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Celebrate Christmas Through a Child’s Eyes

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Ask any adult if they’re ready for Christmas, and they’ll likely respond with a groan. For what’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” December usually ends up being too busy, too chaotic, and too stressful to really enjoy. Children, on the other hand, are completely opposite. My kids have been counting down to Christmas since the middle of November. You can see the excitement and wonder in their eyes when they think about the holiday. Christmas for a child is what Christmas is really about—waiting in eager expectation. Our Heavenly Father has given us the perfect gift in His Son. We know that’s what Christmas is all about, but sometimes it’s hard to keep that focus when we think about everything on our to-do list before December 25. So here are a few links of Advent and Christmas activities you can do with your children (or on your own!), to remind you to take a step back and celebrate Christmas through a child’s eyes.

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When Sunscreen Isn’t Enough

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We should have listened better. Here we were, college kids from Michigan, on a choir tour to Florida during spring break, a very welcome relief of sun and warmth. Our choir director warned us that we had to be careful in the sun. It was six times more intense that much further south than we were used to, and we would get a sunburn much more quickly than we would in Michigan. He told us to use plenty of sunscreen, drink lots of water, and stay in the shade when possible. Naturally, most ignored his advice. I mean, come on. You can’t very well come back from Florida without a tan. So despite the warnings, many students got some sun on the beach with little or no sunscreen to protect their skin. There were a lot of lobster-red faces for the remainder of that tour.

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What Moms of Young Kids Really Want for Mother’s Day

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Ask any mom of young children what her ideal Mother’s Day would look like, and if she’s being honest, chances are she’d like an afternoon without her kids. All. By. Herself. I know that doesn’t exactly match the spirit of the day, but moms are already with their young kids the vast majority of the time. Every day is “Mother’s Day.” Moms are always caring for their children, changing diapers, making food, acting as peacekeeper and referee, constantly being interrupted from a task they’d like to accomplish. So the thought of not having to do that for a day actually sounds really nice.

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To the Mom Whose Kids Misbehaved in Church Yesterday

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Dear Mom Whose Kids Misbehaved in Church,

I heard your kids yesterday in church. Like, through the entire service. I saw the displeased glances people exchanged and the dirty looks a few people shot your way.  I know you were embarrassed and frustrated and probably wish you’d just stayed home. I’m sure you personally didn’t get much out of the service. Perhaps you left early to avoid people making comments to you about their behavior afterward. But I wish you’d stayed, because I have something very important to tell you: Thank you.

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Sweet Words

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By all accounts, yesterday was a completely sub-par day. Work was…meh. My toddler had been fighting a cold for a couple of days. My wife had picked up said cold the previous night and was drained of energy. We were hosting a guest at the house who—you guessed it—was also sick. I had just returned from picking up my toddler from a not-so-good day at her daycare, and I still had to finish up my own work day. Then I had to address and work on some other business matters. Oh, and I had to make dinner, too. Yeah.

Our evening wound up being what my wife and I have coined a “Jekyll and Hyde” night. One minute was all smiles, giggles, and happiness. The next was a complete 180° turn filled with fussiness, crying, attention-craving, and meltdowns. So it was up to me and my five-month-old son to take care of our lovely ladies and house guest. While it wasn’t the most difficult situation, neither was it altogether easygoing. But we managed and got through it. Our toddler was put to bed at her normal time, and the rest of us were able to take a few minutes to decompress and relax before hitting the proverbial hay ourselves.

Then 10:15 pm came. Toddler was awake, wailing, and needing another dose of medicine. And then it happened. In the midst of her crying, I heard that sweet word: “Daddy.” My heart both broke and melted at the same time. Just over two hours ago I wanted nothing more than a break from adulting and parenting. But now, in her time of need and distress, all of that went out the window. Nothing else mattered. She wanted and needed me. And I was more than happy to do whatever I needed to do to help her.

As I sat and cuddled with her after getting her calmed down, I thought of how hearing my child’s voice crying out to me compares to how our heavenly Father feels and responds when any of us, His children, cry out to Him. It doesn’t matter how or why we call to Him. It could be a simple thank you. Or a request for something we want or need. Or an utterly desperate plea for help in a moment of our deepest distress. No matter the case, our Father loves to hear us call His name, and He, like all parents, will do anything to help His children.

My mind then turned to the book of Psalms, and how many of the Psalms are written in a state of need and distress. A couple of verses I found particularly apropos were:

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 17:6

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. – Psalm 18:3, 6

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. – Psalm 116:1-2

It’s comforting to read verses like this, and to know that there are many others throughout the Bible that talk about God listening to and answering us when we call to Him. He truly is our loving Father. And now as a father myself, I am coming to understand more fully how and why He loves us so unconditionally and will always be here for us. It doesn’t matter what we have done, what sort of a day we’ve had, how long it’s been since we last reached out to Him, or even how we seek comfort in Him. Nothing else matters to Him. He knows that we need Him. And He is more than happy to do whatever He needs to help us.

 

(Special thanks to guest author Anthony Hessler for the post!)

Off to a Bad Start

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The morning started off as any other. That is, badly. The kids were whiny. They didn’t want what I’d made for breakfast. Complaining abounded. They were being mean and insulting one another. I was irritated and prone to snap at them. It was not a great start to the day, and I certainly didn’t want to continue into the rest of the day with these attitudes. Something had to change, but I didn’t quite know how to go about that.

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A Letter to My Teenage Son

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Dear Son,

This weekend you turned 14. Congratulations! You are turning into a young man right before my eyes. You are a bright and talented individual with your own unique personality. I am proud of the young man you are now, and excited to see the man you will become. I suppose it’s only natural at a birthday for a mom to stop and reflect on the passage of time, so indulge me for a few minutes and allow me to impart some wisdom from one generation to the next.

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Growing Out of Faith

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This morning I dropped my daughters off at school and they both walked in without looking back. This is quite a change from the beginning of the year, when my kindergartner would cling to me for dear life before I left. I had to walk her down to her classroom, help her put her backpack in her cubby, and give her a dozen hugs before leaving. After a few days of that routine, we shortened it so that her big sister walked her to the classroom, so long as I stood in the entryway where she could see me until she got to her classroom. Then when she got more comfortable with school and more self-reliant, I was able to wave at her from the doorway when she turned the corner to go to her classroom. And now she doesn’t even bother to look back. She’s on her own.

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What Does This Mean? (Beyond Confirmation Class)

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I can practically sing “Phantom of the Opera” in my sleep. My son is in the marching band, and their program was “Phantom” this year. Besides the fact that he practiced it at home, we also have the advantage of living but two blocks from the school, and therefore we can hear the band when they practice outside. We heard “Phantom” every school morning, every Monday night when they had three-hour clinics, every halftime show for home games, and every weekend in October for competition.

But here’s the thing–the harder the competitions got, the more they practiced. You’d think by the time they’d done it a few times, they had the thing pretty well under their belts, but no. They worked on fine tuning the performance, sometimes quite literally. They held chords to figure out which instrument was out of tune. They played the same sixteen measures over and over to make sure everyone was stepping exactly where they ought. They needed to know every single detail about their part, and know it well. It was inspiring to observe their focus and dedication. And it’s a good lesson on what it means to live as Christians in the world.

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