Drinking in the Season

I often struggle with prioritizing.  Sometimes I feel like there are so many things to do that I don’t know there to start.  It feels like I am trying to drink out of a fire hose.  But then, if I can draw some perspective and think through what exactly is worth doing, what needs to be done, what is important, I can often lessen the overwhelming flow.

How much more intense is this torrent during this season?  Thoughts of Christ in Christmas are hard to come by if I don’t initiate them myself.  They aren’t in the stores, the teachers aren’t allowed to mention them, the marketers would rather write fairy tales of gifts that bring happiness on Christmas morning.

So how do you keep your eye on the prize?  How do you remember that Jesus is the reason for the season?  How do your drink in the sweet grace of our encounter with the divine in the vulnerable form of a baby?

I would love to hear about how you and your family enjoy a Christ-centred Christmas in your home.  Please comment on the blog and share your ideas with all of us!

Here are a few ideas that we have tried or heard of:

1)      Make sure that your gift giving includes gifts for Jesus.  We started a family tradition of celebrating Jesus’ birthday the way we would other family and friends: cake and gifts for the birthday boy!  When we blow out the candles we one by one give him a gift of words of praise and then we choose gifts out of a Samaritan’s Purse or Gospel for Asia or other Christian charitable catalogue.

2)      Give gifts that emphasize the thought rather than the price tag.  A woman I spoke to recently said that in their family they draw names and each get a gift of a used book for the person they drew.  They have so much fun finding out what the person might like, discussing their literary tastes and hunting down the special treat.  A thoughtful and inexpensive way to love on your family.

3)      Before accepting invitations to gatherings, events and parties, decide who you most want to spend time with over the holidays and how often you want to go out and make sure that you protect your schedule from events that won’t fit these priorities.  With several birthdays in our extended family at this time of year, we find that often we have to choose to only accept invitations from family in December and plan to visit others in the New Year.

4)      Give gifts that are a double blessing.  Get a gift that will not only make a loved one smile but will also bless a needy person through a charity or will bless a local small business person who is trying to provide for their family (rather than a large corporation that is trying to pad their bottom line).  This year many of our gifts are home made by local artisans, by our family or are supporting charitable endeavours that are close to our hearts.

5)      Do less, enjoy God’s people more.  I have come to realize that the only way that we will have the house decorated, the children educated, the cookies baked, the cards sent, the house clean, and the packages wrapped is if the whole family is intensely involved.  When the kids were younger, this was next to impossible and even now, there is so much that we can’t accomplish in pursuing all of these traditions.  So ask yourself, can we do without baking? Can we send our love in a simpler way than having to mail Christmas cards?  Can our gifts consist of gifts of time to visit rather than rushes to the store with an overtired credit card?

As you prepare your hearts and homes for the celebration of the coming of Christ this season, I wish for you the opportunity to drink in the sweetness of the moments and really savour our Saviour.

Blessings,


Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca


32 Pairs of Socks

For Christmas my family tends to get practical things in their stockings as well as an orange and a candy or two.  Fairly predictable.  More often than not, this means that Christmas time is a time to restock on socks.  And, boy, did we need socks!  It seems that we are constantly rifling through the clean laundry looking for a pair of socks for the day.  How nice to feel like we are restocked and spoilt again in the New Year. 

But here is the catch, as I sat trying to catch up on the laundry this past week, reveling in how nice it is to be healthy again (after sharing all together in being dragged down by a horrible cold/flu virus all through the holidays), I realized that maybe I had erred in the sock purchases over the holidays.  You see, I sat for a quite moment – probably a good half hour – and sorted out half a dozen piles of “what belongs to who” and then proceeded to start the pairing…  I paired up Hubby’s socks and tucked them away, then I folded mine.  32 pairs of socks.  No, not his and mine.  I folded 32 pairs of my socks.  Really?  Do I really have 32 pairs of socks…. And that would also imply that it’s been a month since I last folded socks…  And that it will also likely be another month before I am sufficiently motivated to fold socks again.  Sigh!

