Saturday, December 26, 2009

Place of Honor

I try not to brag about my kids.  It seems like when I write about them, I’m usually highlighting their less than stellar moments.  But I have great kids: they are talented and smart, fun and cute.  They get excellent grade and are nice to others.  I’m definitely proud of them.

Last week piano recitals and programs at school and church highlighted the point.  I was happy with the progress on their piano skills, despite the agonizing pain of having to practice every day.  It was fun to see them sing and play their instruments in the school program.  Grant really did a great job drumming in the elementary band.  He’s only been playing since September.  I thought I would have a royal headache!

On Christmas Eve, Grant and Jenna were going to play their piano duet.  Jenna decided she didn’t want to, so Grant played by himself.  It’s easy to only promote the kids’ outward skills and talents.  Excelling in school can become the most important thing.  Talents are great to have and I’m glad they are using them.  It’s nice to have them in a place of honor, all shiny and talented, sharing it with others.  But, it’s way to easy to become more concerned about what they do than who they are.   

Christmas Eve was very snowy here.  We had to shovel our way into the school our church rents.  Mike had Grant and Jenna bring their shovels.  They happily worked together to shovel the stairs and sidewalk.  They salted it generously.  They worked hard.  No one saw them do it, except me.  No one thanked them.  They didn’t say, “But we are on the worship team.  We shouldn’t have to do THIS job!” 

Shoveling snow is not a normal place of honor.  It seems unusual that I would look back on those moments with more pride than watching them play or sing in front of people.  But in God’s eyes, there is no higher place of honor than service.  Who they are is way more important than what they do.

Jesus washes the feet of his disciples to prove this point.  It’s the lowest job, for the lowest servant.  He says,

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  John 13:13-17


If only more people could see it.  Letting go of their rights and being willing to do anything, even when you don’t have to.  There will be costs.  People will think they are strange, people will take advantage.  It’s not a message this world understands, but Jesus continually lived and taught it.


My kids taught me a valuable lesson on Christmas Eve. I went about my job that night of taking off and then re-hanging all the lost and found garments on the coat rack we use with a different attitude.  It’s tedious and I like to grumble to myself while I do it.  Maybe it was a Christmas miracle, but I could see it through Jesus’ eyes that night thanks to them.

The true place of honor is service. There is honor in humility.  And I couldn’t be prouder of them.

John 12:25-26

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the many who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Great Expectations

After waiting many long weeks Christmas morning finally arrived. We spent time shopping and thinking about what everyone would like. We spent a lot of time wrapping presents last night. After everything was opened one of our kids (who shall remain nameless), started crying and angrily yelled, "You are meanies!" Apparently she didn't get everything she wanted. That was just the reaction we were looking for.

The problem is that you cannot possibly get everything you wanted when you wanted everything. Again, who can blame them? All the hype, commercials, catalogs and people asking them what they want just causes them to dream. And in America we teach our kids to dream big. Nothing you can imagine is impossible.

Some things are impossible. Some dreams are too big. Even if we had the money, we still would not buy them everything their hearts desire.

After my initial frustration with the lack of thankfulness I actually felt like I could understand. I have high expectations of holidays too. I dream of my house to be perfectly decorated and clean and beautiful food on the table. I'd love for my kids to be dressed nicely and have combed hair. I want to wow my kids with their gifts. I want it to be a perfect, gleaming day of joy and happiness.

Sometimes the kids are still naughty. The food may not be perfect. Sometimes the house is messy or there's a blizzard preventing you from seeing family. Maybe your family gets sick or the present doesn't work out. Does that make it a bad Christmas? or a bad life?

Having it all is a lie. I think that's why so many people are disillusioned with life. We all build up impossible expectations. That was a big problem in my marriage and parenting. I thought it would all live up to my dreams and it doesn't. Just like the presents under the tree won't be perfect either.

That's not a bad thing. In my imperfection and failures, I've found peace. I don't think the answer is to lower our expectations and give up on joy. The answer is to give up our desires to Christ. The answer is to put Him first. After that everything else is filtered through his grace and peace.

As we have imperfect Christmases and days, I want my kids to learn that it's not about the outcome. The key to joy and peace that we can't understand is in Christ. He is peace. He came to bring us peace.

