Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Light of a Perfect God

Well, this is that last Hearts at Home "No More Perfect Moms" blog hop of 2013. Together the Hearts at Home community has opened our hearts and our blogs to share the many ways in which we are flawed, challenged, and imperfect. We examined every area of life from marriage to housekeeping to friendships, and I have been humbled and inspired by the experience. This month, we end with our thoughts on the one area of life that truly is undeniably perfect: "Our One Perfect God."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese made this Christmas tree at school on Tuesday. Each colored ornament is printed with a special representation to help kids identify with the true meaning of Christmas. The start at the top of tree reads, “Yellow represents God’s perfect light.”


As I clipped the tree to our refrigerator, I read those three words over and over.

God’s perfect light.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of the many ways in which His perfect light shines on my imperfect life...

It is a light of full acceptance. There are parts of me I dislike - personality traits, physical attributes, and habits I could do without. But my perfect God accepts me anyway. And I can rest easy knowing He doesn't care how much I weigh or how over-organized I am.

It is a light of complete forgiveness. There are choices I regret – moments of weakness and words of anger I wish I could take back. But my perfect God forgives me anyway. And because I know how that feels, I can free myself from resentment by forgiving others.

It is a light of unconditional love. There are times when I wander – challenges in my relationships and doubts in my faith that tempt me toward selfishness. But my perfect God loves me anyway. And He gave me a Savior and a life full of wonderful people to remind me what it means to love and be loved.

It is a light of profound blessings. There are days when I forget – daily hassles and feelings of entitlement that blind me to the blessing in each breath of air. But my perfect God gives me those blessings anyway. And He continues to bring me comfort, strength, and guidance even on my most undeserving days.

It is a light of unending gratitude. There are moments when I stop – breathtaking sunsets, hugs from my children, and the sight of my overflowing pantry that keep my life turned in toward His all-providing light. And the more I open the door to gratitude, the more easily I find it in the smallest moments.

It is a light of eternal life. There are reasons I believe - the written Word of the Lord and the birth of our Savior that give me hope, happiness, and peace for the future and beyond. And the more I focus my life on His light, the brighter it shines and the greater my peace.

This Christmas, celebrate the coming of God's perfect light in the form of Jesus. Let Him brighten your soul with a light that outshines all of your doubts, fears, sins, and regrets. And know that it's okay to be an imperfect person living an imperfect life in an imperfect world because you are fully accepted, completely forgiven, unconditionally loved, and profoundly blessed by the light of a perfect God.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Santa Claus is Real

“Mom, just so ya know, I know there’s no Santa. I know it’s you.”

The combination of my tone and my age must have indicated that there was no use denying it, but as the confession left her lips I began to cry.

“So Santa’s not real?”

“Honey, Santa Claus IS real. It’s just not who you thought it was.”

Santa Claus is real.

My mom’s response allowed me to continue believing in Santa all the way through college. He visited our house until the year I got married, and every year at Christmas time, I still reflect on the words that have kept Santa alive for me for so many years after I stopped seeing him as the jolly man in the red suit. 

In my adulthood, those words now help me understand Santa on a different level. Santa is often labeled as a representation of selfishness, a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas. If you ask me, the problem isn’t Santa. It’s the way commercialism has misconstrued his meaning by overlooking his giving nature and focusing only on the receiving end of his goodness.

When given the right focus, Santa can add to the meaning of Christmas. After all, Santa IS the spirit of giving; he IS the embodiment of generosity; and he continues to exist in the hearts of all who open their hearts and homes and wallets during this magical season. That’s why it doesn’t bother me that Reese is so excited about Santa while so many Christian parents work to take the focus off of him. Sure, she's excited to get presents. She's three. But she also knows that Santa gives presents because he wants to make kids happy and that we can create that same happiness by sharing our blessings with others.

How cool for a kid to discover that not only is there really a Santa, but that they, too, can become Santa with their own generosity! With every thoughtful gift we present to our family and friends, every donation to a Toys for Tots collection bin, every dollar dropped in a Salvation Army bucket, and every canned food item given to a charity drive, we become Santa Claus as we create smiles on the hearts and faces of those around us.

Someday when my kids ask me if there really is a Santa Claus, I won’t be lying when I say yes. And when they tell me that they know the truth, I can tell them who Santa really is and give them the power to keep him alive by embracing the joy of giving with an open heart.

This Christmas, don't turn away from Santa. Become him. Give joyfully, love generously, create happiness, and never stop believing that Santa Claus is real.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Perfect Holidays: Hostess with the... Mostest?

