Savoring Christmas

christmas-mantel

It makes me a little sad to see Christmas so quickly go back in the box. I’m not quite ready, still hanging on. Still humming Christmas in my head when the radio is back to music as usual. Still enjoying the tree welcoming me when I arrive at church on the 27th; but before I’ve finished my tasks for the day it’s been stripped naked of baubles and lights. Later on Facebook there are pictures of houses neat and tidy, boasting post-Christmas cleanup and a season over. But not me. Not my house. We’re still savoring here.

I suppose it’s true that some of our savoring is a codename for mess. (Side note. Codename is also my new favorite game, played for the first time this Christmas.) It’s true enough – our home could use a bit of tidying; Wednesday the day I normally clean. The dining room table is cluttered with gift bags of random items from gift exchanges no one has claimed. (Cash and gift cards plucked from the pile and tucked safely away.) My kitchen counter is a hodgepodge of sugar – too many cookies and assortment of candy and a bit of Felipe’s leftover birthday cake.

And the sewing machine still sits right where Kyle left it after stitching Felipe’s white Christmas jeans. Those skinny new pants worn with pride at our big celebration earlier today. Fogo de Chao. And there’s not one Anderson really needing all-you-can-eat Brazilian meats so close to Christmas, but our special days are packed in tight around this season – and today we celebrated Adoption Day. Two years a family.

It’s been nonstop. Anniversary on December 16. A birthday on the 22nd. Three straight days of Christmas parties. Adoption Day. And now Jimmy’s asking about New Year’s Eve. And I’m not one to be uber-social, which would seem reason enough to put an end to the season. But still I’m not ready.

I’m not quite ready to take down the tree with its twinkling glow first thing in the morning. Not ready to toss the evergreen garland strung with icicle lights across my front porch. And for sure not ready to dismantle the mantel where my favorite décor is the focal point. No thank you to all post-Christmas scrooges. I’m savoring still.

Tonight I sit by my bedroom widow, the holiday magic still within view. I’m thinking about everything I loved about this Christmas. Every detail, all month long. Having friends at our Advent table. Just Kyle and me at the tree farm with Maple. A whole day spent making orange gingerbread cutouts. Boys finding candy in countdown pockets. Photo cards in my mailbox each day. Morning coffee and devos by the light of the tree. Dancing with Jimmy to the music of carols. A Christmas anniversary, overnight with my hubby. Shopping together for each of our boys. Adult kids home from college and Iowa. The best music ever at Christmas Eve services. Midnight gift opening – a Colombian tradition.

But the best thing of all was our family was HAPPY. Enjoying each other. No dark moods, and no disappointment. Laughing and playing and breathing easy. PEACE. Sweet peace. It was good news brought by angels that very first Christmas. The word yet adorning my living room mantel. And it’s the reason I’m savoring Christmas still.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:14

FELIPE!!

View More: http://kianagrantphotography.pass.us/felipe-anderson

Another Anderson reaches the birthday status of manhood today. Felipe is 18. It’s hard to believe, just two years my child, and now already an emerging adult. We knew it would happen like this, and we wondered how it would feel. Today I can say it feels just right.

With each of my sons there’s been this man-child season. No longer boy, but not altogether independent. A good mix. Our home address still home base for a while. Still in need of food and cash. But becoming. And it’s been pretty exciting, Felipe, to see you BECOME.

So much has happened since you turned 17. Dad wrote it like this in your card this morning: I’m so proud of who you are becoming and who you are. This past year has included a lot of amazing things. You dominated one of the best soccer players in the state, mastered snowboarding, got hired for your first job and worked very hard, got your driver’s permit, became an amazing discuss thrower, wowed your teachers with an incredible DNA model and so much more!

Wow.

Two years ago just before we traveled to Colombia I re-read one of my favorite Christmas stories. The Dean’s Watch. It’s about a young apprentice in 19th century England – a kid whose life had been hard and who knew what it meant to be alone. But then a clockmaker took him under his wing, and through belief and love the boy transformed. His potential awakened. And I knew, even then, this was Felipe’s story.

I have a good friend who is a gifted pray-er, and often when she prays a picture comes to mind. Recently she described her “Felipe picture.” An image of a young man coming alongside a person in need, bending down to help when no one else would.

A few days later we sat at the table after dinner, and you and Nils talked about buying lottery tickets in honor of turning 18. What would you do if you won all that money? Hundreds of millions – who can fathom such wealth? I listened, Felipe, as you talked about giving and sharing, and the people you’d comfort. And I thought again of this image. The young man who bends down to help.

 I’ve seen it, Felipe. You are a rare combination. Budding scientist and humanitarian both. Hardwired by God for an exciting mission. I can hardly wait to see it unfold. Like my friend, I pray for you, too. Daily. I pray you will reach your full potential. I pray your God-dreams will flourish. I pray God will use you on his holy SHALOM mission – a mission that needs a young man like you.

So today I close with this birthday blessing:

Felipe. May you receive the love of your heavenly Father. May you know your value as His beloved. And may you love Him, too – with all your heart, soul and mind. May you daily use your God-given potential to bless the world and to touch people’s lives.

