Christmas Chaos/Christmas Wonder

Have you ever had every going so smoothly and then wham! bam! it all goes to pot? I speak of utter chaos and wailing, spilling, breaking, whining and spaghetti noodles everywhere.

Today went so well. Worship. Lunch all ready in the crockpot. Long rest time for the kids and peppermint mochas and reading in bed for us. We had decided to decorate for Christmas today and I confess, I had visions of EVERYTHING decorated (indoors and out!) and some presents wrapped by bedtime tonight. The tree finding went of without a hitch and we brought home the best free-range cedar we've ever found. Bringing decorations down from the attic? Smooth as buttah. Even the lights untangled and EVERY strand but one worked. I mean, we were looking good. 

Then it  all stopped going so well. Decorations were being strewn about the house with abandon, the tree would not stand up on it's own. Half a string of lights that were already on the tree gave out. 

Shall I recount?
Screaming baby
broken strand of decorating beads: a hundred red beads rolling all over the floor
angry baby eating leftover spaghetti
3 year old opening his advent calendar present on the sly
hungry three year old caught foraging in the cupboard for craisins
the dustpan DISAPPEARED
morose toddler eating leftover spaghetti
broken hearted big kids who wanted spaghetti, too
frantic noodle cooking in the midst of it all
husband with a headache
angry baby mad at spaghetti
angry baby realizes that the rest of family is eating spaghetti and demands more
as does 3 year old

Finally, T called it a night. Advent and to bed. Decorations on delay. 

We cleared the table, threw the advent wreath together. Grabbed the advent books, calendars, Bible and dug the first Jesse Tree ornament out of the bag. 

Deep breaths. Candle lit. And then, J somehow took on the responsibility of reading tonight's passage. For the first time, I heard my son really and truly reading scripture all on his own.

In the abeginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was bwithout form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
 And God said, “Let there be an expanse1 in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  And God made  the expanse and  separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were fabove the expanse. And it was so.  And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.  God called the dry land Earth,  and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

It was sweet. It was a glimpse of the fruit of our labors. Not only that our son is reading well, but a glimpse of the man of God I hope he will one day be. A "Jesus-man" as our dear friend Sue Jakes says.

We sang as a family after the devotion and the songs we have sung year after year came right back to them. I could sense the fellowship, the wonder, the longing, and awe of centuries of saints gone before us.

After bed-time, I was downstairs sorting through the Jesse Tree ornaments and trying to get them in order to place in their appropriately numbered envelopes.  Miss A came downstairs because she couldn't sleep, so I let her help me. She had lots to say, but hearing her recount on her own many of the Bible narratives and connections with the Jesse Tree ornaments filled my heart with thankfulness: for her, for our church and the faithful people who take their covenant at baptism seriously and teach our children.

Then, as I was paging through the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, really emotionally joy--full, I read the story of King Herod and the slaughter of the innocents. Heart-stabbing hurt, there.

I wish I fully understood the why of life. The why of so much hurt and suffering, mingled with joy and gladness. I only know what God has given so plainly: Creation. Fall. Redemption. Glory. There's a BETTER day coming. A BETTER joy. A BETTER righting of wrongs. God's going to make it all right and wipe away every tear. The deep down feeling we all have that there is something MORE will be satisfied.

I pray that you, my friend, would rest in Jesus.

Jesus, joy of the highest Heaven, born as a little baby under a wondrous star.
Like us, crying, he takes His first breath, held by his mother, helpless,
close to her beating heart.
Jesus, laid in a lowly manger, 
facing a world of dangers, 
come to turn me, a stranger, 
into a child of God.

Jesus, joy of the highest Heaven, learning to take His first step, that He might bring us life.
Like us, knowing our smiles and sorrows, He showed the way to follow,
a way that is true and right.
Jesus, take away every darkness; 
Steady my simple footsteps,
that I might in your goodness, 
live as a child of God.

(Keith and Kristyn Getty)


Resting--and Life, Currently.

I am so thankful for this season right now. This summer of camp has been such a blessing, such a reprieve from the wild of the past year.

There are struggles, still. But there is so much grace, so much calm in the midst of the crazy and even though I am tired, I sense renewal and refreshment as we have taken a break from school and the busyness of the fall-winter-spring. I'm encouraged by sin battles that are being won, for the enemy being kept at bay and for the way the Lord is stretching and teaching me.

I LOVE being a camp wife. I love this interesting and busy life and helping my husband as he needs me. I love that our children get to grow up here with the amazing staff to love on them and the incredible camp kids to grow up alongside (and their amazing parents for us to fellowship with!)

