We just returned home from Dave's parents in North Carolina. I don't know what it is, but every time we go there, we just have a great time - and we pretty much just relax. Dave's parents are so great, and after hearing some thanksgiving stories of my friends and family, I am SO thankful for my in-laws. We can't wait to go back on Christmas day to see the rest of the family. Our boys are looking forward to it almost as much as we are. : )
We began a couple of new traditions this year for Thanksgiving, and prayerfully will do similar things for all the holidays. We seem to get so caught up in the preparations FOR the holiday that we often skip the PURPOSE of the holiday. We really want to make memories for our kids to truly embrace the meaning of WHY we celebrate these holidays. We got a few ides from the FamilyLife website. We purchased the Thanksgiving book by Barbara Rainey that explains the whole story of the pilgrims and read it to the boys over the course of a few days (I think I was sleeping in elementary school when we learned all that, because other than the pilgrim's coming over on the Mayflower, I did not know a whole lot. And while Dave was reading, I was the only one asking questions) : ) One thing we did was had the boys trace their hand on a piece of paper and Dave made a turkey out of it. Then we wrote 5 things (one on each finger) we were thankful for, for each person that would be around the table. The boys colored them and then we matted them and had them laminated for place mats (I will put pictures on our website soon). It was a great exercise and helps us to appreciate even those we don't know so well. Another thing we did, was we all wrote 5 things we were thankful for on an index card before dinner. We had 5 kernels of corn on each plate (a reminder of the daily rations that the pilgrim's had to live on) and as we passed a basket each person would drop a kernel of corn and say one thing they were thankful for. The basket went around 5 times. It was great to hear 65 different things of gratitude. I loved hearing my boys being thankful for Jesus.
At this time, I am thankful for so many things. One thing is in response to the last post. God has really been stretching us in the area of finances, and we have learned to live on less rations as well. Not nearly where the pilgrims were, so that made me extremely grateful as we read their story. Our boys have been aware of the struggle because there has been many times we had to say no to things because we could not spend the money. I think this has been the best thing for all of us - I think it has really developed a attitude of gratitude in all of us. I will explain: The Friday before we left for NC, we received a very large paycheck. It was enough to pay back the 2 weeks we were behind and pay the all the bills for the week. There was extra money as well. Oh the temptation to want to go out and celebrate. But instead, we thought it wise to fund the envelopes for the rest of our bills for the month, which we were able to do. What a blessing that was! While we were away, Dave received another paycheck,and since our bills were already paid for the month, we decided to put money in an envelope for Christmas.
Our plans for Christmas this year is to go to the Children's Home on Christmas morning and spend the day with the 7 children in the Foster home. Ever since we began the tradition of either going to South America for Christmas to the give Christmas to the kids, or just sending them gifts, we all (my whole extended family) want to somehow keep up with that type of tradition. My sister is organizing it and got a list of things that the home needs. The other night, I told my boys that we had set a certain amount of money aside for Christmas for them. I asked them if they wanted us to buy them gifts or use it for the kids in the home. Without giving it one thought, they said, "Give it to the kids, we don't need anything." I thought that was awesome, but didn't know if they were just trying to say the right thing. So I said, "Let's just say that mommy and daddy were going to buy you a Wii (the video game system they really want) for Christmas, would you still make the same decision?" David and Jonathan both said that although that makes it harder, they felt in their heart, that we should give it to the kids. I could not have felt prouder of them. In spite of our sin and selfishness, God continues to work in the hearts of our boys and it humbles me. I WOULD NOT have made that choice if I were them. And I take no credit for the decision they made.
So we decided to go shopping yesterday for some items on the list and the boys helped pick out the stuff. We were looking for a good family movie to buy for the home, and we came across the shelf of Christmas movies. I picked up a Dennis The Mennis Christmas movie and said, "Oh that looks cute." Jonathan said, "Mommy we didn't come here to shop for us" (something I had said to Samuel several times already). David replied, "Jonathan, mommy can buy us a movie if she wants to." In which Jonathan said, "We don't need it, we have enough stuff." So needless to say, I put it back.
You know, sometimes I feel so inadequate as a parent and wonder if I am really pleasing God with the raising of my children. Sometimes, particularly with David, I feel so out of my league with how to teach and train him. I am still trying to figure out what "Surrender" really means in the area of parenting. Sometimes I feel like Job when his friends had a lot of opinions about why he was suffering, only I actually believe them. It is a difficult battle to simply trust God with your life, instead of trying to control it. I used to be so prideful before I had children. I thought I had all the answers. Now I feel like I don't have any, and it is often overwhelming. I know the Lord had pierced my heart in this area, and I still have so much to learn. I can feel the battle within. My flesh still wants to fight against what I believe the Lord is trying to teach me. I still want to control because somehow I still feel it is a reflection of me. I think God is more concerned about HIS reflection. I think too many times in the past I have made myself believe that the things I did and the choices I made was to reflect Christ when ultimately I just wanted to look good to others. God knows as well as I do, that my prideful thoughts and actions do not reflect Him in any way, as much as I may want to convince myself that they do. As long as I can hold it together on the outside, that will reflect God. I know better. That is what God has been teaching me. It is my heart He wants. And if my outward appearance looks foolish for awhile, while He gives me a heart transplant, over time, the outside will come.
I think journaling this story of my kids has helped me to see that this is just one example of what God can do when I surrender to Him. He was working when I wasn't even aware. All the worrying that I do about my parenting is so futile. I guess I thought of surrender as doing nothing. But it is not doing nothing. It is keeping a vibrant, active relationship with Jesus, and watching for when His Spirit moves in me and THEN act on it. So often I move before He does. It goes against my personality to sit back and do nothing. But I am still learning. I want nothing more than for my boys to know and love the Lord with all their heart, and the only good parent that can teach them that is God. I am the vessel He chose to use to teach them, so my job is to listen to what He tells me to do. If I am not actively seeking Him and listening, I will miss it and be found guilty of complacency and laziness. If you have a personality like mine, you understand. If you have a tendency toward complacency, you will accuse me of being too hard on myself. And I am often guilty of that. However, I feel the Lord is wanting to lift that burden off of me by asking me to simply seek His face and listen...
There is much gratitude in my heart today for the Lord and His tender mercy toward me. I am so unworthy of His love and grace. I have so far to go and I am thankful for His love and that He accepts me as I am, but loves me too much to keep me that way. His standards are high, but He never intended for me to meet them in my own strength.
I pray that I will never settle for anything less than holiness, and that I seek His face moment by moment and that the Holy Spirit will guide me through the center of God's perfect will for my life.
To the one who is able to keep me from falling......