Christmas Pup


I have too many boys to have a dog. That’s the answer I’d been giving pretty consistently this past year. Every time the question came up, which was often. Why don’t we have a dog? Plus Nils is allergic, which felt like a divine excuse and my final answer.

I told Kyle behind the scenes and more than once. No dog. Absolutely not. I’m already in over my head and then some, and no. That would for sure launch me over the top.

But then there was that other secret I shared with him in private. IF. Not now, not soon, but maybe someday, far in the future. IF we were ever to get a dog I just might have a soft spot for a particular breed. But not now. Not anytime soon, you understand.

So how in the world did it happen that we ended up getting a PUPPY this Christmas?!

My mom asked this question over the phone, with good reason.

(I should note, I am writing just now with lapdog and laptop competing for space.)

Well, Kyle was praying and God said – get a puppy?  

My mom didn’t quite buy my answer. Although Nils certainly did, and it was the ONLY logical explanation, as far as he was concerned.

As far as I’m concerned, too.

It was maybe three weeks before Christmas. We were doing our best to make it special. Sharing traditions, and making our lists. But our hearts were heavy. Restless and anxious. Both Kyle and I were feeling the pressure.

That particular morning we woke up a tad hopeless, so we started our praying before we got out of bed. God, we need you. Again today. Please help.

A little bit later, and I was sitting in my chair by the window where the sun hadn’t made its appearance in days. Reading scripture and thinking. Coffee in hand.

That’s where I was when he told me. Kyle, creeping in softly from the other room. He said it sheepishly. I was praying just now, and I think God might have told me to get them a puppy for Christmas.

Oh really? I knew he was serious, but my response was guarded. I’m going to need to pray about that.

And I did. I prayed but I knew. From the first, I knew. It was perfect. It’s perfect. I said it out loud just a few minutes later. Tears flowing.

No turning back.

The rest of the story is like a prayer unfolding. Finding that new litter of Goldendoodle pups. Just up in Zimmerman, not 30 minutes away. Ready for pickup on Christmas morning. And just in case I needed my own God-whisper. Birthdate: November 11. You guessed it – my own birthday. And the pup we picked out, of course, was a girl.

I’m exhausted now as I’m writing. Christmas and puppy both wearing me out. But she’s adorable and precious and everyone loves her.

Maple, our Christmas pup.




Feliz Cumpleaños, Felipe!


It’s finally here, Felipe. You’ve been counting the days for several weeks. 18 days to my birthday; 21 days to Christmas… And I’ve wondered how you feel about sharing your birthday with the Christmas season; if you feel overshadowed somehow. Like Nils with Halloween. But no. I don’t think so. I think it suits you to celebrate your special day during the most wonderful time of the year.

After all – your “F” does hang at the very top of the tree. Just under the star. I laughed when I saw it hanging there, and I understood. Yes, Felipe, you are a star, to be sure.

Lately you’ve been shining just a bit brighter. I’ve been noticing that, too. What is it, do you think? Your birthday and Christmas, back-to-back? Luke coming home for a long winter break? Vacation for you, starting tomorrow? Or something else?

Last week while we were at the basketball games you were at home painting a picture. A masterpiece. You sent us a text, and we couldn’t help showing it off to our friends in the bleachers. They were totally impressed, just like you hoped. Amazing! He did that himself? Tonight? Yes. An original, too. Not even a picture to follow.

I am quite certain we have only begun to discover the scope of your gifts. Your brilliant mind. Love of nature. Love of family. Perceptive eye.

And your love of sugar. Okay, that may not be a gift. Actually, Luke is worried about you. I think he questions his mom’s wisdom in giving in to your sweet tooth so much. But this past year’s had its share of hard, and I figure we can all use a little extra sweet. Right?

Can you believe it’s already been a year? Just seven days to our adoption day. We became a family just one week after your sixteenth birthday. And here you are, turning seventeen.

Seventeen. You’re almost man. And that is becoming obvious in so many ways. And yet. I guess what I’d really like to give you this birthday is permission to go slow. Be a kid in our home for a while yet. Take your time. You have the rest of your life for adulthood. So for now – Play. Laugh. Rest. Enjoy.

