Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Simply Christmas

Christmas Growing Up  

Growing up, my family always spent Christmas with other families; aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins cousins, etc.  Usually extended family of our extended family. On Christmas eve, the adults would indulge in their adult drinks, while the kids ran around and played. Dinner was not at a set time rather food was out for anyone to have at any time.  Then, at about 11:30 PM, all the parents would gather the kids and force them to bed, or else Santa would not stop at midnight if he saw any children awake.  We would all go to bed, and maybe some of the younger kids would fall asleep, but I remember plenty of times just pretending to be asleep until midnight.  There always seemed to be so many kids, and sometimes we were forced to share a twin bed with three to four kids.  Then the house would be silent, or as silent as our parents could be. We heard footsteps, and running around (very quietly) as things were shuffled around and whispering and giggling. Then, at midnight, the doors to our room would be swung open as our parents would yell out, "It's midnight! Santa made a stop!"  Then all the kids would jump out of bed, pushing and shoving to get out the door and into the living room. Once in the living room, we would all admire the Christmas tree with all the gifts around.  I remember being excited as we all took turns opening our gifts.  After that, we were sent to bed again so that the adults could continue their partying.  The next morning, Christmas day, was just as exciting for me because I got to play with my new gifts.

Christmas was one big party and a reason for the adults in my family to get together and drink, and to over-indulge in excessive and expensive gifts, aiming to please or impress the family member.  Sadly, I grew up this way.  And up to a couple of years ago, my husband and I were bringing up our kids the same way...well, almost.  The drinking (though I do not drink anymore), the excessive gifts, the focus was all on us and catching up with the Jones'.

My Christmas Lesson 

In 2009, I met my Christian mentor, Lupe.  She invited my family and I to her home for Christmas Eve dinner.  That Christmas changed our traditions.  After a delicious dinner, we spent time knowing our families, played games, exchanged gifts, and then, and then... we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, with cake and all!  How could I have missed this all my life? Never did I even say, "Thank You, dear God, for sending us the greatest gift of all!  For sending Your Son to become man for our sake.  Thank You Jesus, for allowing Yourself to be lowered and become man." 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!"  My gradual understanding of this powerful and inconceivable birth develops into something bigger each year. I humbly understand the magnitude of the birth of Christ, some 2013 years ago, how devine, how majestic, how important to our humanity.  I don't know of anyone who would send their child to be born in a barn, on hay, surrounded by animals.  The King of kings was born as the least of us.  I am finally understanding, that He alone, the Great I AM was born for yours and my eternal life.  Can you understand the urgency in my writing?  The importance of this event?

Christmas Now

With sacrifice, we gift our children gifts, but no longer those unecessary, excessive, expensive, extraordinary gifts that everyone thinks we should give. Instead, I look at their needs and gift appropriately, and even if the gift is expensive, I know that it is something they need.  For example, last year my daughter started high school and she hinted how an iPad would work great for note taking, assignments, communicating with teachers, etc.  And so, we got her an iPad last Christmas, which helped her keep orginized more than what I expected.  She uses it a great deal, and she even downloads some of her heavy textbooks from school.  Although it was an expensive gift, it is all she received last year, and she really uses it to its full capacity.  If it were any other year, she would have recieved that plus clothes, plus shoes, plus giftcards, plus, plus, plus...even if it put us back on our bills.  It is not necessary.  We buy our kids clothes throughout the year as they needs it, and their closets are not full of name brand or expensive clothes either.  We almost always did the same for relatives and friends.  I am not saying that gifting is bad, I am just saying that making a gift that is truly personal is what makes it special.  For years, we had been giving our bosses expensive gifts...not necessary.  I learned that if anything, they can afford most of the things we would get them, so we have opted to give them more personal gifts that suited them.  A recent year, we gave my husbands boss, who loves fashion accessories, a beautiful silk scarf, and I think she loved it more than any other gift we had been giving her over the years (heavy-white robe, expensive wall art, silly, silly, stuff).  You see, there should be purpose and sacrifice with every gift.  Another example would be to give a gift because it is on sale, or cheap, but the person has no use for it.  That would not be a very good gift either, not because it was inexpensive, but rather because it was thoughtless.  The purpose should not be to show everyone what a great gift-giver you are, or to show people how much money you are willing to spend on them, or giving because you are obligated, but rather the person is in your heart and your desire to show them that they are loved and thought of.  It should be personal, with the sacrifice of time in searching for it and the monitary sacrifice no matter the price tag.

