Christmas Bagpipes

Christmas Bagpipes

Our Story

He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” ~John 1:51

Merry Christmas!

I’ve been thinking about Grandpa again. My grandpa really wanted to be in the Von Trapp family. You know- Sound of Music? Entire family sings, dances and performs? Needless to say, we fell lamentably short of the Von Trapp Family Singers, but that didn’t stop us from trying. One of grandpa’s Christmas traditions was to hold a family-talent-show. One year, I remember spending months trying to learn a song on the guitar. Mind you, I didn’t know how to play but I could learn. That Christmas I’m sure it was as painful for my listeners as it was for my fingers.

Don't you want to squeeze the reindeer too? Or Spiderman? Or both?
Don’t you want to squeeze the reindeer too? Or Spiderman? Or both?

But then there came a year when my immediate family was going through some hard times. We didn’t really want to talk about those things at Christmas. We wanted to go, and be together, and laugh- to forget the ‘hard times’ for just a little bit. When we were in the car, en route to Grandpa’s, we realized we had not prepared for the annual (if informal) ‘Christmas Talent Show.’ I know what you’re thinking- no big deal. And it probably wasn’t. We knew that we had cousins who were gifted piano players and ballet dancers, an uncle who would read something very moving (and possibly in German- hooray for heritage), another uncle who could sing really well, and the littlest cousins were so darn cute, they couldn’t fail at anything they tried. And then there was us. We didn’t feel like we had any real talent to share at that point, but neither did we want to say so (call it German stubbornness). Which brought up the sarcastic comment, “Too bad no one here plays the bag pipes.” Well, one thing led to another, and when you have an hour long car ride, you can usually come up with something. And we did!

So that year, when Grandpa turned to our family and asked, do you have anything to share with us? We smiled really big, and said, “Yes! Human bagpipes!” Everyone looked a little confused, and then we began our performance. Basically we all made the loudest, most obnoxious sound we could think of. All at the same time, and all in different keys. While most of us continued with these odd noises, one of us would take the melody and loudly (and if it was a more nasal sound, all the better) hum and bellow the tune for Silent Night.* We didn’t even make it through the song, we were laughing so hard. We kept at it as long as we could, and everyone joined in the laughter. I think we impressed everyone in a different way that year. It wasn’t quite the piano solo of Carol of the Bells that one of my cousins did, but it was nice to have performed. Nice to escape the reality of our lives, and to have been a part of something.

But here is the great thing about Christmas. God does not ask us for a performance. He is not looking down on you, expecting you to be better, to be more than you are, to do something absolutely amazing that has never been done before. The heavy burdens we feel from striving in this world, are not from Him. He is not asking us to be perfect, nor is He pushing us away. Instead He is providing The Way. The way back to Him, the way back to where we belong, the way to peace, the way to love, and the way to simply be. He sent his son down to us, to be the way back to Him. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.** And He came so that we could live life in abundance.*** We cannot earn God’s love, nor can we lose it.**** So let that knowledge sink into your hearts this Christmas season. Let the One who created you and loves you beyond measure fill your weary hearts. Because we have been given this free and amazing gift- this gift that gives us freedom and peace. He came weak and helpless as a baby into our world, so that we could find our way back to the One who created us. So that we could be filled and whole and new again. Christmas is magical because of the expectation that God has, and is, and will continue to do great things.

Thank you God, that you provided this way back. Thank you Jesus for giving yourself freely for all of our sins. Thank you Holy Spirit for filling our hearts. I pray that this Christmas season would not pass without our hearts being touched by You. That our hearts would soften and turn towards you. That we would not be consumed by things, or by what we do or do not do. Help us to lay down the idea that we must preform to earn your love. Help us instead to pick up the peace that your son brought into this world. And give us the love we need so that we could boldly tell others of who You are, and how You love them. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*It’s really hard to explain without making the noises, I keep humming/bellowing while I’m typing trying to figure out how to better explain this atrocious musical performance?

**John 14:6

***John 10:10

****Romans 8:38

This is what happens when you take your kids to the outdoor nativity service on Christmas eve during a blizzard. They build a snowfort.
This is what happens when you take your kids to the outdoor nativity service on Christmas eve during a blizzard. They build a snowfort.

 

Under the Desk

Under the Desk

From the Authors Music Video

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. ~Luke 2:7

We have three young children. It is a really wonderful and fun time of life. It can also really be tiring (I need a nap). However, the one thing life never is- is dull. Life is not dull with three young children. No.

Which brings me to the dilemma of Christmas present shopping. We need a babysitter to go pick out Christmas presents. And yes, we both need to go. I have proven that I have terrible taste in gifts (picking out only educational* (aka non-fun) gifts, or cheap gifts that break quickly). And maybe I could leave it all to my husband, but where is the fun in that? So we got a babysitter. I was overly optimistic that my youngest was going to do well with a babysitter. He had survived the first test run with her. We had put a movie on as soon as she arrived and returned home while the movie was still going. I don’t think he even noticed we’d left the house. So yes, I was over confident that this date was going to go well. … … Until the babysitter texted us before we’d even finished our dinner (we were making it a real date):

[The youngest] ran upstairs about 15 minutes ago. He won’t come back down. He is hiding under the computer desk with his blanket and says he won’t come out until you come home. He is okay as long as I don’t go by him. What should I do?

I saw that text, stood up, and headed for the door. My husband, slightly more sane and less impulsive than I am, slowed me down. We called the babysitter and made sure she was okay with the situation. We gave her a few ideas to ‘lure’ him out, and then I sat through the rest of dinner with the phone clutched tightly in my hand waiting for her to text or call me with more news. The genius babysitter turned on his favorite TV show, and this led to him coming to the top of the stairs, and then he sat on the stairs to watch his show, and by the time we came home he was sitting at the kitchen table playing Gone Fishing with big sister and the babysitter.

