Day 108: A Simple Christmas Lived Out

This year at my church we have all been challenged to live a Simple Christmas.  To practice, Simple Generosity (less spending, more giving), Simple Presence (less hurry, more time), and Simple Worship (less me, more Jesus).

I'll confess to you that at the outset, I thought this was an AWESOME idea.  But lived out, it is harder than I imagined.

I think the most difficult thing for me has been to have more Jesus and less Santa.  All of the fun things I want to do with the girls for Christmas, like photos with Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, all of that, I have set aside to try to help them understand the true meaning of Christmas.  It's not that I'm opposed to the big red man.  I'm not.  I think he's awesome and a lot of fun and a great piece of childhood fantasy that proves to be a very fond childhood memory to this day . . . and I still grew up to love Jesus . . .

And I'm not opposed to the Elf on the Shelf or any of that.  So please don't feel the need to email me or message me or tell me why Santa isn't real or is real or we should or shouldn't teach our children such things.

It's just that the girls are so little, and I want their deepest, most foundational understanding of the celebration of Christmas to be about Jesus.

So we are working on the story of Jesus' birth.

This was Shortstack's retelling to me this morning.

"I'n a big girl.  I not a baby.

Jedus was a baby. And da angels sing to da sheep.

And dey see da stars.  And the big big star.

And dey find da Jedus in da barn.  And da cows and da sheep sing.

And Jedus gets married.  I love Jedus." 

(She's a little confused by Mary and married . . . her world is a little consumed with "married" right now.)

But my point is this; she launched into this entire story about Jesus all from a discussion about why she can't wear diapers anymore because she's a big girl and not a baby.  And the word BABY triggered a retelling of the Christmas story.

So she's getting it.  Little by little, she's getting it. 

All that to say, the simple message of Christmas really is the story of a baby.  A baby who changed the world.

Day 107: Stupid Family Things

We were talking about cooking the giblets of a turkey today, when Zack asked, "What parts of the turkey make up the giblets?"

I rattled off the list with great confidence.

"Well, let's see.  There's the heart, the liver, the gizzard, the neck and the tweedler."

"THE WHAT?" Zack asked with great merriment in his voice.

"The tweedler. . . you know, the tail of the turkey," I said.

To which both Mike and Zack died laughing. 

Zack:  "Mom, I'm pretty sure that word is made up."

Me:  "No it's not.  It's a real word.  Unless my mom was jacking with me and never got around to telling me it was a made up word. And now I'm 50 and still saying it."  (I'm laughing pretty hard at this point too.)

Then I had a great idea.  I called my dad, put him on speaker phone and said, "Dad, what's a tweedler?"  To which he replied, "It's the southern end of a north bound turkey.  A turkey tail.  Why?"

So apparently, my whole entire extended family believes that a tweedler is a turkey tail.  But no one else outside of my family has ever heard the word (at least not in relation to a turkey's tail!)

All that to say, I feel foolish.  I'm glad I never said that word to anyone else.  Well . . . until now . . . 

Day 106: Simply Miraculous

I started to tell Shortstack the Christmas story the other night.  I kinda wish I had one of those Little Tyke's Nativity Sets.  I think it would make the telling a little easier.

I don't think I have ever really thought about how bizarre the story of Jesus' birth sounds until I tried to relate it to a 3 year old.

She kept looking at me like, "huh?"

I started saying, "It's almost Christmas!  Do you know what Christmas is?"

No response.

"It's Jesus' birthday.  Isn't that exciting?"

"We have cake?" she asked.

"Well we could have cake, I suppose."

"You know when Jesus was born,  he was a tiny, tiny baby, and everyone came to see him."

"They came to his house?"

"Well, not exactly.  You see when he was born he was not at his house.  He was in a manger . . . ummm, a barn.   With a bunch of animals."

"They had a party wif old mcdonald?"

"Well, no, not Old Mcdonald.  It was a barn not a farm.  And his mama made him a bed in the hay when he was born.  And everyone came to see him.  Angels, and shepherds and wisemen."

"His mommy in da barn?"

"Yes, Mary was his mommy and she loved him very much.  And she named him Jesus."

"He had a birtday and they sing and they eat cake and they bow out the tandles?"

Nitro pipes in here and says, "Cake?"

I didn't even get to the part about the shepherds in the field  and the singing angels and King Herod and Joseph and the donkey and the whole "no room at the inn" thing or the virgin birth!  (Well, I'll probably skip the whole "virgin birth" part for a few more years at least.)

