Today my brother, Roger has travelled down to Lake Jackson by himself to visit us. (We’ve been in this house for close to 15 years and this is his first time to see it.) I’m grateful for the time we spent going to church, watching football, going out to eat, and just hanging out. He is not out of the woods yet, but he has come a long way. Today, he a different man than he was just a few months ago. He has a renewed faith. We are able to carry on great conversations.
Today, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my brother. I’m grateful for our new relationship. I’m grateful for his effort to come down to see us. I’m grateful to God for progress and for hope. Today, I praise God for all He has done and for His promise to be with us through all of our circumstances.
Matthew 28:20b – (Jesus speaking) – I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Romans 5:3-4 – . . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
It’s a week before Christmas. There’s lots to do. I’ve been working all week and finally get to come home. I’m so ready for the holidays away from students – away from work. I’m tired. As I drive home, I start to get excited about being home, being with my kids, having good family time.
I walk through the door and notice the lights are off. My bride is asleep on the couch and my kids are snuggled up beside her watching Mr Bean. They start talking to me and it disrupts Miranda’s sleep. I “shhh” them, but it doesn’t last long. I can tell they’re going to be talkative now that I’m here, so I get up and gently help Miranda to her feet and walk her to bed so the kids can be themselves without disrupting her.
I spend the next hour with kids bouncing up and down on top of me while we watch more Mr Bean. I try to relax and read a little, but the kids keep interrupting. I know it’s important to listen to Kesleigh telling me which coloring book picture is her favorite, but I really just wanna rest. I need a little “cave” time. When Miranda gets up, she sighs and says she wishes I could have gotten Kasen a haircut before we go see Santa tonight. She hasn’t been very subtle with her hints at taking him for a haircut for the past 2 weeks. I even took him one night earlier this week, but the wait was too long. I also remember that she had asked me to go to Best Buy to check on getting a phone for my mom, so I decide to try and get these things done before the 5 o’clock crowd is off work. Kasen and I leave right away, but when we arrive, we’ve still got an hour wait. I go to Best Buy and get the information we needed and then return to Supercuts. We timed it well, ’cause they called Kasen’s name from the hour long list just a few minutes after we arrive.
By the time we’re done, it’s time to meet Miranda and Kesleigh at the mall for dinner and Santa pics. We have a great time and the wait for Santa wasn’t bad. After that, we go driving around town to look at Christmas lights and stop to get the kids a McDonalds shake and then head to BrewNBake for hot chocolate for Miranda and I. The kids are getting restless in the car. They were downright annoying in BrewNBake and continued to be that way once we arrived home. I try to watch a tv show to unwind a bit, but I find myself hitting pause on the remote ’cause I can’t hear. Arguments over who is gonna take a bath first and whining about not being able to find the toothpaste lid – these are normal activities in our house. I’m tired of it. Miranda is tired of these things. I love my kids, but it’s definitely time for bed.
Finally, the kids are down and we’ve both kissed them goodnight. Now I can watch……wait, I still gotta call my mom about the phone. Oh, and get those contacts out of my eyes. Well, I’ll watch for 10 minutes and then do those things. As soon as the 10min are up, I get the contacts out and call mom. The whole time I’m talking, Miranda is correcting me. I don’t have the details quite right, but the gist of my message was the same. If she wanted to be so involved, why did she want me to call in the first place? OK – I hand the phone to her and she handles the situation with mom, masterfully. She’s good.
Now I can finally settle and rest….huh? Oh, you want me to come look at the stuff you bought people for Christmas?? I say “OK,” but I must have said it with some sort of sigh or frustration. Miranda is now mad and explains that I’ve taken “all the fun” out of it for her. She’s right, I shouldn’t have responded with a frustrated tone. I hate that I made it “not fun” for her ’cause she really does enjoy shopping and finding deals. She loves when she gets to show off her purchases and is proud of her work. She does a great job and I love that she takes care of it, ’cause it’s so much easier for me. I shouldn’t have acted that way. I’m the husband who is supposed to “die” for his bride. In our marriage, I’m in the Jesus role and am called to love her as Christ loves the church. He died. I sighed…….I sighed. I know, you may say it’s not that big of a deal. You may say, “Steve, you did so many things right. You died to your own stuff lots of times throughout the day.” Maybe, but Christ died completely, and I didn’t. I’m called to love like He does, but I failed tonight.
