When You’re Too Tired for Christmas

Christmas struggle

Christmas is in four days. My house is decorated. My kids are excited. And I am tired.

This year has worn me out. 2015 has been a long, hard slog from January to December. Every time I thought we had conquered the mountain in front of us, we reached the peak to find a taller mountain behind it.

Illness after illness has hit our family hard. Stroke, meningitis, thyroid, liver. You name it. We had a taste of it this year. This year has been so tough that both my daughter and I completely forgot she broke her hand in October. You know it’s been a rough year when broken bones don’t even make the Top 10 Events of the Year list.

And, yet, there have been moments in this year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The precious perspective that my 14-year-old has gained embodied in the words she said the other day, “Just think, six months ago my biggest worry was staying on my soccer team. That doesn’t even register now.”

The shared moments with my husband where we tried to tackle the mountain together, knowing that when one failed, the other would pick them up.

The intentional moments with my 12-year-old created because she simply needed some time with her mom.

Because in the midst of the trial, in the midst of what seems like never-ending struggle, there is beauty. God is creating a better perspective, a stronger family and a sheer reliance on Him.

So, as I sit here four days before Christmas, I am reminded that the very first Christmas was probably the end of a very long year for Mary and Joseph. Unmarried and pregnant in a culture that had no allowance for that. Miraculously pregnant, but with a story no one would believe. I imagine Mary and Joseph felt very alone and very afraid. They knew God was creating something wonderful, but they were the only ones that knew it.

Two young people, teenagers, really, on the road to Bethlehem. No place for them to stay. A baby on the way.

And, yet, God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I’m sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I’m sure they were scared. I’m sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.

God creates beauty out of chaos. His plan to save the world started with two young people having a baby in a cave in Bethlehem.

And, I’m reminded this Christmas, that if God can do that, He can make something amazing out of the crazy that has been our year.

So, this Christmas, if you’re struggling to just put one foot in front of the other, if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember this: God specializes in making great things out of difficult times. Jesus’ birth is proof of that.

 

Making Jesus Come Alive (Behold the King of Glory Review and Giveaway)

Behold

I received a copy of the book Behold the King of Glory from Family Christian in exchange for a review. However, the opinions in this post are entirely my own.

My husband picked up the book I was reading the other day and gave me a funny look. “Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Don’t we already have that? Isn’t it called the Bible?”

In a way, my husband is right. There’s no better source for the facts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection than the Bible. The Bible stands on its own in presenting the saving story of Jesus.

However, I grew up in the church. I have 40 years of Easter, Christmas and Bible verses under my belt. And sometimes, I need to be reminded of how amazing the story of God’s love truly is. I need a different perspective. I need something to bring my attention back to the miracle of the resurrection.

And that’s what Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ does. It takes the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life from his first miracle to his resurrection and puts them in a chronological, narrative form. It draws Jesus as the true-life person that He was.

Author Russ Ramsey bring Jesus to life in his writing by using all the gospel accounts and weaving them into one cohesive picture of Jesus, the man, and Jesus as God. His account of Jesus calling his disciples gave me goosebumps because I could see the picture of it in my head. Ramsey takes verses that I’ve been hearing and reading my whole life and offers a fresh perspective on them.

The book is broken down into 40 short chapters, which makes it perfect as a family devotional during the Lent season. Even if you don’t celebrate Lent, I’d encourage you to check it out to read in the 40 days before Easter. It will bring Jesus to life for your family, especially if you have older kids who have grown up in the church.

Making Jesus come alive for our kids is one of the most important things we can do for them. It can be easy for our kids to just file the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life away as one more thing they’ve heard all their lives. Anything we can do to bring Him to life for them, is something we should pursue. Sometimes just hearing the biblical accounts written in a more modern, more chronological way can do that for our kids.

If you have kids who are 10 or older and you’re looking for a different kind of family devotional, be sure to check out Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To make that a little easier, Family Christian has given me a $10 certificate to give away. Check it out and enter to win below.

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First Friday: Everyday Love

elove

Once upon a time, I thought that married love would be all flowers and chocolate and candlelight. I just knew that the perfect man would sweep me off my feet and provide me with a lifetime of romantic gestures and happily-ever-afters. But then I actually got married.

And aside from the chocolate part (my love has that DOWN, y’all,) our love story has been an unexpected one.

We’ve shouldered hard things. Really hard things. So much so that I often wonder if we are screwing up in the “teaching our kids what married love should be” department.