One more thing. I want to be sure you know how glad I am to be your mom. I’m glad God chose me and dad and our family for you. I’m amazed, really, at the privilege. That out of all the families in the world, God chose us for you. That He hung your “F” at the top of our tree.

Happy Birthday, Felipe. I love you. Mom.


Nativity 2

A few weeks ago I received a book in the mail, via Amazon. This is not unusual. I may have a teeny little habit that manifests itself in the not so occasional arrival of books on my porch. So I opened this new box with expectancy. What would it be? Kyle was there to hear me say it. Hmm. I don’t remember ordering this one. Oh well. I started reading anyway.

A week or so later, two thirds of the way through the book, and I get this text from a friend. Awkward question… Did you get my birthday gift? From Amazon?  

That explains it! The book is from Bev. Thanks, friend.

Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko. The book is a tear-jerker. Its author a Montana pastor whose little daughter died at the age of five. And I knew I’d entered the story the night we shopped for Christmas lights at Menards and a dark-eyed little girl at the store made me think of Lenya.

Near the end of the book Pastor Lusko talks about nostalgia, and I like what he says. It resonates deep with my Advent thoughts.

He starts with this:

“Nostos is the Greek word for “return home,” and algos means “pain.” Return home + pain = discomfort you feel when longing to get back to your home. Nostalgia is a bittersweet longing for the past, the sentimental, wishful feeling you get thinking of happy days gone by… It’s the way you feel watching a certain movie at the holidays or baking something from a recipe your mom used when you were growing up.”

And then a few paragraphs later:

“The interesting thing about spiritual homesickness is that it’s not actually a desire to go back to a place where we used to live. It’s an aching for a place where we will live one day. What we have is a case of future nostalgia: we’re homesick for a place we’ve never been.”

And that, for me, is Christmas.

Nostalgia. I’m a sucker for it. The F in my INFJ is my strongest score by far, and Christmas proves it. Every feeling heightened in this beautiful aching longing most wonderful time of year – and I’m all in. Tradition abounds. All five senses matter. Savoring counts.

But this Christmas there’s been something more. From the first days of Advent. A stirring. For more.

Come, Jesus, come.  

It’s the cry of Advent, and we’re usually content to quench our longing at the manger. The baby arrived that very first Christmas. He came. But I heard someone say this, and I’ve always remembered. He is the God who came and keeps on coming.

Future nostalgia. 

It makes so much sense. Especially this Christmas. A season of change, looking back and looking forward. What was and what is. We’re doing things we’ve always done with boys who have never done them. Walking the fine line between letting go and hanging on. And all the time longing for something that’s never been.

These past three weeks I’ve prayed it often. Jesus, come. Come now. Come soon. Come again, this Christmas.

 For the creation waits (and groans) with eager longing for the sons of God to be revealed. (From Romans 8:19 & 22)



Last night at dinner Felipe and Nils talked about angels and demons. Not our typical table talk. Both boys were animated, telling a story from theology class, and it must have been quite the story. Nils quoted somebody; he thought it might have been Francis Chan. If we could see everything going on in the spiritual world it would freak us out. And there at the table, just thinking about it, boys were freaking out already.

I don’t normally think of Christmas as a battle. My Christmas nostalgia tends toward meek and mild. As Felipe has pointed out more than once. Mom, you decorate sad. Which took me by surprise at first. Sad? He’s adamant. Apparently evergreen boughs and twinkling white lights do not communicate HAPPY to this teenaged boy. Two blocks away, those two houses blinking bright with every kind of color – now that’s a party! Point taken. And I can’t afford a total makeover, but we did include a trip to Menards for bright blue lights the night we trimmed the tree.

So alas. In less than 24 hours I’ve heard this message at least four different ways. Christmas was not a silent night. This morning, my Advent reading called it revolution. Mary and Zechariah, both, declaring it in song. Christmas is war.  

I wonder. Not quite two weeks since Advent began – and so did my own private battle. It caught me off guard. Emotion I wasn’t expecting at my favorite time of year. Sad? A little. But something else, too. A wrestling inside. I talked to Kyle and listed reasons. Too much change. Lack of sunlight. Hormones (mine and theirs.) Television noise competing with carols. Mom – No more Christmas music. Really?

All of the above, or none? We pray and we wonder. What’s going on where we can’t see this Christmas?