LORD, please forgive me. Teach me to love like you. Teach me to be fully present with my children and not just listen half-heartedly to Kesleigh’s stories about coloring books or whatever topic she is currently ranting about. Help me to put down my devices and “do” with my kids – and with Miranda. Give me more patience or a higher tolerance for “annoying behaviors.” Show me how to train my kids away from those behaviors. Give me wisdom to recognize the subtle ways I react ’cause Miranda picks up on them all and I truly want to communicate my love for her in all my actions. LORD, make this season special and help us all to encounter You in each experience – with each family, with each other, in travel, in meals, in gift giving, and in all our interactions with each other. AMEN.
Everyone should experience these 50 things sometime in their lives during the Christmas season. I have already experienced some of these, but some are things I hope to experience.
50 Things to do during Christmas:
1. “A Christmas Story” marathon.
2. Sit in Santa’s lap for a picture. It still counts if you cry your way through it.
3. Adopt a child (or 2 or 3) from the “Angel Tree” at church, buy gifts for him/her, and deliver them.
4. Cut down your own Christmas tree.
5. Decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments that have memories attached to them. Never waste your time making the tree look pretty or having matching ornaments.
6. Sleep way more than you should.
7. Cut and decorate Christmas cookies with colored icing, sprinkles, red hots, etc. (Or just eat the ones your Aunt makes.)
8. Build a fire in the fireplace (yes, even if it’s 80 degrees outside) and read the Christmas story as a family.
9. Let the kids unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, but make sure they get that same gift every year so there’s still no surprise.
10. Be intentional about spending some time reflecting on Emmanuel (God with Us) – Jesus. Here’s something I wrote about Him. Consistently Emmanuel
11. Participate in a live nativity.
12. Spend at least 100 hours placing exactly 6 colored stars on tree cookies made of green tasteless dough which you will sell to the nearest Christmas Tree Farm to make $$ for Christmas gifts. (This was for you, Laurie.)
13. Go Christmas caroling.
14. Be surprised when someone kisses you under the mistletoe.
15. Attend a candlelight service with your family.
16. Incur some kind of injury Christmas afternoon as you play with your new toy. (“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.”)
17. Give a memory to someone. Experience something together.
18. Unwrap “the ball” with your family. (It’s a tape ball with small gifts wrapped inside. The ball gets passed around a circle and you get to keep what you unwrap. You keep unwrapping until the next person rolls a 6 with a pair of dice.)
19. Watch the greatest Christmas movie ever made: Die Hard
20. Leave cookies out for Santa. Eat cookies left for Santa.
21. Dress up as Santa Claus so that a child believes at least one more year.
22. Instead of buying gifts, give $$ to your favorite charity.
23. Go to the trouble (in spite of the traffic) to take the kids to see some spectacular Christmas lights.
24. Go on a hayride.
25. Obtain an injury and get frustrated as you ignore the instructions and attempt to assemble the things Santa left your kids.
26. Take family pictures.
27. Re-gift. Or use gift cards to buy gifts for others.
28. Watch the eyes of someone you love as they open a special gift.
29. Play football in the yard with the whole family.
30. Put pumpkin pie on your shoe, pretend you came in from outside, and then when someone notices the “poop,” wipe it off with your finger and eat it. (My brother’s idea – and it was hilarious! My grandma is the one who noticed.)
31. Use an advent calendar where you get to do something (Ex: eat a chocolate, hang an ornament, etc.) each day leading up to Christmas.
32. Arrange for your children to play “Jesus” in some sort of local Christmas production. Bonus if you are Mary and Joseph.
33. See Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” Christmas production (or at least listen to the recording each year.)
34. Wake up way too early as your kids anticipation gets the best of them.
35. Secretly open a gift, seal it back up, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.
38. Use baby powder to leave footprints from the fireplace to the place where Santa left the gifts. (But make sure you make the footprints go back too – my parents missed that last part.)
