When you believe in Santa, how do you pray?

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We love Jolly Old Saint Nick, otherwise known as Swieta Mikolaj here in Poland.

We love his red suit, his white beard, his jiggly belly, and his bright smile.

We love the twinkle in his eyes.

And did you know he actually sent us a couple of those elves while we were living in Arizona? Yep! Charleston and Swenson. Oh, they are clever little elves up to lots of good fun.

Today I found them in our Marks and Spencer bag EATING our salt and vinegar chips!

Don’t they know that is a HUGE NO-NO! After all, Poznan is an hour away from where we live. We only get to Marks and Spencer every month or so…And even our two-year-old, Maxwell, LOVES those chips.

Pesky, fun-loving, excitement for the next magical place they will appear, ELVES! I do have a feeling, since our home is heated by coal, that they will wind up in the furnace room—in a pile of coal—before long!

I wonder if this will scare Adelyne, our 8-year-old? Perhaps she’ll think she’s getting put on the naughty list. Sometimes she actually is…but aren’t we all?!

Our son, Maxwell. He’s not sure what to think of our elves. The elves received Oreos the morning St. Nick came and brought goodies for the shoes. And one elf had an Oreo out and was eating it when we must have surprised them. And so his Oreo dropped on the ground.

All Maxwell, the 2-year-old, saw was a perfectly good Oreo lying on the ground. OHHHHHHH! What torture.

He kept trying to grab the cookie. I told him, “No, Maxwell, that cookie does not belong to you.”

It was hilarious. He laid down on the floor with his hand stretched out to the cookie, his fingers merely wisps away from it and just cried, “Cookie! My cookie!” (See above picture for accurate depiction of this story)

Of course, his age has a LOT to do with pretty much everything right now.  But it was a FANTASTIC lesson in “We don’t take what does not belong to us, even if the magical elves will not finish eating it later.”

I must say, (pat-pat-pat on my back) he did not take the cookie.  He practiced self-control.  And that is a HUGE deal, if you have a 2-year-old.  So, these magical elves also help us teach lessons.  Lessons like:  listening to your mom; and practicing self-control.   Well done, C and S (Charleston and Swenson).

And, as much as my daughter (Adelyne the 8-yr-old), LOVES the elves.  She does freak out sometimes.  Like the other day she was downstairs alone, Christmas music was playing, when she heard, in a high-pitched voice, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Sure enough, at the speed of lightning that we don’t often get to see her travel in, she was up those stairs, in our laps, crying, “Mom!  Did you hear that?  Do you think the elves spoke?  I heard, ‘Merry Christmas!’ in a high and squeaky voice!”

Her dad and I hugged her and said, “Wow!  How exciting!  You heard them speak.  What fun!”

It did little to curb her excitement, and then she refused to go back downstairs and finish her homework.  Perhaps you aren’t laughing—but we were.

The minds of children really are delicate balances of excitement and wonder with the never-ending tier of, whether it is based upon sense or not, “Protect me, please!”

But, before you get worked into a lather, she wrote her elves notes later that night, yes, they write her notes back, and asked if she heard them speak.  They responded, “YES!”  And she was so excited.

So, even in the midst of uncertainty, the child-like joy of the magical remains.  And that is WHY I love living these phases of life with my children.

BUT…

And this is the big BUT.  How do we pray in our home when we so obviously are also in love with the big, red suit and the joys of the magical parts of the Christmas Season?

It’s simple.   Christmas is a glorious season of giving.  And receiving.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with either and something beautiful about both.

Why it’s better to give than receive!  You may say.

Why, yes, the Bible is very clear about that, Acts 20:35,  I respond.  But let us take a moment to look at both!

And that is why I am writing this post.

The GREATEST gift that was ever given to us came as a small child, in a miraculous way, over 2,000 years ago.  You probably have heard the song, “Away in a Manger”.  Well, perhaps I should have said, “In a miraculous way in a manger…”

Anyhow.  We did not deserve this precious gift.  Yet this gift was given.  To me.  The BIGGEST sinner of all.  Really.  You should see me wife-it and parent-it and live-it.  I am a big ol’ failure each and every day.

“Oh, but Brooke, we do see you—you put it on your blog.”

Oh, that’s right.  So you know.

And I will never fail in proclaiming how hard this thing called life is and how grateful I am for the gift of forgiveness and grace.  So grateful.