All that to say, I think I take for granted just how miraculous Christmas really is.  Simply miraculous.  A beautiful story.  One that I will have to learn how to tell to a couple of three year olds!

Day 105: 40 Weeks Ago, This seemed Like a Good Idea

Last year for Christmas, my son, Jacob gave a me a present.  It was a 40 week training program for a marathon, called the Marathon Makeover.  Every Saturday, for 40 weeks, I awakened at the crack of dawn to go out running with a group of people, who prior to the race were complete strangers to me.

The commitment to train for a marathon was also a commitment for Mike, because it meant for 40 weeks he would be on Daddy Duty every single Saturday morning!

And it was a commitment for Jacob because he agreed to "run" the marathon with me.  Which for him would be more torturous than for me, because he runs a mile in half the time that I run one, which meant his marathon would take twice as long as it would normally take him.

But yesterday was the day.  And we finished.  And we didn't die.

I'd love to say it was awesome, but truthfully it was grueling!  There were so many factors we were just simply not prepared for.  First of all, I trained in The Woodlands where it is virtually flat.  I also trained early in the morning, often before the sun came up.  So the sun was not a real factor on most days of my training.

But the marathon was entirely different.  At mile 7, I realized I had a wayward toenail that was poking a hole into the toe that was next to it.  I had to take off my shoe, cut my toenail, wrap a band aid around it and keep going!  At mile 11.5, I was worried that I should have taken the turn-off to the half marathon.  By mile 13, I realized the record high temps and humidity had taken its toll and I was very dehydrated.

Twice, Jacob ran ahead of me to the next watering station and brought me back water!  I was so grateful for him!

By mile 16, I was seriously doubting that I would make the full marathon.  Everything hurt.  I was walking way more than I was running, felt like crying, quitting, curling up into the fetal position and sucking my thumb.  I know Jacob was bored out of his mind, and ready to slap me and say, "Snap out of it!"

Literally for over 9 miles there was not one ounce of shade.  None.  And a few of the watering stations had run out of water or sports drink.  And the hills.  Oh my gosh.  The Hills. 

But something happened around mile 19. I got a second wind.  I was running a lot more, genuinely feeling better, and enjoying the experience.

Then I hit the wall at mile 23.  I've heard many times about "the wall."  It is as real as it has been described to me.  By mile 24, I was pretty much walking the entire time.  Jacob was in high "encouragement mode" at this point.  Encouraging me to just keep walking. To just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  He even ran into a convenience store and bought water, Gatorade, and a banana so we could make it!

When we hit mile 26, I could feel myself wanting to cry.  I was going to finish!  I was going to do it!
The last 2 tenths of a mile were straight uphill.  REALLY?  How mean is that?  But we rounded the corner, and we ran it in!

We crossed the finish line.

All that to say, I am a marathoner  (and so is Jacob!) :)  40 weeks ago this seemed like a good idea.  What was I thinking?  And Jacob, this year, can I just have a blender?

Day 104: Married to Jesus

Explaining the concept of marriage to a three year old is not easy. 

For many days, Shortstack has been asking questions about getting married.  She said she wanted to marry Zack, but when I explained that Christina was marrying Zack, she was none too happy.

So then she said she was going to marry Daddy.  When I explained that Daddy was already married to Mommy she held up her pointer finger and shook it back and forth at me and said, "no, no, no."  But Daddy corroborated my story, so she begrudgingly accepted her fate.

Finally, I encouraged her by telling her that someday she was going to get married.  And she was going to marry an incredible man that loved Jesus more than anything else.  And that he was going to love her as much as he loved Jesus, and that he was going to treat her like a princess.

So yesterday, suddenly and without warning, she announced that she was going to get married. 

"I'm gettin mah-weed," she said, matter-of-factly.

"You are?"  I exclaimed with surprise.  "Who are you marrying?"

She said, "I'na mahwee Jesus.  I be a princess."

All that to say, I guess there's some deep theology packed into that statement.  Love it.

Day 103: I'n a Power Girl

We've been talking a lot about weddings in our house lately, due to the fact that the "wedding season" is now in high gear in our household (and probably Christina's household as well!)  The shower gifts have taken over our spare bedroom.  There is much talk of dresses and alterations and hostess gifts and receptions and guest lists.

So it is no small wonder that Shortstack has clued in to the fact that "something" is going on. 

Last week, I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to purchase a gift for the engaged couple, and I took both girls with me.  Shortstack's favorite question is always, "What happened, Mama?"  So as we waited our turn to talk to the registry lady, she kept asking over and over and over, "What happened, Mama?" Which really translates to "Why are we here?"

