Christmas did not come on a stage.

I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. Tragedy is like that, it weaves itself around you like a tangled mess of fear. Body covered with a paper gown that could hide nothing but the clean underwear my mother always told me to wear. I wasn’t in an accident. My mind was leaving me. I was becoming who I feared I always would be. The girl who walked towards the darkness. One exhausted from running anymore so she let it swallow her. Here I was naked in powder blue room with my dignity being written down on the clipboard the nurse held.

That Christmas we had Doritos on the table for dinner. It explained where we were. Where life held us.

When sadness comes and presses down its weighted blanket over you, Christmas expectations leave you paralyzed.

Yet when we realize that we are expectant of misconstrued things,

we realize our souls ache for the stable and not the stage,

it is there we hear the babies cry.

On days like today.

Weeks like we’ve had.

We pray to feel the straw on our knees. To be waiting for the King to arrive.

On nights where the pillow holds our prayers from the wrestling of his sovereignty all we can do is

wake and whisper honest truths to the one whose breath we breathe.

That Christmas from years ago still haunts me and draws me closer.

Closer to the stable. Closer to the cry in the night. Closer to the waiting. Closer to the peace that came. Closer to the pain that needed to come first.

Dear one, if you are in the pain. If you are crawling with the agony that pushes you forward and pulls you back in. If you feel like you are the only one looking for a place to rest. If you can’t catch your footing on the cobbled road.

Walk forward. Keep expecting the inn.

The stable is there.

Look around dear one.  You are not alone. The others are waiting there quietly crying with you. Bended. With knees bloodied from the pain that brought them there. Pushing through the straw to see that Peace has come.

Hold yourself there.

Quiet your mind and hear the voice this year you’ve been aching to hear.

Your KING has come dear one. He has come.

Draw closer to the stable not to the stage.

With stages all around us. The productions. The crowds. The money. The more. He is not there.

 

Christmas came through the pain and suffering of a mother.

With miles traveled in fear.

Christmas came through a doubtful father.

Dirt on their faces.

Christmas came with doors closed and strangers gathered closer.

Christmas came seeking a foreign place of safety when the world was sleeping.

 

Christmas came in the anguished screams on a silent night.

 

So sweet one. If you find yourself searching and alone. If you find yourself with doors closed and being turned away. If you find yourself foreign in a land that does not welcome you in. If you find yourself traveling thinking this is your forever. If you find yourself crying in anguish or doubtful that things will never change.

You have found Christmas.

Hold close. The angels will be singing soon.

RAW- guest post by Elisabeth Klein

 


excerpt from Elisabeth Klein’s Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotionals to Help You Heal

 

I know of a woman whose beloved dog died the day after her wedding. Life is funny like that. Every day, we gratefully hold in one hand joys and blessings that are immeasurable, and in the other hand, we begrudgingly hold life’s deep hurts and blinding disappointments.

 

Life does not wait for good timing to bring something our way.

 

And Christmas is no exception.  You may have just entered into a season of pain as the holidays started up. And the newness of the situation has left you not just unsettled and unmoored but raw.

 

You are raw in that you do not know how to process what has swept into your life.  Or you might be raw in that this thing – whatever your thing is – has rubbed you down to your core. It’s like wearing new shoes for a long day of walking and you can feel with every step that skin is being removed.

 

Or, like me, you find yourself raw because an old issue that you thought was either worked through or healed or at the very least buried down deep enough to be a non-issue has resurfaced, and it hurts, and it’s uncomfortable and you do not know what to do with it.

 

We cannot fix ourselves. We cannot heal ourselves.  We want to, because we don’t like to feel unpleasant things, and because we like to think we’re in control.  But we cannot.

 

I think of Mary in those very first moments after the angel left her, before she told anyone of the news of her pregnancy.  She must have felt stripped bare.  She must have been beyond confused. She must have been in awe.  She must have been raw.

 

And yet, bless her heart, her kneejerk reaction was to submit in obedience.

 

Let it be to me according to your word, she said.

 

In her rawness, she obeyed. In her rawness, she laid down her dreams for her life.  In her rawness, she turned her heart to God.

 

…Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. –Psalm 51:8

 

God, I am without a way to heal myself today. I cannot take away my own pain. I am bare before you, I am weak, I am raw. I need you. Please cover me and heal me.  Amen.

beth

 

Elisabeth Klein is grateful new wife to Richard, and mom and now stepmom to five. She writes regularly at www.elisabethklein.com/blog and desires to help hurting women by bringing them hope. You may order your copy of Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal here.

