It’s a Christmas Miracle!

photo 1

You may not think that lip balm is the stuff of miracle, but you would be wrong. I was getting ready to make my weekly trek to the farm where I buy raw milk and free range eggs, Beulah Land Jerseys.  I had used the last of my lip balm that morning and couldn’t scrape any more out of the container.  It is a special kind that protects me from the painful cracking that I had been prone to.  I don’t like any of the products that are sold at our grocery store, but I hadn’t been able to make a special order online.

“How am I going to get some lip balm today?”  I wondered to myself as I walked out the door, already feeling like my lips were getting dry!

I got to the farm and there was a display set up that was never there before.  Raw honey and homemade lip balm!  I was ready to write a check for the milk, eggs, and lip balm when I realized that all my checks had run out and I had forgotten to get new ones.  Yet I found enough cash and coins to pay my bill exactly…and I almost NEVER carry cash.

A Christmas MIRACLE I tell you!!!

041

It is my tradition to shop at Community Aid before Christmas.  I go on their half off day.  This year I found this simple yet beautiful angel, other lovely decorations, a box of books for the children, four bags of stocking suffers, clothes for my baby girl, a purse and hat for me, plus a few other gifts.

ALL FOR LESS THAN $60! Another Christmas miracle!

december 2015 005

Trying to make Christmas special for nine children is a challenge, especially when money is tight.  The grandparents who live in Colorado decided to send us money to buy presents, rather than sending them all through the mail.  Chris and I received the great joy of shopping for brand new toys and gifts for our children.  I joked with Chris that we should save a little money to buy tickets to the new Star Wars movie, a Christmas gift to each other.  We had so much fun shopping for the children that there was no money left.

A day later Chai came to me after school, very excited about something.  It turns out that a local church wanted to bless some families in the area.  Someone at Chai’s school had nominated our family.

“We got five $20 gift cards to Wal-Mart, Mom!” Chai told me.

I was considering what we needed the most and then I had an epiphany.  Wal-Mart sells gift card to other places!  So Chris and I went to Wal-Mart and bought a few little things for the house and…

A DATE NIGHT that is completely paid for.  I am so excited to go eat a dinner that I don’t have to prepare or clean up, a leisurely dinner with no interruptions.  I am beyond excited to see a movie in the theater, which happens less than once a year.  The joyful anticipation of going out with my husband is such a gift.

A lovely Christmas miracle!

These are seemingly small things, but they remind me of how much God loves me.  He cares about the little things and plans the working of the universe in advance to put these lovely circumstances into place.

Of course the real Christmas miracle is something that none of us can completely understand.  That the Son of God, who had all power and all authority, limited himself to become one of the most vulnerable and powerless creatures on earth – a newborn human.  He allowed himself to become totally dependent on his mother for the development and nourishment of every cell in his body. He placed his most precious life into the hands of his adopted father.  He trusted him to protect and listen and guide. He put himself at the mercy of imperfect parents to provide all the love his ancient yet somehow brand-new heart craved.

I find my heart crying out, “Jesus, I am in awe of you!  You are the miracle that I will never tire of, never get over, and never reach the end of!”

Merry Christmas to you all, and may you all feel the wonder of this miraculous season!

 

The Gifts of Christmas are made of the Little Things

006

1. My mom brought some crafts over for the children.  The colors of the tissue paper were just so pretty, I had to sit down and make a star myself.  I love to create all kinds of arts and crafts, but I have so little time for that these days.  I gained the joy of being crafty and a brilliant sun-catcher at the same time.

0022. Chris had gotten me some socks at Costco which turned out to be the most wonderful socks I have ever owned!  Chris bought me more colors of the same kind, just because he loves me.  An added bonus is that they actually match my clothes.  I love to match!

 

023

3. Our church receives donations of food quite often.  Sometimes we check to see what is available.  We found bottles and bottle of kombucha.  I just love kombucha, but I rarely buy it at the store because it is so expensive.  Maybe no one else took it because they don’t know how wonderful it is or what it is.  Are you in that boat?  Click here to learn more about it.