But then something happens that suggests otherwise and I realize once again, that our love is different than most fairy tales but it is love, just the same.

Take for instance two weeks ago, when my husband was out-of-town and I had four kids and a mama puking all week. It was full-on heinous. But even in the middle of the roughest rough, I saw what kind of love story is written when you push through the tough stuff together.

We had finally reached bedtime after a blessedly long day when my 9-year-old came into my bedroom with a pillow and blanket and said, “I am going to sleep with you tonight so I can help you with Maddie…”

Quickly I answered her with, “Oh, honey, you don’t need to do that…you are still sick too and I want you to get some good rest…”

“Mom, Dad is gone and you need help. I am sleeping here.”

Bless it if this child is not president someday.

Seriously.

So I acquiesced and went into the bathroom to change into my pajamas. When I came out, I nearly burst into tears. My girl had made the bed just the way Nathan makes it every night, with pillows to prop up my arthritic knees and two others with just the right squishiness to cradle my shoulders and neck.

But then I noticed the clean bottles by the bassinet and the ice water on the nightstand…

And that’s when I blubbered. Full-on blubbered. For she knew exactly how much I was loved.

She knew.

Even though there were rarely flowers and candlelight. Even though we went to the hospital more than we went on getaways. Even though we bought birthday cards the day of and going out to dinner often meant carryout in bed.

She knew and saw love. Consistent and constant, everyday love. Couple that with her precious heart and I was undone. Completely undone.

For I was reminded once again of another love story, the one where a perfect Savior has consistently and constantly shouldered the really hard things with me. And I fell in love all over again. With him and Him.

Because flowers and candlelight are lovely, but the best kind of love is the one that shows up.

In the mundane…

In the tough stuff…

In the tears…

Everyday love trumps it all.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Priorities

Christmas priorities

Our Christmas tree is up and there are lights on the outside of our house. That’s about the extent of the Christmas decorating that has happened here at our house. I’m thinking I might get some more decorations out this afternoon, but I might not get there. And that’s OK.

Usually by Dec. 8, Christmas has exploded in our house. We have decorations everywhere, but this year has been crazy. There’s not been a lot of time to put up decorations.

But while the decorations still sit in their boxes, I’ve baked cookies with my mom and my daughters. My husband, daughters and I went to see the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens perform a one-man show of A Christmas Carol. I took my older daughter to see one of her best friends perform in a version of The Nutcracker last night. We’ve shopped for a foster family. My girls have packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. I threw a Christmas party for my older daughter’s soccer team. This Friday evening we’re having a family night of dinner out, looking at Christmas lights and maybe a Christmas movie.

Because this year, I came to the conclusion that our Christmas season would be so much better if we spent it doing things we love with people we love than doing the things we think we have to do to make it Christmas. Because isn’t that what Christmas really is about?

It’s about a God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to be with us, to be one of us. He sent Jesus to spend time with us here on earth so that we could know Him and so, through His sacrifice, He could create a bridge between us and God.

As my kids get older, Christmas becomes less about the toys and the decorations and more about creating memories. It becomes about focusing on the baby in the manger and what that means for how we live our lives. It becomes about drawing together as a family so that we can grow closer to God together.

So, my advent calendar may be eight days behind. My house may be sparsely decorated. But that doesn’t mean there’s any less Christmas spirit. It doesn’t mean there’s any less joy in the season. It just means that the priorities have shifted. And that’s not a bad thing.

Fingerprints

fingerprints

I wrestle with little white lights to cover the burnt-out section of a well-loved tree…

And I find fingerprints.

I squeeze underneath the bristly branches as the bell on the skirt sings a jingle jangle…

And I find fingerprints.

I hang each stocking marked with silver, glitter-splotched letters from berries of red…

And I find fingerprints.

I gingerly pull each ornament out as if to gently touch each memory it holds…

And I find fingerprints.

I string the garland, tie the bows and polish the candlesticks…

And I still find fingerprints.

I set the timers and the lights aglow to the sound of little voices in shades of “oohs” and “ahs”…

And once again, I find fingerprints.

Everywhere, there are fingerprints…

My daddy’s fingerprints.

Found most alive on our mantle where a merry little Santa sits. A little something that was left in my hospital room last year so that when I came back from surgery, I would see it. His way of telling his Christmas-loving girl that even though he wasn’t there to say it, he loved her.

And just like the little ones that fill my windows halfway up, my daddy’s fingerprints are a beautiful and indelible sign of life and love.

