Tag Archives: advent

Christmas Reality Check

It’s late, and my mind is full of words. With all there is to do, writing is the thing I engage, sorting out what is floating around in my head and my heart. Maybe cranking out a blog post will make me feel less cranky. Maybe not.

Photo Christmas cards have been in my possession since before Thanksgiving. This year I actually used a coupon on time to get money off of the card order. I purchased stamps to have ready to mail the cards out as soon as they were addressed. And they sit waiting. Half are addressed, half are not. One has been mailed. A few have been hand-delivered.

There are sparse decorations around the house. Several red and green tubs remain in the basement, but the thrift-store trees are up. The littles hung their ornaments on the living room tree. My tree is up with minimal decoration. The special ornament bin remains in the basement. Lights, birds, a Starbucks cup gift card, and chocolate ball ornaments adorn it this year. They are enough. They have to be.

An adult child has made his way home. Another will arrive with her spouse on Christmas Eve. The third will savor a quiet few days off at her home out-of-town, because that is what her body and heart need this year. I get it. Though she will be missed, I rejoice in her voicing her needs. I put a package in the mail for her today. I think there was a Christmas card in it.

There are still preparations being made, gifts being purchased, menus being solidified. There are plans in a constant state of flux and surprises at every turn, both good and hard.

This is my reality. It is challenging. This morning as longings for something else, something different, gripped me fierce, I remembered that my reality may be another’s longing. Loving husband, crazy kids, time off of work, options and choices, health, these are my good gifts to receive and embrace and, yes, to wrestle with in the hard.

Check, baby, check, baby 1,2,3. . .

Resisting Redemption

I picked up my fourth-grader from school yesterday. Excitement radiated from her as she shared about her purchases at the Knight Bucks Store, a shopping venue set up with donated items. Students used their incentive dollars, Knight Bucks, to buy gifts for friends and family and then maybe select an item or two for themselves.

There were even people wrapping presents, and they were professionals. They didn’t just tie a plain ribbon around the present, but they used scissors to actually curl the ribbon and make it all fancy.

I don’t know what that says about the wrapping skills in this house, but I was grateful for the teachers and parents who took time to man the store and the wrapping station. I was thankful for the fancy, because through the eyes of my child, it was exquisite.

I got a present for Collie.

Now, Collie is her sister’s stuffed dog who has a personality and a voice all his own. In fact, there is a whole subculture in this house revolving around Collie and Bessie. It made complete sense that when the gift was opened, it was a cow.

Collie and Bessie

From what I gather, Collie was nourished on Bessie milk as a pup.

To be honest, I always felt uncomfortable to hear them talking about Bessie milk, because it sounded like breast milk in their high-pitched, slow-talking animal voices. I realize as I admit this, that breast milk is what all of my children were nourished on, and that the crunchiness-level in our house should make phrases like Bessie milk a non-issue, but triggers abound, and awkwardly using the correct words for body parts and functions continues to remain one of mine.

It’s redemptive that I can push through and allow my children to use correct words for body parts and functions, even though I inwardly cringe.

The excitement that younger sister felt about bringing a gift home to older sister’s treasured stuffed animal was sweet to behold. The joyful playfulness they shared by the light of the Christmas tree, acting out voices of each animal was quietly witnessed by me as I prepared food in the kitchen.

My heart wanted to expand, and at the same time shut down. Hence, the resistance.

I don’t have fond memories of myself at the age of my girls. I don’t look back and feel sweet or fun or generous. When I think of myself at ten and beyond, it’s not with kindness, especially in relationships with my siblings. To witness and focus on the kindness of my girls and the friendship they share at this age offers an invitation to taste redemption.

Sometimes I taste it, and it’s sweet. Other times, it’s a bitter pill of grief that I struggle to swallow. This redemption that shows up in strange places is an invitation to participate in the process. It is an offering of light brought to scatter the darkness.

It is a gift I will choose not to resist.

Epiphany 2015

IMG_2842When Advent began, I passed this bookshelf in the upstairs hall and noticed three tubes perched on top of a book. Not thinking much of it, I continued on to the laundry room. They remained there throughout the season, inviting me to take a closer look one day when the clutter was more than I could handle.