39. Count the number of Jesus figurines you can find at grandma’s house.
40. Ask your grandma/grandpa about how they remember spending Christmas as kids.
41. Eat monkey bread.
42. Enjoy a “White Christmas” and do some sledding, have a snowball fight, or build a snowman.
43. Take the family skiing over the Christmas break.
44. Take the family to an old barn and read the Christmas story there among the animals and smells.
45. Bluebell Peppermint Ice Cream – it’s only made during the holidays.
46. Search the sky for Santa’s sleigh.
47. Get stranded due to icy/closed roads in some random west Texas town on the way to a ski trip. End up having to sleep with the animals ’cause there is “no room at the inn.” (It was Quanah, TX and the people of First Baptist Church were very gracious with their gym. They even let traveling pets sleep there.) Here’s a post about this experience: No Room at the Inn
48. Drive all over the country trying to see all your relatives and in-laws on Christmas Day.
49. Snack on Homemade Chex Mix, peppermint bark, and peanut clusters.
50. Celebrate Emmanuel!!! (Jesus = Emmanuel = “God with Us”)
Things not to do:
1. Get so busy trying to do the things on this list that you forget #50.
I believe these are incredibly powerful words. These words connect us to other people. They build bridges, communicate love and support. These words demonstrate empathy and bring us together. When I think about it, the people I have to most “me too’s” with are the people I am closest to in this world. Our shared experiences, our commonalities, draw us together and hold us together. “Me too’s” are important.
When someone is struggling, the words “me too” help others to see that they are not alone. When we say it, we’re saying that we are with them, that we understand, that we care and can see why they’d feel the way they do. Even if we have never been in their situation, we can almost always try to put on their shoes and say, “Me too. I understand why you’d feel that way.” We may not ever be able to imagine HOW it feels, but we can seek to understand WHY they’d feel that way. Either way, “Me too.” is powerful. Sometimes (I’m thinking about grief in particular) we don’t even need to say “me too.” Our presence alone communicates it.
When someone is celebrating, a “me too” celebrates too. It strengthens our relationship. When I was a youth minister, it became more and more clear that one of the best things I could do for a student was to show up at a game they were playing or a concert where they were performing. Those experiences, “being with” them became “me too’s” between us and helped draw us closer to one another.
Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
My hope is that I can become more aware of the moments I have. I want to say “me too” more often. I also want to live in a way that creates more “me too’s.” Of course I can’t be at everything I’d like, but I plan to be more intentional about “being with” people. My prayer is that you guys can all join me and say, “Yeah, me too.”
Home is where my family gathers. We laugh. We play. We cry. Home is where we settle our lives and work through our difficulties. Home calls us away from strife and beckons us into its’ safety. It’s where we find true rest. It’s where we find peace. Home is where we’re fed and filled and find satisfaction. Home is where we are meant to be. I love home.
My house is not my home. As we evacuated our house and our town this week, these things became much more clear to me. I looked in the rearview mirror and watched all of our earthly possessions grow small and smaller, shrinking as we distanced ourselves from the path of the hurricane. It was very surreal. This week, I have struggled between the fear of losing everything and the knowledge that we already have all that we need in Jesus. We have our family and yet, my faith is intermingled with unbelief.
“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” – Mark 9:24
When we drove away, I made some decisions. I decided that I was willing to lose everything that we left behind. I “let go” of our house. I now understand, that I was able to make that decision with confidence because I knew that we would always have a home. Jesus is our home and He has promised to never leave us. He is with us even in the midst of the hurricane. Would I miss certain things? Of course. Mostly things with sentimental value…. Items that are “more” than they actually are. However, in the end, even those things fall short of what Jesus Himself can provide.
Read my first paragraph again:
Jesus is where my family gathers. We laugh. We play. We cry. Jesus is where we settle our lives and work through our difficulties. Jesus calls us away from strife and beckons us into His safety. He is where we find true rest. He is where we find peace. Jesus is where we’re fed and filled and find satisfaction. Jesus is where we are meant to be. I love Him.
