Monday, December 10, 2012

A real Christmas

Christmas time is here!
Thanksgiving was great!

Christmas unit studies in our homeschool, Jesse Tree aglow, Advent calendar filled, and the smell of cinnamon hanging in the air. I adore this time of year! And, of course, the children are so excited!

Our little family went and chose our perfect Christmas tree. It was hard and we had to shop at a few different stores, but we finally found our perfect one! We decorated it together, and then Carter set up his Polar Express train to run beneath it. We love it, and it was nice to spend time together decking the halls!

Carter adores his Polar Express train! He really liked that Seraphina loved watching it go as well!

Our kids also enjoy down time together, like the rare times we allow them to play with our phones, or other electronics around the house... (even Seraphina liked this one! It was the My Little Pony app)

We made a gingerbread house together...

And took random pictures with fun things we would see around town...

As fun as these things are, we have tried to keep our hearts and home focused on the reason our family celebrates Christmas- the Savior's birth. We talk about it daily, and many parts of the Christmas story are in our homeschool lessons. We read scriptures together every day, and we take the time to discuss them in depth with the kids. This is a unique time of year because reminders of the season can be found almost everywhere, and provide us ample time for teachable moments. 

The following is a true story about an exchange my boys had with one another this morning. I suggest reading it while this is playing in another window:

Carter sat down next to me with a large sheet of paper and a green crayon. He started writing. 

"Deer Santa, I want for Christmas a Gatorade. Love, Carter."

Harrison came into the room. Carter read Harrison his letter. Harrison collected a sheet of paper and a crayon box, and retreated to the corner of the room, where he told us he did not want to be disturbed. 

In the meantime, Kurt asked Carter to explain more about his request for Gatorade. Kurt asked about flavors, sizes, and then asked Carter why he wanted, of all things in the world, Gatorade. 

Carter explained that he planned on using the Gatorade to set up a Gatorade stand, similar to the lemonade stand in a song the boys love (and sing, often), so he can make money. 

Kurt asked Carter why he would want to sell his Christmas gift to make money.

Carter looked at Kurt, and with sweet, uplifted, eyes soberly said, "Because we need money, Dad."

Kurt looked at me, and gave me a sad smile. My eyes began to sting with tears that I wanted to keep to myself.

At that moment, Harrison came out from his spot near the corner, and presented Carter with a letter. The outside of the letter had a picture of a cake, complete with little candles, and the words, "Sata" written across the top. Carter asked what the letter was, and Harrison spelled it out for him, "It is from (sounding it out) S-ah-t-ah, Santa!"

Carter opened the letter, inside was a picture of a bottle of Gatorade  Harrison explained it was a letter from Santa, promising Carter he would get the Gatorade he wanted. 

Tender as this moment was, we wanted Harrison to feel included in the gift discussion, and we asked him what he wanted from Santa, more than anything. 

"I would love chocolate ice cream, and it has to be dairy-free, so Carter can have some too!"

... Kurt and I sat in humble amazement of our boys. Their lists this year were not filled with Lionel Trains, or elaborate Lego sets- no, they were asking for simple, small, and sweet gifts. Gifts they could share with one another, or use to help our family. To say we were touched would be an understatement.

This year has been so difficult. We still do not understand why we are in this position. Is it because of Seraphina's health? Is it because I need to finish school right now? Are we here for Kurt's family? Are we here because someone needs us to be here? We have no idea. We have prayed about it separately and together, and still come up empty- and yet, each time we pray, we feel the peace that comes from knowing we are doing what we need to be doing, despite our confusion. 

"You show your trust in [God] when you listen with the intent to learn and repent and then you go and do whatever He asks. If you trust God enough to listen for His message... you will find it. And if you then go and do what He would have you do, your power to trust Him will grow, and in time you will be overwhelmed with gratitude to find that He has come to trust you."
—Henry B. Eyring

This is hard. So hard. But I know with every fiber of my being that God has a plan for us, and that we are doing what He wants us to do. 

We do not have it all bad...

Growing up, my mother had a beautiful Nativity. Her sister made it for her, and she treasured it. I can remember that she would set it upon spun glass clouds of angel hair, and I was allowed to turn on the light that illuminated the scene. As a child I saw the Nativity and I thought it was beautiful- it was Heavenly, and looked wondrous. I would try and imagine seeing the sweet and perfect baby, and I adored his mother, Mary. The Nativity seemed like a beautiful and whimsical dream- what a perfectly unique story! To have shepherds come adore him, and later (a few years, but still pretty as part of the Nativity) the Wise Men. What a neat and beautiful thing!!!!

And then, last week, Kurt and I taught about the Nativity.

We displayed Kurt's grandparents' Nativity, and we talked to the children about every piece. The boys memorized a scripture:

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

The boys asked questions, "What are swaddling clothes?" We demonstrated on Seraphina. The boys asked, "What is an inn?" We explained they had been travelling and an inn was similar to a hotel. "What is a manger?" It was then that the story of Jesus's birth changed for me...

I thought of Jesus, the King of Kings, the Savior, Redeemer, and Prince of Peace- born in a manger. As a child, I saw a manger as a pretty little bassinet with soft straw. This was not an accurate representation of a manger... at all.

We have a manger, a real one. We were able to show it to the boys. It is where we feed the 10 cats that roam around our farm. The boys were wide eyed in astonishment that the baby Jesus had to sleep in such conditions, they couldn't imagine placing Seraphina there to sleep, let alone allowing Jesus to rest there. It was not clean, adorable, and sweet (as I had always romanticized it to be)- it was dirty, exposed, and more humble than anything we can imagine. 

To think of Jesus actually being placed in a manger, like ours, reminded me yet again how totally and completely blessed we are. To think that our little family is more blessed with more comfort than Jesus and his earthly family once were is so sobering.

Yes, this year we will not be buying tickets to Disneyland for Christmas. We will not be flying to spend a week in Hawaii. We will not be limiting the toys to "only a few hundred" per child.

We will not be doing much, at all...

Under our tree will be Gatorade and a note that there is dairy-free ice cream in the freezer...

And maybe that is okay...

Because this is where we need to be right now, and it is still much better than our beloved Savior had it, and that is more than we could ever ask for.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support our family with prayers and with support. Lovingly written messages and uplifting phone calls help us more than ever, and are appreciated more than we may let on. I cannot tell you how many times I have been having a rough day only to find that a friend contacted me through text or facebook, and sent a small sweet message of hope. Truly, we are blessed with wonderful support. As always we are thankful for our Church, and we encourage anyone who is feeling lost, alone, or unsure of the purpose of life, to learn more.

**Our children will have other gifts to open. The kids have very generous grandparents, and great grandparents.