Friday, December 28, 2012


I had tears in my eyes on Christmas night. It was a lovely day, and I didn't want it to end. Indeed, we stretched it out until the very last minute, finally pulling into our driveway at midnight. It's hard for me every year, and I revisited the thoughts I posted from last year as a prep and pick-me-up. But it was still hard. I still found it difficult to be perky and joyful and merry and bright on the days after. On the days when kids were tired and sniffly and sneezy and the house was littered with post Christmas paper, projects and boxes.

I've noticed that a few people have mentioned that they absolutely love this week between Christmas and New Year's. And I do love the coziness. The time to slow down after the holiday rush and read a book or watch an old movie, put together puzzles, pop popcorn and sip cider.

But I have to force myself to be merry. It doesn't come naturally. This morning the tears threatened again, and I told myself it was ridiculous. I told myself the same thing that I told my children on Christmas night: everything that we celebrate on Christmas Day is just as true the next day. We still have Jesus, and we still have each other. I gave myself the pep-talk, but I still felt like I was trudging through the Slough of Despond, an unnamed burden upon my back.

So I grabbed my Bible. I've learned that this is the best salve when despondency weighs on the soul. With a mug of tea in one hand, I visited the chapter in Nehemiah where I had left off last time. Again, the Lord faithfully brought to me just what I needed at just the right time.

And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them joy.
Nehemiah 12:43

That's right. It is God who gives us joy. If we rely on circumstances (as I so often do), then we are sure to be disappointed. But if we acknowledge that God is the source of joy, then we cannot be disappointed.

As I read and wrote and prayed, I asked God to bring me joy. I asked Him to show me that He is still Emmanuel, that He is still with me. I thumbed through the Psalms, landing on my favorite joy passages:

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy.
Psalm 16:11

Yes, it is only in His presence that I can fully experience joy.

And David's cry, which resonated with my spirit,

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.
Psalm 42:5

Hope. His presence. God with us. God with me. We have it all!

And finally, the linchpin that seems upside-down,

Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Psalm 50:14

A sacrifice. That means to give thanks . . . even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Even when it doesn't look like a blessing. Because He is present. He is Emmanuel. And that is where the joy is.

I pulled out my neglected gratitude journal and scratched out a few lines. I had forgotten to give thanks. I had forgotten that my thank you is a hallelujah to Him that in turn brings joy and blessing.

My spirit found peace, and I thanked the Lord for leading me through the valley once again.

Ready to face the day, I recalled a bit of practical advice that gave wings to my sluggish feet. I've read this advice in various forms, and each time it's like a gentle nudge. A bit of motherly advice that keeps me moving when I need that push forward.

Louisa May Alcott said it in Little Women through Marmee: "Hope and keep busy, dear daughter!"

Elisabeth Elliot found a similar course of action to be helpful when facing trials: "Do the next thing."

And a simple little line from the Elsie Dinsmore books, "Find the nearest duty and fulfill it."

Sometimes it helps to just think of one little thing that needs to be done. To find that nearest duty, that next thing, that small task that will keep us busy. I often find that when I've accomplished a chore, it spurs me on to tackle a bit more. And so the day continues and, before I know it, I've marked several things off my list and my spirits are lifted considerably.

And so I took the baby steps that ultimately led me through the day, filling it with a quiet joy that I know only the Lord could give.

* * * * *

If you find yourself in a similar frame of mind today, dear friend, may I encourage you? I know how you feel. I also know that there's a way to rise joyfully beyond the despondency.

1. Seek Him. Ask the Lord to renew a spirit of joy in your heart. It comes from Him! And He is extravagant in His gifts. He longs not only to give you joy, but to give you the fullness of joy!

2. Give thanks. A spirit of gratitude leads to joy. Look at the gifts around you -- thank Him for even the very simplest things if need be. A new day. A new hope. A new joy.