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Yellow Ceiling Spots

There is a yellow spot on my ceiling in my living room. No it’s not from smoking. Although that would be a better story. Have you ever seen the episode of Modern family where Phil finds a yellow burn on the couch on Christmas morning? Netflix it now. He cancels Christmas until someone fesses up to smoking on the couch. He literally drags the tree out the sliding door onto the porch, while the kids cry and try to take responsibility, even though none of them did it. It is hilarious and true. (You don’t need to write me and tell me I shouldn’t be watching Modern Family, I watch it to know we are not alone on the crazy train.)

We all see things and assume the worst. I look up at ceiling from my couch and I assume that the yellow mark on the ceiling means that our ceiling is falling in and that one day I will be crushed by a bathtub from the second floor. I know. It’s morbid and crazy. Or perhaps I watch too much Rehab Addict or Modern Family. Either way I assume things that may or may not be true. Or I avoid what I know is true.

And what I know to be true today is that I suck at forgiving. Maybe there is a better word, but the thesaurus wanted me to say slurp. And forgiving doesn’t slurp anything. I am just not good at it. I am better at forgiving someone that did something to someone else. But when I have to forgive someone that hurt me, it feels insurmountable.  I want to dig my first grade heals in the playground and justify why I don’t need to forgive them. I want to shout it from the mountaintops or at least a very tall building, because who am I kidding I have never been to a mountain top and I am in no shape to climb one. Anyways, I want to shout it from a very high elevation the list of things this person did to me. How I was wounded so deeply by things that were said and the “sorry’s” that never came. I want others to turn their backs on this person and join me by digging their heels in the playground with me.

But this unforgiveness is heavy. Not like the “winter weight” I have put on. But more like the weighted blanket that my littlest girl sleeps under very night. Except this doesn’t calm me down, it tears at my bones and makes the most inner parts of me afraid and alone. It makes me brittle and broken.

I was a chaperone a few summers ago for my eldest high school camp. (I know, could I be any more of a helicopter parent?) (Actually, I had no idea where she was 95% of the time, so I am really good at keeping track of kids) I was there and heard this for the first time. Or maybe just HEARD it for the first time- that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Okay, maybe they didn’t say “die” at church camp but that is what my heart heard.

I want the people that have hurt me deeply to feel the humiliation and weight of what I feel. Of what I wake up every day and carry around. I want my pain to be justified. I want freedom. But if I am honest I want it to come by someone else carrying the shame that I carry every morning when I wake up.

Yet I am learning. Slowly. This isn’t about this person. Or people. It is about me. It is about the sin in my own heart that I can’t let go of. It’s about the years of shame built up in my own lesions that this just reopens like wounds that are still healing.

That is what this is about. It is about taking ownership of your own crap before mulling around in someone else’s. It is about claiming your own baggage at the airport and not trying to make others take their own. They are not ready yet. They are not ready to open up what you are already dealing with. And that it ok. It is ok to begin to heal and to walk away. You don’t. I don’t, need everyone to understand me or like me to be ok. I need to be ok because I know that I am a messy work in progress just trying to figure out my truth.

What a ham, Santa and a girl from Pakistan taught me about Christmas

snowflakes

When I was younger my grandfather was Santa. No lie. He was. Every year at midnight mass Silent night would begin to play and from the back of church “Santa” would silently walk down the aisle. He would remove his red and white hat and with one knee bent kneel before the manger. I tear up now just thinking about it. How beautiful and precious that was. I know theologically it wasn’t perhaps right. But for the reverence it displayed it was exactly what Christmas is supposed to be.

I mess up Christmas every year. Flat on my face mess up. I do. I get anxious about not having enough money. Or no money at all. I get overwhelmed with schedules that seem to double three weeks before the magical day. I am paralyzed with the amount of people around me all the time. Talking and wanting me to respond. I am exhausted with trying to be enough for everyone moment of every day. And like today I am hiding in my house with tea and books surrounding me because my soul knows that I am getting it all wrong.

And when I am getting it wrong I missing the manger. I am filling it with bigger presents. And louder music and bigger productions. And saying yes to everything that is “Christmasy”. I am spending money on more things instead on things that matter. I am forgetting who I am and what I believe.

