What About That Baby?

He came. Finally. Past the time we’d expected him to show up. Not the way we’d anticipated.

My daughter, Courtney, and her husband, Michael, were expecting their first child. A boy. It’s been a year for boys–this one was the fifth male born into our family this year.

I’d anticipated coming out to help when he was born. When her due date passed, Courtney suggested I wait a few days and get a flight out after her next appointment. At the very worst, the doctor said she’d induce her on December 15.

Ten days before Christmas.

I wanted to give these two as much of my time as I could, to help with tasks around the house like grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry. Just to give them time to rest. They were both exhausted. Labor lasted almost 36 hours after she was induced earlier than anticipated. (The doctor had concerns.)

I arrived in Denver early on December 11. They’d been admitted the day before, and it had been slow going. I was to wait at their home till I got word that the baby had come. I was more than a little tired, having gotten little sleep the night before. A nap sounded wonderful.

Visions of napping quickly flew out of my head when I opened the door and was bulldozed by two large, loving dogs. Foster, a fourteen-year-old Australian shepherd, is a soft-hearted, hairy marshmallow. Wally, a two-year-old sheepadoodle, is the Energizer Bunny on steroids.

Never have I had as much attention paid to me as I did from those two dogs. They were so glad to see me. Even convinced me to go outside to play fetch with them at 3 in the morning when my intent had been just to go to the bathroom.

Being up at that hour, however, allowed me to see the texts on my phone–and realize our much anticipated little guy had finally made his entrance into this world. I was ecstatic–he’d arrived.

When I met my new grandson, my heart was filled with love for this little guy I’d just met, a wonderful treasure I’d just discovered.

He didn’t do anything to earn that devotion from me. He showed up, the son of parents I deeply love.

A Child was born over 2,000 years ago who came in an unexpected way. A King born in humble surroundings, the only One who offers eternal hope. The first to greet him were shepherds who tended the flocks of sacrificial sheep for the Temple. Not a high-class job, but folks who understood the real significance of this birth.

He came to share an outrageous love with us. There’s nothing we can do to earn that love; we can receive it as a gift because His Father created us and didn’t want to lose us.

It’s easy to lose the significance of Christmas amidst the trappings of the holiday. But when faced with a love so grand meeting needs that are so great, settling for a token “Baby in a manger” isn’t enough.

Seeing past the wrapping to the true value of the Gift–outrageous love.

Who wouldn’t be encouraged by that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light Up My World

I often wonder who the bigger child is–my husband or the grands.

He gets ridiculous joy from purchasing surprises for them that sometimes backfire.

The slip and slide and other water blow-ups that he bought for them this summer. Which they loved.

But their lifespan was short–who knew jumping on plastic could put a hole in it? They killed grass and developed mold because they were impossible to thoroughly dry.

Then there were the two microphones he purchased during last Christmas season for karaoke. Or other forms of verbal reflection. The littles have loved it–something about hearing your own voice magnified many times over brings amazing joy.

With it came a light that is a throwback to the 70’s disco ball. It changes color and bathes the room in racing lights that fascinate and intrigue the littles with wonder. It brings with it a sense of drama, and drama always leads to performance.

When the kids come over, they grab the microphone and light and find a dark place to create their own personal spotlight. Often it means all the lights go off, and the rest of us are left wandering in the dark.

Sometimes it’s worth staying in darkness a little longer, just to enjoy the wonder of a child’s drama. Whether singing or dancing as they narrate their actions, the colored light provides a new perspective on what they’re doing, bringing out a side of them that’s different from being in everyday brightness.

That light makes a difference.

Light always makes a difference.

In a season where brightness is a standout, with decorations primed by the creative use of Christmas lights, this really is the celebration of the Light that came into the world to show us a way out of darkness.

It was a dark time in Jesus’ day. Conquering countries did all they could to destroy the hearts of the conquered. Taxing them to provide the money to continue lifestyles that mocked the poor. Not acknowledging their value or worth, leaving them with fear and the desire to hide, to remain invisible. Random tortures for no apparent reason. No voice. No hope.