As much as it aches, it also reminds me not only of the love he gave me here on earth but also of the love he left behind. And as I trim the tree and bake the cookies and play with the Little People nativity set, I am very aware that I am also leaving fingerprints behind on my four little loves. I am writing, marking and leaving them changed.

So this season, this remarkable life-changing season, I am asking myself what kind of mama-prints will be left in my coming and going–what marks will I use to say I have loved them and will love them even when I am not here to say it…

Will my prints speak of love and mercy? Will they write a story of grace? Will they sound clearly through the noise?

Will they sing of my Jesus? Or will they speak more of me?

Will they write agenda and control in my babies’ hearts? Will they shout frustration and anger as our years are unpacked and counted? Will they hurt or will they salve?

And what will my loves remember when I am gone and they wrestle with the twinkly lights and hang the stockings and string the garland?

Jesus, I want it to be You.

I want it to be You in me, through me and in spite of me.

Mark every print with Your unshakeable peace and every word with Your mercy and every mess-up with Your grace so that when the moment for life without me comes and only memories are left, they still hear with resounding clarity, “I loved you then…I love you now…and I love you for all the years to come.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

Everyday Christmas

I had a great time today speaking to the ladies at the MOPS group at Lawrence Free Methodist church about how to incorporate Jesus into our existing Christmas traditions.

If you’re looking for a Christmas devotional, check out my e-book Everyday Christmas, which offers food for your soul and some great ideas about how to incorporate Jesus quickly and simply into your Christmas traditions.

New cover

Something Precious

A

I have a mommy confession.

Wait.

Scratch that.

It’s more like I have a mommy obsession.

Every fall, I find myself in valiant pursuit of that one precious all-the-children picture.

And every year, there is one backdrop that has never let me down…

The Weston Red Barn Farm.

It’s rustic and charming and surrounded by all things precious.

But this year, as I pulled out my camera, I sensed failure when my husband said, “Honey, do you think we should just go to the grocery store fall thing?  I mean Weston is a hike and…”

To which I interrupted with, “But it’s tradition and lovely and the kids can ride the pony and remember the apple donuts?  DO NOT forget about the apple donuts.  Heaven in a bag, babe.”

(Truth be told, I had him at the word “donut.”)

So we went to the charming farm.

I knew we were toast the second we got out of the van and Drew said, “Mom, I am SOOOOOOO hot.  I think I might die.” But I still shot him my “Suck it up, kid.  It may be 80 + degrees and your long-sleeved black Halloween shirt may be an oven but this is for posterity.”

B

Not two minutes later, I was with him, dying and all.

My sweatshirt was now a sauna. My hormones, a hellish monster. And had another minute passed, I would have wholeheartedly launched into the pig trough for sweet relief but mercifully, I was distracted when I heard the word “pony.”

(Sweet heavens, if I hadn’t promised them all a pony ride.)

The pony was up the hill…the heinous hill of no return.

Combine the not-so-sturdy Snap and Go with pebbled terrain and my not-so-graceful gait and we might as well have been climbing Everest.

Not to mention that I had already said “excuse me” more times in that one hour than I have my entire life.  Every time I tripped and stumbled, I bumped someone. Because to the point, THERE WERE SO MANY BLESSED PEOPLE THERE.

(I swear someone told them about the donuts.)

But for tradition’s sake, we still oomphed and umphed and excused ourselves up the hill. It was only after reaching the top of the precious thing that we came to the tragic realization that THERE WERE NO PONY RIDES.

Bless. My. Sweatshirt.

So we turned around, trod back down the pebbled path and just about the time I convinced myself that the disappointment would build character, my dear eldest pipes in with, “This is boring,” which prompts me to say, “I’ve got nothing, sister…just go jump in the straw.”

C

(Try not to be intimidated by such mom awesomeness.)

It was at this point my hubs felt the need to reiterate, “I think the fall festival two miles away would have been a way better tradition.” I didn’t even protest. “Ugh…you are probably right…why did I think this would be magical?!?!?

The hubs wisely stayed silent.

But as we made our way back to the pumpkins, I barfed the most unholy words,

“Let’s just try for one more picture.”

So we did.

And then it happened…

D

Children screamed.  Babies were almost dropped.  Sophie bolted through the barbed wire.

And I kept promising donuts to anyone who would listen to me.

Then the picture-taking devolved into pumpkin-picking and to the entire public that visited the farm, I wholeheartedly apologize.

We were yelling.

