The kids at Redeemer had their Christmas program tonight. (Simon had practiced with the choir, but he has been sick the past couple of days and had to miss the performance tonight.) They did great, with plenty of sweet antics to make the parents and grandparents chuckle. Our little friend Josh recited the whole Christmas story. It was kind of a rap, and it was awesome.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11
My dad came tonight to take Simon to a “west-a-waunt” for dinner. He called just before he left his office and told Simon he’d be here in about an hour. Not five minutes after we hung up the phone, Simon bolted down the stairs because he thought he heard Papa outside. I explained that an hour would take a little longer than that but that if we played it would go quickly and Papa would be here before we knew it. Still, ten minutes later, Simon was at the front door eagerly looking for Papa’s car, and he was unmoved for a good twenty minutes, sure Papa was coming very soon. He passed the time by pretending to talk on the phone and by remarking on every truck that passed, including a mail truck, a delivery truck, and several pickup trucks; the cars must have passed without comment. After I managed to snap a few pictures, he was distracted enough to come away from the door for a time, but he returned frequently to check.
On most days, I would not have given the scene much thought beyond being charmed by Simon’s three-year-old grasp on the length of an hour (although his daddy also has a terrible sense of time, so perhaps that’s more an inherited trait than a childhood thing) and his unrestrained excitement to see his papa. But today we learned that Jason’s Aunt Eileen passed away after a painful battle with cancer, and so my thoughts were a bit more solemn, perhaps a little more contemplative—tending a little less toward the daily grind and a little more toward eternity.
In Simon’s waiting for his papa, I caught a glimpse of what I’d like my perspective to be as I think about eternity and waiting to meet Jesus face to face. Simon was persistent and hopeful. Even when he was temporarily disappointed, he didn’t lose sight of who he was waiting for. He was also busy. Fully engaged. Quiet and rambunctious in turn. Asking “When?” again and again, not out of petulance, but anticipation. He knew that Papa promised to come and yet was still surprised and utterly delighted when he finally arrived.
Jason and I have had a few conversations this season about how to explain Christmas and all its meaning and traditions to our kids. Our first priority is to focus our celebrations on Christ and the Incarnation, and that’s not really the hard part. Admittedly, it is sometimes difficult to keep our focus on Christ and we don’t do it perfectly all the time (and that’s really no different in this season than in any other time of the year), but my point is that we don’t wonder how or what to tell our kids about what we believe about Jesus’ birth and the reason we celebrate Advent.
What we do wonder about is what, if anything, to do about Santa Claus. It hadn’t even occurred to me that we would eventually have to make a decision about this until a friend posed a query on Facebook just asking for input about how other people handle it (hers is a non-Santa home, and her question was whether or not to teach her kids to not “spoil it” for those who do the whole Santa thing). I enjoyed the whole discussion, as I love hearing other people’s traditions (and I especially loved the comment “I tell my kids that if you rearrange the letters in Santa you can spell Satan. That should tell you all you need to know”).
Jason found an article that pretty much sums up what we both think. (Short version if you don’t want to read the article: redeem the idea of Santa by teaching your kids about the real person Saint Nicholas.) And Simon (true story) got a hold of my iPhone and completely on his own found the Veggie Tales Saint Nicholas movie streaming on Netflix, so now he watches that at least daily (on the tv, not the iPhone).
I don’t imagine this will ever be a big deal for us: I don’t think either one of us ever believed in the North Pole Santa and all that, and we really have no intention of playing it up for our kids in any way. I suppose we might have to talk in a couple of years about how to approach the pervasiveness of Santa in the culture and the whole question of what to say (or not to say?) to other kids who might believe.
In any case, it’s certainly looking like we have a pass this year. When we’re shopping, say at Target, Simon points out trees and decorations as “Christmas.” Out of curiosity, I grabbed a figurine of Santa and asked Simon who it was, and he said, “I not know.” Another time a guy walked past us in a parking lot and asked Simon if he was “ready for Santa,” and, of course, Simon just kind of looked at him blankly. I simply said, “I don’t think he knows who Santa is yet.”
I did realize, though, as I checked at seven (yes, seven) stores before finally settling (and I do mean settling) on a Christmas stocking for Ian, that I’m not ready to do away with Saint Nick altogether. After all, I really did want that silly stocking! Still, when our ever-literal two-year-old put on one of the stockings last night and I tried to explain to him that they’re not that kind of stockings, I really couldn’t bring myself to say “Santa puts gifts in the stockings.” I just said, “On Christmas morning, you’ll find gifts in there.” I think our take on that will be that the gifts come from us and that the tradition of hanging stockings comes from the story of Saint Nicholas.
And lest you think that Simon trying on the Christmas stockings was a purely sweet and innocent moment, here are a couple of pictures that tell the rest of the story (he could not abide the fact that they didn’t fit right). Just keeping it real here.
Reading this daily with Simon, It is excellent, and, best of all, it is making me want to read more of this.
Drinking some tasty coffee from Trader Joe’s. I’m thrilled that Omaha will be getting a TJs later this year.