The week before Thanksgiving, Hearts at Home hosted its monthly "No More Perfect Moms" blog hop. The topic was a fitting "No More Perfect Holidays" theme. In the pre-Thanksgiving bustle, I skipped out on this one. (I blame my therapist, whose has been successfully encouraging me to lower my expectations, especially of myself). So this is my belated No More Perfect holidays post.

~~~~~~

Shortly following a family gathering, my sister-in-law sent me an email in which she complimented my sense of hospitality.

My first thought… She must be thinking of someone else.

Me? Hospitality? Really?

I had always equated a good sense of hospitality with the “Hostess with the Mostest” type. The scent of the candles matches the season and the decorations are perfectly coordinated - beautiful place settings, matching serving dishes, plate chargers (and if you don’t know what a charger is, keep reading. This is for you).

These women make great hostesses because their commitment to their guests’ experience is apparent in their effort. They have handmade centerpieces and homemade pies. They bustle around non-stop, making sure the drinks stay full and the food keeps coming. Their creative extras add a lot to the party atmosphere, and the fancy touches are endearing. Their parties are so festive. And so fun.

And that's so not me.

Hosting events can be intimidating when you don’t have a Pinterest-worthy flare. It’s tough to host a fall gathering when you’ve been to a party where the soup was served in hollow pumpkins. It’s hard to be proud of cupcakes topped with plain sprinkles after you’ve been to a party where the cupcakes had Minnie Mouse ears. (Think oreo halves and pink sugar bows. Adorable). When you have Martha-Stewart-types friends and family members, it’s easy to feel like everything you do pales in comparison.

Hospitality was a quality I admired in other women, but it’s definitely never been on my list of my own personal strengths. My china is boxed up in the basement; my gravy boat has never been used; and I don’t own a set of napkin rings or plate chargers. (For those still wondering, they’re decorative plates that you put underneath your real plates. Yeah, I don’t get it either). I don’t have much of an eye for decorating, and I don’t use seasonal centerpieces. I prefer to keep things simple.

So what’s to compliment about that?

If you’re one of those women with over-the-top festive flare, that’s awesome. We admire your effort, we envy your creativity, and we have a great time at your parties. But I’m starting to learn that just as much as people appreciate all-out festive fun, they also appreciate the simple, calm, and casual. There’s no need to worry about breaking one of my dishes or spilling red wine on my white tablecloth. (The dishes were cheap and there is no tablecloth). No need to offer to help me in the kitchen. Let’s have fun. I’ll get the mess later.

I come from a “come on in and grab a beer” kind of family, and I’m proud of that. Matt and I host gatherings all the time, despite my mismatched dinnerware and lack of napkin rings. We don’t buzz around for hours beforehand making sure everything is spotless and perfect. We create a “make yourself at home” setting that is nice enough to be welcoming and relaxed enough to comforting. And we’ve discovered that people have just as much fun without plate chargers.

So if you’re next in line to host the big family Christmas, don’t feel like you have to spend hours on Pinterest finding the perfect recipes and creating the perfect table setting. People will appreciate you for whichever kind of hostess you are. A good sense of hospitality goes deeper than what people see when they walk in the door. It’s really about how they feel when they walk out.

Have a merry (and stress-free) Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kid Logic: More Cute Stories from the Mind of a Child

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to get any writing done last month, I am celebrating a long-awaited double nap today. I'm excited to announce that Allie is officially sleeping through the night (knock on wood) and I hope the end of this thirteen-month battle will finally allow me to get at least a few hours at the computer each week.

I'm starting back with something easy and sharing my most recent "Kid Logic" stories. Reese never ceases to amaze and entertain us with her miniature worldview. Here are some of my recent favorites...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back story: We had a recent ER visit because Reese shoved a black bean up her nose.

Reese: My bunny is hurt.
Me: He is? What happened?
Reese: He fell down the stairs.
Me: Does he need to go to the hospital?
Reese: No because he doesn't have a bean up his nose.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese has a book of brain games for preschoolers. One page had a cartoon bunny making a series of different facial expressions with a blank under each one to write the corresponding emotion. I pointed to the first face and said, "How does the bunny feel?" Reese answered, "Soft."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese has an older cousin named Savannah, but when Reese first started talking, she couldn't say "Savannah," so she just said "Cousin." Well, it stuck and we just kept calling her Cousin. Last month (nearly 2 years later) the kids spent the night there while Matt and I attended a wedding. When we picked them up the next the day Reese said, "Mommy! Did you know that Cousin's name isn't really Cousin? It's Savannah!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One day at lunch, Reese asked me, "Mommy, does God feel sad when I feel sad?"
"He sure does," I replied.
"And does he feel happy when I'm happy?"
"Yep."
Later that day, Reese and I were kneading pizza dough for dinner when she asked, "Mommy, does God make pizza when I make pizza?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back story: Allie's nickname is "Bean." It started as "Allie Beanie" and has since evolved into numerous variations including Bean, Beaner, Beanie-Weenie, and (my favorite, coined by Matt) Bean-Diggity.

Me: Reese, what's your full name?
Reese: Reese Margaret Hurley
Me: That's right. Do you know Allie's full name?
Reese: Allie Bean Hurley.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reese: Mommy, how old are you? More than ten?
Me: More than 30.
Reese: Is that why you color in the lines so good?
Me: Yes, good coloring takes many years of practice.
Reese: How old is Mema? More that 30?
Me: More than 50.
Reese: So she colors really, really, REALLY good.

Leave a comment or send me an email with your favorite Kid Logic story and I will include it next time. Thanks for continuing to hang in here with me through my sporadic absences!