Friday, December 20, 2013

Emmanuel Is A Gift For Every Day

I have a million and one things to do today but I can't help it, I had to write out what I am feeling right now. Here we are, getting ready to travel for the holidays. I should be meticulously going over my to do list and packing and wrapping and plenty more. However, I just need to write some things out. I am filled with joy and I just can't keep it to myself.

Today, I helped my husband file a grant application for my children's school. He works for a company that every year offers grants to employees that volunteer locally in schools of up to $3000 for schools. Last year we helped a Cedar Rapids school receive funds for iPads and after school enrichment programs. This year we are applying for a grant for the Mount Vernon Elementary School. The funds will go towards new library books that the school is in great need of replacing. We will find out in February if the grant is approved but I am just so excited that we are in a position that we can help bless our community. It could be the book lover in me but giving $3000 in books really feels like Christmas!

It isn't just what is happening in our own home. This week I have been constantly reminded of all the blessings that God gives to us. We celebrated Oliver's 5th birthday yesterday but it is more than just that. I see blessings filling up the hearts of family and friend around me. I see reasons for joy everywhere.

My Facebook feed keeps lighting up with people sharing about carolers singing at their doorstep and strangers doing random acts of kindness. It is friends sharing how they donated to Toys for Tots. It is a group of moms helping another mom that needs help this Christmas. It is a picture of the Angel Tree at our church literally overflowing with Christmas gifts for children here in our city. These are just "small" things that have such a big impact on our communities.  When we give even the smallest of gifts, we give something more.

Earlier this month a friend shared that her adoption of two children from Ghana is going through. They have been on this journey to adopt for quite a long time. They have been through their fair share of challenges with many ups and downs. However, their hearts kept calling them to keep going forward. This week the visas for their children were finally approved. Even more of a blessing, they will fly home just two days before Christmas. It is the story of a real Christmas miracle. What a blessing to witness this miracle. Two children now have a loving home, all because they opened their hearts to God.

For over a year another friend has been battling lead in her home. Her son has lead poisoning and it has been a struggle for their family to manage. This fall their youngest child was also diagnosed with high lead levels. It was a blow to their family. However, with the support of friends they were able to push through and get some resources for her family. Friends and family and people from both Cedar Rapids and around the world have been pooling together through Lead Safe America Foundation to help. They now have enough funds for their family move into a temporary residence. Their family has been a blessing to hundreds of families here in Cedar Rapids. I love that our community is giving back to them when they need the love and support the most. I love that our community is selflessly supporting each other when we need each other. This is love.

So often we get busy during this season of the year. So often our lives stay too busy all year long. So often good news gets drowned out by all the bad things in life. These prove to me that good things still happen.

The reason for the season is not presents. The reason is Christ came to us many years ago as God's gift to us. God came to be with us. Emmanuel. God is with us. To witness these acts of giving and be a part of it, it gives me something more. It is life changing. It is transforming. To experience this is a real Christmas blessing.

These things are so encouraging to me. The empower me. They show me that the spirit of God is with us. That God is present in our lives. God is alive when we give to others. These are gifts of peace, joy, hope and the greatest gift of all: LOVE.

Christmas can be every day, because every day is an opportunity to give. Christmas is not December 25th. Christmas is forever. Every day is Christmas.

Give Peace.
Share Joy.
Be Hope.
Most of all, LOVE.

Every day. All the time. Forever.

Monday, December 16, 2013


There is something about this month that just pushes my buttons and challenges me. It is not just the holidays. My middle child Oliver celebrates his birthday every December. Between that and all of the mushy gushy Hallmark, Cheerio and Coca Cola commercials my emotions are running wild. There is just not enough tissues to go around folks.

This year Oliver turned five. For some reason five is just hard. It pops up and feels like a big surprise.

Let me tell you about why 5 is wonderful. Five is:

  • Painting
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Legos Legos Legos
  • Snuggling in PJs
  • Reading Dr. Seuss and Curious George
  • Learning your alphabet
  • Writing your name
  • Building forts
  • Being fascinated by bubbles and fireworks
  • Singing songs
  • Love of animals and nature
  • Cheesy knock knock jokes
  • Laughter over silly things

Five isn't easy either. Five is also:

  • Not sharing with your sister
  • Or your brother
  • Wardrobe battles
  • Stubbornness
  • Temper tantrums over the.smallest.thing.ever
  • Not uh. Uh huh. Not uh. Uh huh...
  • Insisting on using the ninja turtles plate
  • One more drink of water
  • I don't want to

Five is being newly independent and wanting to do it all.
However, they still sometimes hold your hand. Sometimes they even admit they want your help. Best of all, they still think you are the cooler than any superhero and better than any toy all the money in the world can buy. Most of the time.

When they turn five they are almost ready for kindergarten and suddenly it feels like they will be off to their first prom. Then you blink and they are off to college or to their first job. Sounds dramatic but that is how five feels. Nothing slows them down. All you want is for time to stand still.

We celebrated Oliver's birthday early this year. We had a little sledding party with a lot of fun.

We had little mugs of hot cocoa and chocolates and marshmallows and candy canes for goodie bags. All the kids took one home to warm up after our fun in the snow.

I made simple little hot cocoa cupcakes. They turned out great, and of course I dropped a full tray of them on the floor. Twice actually. About two hours before the party. Good thing I made extras. Also, it was good that no one was home when this happened. Mommy was not happy. I *possibly* let out some words that shall not be written in this blog.

We decorated with little paper snowflakes that the kids made earlier in the week. It was our fun craft for the week. Making snowflakes with three kids means not a single one is alike.

The kids decorated cookies and had hot cocoa in-between sledding runs. There were lots of sprinkles on my floor. There probably are some still there actually.

Everyone went home. I caught my breath finally. After all the cake and presents and after all of our fun I realized he was going to be 5.

I just want five to stay. I want it to last a little longer. My kids sometimes frustrate me and leave me exhausted. I love them though no matter what.

If there is anything I want to remember about five it is all simple & fun things we do. Fun is not elaborate. It doesn't cost a bunch of money. It is simple moments where we just spend time together. Usually at home together.

I want more of that for five.