Although it was a bit late coming to me, I enjoyed reading this book over part of December.
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp is a daily devotional, with a bible verse, and her own educated thoughts on it, and then some question to reflect.
I had mixed feelings through out the book. Between those feelings, and unsettled family issues throughout the month, I found myself up and down day by day. Some days I really luved, and looked forward to the next reading, and other days I closed the book, annoyed, or frustrated. One day particularly after I finished reading felt crushed. Overall it was about, grace, and I understand the idea of being saved by grace, and not by anything I do, but seeing it like that, made me feel sad. This time in my life is not my own. I spend most of the hours in a day striving to meet everyone's needs. I luv being a mom, I'm happy to give this time to my children, knowing that it will all come back 2 fold someday. But at the end of the day, sometimes the only thing I have is the satisfaction of getting through the day, feeding everyone, maybe baths, and 1 or 2 things knocked off the constantly growing to do list. It made me feel sad that it doesn't matter. And I knew before that it didn't really matter, when it comes to salvation, but for me, right now, there are day's I'm searching for a reason to get up, struggle through that day, knowing there will be bickering, fighting, and that keeping children content isn't always an easy task. (Sometimes it is!)
And she continued to talk about the "Jesse Tree" throughout the book. I found that irritating, because I've gone to church more years in my life then I haven't, and I had no idea what she was talking about.
A bit of research has taught me something new! I luv this idea, and look forward to making ornaments and teaching my wee ones about the 'Jesse tree' next December, and hanging each one on a tree special for this purpose!
So I didn't actually finish the book, but there was one piece that still stands out to me...
"You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph's, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob's, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, Gods arms have you. You can never be undone.
No matter what intends to harm you......
God is never absent,"
God is never absent.
What a wonderful and comforting thought.
So I reflect that its been good, reading and learning and being forced to think and look at things in a new light. And that was the intent, right?
I am thankful to own the book, and plan to, along with a Jesse tree, read, reflect and hopefully learn more and finish the book next December.
The 'day' has past, and we settle into days of pj's and plates of snacks, and tea by the fire. Quiet days, of naps, and playing, and soup, and walks when needed.
I 'tried' to just 'be' on Christmas Day. I didn't want to sit behind the camera taking billion of pics. But now I miss that I don't have all this memories in pictures.
This is what I have.
I missed pictures of Baka, family photo in front of the tree, of breakfast feast, and hugs and tears.
But some of the best memories are the ones treasured in the heart.
Memories of the girls happy smiles, at 6:30 in the morning, just me and them, hugs and "Merry Christmas". Treasures. And they told me how they were up at 2:01, and again at 4:00, and they knew Santa had come.
Bryan's saying his best gift was his electric toothbrush and DS were the best gifts. Treasures.
Snuggles by the fire, tea buy the fire, delivering Christmas cards to the neighbors in pj's that afternoon, lunch soup, and favorite gifts played with all day.
And I'm reminded that Christmas isn't one day. Its a season, and even today, the 29th, it feels very much alive.
I luv the peacefulness. Visits with friends, children playing, hugs and smiles. I luv the way the lightheartedness fills in the days with joy and contentment.
Now a mother of many (as I call myself) and having birthed most of these babies free of medication, the eve of Christmas my mind wondered over and over again to Mary. Certainly exhausted and tired of pregnancy, anxious as a first time mother, unsure of what to expect. I wonder if embarrassment and shame washed over her as she realized she would give birth to the son of God in a stable. Surrounded by animals, oxen, sheep, and goats to name a few. I wonder if she worried about hygiene as labor progressed. I wondered if she told herself over and over again, 'This can't happen here, not like this!' I'm sure Joseph was worried and fussed. I'm sure he paced, held her hand, smoothed her brow, and whispered over and over again that everything would be OK, despite the doubts in his heart he dare not utter. The pain of childbirth ripping through her, Mary knew it was going to happen, soon, fast, her baby was going to be born in a stable and there was nothing she could do to stop it. My mind wonders to her, feeling the exhaustion, and the feeling of being unable to go on.