How often is my life like this?  I invest time, or energy, space, or money in something that is meant to help or simplify life and yet makes no difference or a negative one.  I was thinking this when I considered other things in my little world too.  How often have we “needed” a new book or curriculum that only seemed to make us busier but not smarter?  How often have I stuck with an old activity while adding a new one on to our already busy schedule and hoped to be able to fit it all in? 

I know that New Years is a time for resolutions and reflections but I don’t tend to like to follow the crowd and don’t want to make these grand commitments to change just because everyone else is.  I do however want to continually be striving to be all that God created me – and my family – to be so New Years is as good a time as any to strengthen my resolve.      

So I am strengthening my resolve to strive for the purpose and simplicity that we set out for so long ago in our family life.  I want to constantly question why we do things and how we could do them better.  In our school this year, that has meant lightening some of our work load to be able to focus on other things.  Namely, we chose to take a break from reading and writing curriculums so that we could spend more time just reading and writing.  Sounds simple, I know, but it has been revolutionary.  The kids and I are so enjoying just reading a lot together.  It’s been fun to take the time to make cards, write letters, to teach them to blog and to write out their thoughts on the things that they are learning, to listen to a beautiful poem or Bible verse or saying and to set it aside for later to be copied and kept.

Now, as I try to jam my 32 pairs of socks into a too-small drawer, I am reflecting on other ways to keep it simple in areas that I tend to invite the complicated, ways to redeem wasted moments that could be used more wisely.  I think that one thing we will do is to read our Bible more, to simply enjoy it as literature with our other readings rather than parsing the meanings to death.  Teaching my children to view the world through a biblical lens can only be enhanced by reading the Bible more and discussing all of life in light of the living word of scripture.  It seems to me like a spectacular way to continue to “throw off everything that hinders” so that we can “run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us” knowing that to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1,2) will only bring us closer to that ideal that we strive for.

Blessings, Friends, as you strive to be all that you were created to be in 2013!

Happy New Year,

Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca
mapletreepublications@sympatico.ca
905-778-9412

Christmas Blessings

Dear Friends,

I have finally dusted off my laptop to send you a few words of greeting over these beautiful holidays.  First I want to send my wishes that you have had a spectacular Christmas with friends and family and to wish your New Year will be filled with God’s richest blessings.

I have to admit that I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately.  We are finally starting to see the end of a horrible bout of cold and flu that has been with us for more than three weeks.  I have been stuck in the past wishing for a White Christmas and a repeat of the idyllic holidays of many years gone by but these days Christmas has been a visit to his mom’s and then my mom’s and then my dad’s and … well you get it.  This year, it’s been a few of us visiting with one pocket of loved ones or another hoping tentatively for peace and having to leave one or more sickies at home. 

This holiday has taken an extra striving to recall the point of it all.  It is so easy to lose the sound of the still small voice of the baby in the manger.  But we have found our Christmas in the moments.  Friends, I hope you have found your moments as well. 

We loved the moments of our advent readings even if, yes, we didn’t finish them all.  I was touched by my husband’s reflections and patience when I was too stressed with lists and cards and bills to see through to the Jesus who had made it all so special.

I enjoyed discussions with my daughters about the gifts that they had for Jesus.  So neat to walk my seven year old through why Jesus didn’t take the beautiful card that she made for Him and set under the tree.  “Where does Jesus live daughter?”  “In heaven.”  “Where else?”  “With us, here in our house, in my heart.”  “So, he kept his precious gift here where he lives.  No?”  We discussed how he says that when we do for others we are doing for Him.  We discussed the gifts that we gave especially to Him when we gave to others.

Another special moment with Jesus was in a new tradition that we started last year: a cake, candles, and “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  My oldest daughter loves to bake and makes wonderful cakes.  This year she really wanted Jesus to have a cookie monster birthday cake.  We put six candles in and after singing to Him we each blew out a candle and gave him a birthday gift of words, “Thank you Jesus for giving me my family!”  “Thank you Jesus for taking care of us.”  “I am so glad, Jesus, that you are so much smarter than I am.”  Last year we chose out gifts for Jesus on Christmas day from the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue, each giving of their own money.  This year, we pooled our resources and were able to give to Jesus in another fun and creative way.  What a treat!