PS – We have returned from our evacuation and our house has remained dry. Everything has remained the same. However, I have not remained the same. I have been changed. As a community, we have much work to do. I plan to help my neighbors. I’m praying that together we will experience this true “home” as we work side by side. Pray for us.
Surrounded by strangers, my mind raced. . . .she’s not here? My heart sank. I went into denial. She has to be here. There’s nowhere else she can be. My heart sank deeper.No. It can’t be. No! No. No. No. My baby is missing. The tears started rolling down my face as I slammed my face into my hands.
My extended family (brother, sister, in-laws, nephews, nieces) was skiing in Angelfire, New Mexico and Kesleigh (6yrs old) was a brand new skier. We all started at the top of the mountain together and headed down a run we had done together multiple times that day. My son Kasen had a little spill and so I stopped to help him and allowed my daughter, Kesleigh to continue down the slope with our group. After getting Kasen settled, we raced toward the rest of our group and caught up with my brother about 1/3rd of the way down. He pointed Kesleigh out to me quite a ways down so I sped up and headed in her direction flying past lots of other skiers. I could see her with my sister as she turned a corner. When I made it to the turn, I saw my sister helping her son get up but didn’t see Kesleigh anywhere. She told me that she must have followed the others on down to the ski lift. There was only one ski lift at the bottom of that hill and she had been skiing with our group all morning long so I felt pretty good about meeting her at the bottom, but raced down to catch her anyway.
That’s when my mind started racing and my heart sank. She wasn’t there. Where could she have gone? What could have happened?Maybe it’s irrational, but I imagined some crazy abduction case or that maybe she had not made it down the mountain and was stuck hanging over the edge of some cliff. Why did I leave her? How could I have let her go on without me? Why? OK…….OK….Calm down. What should I do? OK – be smart. Alright. I asked my family to head up the lift looking for her and then to make another run down sweeping the area in search while I waited at the bottom in case she came down in the meantime. Waiting. . . . Oh, this can’t be. What kind of father are you? Is she alone? Please God. Keep her safe. Bring her back to us. Time moved so slowly. Please God. If I can’t be with her, please put someone else with her to help. My phone started ringing. My sister. She said they had seen Kesleigh from the lift and that she would come over the hill at any moment where would be able to see her. Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God.Oh. . . . there she is. As she approached, I could see her whole body quivering from her cry. She skied right into my arms and held her quivering dad who couldn’t control his own crying.
Evidently, she had crashed near my sister in between some trees where no one could see her. By God’s grace, and as an answer to prayer, another skier just “happened” to stop a few feet away from her and heard her crying. She helped Kesleigh out of the trees and got her back on her skis. After waiting a few minutes for someone to come looking for her, they decided that we must be waiting at the bottom. She told me that she knew she’d find some very worried parent at the lift. She was right. I couldn’t thank her enough and have prayed for God to bless she and her family many times since that day. She was an answer to prayer.
After the whole incident, Kesleigh and I talked about it and she forgave me for not being there. She also learned that God is watching over us and helping us even when no one else is.God never leaves us or forsakes us.Even when we are alone, we are NOT alone.
I was just playing around the other day with Kesleigh and was trying to convince her that my hugs were magic. I explained that if she hugged me, she’d be able to fly like Tinkerbell. My hugs are better than pixie dust. I’m not sure she was buying it.
Truth is: It’s her hugs that have the power to make a big daddy soar through the air like Tinkerbell. I lied about the power of my hugs as an excuse to get some of hers. (I’m a sinful man.) Her hugs and snuggles can redefine my entire day. My stress dissolves in her embrace. She has the ability to bring light into the darkness that runs around in my head. I’m so grateful for the joy that she is and the ways that Jesus uses her to touch me. I’m grateful for her magic hugs.
Prayer: LORD, Thank you for Kesleigh. She is such a precious gift and You’ve used her to help make me into a different man. I’m not sure why you entrusted her to me, but I’m very grateful. Please continue to grow our relationship. Help me to be the father that you have called me to be. Use me and my bumbling to lead her to You. Give me wisdom to guide her into the life You have prepared for her and help me to see the specific things she needs in order to be equipped for whatever comes her way. Hold each of us in Your hands and hold tight when we’re tempted to run away from You. You are our true father who has already given much more than magic hugs. Thank you! AMEN.
