Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Check List......

It's Christmas Eve!  Let's break out the traditional Gadow Ohana check list!  Check, check, check....
1.  Attend the candle light service at my church surrounded by my church family and friends who we love so much!  Let's listen to the children sing "Away in a Manger" while signing and then read from the Bible about the Christmas story.

2.  Be unbelievably proud as I watch my son play the guitar with the worship band.  He played "The First Noel" and "Silent Night".

3.  Bake some yummy chocolate chip cookies!  They must be fresh out of the oven to be deserving of the Santa offering.  Yes, chocolate chip cookies and "Christmas milk" (commonly known as egg nog to you non-Gadow people).

4.  A generous sprinkling of reindeer food around the front lawn.  This is a gourmet concoction of oats and glitter! 

5.  Last call for the Joy Stocking!  Final chance to get your last additions into our Joy Stocking is now!  What's that, you ask?  Well, click here to read about our family's favorite Christmas tradition!

5.  Bedtime prayers and chat time.  Just like every night, here is where we pray together as a family, thank the Lord for His blessings, and talk about what the next day will bring.  Tonight though.....we add in the "don't wake up Mommy and Daddy until....7:30 AM" reminder.

6.  Once Matthew is on lock down the stocking is filled and the gifts are laid under the tree.  Aha!  But, 2 gifts are hidden somewhere in the house.  Matthew likes to hunt for his gifts.  We play either "hot/cold" or I give him a riddle that will clue him into where it is hidden.

7.  Time to put baby Jesus in the manger!  Yup, the King is Born and now He can be put into the manger scene with His folks and pet lamb and donkey.  The wise men have moved a little bit closer to the manger now.  They have made it all the way to the coffee table!  Only  1 1/2 more years to go until they meet up with Jesus.

8.  Oh, looky-look!  It's only midnight and I get to go to bed!  *sigh* and visions of sugarplums danced in her head.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where is your JOY?

Where is your joy?

Is it carved in the Rock where it will withstand the erosion of the world?


Is it written in the sand where it can be washed away by the next storm?

Having joy is a choice.  Let's face it.  Life is hard.  This world is filled with disappointments and heartache.  People will hurt you, events will rock you, and there will always be a bubble popper waiting around the corner.  When faced with these challenges what do you do?  What determines your joy?  Is it your circumstances?  Do you have joy when things are going great?

How about when things are hard?

When you feel alone, lost, empty.

When you are jobless, homeless, scared, angry.

When nothing makes sense and you feel like noone understands your pain.

Where's your joy then?

 Do you treat your joy like a light that only shines when the energy from the world fuels it?  Is your joy like a meter that changes with your circumstances?  Is your joy so wavered that it can be snatched away for a meal like the hungry wolf takes the weakest animal to devour? your joy planted with roots that go deeper than the soil of this earth?  Does it reach beyond the farthest star?  Does it overpower any challenge this life can throw at you?  Who or what is your joy?

My joy is in the Lord.

Never changing

Always growing

Christmas has always been a contemplative time of year for me.  I've had to draw on my Savior even more at this time of year for the joy I so deeply desire.  If I were to rely on my circumstances for my joy, I wouldn't have any.  I don't know how your life is looking right now, but mine is stressful.  My husband is out of work, our finances are strained, I have family and friends who are hurting, I have 3 friends who have lost their child much too soon just within the past couple of months, and I'm dealing with people whose sole mission may be to rob me of my sanity and joy.  The list could go on.  None of it makes sense and all of it makes me want to crawl into a ball and wave my white flag.  Then, I look over near my Christmas tree and I see this...

A cheap 99 cent red felt stocking


an old, cheap plush ornament.

And my joy cries out!  My heart swells with adoration and excitement for the Lord that I love.

My tears flow with gratitude and humbleness for the promises of my Savior.

My arms lift high in praise and honor for the greatest gift of my salvation.

My voice sings out "My JOY is in the LORD!!!"

How can a cheap felt stocking and an old ornament do that to a person?  Let me tell you....

12 years ago my husband and I were preparing to share our first Christmas together.  I was 8 months pregnant and we were dirt poor.  We didn't have money for a tree, for gifts, or for a nice dinner to share.  I went to K-Mart and I bought these two things....1 felt stocking and 1 ornament.  Total....$2. 14.  I even had to scrounge in the couch and on the floor of my car to find that.  I proudly brought them home.  We didn't have a tree, but we had this random hook hanging from the ceiling in our living room.  So, we hung our ornament there.  Every time we passed under it we would kiss.  It was our special mistletoe.  We didn't have a mantle so we laid the stocking over the back of our old ragged couch.  We called it our Joy Stocking.  We decided to put little notes in that stocking over the weeks leading up to Christmas about the things we were joyful or thankful for.  Then, on Christmas morning we sat together on the living room floor and opened our stocking.  We read the notes to one another.  We were rich that morning and we were surrounded by our gifts as we spread our notes on the floor around us.

We had joy!

That is where our first family tradition started.  Now, every year, the Joy Stocking gets hung and we put our notes of joy and thanks into it and it is the first thing we do on Christmas morning.  Our prayer is that our son, Matthew, will continue this tradition and always remember that joy is NOT in our circumstances, but in our Lord.

Today, I choose joy.  Despite my circumstance.  I choose joy. 

I am thankful for my loving husband whose hands work unceasingly to provide for our family.

I am thankful for my son who inspires me each day to be a better person.

I am thankful for my loving friends and I am humbled by their unconditional generosity and acceptance of me.

But, most of all, I am thankful for God.  He will never abandon me (Hebrews 13.5).  I am thankful He sent His son to earth and sacrificed Him on the cross so that I would have the CHOICE to accept Him as my that I can be forgiven even though I don't deserve it...and so I can have JOY that

exceeds my circumstances,
          never fails
                    renews my strength
                              gives me hope
                                        defines my purpose, and
                                   paints my most dreary days with beautiful colors.     

Noone and nothing can rob me of my JOY!  It's carved into the Rock (Psalm 18:2).

Want to borrow my chisel?