I recognized the wise men from a child’s Sunday School Nativity craft. One daughter had set the  cardboard manger scene up in her room, leaving the wise men in the hall to arrive for epiphany.

IMG_2845In another part of the house, on the dining room mantle, three more kings move a bit closer to the living room where the manger scene awaits. One of the camels seems a bit hesitant, though. Could he be looking for someone who was left behind?

IMG_2846That’s better! Now everyone can continue onward to the final destination. There’s only a slight problem . . .

IMG_2847Will they be able to navigate the terrain to find the child?

Anyone for a game of Spot it! living room side table version? Go!

Like Sheep in a Pen

Some day, O Israel, I will gather you;
I will gather the remnant who are left.
I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen
Like a flock in its pasture.
Yes, your land will again be filled with noisy crowds.
Micah 2:12

The sheep pen is one of my favorite Christmas decorations, and this year it held a place of honor among my favorite things.

Steve got this for me over ten years ago at a local Christmas and collectible store that, at the time, was going out of business.

There are 2 sheep, a ram, a lamb, a goat, and two fence pieces that latch together to create a pen. I like to leave it open so that you can peek in at the animals inside. And maybe so that the animals don’t feel trapped and penned in. Exit strategies and ways of escape are important to me.

Little Mae latches it shut so that none of them will get out every time she passes by and notices it open. I have given up leaving it open as it is for the picture. Looking now from my vantage point in the corner, I see that it’s latched tightly shut.  She appreciates them being cozy and safe.

sheep pen

This Christmas I have felt the gathering like sheep in a pen. Not only are my children home, but all of my siblings and their spouses and children are home, as well.

It makes for some pretty noisy crowds.

I struggle with noisy crowds. I always have, and as 2014 comes to a close with all that I have chosen to embrace, one of those things is my introverted self. I hope to process that further in a future post.

This season, I am grateful for increasing self-awareness and for a husband who gets me well enough to drive me home when I have had enough of the sheep in the pen before the tipping point sends me into a bad place.

I am still learning to embrace who I am, who God created me to be, and the beauty within my broken. I am also learning to embrace the beauty within the parts that are NOT broken but just uniquely me.

I am grateful for a husband who opens the pen and drives me home to the comfort of my quiet, away from the noisy crowds.

Friendship Friday ~ A Little Help

This Advent season was full of messiness, gifts, surprises, joy, pain, laughter, tears, and many feelings.

Reflecting over it, I am grateful for the gift of friends and the kind ways that they stepped up and in to help me through the turbulence.

Meaningful moments this season included a friend dropping off a balloon for me and coloring books for the girls one afternoon as I napped.


This balloon symbolizes being seen, heard, and understood, as this friend and I had met in the Dollar Tree earlier. We exchanged hugs and heart checks and emotional temperatures. She gets the fact that it is hard for me to stay engaged and easy to want to just emotionally float away.


We laughed about the helium-filled balloons clustered in a cage in the corner of the store, all neatly contained. She said she would reach up and pull me down if I started to float away. She asked about recovery plans for my heart after all of the holiday hooplah has passed.


So when I woke from my nap to the news that a friend had stopped by with a balloon and coloring books, I knew.

I am anchored and tethered by love. I can be present. I am held securely.


Another friend called asking when she could deliver a gift. She made it clear that there were no expectations on her end, but that she had something for me. Was now a good time?

You are not alone.

She stopped over, and I pulled this custom-made mug from a gift bag. My throat caught. So much about this gift was right and got me. To think that she had planned it out and had it made was almost too much for my heart to handle, but I practiced receiving the gift with grace.

So many more moments presented themselves, helping me through.

Food showed up.

Cards arrived.

Texts lit up my phone.

Thank you, Friends. Each one of you. You know who you are and how you love and how much you mean. May you be blessed with rest and recovery and hope and joy as you process and ponder all of these things in YOUR hearts. You certainly are a blessing to MINE.

So This is Christmas (Eve)

Here we are.

