Finding Christmas

Finding Christmas

This year, not surprisingly, “humanity” has left me gobsmacked with their typical, annual worsening of entitlement and general disdain.  Happy holidays?  Not even if you get ’em on sale.  Traffic was horrific; people even worse.  Anger?  Hostility? Rage?  Seems that’s what retailers really stocked up on this year.  And it got to me.  And I let it get to me.  Having left my regular job in September in an effort to get our business off the ground, we’ve hit a few snags.  We’re alright, just tired.  Thankfully, all seems to have worked out for the best (as it almost always does) and our worries seemed to be for nothing.  Nevertheless, it’s been hard to get “festive”.  The abundance of bad attitudes didn’t help at all.

I needed to get in the “spirit”.  Not just for me –but for my kids.  For my husband.  For people around me.  For my soul.  I love Christmas.  Always have.  Being out of the mood just doesn’t suit me this time of year — especially since I’ve been known to listen to (and belt out) Christmas songs in June.  Yes, I’m that jerk that everyone knows.  “Hi, my name is Sarah and I love Christmas carols.”

A few weeks back, I went to church with my parents instead of where we had been going.  It just happened to be the easiest thing to do since Gabe had spent the night with them.  I’d just bring him home with me after services, easy peasy.  I went figuring I wouldn’t be altogether impressed.  Granted, I didn’t go in critiquing.  But I didn’t figure I’d be moved, either.  The service was great — the pastor’s message was on point.  Can I say that about a preacher’s sermon?  Seems off, doesn’t it?  Anyway, it was.  On point.  But a song was played that I’ve heard every single year since I was pregnant with Gabe.  And every single year, I need to hear it.  And every year, without fail, there is a new message provided.  This year was no different.  Oddly enough, it’s a thought that I’ve had — albeit, fleeting.  You’ve probably heard the song.  I’ve posted it below, just in case.

A baby changes everything.  There is so much obvious in that lyric.  I mean, obviously… babies change everything.  Every aspect of life.  But you know how some things are so obvious you seem to overlook them?  I do that with my boys from time to time.  Not overlooking them, but overlooking the obvious.  I’ve often wondered how Mary had to have felt when she carried her baby.  How she might have wanted to distance herself — knowing what was to come — and yet, also wanting to cling tightly to the little life that would eventually save the world.  A world that would not do likewise for her infant; our Savior.

Mary-and-Baby-Jesus

I wonder how she got through her days watching him grow; watching him learn.  How she had to have stayed busy to not think about what was to come at a time she had not been given.  And yet…. how much pride would she have felt?  What a bittersweet life she had to have lived after her baby was born.  How strange it had to have felt raising her sacrifice.  Would she have felt resentment for the world — or the greatest depth of pity?

 

I, myself, can hardly bear to think of it.  Raising my own two boys who, though far from perfect, are absolute perfection for my life… I cannot imagine the pain and the pride she had to have experienced for the rest of her days.  How bizarre it had to have felt; how speechless it might have rendered her.  How humbling.

Thankfully, our debt has already been paid.  Thankfully, I will never have to know the immense emotional struggle she had to have faced.  I will never have to give up my boys for a world that would not do the same.  But I can imagine it.  I can feel it.  And to say I’m grateful is the understatement of a lifetime.  A baby changes everything, indeed.  My babies changed my everything.  Her baby changed my everything.  I may get flustered with preparations and I may swear at a box or two, but my Spirit glows.  So no matter the “bah humbug” attitude of others; no matter if my dressing is dry or if my wrapping skills need serious adjusting.  My Christmas was not wrapped in bows; it was wrapped in swaddling cloth.  I have found Christmas.  Or did Christmas find me?

From our home to yours, I wish your the Merriest of Christmases.

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The Unfathomable Gift

The Unfathomable Gift

It’s Christmastime once again.  Hardly feels that way, though.  Unlike our bitterly cold winter last year, this year has been unseasonably warm for winter’s sake — yet, seasonably normal for Louisiana.  Louisiana Christmas usually equals cool-ish and rainy…. much like today, as a matter of fact.