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Micah 5:4-5
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

When you believe and live that, the details don't matter. A blizzard or the flu can't ruin Christmas. Not getting the gift you wanted doesn't mean a temper tantrum. Joy and peace don't come in a package or in family or food or lights. Joy and peace are always flowing from Christ. He is the source and it is always available from him in good times and not so good times too.

That's the best Christmas gift we can get. It's the best gift we can give. The joy and peace of Christ that, despite the odds and trials of this world, results in perfection.

Romans 14:17-18
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Romans 15:13
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.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little Angel

We had our Christmas program.  Maren wasn’t exactly in tune with what was going on.  First, she got one of these from the fun, crafty lady at church.

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She opened it and was concentrating so hard on getting each little MnM out of the bag.  Eventually one would pop out and roll away.  She would happily scurry after it and eat it right off the floor of the school our church meets in.  I’m sure it’s really clean.  That kept her busy for a while.

Then the program started and she was no little angel.  She took her shoes off, but she wasn’t the only one.  She stood in place for about five seconds, which I thought was pretty good.

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Then she sat down, went up to the top of the risers by Jenna, sat with me, and  looked at the instruments in the basket.  Up, down, all around.

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She finally decided to get in the game after it was over.  She even wore her hair bling.

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Even in her flame red dress with a personality to match, she’ll always be our little angel.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crabby About Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…blah, blah, blah!  I thought so but there is kind of a lot of stuff to do.  It is actually stressful and busy and exhausting.  I have not been in the jolliest of moods this month.  And it wasn’t all due to the fact that we had a week long stomach bug. 

The problem is that I’m a control freak.  I never thought I was but I do want everything done my way.  It’s made me unable to enjoy a lot of things this Christmas.

Like when we got our Christmas tree.  It was a long day.  I didn’t get enough sleep.  Maren was a bear to deal with.  I had to run back and forth to school activities.  I had to run my bus route of four year olds to school.  I had a meeting that Maren came along to.  You can probably guess how well that went.  There were some other stupid things I was stewing about.  I got home in time for her to throw a royal fit until the bus delivered all four kids.  Mike drove in the drive way at the exact same time.

He came in an announced we were going to get our Christmas tree.  I was thinking, “Now?  Are you insane?”  I begrudgingly got my boots on and went along.

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We found a tree the Griswold way.  Nothing really went according to plan.  We ended up buying one out of a guy’s front yard.  I tried to help with the straps just to be a good sport.


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We got home and I started making the supper I never had a chance to make while they trimmed it and brought it in; pine needles and dirty boots everywhere.  I was so annoyed with everything that I could not enjoy the evening.  I was snapping at the kids and pouting while struggling with my chicken.

Part of my problem is that our family adventures never live up to how I envision them to be.  I’d like to have a clean house and head out happily together.  I’d like to plan ahead the night we are going to do the tree and have soup in the crock pot waiting for us.  I’d like to have homemade hot cocoa and cookies while we merrily decorate the tree. 

Because of the way I wish things would happen, I was missing how they were happening.  The kids were having a ball helping get the tree to stand up straight.  They loved getting out all their ornaments.  Maren especially was thrilled.  Last year we were probably keeping her far away from everything.  She shrieked with joy at every little decoration.

When I went to check the chicken at 6:30 it still wasn’t done.  The kids were practicing their piano and wrestling at the same time.  The ornaments were clustered too close together.  One of them dropped and shattered into pieces.  The tree is still a little crooked.


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I guess that’s how tree decorating night goes when you have little kids. 

Everyone wanted to help me wrap presents for my Sunday school kids.  I wanted to do it by myself.  I was in a hurry because I was doing it Sunday morning.  I wanted them to look pretty because preschoolers care about stuff like that.

I had help rolling out sugar cookies.  They are my favorite.  I didn’t want help.  They were too thick and too thin.  There were mounds of frosting on each one.  While Annie was rolling cookies, she said, “I am having so much fun, Mommy!”

I was looking forward to some peace and quiet in my kitchen last night.  We had everyone in bed, but someone magically reappeared.  So I had a chatty helper while making the birthday cinnamon rolls. She cut them all with thread and unwrapped a bunch of candy for me. 

cinnamon rolls

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It was kind of nice to have the company.