My grandma died last year at the age of 97 and she never snow skiied. She traveled all over the country and did all kinds of things, but she never went on a ski trip. Well…….. maybe she did……. just last week. She was there. I saw her almost everywhere I looked. When I broke open mom’s haystack candy, I saw grandma nibbling on one of her own. When the kids had a snowball fight, I saw grandma throwing one off the deck at me accompanied by her laugh and smile which both hit me harder than her snowball. When we played board games at the table, I watched her nimble hands slide the exact card into place to win the game. One morning
we had cinnamon rolls and they got burned because ovens cook differently in high altitudes, but I couldn’t help but see grandma’s cinnamon rolls sitting on that countertop. When I looked around the room at all my family, grandma’s influence was evident. She didn’t put up with arguing, and you know what? I don’t think we had any. We learned that from her. She loved spending time with family and so do all of us. She laughed often and it just hung in the room there like it was a permanent fixture.
When grandma’s estate was divided, my mom used some of her portion to take us on this trip. There were 17 of us: Mom, Me, Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, Roger, Kathy, Tyler, Betsy, Tucker, Tanner, Brenda, Schonn, Brianna, Ethan, Jaycee, and Tristian.
Grandma took all of us skiing…………. but we also took her. And we will take her everywhere we go.
Grandma left some things behind for us, but the most important things aren’t things at all. She left her mark on us. We have her in us. We became at least partly who she influenced us to become. Influence – that’s grandma’s greatest gift and the greatest inheritance anyone can leave for their loved ones. Love you Grandma! Miss you!
Thank you Mom for passing this precious gift along to us. Love you.
Here are a few pics. If you want more, check out facebook, shutterfly, or google+
We strolled down Main Street hand in hand. It was a moderately cool day and we drank in the moment savoring each step as we made our way toward the castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The breeze nipped at our faces, but nothing could quell the excitementcoursing through our veins. These days would be remembered forever as precious – a beginning as well as a celebration.
It was January 2004. Miranda and I strode past families who gathered in their matching t-shirts to capture the excitement with their cameras, but it was our honeymoon. We were oblivious to anyone outside our own little gaze and communicated our love for each other with just a look.
Just a week ago….10yrs later, Miranda and I were able to relive the same experience – only this time, we had our kids. We still held hands and strolled down Main Street towards the castle, but this time there were extra hands. We stopped to have our picture taken in our matching t-shirts, We still looked into each other’s eyes and were oblivious to others around us, but this time the look carried different messages – “Can you do something about her whining?” or “Tell him to stop chasing his cousin.” The ease with which we chose our next destinations had disappeared – now there were so many more factors: “Is she tall enough? Will they be scared? Where is the nearest restroom? How long is the line? Can the kids make it without a meltdown? When is our fastpass scheduled? Can we use a stroller pass?”
However in spite of all the madness competing for our attention, nothing could quell our excitement. With the extra people, we also had contagious excitement that coursed through our veins. These days will be remembered forever as precious – a new beginning and a celebration of who we are and have become.
Mike and Patti Mathews generouslyprovided everything for us to enjoy this trip. They arranged: 1) a surprise on Christmas Day for the kids, 2) Flights for 11, 3) an incredible house with a pool and hot tub, 4) car rental, and 5) 5 days of Disney tickets – not to mention the countless hours of planning, the tshirts, parking $, and extra gifts all along the way. Your love for all of us is incredible and we are blessed to have such a “legacy of love” in our lives. Thank you!
Prayer: Thank you Jesus for our family. Thank you for all your efforts in drawing Mike and Patti to you all those years ago and for giving them to us. You have blessed them and they are truly a blessing. Guide Miranda and I to carry this “legacy of love” forward and pass it to our children. Thank you also for giving Miranda to me. Allow us to continue to “hold hands” as we move through life – not just with each other but more importantly, help us to “hold your hand.” Amen.
I posted a few pics here, but if you want to see a few more, you can go here: Disney 2014