Category Archives: Semi-Serious Stuff I Say Sometimes

The most perfect gift

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you guys had an awesome Easter full of candy and visits with the Easter bunny and egg-dyeing and egg-hunts and baskets brimming with cheapies from the Target Dollar Spot…oh, and Peeps! Can’t forget those little fellas.

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{6 out of 8 looking ain’t bad}

I hope you’re still riding your Reese’s sugar high and finding 27 amazing ways to repurpose plastic eggs on Pinterest. I hope…

Waaaaaait a minute.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, then you may be feeling a bit punk’d right now. Like I’m trying to pull another April Fool’s fast one on you (oh, and just in case I played it a little TOO cool with that whole blonde hair business, and you’re still not entirely sure what happened…it was 100% a joke. Thanks to my husband’s photoshop skillz).

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I mean, I’m guessing you expected me to be all: “Hope you guys fully experienced the sorrow and then the joy of remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection. HE IS RISEN!”

More on that in a minute.

But first, let me share something super-rad: we get to meet Harriet this weekend!

Who?

If you recall, our family has sponsored Harriet through an amazing organization called Parental Care Ministries that is local to us and with whom we’ve been involved–through sponsorship, prayer, volunteering, etc.–for over 6 years now. We even sponsored another PCM child–Sarah–for a year through this blog (and then our family took over her sponsorship). We EVEN raised enough money the first year I ever had this little blog to build a new classroom for PCM! Y’all blew my mind with your generosity and support!

Well.

After witnessing and loving what this ministry has done to invest in the lives of over 1,000 incredibly deserving children in Uganda, we get the privilege of hosting Harriet and another PCM girl for a few days as they are here for the 3rd annual PCM choir tour.

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Last week, we met with the tour coordinator so she could brief us on what to expect and how best to bless Harriet and Gaudy, and, at one point, she leveled her gaze at us and said, “I know this is probably something you’ll want to do, but we’re asking that you refrain from buying the girls any gifts.”

That answered a question that I hadn’t even voiced yet, but, as disappointed as I was (I’d had visions of taking the girls to get outfitted in new everything–complete with peppy background music a la every single “makeover montage” in every single teeny-bopper movie ever made), I understood.

Because here’s the thing–life in Uganda is hard. Not as in: I only get a piece of candy and a pair of cast-off shoes for my birthday hard.

But as in: I eat the same bland, watery gruel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’m not even sure when my birthday is and would never dream of getting any presents for it if I did…hard.

I only eat meat once a year…hard. I walk 5 miles one way for clean water…hard. 

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Lori (the trip-coordinator) told us that if you ask the PCM kids what they are most thankful for, most will answer simply: “I’m grateful to be alive.”

And not in the sense of being filled with vigor and exciting prospects but in the not dead kind of way.

Because the specter of death looms very large in their lives from an early age. And tasteless gruel topped with beans 24/7/365 is infinitely preferable to a belly distended with starvation.

Lori emphasized that they weren’t expecting anything from us–were happy simply to get to know us and be included in our daily doings–and that material gifts, however needed or deserved, would cheapen and sully the pure joy they felt in sharing life with us.

They were content with “enough” (oh, what a slippery word we have made it) and would not benefit from being “blessed” with a recipe for discontent upon returning to their humble, simple everyday blessings.

When we asked Lori if there were an activity they would particularly enjoy, she said, “Any time you’re praising Jesus together will be their favorite.”

Y’all.

It was like an ice-pick to my heart.

I’ve had enough contact with these precious children to know that they absolutely radiate love for Jesus with a side of pure, unadulterated joy.

But to be reminded of how He is their everything–because they are completely free from the distractions that all of our “stuff” drags in with it–was more than convicting. It felt like a physical blow.

You see, I had seen pictures of cute little Easter baskets brimming with “stuff” popping up all over Instagram, and I’d been so, so tempted to run to the Dollar Store or Target and fill up a basket for each of my kiddos. So I could witness that shine of joy that new toys and treats always produce (at least temporarily). So I could feel like a super-mom. So I could “bless” my children.

But after talking to Lori, that desire vanished.

And not because Easter baskets are inherently evil or if you did that (or any of the other things in the first paragraph of this post), you’re a bad person/Christian.

But because I, too, want Jesus to be my everything–to be honestly, truly, fully thankful that I’m alive. That He has sustained me. That He is (so much more than) enough. I long for that for my children as well.

Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Clearly, the problem is not with the gift-giving. That is simply a reflection of a trait our heavenly Father has perfected. But the rub comes in defining the word, “good.”

After being reminded of the simple gratitude and reliance on Jesus that my PCM brothers and sisters in Christ have cultivated, it was plain to me that a basketful of cheap goodies was not going to be “good” for my children. That it would, in fact, detract from their (and my) already distracted focus on what Easter offers us: the chance to remember the precious sacrifice that Jesus made for us and the wonder of the fact that the grave could not contain Him.

