Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Goals: The ones with a plan B

I've tried all kinds of approaches to "New Year's Resolutions." Everything from swearing them off all together to making a detailed list of them. This year, I'm taking yet another approach. One that (hopefully) works for an accountant who is also a mom of 4 small children. Because if you have little kiddos, you know that it is quite rare that anything go according to plan. You know the essential nature of a "plan b"- you gotta have one in your back pocket. AT.ALL.TIMES.

May I present my 2014 goals-
including plan B.

Plan A: Plan out and stick to a training schedule that includes exercise at least 4 times a week.
Plan B: When I have to go up and down the stairs 947372949272 times a day, I'll run. And count it.

Plan A: Develop a regular sleep schedule for going to bed and getting up.
Plan B: Learn to walk in my sleep so I always feel like I slept through the night.

Be intentional about what we eat
Plan A: Plan out a biweekly menu, trying new dishes and incorporating healthy choices.
Plan B: Plan out a biweekly menu that incorporates healthy choices. And also incorporates the occasional breakfast for dinner and eating out nights. Allow for spontaneous "tonight I just can't cook".

Spend intentional time with my children
Plan A: Plan monthly one-on-one dates with each child. Help them discover their talents and special interests.  Plan learning experiences for the whole family.
Plan B: Recognize the spontaneous opportunities I get each day to teach my kids.  Take them with me to the grocery store, even if it means sweating more.  Talk to them about money and Jesus and friendships and family while we drive in the car, while we snuggle together on the couch and while we eat dinner together.  Be present.

Be involved at the kids' school
Plan A: volunteer more in the classroom, find an organization to be part of, get to know the other parents from our classes by inviting them over.
Plan B: take sonic drinks to the teachers when I think about it.. Say thank you more often.  Say yes when others invite us on play dates.  And recognize moments like taking a forgotten lunch or homework as opportunities to encourage kids I see in the hall and the adults who take such good care of my treasures each day.

Get to know our neighbors
Plan A: Invite neighbors over for dinner and play dates.  Plan regular block parties.
Plan B:  Play in the front yard more.   Hire someone to mow our yard so that when we do get around to having people over we aren't already on the neighborhood naughty list.

Deepen relationships with others
Plan A: Set aside intentional time each week to visit with friends. Send encouraging notes and texts. Listen more.
Plan B: Pray that I'll still have some friends when I do come up for social air.

Do my part to grow our marriage
Plan A: Plan frequent dates.  Find a study or other learning experience to work through together.
Plan B: say thank you more.  Be frustrated less.  Be quick to point out successes and slow to measure by unfair standards.  Always give the benefit of the doubt.  Say I'm sorry.  Have fun together.

Grow in relationship with the Lord
Plan A: Plan out and stick to a daily Bible study plan. Get up early to start my day with the Lord.
Plan B: Pray to become a morning person. Ask for a heart that sees His presence in the busy-ness of each day.

Sweet readers of DRRF- Here's to you and your fresh start in this new year.  I hope 2014 finds you with a spirit that is willing to dream big and set lofty goals.  But also cut yourself some slack this year.  Sometimes as a spouse/parent/neighbor, you'll find that if you'll allow yourself to embrace it- plan B isn't so bad after all.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Charlie Brownest

Last year I was a scrooge.
No, really.  I'm serious.
I barely put up a tree (never did put any ornaments on it), I avoided some holiday get-togethers, and to be honest I just wanted all the merriment to go away.

I faked it until we made it through the season.
I made it through with few being none the wiser.
But just barely.

2012 was a year where it felt like we faced more challenges than victories.  Where some of my most valuable possessions- my family's safety and my own integrity- were threatened.  Where I was smacked in the face with realizations that people you love deeply aren't always what you thought they'd be.  Where we had to make the kinds of decisions no one should ever be faced with.  In 2012 I clawed through a faith crisis that no one really knew about.  But mostly last year I was a scrooge because I was so very aware of so much hurt, poverty, and loss in the lives of others that it seemed wrong to celebrate. 

Linus actually summed it up pretty well:
"Charlie Brown, you are the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.  Of all of the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Brownest."

Sure, it sounds melodramatic, I guess it was at the time.  As if a crusade against Christmas could fix the hurt I saw-  I know it sounds ridiculous.  But I'm sharing this piece of my heart now because I'm not sure I'll ever see Christmas the same way again thanks to that season of joy-less-ness.

This year, I decorated my home the week before Thanksgiving.
This year I soaked up getting out every single ornament and putting up garland, and tying bows.
This year I loved planning out our family advent calendar.
And letting the kids decorate this tree.

This year, I'm celebrating.

This year, long before the season actually arrived, the LORD gave me a picture to celebrate.  A picture of transformation and of hope in waiting.  I wrote about that picture of a parade on this blog and many of you could relate.  With that picture I began a Charlie Brown search for purpose in Christmas.

