Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Gift of Love

So, tis' the season to contend with Santa. This is not a Santa bashing post...there is no reason to bash him, just a neat conversation that I had with my kids this morning regarding the ole' guy. We do not pretend Santa. I don't think that I ever really believed in him because Christmas' were different growing up because of divorce. I still really enjoyed Christmas and so I guess I didn't feel like I was robbing my kids of anything. I was not a Christian growing up, so now Christmas is really much different.

So, we've been preparing what we will say when folks ask us, although usually we just smile kindly and scoot on our way. We haven't come up with much yet, but there is still time I suppose. So, this morning the kids were finishing up decorating our Jesse Tree and they were so very excited about it. (I'll tell you about that in a minute). As they were unwrapping each little clay piece that I handcrafted last year they would squeal, "Oh, I'm the lucky one I got the ______!" I was washing dishes (Kelli, can you give me a sleeve of cups for Christmas? I DETEST washing cups!!!)and I thought I'd ask what they thought about Santa, just out of curiosity. "Guys, are you sad that we don't pretend in Santa?" In unison the kids said, "No." I found that a little intriguing so I asked, "Why not? Don't you think it would be fun?" Their answers were still worldly, which is fine, they said, "Well, we still get presents they just come from you and Dad." So, I wonder if Santa would be hurt to know that it's not him they want, but his goods!!! Then Anson said this, "I would rather have a gift of love." Hm? Shall I wrap some love under the tree this year? I asked what he meant. "Well, a gift from Santa is just because you were good, not because he loves you. A gift from your parents is a gift of love." Even typing that I stop and consider a "gift of love." That sure is what God meant isn't it? A gift from our Heavenly Father to show us that we aren't good at all and nothing we could possibly try to do would save us, so He sent a Gift of Love. That totally beats anything elves could fashion doesn't it?

It makes me even more excited to give to my children now because I see how they receive it, and hopefully this Christmas we will all have open eyes and softened hearts to receive the gift of Love that is Emmanuel.

In light of the beginning of Advent I will share two (maybe 3) things that we do that really make our season sweet. The first is a book that I bought last year called The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean. It is a story in a story and we have really enjoyed the beautiful illustrations and the heart change that occurs in the grumpy ole' man. I will say that no scripture is referenced, so if you want to read the story from the Bible, you'll have to find it. For some that may be a downer, I still enjoy it. You can find tons of stuff if you google "Jesse Tree." I think there is a movement among Christian households to reclaim this holiday for Christ and we are looking for ways to make it meaningful to our children. A Jesse Tree is one of those things. For our tree, I made ornaments (I am NOT crafty, but these turned out precious...I'll take pics when Mike is home to do all the work!) out of sculpee clay. I made them a few at a time last year and just kept them wrapped up, and this year since they are all finished we hung them on a small Christmas tree. They really look super. As we read each story, we'll find the ornament. The goal of Jesse Trees (long ago) was to have a visual of the story for the illiterate people. So, it's a fun way for your kids to retell the story using the ornaments as visual cues of what happened next. There are paper ornaments you can cut out and color or just make up your own symbols! The point is that your family can recall the story.

Another super resource is available for free (plus the cost of ink) from www.aholyexperience.com I may use this one as well because I enjoy the author's writing style. She includes illustrations at the end of the book. Total the book is 80 pages, but only 57 of that is the Jesse Tree devotional. So, you may want to check that out.

Then one more book that we enjoy each year, that you may or may not love is by Arnold Ytreeide. We are reading the third book this year (you don't have to read them in order) and they are exciting books full of adventure (some robbers and thieves) but always lands us in a stable staring at the Promise. I wouldn't say that you are going to get a ton of spiritual nourishment, but they are fun to read. Our kids always ask for "one more" even though you are to read only one bit per day.

So, those are a few things we do to make our season bright. What do you do? Whatever you do I pray that your hearts are tender, soft, and excited about the celebration to come. The greatest Gift of Love ever!!!

I would like to thank Kelli for making this post possible! She has all my kids so I could rest a bit. This little heartbeat is wearin' me out!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Heartbeat.

“Hey Mrs. Wessner, we got your numbers here and where they should double every 48-72 hours, yours actually dropped a little bit.” Hm. I thought this might happen. Not because it ever has, but because I know it can. I am resolved to follow Jesus Christ with no question, so I bravely ask, “So, what should I do?” She responds that I will be “fit-in” first thing in the morning to be sure that this sweet blessing is “viable.” I told Mike that I was afraid of that and he nods…unmoved. Getting to this point did not come easily for either of us. I have known that someone has been missing, and Mike was slower to believe me. We suffered (rather I suffered) 3 years of self-inflicted infertility. This summer God changed Mike’s heart, and now we were headed to the Dr. for the fourth time to check on our newest treasure.

I had the e-mail written in my head. “Dear Friends, blah blah blah…we were early and we miscarried. God has been faithful and we are sad, but not without hope. We love you….” I just need to be prepared for the worst. So, this morning I awoke early (although I stayed in bed) and finally got moving and took the dog out for our (mostly regular) walk. As I walked up the street in the quiet of the new day I just whispered, “Lord, I just want to know that Your hand is in this.” He very sweetly whispered to me in the solitude of our time, “Ali, My hand is in everything.” “Yes, Sir, thank you. I love that about you!” With great peace I got breakfast ready and got myself ready for the appointment that no mother, with children or not, wants to attend. I just wanted to send a substitute to bear the brunt of the news. Mike left for work so that he could get the morning off to come with me.

Mike got back, Mom arrived, and we headed out the door. A little bit of Andrew Peterson kept me focused and mindful that if I never hold another Wessner baby warm and cozy, God has done incredible things in my family, in my heart and in the heart of my husband. He will be praised no matter what. Of that I am determined. We signed in and had been sitting for less than 5 minutes when I was ushered to the back. I have seen the sonographer many times before, always with great joy. I went ahead and told her that we know that there may not be great news so she didn’t need to pretend. She has apparently endured heartbreak herself and commented about timing and us never being in control…all good things. The impersonal ultrasound began and within a few seconds she says, with confidence, “There’s a little peanut right there with a heartbeat. Look at it flashing.” What! I wasn’t prepared for that. I was shocked, Mike was not. I was thrilled….we were both thrilled. A heartbeat, I even heard it. That never gets old. This is the fourth time a person has taken up residence in my womb and it doesn’t grow old to me. Each time is a treat. Each time a wonder and miracle. This one seems more so than other times. A heartbeat.

“So, the numbers and the random spotting…does a heartbeat trump everything?”

“Yes, a heartbeat trumps everything.”

Indeed it does. I was thinking about this as I was munching in the kitchen trying to decide what I wanted to eat and thought of the Greatest Heartbeat. The steady rising and setting of the sun beating out the Father’s great love in steady rhythms. No matter what is going on, a heartbeat trumps everything. I look around, the seasons finally changing, the trees raising their sparse limbs to their Creator, and one teeny tiny heartbeat trumping all doubt.

Thank you, Jesus for Your heartbeat that trumps anything.