Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Christmas Hope

Christmas has come and is almost gone. Four days of festivities behind us and a couple more to go. Hanna is convinced by now that Christmas will just keep on coming every day. Jake is going to bed each night clutching his toys in his hands and Wayne has two precious mornings of sleeping in after a year of rarely getting the opportunity. Me, well I've been awake for a few hours, it's seven o'clock and since four I've rubbed Vick's and given cough syrup to Hanna, soothed Jake's cries back to sleep, tossed and turned in between. I'm possibly still on a sugar high from all the Christmas goodies and I think this baby has done acrobatics the entire night. So if pondering the hours away in sleeplessness is all I can do I may as well get up and blog about what's been filling my mind over the holidays.

This Christmas season, preparations and decorations took on a much lesser degree of importance. Many of the usual doings fell by the wayside and left room for learning a deeper meaning of the season. The holidays can become so routine amidst to do lists, dollars spent and places to go, so much emphasis on those things that we miss out on what each new Christmas has to breathe into our lives. This year, I don't think I've ever heard so much bad news. Tragedy always seems to befall this time of year. I don't know if this year  really holds any more than other years but maybe it's because it seems so much closer to home, closer to heart. Maybe it's the media available at any touch of a button, or facebook statuses and prayer requests, or maybe it's me. Maybe my eyes are open a little wider; facing the reality rather than my daydreams.

Ironically, or maybe Providential, over the last month we've heard a four part series at Church on the Good News of Christmas. Each week we've heard more bad news. Death, senseless mass violence, young children left without a mother, families planning funerals during the holidays, hurt hearts and bodies behind closed doors. Those doors get flung wide open and we're left in shock and disbelief. Yet is it any shock, did Jesus not come at such a time as Christmas to open the doors, to open our eyes, to open our hearts? To give us what He offers. We see and hear this heart wrenching stuff all year long and yet it cuts so deep at this time. Just when we want respite to see lights all aglow and give glad tidings. Joyce Meyer said last week that in the midst of our affliction is often when our bonds are broken. How many bonds do we cover with false Holiday pretense only to miss out on the real Joy that the Lord brings to the World?

I felt the stronghold of a bond last week that I thought I was well on my way to being done with. Fear. It gripped me and held on for several days and restless nights. It was so easy to turn back to those old fears especially when the world seems a little darker. I read somewhere a while back that when fear is present, faith is absent. Ouch, that hurts. As a child, my mind wrestled with many fears and anxious thoughts, looking back now they were mostly self inflicted and never to become realized in reality. The sad truth is those fears chased me right into adulthood and though I've come a long way in replacing fear with faith it still remains a weak spot.  A few weeks ago our Pastor spoke on how many times in the Christmas story the topic of fear comes up and the phrase 'Do not be afraid' is used several times. That was something totally new for me to consider in relation to Christmas but as it became real to me last week the words chimed in amidst my fearful thoughts. Do not be afraid. A few mornings ago I woke to see Hanna next to me. I asked her how she ended up there and in her matter of fact manner told me, "oh Mom, I just had a bad dream so I just laid down next to you and fell asleep again." No tears in the night, no staying a wake in fear. Quite different than how it felt for me as a child.  Yesterday evening Hanna's uncle was teasing her about her moving downstairs when baby comes and that she would be to scared to sleep in the basement. She just giggled and said "I won't be scared, I'll have my brother with me!" No big deal. My story was different. I was fourteen and it had probably taken two years to muster the courage to move downstairs and another two years working out my fears while I was down there. Craziness, thinking about that now.

Thankfully as much as I was trying to work away the fear, I was trying much harder to pour out my faith in prayer. I opened my Bible a couple evenings ago looking for a verse on fear and Mark 5:36 jumped out in red. Jesus' words and they are a simple, profound truth: Don't be afraid, just believe. He couldn't have spoke any more clearly to me. To break the bond of fear I would have to simply believe. Believe that at Christmas when hearts ache, shock numbs and grief lingers, that in drawing near to the manger in belief we will be filled with a sense of hope. A hope that overcomes. I realized in my sleeplessness last night that I could learn a lesson through my little girl. She had a frightful dream but believed that to simply slip in quietly next to my side, all would be well. Or what fear could the basement hold, knowing her brother would be by her side. If I slip in quietly next to the Saviour's side with belief, the fear subsides. If I kneel by the manger and think about what a baby brings how can I not be filled with hope. As moms, we hold our newborns and we are filled with the hope of a beautiful future after the going through the affliction of painful childbirth. Jesus came to offer us that hope, to open the doors and help us walk through this painful world with belief. That His perfect love will cast out our fears.

I know bad news will keep on coming, it's inevitable. The good news within myself is seeking and learning to overcome the bad news. One of best gifts I received this Christmas was Mark 5: 36 and a prayer of hope. The best gift from my hubby is the way he challenges me think beyond my doubts and fears. I love him for the way he sets aside concerns and pulls in next to the children, whether its rebuilding Lego with his nephew, doing a Dollarama Christmas tree craft with Hanna or taking over my tearful troubles with Jake in the night when he has to get up in a few short hours. I learn so many lessons through him and our children. They are God's best gifts for me. I can't even begin to offer Him enough thanks in return.  Drawing to His side, we have spent meaningful days with family around the table, sharing memories and food, playing with our children and laughing with them. Hanna said it was her bestest Christmas ever.

Mark 5:6 ... Don't be afraid, just believe.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Measure of Life

When I was in high school I hung up a banner in my room with this quote on it:

"Life is not measured by the number of  breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away."