024

4. I took some greens from our tree, winter berries from my mom’s yard, and this burlap star she found, and I got a rustic wreath.

040

5. I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail.  I love to see the pictures and think about the person who sent it.

december 2015 002

6. My mom found these magnetic picture frames.  Now I can see my friends and remember to pray for them all year long without  the mess of little magnets that keep falling off the fridge and the smudges of little hands.

047

7. Because I picked Ireland to learn about this Christmas, I have a whole new country full of recipes to discover!

december 2015 0078. Little boys who are eager to go Christmas shopping for their family make very diligent workers around the house.  Our house gets so clean around Christmas time with the incentive of earning dollars.  I love a clean house and I love to see my children considering how to purchase gifts that will bless others.

photo 2

9. I asked my daughter to find some Christmas music to play and she found Michael Buble’s entire Christmas album on YouTube.  I received the gift of wonderful music filling the kitchen thanks to my daughter, my phone, a purple cable, and our stereo.

12309906_926914934010545_7703797407530596160_o

10. My mom discovered my little, wooden rocking chair and brought it over.  I received the joy of seeing my two youngest sitting in the chair that I used to sit in when I was their age.

photo 2

11. So many of these gifts originated from my mom.  (Thank you, Mom!)She is a wonderful gift and being at the women’s breakfast at church with her this Christmas was icing on the cake.

12391021_1264313516927831_5991653773648274750_n

12. Caroling with friends and their children around the neighborhood and signing about the joy of Jesus!

13. My children keep reminding me that Christmas is not about the presents but THE PRESENCE.  How thankful I am for the wonderful children’s ministry at our church and the fact that my children listen, remember, and take it to heart.  How thankful I am for God with us, Emmanuel!  I love his presence and in his presence is fullness of joy!  I am realizing that at any moment I can enter into his presence and feel that joy and begin to see all the gifts that are always around me.

 

 

Christmas and the Seasons of My Life

november-december 249

I love the Christmas season.  I am sorry to see it end so quickly.  As I enjoyed the sights and sounds and smells of this glorious time, I remembered all of the Christmases that I have known.

As a child, the magic of Christmas emerged from the basement and took residence in our home once again, as we hung our stockings, trimmed our tree and set up the manger scene.  I would study the solemn cast of characters in the small wooden stable all covered with moss.  I would lie under our artificial tree, looking up through the branches at the multicolored lights and soak in the wonder of it all.  We would attend our Quaker Meeting’s yearly tradition; a potluck dinner (with an entire room full of desserts) followed by a carol sing and candlelight service.

november-december 585

I would sit on a bench in that meeting room surrounded by the scent of evergreen branches and the flickering, golden light.  I would listen to the members of the congregation read the Christmas story from the Bible.  The words sounded so beautiful and sacred to me.

I remember the Christmases of my teenage years.  I had a small group of friends who were all very talented singers.  I could sing a melody clear and true.  My friends could harmonize any song in the most beautiful way.  We began a tradition of gathering at my house and then venturing out into the cold to sing carols to my neighbors.  The most beautiful music I have ever heard was made by our voices lifted into the frosty night air.  I felt so blessed to be a part of that wonderful sound of praise.  I have not been able to make such beautiful melodies matched with such lovely harmonies since that season, and I miss it, especially at Christmas.  I console myself with the thought that someday heaven will be filled with music like that all the time!

I think back to our very first Christmas as a married couple.  We were excited to have some family and friends over to our very first place for Christmas dinner.  It was only a tiny apartment with no real furniture, but it was ours.  We got a little tree and decorated it with the set of tiny, wooden ornaments that my grandmother had given us…our only ornaments!

christmas thingys 001

Those precious little things have since gone into hiding, being choking hazards and not suitable for a house perpetually inhabited by at least one baby and one toddler.  But that Christmas, there were no babies yet.  I wanted to make some dessert for our dinner, yet I hadn’t planned ahead.  I had only flour, sugar, and some Hershey Kisses.  I made a trip to the closest gas station (the only place open on Christmas morning) and made some short bread.  That evening, everyone piled into our small kitchen to eat around card tables, and it seemed a very joyous occasion.

