Tag Archives: advent

How We Show Up

We can’t control another’s experience of how we show up in their life.

This is a difficult truth, because I want to believe that everyone is experiencing me at my well-intended best self. My intentions are good. They are. I want you to remember my intention towards you, even if you have no idea what that is, seeing as it is inside of me.

I care. Really, I do.

But you will remember your experience of me. There are times when even at our best-intentioned self, we miss the mark completely. We harm or disappoint not only by things we do but also by those things we don’t. The older I get, the more stories people (including my adult children) share of how they have experienced me, the more real this becomes.


How better-intentioned can it be than to send out Christmas cards to beloved friends? I sat down Monday morning, the first day of break, and diligently began hand-addressing envelopes. I was determined to do better than years gone by and not wait until Christmas Eve.

I did it. I got those envelopes addressed, stuffed, and stamped.

I thought.

Two hours later, a quick walk with the dog to the post office, and I had most of the Christmas cards mailed. A few needed address double-checks or a little something extra added to the envelope. The rest were stragglers or hand-deliverables.

It felt good to have a Christmas task crossed off of the list while spending time with one of my favorite littles.

A few days later, a friend posted a Facebook status and photo of an empty Christmas card envelope she received.

Someone sent me an empty Christmas card envelope.

Immediately I knew it was mine. It’s clear by that silver foil lining and the handwriting showing through. Can’t everybody tell? Is all of cyberspace looking at me right now? I sent an empty envelope to the very friend whose beautiful card I received today.

Seeing the picture and skimming the comments below it brought a feeling of deep personal shame. Thankfully, I was able to recognize that lie and stop the downward emotional spiral before anger and self-contempt took over. I spoke truth to my heart.

There is no shame in not being perfect. It is okay to make a mistake. You don’t have to justify or explain. It was an inadvertent omission. Not. Intentional. You are not defined by a Christmas card, and yes, you will continue to send cards.

I stepped up in the comments, owned my mistake and my feelings, and was immediately surrounded by love, care, and understanding. Stories were shared and my friend told me it actually brought her a lot of joy.


That is the thing, Dear Readers. I fully intended for my friend to open that envelope and receive Christmas Blessings from me in the form of a beautiful card. Sometimes we do show up just as we thought we would and are received as such. The card is there and gets put up around the mirror and the day moves on.

But other times.

Sometimes we think we showed up when we didn’t. And we don’t even know it. We didn’t check social media. We weren’t on social media. Our friend wasn’t on social media. There just wasn’t a card. And life goes on and maybe drifts apart, and we didn’t know and didn’t see and didn’t intend.

Sometimes we find out about it in time and are able to resend a card. We saw the post, recognized the envelope and handwriting, dealt with our feelings, shared honestly from the heart.

Sometimes we show up in our absence. In giving others space to feel their own feelings about the void.

We can’t control another’s experience of how we show up. We can only keep trying.  I will walk to the post office in a bit with card number two and try again. 

Christmas Blessings, Friends! Keep showing up!

Christmas Wrap-up

The tree is down. Decorations are boxed. The stockings were found ~ two days late. Thankfully, Dollar Tree had some in stock on Christmas Eve.

But I like my sparkly NEW stocking! said a certain mini-me when I announced my basement find on December 27.

Fixed the newel post! Found the stockings!

Wrapping up Christmas at our house this year feels scattered. Steve and I sat down with coffee and his trusty notebook recently to reflect on the season and discuss what went well and what was rough.

Christmas Eve

Went well ~ Christmas budget
Rough ~ actually taking time to purchase/ order gifts

Went well ~ Christmas cards ordered on November 2 WITH a coupon AND stamps purchased
Rough ~ actually addressing and sending the cards

Went well ~ Planned romantic weekend getaway
Rough ~ Wrong weekend, last~minute scrambling with plans B and C, sickness
We DID go away. Maybe it will be an anniversary post. Maybe not. Still processing it.

Went well ~ Many concerts, programs, recitals to attend featuring our talented children
Rough ~ actually writing dates of events on the calendar, outfitting the performers
Here is where I also apologize to grandparents for failing to keep them informed of these last-minute dates, as well. They are wonderfully supportive when they actually know about their grandkids’ concerts and events!

Went well ~ Watching the Grinch as a family and laughing hysterically together
Rough ~ Keeping up with Advent readings and felt tree
Maybe NOBODY has actually put up the manger on Christmas morning. Have we ever made it there?

Advent tree

Went well ~ Attending the Christmas Eve candle-light service at our church with Steve
Rough ~ Silencing the voices in my head that were judging us for leaving our children at the grandparents’ house playing with the cousins so that we could enjoy a worshipful date.
Look at all of those other families in matching outfits with their children in a row on Christmas Eve celebrating the true meaning of Christmas together.

Christmas puzzle

Went well ~ the Christmas puzzle
Rough ~ I didn’t put in a single piece.
Wait! Maybe that is a score! Mission accomplished!

Christmas Puzzle

There is much more, but I will spare you, Kind Reader, further boring details. Suffice to say, there was much to do and not much time in which to do it. Often a friend would come up to me and ask, How ARE you? followed by an apologetic I’m sorry I haven’t had time to keep up with the blog. 

That makes two of us!

Please, never apologize for not keeping up with the blog.

I am grateful for all who loved and prayed for us this Advent season. There were cards sent, checks written, Amazon gift boxes delivered, notes and texts received. There were shoulders cried on. There was grace extended. There was truth reminded.

After all was unwrapped, we wrapped up a lovely Christmas season!

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.

IMG_2736

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.

Dissociate.

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.

Huh?

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.

IMG_2738

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.