07 January 2013

The Holidays

We had a lovely holiday season this year!

We kicked it off with a family trip to Florida for Thanksgiving, where we were able to spend time catching up with Uncle Ben, riding bikes, visiting Ikea, and watching some good movies with the fam. I oddly don't have many pictures from our trip though...not sure if I've deleted some on accident or what (so mom if you have some good ones, will you send them please?).

Then, it was time to prepare for Christmas!

We spent Christmas in Kimberling City this year with the whole Stark clan.  The kids had a great time as usual playing together, and other than the fact that we spread our stomach flu to Nana and Papa, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable time together.

On Christmas Eve, Nana read Twas the Night Before Christmas to all the boys. Her story kept getting interrupted as Matt and Brian schemed a plan to make the boys think they were hearing Santa Claus and his ringing bells on their walkie-talkies. It was hilarious! But I did feel sorry for Nana!  Before Tyler "heard" Santa on the walkie-talkie, he was adamantly announcing that there was no Santa! However, he later declared that "Santa is real!" So funny.

Christmas morning revealed a new bike for Noah! It's been so cold that we haven't had many chances to ride it yet. 

London was given her very first princess gear from Papa. A Cinderella carriage, complete with Cinderella and a horse. And her first Princess dress up dress. This little one is girl all the way through, so of course she loved it.

After-gift-opening zone out: 

Poor Papa was so sick, but we managed a picture with Nana and the kids. 

Another great Christmas for the books!

06 January 2013

Figuring Out How TO DO Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of year. This is no secret to my family, and I'm pretty sure this love of all things warm and sentimental has gotten passed down to Noah. He loves it all too and that makes my heart happy! He never wants to take down the Christmas tree.

Figuring out how "to do" Christmas is a work in progress for us though. I am totally in love with the grand imagination it takes to believe in some mythical Santa who possesses magic used to make children all over the world happy by flying with reindeers and delivering gifts. I'm also completely enraptured with the historical and spiritual understanding that without Christmas, there would be no Christ; no atonement for my lack of goodness.  Bringing those two worlds together in a way that is understandable for young kids is tough though.

We thought we were on the right track this year. And I think we were...there's just still lots of bugs to work out. We started following an Advent schedule offered by our pastor, where we read a prayer, sing a Christmas hymn, read scripture, and light the advent candles. We weren't great at doing it every night, so that's one thing to improve on, and the other is engaging in this activity in a way that is actually meaningful. I don't want it to feel like a chore, and I want it to hold weight, and I want the kids to learn from it. I want to learn from it. So figuring out how to better do that would be good.

When it comes to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, again I feel like Matt and I are on the right track as far as figuring out what we want this holiday to look like for our family, but still, there's much tweaking to do. My family's tradition has always been to sit down around the tree on Christmas Eve with all the lights dimmed and candles lit with a cup of hot chocolate in hand and listen to Dad read the Christmas story from the Bible. Then we open one gift each (most often from Uncle Sandy and Aunt Pam.) I always loved this, so we've adopted these traditions into our young family.

Reflections on what to do in the following years: (mainly documenting this for Matt and I to read back on next year.)

I'm thinking for next year, we make Christmas Eve a time of intense focus on Christ's birth and meaning. We do the Advent ceremony before dinner and afterwards, not only should we read the Biblical Christmas story, but we should pause during it and ask questions and talk about it. Maybe read the children's Bible version so that the kids are more engaged. Afterwards, have a focused time of prayer (perhaps the prayer should wait til after the one gift, so that the kids can be focused on it). Perhaps everyone in the family takes a turn praying and thanking God for his immense sacrifice and gift in the incarnation.  Then, before bed, we re-engage with preparing for Santa...putting out cookies and milk and reindeer food.

And on Christmas morning, it is gift time. There is just simply no combining the idea of Christ coming to earth as our Savior and tearing into decorated boxes filled with presents. They don't go together! Why are we forcing them too? I think this year I finally concluded that the two don't match up, and so to say right before the kids start diving into the gifts, "OK kids, let's remember what Christmas is really about," is so void of meaning at that point that I imagine it almost injures our kids' views of Christ. Let's just keep the two separate. I feel sure that there is no sin in this. After gifts, when we all sit around sharing a big breakfast, we can reflect and give thanks and again speak of the mystery of the incarnation. And I like the idea of having another focused time of prayer where we each offer thanksgiving for all we've been given. But I'm very contented with letting gift time be gift time.

05 January 2013


That's a heavy title, right? It's bursting with meaning, so the gravity of it seems to fit. I did however steal the idea and concept of 'being invaded' from good ole' Oswald Chambers.

Today is January 5th and in Chambers' book, My Utmost for His Highest, he ends the day's entry saying that when we receive the Holy Spirit, "the idea is that of invasion." We are completely captured by the Spirit. We can not rely on our merits, our goodness, our intelligence, our talents...we are to rely on the Spirit. We have to come to "the end of ourselves" says Chambers before we stop relying on ourselves.

And that's the hard part. What does coming to the end of myself look like? This would be fantastic to figure out because I'd really like to not be quite so selfish. Really, I would. But that is hard. For me at least, it's really hard. Just like Donald Miller says, I am the center of my universe and everyone around me is an actor on my stage. I may try to mask this; and I certainly don't think in these terms in the everyday, but when I reflect on how I live my life, this is sadly a fairly accurate account.

So one of my prayers tonight, is that the Spirit would so invade me that I don't know what it's like to NOT rely on him alone.

On a completely separate note, I have been physically invaded! There is a little fig inside sucking my energy, changing my taste buds, making my hips sore, making me so constantly thirsty that I can't go 10 minutes without water, and bloating me so that my jeans don't fit anymore. 27 weeks to go.

I'm ready to feel this little nugget move so that I can connect to him/her a bit more. Just like I felt about Noah when I was pregnant with London, it's hard to think of London not being my baby, but the second I meet this new guy or gal, that mysterious unknown will make itself clear instantly. Everyone will have their rightful place.

I have a hunch that it's a boy, but my instincts have been wrong with both kiddos so far, so who knows! We'll find out late next month.


And finally, on a lighter note, I have been invaded with the coolness that is a Mac Pro. My darling Mr. surprised me with it at Christmas, and I actually teared up. Again, I'm completely self-absorbed and am clearly finding some sort of ridiculous satisfaction in consumeristic goodies. Can I call a Mac a goodie? It feels like one. Anyway, I do love it and am so grateful for it! 

Now, if I can just figure it out.