Still wrapped in the busyness even last night (since you can’t finish Christmas cards when everyone is sick for three weeks in December and we are finally starting to catch up on some of those visits that we cancelled) I received another sweet gift from my Saviour: a note from a friend.  It is such a blessing to have friends who are there at just the right moments.  So neat to see that Jesus is there to bless me in so many ways: through little thoughtful notes, and through the huge sacrificial gift of coming as a vulnerable boy to be my Saviour from all that I deserve.  It’s so hard to comprehend.  Perhaps that is why I can only handle it in small moments.

Friends, I hope that you have had that idyllic time of Christmas wonder and enjoyed this amazing time of reverence for our Jesus but if you have been, like me, seeking at least the little moments, may this magical time between Christmas and New Years be a time of you to rest in Him and to know His peace in a new way.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Cori

Perspective

So many of you have asked about our daughter that I realize that it is time to update you. 

Just reading over my musings of a year ago, I realize how I still get so relentlessly caught up in the mundane and overwhelmed by things that are so transient.  (This week, in addition to life’s everyday blunders and the usual financial frustrations, we have been dealing with BOTH fleas and lice in the Dean household.  When will “normal” arrive, please, Lord?!)

I have been feeling sorry for myself, wishing someone would step up to this plate that I have been given and run the race for me for a little while.  My husband and I have spent the week going to bed sore and exhausted, hoping for relief the next day but finding a new set of challenges with each morning: the dog gets out of the yard AGAIN, a computer crashes and people treat us like we are carrying the plague.  I think that it is the stress of it all that made us turn our backs on the fact that that nasty cold was creeping into the house as well.  Par for the course. 

Yesterday, in the midst of it all, we were brought back to the basics.  (We will conquer the fleas and the lice.  I’ve never dealt with fleas before but have with lice, it’s a lot of work but we know how to overcome it.  The colds will move on, eventually the bills will be paid and our friends won’t be afraid to see us.)  On the other hand, there we were on the floor of the little girls’ bedroom dealing with a tantrum, not the everyday grumpiness that you occasionally encounter but a full out kicking and screaming 3 year old.  And then she went pale, her eyes rolled back and the screaming eased.  My baby nearly fainted.  Now to most this would be happy justice for a kid that had cried it out.  For us fainting can be life threatening.

Suddenly lice, fleas, colds, and harsh words from friends didn’t seem so important.  Surviving the moment was all that we had. 

Now, as soon as the spell overcame her, she started to recover.  She certainly had lost the wind in her sails but she came back to us.  The normal procedure for days like this with a girl with a heart condition like ours has been to see the doctor immediately (get to the ER!)which has resulted in one weekend stay at the hospital so far.  The thing is that our most recent visits to our local paediatric cardiologist and to Sick Kids confirmed that our prayers are working, her heart is holding out and is more stable than they had originally anticipated.  Praise the Lord!  That being the case, we are now told that the pacemaker won’t be inserted into her heart until they see some quantifiable difference in the testing that they do or until this “starts to affect her quality of life”, meaning until dizziness leads to actual fainting.  We do hope to see our doctor this week but for now are closely monitoring her and seeking your prayers.

All of this has brought back some much needed perspective: God is in control.

            “I am the LORD, and there is no other;

            apart from me there is no God.
            I will strengthen you,
            though you have not acknowledged me,
            so that from the rising of the sun
            to the place of its setting
            men may know that there is none besides me.
            I am the LORD, and there is no other.
            I form the light and create darkness,
            I bring prosperity and create disaster;
            I, the LORD, do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:5-7

He allows us to go through the things that he does because He trusts that we will come out on the other side closer to Him and more able to be all that He wants us to be.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

Friends, my family and I have so appreciated your kind words, your prayers and your inquiries about our daughter that show that you care.  They have made such a difference to us.  Please do continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers as we journey along this crazy road.  It has made a difference as she had gone a full year now without need for pacemaker surgery and we hope that she will be able to go longer and grow more in order to better be ready for the hardware that is best suited to her needs.

Thanks,

Cori

Maple Tree Publications