Monday, December 23, 2013

A Different Kind of Christmas

So last week I spent several days without the internet.  It went down on Wednesday morning, and it wasn't until Friday that they were able to get it fixed.  So I missed out on social media for basically three days.  I also didn't have time to watch TV at all those days so I really had no clue what was "going on in the world."  I really figured I hadn't missed much.  Until I saw my news feed on Facebook.  The first post was a friend begging everyone to post status updates and pictures that reflect the season of joy we claim this time of year.  You know, trees and lights and decorations and carols and stuff.  I thought that a little odd.  I mean, what in the world else would you be talking about this time of year?  And then I saw the next 50 or so posts.  In case you really have no idea what I'm talking about, there's been a lot in the news lately about ducks.  I could talk about ducks.  I really could.  But I'm not going to.

As the days of thanks gave way to the Advent, I found myself longing for a real kind of Christmas this year.  Now, don't get me wrong.  We did the Christmas plays, living nativity, parties, presents, decorations, lights.  We did all of it.  We did it in the midst of sick children and doctor visits and being just plain tired from it all.  We made lots of memories.  But this Christmas is different.  It's REAL.  

This week was a rather exciting one at school.  I had the pleasure of attending both of the kids' Christmas parties.  I don't have any pictures from Hannah Kate's party (because I gave myself permission to just go and enjoy it), but I did take this picture at Mason's party.  I took it with my phone so the quality isn't very good.  And it unfortunately highlights my least favorite feature about myself.  My teeth.  They are too big.  But my boy wanted his picture with me so that made it worth it.
Let me just tell you.  Mason's teacher is way cooler than I ever would be.  When I was walking down the hall to his class, I noticed a smell.  It was one of those smells that you can't quite identify.  When I walked into Mason's class, all of the desks had been moved to the perimeter of the room so there was a big, open circle in the middle.  The kids were all dressed in their pajamas.  And they all had their shoes off.  And I thought the smell in the hall was bad!  I quickly realized this was the origin of the smell!  Feet.  And pizza.  Now that's a winning combination.  But I'm thinking it would've been a whole lot better if the shoes would've stayed on the feet!

And this girl.  Well, she cracks me up.  She was so cute in her Santa outfit (compliments of Hannah Kate's hand-me-downs), and she even lets me put a bow in her hair now and will leave it in all day!  She's been really sick this weekend though, and it has not been nice.  She started with a fever on Friday and then she began vomiting.  I think we're done with that, but now it's really yucky diapers.  And she is a grump monkey!  Today was a long day, but I'm hoping she'll feel better tomorrow.  I just want everyone to be well for Christmas.  Hannah Kate was sick with some sort of something for over a week.  She missed three days of school, went to the doctor two of those days and had negative strep and flu tests every time.  She had a lot of vomiting, too.
Somehow I managed to finally mail our Christmas cards this week!  They may or may not arrive in Georgia before December 25, but that's okay.  I decided to make it easy on myself and use one of the pictures we had taken this summer.  And then I got one of those really great cyber Monday half price and free shipping deals.  Our cards were printed within 24 hours of me ordering them.  But they took quite a journey getting here.  They spent several days somewhere in Arizona and then got stuck in Dallas for over a week.  From Dallas they went to Mississippi and then to Memphis.  Tennessee.  Now, geography and history were my least favorite subjects in school.  And I'm really not very good with either.  But I know my states (or the southern ones, at least), and I'm not sure why they couldn't stop on the way to Mississippi being that Louisiana is between there and Texas.  But what do I know?

Here's another one for you.  I'd also ordered something else.  From Dallas it went to Memphis and then to Mississippi and then back to Memphis before coming here.  I guess I should just be thankful I got it.

Speaking of getting stuff.  My Christmas shopping is done.  But that isn't unusual.  This year I bought my first gifts in September.  The kids were actually really easy this year.  Mason and Hannah Kate are going to be really surprised with their gift.  The difficult part was deciding what to get for Ellie.  She already has everything I could think of because she gets everything from Hannah Kate.  But the big kids each have a big bean bag in the playroom, and she doesn't have anything.  So I decided to get her one of those anywhere chairs from Pottery Barn Kids.  I ordered it at Thanksgiving.  After I ordered it, I got an email saying it was on backorder and wouldn't be available to ship until December 8.  I wasn't worried.  And then December 8 rolled around, and I got an email saying it wouldn't be available to ship until the 10th.  The 10th came and went.  And I heard nothing else.  Last week I found out it's on backorder until mid January.  