Also unlike last year, Ev and I have two little guys who are simply Christmas-ravished instead of just Gabe who, last year, could not figure out why Connor was so ambivalent about all the festivities.  Both boys are excited for different reasons;  Connor is in awe of the lights and all the pretties in the house (he’s still pretty blase` about the whole gift thing — you’ve seen one rowdy toy, you’ve seen ’em all), while Gabe has finally set his sights on Santa Claus and gift-getting.  I am pleased to say, though, that he is generous minded and is just as excited about giving gifts as he is receiving.  Every time we pass a Salvation Army bell-ringer he begs to drop a coin in their bright red pail — even if it’s something as small as a penny.  A mere token to most is super-gratifying for him; he beams a shy grin every time he hears, “thank you & merry Christmas!” from whomever is manning the post.

I’m not overly concerned yet that my kids will become so infatuated with gift-getting.  We don’t spoil them throughout the year, and even at Christmas they are not over-whelmed with gifts.  As much as we enjoy doing for them, we know that over-loading would be detrimental to their childlike spirit of Christmas and try to keep everything at a minimum.  We decorate the tree and this year we painted our first advent calendar; there are decorations in the house and lights strung around it; gifts under the tree, Frost on TV and hot cocoa to be had.  We keep it festive, for sure.  But we also keep it real.  Since Gabe is old enough to sort-of comprehend the real meaning of Christmas this year, I’ve really been preaching it even more than Santa Claus.  He’s learned so far that candy canes were originally made to resemble both the “J” of Jesus (ask Gabe what “J” stands for and he’ll gladly yell, “Ummm, JESUS!”) and the shepherd’s staff.  He also learned that the bold red stripes symbolize his blood and the white stripes signify that because of the red stripes, we are washed “white as snow” (he really liked that part).  We watched a kid-friendly movie earlier that (here’s the link if you’re interested) really described all the details put into Christmas… from the origin of Christmas to the reason we use Christmas trees, etc.  He is excited to learn all these new (to him) things, and I’m pretty excited to share them with him.

I’m so glad that he is beginning to understand that, while it’s okay to believe in Santa and have holiday fun, the true meaning of Christmas was a gift so unfathomable to us all.  Something that, even as Christians, we cannot fully comprehend.  I, for one, could not imagine allowing one of my kids to die for a world that most definitely would not do likewise for one of them.  And I most selfishly could not give one of them up for my own good — I carried them in my body nine months.  I carried them in my arms when they could not walk — and still do when they are tired or sad.  I will carry them in my heart until it ceases to beat.  I could not and would not give them to a world who, I feel, does not deserve their innocence.  So it is hard for me to understand why Mary — or, greater still, God — gave their Son to die a death so undeserved to him.  Why he would feel every pain and every dark moment from the time he was put on the cross and to times far beyond that.  I cannot understand.  And, frankly, I don’t want to.  Some things are better left alone.  Right?

Anyway.  I heard something on the radio this morning that I want to share with you guys, and then I’m going to jet.  There is a passage in John 8:1 – 30 that tells of a woman brought before Jesus for adultery.  By Old Testament law, she was to be stoned for her crimes — an experience I’m afraid she would have endured if the Pharisees would have had their way.  The Pharisees said, “…this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  And do you know what he said?  He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And it hit me right there in my car like a brick to the face.  Not one of the Pharisees could cast stones; they were not without blame.  But there was one there blameless.  One who had a right to cast stones.  But he did not.  Instead, he forgave her by saying this, “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, right?  Hang in there.

Her not being stoned is not exactly our greatest gift.  But right there, in that very moment, she experienced her own greatest moment of Grace.  She was pardoned.  She was set free.  And of course she would go forth and sin — she was human.  But at that moment, she was set free.  Really, she had been set free the day of his birth.  We all were.  Christmas is a day of giving.  We were given the ultimate and unfathomable gift of new life from a little one who would do no harm — who would commit no wrong.  It’s a beautiful story that I am proud to tell my kids.  It’s a story that I hope, one day, they will tell their own children.  We celebrate Christmas (or Christ’s Mass) for the most incomparable gift that can never be returned and that always fits: Hope.manger-to-the-cross

Merry Christmas, y’all.  And in case I’m not back in touch before January, Happy New Year.