Not “I’m so mad” yelling.  But the “Lord-please-don’t-let-us-lose-a-child-now” kind. We were just so close, so focused, so intent on getting the hoot out of there that we just had to keep it together.

It was ugly. Full-on. U-G-L-Y.

But remember the donuts? Across the street? The ones I referred to as heaven in a bag?

Well, I ate FIVE…and it helped.

Seriously, y’all.

IT. DID.

But even as the cinnamon and sugar dripped most gloriously from my mouth, I came to a conclusion.

Precious pictures are needed.  They remind this memory-challenged mama of how I really feel at the end of day when all the chaos has quieted.  When I can run my hands through their sweaty bedheads and touch their perfect little noses and see the messy beautiful so clearly in each of them.

But I’m finally to a place where I need the 29 ridiculously accurate pictures too.

If only to shout, “WE ARE A REAL FAMILY!!!!”

One that messes up and falters and falls.  One that skins their knees and has to apologize.  One that can plan to have a magical experience and end up with the pumpkin patch on steroids.

One that needs Jesus, people.

Oh, how we need Him.

So as you plan the Thanksgiving dinners and take Christmas card pictures and deck the halls and all that jazz, remember my family and the yelling and the donut therapy and rejoice in this:

Real people have real families that really need Jesus.

And even though we may have more pictures that end up awkward and bizarre and more crazy than cute, in the end, when we’ve tripped and stumbled and fallen all over ourselves, when we’ve tried and failed through all those 29 moments in-between, He surprises us with what we have been looking for all along…

Something precious.

E

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

When You Miss Easter

Mercies

Easter kind of snuck up on me this year. My daughter’s birthday was on Good Friday. I’ve been battling an infection for the past two weeks, and I’ve been swamped with work. I’ve burned the candle at both ends, and Easter just appeared as an afterthought.

We didn’t dye Easter eggs. We didn’t read the resurrection story together. We didn’t even put Easter decorations out. My girls were lucky to find things in their Easter basket.

As I stood in church yesterday morning, I realized we had spent almost no time at all focused on this most important of holidays. There had been no teachable moments with my kids. There had been little reflection on the importance of the day. The day was simply here.

And I felt guilty. I felt as if this year I had failed as a follower of Christ and as parent. But as I stood there singing about Jesus’ resurrection, I remembered the words of Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” The King James Version says God’s mercies are new every morning.

You see, Jesus’ resurrection isn’t about a single day — although it is important that we celebrate that day. His resurrection is about eternity. His resurrection is about bridging the gap between us and God every day. His mercies are new every morning. They are available to us every day — not just on Easter.

So while the Easter holiday is nice, it’s not enough to simply focus on the resurrection once a year. Jesus’ resurrection is what makes His death important. He defeated death and made a way for us to draw near to God.  And that’s something to celebrate year-round, not just one day a year.

If Easter snuck up on you like it did on me, if you missed those teachable moments with your kids, if you got to Easter morning and realized you had missed a multitude of opportunities to focus on the resurrection, remember this: God’s mercies are new every morning, and the resurrection means as much today as it did yesterday.

Easter Reminders: The Cross and the Stone

cross

I wrote this post a couple of years ago, but its message resonates today. Always remember that the cross and the stone must go together because one without the other means very little.

A cross and a stone. Those are the images of Easter. One represents death. The other life. Without one, there is no need for the other.

The cross

Over the years, the cross has lost it’s gruesomeness. We’ve prettied it up. We wear the reminder around our necks, we hang it on our walls. When we look at it, we don’t see what the Jews of Jesus day saw. We don’t see a symbol of death and oppression. We see only a symbol of hope. We see a symbol of sacrifice.

Yet, for centuries, the cross was a tool of oppression. The Jewish people did not use crucifixion as a form of punishment. It was reserved for the Roman government. And you didn’t have to commit a horrific crime to find yourself hanging from one. You could steal something or speak out against the government. The cross wasn’t just a tool of execution. It was a public deterrent to dissent.

And that’s where Jesus died — on a human government’s tool to suppress revolt. He died on a hill in full view of everyone, his crime posted on a sign above His head. At any time, Jesus could have climbed off the cross. He could have taken over, sent everyone fleeing in the face of His awesome power. But He didn’t. He stayed on that cross and died, bearing the weight of the sin of the world. All so we could be free — not from an oppressive government, but from the separation from God. And in that moment, the cross became a symbol not of death and oppression, but a symbol of love.

