I don’t seem to notice the rain this time of year or the fact that it will probably be wet the next sixty days. I just expect to put on my rain boots and get on with it. (Kind of a small miracle, mind you, if you read previous posts I write around Oct). There’s something really special about the anticipation around the birth of Christ that has a powerful presence over the air in all of November and December. I get unusually happy about planning our usual traditions, thinking about how we will serve and then especially this year, enjoying looking into my children’s eyes as we are able to have fairly thoughtful exchanges about what this is all about.
Though lately I have been struck by how even though I love Jesus with all that I am as his daughter, I find myself tetering internally sometimes between staying focused on the glory of God and how good it would feel to make a fun list of what I would like for Christmas (since people are asking, after all!) Yet I feel an intense drawing, a tide that is bigger than me, moving me towards learning more and more to completely let go of the anticipation that has to do with me. And a joy accompanying the steps I make in that direction that assure me of what is right.
I wrote a few months ago that I had one word ringing in my head that I couldn’t shake and I didn’t know what to do with it: SERVE. One snippet of that blog said:
I do not know what I am supposed to do with this word. And honestly I think it’s pretty gracious that he’s just given me A word and not a twelve page document charting out an undertaking that might take the breath out of my chest like I might die if I have to go through with it. It’s like he’s working the value of this word deep into my core. And reminding me that this is what Jesus came to do. This is what form his love took for the world. I want my children more and more with age and maturity to also learn that life is about giving our lives away like Jesus did. I want them to get their hands in that truth too.
So I don’t know where this is headed. And that’s okay. It’s not like I have an empty day every day and I need to run out and fill up all my hours. I’m already maxed with loving on my three little ones and somehow, slowly, graciously, accompanied by a growing heart burden, I see him kneeding in a new piece of our lives that he wants to make part of how we live.
All I know is that if I keep listening I bet the Spirit will keep talking about this. Because that is what he does. And my heart is perking up. And my ears are being awakened morning by morning. And I am like one being taught.
I recently posted a question on facebook about how I could serve with three kids three and under. Seems daunting. But I can’t shake the tide, so I’m compelled to figure it out (darn it, we can’t be in a cave forever!!! He he). My main realization from that exchange was that I’m not crazy for thinking it’s a daunting idea to figure out serving with toddlers. They can’t do much and they mostly keep my hands busy, and not to mention most people would kind of vote for us to stay at home instead of coming to “help” them – ha ha. So there are simple ways to overcome these hurtles.
I realize my heart as the mom, the rudder on the ship of our day, is the most important factor. Am I thinking about how we will give our lives away? Is my heart showing itself to be gracious when someone drops their groceries in front of us and my kids see me help them? Did they see me stop to talk to a woman outside the store whose name happened to be the same as mine but who was forced to live a very different life? Am I providing them the opportunities? Are we having those simple conversations about the children who live in the world without mommies and daddies? My heart steers my thoughtlife which steers our talk life, which gets them moving towards Jesus and his compassion on this world, which leads to: serving with sincerity.
So, with a simple “agenda” on the horizon, me, Jason, and our sidekick helpers seek to serve this season (and beyond). Here’s what we’re up to, with small hands and feet in tote:
This is the first year the girls are learning to serve ONE ANOTHER, which actually has been the most powerful and relationship transforming idea to affect my children. They are learning that serving one another “honors God” and that this is a joyful gift to give to one another. I talked in a previous blog about how I am learning to CELEBRATE with my family when they honor God and I kind of go crazy with hugs and kisses when they allow God to give them a servant’s heart in tiny ways that really add up and matter. Throughout the summer and fall they have practiced this in small ways by sharing toys, giving up a turn, holding the door, practicing hospitality for friends coming over, etc. And this season they are doing extra chores to earn coins in little jars so that they will be able to participate in buying a small gift for their two siblings. This has helped us to an extent to keep the conversations about Christmas off what they want and on what they will give.
Our family date this year will be heading to a Target to gather supplies to make bags for the homeless that would be a blessing to them: warm socks, $5 giftcard to get something to eat, some homemade goodies, and a note from us. We’ll go home and make them together and keep them in our car, waiting on the Lord for who he would have us to give them to.
We have a special foster girl who is now 14, but who I used to work with through a foster care agency when she was 7 and 8. She now lives far away, still does not have a “forever family” and likely never will. She lives in a group home for orphans and we keep in touch with her especially on her birthday and holidays. She only has two families, including ours, who pursue her in any regard. We will be making a care package for her with the girls and mailing it off and give her a call as well. I would like to be more faithful to this girl as I cannot imagine living in such a fragile time of life without the security of a home or family or even a bed to consistently call your own. Maybe the Lord will open a door one day for us to bring an orphan into our family. In the meantime I cannot imagine why every believer would not in some way, shape or form – even if only, and most importantly prayer – let their hearts grow and break for these children.
Last year and this year the girls have been my sidekick helpers with cooking. If it weren’t for a climbing, curious little Salem boy, I would probably have them help me with dinner every night. They are looking forward to making goodies again with me this year for the holidays and packing them up in bags to deliver around to our neighbors in the wagon. It’s such a fun time and I can’t wait to take all three of them this year.
I think one of our favorite traditions is our Christmas craft party for kids that we have done for kids around the girls’ age. Everyone comes over for a couple of stories, maybe a song, and then gather around a bunch kids tables to do all kinds of crafts with one another. It’s great fun and it’s also fun to invite older kids in families we know to SERVE the younger children by offering a hand to moms with multiple kids. Last year all the moms brought a plate of cookies so that before they left with their crafts, they could make treat bags for their neighbors, etc. I am praying and thinking about maybe offering another way to add the element of SERVE to this fun day together so that our hearts are celebrating but also turned out to teach our kids about giving their lives away. We’ll see what idea surfaces. I'm asking God to speak up and let me know if He's got something on his heart for us. I'm listening.
So this is what we’re anticipating and planning. But sometimes it’s the “here let me give you a hand” surprising moments in serving that are the most intimate and joyful. And for me, 98% of the time, that’s directed towards three little human beings who are daily in my care, who clearly have been entrusted to me. And just like any foster child or homeless person or widow or slave, they are made in the image and likeness of God and desperately need to meet him. So if my hands and feet aren’t first willing to selflessly serve them, then what does that say about my heart to serve in general? That’s exposing.
I’m thankful Jesus turning my heart towards this one word. It is surely a word he is all about. And I just wonder if it might be my most joyful Christmas ever if I will let the current of this conviction carry me through.
Matthew 20:28 “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”