Therefore, this miraculous gift that was given to us as a baby, so very long ago, remains the GREATEST focus of our home.

How do we do that and love Santa?

It’s easy.  Every night when we pray, we thank the Lord for what he has provided in our lives.  And, just so you know, provisions do not merely mean monetary things.  We are thankful for health and family.  We are thankful for our precious international church and our best friends.  We are thankful for our baby that was taken in pregnancy to heaven (and, yes, we thank God every day for this baby with our children).

And we also thank him for the home he has provided, and our dogs (especially when they foil the plans of robbers).

We thank him for our daughter’s school, and our son’s medicine (our son is a life-survivor).

Josephine!  She’s our last surprise miracle.  We thank God for her chubby goodness.

And we thank God for our marriage (even though the kids are unaware of the depths that have gone into fighting for it).

We thank God each day for so many beautiful things that he has placed in our lives===the men at the New Life Center and the people that give so that these homeless men and former prisons can have new starts to life…

Our lists are long.  We are unendingly (is that a word) THANKFUL!

And, now that the Christmas season is upon us and everywhere you walk you see the Jolly Red Suit, we continue to make an extra effort to remind our children that as much as we love Santa, we love Jesus more.

This is how we end our prayers, “And, Lord, thank you so much for this season of the GREATEST gift of all…your son!  Your son that you gave to us so humbly.  The angels rejoiced and so do we.  Thank you for the gift of Jesus and the life that he lived and the sacrifice he made at the cross and the victory that took place when he conquered death.   It’s because of this gift of Jesus that we know you in such a personal way.”

And two out of 3 say, “Amen!”

But, to be fair, the third is only 10-months-old, so she pretty much only says, “Dadda and Ada” right now.

When they drift into their child-like slumbers, what do they dream?  Well, that is a question for the next morning.  Tucking them in, kissing their faces, and hugging them tight, however, we send them to bed with the reminder of the greatest gift.  And this is the last thing on their hearts before we close the doors, whispering, “Good night!  We love you more than life.”

That’s it.  My friends.

That’s why it is not hard for us to love Santa and yet remain focused on Jesus in our home.  Because, in the end, he’s what matters most.

And, if you think about it, he was a gift.  So, in a way, receiving is also blessed, too.

How about you?  How do you love Santa and keep your family’s focus on Jesus?

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Here are some other blogs related to Christmas that I have written in the past:

The Christmas Mullet…what a shame!  http://wp.me/p3Bh9m-30

It shares about some of the Polish traditions to Christmas and the very unfortunate incident of my daughter’s personal hair cut.  Which means she personally cut her own hair.  At Christmastime.  Oh, and there is a carp in our bathtub!  Enjoy.

Jesus Good.  Santa Bad? http://wp.me/p3Bh9m-OO

A blog written that questions “Is Santa Bad?”  My look on it in my life.  Enjoy!

AND…Click on any of the above highlighted words in the article to go to a different article regarding the highlighted topic.  Enjoy!

xo always,

b and my crazy gang

Standing on the bank of a river doing a handstand.

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There is a picture propped on the windowsill of Maxwell’s bedroom. The windowsill is right next to his bed. It is an unusual looking picture by appearance. There is a little boy doing a handstand in the forest, near a river.

If you were to see it, you would say, “Why is this unusual looking photo in Maxwell’s room right next to his bed?”

And I would answer you this…

Never ever doubt the praying faith or beautiful dreams of children.

You know, in the Bible there was a big dreamer. His name was Joseph, and he often had many dreams that either got him in or out of big trouble.

But these dreams were not his own. They were dreams that God gave him and brought about in truth and reality in God’s timing.

When Maxwell was on the cusp of death, a friend’s son had a dream about him—Maxwell. And his dream, as told by his mom to me, went something like this…

“Mom, I dreamed that there was a little boy doing a handstand on the bank of the river. That little boy was Max!”

And so she sent to Poland a framed picture of a little boy (her son) doing a handstand and pasted it on a different picture at the bank of the river.

And that little boy, doing the handstand on the bank of the river, represents Max.

Her son, he dreamed a dream that he believes God gave him…That Maxwell would live and grow and one day do a handstand on the bank of a river.

Well, today Maxwell is still too small to do a handstand at the bank of a river, but nearly every day of his little 27-month-old life, he puts his head on the ground, sticks his little, adorable butt in the air and waits for his sissy (known to most as Adelyne) to come and lift him up and over for a complete somersault.

