The Blessing of ‘Imperfect’ Children

While praying for my son during an interview for his first job, I received word that this post about prayer was accepted by my publisher. Soon after, I heard my son got the job! Love these little reminders of the importance of praying for our children. Make it a habit and see how God blesses your children.

Journeys To Mother Love

Pre-school-graduation What a challenge and a blessing, walking with Cameron from preschool graduation (above) to Class of 2015 graduate.

For those of us who have children with learning disabilities, educational milestones like a high school or college graduation are especially significant. It is a very proud moment indeed, one that celebrates the journey as much as the goal.

My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at the onset of high school, and was greatly challenged by a rigorous curriculum at a new school in our district. He persevered and recently received his diploma as part of the first graduating class at his high school.

What I’ve been struck with in hindsight is how eager I was to compare my son’s journey to his older brother. These two intelligent boys forged their own educational paths through different schools. The older one started school at a very early age and rarely needed any…

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Giving Up Christmas?

We don’t watch much TV in our home. One of our favorite shows is “The Middle.” We love to laugh at the dysfunction of this family with 3 kids spanning from middle school to college. The holiday episode hit way too close to home as Frankie, the mom, decided she was “done with Christmas.” She decided she wasn’t going to decorate the house, bake cookies, and do a multitude of other Christmas expectations.

No Christmas treeToo Much Holiday Hype

“I’m not going to get sucked into all the trappings,” Frankie declared.

None of this was because she wanted to get in touch with the meaning behind Christmas. She was just overwhelmed by all of the work. What did she do instead? She followed the example set by Axl, her teenage son, and sat on the sofa watching TV with her pants off.

Although my reasons are different, I’ve felt just like Frankie on several occasions over the last several years, except for the pants thing. I’ve wanted to slow down, do less, and have more Peace throughout the season. It seems like a constant struggle to find the right balance between the Season and the Reason.

“No more Christmas,” my husband declared, one year after putting away the Christmas boxes for the season. He recovered though.

The Annual Holiday Letter

The one tradition I wrestle with every year is the annual holiday letter to friends and family. To do or not to do? After I turned towards writing as a fulltime ministry, I saw how the annual letter was one of many ways I was able to use that part of my creativity over the years. Our letters go back almost 30 years.

There were no sacred cows on this episode of “The Middle”, including the holiday letter. Brick, the youngest sibling, in 7th grade, became fascinated by the receipt of Christmas letters and decided to take on this task for his family too. The result was very humorous. When he read his honest letter of what was going on in their family to his father, the letter was quickly criticized.

Brick reads his rendition of the Heck family Christmas letter.

“Brick you can’t say any of that stuff…Christmas letters are just for the good things that happen in the last year,” his father explained.

“Oh, that’s going to be a lot harder, and shorter,” Brick responded.

I’ve been formulating our annual letter in my mind the past few days. Thankfully, we have the opposite of Brick’s situation.  2014 was a year of so many positive things happening that it struck me that any of my family members could write their own letter of activities. (All of this activity also brought with it a lot of challenges.)

How do I decide what to write? How do I choose which pictures to include out of all the travels we experienced? How do I summarize it all?

Blessed! Grateful! Blown away by God’s goodness! That is my summary.

A note on a birthday card I received last year said, “I know it will be hard to top this past year, but here’s hoping the next one’s just as fabulous!”  I remember thinking it would get better, not really knowing how, but trusting God to keep His promises in the New Year.

He did. 2014 topped 2013 in such unexpected and amazing ways. Will 2015 be more of the same? My calendar and my heart are open to more.  But my body and my mind are looking forward to entering a season of abide (John 15:4).

merry-christmas-1Making Room for Christmas

So how did the show end?  Did Frankie really give up on Christmas?

Late night on Christmas Eve, Frankie and her husband, Mike, were relaxing in front of the Christmas tree.  He reminisced about Christmas in his youth and realized that he never had holiday decorations until he met Frankie.  Enough said!  The next morning when everyone awoke, Frankie surprised them by having the entire house all decked out for Christmas Day.

Her final narrating comments on the episode:  “Every time you think you’re out, it (Christmas) sucks you right back in.”