The people had waited for Messiah, the One who would save them from oppression and poverty. They thought He would be a political King.

When the Messiah showed up as a baby, His Light didn’t look like what they’d expected.

What they thought they needed.

Jesus came to bring the love and hope of God to man. A Light for the whole world.

It wasn’t flashy and dazzling, as some would have liked. It wasn’t quick and pain-free, as some desired. It wasn’t the magical change that some had hoped for.

It was the steady, never-going-out Light of a loving God who came to earth to give His people the hope of heaven.

Many today look for the flash and dazzle. The next big political thing that will make life fair and give everyone a fighting chance to matter and find worth.

It won’t happen that way.

The steady Light of Jesus changes us from the inside, even if our circumstances don’t change.

Even more dramatic than a disco ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Call This A Celebration?

December birthdays–it’s work to make them special.

The month snuggled in between Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t always seen as an optimal time to have a birthday party. There’s so much focus on buying Christmas gifts, preparing holiday goodies, and sending out Christmas cards and those greatly anticipated family letters. To say nothing of the parties and celebrations being crammed into a three-week period that could potentially satisfy any party animal for a year.

Who has time–or energy–for a simple birthday party?

Three-year-old Brooklyn needed to be celebrated.

Since my daughter didn’t have enough room in their apartment for everyone they wanted to invite, Aunt Heather opened her home for the festivities. A crowd consisting of a good many children came prepared for fun.

It was pure pleasure to watch the mayhem.

Kids were running from the backyard, where a swing set lured many, back inside where bites of food were grabbed in transit. Perish the thought that any of the littles would actually sit and eat. Drinks were spilled. Plates were upended. In the midst of it all, the kitchen pipe under the sink sprung a leak, and water was everywhere.

It got even better.

A pinata was part of the fun, and everyone had the chance to swing at the faces of Ana and Elsa from “Frozen”. To break open the paper machete container of candy, the faces were destroyed. Which brought mixed feelings from the little girls in the crowd.

The candy falling to the floor seemed to satisfy their sad hearts. For the moment. Until moms and dads put a limit on how much they could eat.

After hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and cake, the presents were opened. This is where a communal gift might have been helpful. Everyone wanted to open Brooklyn’s gifts. At the very least, help her rip off the wrappings.

Shouldn’t everyone be getting a present?

The adults at the party were fully aware of the challenge of celebrating just one child. Festivities are desirable. A celebration is essential. When is it my turn?

Even as we focus on this holiday season, it feels really easy to get caught up in the stuff and clutter of the festivities and forget that we’re celebrating a unique birthday.

There is a true need for celebration. We pause to consider the impact of what this season is supposed to represent.

God taking on human form to tell us personally how much He loves us.

Watching all the kids at Brooklyn’s birthday, it was easy to see that many were more fascinated with the food, games, and gifts than with the birthday girl herself. That’s what happens with young ones.

It’s as adults who are still more fascinated with the food, games, and gifts that it becomes concerning.

This isn’t about making a list available so everyone knows what we want. It isn’t about one more office party or making one more batch of homemade cookies.

It’s confronting the reality that we are here by design, and the Designer wants to have a relationship with us. He became one of us to make it easier for us to connect with Him.

That’s a truth worth celebrating.

 

 

 

 

 

So What’s My Focus?

Watching a school soccer game where my oldest grandson was playing with incredible skill and calm, I almost missed the happenings on the sideline where the younger grands were almost as entertaining.

Callum and Mason are only four months apart, and both are mini-moving masses of curiosity and purposefulness.

Their purpose? To create concern for parents who must be focused on watching where they are.

Neither of the boys understands potential problems.

A glance away may mean ingesting a leaf and choking. Watching the game momentarily may lead to a quick crawl toward the field and flying balls.

Diligence is the key.

Callum, being older and bigger, will crawl over Mason. Or reach a hand to poke at a shiny eye or try a finger in an open mouth.

Both boys have teeth. Neither realizes how hard they’re able to bite.

Sloane at 2 1/2 is stronger, bigger, and faster than seven-month-old Ward. She hugs him with an intensity that demonstrates deep sisterly love.