I remember Christmases with little ones.  It was hard to keep the ornaments on the tree, and the wrapping paper was much more appreciated than the gifts themselves.  I remember the 7 Christmases that I was pregnant.  I wasn’t feeling very good during most of those, and didn’t care if we even put up a tree.  But I still enjoyed the joy and excitement in those little faces.

One of our children was conceived over the Christmas holiday.  What a precious gift!  The baby was a boy, and all our boys have names that begin with the letter “C.”  Chris and I joked that we should name him, Colorado Christmas Conception.  We decided to go with Chai Erik instead!

This year was a lovely Christmas.  I was pregnant but feeling very good!

november-december 148

 

We had our 8th annual Christmas party with a house full of friends and caroling around the neighbor hood.

Chai demonstrating the joy of caroling!

Chai demonstrating the joy of caroling!

We attended the candlelight service at our church and felt that holiness again.  On Christmas morning our house was full of two parents, one grandmother, teenagers, preteens, children, and a toddler.

november-december 441

november-december 353

We had a little of everything from toys to video games,

november-december 502

november-december 573

from big helpers to little messer-uppers.

november-december 451

  A glorious chaos of noise and joy,

november-december 385

frustration and love!

november-december 401

I wanted to soak in every detail of the present Christmas, as I knew it would never come around again.

november-december 389

The teenagers will be thinking about college.  The preteens will become teens.  The younger ones will grow into more mature ones.

november-december 485

We will get older and wiser and never be quite the same people we are right now.  Only God knows what each new Christmas will bring.  My vision of Christmas future is a huge dining room table surrounded by my children, their spouses, and their children; my grandchildren!  There could end up being quite a lot of them…perhaps 10, 20, 30, or more!

Looking back over all the Christmas seasons of my life there is a common thread.  Always there is Jesus, lying in the manger; whether he is small or large,

christmas thingys 020

made from wood or ceramic,

christmas thingys 029

set up high on a self or cradled in the arms of a child.

christmas thingys 038

Jesus is always there.  Yet the baby Jesus is just a symbol…a symbol of God’s amazing, crazy, unfathomable love!

christmas thingys 017

Jesus is a baby so longer.  He grew and became a man.  He pleased his Father in every way.  He was obedient in everything, even obedient to die on a cross.  He was revealed as the Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world.  He decided to die for us before any of us were even here.  He set us free to enjoy all the wonderment and joy that the human heart can possess!

Yet looking back, I also see him as a Lion.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, always at my side, whether I knew He was there or not.  A strong and ferocious kind of God; violent in dealing with my enemies and fears and doubts, unrelenting in His jealousy for me, bold and courageous in the ways He loves me, yet soft and gentle when He draws me near.  That Lion was always with me; during the innocent years of childlike faith when I would talk to Him every night before falling asleep.  During the cynical early teenage years when I sat in that candlelight service and thought how foolish someone must be to believe that a baby born in Bethlehem was actually God.  During my last years in High School, discovering the wonder of a real God who loved me just as I was.  During my young married years when I didn’t know very much about anything.  During all of the pregnancies and births and babies and toddlers and growing and learning and sorrows and joys.  Jesus was there!

The Great I AM limited Himself to the smallness and helplessness of a baby just so He could always and forever BE WITH US!  May we never get over the miracle of Christmas; that the Lion and the Lamb, the Almighty God IS WITH US!  And we can spend eternity exploring the height and depth and breadth of His great love for us.

Merry Christmas!!!

The Very Poopy Christmas of 2008

I  hope this story isn’t too personal or gross to qualify as a heartwarming Christmas tale, but this was all I had within me during the very poopy Christmas of 2008.