Now here’s the thing. I get my youngest. I understand two-year-olds. Because I’m still a lot like him. I don’t want to try new things. I like things the way they are. Change is scary and hard. I want to hide under the computer desk with my blankie at times too. Thankfully I have a level headed man who takes me by the hand and drags me out into society. And thankfully I have a grace filled God who relentlessly pursues me.

Relentlessly.

All throughout time you can see God pursuing His People. And foolishly we keep messing up. We turn to other gods, we think we can do it ourselves, we chose evil… we mess up! But Advent, this time of year, it’s not about presents (educational or not). It’s not even about the cookies (I do love the cookies). This time of year is the reminder that even though we are the sinners, the mess makers, the unworthy, God who is infinitely worthy and holy has chosen us. He has come into this world to redeem and reclaim us. And what has He given us? The very things we are pleading for: forgiveness, peace, rest, redemption, grace. We are filled to overflowing, when we let ourselves be filled and satisfied with Jesus Christ.

As this Christmas season is quickly advancing, I keep thinking how I need a little rest. And how perfectly this song fits into our busy Christmas schedules. If I were a part in the Christmas story, I think I would (unfortunately) be the Inn Keeper. So busy with my own little mundane tasks, that I would miss the birth of my savior, right down the street. So inwardly focused on wanting my own rest and peace, that I would not realize the Prince of Peace had arrived. I have been reflection on this a lot, as I listen to one of my favorite Christmas CDs. I hope you enjoy this song by Jason Gray:

Lord, you came! You did it! You found a way into our world, and into our hearts. Help us to be more aware of You, and all that you have done. Help our hearts to turn towards You, help our ways to be more like your ways. Help us to be more like the shepherds, willing to drop everything and run to worship you! Help us to stop looking in the wrong places for peace and rest, but to trust in You. To find our peace and rest in You. Thank you that you came! Thank you that you relentlessly pursue us- that no matter how many mistakes we make, you do not shame us or hurt us. Instead you fill us with your love and peace. Again and again, you extend peace and love to us. Thank you! In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*this year I picked out a fraction game for my eldest. Yes, a fraction game. Sounds thrilling doesn’t it? This is the kind of present my child will bring up later in life as a sort of comedic horror story for everyone. I see ‘educational’ and I think ‘great!’

Obstacle or Opportunity

Obstacle or Opportunity

From the Authors

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:11-13

My grandpa used to say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I remember these words. I even mutter this phrase to myself from time to time. Usually for little things, like when I stub my toe. Another family favorite is Grandpa’s motto, “If all else fails, use brute force.” I don’t recall ever hearing him say this, but this was his go to method for dealing with difficult situations (like when we couldn’t get a pickle jar open).

There is a family story about a time when he was traveling abroad. Grandpa had been on the road a long time and wanted to get into this hotel room to get some rest. But he couldn’t get the door to his hotel room open. So, remembering his days as a football player, he did what came naturally to him and busted the door down with his shoulder. Only to later realize that the door was supposed to be pulled open, instead of pushed. We laugh about these shenanigans and know that he laughed too. While this is one memory, what else do I remember about my grandpa? He was born in a small town in North Dakota, became VP in a big company, traveled the world, and even met some pretty famous people (I won’t name drop here, though it is tempting). These are things he did. The legacy he left was that he never let obstacles define him. He never let obstacles stop him. Instead, he let obstacles strengthen him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28 has alternately encouraged and frustrated me. Encouraged, because I really believe it. Frustrated because I have at times shouted, “Really!? You’re going to somehow make this good!?” Or maybe because it’s quoted at the absolutely worst moments. This is not a verse I want to hear right after losing a loved one. But I do believe in God’s Word. And I do trust Him. So… hard as it is at times, I always fall back on this verse. And when Grandpa said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” I think he meant Romans 8:28. Some things are really hard to get through. But- (BIG but here*)- when we’ve walked through all the hardships and come out on the other side, that’s when we can look back and see God’s sustaining hand guiding us, holding us, and helping us. That’s when we begin to realize that He is sovereign and He can pull good out of the bad, light out of the dark, miracles out of nothing.

And as long as I’m quoting people- a friend of mine recently said, “Maybe the answer to our prayers is us.” Meaning, instead of praying and then sitting back and waiting for God to move (like he’s some kind of good luck charm or a genie in a bottle). Maybe the answer to our prayers is for us to move. Not recklessly or without reason, but with His peace and passion in our hearts. I told my husband this thought and he said, “Yep. I suppose everyone would have drowned if Noah hadn’t build the boat.” In the end someone has to do something. Someone has to reach out a helping hand, lend a shoulder to cry on, love when it is hard to love, and more. And who could possibly do all those things?

Us.

Me. You. The Body of Christ. The Children of God. Those of us who have chosen Jesus as our savior and received Holy Spirit as our comforter. We’re kinda it.

So, tag! You’re it! Your turn to be an answer to prayer. You have one gigantic backer in this, so their is no need to fear! As Grandpa would say, “Go get ’em!”

Lord, thank you that you have saved us by your son’s blood. Thank you that you gave your all. Help us to be the kind of people who give our all for You. Change our hearts to be filled with love, and give us the confidence we need to be the ones who chase after your ways and not the world’s ways. Bless us to be your hands and feet. Thank you that you never give up on us. Thank you that some how, we can co-labor along side you and even through us (the messed up, sinners, confused, timid and afraid) you can work your miracles. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*ha ha ha…. I made a joke…**

**sorry, I have kids, this is the humor level we are at right now.