By we I mean anyone who happens to be choosing to read these words at this moment as well as me and my loved ones, including, but not limited to, my husband, my children, their spouse, significant others, friends, my siblings and their spouses, my nieces and nephews, my grammy, and all who have descended upon or will descend upon the ‘burg in the next 24 to 48 hours for our epic, fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

It doesn’t feel like heavenly peace in my heart at the moment.

It feels overwhelming.

Even as I type this, another adult family unit arrives. I hear them in the dining room and realize We didn’t pick up the air mattress, yet, and wonder, Did the sheets get put on the bottom bunk in the little girls’ room?

I hear a fight song being hummed in the dining room and voices large and small and the glory days of HHS football being revisited.

This day has been full.

It started here at the table with me finishing up Christmas cards. Okay, doing most of the Christmas cards.


The tradition of opening the present from Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa Meissner continued after advent.


Gifts were opened followed by dinner and then Christmas Eve service attended by me with Roo. It was a sweet time together.

In between was a lot of work. And a nap. I took a nap. That was kind.

Roo and I came home to dolls tucked into their new beds waiting for Christmas to arrive.



Now it is late and music is playing from the piano and a game is being set up for the bigs while the littles go to bed. There is lots of talking going on, all at once, lots of processing, everyone trying to talk about big things and feelings all at once.

Wouldn’t you say that we are pretty tight?

My eyes fill with tears and my eavesdropping mama ears need to shut off now and my blogging needs to end for the evening so that I can emerge and engage.

I love my family. Happy Christmas Eve!

About Those Legs

I wish that I could find the picture that matches the one vividly in my mind. I’m sure it will turn up after this post.

2 or 3 year old me is sitting on the couch with my Aunt Caryl preparing to open her birthday gift to me. I open a Bert puppet from Sesame Street. He has an egg-shaped plastic head with a tuft of black hair on the top.

Like this.

Many things disturb little me about this gift, but what I say first, according to witnesses present, is Where are the legs?

I remember the long arms and also having to summon all of my preschool-sized courage to look up inside that plastic head to see where the hair was attached on the inside. To reach up into that vast crevasse and touch it was almost too much, but somehow I needed to to prove something to myself.

At three.

I had to touch that spot.

I don’t remember what happened to Bert and his plastic head and polyester striped shirt. My mother out of kindness probably had him disappear, though I also remember using him for puppet shows in a pinch.

Fast forward to a bright classroom idea I had last week.

In my classroom were two Christmas trees. A tiny one perched on a table in the reading corner topped with a cute Lambchop finger puppet I found. She made a perfect tree topper with her red Christmas hat and little arms and legs looking like she was just sitting there on top of the tree.

I was proud of myself for having the idea to use her there.

This gave me the idea that I could use a Curious George puppet to top the other tree for an equally classroomy, whimsical look. After all, Curious George is one of my favorites!

Curious George on the tree

Almost immediately my six year old daughter noticed, becoming visibly upset over this use of the Curious George puppet.

Mommy, take that down. It’s fweaking me out. Where are the legs? There are no legs!

Sympathetic to her plight, I removed George from the top of the tree and further asked about why it was so upsetting to her to have him as the tree topper.

It’s just reawwy weird that it looks like there are no legs and just this GIANT TREE growing out of Curious George for the legs.

Curious George tree

Lambchop has legs. I don’t have a picture.

Sensitive to her feelings in a similar, yet different way, George came down, replaced by a paper star. Much more natural.

Unlike those mannequins in Old Navy with no heads.

Let’s get out of here, Mama. This place is fweaking me out!

Family Advent Time

It’s advent season again.

In our home we set up candles on a table in the corner of the living room and hang the felt tree with pieces to put up each day from December 2 to December 25. Various nativity scenes also take over the table, placed there by the children to whom they belong.

In an ideal world, each day we would gather as a family in the living room, have a system for who goes first, rotating by year to give all a fair shot at the manger on Christmas morning. We have yet to find that ideal place.

The routine has become to gather in the living room, figure out whose night it is to put up the piece, have the piece placer place the piece, struggle through where the piece will be placed, have the piece placed, have the piece placer read the corresponding Scripture, choose a carol, and close with prayer and snuffing out the candle.

Life is never routine here, so often pieces pile up leaving several to do in one night.

Allow me to give a recent example . . .