And the sweet relief as Joseph says to her "Mary, Mary, open your eyes, look look at your baby!" (I wonder, did he shout, whisper, cry out to her?)and he placed that sweet baby on her chest. I imagine the relief, the elation, the joy, the luv washing over her in one giant swoop as she wraps her arms around his naked body, trying to warm him in the cold. Did her cry right away? Did they hold their breath, as I have done once or twice, before he breathed his first breath of air and his screams fill the cold chilly stable? I imagine the animals shifting, maybe complaining slightly, (I can here the oxen lowing, and the goats maa'ing) looking around confused and slightly upset.
My mind continues the scene, the clean up, the shepherds, always thinking and wondering, what did Mary feel?
Yes, now a mother, a parent, I think of Mary and Joseph, how exciting, and confusing it all was. I am thankful and humbled, and feel so very blessed that they lived the gift I was given.
So through it all, the reason of Christmas is one we talk about a lot. Sharing our feelings, playing with the playmobil set, and reading the story of Jesus' birth.
I am reminded that gifts built with luv, by the hands of luved ones, picked out with thought and care, no matter the cost, are the ones that mean the most. The ones that are treasured and kept forever. The memory of giving those gifts, and receiving those gifts, lived over and over again in both the receiver and giver.
As the season winds down, as we prepare for the new year with dreams of it all being different, (organized, timely, patient, whatever your resolution is) I'm thankful for the memories made, lessons learned, and the gift of today.
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no
words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special,
extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If
you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the
comments for all to find and see.
This one hit me hard. I don't know why. 6 seems so monumental. I was picking up candles for him, and I had the package in my hand and I realized I would use all the candles in the package. I took a deep ragged breath and wiped the tears from my eyes.
My boy was turning 6!
Bryan, you are growing and maturing! You are testing boundaries, (and testing patience at times!) and discovering cause and effect on a constant basis. You have also decided that reading sounds fun, and since then are well on your way! You know most of the alphabet by site, and are starting to copy words and asking me how to spell things. (like HO HO HO!)
For your birthday you got lots of lego you were able to put together all yourself and you luv. You picked a playmobil boat with fish and a man with a fishing rod (just like Daddy!) that you have spend hours playing will. You got a new spiffy outfit, that you fold carefully, and pick for special occasions.
Bryan, I luv you. My heart soars to see the boy you are, and the boy that continues to emerge. Your heart is good, and kind.
The other day you were on the counter and accidentally broke a new creamer I had just received. I was disappointed and upset, and I was trying to explain to you how I felt and your face crumbled and you started crying. *sigh* I was a bit annoyed now.
"Why are you crying!"
"Because I'm imagining how sad you are that your thing is broken," you replied threw tears.
My heart melted to see the goodness in you, I scooped you up, and hugged you.
Of all the boys in the world, I'm so glad you are my 6 year old son.
You're 10! Its hard to write in this quick letter all the things you've done, and how you've grown. So instead, I'll talk about how u make my feel, and what you are doing and luving right now.
I am so proud of the young girl you are. You are verging into the 'tween' years, with Mandie books, and nail polish. You are building strong friendships with cousins, and getting to know other children your age (boys?! They're OK too!). Your kindness is showing through, when you give you're last candy to someone else, pick up Samuel when he is sad, and play lovingly with Grace, Bryan and Klara. Your talents are blooming as you play Christmas songs for hours on the piano, and you carefully explore baking and making in the kitchen. The artist in you shows through after a fall of art journalist club. You're luv for animals is clearly natural and instinctual. Oliver luves you like no one else!
You are questioning things, big things, moral kinda things, and we, you and I, spend time talking and sharing idea. You draw conclusions, think about it and sometimes change your mind. This is all a process of figuring out what you think and believe. I am so glad you feel safe talking to me, sharing with me, and to give you the freedom to think and decide for yourself.
Right now you are luving horses, and the idea of horse back riding. You are reading books, and learning as much as you can. We are trying to get some horse back riding lessons for the spring.
As it is almost Christmas, you are are busy making and wrapping gifts. It is sweet and kind to watch the light in your eye as you think, decide, make and wrap gifts for anyone and everyone you know and care about.
Angelina, every day I am so thankful that you are part of our family. I am honored to be you mom, to raise you, and watch you grow, and see who you are becoming. Keep moving forward my girl, follow your heart, and you will never regret the choices you make.