It’s not a handstand at the bank of a river—yet. But it’s a show of life. Strength in training. And living in motion.

And every day I glance at that picture.  The one of the little boy on the bank of a river doing a handstand and am reminded about a boy, far away, that dreamed and believed.  Dreamed of my son and how God would restore his life and give him strength to live, to grow, and to flourish.

And every day I am thankful that my friend’s son took the time to dream.  To pray.  And to believe.

I pray that one day you, too, will be doing a handstand on a riverbank!  Or whatever it is in your life that God lays upon your heart.

Have faith, my dear friend, pray, and believe.

Amen.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

 

Are you a church CEO?

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I saw it first on Facebook…Because, you know, it’s the place to go to get the news.

Someone wrote, “Tomorrow you’ll see a lot of CEOs at church.  Christmas and Easter Only”

Someone is funny.

Someone is right.

But the more I thought about it, I thought—if you are only a CEO, why go at all?

What?  You say…(imagine it being said like the Geiko commercial)

Wouldn’t you think twice a year is better than not at all?

Well, of course I think twice a year is better than not at all.  But let’s take a look at the two times that you go:

Christmas.

Easter.

What are those two days?

Why, major holidays.  You say.

And you’re right.  Two major holidays—both religiously and commercially.  And I do.  I do.  I do love them both! (Both religiously and commercially)

But, again, I ask you—Why do you go on those two days?

For which you’ll probably answer, TRADITION! (All Fiddler on the Roof style)

Or To see family…which is a great reason to go.

So, I don’t want you to think that I am bashing your trip to the kaplica (chapel)—but I am questioning why you choose to be a CEO.

Let me explain it this way…

Christmas.  It’s a foundational holiday to the Christian faith.  We believe with all that we are that, during this season, Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, Mary.  Mary was engaged to Joseph.  But Joseph is only the earthly father of Jesus.  The father of Jesus is God.  It’s a miracle.  There is no other way for us to explain it.  And we believe—by faith—that it is so.

And this is the day that you choose to go to church.

Then there is Easter.  It’s THE most important holiday—holy day—to be celebrated in the Christian faith.  Without the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, we would not have an opportunity to know him.  Personally.  To walk with him.  Daily.  Before Christ’s death and resurrection, there had to be a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  Christ, the man that was born of the virgin, Mary, became obedient unto death…becoming the final sacrifice.  The ultimate sacrifice for all of mankind (womankind, too, in case you are gender sensitive—smile and wink).  Giving us the opportunity for new life.  In Him.

These are big deals.

And these are big days.

But these days speak of BIG FAITH.  BIG BELIEF.  BIG.  BIG.  BIG.

After all, on the days you choose to go, you are saying, I am here on a day that I believe a miracle took place—a virgin gave birth to the Son of God.

And…

I am here on a day that I believe that same Son of God rose from the dead.  He had been dead for 2 previous days.  This is the 3rd day.  There was a tomb (cave, resting place) that he was placed in.  There were Roman guards by the tomb.  And yet, somehow, he was not in this tomb on the 3rd day.  Not only that—but this same man that died and was placed in a guarded tomb, later appeared to many hundreds of people.  Hundreds.  Before ascending to heaven.  Hundreds.

I believe it is not Happy Zombie Day (like you will see without a doubt on Facebook on Easter day).  But it is instead, He has risen indeed.  Hallelujah!  He, the ultimate sacrifice, became death for me.  But death had NO hold on him.

No.Hold.On.Him.

Yep.  I am at church on a day that believes this.  Celebrates this.  Proclaims this.  And chooses to live by faith THIS!

It’s all pretty incredible.  And requires great faith.  Which brings me back to you, CEO, why do you choose to go on these days that are so big?

Why not just go two times a year on other days that may be a lot gentler—like say Valentine’s Day?  Or perhaps the 4th of July?

Or do you go on these days because you need that reminder—be it twice a year—that we all need to live like this?

As people with great faith.

 

Prayer. It’s not a magical potion.

Teaching our children about prayer, while living it in our own lives.

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Praying…we’re to pray without ceasing.  But sometimes we find that “ceaseless” prayer a hassle.  After all, we have to stop.  Close our eyes.  Bow our head.  And wait for commotion to cease around us.

Nope.  Not at all.  Truly, that’s not the case.

Prayer is a beautiful thing.

Praying is what gave us our Baby Sam.

And prayer is what saved our baby, Maxwell.