It’s Beginning to Look Like a Throwdown

It’s Beginning to Look Like a Throwdown

I am quite certain that my recent quips of annual Christmas insanity were a bit hasty.  I am absolutely positive that they would not be now.  It would seem that a large portion of Alexandria forgot that Christmas is tomorrow over the course of the weekend.  It is so maddening, in fact, that even I have been affected by the chaos — and I’ve long since finished everything on my list.  Take the other day, for instance.  I needed a few things for some last-minute baking.  I went to Wal-Mart, as it is closest (and most deadly), with my ten item list, expecting to be out in thirty minutes or so.  An hour and 45 freakishly long minutes later, I had 4 of ten items on my list, a splitting headache, and an urge to slam the nearest Bah-Humbug spirited person into aisle seven.  So crippling was my frustration and confusion, that I left my buggy in an aisle I don’t even recall wandering down and took off with someone else’s — the contents of which I can only assume (and pray) was for an ugly Christmas sweater party.  But I’ve skipped ahead.  So allow me to rewind.

Prior to losing my buggy and my mind, I had cut off (what I assumed was) a woman in the canned food section.  I honestly didn’t mean to, as I did not see her there.  Nevertheless, I did.  And she accepted my apology with an ever gracious, “Ex-cah-uuuuse you!”  Now, if you know me at all you know that phrase infuriates me.  It ignites my rage with the fires of hell.  So from that point forward, it was game on.  We ran into each other several times after our initial encounter, each more challenging than the next.  After about an hour I realized just how ridiculous I was being and made it a point to avoid the other.  I was on my way out and evidently stopped to look at something I didn’t need as I did not eventually check out with it.  Without realizing, I grabbed another shopper’s cart and made my way to the front check out lanes.  I bent down to get a Coke, and upon looking into my buggy noticed that the afore-mentioned ugly Christmas sweater party items were not that of my own.  Immediately and irrationally I began to look for that woman.  She just so happened to be behind me for a moment in the lanes, and in my tired and paranoid state just knew she had taken off with my buggy.  I looked everywhere, high and low.  I even called Evan to let him know that he might need to come bail me out and then BAM.  Right there, in the card section.  A place I don’t even recall walking down.  I shamefully grabbed my cart and headed back to the checkout lane, making quite sure that the contents were, in fact, mine.  I shook my head all the way home, mortified that I had been bitten by the Christmas Bah Humbug Bug.

smackdown

The moral of this story?  Even those of us so obnoxiously consumed in Christmas festivities lose our cool from time to time.  And also, before you throw-down in the dairy aisle, make sure you didn’t misplace your buggy, as it is doubtful anyone would jack a shopping cart.

Happy Christmas Eve..

Christmastime Magic

Christmastime Magic

santa

It’s Christmastime again, only this year it’s even more magical than ever before.  Gabe is an absolute Christmas fanatic and, suffice it to say, he has made our holiday around here shine.  I love Christmas under normal circumstances, but this year I’ve stayed up long hours making decorations and making sure the tree looks just right for our little guy.  His love for the season is as genuine as can be; fascination just beams from his little eyes.  He started talking about Christmas this year even before Wal-Mart (and other fine retailers) put out decorations (you know — back in March).  I’m pretty sure he believes that Santa not only exists but is also his best buddy; he has been begging me to make gingerbread men for when Santa, “…wakes up from his nap and comes to his [Gabe’s] house.”  I love to watch him with every part of the season and am so not looking forward to eventually taking everything down and putting it away.  My only comfort in that is knowing that my little guy will find hope and magic at least once a year, at the best time of year.

This evening we went to visit Santa and I thought Gabe would come unglued.  He was so excited and promptly asked Santa for a snowman and a fast racecar.  Upon leaving Santa’s little cottage his hollered back, “Merry Christmas, Santa!”  He grinned so big the whole way home.  Christmas lights have brought forth a particular joy for him and he makes sure we see every single bulb as we drive by the well-lit houses.

