Faith, Life

The Christmas Book

Last weekend, I found myself with one remaining remnant of the Christmas season hanging around the house like a guest you just can’t get rid of: the Christmas memory book. It’s one of those things you hate to fill out every year, but love to read the following December when you pull it out of the attic. So far, my family has seven Christmases catalogued with our family’s cards, traditions, meals, activities, special gifts, mishaps and so on.

Desperately wanting to be done with it so I could officially declare Christmas over, I quickly scribbled answers into each of the blanks for “Christmas 2017.” The last section has several lines to fill in things you’ve received during the season. Typically, I use these lines to fill in answered prayer or special blessings: my son’s birth, a much needed newer vehicle, the purchase of our fixer upper.

Because I was in a hurry, and because no major personal devastation stood out in my mind, I quickly scribbled “God has been so good to us this year.” Boom! Done. I could pack up the book. Sayonara, Christmas!

But I lingered a moment looking at what I had just written and a feeling of sadness came over me. I felt that I had betrayed myself and what I believe. For the past several years, I’ve become increasingly cynical towards those who equate good fortune or material acquisitions to God’s goodness. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe God blesses people in these ways. There is plenty of evidence in Scripture of the rewards of proper stewardship, of people who seem richly (and monetarily) blessed because of God’s favor. Brent and I certainly have felt that very favor in our own lives.

But the trouble happens when we automatically assume good fortune is a sign of God’s goodness. If we think that way, we must also conclude that if we experience bad fortune, we must somehow be on God’s poo-poo list. That somehow he has chosen not to be good to us.

That is a lie.

Just last week, my family received the devastating news that yet another member of our family is about to battle cancer. What was initially thought to be contained in the breast has been discovered in both the liver and spine. The judgment? It can’t be cured. The best they can do is contain it.

I started this year hopeful that it was going to be our family’s best year yet, but the truth is, we don’t know what’s barreling at us five minutes in the future. A job loss, a diagnosis, an accident, death. We simply do not know the next moment.

As I considered all of this, I no longer felt that I had betrayed my beliefs. I can confidently write that God has been so good to us in 2017, enormous blessings and all, because I also know the same will be true in 2018, even if we happen to reap devastation upon devastation.

He’s good to us in health and wealth.
He’s good to us in the pit of our misery.

While I enjoy the health and wealth part, I also experience the most intimacy with the God of the universe when things are crumbling around me. In our weakness his strength is made known.

A job loss? God is good.
A devastating accident? God is good.
Death? God is good.

No matter the circumstances you find yourself in today, take comfort in knowing that God is good.


Big Bird Beauty

Back when I finished reading 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, I decided the year 2018 would be an anti-social one. By that I mean that for an entire calendar year, I would give up all forms of social media. But when the week of Thanksgiving hit, I decided to toss it early, trading pixels for people, captions for conversations, and cacophony for calm.

[Insert picture of beautiful tablescape that was not taken since I had no Instagram to post it on]

I’ve been at it for nearly 8 weeks, and it’s incredible how easy and beneficial that decision has been. But that’s for a later post. By the way, if you want to join me, it’s not too late. Even if you want to try it for a short time, I promise you won’t regret it. I already have several other sisters who are standing by my side, inviting the quiet into their lives.

Since I started my resolution early, I no longer think of it as my resolution, but more as my lifestyle. Which, of course, meant only one thing: I needed a new resolution. I seriously thought about bringing back my One Word Resolution for an encore. And, of course, if you read that post, you know I’m a big fan of qualitative over quantitative resolutions. In essence, I don’t like setting myself up for failure. Instead, I prefer to look at one facet of my life and figure out how to make it better.

The first week of the new year, I thought a lot about my marriage. I know I say this often, and those of you who know Brent, know how incredibly amazing he is. I don’t know anyone else who sacrifices more for his family, and the man never utters one complaint. Not one. Ever. Me? I tend to be a crabby patty who is stressed out and strung up by the rope I need to dry all of my clothes on. I make up for all the complaining he doesn’t do, plus I’m determined to earn bonus points.

So my qualitative resolution this year is to simply make Brent have the best married year of his life (which in turn means I’ll probably have the best one of my life as well). It doesn’t mean that our circumstances will be perfect. But it does mean that there will be way less complaining, less wearing my emotions on my sleeve, picking my battles wisely, more encouragement, more support, more flexibility, more positivity, more laughter. Honestly, I don’t think it will be hard to accomplish my goal.

Several nights ago, after I finished grilling a NY strip in a cast iron skillet with a side of fear and trembling because I’ve never preheated an empty skillet in an oven to 500 degrees before (I used an oven mitt on top of my oven mitt to retrieve it for the stovetop), we sat down for dinner, and after a few sips of wine, I blurted out that I wanted this year to be his best married year. That’s key to resolutions. Accountability. I said it, so now I have to do it.

So when I see dirty socks on the floor and I’m tempted to nag, I’m just going to say as excitedly in my head as possible, “Best year ever!” and pick them up for him.

Or when he comes home late from work after I’ve slaved all day 10 minutes throwing ingredients into a slow cooker, I will bite my tongue, scream in my head “Best year ever!” and greet him at the door with a hug and a kiss.

Because for every one of those petty transgressions, my husband has an arsenal full of positive qualities. If my marriage is about me obtaining Big Bird beauty, here’s what I probably look like 80 per cent of the time:

And, yes! That is an actual ornament that hangs on an actual Christmas tree in my actual house. Every year. Why? Well, I’m not naming any names, but it came as a packaged deal from someone whose name rhymes with Drent.

So, in short, here’s hoping you, too, have the best Big Bird year ever.