To my daughter.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. ~Psalms 127:3

Three years ago today, I went into the hospital at 6:00 AM. I was the first scheduled surgery for the day. I got the shakes the same way I had five years before when underwent this same procedure. I remember how gentle the techs were, how they held me still from shaking as they plunged the world’s largest needle into my back. I vividly remember my doctor begin to sing as she slowly and with great precision removed you, my darling daughter.

You were different in nearly every way from your brother from the very beginning. You were planned, discussed in equal proportion to the enormous surprise your brother dropped upon us. And yet as easy as his time was in my womb, yours was difficult. I cried for you baby…. longing and BEGGING heaven for you just to make it. You were prayed for and loved by me, your daddy, your brother and all family and friends before you ever got here.me and gabs 2And made it you did.

Today is your birthday! My lovely girl you are THREE years old. And you are a delight and a terror and if I didn’t have you I would be lost. You have survived… while that seem a dramatic word to use, you were born into a home with a boy that thinks, runs and speaks like a tornado 24/7 and to a Mommy that was terrified of girls. When I found out you were a girl, I was so stricken with fear. Terrified of pink and barbie and….. how overwhelmed I was at how quickly you had all of my heart. So much calmer than your brother, so cuddly and sweet you became my favorite past time. And now, I want you to know that every birthday you have had and will ever have feels like a momentous personal triumph. I will intimately celebrate each minute, hour, day, week…..year, decade with indescribable joy and gratitude that the Lord God blessed with me with the enormous task of raising you. Me and Gabs 3

There is so much I cannot wait to do with you, and so much I already miss….. your tiny tiny infancy:….so small the preemie onesy was to big. OUR time together alone… I even miss now sitting and feeding you every bite of your food. I am sincerely terrified of what lessons adolescence will hold for both of us, but for now I am overcome by how adorable you truly are.

You are independent . And so wonderfully verbal. I love hearing your squeals… the way you blurt out your mouthful of a name. I love that already your sense of identity demands that your name is: “Gabriella Elizabeth Williams” despite it being perpetually shortened by teachers, classmates and yes, me.

I love that you live off of dairy alone. I love that ice cream and chocolate cake make me “The best Mommy ever!!!”

I love when you beg me to pick you up crying, “Mommy I need to hold you….”

And this is what I see: a girl that loves to dance and sing, “Jesus loves me” and “Twinkle Twinkle” twenty times in a row without tiring.

I love the sweet sensitive spirit you have that questions the tears of every other, and will fall to pieces when your brother gets himself in trouble. I love how much you love him. I love that you are already his voice of reason.You will be an unconquerable team.

Good luck to the boy who tries to win her heart.

Good luck to the boy who tries to win her heart.

Your enthusiasm is magnetic. You light up our lives.

So Happiest Birthday, Squishi Squishidoo, Gabby Gabby Gabby Goo!

The Birthday Princess!

The Birthday Princess!

Happy Birthday my gift of sugar and spice. We love you.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. ~ Psalms 139:14

The Santa Conundrum

Or….. What is a parent to do regarding the most popular Christmas lie?

Santa_Cody      Being school teachers and nerds in general, my husband and I put a high priority on knowledge. If my husband discovers that he does not know much about something he will dedicate countless hours to ____________(insert blank with any given topic) and learning EVERYTHING there is to know about said topic. A few years ago  the topic of choice was Santa Clause –  excuse me, Saint Nicholas. He even did a presentation at church…complete with power point.

What....what do you mean I'm "not real" ?

What….what do you mean I’m “not real” ?

Now I am sure by now you all know that the REAL Santa Claus did not does not have magical reindeer and live at the North Pole. What you may not know is that the man we now call St. Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in the third century. When his parents died, instead of spending his inheritance on wine and women, he, following the teachings of Jesus, used his entire inheritance to help the poor.

And he was serious about it. One of my favorite stories is about how he would

The gold was for dowry so this man's daughters could marry....

The gold was for a dowry so this man’s daughters could marry….

throw bags of gold through people’s windows and run off…and….AND he punched  the archheretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea!!…hilarious stuff. Not only did he go to extremes to help people, he was serious about TRUTH.

The stuff of legend.

Even though he was made a bishop and known for his wealth, he still suffered persecution and imprisonment under Diocletian with  many other Christians. When he died he became an icon of generosity and piety.The anniversary of his death (on December 6th) began to be celebrated as his feast day.

Most importantly,(the point of the history lesson) Nicholas did what he did because he LOVED Jesus. He was a FRIEND to Jesus.

And being the forward thinking parents we are, and desperate to raise our children Biblically, ….. this is what we told our oldest.