Prayer is not magic.  It’s not a guarantee that all will be “right” according to our standards.  And prayer definitely does not work “our way”.

Bummer?  Well, it depends on your perspective.

God is very specific about how we should pray.

One…We should come before Him.  And that’s a Him with a capital H.

Two…We should present our praises and petitions to Him.

Three…We should acknowledge what it is that we have done wrong in our lives.

Wait.  Right there.  That’s why I don’t pray.  I don’t want to keep acknowledging over and over and over and over (you get the idea) all of my wrongs.

Well, why not?  Because you don’t want to admit you were wrong?  Or you don’t want to change what you are doing that IS wrong?

If it’s either of the above cases, it’s a heart issue, my friends.  A heart issue.  Not a prayer issue.

Back to prayer…

And we are to pray the prayer that never fails…”God, thy will be done…”

You see.  It’s okay, great, fantastic, superb to go specifically before God with specific requests and specific hopes for your lives…

My daughter did for 3 years before God gave our Baby Sam to us (and took him home before we got to meet him here on earth)…

And as much as she prayed with all of her heart for a baby brother, and we thought our little baby was a miraculous answer to that prayer, we did not get to keep our baby.

Hearts were broken.  Lives changed.

BUT…

And this is where we see God’s hand at work.   If we had NEVER been given Sam, we would have never thought to try for Maxwell.

You see, it’s because God gave us Sam that hope was renewed in our hearts that perhaps…just maybe…we could have another.

And a year after our loss, 10 years into our marriage, and approaching our 36th year of life, we found ourselves for the first time ever at a clinic for a consult with a doctor.

And it was there that the doctor said to me in very broken English, “You see your right ovary there?”

“Yes…”

“Well, you will ovulate in 3 days.  Go home.  I should not see you again.”

And, 8 months later (because he came early), we had Maxwell.

Had God not given us Sam, we would have never ever thought to try for Maxwell…And today we wait (each day because I’m as baked as a Thanksgiving turkey) for Josephine.

All because my daughter prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.  And she prayed ceaselessly.

Everything was not beautiful.  Baby Sam never made an entrance into this world alive.  Maxwell nearly died.  And Josephine wanted to come at 31 weeks.

But because everything was not beautiful, because there was heartbreak, because there was the feeling of complete hopelessness…we felt God.

We relied on Him.

We leaned on Him.

And we learned from Him.

We were students of “Thy will be done…”

Through Adelyne, we learned that it’s okay to present the “impossible” requests to God…such as asking for a brother or sister.

Through Sam, we learned that in utter darkness God is still there.

Through Maxwell, we learned to believe in miracles!  We learned that when God is prompting you to pray, to be faithful.  To pray.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, was woken up at 3am one night when Maxwell was at the stage of his life in ICU when no one knew if he was going to live or die.  At 3am in Arizona, it was 12 noon in Poland.  This is very important to realize the time…

Because it was at that exact moment that she was woken up with the prompting to pray for Maxwell that Maxwell’s life was hanging in peril.  That he was bagged and the doctor had to be found.

And for an eternity no one knew what the outcome would be…Richard and I stood in the hallway crying out to God while my sister-in-law on the other side of the world was crying out to God.

And although it seemed like an eternity, the doctor finally made it to him and got his little life stable again.

Jennifer had no clue what was happening when she was awoken in the middle of the night.  And yet she obediently honored God’s prompting and began to pray for our baby.

Praying teaches great faith.  Faith that we are to go to God.

Prayer.  Every day before Adelyne leaves for school, I envelop her in my arms and together we cuddle, and this is what I say, “Dear Jesus, please be with Adelyne today.  May she be respectful and kind.  May she have listening ears and a spirit to help others.  May she be a shining example for you.   Amen.”

And every day my daughter awaits that moment, even though it’s the same prayer.

And every day I am reminded that my daughter enters her days knowing that she is loved and there is a God she can go before.

And throughout the day, whether it’s a silent or crazy day.  Whether I’m clean or a mess.  Whether I feel good or like crap…I pray.

I pray for my children, my family, those we meet, hearts that are broken, lives that are a mess, for those that need healing…

I pray—and my greatest prayer is always that through the moments in life that we all face, we come to know Him.

Because, yes, at times life is unbelievably painful—but with God survival is possible.

Prayer.  It’s not a magical potion—it’s so much more than that.

Prayer.  It’s a beautiful connection.