Tuesday, December 13, 2011

{A Mama's Heart: Preparing for His Birth}

Last week one of my dear readers posed an excellent question:

How do you as a mom prepare your heart for Christmas
when you are so busy with normal life stuff and then on top of that
you are doing all th
e preparing, planning, coordinating, Christmas shopping,
etc.? How do you juggle all those things yet still keep your focus on Him?
What things do you do as a mom to a
nticipate the birth of Jesus?

I've been mulling this one over ever since. At first it scared me because of the obvious. What am I doing to prepare myself?

I had hundreds of responses in mind and zero responses at the same time. Because don't we always hope to do better? Aren't we always painfully aware of our shortcomings? All I could think about was my faults. How I had raised my voice, overreacted, let the dust and laundry accumulate . . . the list goes on.

And then I sought the Lord. What would He have a broken, flawed mama share with other broken and flawed mamas?

He's gently nudged my heart with some thoughts that I am realizing are already a part of who I am, a part of who He is creating me to be. I am nowhere near perfect, dear reader. Daily I grieve over my inability to live in complete faith and trust. But He is teaching me, and He is faithful.

That said, I timidly offer a few thoughts on how a mama might prepare her heart during this Christmas season.

* * * * *

When I was about eight years old, my family gathered at my aunt and uncle's house for a Christmas celebration. I don't remember much about it, but I do recall that I got to sing a solo. The song I chose was "O Holy Night." I wore my favorite long black velvet dress with empire waist and Scandinavia-inspired embroidery and trilled:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a
new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night, when Christ was born;

O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!

Ever since that night, this song has held special meaning for me. This year, my heart has been drawn again and again to the line, "A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices . . . ."

This, to me, beautifully summarizes a mother's heart during the Christmas season. We are likely weary. There is much to plan and organize. Funds run low and there are still gifts to purchase and there's the cleaning to be done and the laundry piles up and, yes, we are weary.

But. We have the thrill of hope. This bears repeating. We have the thrill of hope! We know that the Savior has come and is coming again. This, my friends, is divine. Because of this, we, the weary world, the weary mamas, we rejoice!

But how? Yes, I know it's nice to have a few tangible ideas to hold onto when we feel the weight of weariness but really want to rejoice instead (or at least feel like we should). So here are a few suggestions to get you going:

1. Begin the day well. I wish I could say that I'm up at the crack of dawn every morning with my Bible and tea in hand, blissfully worshiping the Lord as the sun rises in the east. Spurgeon's words inspire me:

Let us not see the face of man today till we have seen Jesus.

There are mornings when I'm able to do this (sans the crack of dawn part), but more often the children are clamoring for breakfast and I get swept into the momentum of the day before I know what hit me. I'm still aware that I need to start my day well, so I frequently put on some quiet music while making breakfast. I have an instrumental Christmas harp CD that is very soothing and worshipful, and it prepares my heart for the day.

2. Practice His presence. Throughout the day I talk with the Lord, sometimes out loud and sometimes quietly in my own thoughts. I keep a copy of Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotions at hand (okay, so it's in the bathroom) and read it almost daily. Several years ago, before Avery was born, I was touched by his prayer, "Come, my soul, sit at Jesus's feet and learn of Him all this day." In the margin I scribbled, "Three small children! I cannot sit. But my soul can. All day."

This soul-sitting is what I aim for.

3. Say "no" when self surfaces. This is part of practicing His presence. I've actually started muttering "no!" when my mind starts to wander in the direction of placing myself in a position of greater importance than others. Of course there are too many times when I wallow in self, but I am making an effort to clothe myself with Christ and treat others the way He would treat them.

4. Build your fortresses in times of peace. Several years ago a dear family friend shared this concept during ladies' Bible study. She referenced Solomon's life, when his father handed him a nation at peace. He wisely used that time to build the temple and extend the influence of his kingdom.*

This image has stayed with me. If I am "building my fortresses" throughout the normal quiet days, then these days of hustle and bustle won't catch me off guard. I'll be prepared, and my default won't be panic. I'll have stored the Word and worship of God in my daily routine, making my automatic response to Him one of praise, even amidst the chaos.

5. Tune your heart to sing His grace. I've posted often about gratitude, and now more than ever is the time to look for and acknowledge His grace and to praise Him for His gifts. Consider keeping a notebook or journal handy and chronicle His abundant blessings. When we focus on the Giver, it's hard to focus on self and the distractions of the season.

6. Choose a word. I did this by accident this year, but I've claimed the word "joy" for my Christmas season. Whenever I see or hear the word joy, I thank the Lord for speaking to me and I stop to quietly praise Him in that moment. It's almost like a little secret that I share with Him. Only I guess it's not so secret now . . . . You're welcome to "have" the word, too!

7. Worship as a family. This is an area that I hope to grow in as well, but we do enjoy our evening Jesse Tree devotions. We've missed a few nights, and I fight feelings of guilt when that happens (and then I feel guilty for feeling guilty . . . ), but when we are able to read and sing and pray together, it really is a blessed time.

8. Let go of perfectionism. Speaking of guilt, this is a good one to remember. A friend recently posted a comment on facebook about how much she's enjoying the season since she chose to set perfectionism aside. I couldn't agree more. When we want the halls to be decked just so and try to set flames to the brandy-soaked pudding and wonder why the kids don't love it, we are just setting ourselves up for disappointment. Let. It. Go.

9. Become a child. This, of course, has many obvious connotations. But this time, I want us to consider what our kids are thinking about this time of year. This ties in with the whole perfection thing. Will they care if the wrapping paper doesn't coordinate with the decor? No. Will they notice if the mantle decorations are askew? No. Will they notice if the laundry is piled up? No. (Until they run out of socks . . . .)

Will they notice how their mama handles these things? Yes!

So set aside your idea of "Christmas" and focus on what will make this season special for your kids. It's okay if the packages are bow-less and the mistletoe is crumpled. Really. It's okay.

10. End the day well. We begin in His presence, so too, we end in His presence. When I feel anxiety begin to mount the moment my head hits the pillow ("I still need to get a gift for . . .!" or "How can we afford new shoes during this season?!") I choose, in the words of Ann Voskamp, to "dismount it with gratitude." I turn every anxious thought into praise and thank Him for some aspect of that stressful thought. It sounds rather Pollyanna-like, but it works. I'm lulled to sleep in praise rather than anxiety. Not a bad way to end the day.

* * * * *

We weary mamas hold on to the thrill of hope. It keeps us sane and keeps us going. As we daily strive to walk alongside the Lord, worshiping in His presence and marveling at His gift to us this season, we will become more and more aware of the appropriateness of the angels' response to this hope: Fall on your knees!

And with them, on bended knee, we will rejoice.

*Special thanks to Sharon Nelson for speaking wisdom and truth to so many hearts. And thank you, Anna for sharing your question with us!
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  1. I loved what you had to say Julianna! Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Your honesty was an encouragement to me. A good reminder for me to keep seeking Him daily even when I begin to feel discouraged.

  2. Thanks so much for asking me to share, Anna!



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