3. Begin small. Don't try to tackle the day. Just do the next thing. Take baby steps. Find the nearest duty and fulfill it. It can be daunting to say, "I'm going to clean the entire house today!" when coming off of an exhausting week. Try instead to give yourself small goals and see if they don't spur you on to do just a little bit more. "Hope and keep busy, dear daughter!"

Blessings on you, my dear friends, as this year comes quietly to a close. May you find the fullness of joy in the Lord's presence, both now and in the year to come.    

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

{Merry and Bright}

May your days be merry and bright, dear ones! Wishing you a blessed, joyous Christmas, with love from the Lawson family.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{Cozy Days}

Hunkering down with tea, games and a puzzle today. It feels cozy. There's snow in the forecast. I'll take it.

Bethie and Aidan are alternately playing Scattergories and Dutch Blitz. We're kind of addicted to Dutch Blitz.

Little Miss has decided that she would like to sew some bedding for her doll, so she's stitching away as I puzzle. It's pretty sweet. (We'll see if her enthusiasm outlasts her fingers.) She also did her own hair today. She's taken with the idea of putting two sponge rollers in her hair before bed. The effect is so very . . . Jane Austen. Mrs. Elton comes to mind.

We're filling these long winter days with Christmas preparations and excitement. We'll probably have a cookie making day, and we might hop on over to Noni's later this week to help her roll out the ravioli for Christmas dinner. The kids are also excited for the day when they get to wrap each others' presents. I love their enthusiasm in giving to each other.

Other than a few more Christmas goodies to purchase, our days aren't too busy. I'm thankful. The rest and peace do us good.

How are you filling your holiday afternoons and evenings? Any fun traditions that we should try out?
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Monday, December 17, 2012

{The Return of Peace}

"I'm frightened," she simpered. Little Miss wiggled on my lap as we waited for the Christmas program to begin. It had been a hard day for her. Contrary. Belligerent. Defiant.

I tried not to let her see the exasperation in my face. Always so dramatic. Frightened? Good grief.

She said it again, but this time she gave the reason. "I'm frightened that I won't be able to see the nativity."

The sea of heads in front of us blocked the stage, and she didn't want to miss the manger. I took a deep breath as I pondered her response. I didn't want to miss the manger either. I didn't want to let my frustration, my impatience, my selfishness prevent me from seeing Jesus in that moment.

The program began, and for most of the evening the action was visible from where my Little Miss sat. But as the manger scene drew near, I realized that I'd have to move in order for her to fully see the baby. The lights dimmed and I quietly ushered my daughter to the aisle. I checked to make sure we weren't standing in front of anyone, and then we positioned ourselves in full view of the manger. She was satisfied. 

Too often I make comfort my objective. I want to stay seated, comfortably watching the show. But the squirming one on my lap reminds me that sacrifice is often necessary in order to show Jesus to others.

The next morning these thoughts were still on my mind as I opened my Bible. Nehemiah encouraged his fearful people, "Don't be afraid of [our enemies]. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." (Nehemiah 4:14)

Remember the Lord. Fight for your children.

These words are even more sobering a week later as I look at them in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut. Our nation is rocked. We are fearful. We hold our children closely and we cry, "Why?"

Shortly after I read Nehemiah that day, I found Spurgeon's evening devotion to be a source of great comfort and hope. The timing was uncanny. It was five days before the shooting, and I was quietly wondering how to minister to my own child in her own need, how to cultivate peace and joy in our own home.

The Scripture he drew upon was Isaiah 32:18.

My people shall dwell in quiet resting places.

This, friends, is a promise. My people shall. Do you hear the confidence of the Shepherd? His protection? His hope? His loyalty? There is so much packed into this one line. And we need every word of it.

Spurgeon responds with the solution: "The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of His people, and when we draw near to Him in the breaking of bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to Him to be the return of peace to our spirits."

A week later, my own domestic struggles seem so petty. But in my own small way, I long for peace. In a much greater way, our nation longs for peace. And the answer to both is found in the nativity.