As a child I adored Christmas.  There was no better time of year for me.  Now, as an adult, I get to watch my own little ones glow in awe.  And for a spell I am relieved of the commercialism and greediness that the holidays have become.  I am spared the chaos and, yes, even holiday hatefulness when I look into Gabe’s bright eyes.  I am reminded that this time of year is about giving and loving.  I’m given hope in a Christmas that once was and that still is to my small ones.  And for a moment the hustle and bustle of what Christmas was never meant to be fades into the background, no longer consuming my mind and thriving on my impatience.  I get to experience and love the pure, childlike happiness that illuminates my Gabe’s little face.  And in that moment, I am glad.

Our little Connor is having his first Christmas this year.  I am so looking forward to having two little guys in my life that will be consumed by all the gloriousness that the true Christmas Spirit brings.  For now, though, I am enjoying watching him watching Gabe, his own little face beaming with love for his brother.  It is these little ones and those litttle moments that make my heart overflow with a happiness one can only feel and never explain.

Thank God for the innocence of little ones; it is in them that Christmas lives on.  It is because of them that I still believe in Christmastime magic.
Jesus
And with that I say, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.”

Rockin’ Around (er.. Down) the Christmas Tree

Rockin’ Around (er.. Down) the Christmas Tree

Did somebody say “timber?”  No, seriously — whodunit?  Because this morning was the THIRD time our little tree hit the dirt as though it had been slugged by a snowball.  I oughtn’t be surprised, really; this happens to me every year at least once.  And I suppose I should be grateful that it didn’t fall on me like in years past.  Two of those years we had company over, leaving me on the couch (by the tree), and at wee hours of the morning the lit dude fell right on top of me.  It really is a wonder I don’t have Grinch-y tendencies.  No, instead I cut down and kill a tree every year in hopes that someday one will get the (needle) point and, you know, quit being such a pain in the ass.  Maybe Santa will bring me a heavier tree next year..?  hmmmm.

Anyway, it is finally starting to feel like Christmas here in The Boot and we are all relieved.  I don’t know about you, but nothing ruins Christmas more than a hot Christmas (except frozen hot chocolate, which is completely twisted).  Evan and I brought Gabe to see the lights in Natchitoches a while back and my parents came along as well.  Gabe just loves the lights, what few there are, here in town, and I just knew he would love the festival.  It was pure magic for me when I was small — hell, I still love it.  So on we went on our first Christmas adventure of the year!  Gabe had a ball.  He ooh’ed and ahh’ed at all the lights and sights (whew… I’d hate to see that light bill..) and laughed and shot at (yep..) the fireworks.  That 1000 watt smile of his positively beamed brighter than the bulbs that glowed and made this old momma bear heart melt.  Afterwards, we headed back to town for Cracker Barrel and finally got in the door around 11:30.  I think Ev and I are officially on Santa’s Nice List.  Right, Santa?
….RIGHT?!

At any rate, this has been an enjoyable, if not hectic, season.  We have officially almost finished shopping and are getting ready to settle in before the visits to multiple homes for even more Christmas festivities.  Little bit has so enjoyed Christmas this year… I hate to take it all down.  But take it down we shall lest we look like we stepped out of Redneck Festivus Magazine.  For now and until it is time to head into the New Year I will enjoy watching him gaze at the tree and listening to his excitement any time he sees “Ho Ho.”  sigh.  Poor Santa.  I mean Ho Ho.

Because I am not good at updating with some regularity to ye olde blog, I will go ahead now and wish you all (all three of you poor souls) a very Merry Christmas and a blessed, safe New Year.

be merry.

...laughing all the way
…laughing all the way
No, You Can’t Have a Pony & Don’t Stick that Crayon in Your Ear!

No, You Can’t Have a Pony & Don’t Stick that Crayon in Your Ear!

Every day I say something to Gabe that I never thought I would.  I’ve said that header (okay — minus the pony part) all week, every five minutes.  Some of my favorites from the week:

“No, baby that’s an ornament.  And for crying out loud get it off of your lip.”

“Yeah, that is a puppy!  Wait!  Don’t punch th–… damnit.”

“You break that arm, you buy it.”

