a happy All Hallows Eve! And, if you have any thoughts or opinions on this, I would love to hear them in the comments or in a message. :)
You make known to me the path of life;
What are some uplifting family traditions you hold for this holiday?
I gripped the steering wheel. My stomach felt full of angry worms and my foot itched to slam on the brakes.
What was I doing? I should never have accepted her help. It is too big of a burden for her. Something will go wrong, and it will be my fault.
Every mile forward meant I was farther from control of my girls. My mind filled with the possibilities of Micaela having a seizure or falling off a tall object. My heart worried that Adela hadn’t got much love and attention from me that week while she was at school.
But what could I do? Turn around? What would my poor mother-in-law say if I showed up and guiltily try to convince her I had made a mistake? She had been so pleased to have her granddaughters for the weekend. She loves them so much.
My eyebrows pushed together. She loves them so much. I thought of the ice cream she had stashed in the freezer, all the tall kitchen chairs she had locked in the back bedroom, so Micaela wouldn’t climb, and the toys she had carefully arranged and stored that sat waiting for the girls.
Like a little piece of hurt was chipped away, a single thought melted my heart.
They are her girls, too.
It has been hard since the last seizure Micaela had. I have tightened my vigilant efforts to keep Micaela safe. Plus, with school in session for both the girls, I worry about providing them with all the support they need at home. However, when my loving Mother-in-law offered to take the girls for the weekend my tired mind immediately said, “Yes.”
They are her girls, too.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our responsibilities as a parent that we start to build walls around our children, protecting and controlling until we can no longer let anyone else in. I hadn’t realized I had been building that wall until that moment on the lonely ranch road leaving the girls behind.
My eyes filled with tears. I thanked God for the woman who with deep love and intuition would be caring for my children. I thanked God for her strength and caring. I asked God to bless the weekend for them and for me. I asked Him to move my heart to accept the blessings He brings into my life, especially when they seem to threaten my control.
They are her girls, too. How wonderful that I get to share this journey with her, with all my family, with my church, my community, my friends.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
It is hard to let others share in our responsibilities, but such a huge blessing as well. Out of fear, have you ever found yourself refusing to let others help you?
I remember Adela’s first week of school. It was like dejavu. She came home after a full day of school and opened up a folder full of homework. I remembered those days. It was school that made me develop the habit of waiting.
Perhaps you were like me too. School was like a long-term job that would get you somewhere else. I lived for the day I would have more control over my life. I waited for things and life to change.
A habit of waiting is a dangerous, toxic, thing. You see, there is always going to be something about the season of life we are in that makes us feel like we living in wait for tomorrow. We wait for a time where we have more job security, my financial stability, more free time, children who are more mature or independent, more friends…the list goes on and on and on.
I stared at Adela’s homework folder and struggled. It took me a long time to realize how important it was to break the habit of waiting and start drawing on the joy and blessing of the moment. How can I help Adela realized this a couple decades sooner than I did?
Adela finished her snack and asked me if she could go play. I shook my head.
“First, we are going to do your homework.”
That first week was hard. However, by the second week Adela had accepted the rhythm of the school day. She didn’t always want to do the school work, but we both enjoyed sharing what she was doing at school. And, as we settled into the third week I realized that Adela was doing something that I had always found difficult to do: she was finding joy in the moment.
If we can learn to do this, we can get through life with a beautiful attitude and cultivate a deep relationship with God. Finding joy in every moment fuels our faith in the deep and endless love of our Heavenly Father.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a habit of waiting?
“Mama. Can I have a quarter?”
We were headed to albuqueruqe with a couple hours still left on the road. I shrugged, “Sure, you may have a quarter. What do you want to buy with it?”
Adela’s voice rose in frustration. “No. Not a quarter—a quarter!”
I let out a breath. Obviously we weren’t talking about the same thing. “Okay.” I raised an eyebrow in the rearview mirror. “What are you going to do with the quarter.”
Adela sighed. “I’m going to eat it. I’m going to eat it just like the pigs.”
I laughed. “You mean like your piggy bank? Like the piggy bank at your abuelos house?”
Adela’s voice rose louder yet. “No! Its not funny! I want a quarter. Not like the dinero. Like un Rincon where the mice are.”
We went back and forth like this for a long time. Adela’s language is so much better, but when she can’t say that key word right, we both end up very frustrated. Our “quarter” conversation ended with me telling her we needed to stop talking about "quarters" it for a while.
A couple weeks later, Jovani brought home a brown bag full of fresh ears of corn. Adela squealed in glee and asked, “Oh, Mama, can we eat quarters like a pig?” She demonstrated with her hands, a big smile on her face.
Everything clicked into place. "Quarter" sounds similar to "corncob" and "corner". Rincon in Spanish means corner. We have two kids’ books where the pigs are eating corn on the cob.
I chuckled and grabbed up that goofy girl in a hug.
Miscommunication causes so much hurt in the world. From Adela’s little frustration to generational rifts in families, when people are unable or unwilling to express what is going on the misunderstanding results in pain.
Goodness, I did it just the other day. I was horribly grumpy, especially towards my husband. I didn’t quite understand the mood myself, but I let him know that I was “So tired of all of this.”
You can guess, things were a little off between us, that night. After I spent some quiet time in prayer, I realized that I had short-changed myself on quiet time and rest time for over a week while I tried to meet various demands. And then, because I have an amazing spouse who almost always saves me, I turned to him to fix something I didn’t quite know was wrong.
Sometimes, when our thoughts and emotions are twisting into negativity and anger, our words stopping making sense and simply are hurtful.
And, on the flip side of that, we need to ask God to help us listen to people with our hearts and spirit and not just our heads. People, especially hurting people, are not often wise in the words they use. That is when it is so important that God fills us with His mercy and love.
Like Adela and her "pigs eating quarters" phrase we might not always understand the people around us, but that should never change the way we love them.
A soft answer turns away wrath,
Have you ever been in a situation when all your words came out wrong and someone was hurt?
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