Honoring God

And though Christmas is NOT about gift giving, HE is so worthy of a celebration that honors His birth on earth.  He is so worthy of us honoring Him by the sacrifice we make in our gift giving, and only when we make sure it will bring honor to His name. What a wonderful gift we have recieved in Him, and if we choose to pass the gift giving tradition in His honor, I believe it is the right thought to Christmas.  Because there is nothing in this world that we can do to show God how wonderful and holy He is, and there is nothing that He needs from us (Yup...He doesn't need our praises, prayers or anything we do for Him because He is self sufficient), but He sees the intentions of our hearts, and the reasons for gifting.  Loving a person is not suffiecient reason to give, but loving Him, the Creator, the Wonderful Counselor, is reason enough for the season.

And so, I would love to wish you all a Merry Christmas, full of Jesus, and a Happy New Year full of His blessings.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Celebrate Or Not

Here we are again, the end of October and the question to celebrate Halloween for Christians is always a big one.

When we first became Christians, I was not sure of what "the rule" was on celebrating Halloween (yeah people, I was a newbie).  I tried cutting us off from this celebration cold turkey, but when I did not have the answers when my children asked why, I felt a little silly and frankly I did not understand it well enough myself. So I modified my decorations and my selection of costumes. I threw out all the evil looking decorations and I replaced them with fall decorations that remain on my mantel until the Christmas decorations come out.  Then, I decided that if we dressed up as Dorothy and Scarecrow (from the Wizard of Oz), that would deter from the evil of Halloween.  It was not until recent years that I have really sat down and thought things through.  The following is what I came up with.

1. The origins of Halloween; do you know it?  (Please read up on this issue, I am going to be very brief).  In short, and I am paraphrasing from several sources, the Celtics, for as long as 2000 years ago, at the end of summer and at the end of the harvest season, the pagans would disguise themselves as evil spirits so that the head-honcho evil spirit would not take them.  Then in about 731 AD, the Catholic church came up with a day to honor saints, to sort of make up, or contradict the pagan holiday.  This was the first time the celebration was not to honor evil spirits, but to honor the dead, saints and martyrs through a church sanctioned "Halloween."  Through the centuries, this holiday has lost much of its power and grip from honoring evil spirits, which the Celtic pagans did, to the commercialized celebration it is today in the American culture.  Many people today, do not realize what a strong, powerful, and sacrificial this pagan holiday use to be centuries ago.  They do it all in fun and games.  Now, let's ponder the following.

2. Why would Christians not celebrate after knowing that it is not the intent today?  The simplest reason I will give to this question is this, but please read to the end.  We live in America, where we are free to choose to live our lives as we please.  Why must Christians who do not believe in celebrating Halloween be questioned, but yet people who choose not to celebrate Christmas are not?  After all, Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior is more than enough reason for anyone to celebrate, it is written, and yet there are people who choose not to.  There is nothing in Scripture that states Halloween  is a holiday.  Why is it that people can display evil and scary cemeteries on their front lawn and public places, but we are questioned when we want to display a Nativity scene?  As much right as anyone has to celebrate anything, it is part of the Christians right to celebrate, or not, when it comes to Halloween, or anything else for that matter.

3.  We Are Free.  Now that you have an idea of the origin of Halloween, and even the celebrations afterwards of the Roman Catholic Church, its pagan and sacrificial roots, we have the knowledge and should have the power to reject it, if we choose to.  On the other hand, we have to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ came to free us from everything, including a past with a history.  If a Christian decides to participate (not even celebrate, because, come on... Halloween a holiday, really?  Why don't we have it as a paid holiday?) in these events, we do so because the blood of Jesus Christ covers us, and it promises that we are free from fear, sadness, disease, attachment to the past...we are free to proclaim His greatness, His word, His gospel!  He knows our hearts.  He sees who is first and foremost in our lives.  And if you place Him first and foremost in your life, the Holy Spirit will convict you of making the wrong decision.  This time of year is no different from any other day for Christians.  It is no different if a Christian went to a gathering (not Halloween) got drunk, and acted ungodly on any other day.  Whether you have a costume on or not, your conduct should always reflect what your life is all about.  The Lord does not care what you wear on the outside, but it is your heart He is after.  Guide your thoughts and actions, for it is a reflection of your relationship with the Lord.

So, whether you are a Christian who participates in the fun just for the fun of it, or if you are a Christian who does not participate in any of it, do it in a manner that honors the Lord. We neither criticize nor we indulge in ungodly behavior.  We thank the Lord for making all things new, through Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 10, 2013

To Leave or Not to Leave...That is the Players Question

     During our 2013 baseball season, there was a coach who abandoned his team after a couple of
disagreements with the parents.  Granted, no one will ever know the exact reason why this fall out happened, but what is clear, is that the head coach walked out on his team  before the season ended.

     Taking up a coaching position is a very strong commitment that should be thought out thoroughly before taking it.  The older the players, the more competitive, the more problems.  While the thought of bringing a team to the City Championship games can bring excitement and glory, the coaches must know that this comes with a lot of hard work, dedication, and many times, very stressful situations.  Feelings WILL get hurt, and even friendships ruined or lost if the wrong approach is taken.  The coaches not only coach their players, but must constantly be training the parents as to what to expect out of the coaches and the team.  But to abandon a team before the season is over only means one thing: the coach was blindsided by his own pride.