I believe that Jesus came simple. He came as a baby. Quiet. Bloodied in a manger with animals and dirt and hay. There was no big production. He did not come with crowned jewels on his head. He came a bloodied mess and left the earth the same way. And when we turn Christmas into a big production we miss him. I miss Him.

And so He needs to remind me. He needs to quiet my soul again and whisper “I am here”.

Every morning we pick up a little girl from Pakistan to go to school. She has been in the US for a few months now. It is just she and her parents. She doesn’t answer when I ask her about other family still in Pakistan. I have learned there are subjects and conversations I need to earn. And so I will wait. A few weeks ago we were waiting for her outside of her apartment building and I was feeling rushed. My entitled self-had no time to wait. I had things to do that day that I am sure were extremely important. Except for the life of me I can’t remember what they were now. I turned around to see what was taking her so long to walk to the car and there she stood. Perfectly still, in the middle of the courtyard not moving towards the car.

Mouth open.

Tongue out.

Catching snowflakes.

I had to catch my breathe.

This was Christmas. This was silent night.

In the simple. In the snowflakes on the tongue of the little girl from the Middle East who had never seen snow before.

And then just last night. I needed to be reminded again. By a nine year old neighbor boy from across the street. Standing at my door with a ham and boxed mashed potatoes in a torn plastic bag. He said that his mother did not know what to give us for Christmas so she gave us this ham. The ham from the food pantry that she stood in line for hours before to feed her family. The ham that was their best. And they gave. They gave everything they had.

This is Christmas. This is silent night.

 

I just stood there and cried whispering “thank you’s…”

I needed to be reminded of what my soul craves. What your soul really craves. It is not the more and better. It is the enough. It is the hard conversations. It is the folding of the laundry. It is for the ringing of the bell. It is for the red bucket. It is the paying for someone’s gas. It is for the cookies we never bake. It is for the sister we drive hundreds of miles to comfort. It is for the letter that we need to write. It is for the forgiving we need to receive. It is for the hot cocoa we need to sip with our children. It is for the groceries we help carry in. It is for the asking questions. It is for the slower mornings. It is for the saying no to really good things. It is for the grace that we lavishly give. It is for the prayers that we pray over those in our homes. It is for hearing when our friend says she is overwhelmed and not leaving her alone. It is for the games that we play on the floor.

It is for the quiet and the simple.

The here and the now.

The snowflakes and the ham.

It is the midnight mass with candles. It is the one knee bent to our savior.

This is Christmas. This is silent night

25 days of love- feedback time

Merry Christmas! We did it. 25 days of love was quite an adventure. Days when we thought we knew what love would look like it turned our worlds upside down within moments. After lots of cookies, gift cards, tears and memories we delivered our last meal of the Christmas challenge this afternoon to a war veteran who is just really struggling. To love on him is just what this family needed today.

So now that we are done I would love to hear what happened for you this Christmas.

Here is where you all come in. I want your feedback. Yes, I am asking for feedback. I would love to hear your stories. What worked for your family, what didn’t work. Stories of moments that you never saw coming and hearts that were changed . I am putting all of this together for a little project I think would be helpful for families next Christmas.

So here is what I am asking….either leave a comment on the blog, facebook or email me shelim9@gmail.com about what your family and friends did this 25daysoflove.Whether you did one day or 25 days it doesn’t matter, just let me know what it was. I can’t wait to see what God did in your hearts!

Merry Christmas sweet ones, keep loving BIG!

sheli

curling irons and refugees

When I was in middle school I curled my brother’s bangs with a curling iron. I told him that it would look cool. Not so cool. Not so cool to curl your brothers hair. Ever. He says it was that point that it was very clear my future would not be in cosmetology. But I just wanted him to be his best. Apparently I thought that meant some funky hair and aqua net. But that is how we love.

We don’t always love the right way but we love the only way we know.

I don’t live near any of my siblings. I have Michigan envy they all get to be within an hour of each other. Holidays are hardest when I can’t be with them. Grateful this Christmas we can all be together. We love each other well. In all the mess we are learning to love each other better.

So todays challenge was all about loving your sibling well. For me that meant sending letters of love to each of them. I communicate best that way. And I didn’t want another day to go by without them knowing how much I adore them.