We had a beautiful Blue Spruce standing in our living room.  The Christmas decorations had been brought up from the basement.  The soothing voice of Bing Crosby was coming through the stereo.  Ah, this is just like the Christmases from my sweet childhood memories.  Well…not quite the same.  There were six children instead of two scrambling to grab Christmas decorations.  The older children seemed to clump all the decorations onto one section of the tree, while the younger children were intent on pulling them off as soon as they were put on.

December 2013 052

I was not feeling as excited this year about decorating as in my youth.  Yes, the exhaustion and nausea of my first trimester was definitely putting a damper on my Christmas spirit. I realized that the tree was being trimmed rather haphazardly, and it was leaning slightly to the left.  Yet I had no energy to fix it.

“Oh well,” I thought, “It will just have to lean this year.”  Truly my deepest heart’s desire was to crawl into bed and sleep until New Years.  There was also a strange smell drifting through the house that was never present in my childhood memories.

Clang! Bang!  Loud noises were emanating from the downstairs bathroom.  Chris was entirely missing the tree trimming this year because of a project in the bathroom.  Earlier in the week our toilet began backing up.  After it got clogged for the 7th time, our oldest boy Cole spoke up.

“Oh yeah, I remember that I saw Cooper drop a toy in the toilet and then he flushed!”  he offered.  I suspected that the toilet clogger was really Cole himself…yet Cooper does have an unusual fascination with the potty.  Chris was in the bathroom having to rip the entire toilet off of the floor.

“I found the toy but I can’t get it out!” yelled Chris in frustration.

“Try putting oil on it!”  I suggested.

“There’s enough poop on it!”  He yelled back.

“I don’t think poop is very lubricating.”  I said.

“I AM THE EXPERT ON POOP AROUND HERE!” he bellowed.

Considering the smell and the amount of time Chris had been working, I believed him!

Our tree eventually got trimmed.

December 2013 044

The bathroom got put back together.  Yet I prayed “God, there has to be more to the Brandenburg Christmas this year, more than nausea and broken toilets.”

Then I thought of Mary having to birth her first baby alone, in a stable.  It probably didn’t smell too good either.  Yet she had angels come sing praises to her baby.  And of course there were the shepherds and wise men who came to confirm what she knew in her heart; that her baby was a King.  Those visitations must have helped her through some difficult days ahead.

In these difficult days it is hard to see the purpose in our crazy, exhausting lives.  I had no angels singing when my children were born.  Yet I had something even better – The Word of the Lord!  I heard God saying at the birth of each of my children, “This is a chosen one.  I knew this one before I made the world and he has a destiny.  She will conquer mountains and do great exploits for me!”

When I see the mess that my house is right now and the mess that my children make, I keep my eyes on eternity.  I can see each child standing before the throne of God.  I see Jesus embracing each one and calling him or her his friend.  I see their reward for the spoils they took from the enemy.  I know that their reward is my legacy.  And here is the key to my hope.  I know that all this is true; not because I am a good mother but because GOD SAID it was true.

December 2013 045

So I thank God for this holiday season with all of its promise.  Promise that is symbolized by a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a stinky manger!

Broken is the New “Just Right”

Sure, I am a mother of many boys with aggression and hyperactivity all around me all of the time. But I am still a girl who likes pretty things, who wants to make her home a peaceful oasis. My efforts are continually being thwarted by those unruly boys. My lovely house plant becomes inhabited by plastic frogs. My beautiful framed art is accessorized with suction cup Nerf bullets. My delicate blue and white china collection is transformed into a war zone for Star Wars Lego Storm Troopers.
I had just finished decorating for Christmas when I noticed this sorry fellow in the photograph, still bravely manning his post despite the fact that he had both of his arms ripped off.

armless nutcracker

He seems to be telling me, “Yes, I know that I am not as you were hoping me to be, and you would like to remove me from your shelf and toss me into the trash. But wait…God uses the imperfect and impossible all the time. I may be just the finishing touch that you need.”

So there you have it. Broken is the new “just right,” and God can use all of us! I am so thankful so that He can use me even though I am broken…maybe because I am broken. And I am thankful for a house full of boys who break things…and sometimes make them better.