Gotta wrap this up.  It’s time to jump on the annual holiday letter.  It’s not because I’m being sucked back in.  It’s because I’m making more room for Christmas (the season and the Reason) by celebrating His faithfulness and goodness to us this past year.  And that’s a gift worth sharing with all my family and friends.

How about you? Are you done with all of the holiday hype?  What are you doing to celebrate Jesus this Christmas?

Preparing Our Hearts and Homes for Christmas

I’m not sure why, but this is the first holiday season that I have looked forward to in several years.  I think that started five years ago when my brother, his wife, and me made a cross country trek to visit my mother just before Christmas.  As referenced in my story, “Walking My Mother Home,” in Journeys to Mother Love, it was our final farewell to her.  She survived another Christmas season and passed away in February the next year.  Those two Christmases were the hardest for me, still being in the waiting process.

On Santa's lap, 2001

On Santa’s lap, 2001

Holiday Transitions

It was also during that time our teenage sons were becoming more independent.  The feel of the holidays was changing.  There was no more Christmas wonder, no more believing in Santa Claus, and no more family holiday portraits.  It became harder for me to instill some tradition and holiday spirit into the season.

This year we are preparing for our next layer of parenting and holiday traditions.  Our oldest son Evan graduated from college earlier this year and moved out of state.  We haven’t seen each other since we moved him into his new apartment six months ago.  We already faced Thanksgiving without him.  It was a quiet day with my husband, my youngest son, Cameron, and me.  It was like a super-charged family meal with a small turkey and all the trimmings.

We made the most of it.  The highlight for me was when Cameron asked us each to share what we were thankful for.  He shared that he was thankful for understanding parents (in reference to the challenges he faced adapting to high school with ADD) and that his parents were still together (in reference to his keen awareness of how many of his friends come from broken families).

His response warmed this sentimental mother’s heart.  Even at 17 he gets it!

An Old Tradition

In preparation for Evan’s holiday visit, I am decking the house all out for Christmas, like in years past.  It is a big chore so I enlisted the help of my friend, Stacie, who has spent several holiday meals at our home. While digging through the boxes of decorations, I was reminded of a family tradition of sorts that was handed down from my husband’s father, Ray.

Ray with his new pick-up truck in 1969.

Ray with his new pick-up truck in 1969.

I barely knew Ray.  He never officially became my father-in-law, passing away over 30 years ago, a few months before we were married.  For the next several years though, we were fondly reminded of his sense of humor at Christmas.  Ray had a habit of making a note on the outside of some of the Christmas boxes, posting the year, and maybe what the weather was like outside or some comical tidbit of information.  My husband and I started doing the same, usually making a treatise about the weather or maybe a good-natured ribbing of the other’s holiday attitude.

Continuing the Tradition

Those boxes with their notes from Ray are long gone, but my notes have continued and took a new more ‘writerly’ direction in recent years.  I came across some of those notes while decorating.  Stacie and I had a big laugh over some of my notes and reminisced about how we met.

In a phone conversation a few days prior, we pondered what year we met…and there it was in black and white in my entry for January 12, 2007.  We met in one of the classes that I was leading at church, and I had noted that I was preparing the curriculum.  (It was my first class of this nature, so it was a big deal to me.)  We got quite a chuckle out of that.

Meeting Stacie in a spiritual growth class, 2007.

New and old friends from a spiritual growth class at church in 2007.

I went on to read my notes getting a glimpse into our holiday preparations.  Stacie showed up in my notes indirectly again two years later.  I wrote that I was preparing for the women’s retreat at church.  She was at that retreat and mentioned the significance of it to her.  I remembered it very clearly.  Stacie was in a period of transition and heartache at the time.  In a moment of divine intervention, a group of women gathered around her, and laid hands on her in prayer.  We witnessed the Holy Spirit minister to many women at that retreat.

Ministering to Others

Stacie and I worked hard tending to all the decorating details around the house this year.   We laughed and we got a bit teary eyed a few times.  We turned a chore into a celebration of God’s goodness to us over the years.  It all started with a simple holiday tradition of writing a short note to include with my Christmas decorations.  It ministered to us both that day, not only preparing my home, but also our hearts for Christmas.