At first I decided I wasn't going to worry about it because I knew it would eventually arrive, and Ellie would never know the difference.  She's one.  But then I started feeling "guilty."  I wanted her to have a gift on Christmas just like Mason and Hannah Kate.  I didn't know what to do.  So I called PBK to see if there was any chance it would be here for Christmas, and I was told there was no chance.  So Wednesday morning I decided to cancel my order and get her something else.  Only I couldn't think of "something else."  There's a PBK in New Orleans so I called them on a whim Wednesday afternoon.  I really didn't think they stocked the anywhere chairs in the store, but I figured I would take a chance anyway.  So I called and found out that had only two left in the store.  And one of them just so happened to be pink.  So, of course, I did the most logical thing any mother would do.  I paid for it over the phone and told the girl I'd come pick it up on Friday or Saturday.  And then I told my husband I had to go to New Orleans to get Ellie's Christmas present.

Going to New Orleans to get Ellie's Christmas present turned into an overnight trip for just the two of us!  I'd never been to New Orleans at Christmas time.  And it's not much different except for a few palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights.  But there was a gorgeous tree on the roof top of our hotel, and the lobby was very festive.  It was a quick trip, but I had an amazing time just Seth and me.

Speaking of Seth.  And gifts.  What you need to know is that he plans ahead for NOTHING.  And he waits until the last minute for EVERYTHING.  This is rather annoying, especially considering that my birthday and our anniversary (and every other major holiday for that matter!) are all on the SAME DAY EVERY YEAR.  They don't change!  But Seth does his Christmas shopping on December 24 or maybe December 23.  I've also found that the best thing to do is to tell him not to worry about it and instead go and buy my own present after Christmas is over.  A couple of years ago I even started keeping my wish list on my phone.  So all he has to do is pick up my phone and look at my list.  Yeah, he's never done that either.

So imagine my SHOCK when he came home Thursday A WEEK AGO, meaning December 12, and asked me if it was okay for him to spend a certain amount of money on my Christmas present!  And then he proceeds to tell me how excited he is about it.  I dismissed this conversation and blamed it on the weather, I guess.  But the next day he did, in fact, buy my gift.  Well played, too.  He got cash out of our account so I couldn't look at our online banking and discover what store he spent the money at.  And then he tells me later that night how he can't wait to give me my gift.  So I start asking questions.  And then he gets a little aggravated and finally tells me that I'm never going to figure it out because I "don't even know that it exists."  Needless to say, he obviously did NOT look at my handy dandy list on my phone (yet again).  And I have to admit.  I'm a little worried.  Because he's obviously excited about it.  So I'm going to have to be excited about it.  But what if it isn't any good?  Because that's a possibility, you know.  So I'm really interested to see how this turns out.  And I can't shake the box either because it's obviously hidden somewhere at his parents' house!

Here's one more Christmas picture for you.  This was the night we went to the drive through living nativity and then to get ice cream and then to see the lights.  Santa was just an added bonus that we weren't expecting.  As you can tell, Ellie could have done without him!

And, now, here I am.  It's late.  VERY late.  Everyone is asleep.  And I'm enjoying the lights on my tree.  I try to add to my Christmas decorations every year, but I'm two years behind.  This year I caught up!  So we have a garland on the stair rail.  It didn't quite turn out like I envisioned it so I'm sure I'll be doing it all over again next year, but at least I finally have a garland.  All of my presents are wrapped and under the tree.  The past few years I've wrapped gifts the night before they were opened.  There are gingerbread house pieces in the pantry waiting to be assembled on Christmas eve.  The pantry is full of goodies that I hope to bake and cook tomorrow.  And I'm just soaking in all of this Christmas!

Having said all of that . . . it's been a "different" kind of Christmas.  I was thinking about that first Christmas over 2,000 years ago.  And how quiet it must have been.  But maybe it wasn't so quiet after all.  I mean, I'm pretty sure those angels lit it up when they appeared to the shepherds in all their glory proclaiming that the SAVIOR had been born.  Can you imagine the sight?  But I wanted THAT Christmas.  The one that's just full of Jesus.

So as I prayed that I would take the time this Christmas to PREPARE HIM ROOM, He did something that only He can do.  In the midst of all the parties and the gifts that are already wrapped and under the tree and the decorations that somehow all made it out and up this year, the Lord has given us the opportunity to share and to minister His gift - love and mercy and grace - in a very tangible way this year.  I will NEVER forget this Christmas!  It would seem like the others would receive the greatest blessing.  But it is we who are receiving the greatest blessing!

This whole year has been quite a journey for me.  And it's been all about His grace.  His grace and His mercy.  I know what and who I am without Him.  I know what would happen to me in this life and beyond without him.  I know I am a wretched sinner in desperate need of a Savior.  And because I've accepted His free gift, that perfect, spotless, Lamb of God that was born and given on the very first Christmas, He doesn't see me as who I was but as who He makes me to be through the process of sanctification.  I KNOW how much I need His grace and His mercy.  And other people need that, too.  They need that most of all from Him.  But they need that from me, too.  And then I was thinking . . . it seems like, that since I know just how much I need His mercy and His grace, I would also be willing to show His mercy and His grace to others, to those who are His and to those who are NOT His.  But that's just not always been the case.

