Ticket To Ride

This has been a busy, and to be honest stressful week for me, as I’m sure it has been for many of you. But last night was a little peek into some of the joy that Christmas brings.  I hope this blesses you and your family like it did us…

Last night my children had what would arguably be the best ride around the town they’ve ever had.  It wasn’t so much what they did, as the experience with friends that made it so memorable. A couple weeks ago my friend Tricia asked if we would be interested in our kids joining them in a family tradition. Every year on a special night at Christmas time, they take their kids around town to see Christmas lights in “The Christmas Express”, which really means a totally decked out version of their own van, with Dad dressed up as a different chauffeur each year.

Tricia has six kids, and we have five, and she is my friend that is super organized and pays attention to details. I aspire to be like her because I am a “big picture, who cares about details” kind of gal. I can use more Tricia in my life. So, in her unique way, she prepared for this night with flare. She printed tickets on gold paper, laminated them, and gave them to me ahead of time so I could give them to the kids. The plan was they would come and pick the kids up in their van around 8:00PM and the dads would take the children around town looking at the lights together while they chatted about what kids chat about and munched on popcorn and drank hot cocoa!

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So, the day finally arrived, and I decided to hide their tickets inside their stockings. We did our normal bedtime routine around 7:45, and sent the kids up to tuck themselves in. We waited a few minutes until they were all in their rooms and then Kevin went up in the hallway and said, “guys, I think Santa actually came early and put something in your stockings, so why don’t you come down and look.” The kids looked at him with confusion, as we don’t do Santa in our house (hey-before you judge me, we still do presents and all the other Christmas stuff, but I just never had the heart to play along with it all. Don’t worry, we tell them not to tell your kids!) So, they cautiously went downstairs and checked their stockings. Inside was a golden ticket with their name on it to a ride in “The Christmas Express”!  They read what it said, and they were still totally in the dark as to what was going on, but there was anticipation growing in the air. “Alright, everyone has to be in pj’s!”, I said.  They ran upstairs and came back down in a flash. “Okay, get your coats and boots on!” At this point, they had smiles plastered to their faces, and they were asking us what they were going to get to do. We walked out into the crisp, cold air and stood on the driveway.  After a minute or two, I said to them, “something is going to happen…”, and they looked all around in the quiet. About a minute later, our friends came sailing down the road with Christmas music blaring. The sight reminded me of a cartoon! This big black Nissan NV flying around the corner, Christmas music spilling out of it, colorful Christmas lights strung along the inside, and children’s giddy voices breaking the quiet night. “That’s it!” my oldest shouted. He recognized the van as our friends van. As they pulled up, our friends honked the horn, and our kids started jumping up and down and lots of shouts went up. They had decked out their van, and it was nothing short of awesome. Tricia’s husband Josh jumped out, “tickets! tickets! Where’s your tickets?!!”, and simultaniously their kids flew out of the van to jump all over our kids and hug them.  He pulled out a hole punch, punched the kids tickets, handed it back to them and told them they need it to get in their seats. Tricia jumped out the other side of the van with a basket full of boxes she had made for each child filled with treats. They all filed in and found their seat next to their friend, and wouldn’t have been able to wipe the smiles off their faces even if you asked them to. It was great to see them so happy.

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And as fast as the big van flew into our driveway it flew back out again, this time with the Dads in the front seats. Tricia and I stayed back at our house to chat over Christmas cookies and tea while one baby slept and the other played at our feet. (It was quiet and lovely. I think we got the better end of the deal-wink!)

They were gone for almost two hours driving around to experience the Christmas lights, all the while snacking on popcorn, pretzels, and hot cocoa, chatting away with their friends. When they came back they were filled to the brim with the joy that children have at Christmas time. You know…joy. Like, the joy that kids can bubble up with out of nowhere. I’ve learned that children don’t need much to be overwhelmed with joy.

Don’t you sometimes wish you had more joy? I know I do. I struggle with that. When I was about sixteen I was diagnosed with depression. I don’t know if I really did have depression or if I was just stuck in the muck of being a teenager. Regardless, that word labeled me for a while. I went on medication, but also dove into God’s Word to see what He had for my life. As I searched His Word, I saw it. I saw that there were scriptures about joy all over the place. And that He was the one that restores joy. “In Your presence is fullness of joy”, Psalm 16:11. “You turned my wailing to dancing, you clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises”, Psalm 30:11-12.  I wanted to have the joy of a child again so bad. I went off the meds a few years later. I’m not sure I really needed them in the first place. What I do know I needed was lots and lots of booster shots from God’s Word (of course I have to put a disclaimer here: if you are suffering from depression, please DO see a Dr and get on anti-depressants if that’s what you think you need. I will have more posts on this subject since it is close to my heart). These days it’s not very often that I feel overcome with depression, (thank the Lord) but when it comes knocking on my door, I go to God.  I now KNOW that in His presence is fullness of joy.  But I also think that God knows life is really hard, and He has put a sweet deposit of joy into our children. And I love when I see it spill out. It’s like, “yes! They still have it.” Like the bell in The Polar Express that rang for the children but faded as they grew older, joy seems to fade as we get older. I don’t like that. I wish it didn’t, but it seems like the pressures and demands of life sit right on top of joy and squish it right down to the likes of an unrecognizable deflated soccer ball. If you feel that way this Christmas season, I leave you with two challenges. One, take your kids out this week to look at the lights. Send them up to bed like usual, and then surprise them. Tell them to pile in the car, have some hot (warm for safety!) cocoa ready, and some other treat, and start driving.  Maybe even pick up some friends along the way! They will love it, and they will probably remember it forever. And two, don’t check joy at the door of adulthood. Make time in life for the things that make you feel like a kid again. Think back to it. That feeling where life felt just amazing. Pray that God will bring your joy back. Pray that He will give you ideas of how to awaken it.  He will.  And as you drive your children or grandchildren around, watch their faces light up, and try to match their excitement. It may feel weird, but just try. You may surprise yourself…and them too!

