God has not called me to be successful, He called me to be faithful.—Mother Teresa
If anybody understands, it would be Ruth. When her husband died, instead of returning home and starting again, she chose the harder path of traveling and taking care of her mother-in-law.
It’s growing more and more popular with the new year to choose a singular word to set the course over the next 12 months vs. making resolutions.
I’ve done it myself—one year was “risk-taker”, another was “be”—and it’s a good, focused strategy that can really jumpstart people to become their better, created selves. Those years, I chose to bravely say yes to opportunities I may have otherwise passed up, and I was reminded to live in the moment instead of distracted by the buzz of my phone or the demands of tomorrow.
But last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a Giving Key necklace with the word “believe” stamped on the gold vintage key, and I haven’t picked a word since. It seems this simple accessory has pointed out more than once that it’s time to believe in God’s promises, actually live like His power and grace is real, and rest in His presence when circumstances and evil pull me away.
Amidst the twinkling lights, stocking stuffers, and your best-dressed outfits, it’s easy to forget why we actually celebrate Christmas. You get caught up in the giggle of your grandson, your stomach’s grumbling over that glazed ham, and it’s your responsibility to entertain the in-laws this year. The festivities are alive, and it’s no wonder the moments can all race together in one big blur!
Or you’re on the W-A-Y other end of the spectrum. You feel lost this season. That job you’ve been pining for? Given to someone else. That investment supposedly paving the way for an early retirement? Down the drain. Your boyfriend you envisioned your future with? No ring or explanation, gone. The minutes and traditions drag on, and nothing really seems worth celebrating this time around. But no matter how far we’ve wandered or how lost we may feel, no matter how perfectly our ribbons are curled or our bows are placed, there’s a hope, so boundless and crazy, offered to every one of us. And it’s found in the meaning of Christmas. Relevant to the hipsters, the nonconformists, and everyone in between, it’s a story that beckons with a plot that revives and replenishes. Jesus, the God of gushing love, came to this earth because we were wandering. We were lost. We were sinking in our defeat, error, and purposelessness. He saw our slumped shoulders and our worn out spirits. He heard our sighing and our groaning as we laid in our beds, the puddles of tears staining our pillows, waiting for some form of relief, some sort of hope, some sort of purpose. And He came.
Jesus was born into this world to start a new thing, to make a way for the wanderers, to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free. Sequentially, Jesus’ birth isn’t just a religious holiday or a historical event that stood the test of time. But His birth turned our days of mourning into a lifetime and eternity of festive praise. And Christmas, Jesus’ date of birth, got the whole ball rolling. Pure and simple. That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything. This is why the wise men traveled on camel back and followed a star for miles and miles to see. This is the reason a Fisher Price manger scene can be revolutionary and hard selling. This is the glory of Linus reciting Luke 2 in the Charlie Brown Christmas. This Jesus and his uprising is the magic of Christmas, and it deserves to be shared, spread, cheered. So as you look around your dinner table today, take time to pause over the holly centerpiece and the clanging forks. Your aunt is feeling lonely without her spouse for the first time this year. Your mom is trying hard not to worry about the stack of bills hiding in the kitchen cabinets. And your daughter can’t get over the fact that she has one less present than her brother. As you pause, look each person in the eye. Remind them that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, angels or demons, fears for today or worries about tomorrow, the power in the sky above or in the earth below can keep us from experiencing God’s love around this table. And that’s the hype of Christmas. In all its splendor and majesty, in a few paragraph nutshell, God so loved us that He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life. I’d say that’s something worth celebrating this Christmas, wouldn’t you?
When you grow up in the church, you know at a young age that you’re a child of God just as easily as you know your full name and can recite your home phone number. But it wasn’t until I started having kids and becoming a parent myself that the relationship between God the Father and me as His daughter took on technicolor meaning. And now, this correlation is all I see in my everyday, parenting moments.
For instance, no matter how long I’ve been potty-training my three-year-old, he still has accidents. And in those moments when I’m looking at his sorry face and rummaging through the drawers looking for clean underwear (again), I think of how God shows us the right way to live in His Word, but time and time again, we have accidents. And yet, every time, how patient He is with us.
Or when Oscar says thank you when I give him a snack, I light up, and as a mom trying to teach my kids to mind their p’s and q’s, I’m so proud when he says that on his own. Which leads me to wonder how much more does our Heavenly Father’s heart soar when we acknowledge the gifts He’s given us and actually take the time to thank Him.
We officially have a one-year-old on our hands, and I have to admit, this stage is F-U-N.
Sure, there’s still nap struggles and defiance in the face of vegetables and blowouts. It’s a “nose goes” game anytime we hear the rumble. But at this age, there’s an unquenchable curiosity, a little mimicking, that’s just downright amusing.
We clap, she claps. We scream, she screams. We laugh, she fake laughs back. I moo like a cow; Mabel moos like a cow back. Every day, we play this game of back-and-forth.
Growing up, I remember my dad hiding Easter eggs in the best of spots.
Inside the cabinet of our piano, on top of the ceiling fan blades, nestled in the strings of our basketball hoop, and scattered across our backyard in the mesh of leaves, dirt, and lawn furniture. And my brother, sister, and I would play like sleuths, elbowing each other for the biggest eggs, and each secretly hoping for another quarter to add to our piggy bank.
Now since my own toddler has come of age to participate in an Easter egg hunt, you can bet your bottom dollar it is on. My husband jokingly (but not so jokingly) left a stack of eggs on our kitchen table with these instructions: “So Oscar can practice. Try to get him to find the gold ones first—they have the biggest prizes.” Welcome to the inside of #andersonpartyof4.
Play dates are the best. The other day, all of us moms lugged in our car seats with toddlers in tow, we spread out some toys across the living room carpet, and our babies just sat there staring at each other. The ladies cracked open some sparkling waters while the toddler boys roamed the room, and in no time, it was pretty apparent we didn’t get together for them anyways. Because really, a play date? Who are we kidding…more like a mom therapy group.
“So when did you introduce a second meal?” “How many ounces is he drinking these days?” “Can you take a look at her rash?” And on. And on. And on. No one else could possibly be interested in hearing about potty-training for a half hour, or my woes on how my baby’s sleep schedule has rocked my world. It would be a complete and utter snooze fest, a wasted hang out, to everyone else. Everyone else, except the very people going through the EXACT SAME THING. To them, it was like finally finding a lemonade stand on a hot summer day.
How have you experienced this in your season of life? You know who those people are. They’re the ones giving jerky, emphatic nods whenever you share the highest highs and the deepest lows of what’s really going on, chiming in to every detail with a, “Yes! Yes! YES.” Don’t you just love them? When you meet these people, you can almost feel the connection, the electricity in the room that comes from finally being understood, finally feeling like you aren’t alone, finally pulling back the curtain and getting a standing ovation. You walk away feeling nothing short of a kindred-spirit-kind-of-bond after all the confessing, debriefing, and empathizing.
Did you know there was a day when the sun stood still?
Ever since my first-born was just a tiny kicking blob on an ultrasound, I’ve debated about his life verse. There’s so many compelling nuggets in Scripture that could ennoble him to live a faith-filled life… but I was always stuck on the cliché, oh-so-common verse in Joshua: “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9).
Shouldn’t I be more creative though? This verse was announced at my college graduation ceremony, screen-printed on the back of my volleyball warm-up tee, etched into half of the mugs in my cupboard, and at the risk of sounding melodramatic, it’s splashed across every other Christian trinket you could possibly find around the globe.