|In historic St Charles with my beautiful mom.|
Well its two weeks until Christmas and the annual eleventh hour panic is beginning to set in. Last year I had nearly everything purchased by Black Friday but a November grandbaby kind of distracted me this year. ;) Don’t think I’m complaining though. I’ll take having our lives completely turned upside down and eternally enriched over proficiency and organization any day. He grows more dear and beautiful every day and we are falling deeper in love with him. I love how his smell lingers on my clothes after I’ve held him. Makes me not want to throw them in the washer (I do though in case any of you are worried :). I love the expressions and movements he makes. These things were once such a huge part of my life when I had newborns but I didn’t even realize how much I’d forgotten until it all came back with my grandbaby. The other day I found an article my Dad had written when Haley was born called “Bear with me, I’m a first-time grandfather”. I now know exactly how he felt. So bear with me when I gush about my grandbaby. He is just so wonderful and amazing!!! I can’t help myself.This is our first Christmas in our new house, in our new state, in our new church. So far I’m having a blast. The crisp, cold weather, the family close by, the novelty of decorating a new house…it’s all combined to give me the Christmas cheer in a concentrated dose.
Now let me tell you about another new thing we got to be a part of here. Each Christmas our new church, Faith Chapel does something called the Advent Conspiracy. The concept behind it is to substitute our culture’s consumption with Christ’s compassion. Where instead of being swept up with the commercialism of Christmas, we make a choice to spend less and to give more. The cause our church chose this year to give to was Samuel’s House. Samuel’s House is a ministry that rescues abandoned children in Caracas Venezuela. They have eight homes with house parents for these children. Last year at Christmas, the generosity of Faith Chapel helped to build one of these homes. This year, Faith Chapel’s Advent Conspiracy project was to give each of the children of Samuel’s House a great Christmas. Families and individuals sponsored each of the 38 children housed there. We were given their sizes, hobbies and interests. Every child at Samuel's House was sponsored by someone in our church. We were so blessed to be here this year to participate. And on Christmas morning this year, each of these precious children will open up brand new presents picked out just for them for the first time ever. A lot of these children were rescued from the streets and the garbage dumps of Caracas. Many have never had anything new before. What blessing to be a part of a church that prioritizes the Kingdom during this materialistic season that is really supposed to be all about Jesus. I’m so thankful to have been a part it. It made Christmas seem like Christmas this year for the first time in a long time. If anyone is looking for a good cause to give to this year, Samuel’s House is a great ministry that is really doing the work of Jesus here on this earth. Check it out by going to http://www.thevenezuelareport.com/index.php and clicking the “Giving” link.
Oh did I mention that my Mom taught my husband to make her famous pralines and fudge? I’m afraid we’ve created a monster. We shall be fat I’m afraid. But although we’ve moved North we are still cooking like Southern folks. Tonight Keith whipped up a Sauce Piquante that would make you want to slap your Grandmaw. Just this month we have had Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp and Corn Bisque, fried chicken, fried okra and hot water bread, plus the best pecan pie on earth and of course the ever present pralines and fudge… I think my husband missed his calling. He so could be a chef or at least a Cajun caterer. There just might be a market for that up here in the Midwest. We just love food way too much. And like my dad used to do, Keith photographs his food. So I will add a tantalizing photo for your viewing pleasure and you can have pity and not judge me when I have to buy new jeans.
Well unfortunately I haven’t totally avoided the seduction of materialism and commercialism this year. Again I've spent way too much and (as mentioned above) have eaten way too much. How sad but prevalent it is to forget to invite Jesus to His own birthday celebration. But thankfully some Venezuelan orphans and a sweet grandbaby have helped to refocus me on Jesus. I told Haley one day when Gabe was still in the NICU… just think how careful they are with sanitation and how worried they are about viruses and germs yet Jesus was born in a barn. I think we glamorize it a bit. My manger scene on my bookshelf looks quite inviting and sterile but in reality our God left the glories of heaven to come to this earth clothed in human skin as a tiny baby boy and born in a dirty, stinky barn. He was born helpless, dependent, vulnerable. Its quite amazing when you just sit and think about it. How He loved us to do this. But despite this reality, for many, Christmas is a sad time, a time of stress and anxiety and loneliness. The enemy can’t change what Jesus did by coming here to earth, being born to die for our sins, but he can try to corrupt our celebration of it by making it into something ugly. He always comes to steal, kill and destroy. He steals the focus from Jesus. He kills joy causing depression and suicide to become rampant during the holidays. He destroys finances through gross materialism and over spending. But everything he destroys, he does with our help. Our pastor’s wife Beth Riley said it best. She said, “Satan’s agenda hides in the disobedience of God’s children.” Ouch. But its true. We have a choice. When we “Submit to God and resist the devil, he WILL flee.” Without our cooperation, he doesn’t have a whole lot of ammunition to use against us. I've definitely given him plenty throughout the years with being caught up in the worry, strife, stress and materialism during what should be a simple joyous celebration of my Savior's birth.
But its not too late to stop and refocus. It's never too late for Jesus. Let us determine with what is left of this holiday season to not get caught up in the world's shallow, corrupted Christmas. Instead of focusing on the procurement of the latest must-have gizmo or gadget (which will probably be obsolete by the end of next year) may we primarily pursue and invest in the eternal One we are supposed to be celebrating-- Jesus. The Lord once spoke to my heart in the midst of a financial struggle to stop grieving over finances and possessions because these things are temporary but relationships are what is eternal. Only our investments in a relationship with Him and with others will endure and bear fruit in eternity.
I pray that in the midst of the chaos, the noise and the clutter of what has become the Christmas season that He would be found as we seek Him above all else. May the peace and presence of Jesus invade our homes this year and transform our lives. Merry Christmas guys and God bless you, every one!