It’s a three-candle night. The pile of pieces rests on the table next to butterfly binoculars and a Rudolph headband craft. Let’s back it up.


Here you have a clearer view of the xbox controllers and sundry nativities. And the placement of pieces on (or off of) the tree.

This is a five or six piece night, which tells you that we have not been consistent with advent. Child one takes his first turn.

Kirk advent

Some improvising takes place, invoking laughter, an inside family joke inserted where the angel of the Lord is supposed to be making an announcement. We laugh and regroup.

Kanah advent

Sort of.

The next child reads, adding her version of humor before putting up a piece and choosing a song.

Chloe advent

And so on, until . . .

Finally the baby gets a turn.

Mairi advent

Notice that the sheep is taking a bite of the pear. That is important.

felt tree

And here you have what the felt advent tree looks like once we have caught up with it. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will try again.

Friendship Friday ~ Soul Mates

I bought this ornament for Steve in 2002. I know this, because 2002 is written in black Sharpie on the back.

It is 2014.

That means I gave this to Steve twelve years ago.

Twelve years ago, we had been married for ten years.

It didn’t feel like we were soul mates back then. I know this, because we started working on our stuff eight years ago, and it certainly wasn’t feeling very soulmate-ish at that point! It was feeling more like yoke-fellows, camp counselors, teammates, boarding house operators, partners in crime.

What were feelings, anyway?

Eight years ago, we had been married for fourteen years.

And by started working on our stuff I mean taking the first tiptoes into healthier emotional places with our seven children in tow.

We didn’t really start working until sometime after that, and then, mostly individually. We still have a lot of couple work to do.

So how could I get Steve a Soul Mates ornament in 2002?

I had hope. I had faith. I was committed to trying.

I deeply desired to be whatever “soulmates” is, which, I think might be kind of over-rated and over-used.

I married a good man. A good, broken, messed-up man. A hilariously funny, completely creative, extroverted mess of a man.

He married a broken-down mess of a girl. A nightmare disguised as a daydream to quote from current pop culture.

I think that might qualify us as soulmates in the fine print.

Those who know us in real life may or may not be surprised to find that we have struggles. Really big struggles. We try not to keep that a surprise and to just let people know that we do.

We struggle.

In the midst of the laughter and the weekends away and the coffee dates and the facebook updates, there is heartache and disillusionment and disappointment and pain.

We hurt each other.

We are hurt by each other.

We annoy each other.

We are annoyed by each other.

We shut down.

We hide.

We keep trying.

through a glass darkly

One day we will no longer see through a glass darkly and will be able to rejoice in what really IS. Until then we are choosing to live together and to love together and to walk together into the dark, rainy messy places where there is beauty reflected in the broken. Together.

Soul Mates.

I love mine.

So. Much.

Keepsake from the Chaos

Married January 4, 1992, I was expecting my second child in March, 1994.

Our first married Christmas together was not as a couple but as a family. Our second Christmas together, we were Awaiting our second little lamb.

This ornament was made for me by a new friend that year. A woman older and wiser and more virtuous with many more children who also had time (or made time) to make crafts, gave this to me.

It became a treasured keepsake.

Even as I think back and remember, my eyes fill with tears.

So young. So idealistic. So much ahead. So much already broken at 22.

None of us knows the journey before us. That is a good thing. I daresay any of us would be able to get out of bed if we knew.

I don’t know what prompted my friend to make this and give it to me. I can’t remember.

I’d like to think it was an older mother reaching out to a younger, overwhelmed one in a way that she knew.

We walked a long path together for many years. Our paths changed in ways we never would have imagined that Christmas of the craft. Our paths cross in unexpected ways these days.

I hold this, and her, close to my heart each year as I lovingly hang this mama sheep ever-awaiting her little lamb.

It’s a special keepsake from the chaos of my life back in ’93. It reminds me that somebody saw.

Our second little lamb will be home in a week. He is not so little, anymore, and I have to let him be an adult. That is hard. Hard, yet necessary and good.

I remember holding that little one. My smallest baby who always wanted to be held close. Sent to a mother who didn’t know what it meant to feel or trust but who knew that babies need love, so she would try really hard.

She tried.