Thank you Ray!  Maybe the grandsons whom you never met, will carry on that humorous habit.  If not, you left us a legacy through the notes that are tucked away in our Christmas boxes.  Some day when I pass those boxes of decorations on to my kids, maybe it will minister to them too.

What are you doing to prepare your heart and home for Christmas?

Imparting Christmas Traditions

“‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.”  This first line of the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” conjures up images of Christmases past when my sons were young and preparing for Santa Claus’ arrival was still part of our Christmas routine.  One of my favorite traditions was putting out a dish of fresh baked cookies for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer.  Right after that my husband or I would read to the boys from a pop-up picture book with that same name.  It was a time of innocence and joyous expectation.

Christmas Eve 1999

Christmas Eve 1999

My teenage sons are now well beyond those years and I’m finding it harder to cling to traditions that will last.  Gone are the days of cookie exchanges and visits to Santa Claus.  Sadly, the one last tradition of making annual ceramic ornaments was dropped this year too.  I contributed a post about the role mothers play in imparting Christmas traditions on journeystomotherlove.com.  Click the link to read Imparting Christmas Traditions on that blog.

If your children are beyond the years of Santa Claus or your home is an ‘empty nest’, you may be asking, “Where is the wonder of Christmas?”  Don’t fret, because the WONDER of Christmas is still alive.

At Christmastime we are reminded that the wonder is God’s gift to us in the form of a baby in a manger.  Christ was born on Christmas Day.  It is the gift that is freely available to us each day of the year. As I long for some of the traditions and magic of Christmases past, I also delight in knowing that the message of Jesus birth on Christmas Day is the best tradition to impart in my family.

What kinds of Christmas traditions, past or present, do you impart with your children?

Has Your Christmas Gone to the Dogs?

              I just can’t seem to get in the Christmas spirit this year.  Correction, I just can’t seem to stay in the Christmas spirit this year.  I’ve had small glimpses of peace, but they’ve been very fleeting.  I can’t quite figure out why that is.  It’s not like I haven’t gotten things done.  Maybe my problem is that I’m not giving myself any grace.  After all, I did just write a manuscript and set up a website and online music sales for my Spanish son’s music.   

I guess what bothers me is that I had so much help to get some of those things done this year.  I’ve never needed help to put up the Christmas tree, decorate the office or buy and wrap the presents—even when I worked full time.  But this year it’s like I’m on some other planet—the one that doesn’t stop for Christmas.  There are no Christmas cookies baked and boxes of unopened Christmas decorations still sit in my garage.  My poor car moans every time I start it as if to say, “Why have you abandoned me outside in the cold?”  I want to apologize to it too and tell it I’m just too busy to make room for it. 
And then there is the writer’s block that I seem to be experiencing.  Or is it just that I’m too busy to write?  I’m not quite sure, but after reading a blog post from one of my favorite authors earlier today, I felt ‘unblocked’.  Her blog mentioned some of the same things that I am struggling with—the tension of what I’m supposed to be doing for the holidays versus the connecting times and also the writing ‘shoulds’.  It was a relief to me to know that I am not alone with trying to prioritize my Christmas activities and still find peace.  Her struggle gave me permission to write too.
This year has been a big transition year for me so it shouldn’t be such a surprise that I need to re-evaluate how I do Christmas too.  The rules and traditions that I’ve had in place in the past don’t have to dictate what I do this year.  I don’t need to put up every Christmas decoration I own.  I don’t need to bake cookies.  I do need to connect with my friends.  I do need to spend time with my family.  I do need to let people know how much they mean to me.  I do need to relax and let go of so many expectations to have it all together.
So with Christmas Eve less than a day away, I’m choosing to shake off the ‘shoulds’ and finish the season with an attitude of gratitude.  Even though we are dog-sitting for two other dogs over the holidays, that doesn’t mean I have to let my Christmas ‘go to the dogs’.  I do have so much to be grateful for—the three men in my life, my extended family in Spain, my friends, and that God wants to use me in bigger and bolder ways than I ever thought was possible.

  At Christmastime let’s remember that Jesus came to fulfill the law with grace and truth.  So shouldn’t we be willing and able to give ourselves that same grace this holiday season?  I don’t know about you, but I’m all in for that.  Woof, woof!  May His Peace be with you this blessed holiday! 

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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