A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

I always have great expectations for myself during Christmastime, it is truly my favorite season of the year! I want to bake (and eat) all the cookies, attend all the parties, buy all the presents, hang all the ornaments, watch all the movies, go ice skating, visit the trains at union station, make homemade gifts for everyone and their mothers, and do all sorts of other fun things with my family.
But I feel like these things come too early. All of the Christmas festivities happen before Christmas, helping us anticipate the main event: Christmas morning. So when do we celebrate advent? Advent takes place during the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. It is the hope of the Christmas season, the preparation to receive God’s greatest gift to us, the expectation of something amazing, the longing for God With Us, Emmanuel.
With two little kids in the house, I’m still trying to find the “right” annual Christmas traditions to embrace. Growing up, my parents gave us ornaments and pajamas on Christmas Eve and filled stockings for us Christmas morning. I absolutely love those traditions, but I keep forgetting to make it happen for our kids. Every year my in-laws watch White Christmas, make chex mix, and eat homemade danishes, but we didn’t do that this year either. Last year we had just returned from Northern Ireland and surprised my parents on their doorstep Christmas morning! That was so fun, but our international move didn’t leave room for us to plan Christmas “activities”. We move around so much that it seems, for us at least, that it’s not about the gifts (and honestly, we only bought one gift for each of our boys this year anyway). We have collected nativity scenes from all over the world and we’ve consistently been able to get those out every year. It seems that certain traditions are making themselves happen, whether we plan for it or not!
 
I’m choosing to embrace whatever this season brings, and not force it into something it just isn’t. I’m not concerned about the cranberry and popcorn garland that was never made for the tree. I’m not worried about the serious lack of hot cocoa we experienced. I’m letting go of the homemade gifts, the fancy sweet potatoes (just bake, peel, and mash, my friends!), the Christmas movies, the gifts the boys were going to make for each other, the baby Jesus craft, the caroling, and the salt dough ornaments… There’s so much I expected of myself this holiday season and well, a lot of it didn’t happen. And somehow, however imperfectly, this Christmas season has been perfect. Our “last” Christmas with extended family, our “last” cold-weather Christmas, our “last” Christmas in Kansas City (for a few years at least).
 
Today is the last day of advent, a season dedicated to waiting for the birth of the Christ-child. Christmas day is the end of advent, but the beginning of the Christmas season! So for the start of Christmas this year, I’m not agonizing over wrapping all the gifts with perfectly tied ribbons or making sure the house is clean. I’m choosing to be present this evening on this silent and holy night, this last day of advent. I’m anticipating tomorrow, Christmas Day, when earth receives her king and the joy of Christmas is truly upon us!
“Heavenly hosts sing ‘Hallelujah!’. Repeat the sounding joy! Glory to God in the Highest! Let heaven and nature sing, Joy to the world!”
Merry Christmas!

Advent is for Expectation

Every year during advent I find myself filled with great hope and expectation. It is my very favorite season! I love Christmas, but there is something so special about the anticipation during advent. This year, I’m expectant and hopeful for another event too.
Our family is journeying once again, this time to New Zealand!
We have accepted a pastoral position at a Nazarene church in Christchurch (great name, right?!) and we are thrilled about this new opportunity!
Unlike our other travels, this venture does not have an end-date. At first this felt intimidating, but now it feels like freedom. Freedom to dig deeper roots into our new community, freedom to form lasting friendships, and freedom to really carve out a life for ourselves in a new context. John and I have moved around so much in our 6 and a half years together, and we look forward to the prospect of being settled somewhere for a few years at least.
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Along with the excitement comes a bit of sadness too. Once again, we are uprooting ourselves to go somewhere we’ve never been. Once again, we’ll be without the support of our children’s grandparents, close family, and dear friends. Once again, we’ll find ourselves working hard to create a new routine and help our children adjust to a new culture. Once again, we’ll fumble around learning different words and phrases, making cultural faux pas at every turn. And once again, we’ll be reminded of God’s grace and provision for our family.
There are just over 7 months until we leave (in mid-July), and there is a lot to do in that time frame. We are in the process of scheduling speaking engagements at various churches around the country. So far we are scheduled on Sunday mornings in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, and California! There are a few other locations on the horizon but if you’d like to host us at your church, we’d LOVE to come visit and share about what God has been doing in the life of our family over the years. Please send me a message if you’re interested in having us. Also, pretty soon I’ll be launching a fundraising endeavor that everyone can get behind! (Pssst… it involves artisan gifts made in Haiti and East Africa!)
We’d love for your prayers over the following:
-Cultural Transition for our boys (now 4 and 2)
-Continued dedication to our schoolwork (John is working on his Master’s of Divinity and I’m working on my Master’s of Intercultural Studies)
-That we wouldn’t hold too tightly to our material possessions
-That our financial needs would be met
-Open minds to notice creative ways to reach out to this new community
Please send me a message with your email address if you’d like to be included in ministry-specific newsletters. On our blog we’ll be writing about cultural adjustments, family life, our faith journeys, and non-specific ministry news (to protect the identities of those in NZ). Facebook and Instagram will be mainly for family-related news because, well, we have cute kids that we know you’ll want to see!
With hopeful expectation during this advent season,
Peace!