The Man Who Stole Christmas

 

christmas lights

We all know them, the ones who post “15 weeks until Christmas!!” It was 90 degrees today! Fall weather hasn’t even kicked in and I’m already being triggered by beautiful friends who just love Christmas! Don’t get me wrong, I do love Christmas, but I just don’t feel the feels yet as I figure out if dealing with dabbing rivulets of foundation make-up off my face is worth it today. Life is sweaty sometimes, especially in the South.

Christmas is exciting. The presents, the decorations, the big family dinners, the baking, the food, the traditions, did I mention the baking, and even the shopping and thinking of others brings a joy to me that seems to only happen around this time. So I see why it can bring an anxious excitement to a lot of people. So when I read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens it was full of nostalgia. Scrooge got it at the end. Here and there the Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkled people with Christmas feelings of warmth, mirth, and joy. Scrooge stepped out of his comfort zone and saw how even those with nothing, still were able to enjoy life because they had family and friends, despite their impoverished circumstances. He saw in the end that material things mean nothing because we cannot enjoy them when we are dead. Friendship, fellowship, and philanthropy that is what mattered most in life.  Oh, Mr. Dickens, you are close, but you got it so wrong.

I first noticed it when the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas” came out last year. (I still have not seen it and I really want to.) The title shocked me. Not in a Victorian-I’m-going-to-faint-now-catch-me-please kind of way, but that it was so blatantly wrong. So adamantly misleading. Christmas has been around for over 2000 years, and man didn’t invent it. It was given. But reading “A Christmas Carol” I got what was trying to be convened by Mr. Dickens. He wanted Christmas without Christ. He wanted the sentiment without the Savior. He wanted the philanthropy without the Forgiver. And frankly, he got it. And Americans – because this is what we do – gobbled up this kind of Christmas in mouthfuls. Yes, I sprinkle Jesus and Bible reading among the towers of presents. I contemplate the birth of my Savior between Christmas parties. Yes, I give a little more around this time frankly because I feel bad because I spent so much on my kids. UGh! Christmas should not be this complicated. This stressful. This domineering. So what do I do with this?

We do not know when Jesus was born. I have heard most accounts of a time line of when He could have been born and all of them make good arguments, but simply, none of us are for sure. I think it is important to see that plainly the date wasn’t that big of a deal. If it was, with all the writings we have on everything else, we would know! I think this lack of information screams: Let’s not save our celebrating Jesus or Christianity for one day out of the year!

Be a gift-giver, host big meals, decorate your home, make traditions (especially ones revolving around Jesus), make time for family and friends, love on the needy, read the Bible aloud with your family, seek God, make amends, ask for forgiveness, easily forgive, call forgotten ones, encourage one another, do these things and more not when the “Christmas spirit” hits you, but because the Holy Spirits dwells in you.

I am still working out the thoughts and convictions I have been feeling about Christmas. Rest assured that I will be sharing my thoughts as I work them out. I will still celebrate Jesus birth and salvation. I will still decorate and make my home warm, I will still give gifts and attend and host parties, I will still bake and donate; but I just hope to continue to do these things throughout the year.

Dickens did steal Christmas. He was one of the firsts to write a Christmas story that excluded the mention of Jesus. But he, I believe inadvertently, also limited our Christianity. He captured the feelings we have during Christmas and bound it to a season. Maybe that is why we go nuts around Christmas time with all we do, because we are making up for what we have not done throughout the year? Even I become overly religious around this time, making sure we read Luke 2 before we DARE open any presents! God forgive me! It shouldn’t be a novelty to read Scripture to my gathered children. 😦 Am I making up for what I should be doing daily? I think I am.

My challenge to myself and to you my dear Christian is to not save our Christianity to a Christmas season. Even to those who haven’t fallen into the American-Christmas trap and do center their celebration to revolve around Jesus specifically, let us not just make Him center for a season. Let us not celebrate His birth and salvation for a slot of two weeks in the winter.

GOD became incarnate and died for the sins of His church! He came to earth! – a feeble little rock in the great expanse of space and taught us how to love Him and others. He has saved His people! And because He so magnificently gave and forgave, we do also. This beautiful truth should be celebrated all year long!

I will end with a passage from Luke 2! 😉

 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.

Regarding the book because this was supposed to be a book review. It is a very well written book. Dickens is a master at capturing and developing deep, meaningful characters. I also love the last names he gives his characters. I recommend this book to anyone wanting a quick and motivational read. The book is about 100 pages, so it isn’t very long. It will forever be a classic.

 

 

 

 

Blank Birth Certificates

About a week ago, my 3 foster children lost their biological parents. No, they didn’t die, they just chose not to show up for most of their lives.  After years of being in the foster care system, the powers that be decided that my kids parents were unfit to be parents and their rights were rightfully terminated. Technically, on paper, my foster children are orphans. They have us, but legally their birth certificates now have blank spaces where their parents’ names should be.

Unfortunately, their case is not unique. Today, in Kentucky alone, there are over 8,000 children in the foster care system. Many of these children age out not ever “belonging” to anyone. Their birth certificate being blank for the rest of their lives. We live in a very broken world.

But I tell you all this so this little, minuscule light of mine shines even brighter.