My kids….well let’s just say they have had better days at loving each other. I have seen them love better. But it’s ok. That is what grace is. Another chance. Another day.

Day 20: Stand in the gap for the vulnerable!!!! This challenge is the beat of my heart. And now you are asking what do you mean? Who are the vulnerable? The vulnerable are those that need someone to speak for them, teach them, lead them, and love them where they are at. I wanted to focus on a couple of my favorite organizations. I am sure that you have ideas as well. I can’t wait to hear what this looked like for you.

World Relief– Can you imagine? Can you imagine being in a whole new country and not knowing anyone? Or the language? Or the social norms? Or even how to get from one place to the next? Friends we need to be the church. We need to invite refugees into our homes this year. We need to not just give but give of ourselves. I asked one of my dear friends who works for World Relief some tangible needs that could be met this Christmas. Here is what she had to say…..

Here is also a link to all the ways people can support or give to World Relief. If people are interested, they can donate financially to support adults and children in ESL class or to help refugee reach self-sufficiency. Or, there is a link for donating household items (or a car if people have those lying around!)

http://worldreliefdupage.org/give-wrda-for-christmas/

I have helped with World Relief for years. I love it. Absolutely love it. I love having friends from all over the world. Who love, and live so differently than we do. But that is the best part of it. We laugh and learn to do life together….and it’s better that way.

Kids Hope– I have the privilege of being a mentor through Kids Hope. It is an amazing opportunity to spend an hour a week with a child who just needs a voice. They just need someone to come alongside them and meet them where they are at. To extend grace and direction in a life that seems so out of control. It really will change you. Talking to our leader of Kids Hope at our church today she mentioned that of course they always need volunteers or mentors. Those that is willing to just give up one hour a week to meet with their mentee. We also need other churches to come alongside schools and partner with them. It is usually one church per school and they provide them mentors for that school. So call your church, ask them if they are involved and if not….ask why. We need to be the church my friends.

Tomorrow our family will be coming alongside with other families in the community and loving on a few refugee families. We cannot wait to give them Christmas this year. To know that they have enriched our lives, our communities and our schools, it’s the least we can do.

So friends…..how can you stand in the gap for the vulnerable tomorrow?

#25daysoflove…..go love BIG!

p.s. after tomorrow….#25daysof love goes to Michigan….and my siblings are getting in on it! It’s going to be awesome!!!!

when Christmas sucked.

When all I could do was breathe. And breathing even hurt.

Last Christmas sucked. Just sucked. From the outside I am sure I gave the impression that everything was amazing. I had just returned home from Uganda with our newest son and we were one happy, send out Christmas cards to pretend we were, happy family. We lied. I lied. It was me. I lied to save myself. To save myself from all of you knowing that we were falling apart. And by we, I mean me. I was falling apart. I couldn’t breathe. It hurt too much. I cancelled Christmas. I literally cancelled going home for the holiday. I could not imagine being in a room full of people that wanted to love me. When I could not even stand the thought of a person hugging me much less wanting to talk to me. I could barely get dressed. I felt like if I brushed my hair and my teeth it was a productive day. People wanted to visit. It was torture. Torture to pretend that life inside our house wasn’t falling apart. Torture to pretend that I wasn’t broken. A broken mess of a mom not even trying to be a wife. I could not tolerate who I was or who I was pretending to be. It felt like my skin was crawling and I wanted to run away. But I was too afraid to even leave my own home. I became obsessed that something horrible was going to happen to me and my kids. And I thought that if I just removed myself from the equation that everyone would be better.

That is just the tip of the Christmas package of pain last year. Under many more months and layers of therapy we uncovered deep fears and anxiety that suffocated who I was for months.

So sweet one….I get it. I get that Christmas may be excruciating for you. That you just want to wake up and it all be gone. The expectations that others place on you or worse yet, those that you put on yourself will never be met. And it’s ok. It’s ok to be in pain. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to say out loud that it sucks. That is hurts. That you can’t find the joy. That it hurts to breathe.

Just know that you are not alone. I get it. And I am sure if we were all more honest and didn’t send out “everything is sunshine and my life looks like Pinterest” Christmas cards, we could all start to breathe. We could all start to heal. And give each other grace that where you are this Christmas is enough.

bat capes and siblings

Today at breakfast I went over again what today’s challenge was. To see a need….you meet a need. My nine year old asked….”what if I don’t see any?” My middle schooler explained that he sees them all the time while of course rolling her middle school eyes so well.

