Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Christmas Traditions Kind of Weekend

Not only was last weekend full of birthday celebrations, but it was full of Christmas traditions, too.

Speaking of Christmas . . . here's a little Christmas cheer for you!  I mean, it doesn't get much Christmas-ier than this!

The "mail lady" sent the kids a Christmas box, and they had the best time opening it.  Reindeer antler headbands, blinking Rudolph noses and blinking Christmas light necklaces say it all!  But there was more.  I think our absolute favorite thing in that box is the glasses that make the Christmas lights on your tree turn into gingerbread men, snowmen or a reindeer (depending on which pair you're wearing).  They look like the old poster board 3D glasses you used to get before they came out with the fancy plastic ones.  Anyway, I'd never seen anything like that before, and we've had fun just staring at the lights while wearing our glasses.

Cindy claims the box was full of "random" Christmas goodies.  But.  There's nothing RANDOM about a plastic roach "on wheels."  Mason is all the time trying to scare people, and he gets so aggravated because he can't scare me.  He's not the quietest thing in the world so I always hear him coming.  But let me tell you.  He got me.  He got me GOOD.  He sent that fake roach wheeling across the floor, and I nearly DIED.  Y'all.  The thing is HUGE!  And it's so . . . real looking.  Grosses me out!  I don't think I've heard heard those three laugh so hard and so long before.  Mason will never let me live that one down.  It's kind of like the whoopee cushions that were in the Easter box.  I'm quite sure roaches have NOTHING to do with Christmas!

But they LOVED their box!

So.  Christmas traditions.  We did two of my FAVORITES last weekend.

Friday night we went to the living nativity at my second church home in Baton Rouge.  I say that because this church means a lot to me and has had a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of my children during the last five years.  They also host the Bible Study Fellowship class we attend.  Anyway, this is a relatively new tradition for us.  It's the third year we've done it.  And I. LOVE. IT!

We started the evening at a little Italian joint for supper.  

The living nativity is a drive thru presentation of all of the different scenes of the events surrounding the birth of Christ.  The costumes are wonderful, and this year there was even a camel in addition to the donkeys and sheep!  As you drive through, you read the Bible verses corresponding with that particular scene.  It's so simple, really, yet so profound.  It's a great visual of the Christmas story.

Ellie got to sit up front with her Daddy.

One of the things I love the best about this is that it's not just about Christmas, about the birth of Christ.  It's about his death, too.  But He's alive, and He's coming again!  This is the last scene of the presentation.

Afterwards we had beignets (French donuts) and hot chocolate (even though it was 75 degrees outside!) at a little coffee shop.  The kids love beignets!  And they aren't the only ones.

On Sunday our choir and children and youth presented the annual Christmas musical.  I loved last year's.  And I really felt all year like we could never top it.  Not that that's what it's about.  But anyway.  It was such a special one and one I will always remember.  But I realized at our dress rehearsal this year that this year would be special, too.  I would always remember it also.  And I will.

My kids LOVE being on stage.  They LOVE dressing up.  They LOVE talking into the microphone.  So they start in on me early in the fall about the Christmas program.  Mason begged to be Joseph.  Well, he was Joseph last year and had a pretty big part.  I told him that we needed to give someone else an opportunity to be Joseph.  So I asked one of the other boys, the one who always wants to participate but doesn't want a speaking part, to be Joseph.  And you know what?  He said yes!  He said (exact words) that even though he was nervous, he knew he could do it, and he just needed to do it because he thought this was his year!  And he was right.

Since Mason wanted so badly to have a speaking part, and I didn't have any other boy speaking parts, I asked him to say Luke 2:1-20.  Except he had to say it from memory.  All 20 verses.  He'd actually been working on this since September because that was his assigned Scripture memory for this semester.  So it worked out perfectly.

For the first time, Hannah Kate was Mary.  She's always been an angel.  But she began asking not long after last year's program when she could be Mary and sing a solo like Abbie did.  I was hesitant because she's not exactly my most outgoing one, but she really had her heart set on it.  So she was Mary and sang a solo.

Ellie also got to participate.  She was an angel.  This wasn't her first time on stage in the Christmas program though.  She was baby Jesus three years ago!

I wanted to record Hannah Kate's solo and Mason's recitation, but I didn't want them to know it was being recorded.  I couldn't do it anyway since I was directing.  So I gave my phone to some of my favorite girls and asked them to do it for me.  I didn't think that through all the way.  I had quite a laugh when I got my phone back and went through the pictures and videos that evening.  But you know what?  Those selfies are on MY phone, and that might or might not be a good idea because I can think of lots of things to do with those selfies!  Oh, but I laughed.  I love these girls!!  So fun!