I love, my son. Happy Birthday.

View More: http://kianagrantphotography.pass.us/felipe-anderson

God’s Dream

gingerbread

The Dream of God. Three years ago it was the last paper I wrote for my seminary class, just before we made the decision to pursue adoption. Shalom is God’s dream and the mission of Jesus. Our mission, too. It’s what I’ve been thinking about most this Christmas season. Near to obsession. The only thing that makes any sense of all this mess. It’s Shalom or nothing.

Nothing missing, nothing broken, and we are desperately broken people, every one of us. Some of us so broken by life we wonder if our hearts will ever beat normal again. Some of us second-hand broken, trying to make sense of it all.

It was my baby brother’s birthday this week, and all day Monday I carried an ache in my chest in honor of him. Wondering where he’s sleeping and what he’s thinking and whether I’ll ever see him again.

Two days later there’s this awful news breaking through email and Twitter and text. Breaking news of a boy gone and a mom broken, and that night I’m wide-awake crying for God to hold us tight. We are desperately fragile, are we not?

At the grocery store I run into another mom, and there in the aisle I put pieces of her story together. A husband with cancer and two boys fighting addiction. And I’m struck by her faith in the face of such struggle.

Nothing missing, nothing broken. I told the story again as we lit Advent candles last Sunday. It was just five of us around the table this time. Teen boys full of distraction, but apparently listening between random comments and sporadic attention. Week two is the candle of Peace – not peace the way we think of it, but the peace of Shalom. It’s the miracle that brought our family together. I tell our story and I read the text:

“…He has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free…”
(Luke 4:18)

When I’m finished, it’s Felipe who comments, and I know he gets it. Shalom is a miracle, and good news for him.

Friday night Andi and Elliot came for dinner, thinking who-knows-what of our holy Christmas, and I was amazed at their courage. These two who have every reason to be on their guard when it comes to those who tout religion, and this home and this family are steeped in it. But they stayed five full hours and it was Felipe leading every conversation. He covered the gamut. Soccer and gaming and Netflix, and long-winded stories about the drug cartel. And then he switched gears, asking questions for his World View project, diving headfirst into this taboo topic. There we were, the devout and the skeptic, all of us being honest about faith and doubt, and it was the best conversation I’ve enjoyed in a while. We’re all God-seekers, and we’re all of us broken. All of us needy. Needing Shalom.

It was almost midnight, and I was still in the kitchen mixing gingerbread dough, Andi and Elliot just heading home. I shook my head thinking about what a crazy amazing night we’d had, and how God works in the most surprising ways. And it felt like a dream. The dream of Shalom.

Fear or Love?

turkey-bowl

Jimmy was working on a history assignment not long ago, answering a question about authority. Which is more effective, fear or love? They were talking about governments I suppose, but my own thoughts went to life and faith and to me it was a no-brainer.

And then in the days to come the boys were sharing more of their own stories. About how in Colombia they used to labor hard. Doing their chores. Meeting demands. And I’m curious about how that worked because getting boys to do chores around here has been overall a failed attempt and pure frustration. What if you didn’t do it? Oh that wasn’t a choice. You did what you were told and there was no other option. And there were stories, too, about what DID happen and I’m starting to get the picture.

So I ask Jimmy – how did you answer the question? Did you choose fear or love? And he tells me, “Yeah, Mom. I said fear.” I confess this to Jimmy – I’m not very scary. And he’s quick to agree.

And then something strange starts to happen. The next few days I’m noticing a change. A whole sink of dishes washed clean with no complaining. Clothes hung up. Shoes at the door. An entire table cleared without anyone asking. One day he says something quiet in passing. I’m getting nicer. Yes, I noticed. I wonder why?

I think he knows and so do I.

There have been days, believe me, when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and I’ve wondered right out loud with God – what really is love? Days when truth-be-told I wasn’t feeling it at all and I hoped beyond hope love might count as all action and zero affection. Love hopes and love perseveres. And Love can be grueling is what I’d add.

And then one day there’s a boy going from dining room to kitchen with arms full of everyone’s dirty dishes without being asked and my heart grows warm with feeling and I know right then my love is not unconditional. It’s always so much easier to love back.  

I’m looking at Paul’s long love list and this is not easy. It’s a lot of give and no take and days on end of weary waiting. And then. One day. Miracles.

We’re coming up on our second Christmas, and I think back to last year at this time and how incredibly hard everything was. Almost all dark moods and impossible expectations and no one really happy. We were knocking ourselves out just trying to have some fun – and it wasn’t, believe me.

And I entertain the thought of what might have happened if we’d been using a little more FEAR around here back then. Of course, the very thought is completely crazy. We were all of us terrified already. Goodness knows more of the same would have surely landed every single one of us in a permanent state of anxious insanity. Jimmy you’re wrong. It couldn’t be fear.  

 Love is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. And I’m willing to say it’s this LOVE that saved us.

And is saving us, still. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a