Christmas Anticipation

 

DSC_0942“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”! Can’t you hear it playing? I grew up listening to this song every Christmas season when my mom would pull out the 1963 Andy Williams Christmas album(and by album I mean a good old record!). My Moms parents loved to sing and were musical, so I grew up with lots of records around when I was little and never a moment without some kind of music playing in the background. This song brings joy to my heart every time I hear it because it reminds me of the anticipation that comes with Christmas. Anticipation of playing in new fallen snow, making Christmas cookies, shoveling the driveway until feet and hands were numb and sipping hot cocoa afterward, presents under the tree, Christmas Eve candle lit church service, and Christmas morning. Oh glorious Christmas morning! Waking up and realizing that its the day and coming out of the bedroom to the sweet smell of breakfast cooking. Spending the morning tearing through beautifully wrapped packages all while lounging in our pj’s and just being with each other.

So, I find it perfectly fitting to start this blog at Christmas time. With much anticipation, I begin writing and sharing our life. The life God has called me to live with my hot husband, and five precious babies. (OK I lied, they aren’t all babies-but my husband IS hot!) I’m not sure what presents will be unwrapped through this blog. Some neatly packaged, some not. But I pray that they are presents to you. We need more encouragement and positivity in our culture. We need more support in our culture-especially between women. I hope to bring you those things through sharing tidbits of my life with you.

Speaking of presents, my Mom just gave us a little, but special present when she was here a couple weeks ago. Something that came from her house that she only sets out at Christmas time. It’s this little house that plugs in and lights up all different colors. It’s quite mesmerizing to look at, and my children always love gazing at it in a dimly lit room. It’s spent it’s Christmases at Grandma and Grandpa’s house…until this year. When she pulled it out of the bag for them, she said, “I think this house needs to stay with you where you guys can enjoy it all Christmas season.” My kids were so excited to see the little magical house be pulled out of the bag. We plugged it in and watched the little lights come on, and as we looked it over, my daughter Vienna said, “I just want to go inside so bad!” And to her response, I said, “I know- I do too!”

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I pray that this blog would be that little house to you. May you be drawn to the light that shines in our home. More than that, Id like to invite you to come inside! I hope to inspire and encourage you in motherhood, marriage, spiritual matters, health, wellness, homeschooling, and everyday life. I desire to link arms with you and help you to enjoy the family God has given you, even though each day is not Christmas morning, or neatly wrapped up packages.

I sit here as I type with a crackling fire roaring next to me in the fireplace(weeellll, its actually gas, so its not roaring or crackling, but its hot. Oh-kind of like my husband(wink!)). Speaking of him again, he is dozing on the couch next to me, and behind him is our beautifully lit Christmas tree. The tree that all seven of us hiked out into the back of a tree farm to pick out and cut down on a cold morning. The tree that my children and I decorated together. The tree that tilts a little, has ornaments hanging in random clusters, and is bare near the bottom so the cats and baby can’t pull them off. The tree that is covered in ornaments that I made as a child, or adorned my childhood trees, as well as ornaments that my children made with pictures of their sweet little faces on them. They are falling apart yet every year I pull out the tape to fix them again. It’s not the Pottery Barn Christmas tree and would be rejected by every store catalog, but its our tree and the kids love it. They love pulling out the ornament box every year, filled with anticipation, and unwrapping each one and exclaiming, “oh I remember this one! Mom, remember this one?! I looove this one!” Ahh, the anticipation. So, I rest in the anticipation of where this blog might take us. I hope and pray that it takes us somewhere good, hopeful, inspirational, and warm…kind of like the room I’m sitting in right now. May it draw you to delight in the treasures of life. May it bring you peace in the craziness of life. And may it inspire you to not look perfect like the Pottery Barn trees out there, but to live authentically like your unique Christmas tree.

God gave us all unique fingerprints, and with those fingers we have all created our own unique Christmas trees. I hope you know this Christmas season that you are a one of a kind creation made by the Creator Himself.  He’s crazy about you. He truly is. May that truth this Christmas season settle into your heart in a new way. God’s got good things for you. Anticipate it. Until next time…