Sometimes I need to learn to let go and just enjoy the moments even if they aren’t planned out or perfect.  It doesn’t change one thing to be crabby about it.  It still needs to get done.  The house will get messy anyway like it always is. The cookies and rolls may not be perfect and it may not get done in peace but there will be plenty of happy mouths eating them.

I don’t want them to remember a crabby and crazed mom trying to get it all done and done right.  I don’t want them to remember never being able to help.  I don’t want them to remember always being told no or wait because I’m busy making this the perfect Christmas for you.  I don’t want them to remember getting in trouble for making a mess. 

It’s silly to get uptight about everything.  Christmas will come and go.  No one will remember the cookies or the tree or the nice wrapping on the presents.  I want them to remember doing things together and having fun.  I want them to treasure time spent over cookie dough and tree ornaments.  I want us to laugh about our Christmas tree expeditions. I hope I remember the important things this year and enjoy every minute.

Stocking Stuffer

Eleven years ago today we got an early Christmas present.


Our stocking was full and so were our hearts. 

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Happy Birthday Grant!  You are a blessing that has knocked our socks off!


James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Winning and Losing

It was pretty shocking to see “Wrenshall” on my Yahoo News ticker. I didn’t believe it. My little town of 350 people in the headlines? When I clicked on the links to this story and this one, I read about our girls high school basketball team and their 65-0 loss.

I had to wonder why would a news agency do a story on that? To embarrass our team or our town?

Our society is obsessed with winning. Whatever it takes, you better win. Hollywood turns out tear jerker movies about the underdog that comes back to be victorious above all odds. In the real world, some teams lose. Not every underdog comes back.

Some of the background Yahoo Sports didn’t cover was that 2 years ago our girls basketball team went to state. They were very good. The next year was rocky. Now we have a new coach and smaller classes in the high school.

Our little school has had a tough year. We had to forfeit part of the varsity football season because we didn’t have enough players. There are some small classes in the high school right now. But the numbers start to grow quickly with the younger kids. It’s typical ebb and flow in a small school

I got a first hand view of how a game like that might feel on Saturday. I’m helping with Jenna’s fourth grade basketball team. These girls have worked so hard in practice and have improved so much. We played our first of two games on Saturday and got crushed. At half time the ref asked us if we wanted to shut off the scoreboard. The girls were getting frustrated, discouraged and tired. I found myself feeling the same way. I know it’s not the most important thing but I’d sure like to see them win!

So is it worthless? Should these girls keep showing up to practice and games? Should they even continue their losing season? Is it harder to easily win by thirty or keep playing your hardest when you know you probably can’t come back?

I wonder if the reporters were surprised with what they found in Wrenshall. Let me fill you in on a few things that Yahoo Sports does not know about us.

I bet they didn’t expect to find a coach like Michelle Blanchard, who continues to show up to practice and work with these girls. She talked honestly about the tough loss and moving on saying she doesn’t even look at the score, just the improvement of the girls.

They didn’t count on players that are keeping at it. They keep practicing, working hard and getting better.

They didn’t understand how supportive our tight-knit community is.

They don’t know that when I call because my kids are sick, the secretary knows who we are and what grade the kids are in.

When I pick my kids up from school, the superintendent is in the lobby greeting people.

When there is a schedule mix-up and two teams have practice at the same time with our limited gym space, we go half court and make it work.

When there is a concert, almost the whole town comes.

There are grandparents and community members that volunteer to read with kids.

There’s a community education director that puts in way more time than she’s paid for.

A teacher’s husband passed away and every teacher went to the funeral.

There’s always someone to chat with over coffee at the Brickyard.

The person who owns the One Stop gas station knows my name and where I live, and not in a creepy way.

Is winning the most important thing? Will the girls that had a winning season be better off in life than these girls? Not necessarily. How long will they play basketball? Maybe through college. Life and work is more about commitment, hard work and improvement than the glory of winning. There is pride in those things win or lose.

So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one wearing my orange and black Wrenshall shirt. I am proud of the varsity team and our fourth grade team. Win or lose, they are playing with heart. And if you read the yahoo stories and think we’re just a sorry little town, think again. There is more to the story.