After school we asked the kids what needs they met. It ranged from picking up someone’s books that had fallen, to holding the door open for the teacher. While my sweet husband was found cleaning the basement with a certain bat cape on. You need to understand that he would rather go to the dentist than clean. He says he is allergic to cleaning, so for him to see that the basement needed some attention really was a blessing. While other family members met needs in other schools, grocery stores, and a care package delivery to another mama whose house was hit with the flu it has been a full day!

Today’s challenge was more about slowing down and listening. Listening and observing the needs around you every day. Some days I know it is overwhelming and the needs seem to outweigh any energy you have. But sometimes the need can be met by just being present. Just listening. Just giving a hug. Just loving someone where they are at. It’s about trying to live with intentionality every day.

Day19: I am kind of excited about this one ( because I know I need to do better at it). Love your sibling well. Whatever that looks like. An encouraging note, cleaning their room, buying them a coffee, calling them on the phone, not fighting with them all day, letting them watch Caliou again and again, paint their nails with your favorite polish. However you know that they need to be loved. Love them and love them BIG. If you don’t have a sibling….love someone who is like one to you. We all have people in our lives that stand in the gap and fill a need in us.

So here we go…..go love BIG!!!! #25daysoflove

p.s. I can hardly sleep tonight….because I know what the challenge is on Friday…..and its awesome!!!!

flowers,firefighters and gooey butter cake

I don’t even know where to begin. This afternoon as I was cleaning up vomit once again the doorbell rang. The sweet delivery girl had no idea that I would end up a crying mess as she handed me a bouquet of gorgeous Christmas flowers. She asked if I was ok. And all I could get out was….”yes, someone just loved me BIG” . Whoever you are…..thank you. My heart is just melting on a day when I could use some love.

The day ended amazing as well. We had baked up some peanut butter blossom cookies and ooey gooey butter cake to bring to a few local fire stations. We were ready to give out some goodies and hugs to those that serve our community so well. We were not prepared to be loved on so BIG there. They dressed the kids up in full gear. Took them on the trucks. Showed them around the station. And the best part…..took the kids on a ride around the block. Kennedy sat in front seat and the firefighter driving told her that he has worked there for 14 years and this is the first time they have ever done anything like this before for a family. I am just chalking  it up as a gift from Jesus tonight. I have not seen my Emme smile that big in a long time. And that in itself made me a melty mess all over again. This mama’s heart is beyond grateful. You not only made my kids the luckiest on the block. You dear firefighters let us feel loved BIG.

Day 18: tomorrows challenge…..see a need, meet a need. That’s it. If you see a need that needs to be met. Meet it.I promise you. You will be blessed more by loving others where they are at than those you love. #25daysoflove

day16: flowers and baristas

Today started out awesome. We were on time for school and even a little early. So we decided to bring flowers bright and early. Last night the kids decided who would be the recipients of the flower love. First was an amazing family who display such strength and faith throughout this very difficult year. The kids all agreed that if we could we would bring flowers to them every day. The second recipient was nominated by our littlest one. He may or may not have a little crush on the Starbucks barista. She woos him with free hot chocolate, so she most definitely deserves some yellow mums! And the third was our neighbor. She is more like a grandma to the kiddos. Since their grandmas are hundreds of miles away she has for years loved on the kids like they are her own. And we love her so much. So purple mums needed to be delivered to her today.

Tomorrow may be a little tricky. I am crossing my fingers that we can make it happen. At this moment I have one home from school puking. Apparently the stomach bug is going through the school like rapid fire. Which is awesome, seeing as none of us have anything to do this week before Christmas. I really do feel bad for my little one, this is her second time with this in the last two weeks. We are blaming her brother for passing it back to her. Those silly brothers. At this point I am asking my kids to take baths with use Purell and wash their hands constantly . We are on a leaving for Michigan countdown and no silly vomit is going to get in our way.

So anyways….tomorrows challenge.

Visit your local fire department and say thank you. Thank you for going out in this freezing cold weather and spraying water while getting soaking wet. Thank you for risking your life everyday you come to work. Thank you for being such an important part of our community. And we know from experience that if you say thank you with cards and cookies its very much appreciated.

So here is to a vomit free night and more love spread tomorrow!

#25daysoflove……keep spreading the love friends!