He’s wild, guys.  In all honesty, I’d rather have my maniacal little guy than a prissy little girl.  But sometimes it’s a little tiring.  Okay… it’s exhausting.  Recently we’ve discovered that we can stick things in our ears & nostrils… namely crayons & peas (the peas freaked me out more than the crayon… not even gonna lie).  Used to I could deliver a possessed growl like none other and he would remove whatever inanimate object was in whatever orifice.  But today I growled my fiercest Emily Rose growl & the little bugger laughed.  LAUGHED.  At my growl.  I’ll be honest — it knocked me down a few notches.  Then he proceeded to stick macaroni yellow next to cornflower blue… and I got PISSED.  Irrational?  Absolutely.  But lets just say he won’t be allowed to even look at another crayon until he’s thirty.  Five.

He’s been awesome this week, though… crayons aside.  I think someone sent him a memo (a little late, albeit) letting him know that Santa’s been watching.  But I’ll have you know that Santa’s informants suck, ’cause the kid’s got more coming to him then should be allowed.  That’s okay though, ’cause said informant got momma a six-pack of Light Heineken (what Santa don’t know won’t kill him.. don’t judge me).

Right now I’m listening to the off-key musical stylings of Veggie Tales and then we’re going to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (3rd annual read — yay traditions!).  We’ll be hitting the sack soon… well, Gabe will.  Momma’s got some more wrapping to do.  Word up for procrastination!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Bud Light!

A Smack-Down Christmas

A Smack-Down Christmas

Gabe & I made a few attempts at taking our Christmas pictures after Thanksgiving.  Here’s how the first one went down…:

jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell ro-- WHAMO!
Seriously… those have got to be the worst facial expressions either of us have ever made.  Well… maybe only recently.  Needless to say, picture taking came to an end after this.  Saturday it rained, so we went to Baton Rouge.  Got in lost in Baton Rouge.  In rainy, Baton Rouge suck-fest traffic.  FOR FOUR HOURS.  We went down with mom & dad so that dad could visit an uncle of his.  Mom & I opted to go shopping.  Attempted to, anyway.  We enjoyed ourselves, regardless… turned out to be a pretty good day.  Gabe was a rockstar (he owed me BIG from the day before), and when we finally made it to our destination, I found some super cute boots for — ready for this???– THIRTY TWO DOLLARS.  That’s right, y’all.  Thirty-two.  Not ten minutes before I found them I nearly bought some $92 dollar boots.  Those dudes were on sale, guys.  Ninety-two dollars ON SALE.  They were gorgeous.. and I really wanted them.  But my wallet clammed up & said, “Screw you, idiot!  There are cheaper boots next door!”  And, well, you just don’t argue with a clammed up wallet, right?  So next door to Charlotte Russe we went.
 
It took me five minutes to pick out the boots.  It took me twenty to get to the cashier.  And another 5 for her to figure out the computer or something.  Then she wanted to talk.  Normally I wouldn’t mind, you know?  I hate it when people are rude to cashiers.. or waiters.. or whatever.  But there were like, a million angsty, pimple-faced teenaged girls behind me who (stupidly) thought they needed the thousand pairs of thongs they were about to purchase with daddy’s credit card.. so it wasn’t exactly a primo time to pow-wow with Chatty Cathy.  I’m ashamed to say that while she was in mid-sentence I snapped up my receipt & walked away.
 
I felt like such a cow. 
 
But for crying out loud!  You’ve got the entire female LSU freshman population behind me who are still on their high from Black Friday the night before.  If you want to commit shoppers suicide, then please… go ‘head.  But I’m not game… sorry!
 
We finally made it home, where Gabe continued to be a rockstar in sleepy form.  He crashed & didn’t wake up until 7:00 the next morning.  That never happens.  I, of course, woke up at the not-so-sunny hour of 5:45, so I didn’t get to take advantage of snoozin’ it up… but I did get some quiet time to myself.  And I can I tell you?  It was uh-may-zing.  Later that day we I decided to try for more Christmas pictures.  Casey & Robby humored me & came to help out (LOVE!).  We got a few good ones, thankfully.  Not exactly what I wanted, but I’ll get what I can take with a feisty toddler.
 
rockstar!
 
 
rockstar!