So, if you ask Corbin about Santa he will tell you that St. Nicholas lives in heaven with Jesus and we wait at Christmas for the spirit of Santa to come with presents. ….

That was until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago my mother-in-law got wind of this. The conversation started with Corbin saying,

“Mimi did you know…..” (my son is very proud of his knowledge)

And Corbin proceeded to tell Mimi his profound Christmas knowledge. It was met with, “Corbin a ghost does not bring your presents on Christmas Eve!

While a noble endeavor, Jack's attempt at Christmas failed....

While a noble endeavor, Jack’s attempt at Christmas failed….

Now, by spirit we meant tradition, essence, um…. but I guess as much as my kids love the Nightmare Before Christmas, that could work as well….

The point is, Mimi was appalled. This is a woman that lives 10 months of the year preparing for the two at the end when it is socially acceptable to create 40 different types of cookies, put up a ginormous tree, and deck the halls with 15 poinsettias and 30+ years worth of collected Christmas decorations.

Christmas               is               SACRED.

Not wanting to be that daughter-in-law, I didn’t say anything as I listened to her whip up a detailed explanation of how there most definitely is a Santa Clause at the North Pole and his “office” is passed down periodically. After her lengthy, perfectly logical explanation and 2 hours of my life gone to The Santa Clause, Corbin is now completely convinced of the existence of two Santas and …..if we are lucky, Nathan will push the current one off the roof, and Corbin’s daddy will get to be the next official Santa of the North Pole.

It was this North Pole Santa that sent Buddy the Elf with a personalized letter to Corbin and Gabriella reminding them to be a good boy and girl if they do not want coal for gifts. It will be  this North Pole Santa who comes through our back door (no chimney, natch) and delivers presents on Christmas Eve.

And I am torn. I do not want to corrupt my child’s innocence. At his age I had figured out the hard truth when I determined that all the Christmas tags were written in my mother’s handwriting and…..I told my younger sister….. who in turn announced it to her entire class at school…..

Winning.

I have known families that completely boycotted the Americanized Santa (created with the publication of “A Night Before Christmas”) and do not even allow their children to get gifts. I love giving gifts, I love seeing my children light up, but can’t we find a creative solution?

What if we all boycotted Santa……. only to embrace St. Nicholas? What if we vocalized that Christmas is when we celebrate the COMING OF CHRIST as a baby? We give gifts to honor and represent the irreplaceable gift GOD gave us with his son, and in turn the sacrificial gift of ETERNAL life Jesus gave us with his life.  And what if….. what if…. we explained to our children that St. Nicholas got this? He gave all he had….. sacrificially….. to others because he, himself had received that amazing gift of GRACE. And what if that was the solution…. to explain that we are carrying on the tradition St. Nicholas started?

My heart gets so full at Christmastime that I will spontaneously burst into tears at the sound of Christmas carols. My parents worked soooo hard to make Christmas special. Amidst all our dysfunction I remember Christmas with sacred traditions. The realization the enormity of God’s sacrifice (and Mary’s) has become more profound since having my own two children. Having nursed them, swaddled them and learned helplessness in their vulnerability I have wrapped up all my hopes and dreams in their well-being… it now means more. I hope that I can pass on the magnitude of emotion: joy, love and gratitude, that overwhelms me with this season.

So, maybe we aren’t 100% theologically correct for this year we have two Santas. There is the one with a reindeer with a glowing nose and a creepy elf that reports lists of my children’s misdeeds nightly,

and

St. Nicholas…. who will help my children pick out ducks, chickens and a water filtration system for children their age in Africa. And when we gather to worship the Christ child St. Nicholas will be worshiping and singing with all the other saints already before the throne.

nativityFor to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6 NIV

With Thanksgiving…..

Shout for joyto the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his
    we are his people,the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courtswith praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.– Psalm 100

So, today like most everyone else in the country I indulged in too much turkey and even more dessert. I spent time with my husband’s cousins, who are by far some of my most favorite young men. (If I had any single girl friends I’d throw one or two at them…) One in particular indulged my secret desire to be Katniss Everdeen and I hit the target twice out of twelve shots with a “for real” recurve bow and arrow! But I digress…..

It was a good day. Also like a  lot of families, we split time between my folks and his, so we will get to relive the whole process Saturday and drag the Thanksgiving spirit out over several days…..

And I am convinced that is how it should be.  Our Lord delights in our praise and we should be grateful ALL days for what He has blessed us with.  I have had this song stuck in my head all day so I thought I would share….it sums up my heart right now.  Happiest Thanksgiving to you all!

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!   Refrain

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!   Refrain

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.    Refrain

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.    Refrain

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!    Refrain

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.    Refrain

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!