In my most patient mother of toddlers voice I tried to explain that Zack and Christina are getting married and that we were there to buy them a present. 

"They have a party?" she asked.  "Well, yes, sort of," I said. 

So then I explained what a wedding was, and how she was going to go and that she would even get to be a flower girl and throw flowers and everything.

I could tell she didn't quite get it when she started telling all the passersby that she was getting married.  Oh well.  It was cute. :)

A few days ago we started practicing being flower girls.  It was a sight to behold.  Nitro didn't really get it at all.  I have a feeling she's going to be a hoot at the wedding.  On her first try she dropped a few flowers on the floor, then took a few steps forward.  Then at my command to "drop a few more flowers" she turned around, went back to her original pile of flowers and dropped some more flowers into that pile. . . . hmmmm.

Then on her second try, she walked backwards.

Then last night, she did a good job walking slowly and dropping flowers as she went.  But when she got to the very end of the pretend aisle, she looked down into her bucket, realized she still had rose petals, and she threw them all up in the air (confetti style) and shouted "Woohoo!"  Like I said, Nitro's going to be a hoot!

But Shortstack has got it down.  She is all about the walking and dropping flowers and being a princess.  The only thing we need to work on is her desire to eat the flowers.  She may or may not have tasted a couple during practice.

This morning, when I was dressing her she said, "Mama, I'n a power girl."  (Translated, "I'm a flower girl.")  No, "Good morning."  No sleepy yawns.  Just a pronouncement.  "I'm a power girl."

All that to say, toddlerville is hard work, but you laugh a LOT!  Wouldn't it be awesome if laughter burned calories?

Day 102: Don't Mess with Texas? Don't Mess with Mommies!

Mike and I were having a conversation the other day in the car about being adoptive parents and how we wondered if there was a moment in the life of an adoptive parent when you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that your adopted kids are REALLY yours.  What moment cements that into your heart?

I believe I had that moment yesterday.

I always say that I have pretty thick skin unless you say something bad about my kids.  And that is incredibly, incredibly true.  It's not that I am unaware of my children's shortcomings.  I know they aren't perfect.  I'm okay with being told they weren't nice to their peers today, or they aren't making good grades, or anything else along those lines.  There's just a line, and when it's crossed, it's not pretty.

Today, something happened at church related to the girls.  (I'm not going to go into the details, because that ISN'T the point of this blog today)  Someone said a few things to me, about them, that absolutely crushed me.  Though their words were well-intentioned, they shot like arrows deep into the softest places in my heart.  The place where a mother's love is.

To say I cried a little or got my feelings hurt for them would be a grand understatement.  I burst into tears.  I cried buckets in the hallway of church. I cried so hard I had to leave church, which happens to be my job, by the way. I cried all the way home.  I'm talking UGLY crying here people.  Swollen face, red eyes, snot flowing, ugly crying.  And I cried off and on all day long.  Because my mother's heart hurt for my babies.  Every time I thought about it again, I cried.

And I realized last night, that yesterday was my  moment.  The moment that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that those girls are mine (well, ours). It's cemented into my heart.

All that to say, people might think I'm a pretty tough cookie.  And though I might crumble at first, I'm even tougher when it comes to my kids, any of the four of them.  Don't mess with Texas?  Don't mess with Mommies!

Day 101: I Say Stupid Things

I don't know if you do this or not, but I say really stupid things when I am nervous.  I suppose most people say stupid things when they are nervous, but yesterday, I could have won an award for my stupidness.

I attended Christina's hometown wedding shower.  I was nervous about meeting all these people who have known her since birth.  I mean REALLY nervous.  Like, I bought a dress kinda nervous.  I don't do dresses.  But I bought one for this occasion.  And I even had it altered!  I mean, I REALLY wanted to make a good first impression.

I say stupid things when I'm nervous.  And I get nervous when I want to make a good impression.

Stupid #1
I am greeted at the door of a rather LARGE country home.  A home out in the middle of nowhere.  The lady who greets me says, "Did you have much trouble finding the place?"  "Well, I drove past it at first," I said.  (I should have stopped there.)  "But I drove so far that pretty soon all I saw was hicks and cows, so I turned around."  (Awesome.  I just said, 'hicks and cows' . . . what was I thinking?)

Stupid #2
One of the sweet hostesses and lifelong friend of Christina's mom says to me, "Oh, you're Zack's mom?  Is this just an answer to your prayers?"  (I'm not sure what she's talking about so after a moment of really awkward silence I realize she's talking about Christina?)  "Oh, you mean Christina?  She's okay."  (In my head that was really funny, but the look on the lady's face said otherwise.)