The kids and I have lazy mornings. I drink coffee, read, pray and journal on the porch before my kiddos drag out of bed. They sleep so late right now, that I can sleep in a bit and still get a head start on the day! They eat breakfast and we try to make it to morning assembly to worship with the campers, see the Pilgrim's Progress skit and catch the funny activity skits. We swim, do chores, take it easy . . . . at night we play at camp with the campers. So fun! Our nights are late--usually bedtime is around nine or nine thirty. A little housework here and there, keeping up with laundry, hospitality--not much on my plate right now. I'm grateful for that because the rest of the year I feel like I'm spinning with meals, homeschool, laundry, cleaning and all the STUFF of life. I'm spinning now, but in a sweet and different way. I also have LOTS of help with the kids thanks to our camp Nannies. Since we don't do MMO or preschool, I don't get a lot of breaks during the year. I'm enjoying this very much!

With two weeks of camp left and two truly busy weeks of "special season" (when other groups run their own camps) left, I'm starting to twitch and plan for school. I'm hoping to start VERY early since August can be so miserably hot and get a head start so we can enjoy lots of free fall days, a long Christmas break and finish school early in the spring. This break has surely gotten me mentally rested and motivated and SO excited about the coming year and all of our school plans.

The kids are growing like weeds. J lost his first tooth today. He is reading on his own and it's SO COOL to see him sounding out books and whatever words he comes across. He is such a good, cheerful helper, too, and takes out the bathroom garbage, vacuums the stairs, puts away laundry . . . . J is also proving himself trust-worthy (in a seven year old kind of way) and I really have enjoyed giving him more privileges and freedoms. He LOVES hanging out with the other two staff kid boys.

Miss A is a delight. She and one of the other little staff kids are best buds and A would play with her ALL DAY if she could. She also loves to play with other campers and usually ends up hanging out with a cabin or two. Miss A is really growing in her stewardship of her room and toys. I'm proud of how well she cleans her room and unloads the dishwasher. She also enjoys helping in the kitchen and loves to cook alongside me. Music and singing are VERY much part of her personality, too.

Mr. O is a sweet mess. He keeps me on my toes, but melts my heart with his kisses and snuggles and desire to be included. "Me, too?!" is his frequent question. O thinks the "big boys" (staff kids) are the coolest people EVER and always wants to do what they are doing--for better or for worse! He is much less of a handful than last year and is learning to obey and follow direction (and dance!).

Baby R is delightful. Absolute chubbalicious thighs and big baby smile delightful. She is go with the flow as long as she has her peeps nearby. A bit of Mama-separation-anxiety is creeping in and I don't mind one bit. It's nice to be so wanted. : ) With two bottom teeth and four on the top, she is becoming less baby and I'm seeing the hints of some toddler! She and her "BFF" next door neighbor, Baby A, love playing with each other. R is pretty verbal and likes to imitate sounds and actions. We see the inklings of wanting to walk, but I'm not rushing that at all.

That's life these days. We have evaded sickness this summer and things are calm. I am enjoying this pleasant season. I don't know what the future holds, but I KNOW who holds the future.


How Do You Do It?

A sweet mother of two little children gazed at us in wonder on Sunday morning as we filed into the nursery with our four. "How do you do it?" she said.

How do we do it? We don't. I don't. I can't.

We pull it together on Sunday and have a little system down that works for us, but we only look somewhat together in the blissful moments after we get out of the car (and I've just wiped all the dried eye crud, milk mustaches and other gunk off of our kids faces!) and walk into church.

This past year has been WILD. I could list all the crazy, a surgery, the doctor visits, accidents in the car, spills, sicknesses, foreign travel,  bumps in the road and just the destructive chaos Mr. O creates would by itself drive anyone batty.

I've never ever had it all together (although I got a LOT more done with fewer kids and I really don't have a lot of children compared to many!).  However, the reality of how not "together" I am and how much bigger the job is than me has especially settled in since baby R arrived.

I have ironed one article of clothing this entire year. One. The mess in our house rotates from area to area. The laundry never ends. I feel the fall acutely when it comes to laundry and housework. My own parenting failures help seal the remembrance.

Yet we survive. God is gracious and if this is my lot it has surely fallen in pleasant places.

I told Tuan that I was a bit overwhelmed and as I listed all my roles and jobs, I began to understand why:

Child of God
Wife, helper and lover. : ) Amen.
Daughter and Sister
Woman in the Church
Teacher of two different grades, wrangler of a three year old and primary baby care for sweet Mrs. R.
Chef--3 meals a day
Procurer of Domestic Supplies
Home Manager
House Keeper and Cleaner

It's too much. I can't do it. At any and all times some balls are going to drop. I could surely use some household help. It's rather liberating to realize that. It's also liberating to realize that it's okay to let some things go.