Watching a lot of Toy Story lately. I think “Buzz” is Simon’s cutest word yet. He also tries to say “To infinity and beyond!” (that’s what he’s trying to say in this video)—almost all of it is unintelligible but undeniably cute.
Eating two vegetarian meals a week. Tonight we have tofu with tikka masala sauce on the menu. And I think I’ll garnish it with a little cilantro since my cilantro is actually growing!
Going to see Babies with some friends tonight. And still thinking about an article I read the other day about the morality of babies. Babies on the brain, I guess.
Sleeping really well at night, thanks to an exceptionally precious four-month-old who is a champ sleeper and some really cool spring nights that have caused us to turn the heat back on.
Sighing. Looks like naptime is over, and that means so is blogging for now.
Emmanuel. God with us. Whether it’s the first time you’ve heard the story or the thousandth, may the reason we celebrate inspire both wonder and belief. A very merry Christmas to all.
Silent night, holy night.
Today was Zion’s first Sunday in our new facility. It was good—bittersweet and fitting and strange at the same time. And, well, it was new but with the sense that what is now new will soon enough be familiar. I have to admit that I had moments of feeling a bit frumpy about some of the silly little details—for example, the Trinity Hymnals are blue, not red. (Okay, I’m already over it.) My much stronger feeling, though, is that we are deeply blessed and I am comforted by the reality that Zion is still Zion,
The sign out front said it well: We are thankful.
Responsive Reading of Dedication
Leader: Peace be unto this house and to all who worship here.
Congregation: Peace be to those who enter and to those who go out.
Leader: Peace be to those who love it and who love the Lord Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Congregation: Peace be to those who love Jesus.
Leader: Brothers and sisters in Christ, it has pleased the Almighty God to put us in this house for worship. Let us now fulfill the godly purpose for which we gather, to worship an dedicate ourselves and this house to the honor of God’s most holy name. God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Father who art in heaven…
Congregation: To You we dedicate ourselves and this house.
Leader: Lord Jesus, Son of God, Savior of sinners, Head of the Body which is Your Church…
Congregation: To You we dedicate ourselves and this house.
Leader: Spirit of God, given to be our abiding teacher, guide, and comforter; Lord and Giver of life…
Congregation: To You we dedicate ourselves and this house.
About a week ago, I got the best kind of mail: a package, a complete surprise, an incredibly thoughtful gift (one of those “we saw this and thought of you” ones) from dear, faraway friends. It is a book by Nikki McClure—an artist I had actually heard of and many times drooled over. She does amazing papercuts, and her work is described as “strong images of everyday life, each with a powerful verb that inspires to action.” And though I could go on and on and on and on about so many of the stunning pieces in the book, there is one in particular that I just can’t get out of my head these days. It’s titled Surrender.
I admit when I first saw the baby in its mother’s arms linked with the word “surrender,” I just kind of thought, “Huh. I don’t really get it.” But over the next few days, my mind kept drifting back to that image, that word, and I started making some connections. Now that I think about it, as we continue to prepare for parenthood (is that even possible?), I find countless opportunities for surrender.
Perhaps most obviously, having this child has, does, and will continue to require surrender to God in ways that I had not previously experienced and, frankly, did not imagine. As much as I thought I wanted to be (and, let’s be honest, still do), I was not—am not—in control of anything about this child. I could not even control when—or even if—I was to get pregnant, much less the baby’s health, gender, height, personality, etc., etc., etc., and not to mention the countless, countless things I will no doubt worry about as he or she grows in the womb and in the world. I am day by day gaining a new appreciation for what it means when we say this child does not belong to us (and yet has been given to us to love and nurture and care for). And suddenly the idea of surrender in the sense of yielding to the power, authority, control, and possession of another (God) seems not just inevitable but deeply appealing and life- and freedom-giving.
Surrender comes in other ways too. It had not really sunk in what women meant when they said their bodies were not their own while they were pregnant and breastfeeding. In some ways I have to admit that it has been harder than I thought to share with the wee one. Surrender in the sense of assenting to the loss of control over and even possession of my body has been somewhat disorienting. For an obvious example, most of my life I have focused on trying to lose weight—trying not to worry about gaining weight, knowing, in fact, that I have to gain weight is an adjustment to say the least. I find it hard to remember sometimes that I have to make all kinds of changes (some big, some small). Another example: Baby has made it very clear that I need to not let myself get hungry (when Baby needs to eat, Baby needs to eat NOW !), but even when day after day I throw up for not eating quickly enough, I still find myself reverting to my “old” eating schedule—and usually paying for it. So there’s that kind of surrender too.
And I won’t even pretend to delve into all the ways we will surely learn about surrender once the baby arrives.
The thing that strikes me—perhaps for the first time—as I reflect on surrender, and especially specifically thinking about surrender as it relates to this child, is that I will need to give myself over, that I will need to relinquish control, yield power, devote myself without restraint for the sake of another, but (and here’s the new-to-me part), I actually do not need to surrender forcibly or shamefully; I can surrender willingly and joyfully, even eagerly. What an incredible opportunity to follow the example of Christ, who “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” He surrendered.
My name is Renae, and The Grand is where I keep thoughts, observations, and photos from my life.