Thursday, December 23, 2010

away in a manger, part II

After my last post, I came across this on YouTube.  Kids DO love this story!!

The Christmas Story 

away in a manger

Something about the Christmas story is so relevant to children.  Maybe it is the idea that Jesus was once a baby, just like us.  Perhaps it is the story of a Mama and Papa who talk to angels and ride on donkeys.  Or even the gifts that are brought from afar (though it is still a bit fuzzy to me why myrrh and frankincense were such a great idea.) Annike loves the story, and she was sitting on my lap during church this past Sunday when the pastor said the word "manger". She gasped with delight and said "You know that!"

That is the brilliance of the story - simple enough for a child to understand, yet deep enough for scholars to pour over. 
I find myself thinking a lot about hope around Christmas time.  The story of a baby born in a manger on a cold evening when Mary found shelter in a stable and the angels sang high above, is a story of great anticipation.  The star of Bethlehem shone as a bright beacon in the sky and those who understood that this child would become their Savior were given Hope.  Hope that God had truly not forgotten them, hope in the chance of salvation, hope in a tiny bundle of swaddling cloths lying on a manger.  Jesus did not save the world on that Christmas day 2000 years ago; that was day that Hope was born. 

Such a humble beginning with such a glorious finish.  It gives me hope in the aspects of my life that seem insignificant.  It gives me hope in a God who understands the world so much better than I do.

Annike is hoarding the animals from her Fischer Price Nativity scene which someone was clever enough to think of.  She knows most of the words in the first 2 verses of "Away in a Manger", a childhood favorite of my own.  In her simple childlike way, she understands the hope that was born that day in Bethlehem.  As she grows, she will understand the significance of hope itself.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

buying power

As the mother of a toddler, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to do the majority of my Christmas shopping online. How did our mothers manage it dragging multiple kids to the department stores this time of year?? Come to think of it, I have many memories of playing hide and go seek with my siblings underneath the clothing racks, and even a few memories of strangers yelling at me because of it. Maybe my mom was more tolerant than I.

Whether buying in a store or online, this year I am challenged to consider the full cost of what I buy. The full cost. In this season of Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays we get excited about some super deals. But I have been reminded that when I buy an item that is super cheap, somewhere someone else is paying the extra cost. How can you make, deliver, and sell a shirt for 5 dollars? It doesn't really bother my conscience that much if an item is cheap because Corporate America is selling at a loss. But if the shirt is cheap because women or children somewhere are making $2 a day in conditions that I can't even dream of, then I am caused to stop a moment and consider what I support by buying that item.

We have a local organization called Trade as One. They are on a mission to rid the world of poverty one person at a time. Every item they sell is made by someone who would otherwise be making a living by prostitution, slavery, or something similar. Trade as One gives men and women a chance to break the enslaving bondage of poverty by providing them with a job. A job is even better than a donation because it creates a sustainable way of life.

Trade as One has the basic philosophy that every dollar we spend is like a vote that we cast for a product. If you don't like what a product stands for, then why would you vote for it? I like the idea that I can buy something (that I was going to buy anyway) and know that given the opportunity, I would legitimately vote for that product. My intention was to write this post earlier so that you might have a chance to check the shop out before Christmas. That didn't happen, but you can still take a peek!

We bought this hand-crocheted nativity scene from the Trade as One church display. It conveniently doubles as a child-friendly toy. Annike's favorites are the angel, and Baby Jesus of course. This time of year, nativity scenes are rich with representation, telling the birth story of Jesus who came to rid the world of its own sort of Spiritual poverty. He came to earth in humility in order to give us hope. He asked only that we would be a source of hope for others, giving to them as He has given so generously to us.

Spending money seems inevitable this time of year, and I am the first to admit that it is oh so much easier to grab a gift off the shelf than to think about where it came from. This Christmas season we don't have it all figured out, but I am approaching gift-buying with the idea that every vote counts. I have attempted to buy locally made, handmade, or fair trade items from smaller shops that do not make their profit by exploiting those who are already quite poor. It has not been possible with every gift, but even replacing one gift with an item that stands for something honorable makes a difference. Maybe we can change the world one present at a time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

our latest adventure...

Let me preface this post by saying that my husband's spirit of adventure was one of the reasons I married him. I love him for it, though it has gotten us into trouble more than once. Today might be one of those off days when I could have lived with a little less adventure and a little more normal.