Harriet and her friends understand, so much better than I–with my petty complaints about insufficient hot water and my discarded pizza crusts–that  “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

They grasp, better than any of us who live in the self-indulgent world of drive-thru restaurants, Bath and Bodyworks shower gel, and the “need” to change our clothes with each season’s new trend, that the most perfect gift of all can be a plate full of warm food–no matter how bland–and a thankful heart.

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Oh, that I would grasp even 1/10 of the same.

{Clearly, as you might be able to tell from these pictures, we didn’t completely forego all-things-egg; we attended our neighbor’s annual Easter egg hunt after church on Sunday–see last year’s recap here–and the kids had so. much. fun. Our neighbors are precious and ridiculously generous, and it is always a privilege to share this fun tradition with them}

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Mary, did you know?

I never wanted a Christmas baby. Mostly because I love birthdays and celebrating them, and I didn’t love the concept of one of my children’s birthdays being swallowed whole every year by the hustle and manic rush of our country’s most cherished, most overblown holiday.

And yet, here I find myself, 40 weeks pregnant, not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of a baby boy, not unlike a certain Jewish girl 2,000 years ago. (Although, yes I realize that Jesus wasn’t actually born in December).

I’ve never given Mary too much thought. I mean, after all, she was just the vessel. Just the container for the miracle that was God incarnate. Nothing special, really.

The thing is, it’s easy to dismiss Mary as ordinary until you read the Magnificat. I mean, historians estimate that Mary was somewhere between thirteen and fifteen-years-old when she received the news of her impending pregnancy.

So that’s…young.

If an angel of the Lord had appeared to my 14-year-old self and proclaimed that I would be supernaturally impregnated with the Savior of the world, I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been as follows:

1) pass out

2) wake up, remember what the angel said, and burst into tears

3) curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb

And yet, Mary, a simple, uneducated teenager had this to say (among other things):

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant…he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Not only is her eloquence surprising but her poise is just astounding.

Was she scared? I have no doubt. Worried? Um, yes. Aware of the repercussions of a virgin pregnancy that no one would believe? I’m sure.

And yet, she chose to praise.

Which is very different from the response I had yesterday as I was lettering the words, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,” on a piece of burlap with a black Sharpie, feeling all of the weariness and none of the rejoicing.

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My body has been trying to go into labor for over a week now. At first, I was cautiously hopeful. After 5 babies, I am on a little too friendly of terms with my old friend, the Braxton Hicks contraction. But these were different. And if they could just establish a pattern and kick in, darn it, we could get this baby out.

9 days of (sometimes painful, always distracting) contractions later, and I’m no longer hopeful. In fact, I’m downright jaded. And annoyed. Maybe even a little persecuted feeling.

But as I was having yet another hormonal episode (right in the middle of touching up the word, “rejoice,” ironically enough), I thought about Mary.

Mary, who was forced to ride aback a bony donkey for days, hugely pregnant, with no hope of a bath or anything resembling a decent bed.

Mary, who, even when she did finally arrive at the closest thing to the prospect of a bath and a decent bed, was rejected out of hand with the terse declaration of, “No room.”

Mary, who suffered through contraction after contraction, crouched in the filthy hay, surrounded by lowing, braying, baaing creatures. No midwife. No dresser full of tiny, clean little clothes she didn’t have to sew herself. No freezer full of meals just waiting to be thawed in a magical contraption called a microwave.

Y’ALL.

My tailbone is getting sore just sitting here on my comfortable couch as I type this. If you asked me to get on a donkey, much less ride him for longer than 2 minutes, I might drop-kick you across the room.

Can you imagine her discomfort, her uncertainty, her worry that she might somehow manage to completely bungle this whole being-the-mother-of-God assignment? I can’t, and I’m feeling considerably more empathetic with her than I ever have before.

You know that song, Mary Did You Know? It posits all kinds of questions about whether Mary fully understood the impact that the tiny baby in her womb would have on the world. For eternity. I have to think that she didn’t. Couldn’t.

And yet, Mary did understand this: God is God. Period. And not only that. But he is Good. And that was enough for her.

May it also be enough for me (and you) this Christmas season.

Today, I am asking the Savior of the world to remind me, in “my humble estate,” to “magnify the Lord.”

Regardless of when these contractions finally decide to stop teasing and start torturing me to the point of delivery. Regardless of how much I don’t want to tackle another mound of dirty dishes. Regardless of how fed up I am with getting screamed at by teething toddlers.

Merry Christmas, friends. May a joy that has nothing to do with your circumstances and a peace that passes all understanding fill your hearts and minds this blessed season.

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