Family PIc April 2015

Family PIc April 2015

Monday, December 16, 2013

Peace On Earth?

This holiday season has been different for us than any other year.
Thanksgiving is routinely spent traveling to see extended family and returning home late at night exhausted and grumpy.
This year, due to John's impending birth, we stayed home. 
We decided to spend the day preparing a meal together (all the kids were involved), listening to our Thanksgiving CD: "A Time To Remember" that tells of the very first Thanksgiving (it's a tradition we listen to it in the van as we travel on Thanksgiving Day), and truly giving thanks.
Several of the kids were heard saying, "This is the BEST Thanksgiving EVER!"
Eva made a homemade coconut pie...
here, she's cleaning up from making the crust
Silas helped clean up the flour that Eva dropped :)
Kedesh helped Nathan stir the vanilla pudding 

 Several of the kids helped set the table
with our good china, crystal glasses, and utensils
 Isaiah wanted to prepare the jellied cranberry sauce (his favorite)...
but Eva had to make sure he made accurate cuts :)
 Then, he was released to try it himself...
under the watchful eye of his perfectionist sister
 Caleb prepared the macaroni, and loved on his little sister
Samuel helped with the fruit salad...
and later enjoyed his food with a thankful heart
 Everything set up buffet-style on the counter
 Eva cutting the bread
Elijah prepared the corn on the cob,
and was a super helper washing dishes along the way
 Nathan getting his plate...teenage boys eat a BUNCH
 Kedesh didn't get a tall, crystal tea glass...
but she got a dainty coffee cup instead :)
 Yes, Isaiah DID eat all that he put on his plate...
Sitting down together...cloth napkins in our laps...
special occasions make special memories
Of course, they missed playing with cousins and seeing other family members.  But, we all really liked just being able to be home and spending unrushed time together.
The day after Thanksgiving, we took down Thanksgiving decorations, cleaned the house, and put up ALL of our Christmas decorations.  The following day, we wrapped most of our Christmas gifts. 
I was determined to get "everything done", so we could really enjoy Christmas this year.  
Have I mentioned that I really despise the hustle and bustle of Christmas every year?  I always seem to get to January and realize that I am a cynical ball of nerves.  Uggghhh!  I wanted this year to be different...
The December calendar was virtually cleared...a newborn affords the perfect excuse to step away for a bit.  :)
And, then...just a few days later, John was born.
Gregg has been home...rainy days have forced us to stay inside more than usual.  Nathan keeps a cozy fire burning...
There seems to be PEACE ON EARTH. 
At least within the security of our home.
The truth is...outside our home, a war still wages. 
Bitterness seems to reign.
Fake smiles...
Words mumbled under our breath...
Gifts are given grudgingly and sometimes even selfishly...
Tension is high...
And Christ is little more than a name we mumble at the church's Christmas Eve service.
In many ways, it's the hardest time of the year.  It's the time of year when past hurts rear their ugly heads and threaten to choke the life out of you.  When you can't bear the thought of biting your tongue one more time...but you there will be PEACE ON EARTH.  
Normally, no matter how hard I try, Christmas depresses me more than it encourages me.  It's so hard to focus on Christ and all that He did for us...when our focus is on STUFF.
Meaningless, we-don't-need-this gift, we've got to get this person something, run-around to make this party, appease this person, STUFF.
Please don't misunderstand...I LOVE giving gifts. 
Gregg and I don't buy our children a lot of things during the year.  Christmas is the one time of the year we allow ourselves to splurge a little, and we LOVE giving them good gifts. 
The part I DON'T like is coming up with lists for grandparents and coming up with expensive gifts for extended family when they actually complain that you didn't get them something else.  Or they want to know, "What did you spend on this?  Was it the same as we spent on you?" 
Really??  I'm sorry.  I forgot, momentarily, that Christmas was about STUFF.
Gregg and I have actually been told that we "keep having more young'uns so we can get more Christmas gifts."  WOW!  We must be REALLY SHORTSIGHTED if that's the case.  Because no amount of battery-powered JUNK could make up for the work and responsibility it will take to nurture, train, and care for a human being for 18+ years. (Talk about a demeaning and hurtful misunderstanding!)
Ironically, we've even suggested that we not exchange gifts at all so others wouldn't be burdened with buying for such a large family...and we get that "deer in the headlights", "are you crazy?", "what would Christmas BE if we didn't exchange gifts?", "you're just being cheap" look...
Misunderstanding after depressing misunderstanding.
So...each year, I try to get past the muck and see PEACE ON EARTH.  
And, honestly, I don't do very well at it.  I hate that about me.
I'm quick to hold a grudge, quick to get my feelings hurt, quick to replay a conversation over in my head and hear all the insinuations there...
I'm quick to wish extended family would be different, quick to miss what I think life should be like, quick to see the negative...
And slow to see the good.
This year, the timing of John's birth has, no doubt, been from the hand of God.  This little guy has forced me to slow cherish what's more sense the peace I so often let slip away.
In his birth blog, I mentioned listening to a Casting Crowns Christmas CD.  It has become my favorite arrangement of songs this year.  The first song on the CD is the one I heard while preparing to give birth to John.
"I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day"
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men
Music has such power to stir emotion, elicit thought, and to impart a new perspective.
This song has become my anthem this Christmas season.  The following video is Casting Crowns' lead singer, Mark Hall, sharing the story behind the song - which makes it even more meaningful for me.
The writer of this song found himself in the middle of a trying time in history - the Civil War.  When the Christmas bells were ringing with the sound of Peace On Earth, it didn't FEEL like there was peace on Earth.  The writer contemplates this and ultimately comes to the conclusion that, with Christ in our hearts, there is Peace on Earth - where He is. 
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men"
This Christmas, when it doesn't FEEL like a celebration...when it doesn't FEEL like there is PEACE...when family relations are strained...and meaningless STUFF abounds...
I will hear the bells on Christmas Day.  I will hear them ringing that "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep."
I will do my best to spend time with the Savior and not to simply go through the motions for another year...
I will do my best to put away my fake smile and put on a real smile - because I will hear the bells on Christmas Day...
And I will know that there is

 Be sure to listen to the end, past the song.  Mark sums it up well.

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