And here's our "living nativity."  Presley was our "senior angel" this year.  She had a little speaking part that she memorized and totally owned it.  Cole did an awesome job as Joseph!  I think he might've liked it, too.  So you know what I'm going to do with that?  I'm going to remember that next time I need someone to have a speaking part in a play!

Ellie was so excited to be an angel!  At dress rehearsal, she came RUNNING down the aisle when it was time for her to go on stage (even though we'd said many times not to run but to walk).  Her costume was a little too long, and she tripped and fell face down about halfway down the aisle.  But she got up laughing and marched right up the steps to her spot.  She did so good!  I was very proud of her for standing so still and quiet for the duration of her time on stage.  She went right to her spot and didn't move.

Again, Hannah Kate is not my outgoing, extroverted one.  Sure, she's been on the stage before at her dance recitals and VBS and even in Christmas programs.  She's sung on stage a lot.  But never a solo.  Never a lead role.  She sang Breath of Heaven.  That's not the easiest song to sing and definitely not one I'd pick for a first-time solo.  But that's what it was.  She started practicing at home about a month ago.  We banged out a few notes on the piano, but mostly she listened to it and sang along.  I'm certainly no voice or technique teacher.  I just wanted her to be herself.  I took her to church the week before the dress rehearsal so she could practice on the stage with the mic in her hand to get a feel for everything.  Seth had already told me a few times that he just didn't know if she would do it or not.  He knew she COULD.  But he didn't know if she WOULD.  

It was just her and me in the sanctuary that day.  She was SO NERVOUS.  The mic was shaking in her hand, and she was just a rocking back and forth.  After she sang the first measure, she stopped and two big ole tears made their way down her cheeks.  I started singing, and she was finally able to sing with me.  We practiced a couple of more times that day, and I tried to encourage her the best I could.  I also told her she had to stop shaking and rocking.  So I had no idea what was going to happen at the dress rehearsal.  The choir would be there, but they would be behind her so she wouldn't actually be looking at them.  But there would still be other people there.  I was getting nervous.  But at dress rehearsal, she walked up in there like nothing had ever happened and like it was something she does everyday.  And she OWNED it.  And you know what?  She did it again last Sunday with an audience full of people staring at her.  I kept telling her over and over to watch me, that it was only the two of us in the room.  By that time, she'd memorized the words, but she still had the book in front of her.  She decided about halfway through the song to look around a bit, except she never moved her neck or her head.  Just her eyes went back and forth, back and forth.  So funny!

Here are Joseph and Mary.

And here's my girl singing her solo.

Y'all.  I was good.  I was real good the whole time Hannah Kate was singing.  Right after her song was Mason's recitation.  He took his place in front of the mic and started speaking.  And I lost it at that very moment.   

Mason.  Y'all.  I can't even describe it.  I'd asked him that morning if he wanted me to stand in front of him (so I could prompt him if needed) or behind him (where he wouldn't be able to see me).  He wanted me behind him.  So that's where I stood.  Seth nor I could see his face.  But that kid absolutely ROCKED it.  He didn't stutter, didn't stumble.  He spoke loud and clear and with authority.  ALL 20 VERSES.  BY HIMSELF.  I mean, I've been practicing with him since September, and I can't recite the whole thing!

Seth was sitting in the choir looking out on the congregation.  He said he saw several people turning around looking toward the back of the sanctuary.  I was standing on stage behind him so I wasn't prompting him.  There was no one with note cards sitting on the front row or in the aisle.  We don't have a screen in the back of the sanctuary either so there's nowhere to look to read anything.  I guess they thought someone was standing at the back with something for him to read off of.  But nope.  That dude had it memorized.  I mean, it wasn't even like he was reading it at all.  He was just telling the story.

The choir knew exactly what he was doing because they'd heard it at rehearsal.  He stumbled a bit there but not this time.  When he finished, several of them immediately started clapping, as did the congregation.  He took his place in the nativity scene.  And there was about five seconds of silence.  A holy hush.  I could hardly move.  I couldn't even look.  I was supposed to have the choir stand and sing, but I could hardly do it.  I don't even know how I did it at that point.

Because THAT was unforgettable.  I know it's not a big deal to most.  But for a kid with a learning disability, one that brought so much heartache and pain during those early years in school when he was trying to learn to read but just couldn't, that was HUGE.  And yet he has always pressed on, always persevered, always held his head high when he probably just wanted to run and hide and never come out again.  What Mason did on Sunday . . . that's what courage looks like.  That's what brave looks like.  That's what trusting Jesus looks like.  That day was just yet another reminder of why I'm so proud of him!

So, yep, I'm pretty sure this year's musical topped the last.  So I guess I need to start thinking about next year's!

Oh, and come back tomorrow to hear Hannah Kate's solo!  You're gonna have to wait until the 25th to hear Mason's recitation though!

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