The thing is, we can't stay seated. We might miss it. This is frightening. We must stand. We must take our children by the hands, and we must take them to the manger. We must show them the beauty of Love. We must show them how attractive it is to serve, to sacrifice, to give. And there, as we fall down in worship, we will indeed find the return of peace to our spirits.

Dear ones, let us linger long before our Prince of Peace, today and always.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

{Are You Crying Yet?}

The other night when we shared our Christmas favorites around the dinner table, I mentioned two songs that I particularly like to hear on the radio. My younger kids don't quite get it yet, but to "like" a song (at least in my mind) often means that it brings tears to my eyes. (This is why I anticipate bawling my way through Les Mis in two weeks.)

I have a hard time explaining this emotion to them, but it has to do with the ache of beauty. I think you know what I mean. Isn't it strange that beauty can cause pain?

This evening as I was out running errands with Aidan and Avery, one of "my" songs played on the radio. I frantically waved my arm toward the back seat and shouted, "This is it! The one that makes me cry! That Canon one I was talking about!"

At this point I envisioned them quietly folding their hands in reverential awe. It didn't happen.

"Are those supposed to be boys singing?" She demanded. "They sound like girls."

"Well, sweetie, I think it's a boys' choir. They're young . . ." I explained.


I let my spirit soar with the strains, only to be brought down again.

"Are you crying yet?"

"Not yet."

We headed in the direction of Daddy's office. She knew that we were going there, yet still she shouted from the back seat, "Where are we going?"

Deep breaths. I wanted to soar. She didn't get it.

"Are you crying yet?"

Aidan chimed in, "Are you crying yet?" They leaned forward, hoping to see their mother's face in tearful contortions.

"Are you crying yet?" 

And believe it or not, I did have tears in my eyes. The music was beautiful (albeit interrupted) and the lively chatter of my children reminded me that I truly had much to be thankful for.

Would you like to take a listen? Maybe it will make you cry, too.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

{Playing Dress-Up}

If I'm given an opportunity to dress up, I frequently say, "Why . . . sure!"

If I'm given an opportunity to dress up in Victorian costume, I say, "I'll be there immediately. My dress is ready."

So it was with great delight that I donned a frock this weekend to help a friend during her holiday home tour.

Annie shares all about it over at Dusk. Won't you join us? We'll be happy to pour you a cup of tea.
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Friday, December 7, 2012

{Table Talk, Christmas Style}

Last night as we sat around the dinner table, something in my foggy brain snapped and I realized that Jamie and I had become too distracted by our own thoughts to see what was happening. The children had stealthily taken over the conversation which quickly turned into much loudness and rudeness which in turn made my head throb. I don't mind lively children. I do, however, mind lively children who absently drag their hair through the soup or land their elbows in the butter because the level of activity has gotten way out of hand.

It was time to switch gears. We often rely on a "question of the day" when we need to guide the conversation around the dinner table. Because it's the Christmas season, I offered a couple of easy-peasy questions to get the banter headed in a more civilized direction. Each person took turns sharing their favorite:

Christmas song
Christmas treat
Christmas movie

I tried not to frown when Aidan contributed "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," and Jamie tried not to frown when I called Meet Me in St. Louis a "Christmas" movie (I chose White Christmas instead). But overall it was a merry ending to what could have been a rather volatile evening.

We were even calm enough by bedtime to quietly light the candles for our Jesse Tree devotions. (And by "quietly" I mean that Little Miss didn't shout as she read the Word of God, she just bellowed.)

One of the Family by Frederich Cotman, 1880
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Monday, December 3, 2012

{Using a Variety of Sources for Copywork and Dictation}

Because I want to train my children to appreciate excellent writing, and because I want them to have the ability to confidently put their own words onto paper, one of their weekly assignments is to copy sentences or take dictation from various readings. As they write the words of the master writers, their minds are learning to anticipate the beauty of a well-chosen phrase, the power of metaphor and the comfort of rhythm. Slowly but surely, these words will become their own, equipping them to one day write with feeling and clarity.

How do I do this? Continue reading over at The Homeschool Classroom.
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