Monday, December 13, 2010


Whether you are a church-goer, a Christ-follower, both or neither, you cannot deny that the Christmas season is here! Tony and I were talking a few weeks ago about what Christmas was like for us as kids. He remembered looking through the Toys R Us catalog and folding pages and circling all of the things he wanted. I remembered the year I got the red cable-knit sweater I’d been daydreaming of. Besides discovering that we had very different childhoods, we agreed that there were two prevailing questions around Christmas time…

Santa asks, "What do you want?"

Your friends ask, "What did you get?"

It occurred to me that Claire, having no idea what Christmas is, might be confused if these are the first things she learns about this special holiday. Both of these questions imply that Christmas is about “me”. It startled me to think that we could raise Claire to be self-absorbed and materialistic without even realizing it. It startled me even more to think of how hard I have to try each year to really remember what Christmas is about and not to get caught up in shopping and parties. So, Tony and I talked some more and dreamed up what we would want Christmas to look like for our family as Claire grows up. We want her to know Jesus. We want her to know why He came. We want to spend it as a family. We need our own traditions. We came up with our own plan to reflect and rejoice together, just the three of us.


In the traditional church calendar, Advent is the season to reflect and prepare our hearts for the coming King. I read what I could find about it and came across the Advent Wreath. I loved the idea, but didn’t care so much for the way it looked and couldn’t imagine having this green wreath with pink and purple candles sitting on a table in my home. I know, picky picky! But, hey, if we’re making our own traditions, I want something I can really live with. So, I designed my own.

Each bud vase is filled about half-way with sand to stabilize the candle then wrapped with red ribbon and a tag which tells us which word of the season to reflect on following the traditional Advent Calendar.

Inside our Advent Box, a recycled cigar box, are envelopes with a card inside telling us what we’ll read and which Christmas song relating to the word Tony will sing and play for us on the acoustic guitar.

So, each Sunday evening leading up to Christmas, we’ve incorporated our new tradition into Claire’s bedtime routine. We get our pajamas on, come out into the living room, and she watches while we light the candle. I'll share a short reading, Tony plays a song, we pray and then carry her off to bed.

Above is a close up of the book canvas I made to hang over our Advent display. Inspired by this blog, I chose books I've read that would reflect the heart of the season; My Utmost for His Highest, The Sacred Romance, a Bible and a Hymnal.

This how we've decided to reflect on each week of this Advent Season…
Week 1, Sunday, November 28th
We light the Hope Candle, traditionally the Prophets Candle
We read about the name Immanuel, God with us, and the promise foretold centuries before Christ was born.
We sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. Our current favorite version of this song is by Sufjan Stevens

Week 2, Sunday, December 5th
We light the Love Candle, traditionally the Bethlehem Candle
We read about Jesus as a Child, born in a manger.
We sing O Little Town of Bethlehem. Our current favorite version of this song is by Sarah McLachlan.

Week 3, Sunday, December 12th
We light the Joy Candle, traditionally the Shepherds Candle
We read about the shepherds from Luke 2:8-20.
We sing O Come all Ye Faithful. Our current favorite version of this song is by Chris Tomlin.

Week 4, Sunday, December 19th
We’ll light the Peace Candle, traditionally the Angels Candle
We’ll read about Jesus as the Prince of Peace, as the Angels declared in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will toward men.”
We’ll sing O Holy Night. Our current favorite version of this song is by Michael Crawford.

Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24th
We’ll light the Noel Candle, traditionally the Christ Candle
We’ll read about Mary and the birth of Jesus from Luke 1:26 – 2:20
We’ll sing Silent Night. Our current favorite version of this song is by Phil Wickham (Thanks, Tyler!).

Our hope is that as she gets older we can add crafts and fun activities or maybe even a special meal each week that will help build these memories for us. This way we’ll have weeks of reflection before the glorious morning when she wakes us up at 5am, like we did to our parents, to open up all of the presents under the tree.

We'd love to hear the wonderful ways you've made this holiday special with your families!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jump in the Pool!

I realized as I plopped Claire down on the changing table in the family locker room after swim class that I’d forgotten to be self-conscious in my swim suit. I had spent the entire 45 minutes laughing with, and cheering for my girl. She was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in a swimming pool! She loved the splashing and kicking and the wet high-fives from the other little ones. She kicked her chubby little legs like a pro, hung on to the wall of the pool with her incredible baby strength, and jumped to me at the end of “Humpty Dumpty Sat On a Wall” without a trace of fear. She turned her wet and squirmy body several times to hug and kiss me. You know, that open-mouth-tongue-sticking-out kind of kiss… the one I cannot resist! It was absolutely the highlight of my week, until I saw us both in the mirror, hair wet and sticking to our faces, dripping with chlorine water. Ugghh… I’m still me!

I’m still the me, curvy shapes and all, that should not be allowed in public in a swimming suit. The me that hasn’t been in a pool or to a beach of any kind in the last three years because I knew I was not in the shape I should be. And yet, I had just had the time of my life with my little girl in the pool. For once I had forgotten what I looked like, self-consciousness gone, and enjoyed every moment! Despite my fears, not once did Claire roll her eyes at me or look at me in my swim suit with sheer embarrassment … It wasn’t about me!

Self-consciousness and insecurity lead to isolation. We don’t want people to know the parts of us that are inadequate, the ways we don’t measure up to our own expectations, so we avoid the situations where those things might be exposed. For me, it’s the swimming pool. And what got me into that pool had nothing to do with me. I signed us up for that class because I wanted to spend some time enjoying my daughter without other distractions. I wanted for her to learn how to be in the water without fear and to meet some other little babies. I want the very best for her in all of the little ways I can give it to her. It was then, when I stopped worrying about myself, that I came out of that place of isolation and insecurity and jumped into that pool with my little girl. And I had a blast!

We’re preparing again for the next season of Growth Groups and it occurs to me that self-consciousness and insecurity have kept a lot of people from experiencing one of my very favorite things. I hear it all the time…
“I’m not good enough to be a leader.”
“I don’t know that much about the Bible.”
“What if my idea for a group is dumb?”
“I’m not good at _____________”

We fear that we will be judged in the same way that we judge ourselves, maybe even in the same way we judge others, so we avoid it altogether. It’s safer alone, where nobody can see our frailties. It’s easier to stick to the people we already know, the people who may not challenge us, or who always agree with us… But that is no way to live!

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another....
– Hebrews 10:23-25

As much as there is risk, there is so much joy and vitality of life when we choose to look beyond our selves and get around other people. How very much life I would miss out on, especially with Claire, if I never jumped in the pool.