I loved English class and many quotes I came across were jotted down in a journal; this particular quote meant a lot to me. Yet as a sixteen year old girl who hadn't really experienced life in it's reality I couldn't even imagine what those big and often oh so simple moments would be that would take my breath away. Or that often those moments aren't noticed at the time but come as hindsight later on.

At eighteen, I never knew that at the graveside of my fathers' funeral when my eyes locked with Waynes' across the crowd through blurry vision, in a few weeks time would begin my journey towards a lifetime with him. A situation of irony: laying the most important male figure in my life to rest and on to a new beginning with the man who would become the most important male in my life. It takes my breath away.

Delighted in marriage and it's new beginnings, yet I was terrified at the thought of giving birth in the future. A positive sign left me in shocked silence as I contemplated that my world was really about to change. Almost two years after our wedding,2008, our firstborn was delivered into our arms. I went through four days of nurses tending us, many tears, little sleep and a body that felt like it would never recover. I remember the morning we left with our Hanna tucked into a car seat as the three of us sat in the car. I looked back half hoping a nurse was climbing in too and it hit me that this was up to us now, time to take our baby home and learn how to live life in a new way, many doubts and fears assailed me. It took my breath away.

Those newborn days were overwhelming for sure: constant care, falling into bed exhausted, adjusting to new routines and rediscovering my role that included wife and mother. The toddler stage didn't seem much easier with tantrums and a strong will staring me in the face. Yet looking back in Hanna's album as she often likes to do, I don't see the evidence of the trying, tiring moments. Page after page there is a sweet smiling girl wrapped up in cuddles and kisses, with her loved ones around her. Joy exuding her eyes as she takes in the world around her. I took time to snap the moment with a camera, why didn't I take more time to hold my breath and count the moment in my heart?

It seems I went through many growing pains with my firstborn and so many times I've feared that I've only done her wrong.  God shows me fruits of the labor though, through Hanna wrapping her arms around me every day as she reminds me how she loves me, through the moral concepts she has begun to understand, the songs she makes up about her family and Jesus, the hearts she cuts and pastes together for the people she loves and the forgiveness she gives me when I humbly apologize for my childish behaviour. The other day she cut out her drawing of Jesus, drew a bible and glued it to His outstretched arms and cut out little hearts that she pasted onto His body. I asked her to describe it to me and she said it was the big Jesus ( she also drew the baby Jesus) and He had the Bible to teach us what to do and the hearts were there because 'we give our hearts to put our trust in Him'. Simple Truth.  In that moment I really gave thanks that in all the anxious, frustrated breaths I've taken, He has moved His Spirit through my girl and that out of the mouths of children we have much to learn. It's breathtaking.

Jake. Much to our delight in 2011 we came home with a baby boy. Feeling better equipped the second time around, albeit busier, I took more time in the newborn days to rest at home as it was winter time. I wasn't so anxious to carry on with the other wants in life though definitely still a struggle at times to give up even more of my independence. He sure gave me run for my sanity with seven months of sleeplessness and gassy nights. So tired, so many breaths to take. At seven months it came to me that something had to give. I needed a change and that change was moving my baby downstairs to sleep by himself.  He slept through the night, the night after that and almost all night following. I don't know whether it was the timing, him needing space alone, quiet form the train outside or if his body was done working out its kinks but it worked. It left with me  a 'I can't believe it's working' breathlessness and took me a while to train myself back to sleep. Finally I was able to find some rejuvenation and focus again on life besides worrying about sleep.

Jake is less than a month away from turning two. He has a spirit that delights and brings many laughs, though the screeching has left us pulling our hair many times. Much of the screeching has been replaced by the world of words he has discovered. It's been so unique to watch a relationship form between him and Hanna. They are each so typically boy and girl. Hanna is in a Barbie and crafting world, while Jake has trains and semis in his hands wherever he goes with a different driving sound for each machine. Together they tickle, run like the dickens around the house, look at books and push each others buttons without mercy. And when they hug, they are just the perfect fit. I watch and realize how much they have changed me in the last couple of years, taught me more patience, gentleness, slower to anger and filled my cup to overflowing. They steal glances at us across the room, with mischief in their eyes and flash us smiles that stop time in its' track and our breath bursts out in laughter. Jake will steal too many breaths some day if he keeps up with his dimply grin, just like his Dad's smile stole mine.

Our family of four is soon to be five. My body creates more space every day to be filled with this growing baby, while we try to create more space in our small home to fill with another baby. Hanna reminds me every day that we are going to have a baby soon, as if I could forget that through the uncomfortable stretching and aches I feel each day. She is filled with glowing anticipation. Her mind is spinning on how this is all going to take place and ever so innocently asked me the other day if she could come with to the hospital to see God's special way of bringing the baby? I lose my breath and my mouth hangs in silence for a bit. I'm not ready for these four year old questions. I laugh and tell her that in due time she will know what God's special way is and it's left at that for now. I felt much anxiousness this past summer at the thought of handling three children but through the last month I have felt more peace replace the fear. The more I surrender my helplessness the more strength through faith I receive. I'm still not eager for the process but I know I can do it and He will get me through it.

This verse has recently spurred me on, not only for childbirth, but to help me through marriage, mothering and learning to be a woman that takes joy in the moment, one day at a time.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Phil 3:12.

I have many more moments to share and my post wil quickly turn into a short story if I don't stop for a bit. The moments will be continued in life and on the blog...