After a sleepless night with our daughter, I awoke to find my husband missing from the bed. Waking up slowly, I stumbled out for some coffee and expected to see him in the kitchen reading, or watching t.v. The house was empty. Glancing out the kitchen window hoping to catch a glimpse of him, I had to rub my eyes and pinch myself. Might I still be asleep? Out the window, not 20 yards from our house, were hundreds, possibly one thousand, chickens. No exaggeration.

Amidst the hundreds of brown and white birds, pecking on the ground, climbing on the wood pile, running around under our cars, was my husband making a futile attempt to herd them away from the house. Stopping in the middle of a pack of chickens that seemed to have no fear of him, he looked up and saw me in the window, staring wide-eyed in my bathrobe. We were both thinking the exact same thing: "What did we get ourselves into??!" And in that moment as we stared at each other through the window, we both began to laugh. A deep belly-aching, side-splitting, tear-inducing hysterical laugh. It was the kind of laugh that comes out when you are not sure if you should laugh or cry, so you attempt to do both at the same time.

Life is an adventure. We have a choice to fight it, or laugh at it, however unexpected the situation.

The arrival of these chickens was not completely unannounced, though in my sleepy state I had completely erased any knowledge of the birds. We have been planning to rent our land out to some free-ranging organic chicken farmers who will also be moving into the cottage on the property. The chickens will be penned in different areas of the agricultural land. However, moving day this morning happened to be one of those mornings when things just did not go as planned. In the wee hours of the morning while it was just beginning to grow light, the chicken trailers arrived and got stuck in the mud. Somehow, the chickens began to escape out of cracks in the doors on the trailer. They came pouring out, one after another, and made a bee line for the greenery around our house. These animals are impossible to herd - it is hard to explain, but after trying it multiple times, I understood why the chickens were everywhere.

Oh, and the electricity was out all morning due to a motor vehicle accident. And we have ants all over our Christmas tree. Some days are full of the unexpected. We can try our hardest to stay within a plan, within certain boundaries of expectation, but when life takes over, sometimes we just have to laugh.

P.S. All of these pictures were taken after the majority of the problem was managed. Imagine 4 times the chickens when I first looked out the window. These are the straggler birds that were exceptionally evasive when it came to herding them back to their pen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

christmas tradition

Some Christmas traditions are easy, we fall into them naturally. Like driving up the mountain to cut down a Christmas tree, and saving time to amble and sip hot cider. If you celebrate Christmas, then getting a tree together is one of the first things you do.

This year our tree turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought. Outside it didn't look like it would fill up our living room quite like this!

Other traditions take a little more effort to create. Those are often the ones that are more important in the long run. In our first year of marriage, our couple's Bible study began the tradition of "adopting" a needy family for Christmas. It looks a little different every year, but essentially a group of us pitch in to get a local family in our community some needs and special gifts for Christmas.

The story that most stands out to me occurred in the second year of this tradition. A single mom with 3 children and a newborn on the way had lost her job because of her inability to sustain that job with a baby to care for. Subsequently, she lost the apartment she was renting, and they were living in a hotel. There is so much more to the story than I am able to divulge, but this woman was sincerely seeking out the best for her children. Christmas was the last thing on their minds, but my friends blessed them with some gifts and gift cards that Christmas, and we never heard back from them... until 2 years later.

I received a phone call from an unrecognized number. It was this very same woman that we had blessed TWO YEARS prior. I happened to be the contact person for our group, and this woman tracked me down because she wanted to say "Thank you" and to share her story with me. For 20 minutes I listened with tears in my eyes as this woman testified to me about the amazing, life-changing, forgiving, healing power of Jesus Christ in her life. She spelled the Gospel out to me and shared about her new life in Christ. Her family was in a stable setting, her children were well, and God was piecing her life back together bit by bit. I have rarely felt so humbled in my life.

Our Bible study's gifts to them are not the reason that this woman discovered new Life. Those gifts were one simple act of graciousness that provided a glimmer of light for her in the midst of darkness. One more reason to believe that God does exist. One source of hope pointing to The Hope.

As a result of her story, this tradition of adopting a needy family is one that I can't pass up. We just came back from Target with a cart full of clothing, necessities, food, and a few toys for a family that may not be getting much else this Christmas. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that when we give generously to others, ultimately we are the ones who are most blessed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

jesus loves me

I came across Annike sitting on my bed flipping through my Bible, singing this: