Thursday, December 5, 2013
As we're leaving and walking through the like-four-degree parking lot, Ash says quietly, "Mom, was that the real Santa?"
I take a (cold) breath and say, "Well, we know Santa has lots of helpers this time of year. But he seemed like the real one to me. So maybe."
She smiles. "He seems like the real one to me too."
Adorable. We rushed her back to school and she pretty much felt like the cool kid for getting to be late in order to see Santa. :) It was a super fun morning. And I have a feeling this childlike belief won't last too long, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts. But you know what I started thinking about?
It takes childlike faith to believe in Santa and elves and all that. And Santa is fun, of course. But the real magic of Christmas comes from another type of faith. The faith to believe in a Baby in a manger on a starry night in Bethlehem. Sometimes that takes childlike faith too. To believe that God sent his Son to live among us and reconcile us to Him. To believe that hosts of angels sang and wise men traveled to see Jesus. It's a magical story if I've ever heard one.
And I believe it.
The magic of Christmas is the beauty of belief. Love came down.
We're 20 days from Christmas. And gosh, it's cold here in Colorado. It's negative ten degrees outside right now. We're warm and snug in our house tonight and I'm so thankful for all we have. I've got a lengthy to-do list and parties coming up and shopping that needs to be done and when it's this cold I just want to stay home. And despite all of that . . .
The magic is that love came down. Don't miss that essential part of the story. It's what makes Christmas so wonderful and real.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Merry Christmas, Loveys! It's December and the countdown has officially begun. Christmas will be here in seconds (it feels that way to me!). So I want to do a giveaway for my readers. Don't you want to open your mailbox and receive a little package with some Christmas cheer? Of course you do! All you need to do is leave a comment to put your name in the hat! Easy peasy. Include your email address so I can message you if you're my lucky winner. I want to send you a Christmas present so hurry up and leave a comment! I'll leave it open for a couple of days, announce our winner, and then send the package on Santa's sleigh.
Don't you just love Christmas? I won't tell you how many Christmas movies I've already watched or mention the fact that I've basically been listening to Christmas tunes since summer--you all know I'm an elf when it comes to this month. Love it. All of it. The goodwill and cheer. The holiday drinks and food and sweets. The music, the decorations. It's so fun. And these years with young kids in the house seem to be doubly fun. Ash has been more involved this year. She's just more aware as we buy gifts for a couple of kids we're sponsoring nearby this Christmas. She's learning about the joy and excitement of giving. (She's already very good at the joy and excitement of receiving, mind you. :)
I decided to put up our tree the other night after the kids went to bed. Our house is on the market, so I didn't want a whole day with boxes of decorations out. Ash's face was priceless when she saw the tree the next morning. And Lincoln too! He exclaimed, "Santa!!" Apparently he now thinks Santa comes to our house early to give us a tree. We've made gingerbread houses with friends. I'm gearing up to have a girls' night, holiday style. I'm trying to work in a date night where Jeff and I can go out and enjoy some of this season together. I'm hoping to work in some coffee dates to connect with friends. Every day in December is special. The tree is lit, the candles smell yummy, the kids are thinking of both Santa and the baby Jesus. We're singing Christmas carols. Ash has been singing a lot. She'll belt out, "Deck the halls with jolly! Falalalala!" or "Deck the halls with holly jolly!" Adorable. And more good news! I've finished book #2 and sent it to my editor! Hooray! Also, one of my editing projects is almost ready for press and I'm so excited about that! So much happening every day.
It's a busy time of year. Time of my life, really. That's okay. I have Jesus to be thankful for this season. I have His grace to fill me. I have these few quiet moments right now to talk to you. And I've got a little stack of goodies I'll be sending one of you soon. And for all of my loveys, I am SO thankful for you. So thankful you read this blog and connect with me. You all mean so much to me. I hope every single one of you has a magical Christmas.
Last night the kids and I watched Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol (one of my all-time faves). Ash was trying to put into words the problem with Mr. Scrooge. When he wakes up after being visited by the ghosts, and he's finally filled with joy, Ash said, "He's got the spirit now, Mom! He's finally got the spirit!" I beamed at her. "Right! He's got the spirit of Christmas." She nodded. "We've got the spirit at our house, Mom."
We sure do, love.
P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment and put your name in the Christmas hat!
Saturday, November 30, 2013
But today I decided I need Christmas Resolutions. Here's what I want this Christmas:
1. To celebrate Jesus every day and remember what Christmas stands for and why I celebrate it and why I love it so much. And to share all that joy and peace and love with my children.
2. To not be overwhelmed with gift-giving. To buy a few special items (online if possible! I want to avoid store craziness!) and enjoy that part of the season, but not to let it control my Christmas. I've told every member of my family not to overdue it when it comes to presents for my kids. Honestly, something new is so exciting to them! They don't need twenty "something's." I love buying presents for people! But I want Christmas to be about more than new stuff at our house.
3. To enjoy the parts of this season that just warm my heart. Christmas movies, gingerbread cookies, Christmas music, wrapping presents, seeing the lights everywhere, mistletoe with Jeff, etc. :)
4. To be okay with not everything going just as I've envisioned it in my head. To make room for real life and to cover every day with grace.
5. To spend time with the people I care about. Hosting parties and get-togethers can be stressful this time of year. But I want to experience Christmas the entire month of December with the people in my life. Girls' nights, journey group celebrations, friends coming over--it's doable if I maintain balance. And this season, to me, is meant to be shared. Even if it's just friends coming over for pizza and we turn on a Christmas DVD for the kiddos. I want it.
6. To keep track of my schedule and not let it get over my head. I want to be intentional with my time.
7. To extend grace to Jeff and the kids. To love them well and to start giving my children wonderful Christmas memories they'll look back on.
8. To slow down. Full days are wonderful. So are slow, easy days. I need both.
9. To reach out to those less fortunate this season.
10. Jesus again. The reason for Christmas.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanksgiving sort of kicks off the countdown to Christmas, you know. Speaking of which, I'll be doing a Christmas giveaway on my blog soon, so stay tuned! Fun stuff!
At the church where I grew up, we did a Thanksgiving breakfast on the Sunday morning around Thanksgiving. I loved it and those breakfasts are special memories to me. At Christmas, we did "promises from Jesus." These were Bible verses (promises from Scripture) on little scraps of paper, in a bowl or a hat or something, and everyone drew one. That was your promise, your gift. I love those memories as well. Though, really, those days feel like a lifetime ago to me. They were like a lifetime ago, I suppose. I was a different girl then. A very young girl.
Now I'm a wife and a mother and someone's who's been working for a long time. Times have changed for me since those days. But they're still ingrained in places on my heart. Around the table at my house today, we all said what we're thankful for. Faith, family, food, home--so many things. My mother-in-law and Jeff's stepdad were with us, which was an added blessing.
I think Thanksgiving is a great holiday because sometimes we need to remember to be thankful. More days than not, we can be consumed by what we want. Thanksgiving helps us think about what we have.
This is my prayer today: Thank you, Lord, for Ashtyn and Lincoln and Jeff. For a home that's comfortable and peaceful and happy. For my parents and my sisters and all of my family. Thank you for Jesus and for a faith that makes my life better, richer, fuller. Thank you for love and peace and joy, and please help me to live out those things to the people around me.
You know, food has been important since, I don't know, forever. Even in Bible stories, they talk about preparing food and making special meals and all that (think, killing the fatted calf and that sort of thing). A special dinner is not a new concept. It's tradition. I love that Thanksgiving is a holiday where we have a special meal. I feel blessed to be able to cook for my family, to prepare food. So here's a glimpse of the Bruce family Thanksgiving this year. I hope yours has been beautiful and lovely and filled with good food and family and faith.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
So it's been super cold here in Colorado. Perfect for staying in and making chocolate peanut-butter balls. Ash and her Mamaw (Jeff's mother) made these little bits of goodness tonight. Yesterday we went to the festival in our little town, which was fun, but we were pretty cold. And once Ash gets super cold, all fun is gone and it's time to get warm. But we were able to go for a little while and see the marching band, drink hot cocoa, snap a few pictures, and hear Christmas carols. All of which are wonderful experiences. Also, Jeff and I were able to go see Catching Fire last night, which was awesome and I want to see it again pronto. So family time and then date night--a recipe for a great day. :)
We got home after going to the movie and all was well . . . till about one a.m. At which point Linc woke up feeling really sick. So the next few hours were rough and we got a whole lot less sleep than we would have expected. Poor guy. I think he caught a stomach virus. He had a fever all day and was way more lethargic than is usual for our little active dinosaur. But he's been drinking fluids and taking meds and watching plenty of Diego.
Can Thanksgiving really already be here? I feel like this fall has escaped me. I'll turn around and Christmas will be here. So I'm prepping myself this week for making my Mimi's dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. It's our first year that Mimi is now with Jesus, and I know making the dressing will be emotional for me. She'll be in my heart this Thanksgiving, that's for sure. I'm hoping Linc will be doing better by then. It seems like we've had several Thanksgivings where the kids have gotten sick. I suppose it's this time of year.
I'm tired tonight, loveys. Yesterday was a full day, followed by an unexpected night of sickness for Linc, followed by church this morning and Chinese food for dinner (this mom was too tired to cook), followed by the Sofia special on TV and chocolate peanut-butter balls. Watching Ash and her Mamaw bake together tonight was so fun. I know grandparents are a gift.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
They didn't tell me at all that they aren't in my insurance network.
So I spent almost $200, unexpectedly. It's one of those depressing days. I have to call Jeff and tell him, and I basically feel sick over it all day because if I had known, I wouldn't have gone there. And I'd have $200 dollars right now. And I'm mad at those people for not being nice enough to let me know they aren't in our network. And I'm frustrated with myself for assuming they were when they acted like they were.
Overall, it's frustrating. And I'm frustrated. And there's nothing I can do now. They've provided services, I've forked over money that I could have used in a million different ways cooler than at the eye doctor.