People need Jesus.  It's just as plain and simple as that.  This Christmas I guess you could say I went back to the beginning, back to where it all started.

For God so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  ~John 3:16

This time last year I blogged about salt and light.  I need to add to that love and mercy and grace.  God poured all of that out into that manger of straw over 2,000 years ago.  And then Jesus shed that on the cross.  For me.  For you.  For the WORLD.

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room!
And heaven and nature sing; and heaven and nature sing.
And heaven and heaven and nature sing!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Today is HIS birthday!

Today we celebrated another birthday.  Seth's birthday is today.  And the celebration began at 3:30AM this morning as I was bathing Hannah Kate and washing her hair after she threw up while Seth was sitting in the bathroom with us.

This is the second day of school this week that Hannah Kate has missed.  I took her to the doctor on Monday because she was complaining of a headache and sore throat.  Since there had been a lot of sickness in Georgia when we were there last week, I decided to go ahead and take her.  The strep and flu tests both came back negative.  The only thing Dr. K could find was a slightly red throat.  So we just took it easy (not really) the rest of the day, and she went back to school on Tuesday.  She's really not been herself this week, but nor has she complained of any other symptoms.  I thought that perhaps the 3:30AM episode was just a fluke.  Seth said he'd heard her coughing so maybe that's what caused her to throw up.  She went back to bed until I woke her up for school.  She seemed fine.  She ate breakfast, got dressed and was excited to start her day.  It wasn't long before she lost her entire breakfast.

I already had her an appointment scheduled this morning for something else so we headed out to the pediatrician again.  Dr. S said her tonsils were really yucky, red, swollen and pussy.  Her glands are swollen, too.  So they did another strep test.  Yet again, this one came back negative.  Dr. S said she wasn't necessarily convinced and wanted to send it for further testing in the lab.  We should get the results of that tomorrow.

In the meantime, she still couldn't keep down just crackers for lunch so Dr. S gave her a prescription for Zofran, the wonder drug that made my last two pregnancies tolerable.  After taking that, she was finally able to make those crackers stay down.  She still isn't complaining of any other symptoms, not even a sore throat.  That's surprising to me considering how bad her throat looks.  So for now we're just waiting to see what the lab says tomorrow.

Obviously the day didn't go as I'd planned.  My original idea was to go out to eat for Seth's birthday and then go to Nottoway Plantation for their Christmas tree lighting.  Never mind that it was 80 degrees yesterday and 40 degrees today and raining.  So, needless to say, the only Christmas tree lighting we saw tonight was the one in our family room!

So today is my big love's birthday.  He's still thirty-something.  The only thing really that's changed is how much I love him.  Because that would be more and more with every passing day, especially while he's sitting up with me while I'm bathing a child in the middle of the night who is sick!  There is no one else I'd rather do life with than this man.  He is such a strong man, a great provider for our family and a super dad.  And he loves Jesus.

We had a little birthday celebration for this Daddy and his big girl while we were in Georgia next week, and we'll have another one with his family this Sunday after church.  I think he should be the one to blow out the candles on Sunday! 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Happy SIX Years Old, Hannah Kate!

Exactly six years ago, I was holding this tiny bundle of pure joy and all pink!
Hannah Katherine Bayham was born December 4, 2007.  And from the first moment I saw her and even until now, she still takes my breath away! 
That precious, darling baby girl is growing up.
She might be six years old today, but she's still my baby girl!
Today I surprised Hannah Kate at school with a mini-party for her.  We had cupcakes and ice cream.  The cupcakes had these super cute ballerina slippers on top that I didn't know until the kids were pulling them out were actually rings!
And today was just the beginning of what will be a nearly week and a half long birthday celebration.  We gave Hannah Kate a small gift today of books and coloring books, but her "real" gift will be given to her on Friday.  It's a surprise!  It's not to her because it's what she asked for.  But she doesn't want anyone else to know yet.  She loves surprises, just like her Momma.  We'll have a little family birthday party celebration this Sunday after church.  Her party is next Saturday.  She requested a spa party and wanted to get her nails done.  Now, I thought about this.  I really did.  I envisioned little tubs of warm water and bath oils.  I envisioned nail polish and painting 100 fingers and toes.  Can I tell you how quickly that vision went out the window?!  So next Saturday Hannah Kate and a few of her friends are going to Ms. Prissy Princess girls' spa for a morning of pampering.  They will have manis and pedis, get their hair done and a makeover.  And then they'll dress in tutus and boas and take a walk down the runway.  It's a Glitz and Glam party! And the best part is I don't have to do a thing!  I don't even have to take pictures because they do that, too!