And no comprehension that she’s more powerful and energetic than her little brother.

My three grandsons in Pennsylvania are a rough and tumble group. Mack, at eleven months, has a ways to go to keep up with older brothers Huck and Landry, who are constant-motion machines. They are adventurers who climb, jump and try anything. They need to be watched because they have so much courage and so little fear.

It doesn’t stop when we become adults. While John was in the hospital, the cardiologist asked him, “Do you have a stressful job?”

He grinned at the doctor. “I’m not a stressful person.”

He is calm, and I rely on that when I get all bothered and angsty.

He really didn’t answer the question.

Life is full of stress. Like most everyone, I plow through, doing what needs to be done, handling what needs to be handled, and not being diligent about the bigger picture.

Christmas happened to remind us that this isn’t all there is.

Living without paying attention to the consequences of our choices can be dangerous. It’s foolish not to consider how we live. What we count as important to us. What absorbs our time and treasure.

This world is full of sadness and unfairness that touches all of us. Jesus’ coming to earth reminds us that life here is a blip in eternity. He came with the focus on forever, the “where” that each of us will be spending it.

We have the option of choosing.

I can be diligent about making sure my house is clean, taking care of those I love, doing my work with excellence. But if I ignore the state of my soul, my good intentions mean nothing.

I’ll never be good enough for heaven.

It’s easy to focus on what I’m confronted with now. The urgent is so compelling.

Jesus’ appearance, God coming here as Man, brought the reality of a greater hope for all who will listen.

We can choose His hope.

Diligence is only as effective as the end game on which we focus.

Ask any parent.

 

 

An Almost Christmas Crisis

As I left for work, John informed me that he thought he’d pulled a muscle in his chest as he slept.

I heard “pulled muscle” and didn’t consider it a problem.

He was concerned enough to not go to the office. He talked with folks at the miniER and his own doctor about what he should do.

Head to the hospital, was the consensus.

Meanwhile, I was at work, meeting with people. My thing. When I do my thing, I leave my phone on silent because I don’t want the interruptions.

Early in the afternoon, my son-in-law showed up in the middle of a meeting. Surprised? Yes. I didn’t expect to see him.

“John’s in the hospital. He had pain in his chest and they’re running tests.”

It wasn’t just a pulled muscle.

Being very feelings focused, the tears came quickly. I jumped to the worst-case scenario.

Was it a heart attack? A stroke? Was he going to be ok?

Ramsay didn’t have any answers, so he drove me to the hospital.

Walking into any hospital leaves me with a sense of dread. The unknown can feel heavy.

Reality looked worse.

John had a port in his arm, bandaged places where they’d drawn blood, and a heart monitor taped to various electrodes on his chest.

“I’m fine.”

He didn’t look fine.

He was in the middle of a battery of tests. The kinds of tests run whenever there’s concern about the health of a heart.

He’d been there most of the day. The hurry-up-to-wait routine. Hurry to get an electrocardiogram or an EKG. Wait for hours to have someone read them.

There was still one test the cardiologist wanted to run. A test that could have been done as an outpatient. John patiently asked if he could check out, I could take him home, and he could come back some other time to take the test.

The doctor said no. If he checked out, he’d be AMA.

Against Medical Advice.

That’s medical terminology for “We can’t let you go because something awful may happen and we don’t want to get sued for malpractice.”

I get it. We’re so quick to shift blame for bad things that happen that people in general–especially hospitals and doctors–feel the need to protect themselves from things over which they have no control.

That’s the beauty of Christmas.

We have no control over other people’s actions or attitudes. Bad things happen to good people all the time because our world is broken. Neither it nor those living here are perfect.

God sent His only Son to pay the price for brokenness. To offer a gift of hope for those hurting. Not “fixing” the bad that happens–that takes away everyone’s free will.

But offering His love and strength now and the promise of life eternal.

It often feels like we’re all in a triage unit on earth. Moving from woundedness to woundedness. Fitting life in between the hard.

Jesus offers His love and forgiveness so hearts and hopes can be healed.

Christmas crisis prevention.

And John? All tests were normal.

He’s fine.