Charlie: I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about. Isn’t there anyone who understands what Christmas is all about? 

Linus: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. 
“And there were in the same country Shepards abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Then the entire cast helped him take a Christmas tree that was barely holding on to its last branches and make it into something miraculously beautiful.

Transformation began with remembering the reason for the season.  I bet Charlie Brown already knew the story- about a baby named Jesus.  But maybe he needed some help remembering.  And not just remembering the part about the humble beginnings of that baby, but maybe especially the part about the enormous celebration.

And that's what did it for me this year.  Remembering the JOY.  Can't you picture the party?  Angels proclaiming, shepherds rejoicing and dancing in the fields, a star shining brightly in the sky, a proud momma and papa kissing that sweet baby face for the very first time.

Jesus did come humbly.
But he also came so very celebrated.

There was great joy because for the first time the hurts of the world, every single fear, all the poverty and all of the loss had HOPE, there was a Redeemer.  And it was joy for all people...A savior born!

What hasn't changed for me this Christmas is that I still know of many whose deepest Christmas wish can't be wrapped and placed under a tree.  There are desires that weigh heavily on my heart- I wish I could give gifts like forever homes for children, like safety for deployed loved ones.  If I only I could wrap up restored marriages, and healing for grieving hearts.  It would be awesome to mail gifts like an assurance of a next meal or like true freedom from abuse or addiction.  These are gifts I can neither give nor wish into being.

But I believe there is a Redeemer.  I believe in miracles- those I've seen and those I await.

Which is why more than anything, this Christmas, I want the WORLD...or at least my little world...to see us CELEBRATE.  I don't want anyone to misperceive our belief to be that the more we experience hurt, frustration, disappointment, or grief means the less we celebrate Christmas.

While I know its a crazy ridiculously fine balance- in some ways I think this means we have to celebrate in a way the world can recognize.  Maybe it means I put up a giant tree.  Maybe it means we give gifts to teachers and friends.  Maybe it means we wear matching Christmas outfits and take festive pictures.  Because this is a PARTY.  And maybe by celebrating we won't lose the spirit of Christmas- maybe instead we'll lead others straight into it.  We may not celebrate by romping in the field with our sheep, but maybe we'll celebrate by romping down the street to look at Christmas lights.  And there, in a whisper, I'll hear my sweet little girl remind us all, "At Christmas we celebrate that Jesus is born!"  And I'll answer, "That's right, baby.  We certainly do.  We definitely celebrate!"

This year, we CELEBRATE.  Like the angels did.  Like the shepherds did.  Like the Wisemen and Mary and Joseph did.  Because Jesus came humbly.  But he also came CELEBRATED.
This year, may you embrace miracles.  Those you've seen and those you await.
May you celebrate with great Joy.
Because long ago a savior was born.
Lets lead people to Him with our celebrations this Christmas.


I love our little Charlie Brown tree in these pictures.
As a gentle reminder of the spirit of this season, it makes me smile every time I pass by.
It leans a little and the lights don't match (one blue strand proudly placed in the middle).
There's a paper chain unfinished because its crafter got distracted.
But I love this tree that was all RRL and I could afford for our first Christmas.
I love that we dragged it out of the attic this year for our kids to enjoy.
I love that it's imperfect. And I love the joy my kids are finding in transforming it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


 Lately, I've been making an effort to embrace my unpinterestable spirit. I've been letting my kids decorate the back door. With no pattern. And I let them decorate their own Christmas tree without forcing them to finish or worrying about whether the lights matched.

After hours scouring the web for ideas- to purchase or copy- this year's advent calendar is at the very top of my unpinterestable list.

It cost approximately nothing.  KJ and I measured, cut and tied the string.  Cbug made all of the numbers and I even let him cut them out without regard to whether any of them were the same size or shape.  We even stuck holes in the wall with thumb tacks.  GASP.

I used a hodge podge of websites and google images to make the nativity characters we are adding each night.  And I stole the wording from the advent calendar my brothers and I used as children.  Finally, written on the back of each character is our daily "family activity" for counting down the days until Christmas- other unpinterestable ideas like making nativity scenes out of playdough.  (you can read about our 2011 and 2012 countdowns here and here for unpinterestable ideas to share with your family.  I'll post a recap of this year at the end of the month-ish.)

And voila, an advent calendar that is absolutely my very favorite ever.

It is hanging right smack dab in the middle of my dining room where everyone who enters my home can see it.  It is placed like a treasure because we love it that much- not because anyone else would see any value in it.

It is unpinterestable.  And it is so very perfect for our family.

So here's to you.  Whether pinterestable.  Or un.
Find JOY this Christmas in using your talents to embrace the holiday season.
And find ways to share that joy with others.