Sometimes I have to realize that I don't have to cling to standards that the Lord has not set for me. Cleaning my house at the expense of discipling my children and loving my husband and caring for someone in need isn't what he is calling me to do. I struggle with that balance.

At the same time, when I fail in the areas where he HAS drawn a line ), I am COVERED by the blood of Jesus. Hallelujah!

If I'm grumpy because my system of organization is not being followed, the problem lies with me. I don't have the liberty to declare that "without X, I can't function", if "Z is dirty, I can't do Y".

Ultimately, my SOLE dependence is on Jesus. I am, however, at liberty to recognize and declare that "without JESUS, I can't."

It's liberating to realize that being creative reflects his image and can bring him glory.

Hmm. . . Wish I had time to sort this out more, but Mr. O just plundered the Italian Creme Cake in the Fridge and Baby R is on a fast track towards the coconut shower that resulted from the plunder.


Morning Wild

Ah...breakfast. Especially crazy today. I ended up with Applesauce all over the floor because Miss A thought placing the jar on my forearm an acceptable method of "passing" the applesauce. Applesauce on the wall, chair, floor...and, as I later discovered: my back.
Then, as I was frantically preparing to feed a disgruntled baby R, I heard a bangito crashito and Mr. O, in his 'cross-the-table-reach-for-cinnamon had knocked over a beautiful cup of organic milk all over the floor.
In situations like these, I am learning to give thanks and in this case, I was thankful that the floor had not been mopped recently and that we had milk to spill.
I've been feeding baby R as I type and a few more crisis of a domestic nature have occurred...must go!


Observations from Today

When you have babies and toddlers and older parents tell you that parenting gets harder (but in a different way) it can be so hard to believe! How can these days get any more challenging and exhausting? I have surely asked that!

Today I had a taste of the mental exhaustion of parenting.

While driving J to school, and on the way to pick him up I had lengthy conversations with each older child.

J wanted to know why I wasn't pushing the accelerator which led to a lesson in cruise control, highway and interstate names, speed limits and was followed by a lengthy prosecutorial question and answer session about where I hit the deer with the van, how, why I hit the deer and why I didn't sop and bring the deer home. How did I know it wasn't dead, why didn't I stop, again? By the time we reached school I was done in.

The way in for pick up we discussed whether princesses were real, why some were real and others not and which ones were legit. On the way home I repeatedly stated that no, we were not stopping for a snack and would have popcorn at home. (Apparently one must state that at least eight times before it sinks into persistently hard noggins!)

We also pulled over to the side of the road and I physically got out of the car and stood by the window of the six year old and explained that it is not acceptable to throw a fit because your siblings watched tv while you were at school. The sting of writing the hefty check to pay for the semester may have had added to the passion of my conversation. I mean, really, after a day at school, playing with good friends, eating pizza and cookies with icing, you're gonna complain because you missed a few episodes of PBS kids? (In a weak moment I fell asleep on the floor during Daniel Tiger and woke up to Sid the Science Kid, so it was more than a few episodes....oops!) As a result of our conversation, there was no tv today and may not be tomorrow as I was frequently informed by the six year old pizza and iced cookie eating kid that he had not had any fun today. Yeah.

Mental exhaustion. Brain flooded with talk. I'm a thinker whose brain never really stops so quiet time rejuvenates me and too much of everything causes a shut down of sorts.

Anyway, not to complain, but merely explain!

Oh, then in the midst of this after I dropped J off, I decided that since I was child-free for a moment to get a good cup of coffee for the homeward commute and ran into Broad Street. (I also got a killer croissant, but that's another story.) I walked in around 8:20 and there were all these adults drinking good coffee, having subdued conversations and eating good pastries and baked goods. There was not a small child in sight. A man from church said hello and said they'd just finished a Bible study time. Another older friend was holding court with a table full of friends. My jaw dropped. PEOPLE DO THIS ALL THE TIME!

Oh, yes. My jaw dropped. It was an epiphany similar to when a young child wakes in the middle of his slumber and discovers his parents (no, not that!!!) and friends up late playing board games and eating fresh baked cookies or peanut butter pie and realizes that really fun things happen while they are asleep.

It was an eye opener really and like Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there".

Of course, that is not the reality of my calling these days...much as I would occasionally wish it to be! But one day I will! Like the couple that ran around in their skivvies at home for weeks after their youngest left for college, just because they could the first few weeks of R's freshman year you may find me at Broad Street every morning drinking coffee and eating a chocolate croissant just because I can. I'm sure I will do something profitable the other hours of those days and after those weeks, but at first...!

But until then I will listen, listen, listen and answer repeatedly and hug my kids and change epic diapers and remind them repeatedly of how much I love them and how much more Jesus loves them.

And find there's a lot more satisfaction in that than spending my mornings at Broad Street.