This morning, I fed my kids chorizo con huevo (Mexican sausage with egg). They saw me take out the plump, greasy, fat links, then squeeze the red clumps out of their casing, my fingers covered in red-orange ooze. “What is that?” the smallest one asked. “It’s chorizo, and I’m going to mix it with your eggs this morning.” He being the most sensitive to my feelings just slowly said “okay” and walked away. I accompanied their eggs with some quesadillas filled with Oaxaca cheese, and grilled them in butter and needless to say, my Kentucky native foster children ate every bit of what I made and loved it. And, may I add, they pronounce “chorizo” beautifully.

chorizo

This morning’s breakfast

My foster children, who we plan to adopt, are themselves adopting me and my culture. The oldest one, whose name is John, has adamantly stated he would like to change his given name at his adoption hearing to, get this, JUAN! My littlest one is always requesting for me to make fideo, a type of Mexican spaghetti that I grew up with. My foster daughter is looking forward to her quinceanera (a huge party celebrating her 15th birthday) where we all celebrate her becoming a woman.  All of them can sing Lalo Mora’s song “Un puno de tierra”!

Yes, this is all a good thing, but there is a larger part of my culture that they are also adopting which is the most important and that is my Christian culture. I pray so they pray, I attend church and they do also, I confess my many, many, many failings and I help them confess theirs, we forgive, we worship our God, we fight being hypocrites and fail some more, we practice hospitality – something they really enjoy. My whole worldview is through the lens of my faith. My identity and the identity of my home is mostly found in Christ. My home of Mexicans, a Guatemalan, Kentuckians,Texans and a Yankee comes beautifully together seamlessly under Christ. This is why I beg Christians to consider foster care and/or adoption. What better way to further the kingdom of God than by having them in your home where habits, culture, and character – specifically Christian ones – are naturally absorbed!? Will you mess up, of course. My first summer with my very pale foster children was drenched in aloe because I didn’t know anything about sunscreen AND that you have to re-apply that stuff! AND that SPF 40 does squat! AND just get SPF 70, trust me! AND what does SPF even mean!?! – My poor white babies were burnt red all summer, sizzling as they slowly walked!  Their brown mama had no clue! You also will mess up in other ways. You may not want them anymore – it will pass, sometimes I didn’t want the kids I birthed. You will regret doing foster care, don’t worry, it will pass – sometimes. You will question yourself, you will lose your temper with them. You may even consider an exorcist for them and even yourself. BUT! This is where my faith, my Christian culture, comes to the rescue. Because it is in my faith where I remember my own adoption. My Heavenly Father adopted me. I was an abandoned baby and he raised me and clothed me (Ezekiel 16:5-6). I was his enemy (Romans 5:10) and he made me His friend (John 15:15). I was dead and he brought me to life (I John 3:14). My birth certificate had blanks (John 14:18) and he filled them and signed them with the blood of His Son (Ephesians 1:5)!

My foster children have blanks right now on their birth certificates, but soon they will have Nathan and Anna Tobey written in on these empty slots. They will be given a new last name – and some a new first name too! They will belong to someone. It is my constant prayer that they will not just be a part of our temporary family, but also our eternal one. I hope that they don’t just become my children, but also my eternal brothers and sisters – sharing with me in my inheritance who is Christ Himself!

Ephesians 1:4-5 says: For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love, He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.…

 

 

Pumpkin Bread

Who doesn’t love new recipes to try out? Especially when it’s getting cool outside AND fall is just around the corner AND it’s a pumpkin recipe! Here is one I tried out on Monday and it was delicious. We devoured one loaf and gave the other away to a friend! The recipe is from “The New McCall’s Cook Book”. Here’s the recipe:

pumpkin bread

PUMPKIN LOAVES

Ingredients:
2 cups of unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves (I only added 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup of butter or regular margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 can (1lb) pumpkin puree

Directions:
1. Lightly grease two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Sift flour with salt, baking powder, soda, and spices; set aside.
3. In large bowl of electric mixer, at medium speed, beat sugar with butter just until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue beating until very light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin. At low speed, beat in flour mixture until combined.
4. Turn batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. (The batter is rather thick) Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 2 loaves

 

So I read a book for boys.

In my reading challenge, it was suggested to read a book targeted towards the opposite gender. I looked on line and googled “top ten books for men” and conquering the world, excelling in the work place, and how to be a great leader and have people adore me wasn’t at all interesting to me, so I decided to broaden my search. Towards the end of some other google searches I did see Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. I also noticed that it is a rather short book and this sealed the deal for me. I read it in about an hour and I did find it a bit interesting and, oddly, very applicable to my life!

My husband had to read this book while he was at West Point and one night I decided to share with him what I thought of the book. He was walking about the house and I approached him and told him that I had just read Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. Like never, he was interested in what I had to say.  I shared with him about how nurturing and caring, but firm these generals had to be towards their soldiers and how that benefited the outcome of war and morale. I shared how knowing the strengths and weakness of not only your opponent but also yourself was imperative in success. Finances and budgeting were essential considerations in war and that there was so much pain and hurt that could be prevented if steps were taken before any actual fighting had to take place. I told him that I could really apply a lot of this wisdom to our family and ministries. I went on and on about war strategy and planning. About how courage is most contagious when we are not afraid of death. How to chose and pick fights and discerning what is worth fighting for is key to success in battle. And he listened to every bit and at the end of it all, all he could say was “I love you so much” LOL Was that a tear I saw? Just kidding. But he was struck by my interest in something he is also interested in, and I am grateful that I did stretch my reading genre quiet a bit and learned some things.

This is how I felt after talking battle strategy regarding our 6 kids:

warrior

Here are some quotes from the book I found I could use when dealing with my kids, my home and spiritual warfare. You can easily apply these to most life situations!

“He who makes light of his opponents, he is sure to be captured by them.”

“If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive and if submissive, will be practically useless. And if soldiers have grown attached to you and are not punished, they will still be useless.”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.

There is no instance from a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

 

I recommend this book to young men or to women who have husbands who are or where in the military or police force. Then I advise you to talk to them about it. They will see you with different eyes and love you at a different level, trust me.