It's the kind of experience that sinks you. You've probably been through that before. Unexpected expenses at the wrong time. I came home and Jeff and I sat down together to eat lunch, and I prayed before we ate and I asked God to help us keep a good perspective on days like this. Because we were sitting there across from each other, feeling low.
These days happen to all of us. And they're not the coolest, but they still come. But I keep thinking about something Ash said a couple of days ago. It's November, so she's learning about what it means to be thankful. And just randomly at the breakfast table, Ash said, "Mom? I'm thankful for all I have." The words warmed my heart and my response was, "Me too."
At school this month, Ash is definitely learning about being thankful. But I think our kids really learn it from us. From mom and dad. I think they learn what contentment and gratitude are by seeing it in us (or they learn the opposite if they don't see it in us). Which means even on a day when I've been sunk, I have to dig down for that perspective that reminds me that so many people can't even afford food, much less eye doctor appointments. That reminds me that we have a warm home, and food to eat, and each other, and cable, and lots of toys, and plenty of clothes--and gosh, we're blessed.
I want Ash to learn about gratitude and perspective from me first. When things go wrong, or unexpected expenses occur for her--and they will--I want her to have this deep foundation of perspective that helps her remember that things could be worse. That this isn't the end of the world, it's just an annoying bump in the road. That we're not entitled to things, we're blessed with what we have.
I think having that kind of perspective pulls us up when we're sinking.
Our journey group through church has been talking a lot about helping others during the holiday season. It's been good to find out about ways to "adopt a family." Because the focus shifts from ourselves to others. It shifts from "I want" to "They need."
And sometimes, we need that shift.
In my heart, I know I want to be the kind of mother who instills contentment and gratitude in her children. I know they can either see this in me, or they can see someone who's always looking for more, who always thinks she deserves better, who spends the majority of her thoughts on what she wants, versus how she can make a difference in the lives of others. I don't want to be that woman. God doesn't want me to be that way. I want to be a woman who can shift her perspective, even on hard days.
I'm not saying it's easy.
But in November, when being thankful is the theme of the season, the reminder comes more easily. And I'm glad for that.
Today has been a battleground for my emotions, but I'm going to take a cue from Ashtyn and say, "I'm thankful for all I have." Because I am. I'm blessed. I'm grateful.
Monday, November 18, 2013
On the way back to the B&B we stop at the Saver mart for snacks. We're farther downtown than we're used to, and I'll just be honest, it can be sketch down there. So we go in and stop because they are selling movies right inside the mart. All the movies are like five dollars each. We're noticing the covers look a little different and then we're noticing that the movies are like . . . movies that are still in theaters in some cases.
Hmm. Tricky. Then a man just walks up out of the blue, very much invading personal space, watching us like hawks. After a second, I'm like, "Um, are you selling these?" I get a very serious nod. Okay. Um, are these like, pirated videos since I'm thinking this one is still at the movie theater? Are you really allowed to sell these movies inside the grocery store? I feel like I would be afraid to do that. And . . . um, what's the quality? Somebody didn't record this with their phone while watching the movie, right? Cause five dollars does sound like a pretty good deal... No, I didn't ask those questions aloud. Sara and I just walked briskly through the store, picking up a few things and leaving as quickly as possible. The guy was still stationed there at the entrance with the "black market movies" when we left.
Then we went to our B&B. This is where it gets really interesting. Now for Sara and I--girls who love Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (a touch of gothic!)--our imaginations immediately jump to overdrive in the right conditions. So the B&B is this big old mansion of a house and we realized once we entered that we were the only people there. So cool (and a bit scary). The stairs creak, there are massive paintings of people on the walls, and there are antiques everywhere. There's a book on the history of the place with stories about it being haunted (in one particular instance, by a cat, not quite as terrifying). What do we do? Explore every nook and cranny, of course. We went through all the rooms, which were all so neat. Then in the back, there's a room that's off limits. We realize that people live back there, but it sounds quiet. Being alone in that really big house--well, every creak can make you a little nervous. But we locked the door, turned on Downton Abbey season 3, and enjoyed our sister night. There was this itty bitty shower that made Sara and I laugh. You know that scene in the movie The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz looks at the bathtub and just says, "That will be interesting"? Yeah, that's one of my favorite scenes. And we lived that scene when Sara and I saw the shower. Hilarious!
In the morning, a basket with breakfast was left by our door. So fun! A picnic breakfast in our room as we watched White Christmas!
However, Sara did say she saw the shadow of a cat run past the door. Creepy. Because the owners don't have cats, you see. . . . . (Cue Halloween music and cackling laughter,) :)
Seriously, though, it was super fun and I'm so thankful to Sara for arranging the whole thing (it was a birthday present for me). Such a wonderful night. I'm so blessed to have such wonderful sisters like the ones God has given me. It was a night of making memories. Watching Christmas movies, snacking on chocolate, playing Heart and Soul down on the piano in the living area (since we were the only two there!), scaring ourselves by going into all the rooms--what can I say? Fun times, loveys.
Do you ever do that sort of thing with your sisters or maybe best friends? It can be hard to steal a little time to go away, but it can be really good. Time invested in relationships is a good thing.