It’s true, I think. Christmas is war. A war over souls, and we’re on the brink. We can feel it. So Kyle and I pray harder and fight.

Over our front door hangs a sign. A reminder, and a promise:

Prov. 14

So there at the dinner table, boys freaking out, we let them in on our secret. Here in our home you are safe. Your Mom and your Dad – fearing God only. Your fortress with us is a refuge.

And we tell them this, too. We know the rest of the story. We know how this Christmas war ends.

We win.



We’d been talking about the boys’ strengths. They’d recently taken a version of StrengthsFinder, and I’d met with the guidance counselor at school. These tests fascinate me. How they can peg a person like that – and these did. Competition, Relational, Dependable. That’s Nils to a T. Future Thinker, Discoverer, Confidence. Felipe, through and through.

Kyle decided he should take it, too. He was the only one, other than Jimmy, who had never discovered his strengths. So later that day he did just that. And now we know.

As it turns out, I had him wrong. I figured he’d be Competition, like Nils and Grant. Strategic and Analytical. But no. None of these. His list was not what I expected at all. Adaptability, Belief, Connectedness, Consistency, Harmony. And this explains so much.

All these years, we thought I was the one who was the peacemaker, the one avoiding conflict. And it’s true. But now I see more clearly, how the harmony in our home flows to overflowing from him, my harmony husband.

And it does make sense. Especially now. These past eleven months of him stressing, his anxiety building, when the peace of our home has been shaken.

From the beginning, my Shalom Story started with a question – Can I sacrifice the peace of my home? And God gave me the answer through a new definition. It’s not peace the way we think of peace, but the peace of Shalom. Nothing missing. Nothing broken.

I was right to be worried. Our peace has been rattled and then some. Cultures clashing, and emotions raging. A collision of values and a test of beliefs. And all this time my husband in turmoil, not knowing why. But the answer is there in his list of strengths. His harmony is out of whack.

Sometimes it helps just knowing. Seeing the truth – It’s not that you’re crazy. Just craving.

This week is PEACE. Our advent word for the second candle. Sweet, sweet peace.

We started again today by praying. For peace. Kyle and I on behalf of our family. And I read from Isaiah, the prayer of our hearts:

The fruit of righteousness will be our peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places.
In secure homes.
In undisturbed places of rest.

Isaiah 32:17-18

 Amen and amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Come this Christmas.



I love the season of Advent. I don’t love it quite as much as summer, truth be told. But in this transition from outdoors to hibernation – the glow of Advent is welcome grace.

Not so many weeks ago I started my mornings on my porch. East facing, sun rising. Warm air and birds singing. Now my winter chair sits just inside, a window between, no more. From here I look out on a Christmas porch, baskets full of evergreen, lights strung through garland. A light dusting of snow. And at night my bedroom is a fairytale of twinkling lights.

Advent traditions abound for our family. Advent calendar and Advent wreath. Candles lit weekly while scripture is read. And the favorite of all boys, young and grown – The Advent Quilt. A Pottery Barn find at least sixteen years ago, still counting the days ‘til Christmas.

The past couple of years I thought the boys were too big. The quilt stayed packed in storage for some future day when kids would have kids, and I’d bring it back out as a grandma. But now. Two boys new to our family traditions, and – I’ll bet they’d really like that quilt.

It was Nils who lit up brightest. We’re doing the quilt? Sweet! He knows what to expect. Twenty-four pockets stitched with snowmen and trees, and a treat each day until Christmas.

ADVENT. It means waiting. Good waiting. Eagerly expecting. Hope.

And this week is HOPE. Last Sunday we lit the Hope candle, and hope was Sunday’s sermon, too. It was just what we needed, and just in time. That dark morning, last Sunday, when for the first time since arriving one boy said No. I’m not going, to church.

So all week long I’ve been hoping. And trying. Wooing and winning through candy and candles and twinkling lights. Painting a picture of Jesus.

Waiting. This Advent waiting, and real-life waiting. Good but hard. And sometimes while we wait, we groan. It was the Apostle Paul who said it this way. We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly… for our adoption. Romans 8:23.

One boy says it often. This is not really my family. And yet. This same boy snuggles with Mom at bedtime and shares his secrets with Dad. And reading between the lines we know it’s not quite like he says. We are, and we’re not. We’re waiting.

And we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly. With Hope.