"What About When a Player Leaves a Team?"
     Should we hold the players to the same standards?  Unfortunately, or fortunately, the players may have a little more leeway.  The player, in most cases, does not have the final say...the parents do.  If the parent is pulling the player away because things do not go their way, or because they are not playing the position they want or they are riding the bench too much, then there are other questions to be asked.  What kind of things are not going their way?  Why is the player not playing the position they want? Is someone else better at that position? Is the player more valuable somewhere else?  Why is the player riding the bench?  Do they need more work?  If these questions have to do with the player having room for improvement should the parent pull the player from the team?  Or should they see their commitment
through, and then consider extra training or practices, a different team, or even a different sport for the following season?  And, what if any of the reasons above were personal, for example, if the coach plays everyone on the team because they are relatives and does not play the "non-relative," then is this an excusable reason to pull the player out?  Many people argue that pulling a player out, regardless of the reason, only teaches the player to give up when the tough gets going.  But in real life, as adults, we quit things that do not work for us all the time.  We quit a job that we are miserable in, we quit relationships that hurt us, we quit hobbies when they become boring.  It is perfectly acceptable to quit things that are making us unhappy or do not meet our expectations.  The parent should also have the right to pull his son or daughter from a team when they feel it is in the child's best interest.  The parents are the best judge of that, regardless of the reason, situation, or circumstance.  The player, unlike the coach who walks out on a team, is a child who is developing and learning social skills.  As a parent, we must make sure that the environments our children are in are beneficial to our children that will teach and not tear down.  Something that only the parent knows where the child is at, maturity wise, and should act accordingly.  Tough call?  You betcha!
"To Coach, or Not to Coach?"
     Going back to the coaches.  Does anyone have an idea as to how much coaches earn these days?  I do.  They earn about $0 a year.  And in return, they invest their time, knowledge, sweat, money, and heart into the community, by holding practices, fundraisers, and competing in league games and tournaments.  They deal with parents who are aggressive, submissive, those who are never there for their own children, or those who are all up in the coaches business all the time.  They handle situations with parents who are addicted to work or addicted to alcohol.  They deal with parents who are educated and those who lack a little tact.  They have to know how to cool people down, and when to speak up for their team.  The coaching staff not only holds the position of coaching, but also managing, complaints department, customer service, training, bookkeeping, message service, and information centers.  They are the heroes in wins, and the zeros in losses.  Coaches from all levels deserve more praise and acknowledgement because they are the ones that step up to the plate and spend their time with yours and my children when we are sitting comfortably on our lawn chairs, in the shade, criticizing every move they make.  But let's face it,  we would not do it even if we got paid.  How do I know that?  Because we would be coaching already.  To coach is an act of giving of one act of love.

     To all of my children's coaches out there, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  This includes my husband who not only coaches, but then deals with me afterwards.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer 2013!

Well, here we are again.  Made it through another school year.  Our school year was as normal, and
uneventful as ....wait (record scratching), hold everything!  We did have one significant event that brought our family closer together.  This past year, we discovered that my daughter, Summer, now 14 years old, has a cyst in the right temporal lobe of her brain, which is causing seizures.  These seizures cannot be controlled with medication and so we will soon be heading to Fort Worth, Texas for surgery.  And though I will post updates on her health, I will try to stay within the same subjects as last summer.  If you are interested in following her story follow this link:  I will also make every effort to remain well and sane in order to be able to create adventures as we go through this journey together.  I will pick up on our summer list of things to do from last year and I will continue to post them as summer vacation goes into full force.

I had a reality check when I was going over our Summer Things To Do List, and I mentioned free Tuesday Movies with excitement in my voice.  At which point, my 13 year old son, Nathan, said, "Mom, those are little kid movies," and I froze with an aching heart.  He was right.  They have grown in one year and are no longer interested in some of the things we did last year...granted, last year they did fuzz a little about it, but I still managed to get those silly things done.  I have a feeling that this year will be harder and I just need to find things more age appropriate.  Piece of cake, right? Right.

By the way, meet the newest member of our family, Max.  He is a 3 1/2 year old Basset mix (left), being hugged by his new sister, Zoey (lab mix), who will turn 2 this summer.  We will attempt another trip to the dam to see how well Max likes the water.

An update on the DIY: The hutch that I refinished with the stain... it is still beautiful and the shine is still strong in spite that I did not sand it.  The doors became a little dull, but that is because the doors are made of faux wood and did not take up all the goodness of the stain.  But it is still a huge improvement over what it was before I stained it.


The picture on the left was taken a year ago, as the project was completed.  The picture to the right was taken today.  Notice how there is still a shine above the dishes on the top shelf?

Until my next post, my friends.