This girl.  She is even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside!  I love her spirit.  I love her tender-heartedness.  I love the way she giggles.  I love that she dances around the house from room to room.  I love that she's a girlie girl to the max!

God has big plans for this one!  What an honor to be her Momma!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Prepare Him Room

“I don' t want a Christmas you can buy.
I don't want a Christmas you can make.
What I want is a Christmas you can hold.
A Christmas that holds me,
remakes me, revives me.
I want a Christmas that whispers, Jesus."

~Ann Voscamp

That's it.  That's exactly what I was trying to say this morning.

We sang "Joy to the World" during our worship service at church today.  That's one of those Christmas songs that we all know, that we all sing, that we are all so familiar with that we sing those words without giving thought to what we are actually singing, what we are actually saying.

I'll be honest.  It's that time of the year.  It's the most wonderful time of the year!  But it also seems like the most stressful time of the year, too.  All of the holiday parties and the food and the decorations and the programs.  All the STUFF.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the stuff!  I LOVE the stuff.  But right now?  All the stuff is overwhelming to me!  And I'm dreading it.  But I don't want it to be that way!  I want to enjoy it.  I want to savor it.  I want to soak it all in.  I want to watch my littles enjoy it.  I want to watch them savor it.  I want to watch them soak it all in.  

But right now all I can do is think about the cookies that have to be baked for Tuesday morning, the surprise party in Hannah Kate's class for her birthday on Wednesday, the food that has to be prepared for the ladies' annual Christmas party on Thursday, the Christmas musical narration that I have to write by next Sunday, supper that needs to be cooked for the next three nights since we go back to our crazy therapy and dance scheduled tomorrow.  Oh, and I'm afraid the baby has another ear infection so I'll be calling the pediatrician first thing in the morning to see if I can get her an appointment.  I guess I might be calling for the big girl, too, because she's complaining of a sore throat and headache now and wouldn't eat supper.

So here we are.  And I really don't want to be here!  This is not what I want this most blessed, most joyous season to be this year.  So that's what I've been praying about these past few days.

Lord, I want to enjoy it.  I really want to enjoy it.  I want to enjoy my family, my children.  I want to just sit with them, play with them.  I realize that hasn't happened lately, and I need a change.  Hannah Kate has been begging me for a week to put her pink Christmas tree up in her room.  And every time she asks, my answer is the same.  I tell her I'm "too busy" right now and reassure her that it will eventually get done.  Lord, I don't want to be "too busy" anymore.  I sat tonight and just held sweet Ellie in my lap. She stayed there, laid her head against my chest.  I told her I was sorry that I hadn't held her more often lately.  Lord, I want to hold her more often.  

I was singing "Joy to the World" last night.  And then it hit me.  It was so familiar that I almost missed it.

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.

That's it!  This Christmas season, that's what I want.  I want to prepare my heart for HIM, fill my heart with more of HIM.  Because when I do that, all of the other stuff that doesn't matter, all of the other stuff that seems so overwhelming . . . well, there isn't room for it anymore.  When I am FULL OF JESUS, well, I can't even explain it, can't even find the words for it right now.  But when I am full of Jesus, everything else fades away, and all that's left is what's most important.

So this Christmas, I want it to be different.  Yes, there will be parties and decorations and all the STUFF, but I want a heart that is ready and prepared for my Jesus, ready and prepared for the work He has for me to do, ready and prepared for the ministry and mission of mothering and homemaking, ready and prepared to tell others that baby Jesus was born FOR YOU.  He was born to DIE for you.

I don't want it to be perfect.  I don't want it to be all of the Pinterest pictures and activities and crafts (that I will never really do anyway and then lament on how horrible of a mom I am because we don't have a hot chocolate bar on Christmas Eve night).  I want it to be excellent.  I want to do it with excellence.  And guess what that means?  Instead of making those butter-nut truffles for Tuesday morning, I'm going to the grocery store tomorrow to pick up a tray of brownie bites.  And guess what else?  I'll probably leave them in the ugly plastic tray instead of arranging them on one of my Christmas plates.

And while I'm at it . . . the annual Christmas card?  Well, I have the girls' dresses, but I haven't monogrammed them yet.  So I was waiting on that before taking their picture for the card.  But I don't know when that will get done.  My sweet friend took the kids' picture this summer.  They're dressed in blues and greens, summertime clothes.  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  Maybe I should go ahead and get that Christmas card done tonight with one of the pictures I already have!  I mean, does it really matter that they aren't dressed in red and green?

Here's something else.  I rarely blog without a picture.  But today?  There won't be a picture.  I'm giving myself permission to post on my blog without a picture!  And you know what?  I'm sure the tens of people who read this will be perfectly okay without a picture today!

Because I'm going to PREPARE HIM ROOM.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  ~Romans 15:13