Stupid #3
Christina introduces me to her precious Grandmother and  tells me that it is her birthday.  So I bend down and greet her in my warmest and most welcoming voice and I say, "Well, happy birthday.  I'd sing Happy Birthday to you but it would probably make you drop dead."  (Seriously?  I actually said that.  Those words actually came out of my mouth.)

There were many more.  But this is enough to give you an idea of how painfully awkward I can be when I am nervous.

All that to say, I should have just kept stuffing cake balls in my mouth.  At least that way I wouldn't have had room for my FOOT! 

Day 100: People Fear Me

I do not make good first impressions, unless it's a job interview or speaking in public, and then for some reason, people seem to like me.

But as a general rule, in small settings, like say parties or oh, I don't know, WEDDING SHOWERS, I don't seem to make a good first impression.  People always say the exact same thing to me.  "I was so intimidated when I first met you . . . and then I got to know you."

I have worked on this trait, trust me.  I've tried to smile more, speak less precisely, keep my inane amount of superfluous knowledge to myself, avoid using words like superfluous, slouch; you name it, I've tried it.

But nothing seems to work.  People always tell me later that they were nervous and intimidated when they first met me.  So I wonder about the people who don't get a chance to know me better.  The ones who walk away with that "she's so intimidating" opinion of me and never see me again.  Those people will always think I'm intimidating.


Because today, at a wedding shower,  I am going to meet a whole SLEW of people who don't know me at all.  And the likelihood that they will think I am intimidating (which often comes across as "stuck-up" by the way) is high.  And I am a representation of the man that the bride is going to marry.  I am the (dun,dun,dun) Mother of the Groom.  Have I mentioned I'm not good in small settings?

So let's recount.
A.  I'm the mother of the groom.  No one knows me, pretty much, except the bride, and she's going to be busy.
B.  I come across as intimidating on first impressions.
C. People will measure up Zack based on my interaction with them and determine just what kind of family Zack was raised by and what kind of family Christina is marrying into.

Whew.  I need a paper bag.  To breathe in.  Maybe I'll stick it in my purse, just in case.

All that to say, the wedding is officially "on."  And I am the Mother of the Groom.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile. Smile.  People fear me.  Smile.  Smile.  Smile.

Day 99: The Many Faces of Mike

When you know someone for over 30 years, you are bound to see the multi-faceted dimensions of them.  You are bound to have seen them at their very best and their very worst; their strongest and their weakest; their happiest and their saddest.  And that is true of my husband, Mike.

Mike is one of the most tender-hearted men I have ever met.  He will cry at the drop of a hat, seriously.  Like I have seen him weep at McDonald's commercials.  And when he cries, he is so cute because he tries to smile really big, so as to distract you from the fact that he is crying, but no one is fooled, Mike Jones, no one is fooled.

And then there's Crazy Mike.  Mike was actually given the name "Crazy Mike" by a friend of Jacob's.  A random mean dog kept coming in our yard, and one day, when a lot of Jacob's friends were over, Mike saw the dog and said, "If that dog comes in my yard again, I'll snap his neck."  Keep in mind, this was a really REALLY big dog.  Jacob's friends all laughed, and from that day forward they called him Crazy Mike.

And then there is Sunday School Teacher Mike, AKA "Mr. Jones" to his class.  He had a class one year that was especially dear to him because there were a couple of boys in the class whose dads were traveling a lot, and he felt responsible to reach out to them.  He apparently was special to them too, because years later their moms told us how much those days had meant to them all.

Then there is "COP Mike."  This is the Mike that will totally bust teenagers in the parking lot of gas stations who are trying to convince someone to buy them alcohol or tobacco or something else they shouldn't have.  This Mike scares me because I'm worried he's going to get shot some day.  But he always says to me, "If all adults cared about what people's kids were into, then our kids would be a lot safer.  That's how it was in my day."

There are so many Mikes to write about that I cannot possibly write about them all.  So I will say this, my husband would give you the shirt off his back without even thinking about it. ( He might launch into a lecture about why should not be walking around without a shirt on, but if you needed a shirt, he'd give you his. ) He is smart, and generous, and deeply in love with those who are unloved.  He is strong and wise and perhaps a bit impatient.  He is faithful and always believes that God will come through in the end.  He is self-sacrificing and loves his family more than I think he has words to say.

All that to say, Happy Birthday Mike Jones, man of my dreams.