The stone

It was big. It was heavy. It was unmoveable by one person. The stone that covered the entrance to the tomb was an obstacle to the living. Yet, even the heavy stone could not keep Jesus in the grave.

When the women arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, that stone, that keeper of death, was rolled away. The tomb was empty. And it would stay that way. This was no mistake. No one had taken Jesus’ body. He had been dead for three days and then came back to life.

Without the stone, there is no redemptive power in the cross. Without the stone, Jesus would just be another man who claimed to be God. It is only because of the stone that the words of John 3:16 mean anything. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Only a living God can promise eternal life. Jesus’ death means nothing without His resurrection.

The cross is useless without the stone.

Create reminders

As Easter approaches, as we take our kids to Good Friday and Easter services, we need to help them understand that the importance of Easter lies not just in the cross but in the stone as well. Create a reminder of the importance that the tomb was empty.

Sometime this weekend, give your kids a cross made of twigs and a rock from the yard. Explain that they are reminders of the two events that make Easter so important. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. It represents the fact that Jesus loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus rose from the grave three days later. The stone represents the amazing power of a living God. It reminds us that Jesus is who He said He is, and He holds power even over death.

The cross and the stone. Two important reminders of what Easter means to us.

 

Teaching Courage on President’s Day

courageI was going to write about President’s Day today but decided I couldn’t do any better than this post from the archives. Enjoy!

Today is President’s Day. Most kids are out of school. Most parents don’t have the day off from work. President’s Day is an odd, little holiday. It seems to be best known for the fact that stores have pretty good sales. We don’t spend a lot of time celebrating the day. But President’s Day is a great opportunity to not only talk about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but it’s a great day to teach your kids about courage.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word courage? My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz, so whenever I hear the word courage, I immediately hear the Cowardly Lion saying the word in his gravelly, stuttery voice. In that movie, the Lion thought he didn’t have courage because he was always afraid, but the Wizard told him that courage didn’t mean never being afraid. Like the Cowardly Lion, our kids can get confused about what courage is.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s standing up for what’s right even in the face of your fear.

As Christ-followers, we have an extra advantage when it comes to being courageous. We have God with us. While God commands us to be courageous, He also promises to go with us wherever we go. He promises to be standing by our side, even in the midst of battle. In Joshua 1:9, God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded to be courageous. God tells us not to be afraid because even against the longest odds, He will be with us. Joshua faced some tough situations in his job of leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. He was outnumbered and overmatched in many battles, yet because God was on His side, He prevailed.

President’s Day is a great time to talk with your kids about courage because it celebrates the births of two men who stood up for what was right in the face of difficult situations. George Washington led the Continental Army against the British in the American Revolution. He had an army of farmers and shopkeepers with no formal military training to fight against the biggest military power in the world. The situation was daunting, yet he persevered and won. His reward was to lead a group of separate states and diverse people to become a country. Another daunting task. In both these situations, he showed courage and strength.

Abraham Lincoln led the United States through one of the darkest periods in its history — the Civil War. He chose to end slavery in the United States, despite the fact it made him extremely unpopular with the slave-owning South. He did what was right in the face of difficult opposition. And he paid the price for it with his life when he was assassinated.

We can use the lives of these two men as a springboard for a conversation about courage with our kids today. We can capture the everyday moment of this holiday and use it as a time to teach our kids about God’s command to be courageous.

  1. Talk with your kids about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Ask your kids what they know about these two men, then give them some age-appropriate information about what they did and why they are important. Talk about the courageous decisions that they made.
  2. Ask your kids to define courage. Talk about how courage is not the absence of fear. It’s standing up for what’s right in spite of your fear. Ask your kids to give you an example of a time when they were courageous.
  3. Read Joshua 1:9. Talk about how God commands us to be courageous and that He promises to be with us to help us in situations where we need courage. Post Joshua 1:9 in your house somewhere and work to memorize it together this week.
  4. At dinner this week, ask your kids to think of ways they have been courageous during the day. Write those things on a piece of paper and hang it next to wherever you posted your verse. Remind your kids that being courageous doesn’t always require a big action. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping someone who’s not well-liked at school.
  5. Give each of your children a piece of paper. Ask them to write a simple prayer that they can say when they lack courage. Remind them that God is the source of courage. Hang the prayers in their bedrooms where they can see it. Explain that it’s a reminder for them to pray when they lack courage.

President’s Day is a great time to help your kids get a handle on courage. Use the example of these two courageous men to point your kids to the source of true courage. As your kids take Joshua 1:9 to heart, they will become young men and women of courage.