Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Christmas Gift

And so another Christmas has passed.  And with it another year of memories.  Good memories.  No, strike that.  GREAT memories!  This year we had a three year old and a 15-month old to celebrate Christmas with and had many, many reasons to celebrate, indeed.  Jed and I have our marriage, we have our two healthy children, we have families that walk with us through our darkest days and rejoice with us when we have overcome our trials, never leaving our sides, we have a new and gratifying church family, we have faithful friends (new and old alike), we have our jobs which provide food and income, we have our home which provides shelter from the elements, we have our health, we have all of the creature comforts we could possibly desire.  But these things...what do these things matter if we don't have Jesus?  So proudly to this I can, with absolute authority and conviction, say that Jed and I do have.  We. Have. Jesus. And that, my friends, is the best Christmas gift we could ever have asked, hoped or prayed for.  A little back story, shall we?

My journey to Jesus has been a struggle.  I have always believed in Jesus and sometimes had a relationship with Him, but I put it on the back burner as I struggled my way through adolescence, college and the early years of my relationship and marriage with Jed.  Those things were obviously of more importance to me than a relationship with a man who had died over 2,000 years ago. So this change...it wasn't as if the skies parted and a booming voice rained down upon me and told me "Jesus is real. You must now believe in Him and change."  It wasn't one of those, "Aha!" moments you sometimes hear about or see in the movies.  It didn't hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. It has been a gradual change.  My life was not going the way I had planned.  And that?  Is where I went wrong.  It's not about MY plan, it's about GOD'S plan.  I hadn't surrendered complete control to Him because I was afraid.  Afraid of losing that control.  But now that I have surrendered that control to Him...there are no words.  My life is not, and will never again be the same.  I want to tell everyone who will listen (and even those who don't want to listen) what awesome and amazing things he has done for Jed and for me and what He can do for them too!!!  I don't want to keep this burning excitement to myself...I want to share it!  During the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church, our pastor explained finding and believing in the gospel in this way:  Imagine a beggar finding a bit of bread and wanting to share it with other beggars who are hungry. I was but a beggar in search of food.  I have now found not just a loaf of bread, but the entire bakery!!! :-)

There are some out there who think it's an act.  My only reply is this:  Keep watching.  See what He does with His believers.  I have one Judge and He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.  After many, many hours of introspection, I've realized that it doesn't matter who thinks what.  God knows my heart and He knows the Truth. "God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs".  Matthew 5:10. 

So how do I go on from here other than to say our Christmas of 2010 was a very blessed one indeed? I have no words for the gratitude I feel for God's grace and mercy - I humble myself before Him. I am but a sinner in desperate need of a savior.  I can never repay Him, but one thing I can do to glorify Him is to pass His word on, and that we are doing with our children.  I shared the story of the birth of Jesus with Nora this year and she had many important questions to ask, such as "what is a manger?", "what did Jesus eat?", and "does Jesus like mustaches?". :-)  It has been so much fun teaching her as we are learning new things ourselves.  We have started a new tradition this year of baking a birthday cake and singing "Happy Birthday" for Jesus in honor of His special day. Sometimes we get so bogged down with the notion that Christmas is about Santa and presents and reindeer and shopping that we lose sight of what Christmas is truly about.  That Jesus was born as a baby, in the flesh, so that ultimately He would die for each of us so that we may be saved and have eternal life with Him in His kingdom.  How awesome is that? I mean really, how awesome is that?! We still want to have Santa and the regular ol' Christmas traditions at our house, but we don't want those traditions to overshadow the REAL meaning of Christmas.  I remember as a kid, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, all of my cousins and I went outside after we performed our "Christmas skit" for my grandparents, aunts, and uncles at my Grandma & Grandpa Habel's.  They had a big gravel parking lot next to their house and all of my cousins and I went to that parking lot and with our feet, we wrote in great big letters "Happy birthday Jesus!" in the snow, held hands in a circle while a light snow came down around us...and prayed.  It is one of those moments in my life that I will never forget.  And I only wish now, that I hadn't lost my faith for so many years.  All part of God's plan I suppose.  The most important thing is that He and I are "back on speaking terms" again, right? ;-)

As my babies get older, I am falling more and more in love with them each and every day.  Nora is so smart and curious. She is serious and funny.  She is perceptive and mature.  Archer is demanding and sensitive.  He is challenging and gentle.  He is the baby.  They both feel the pain and joy of others...they are compassionate creatures already.  I never knew something as fragile as a beating heart could be so astonishingly strong as to hold as much love as what mine does for these two small human beings.  I was discussing with a few of my aunts and cousins at a family gathering over the Christmas weekend that it's not the bathing, diapering, feeding, clothing, etc. parts of being a parent that are the hard parts.  It's the actual parenting:  the disciplining, the lessons of compassion, the teaching of values and manners, etc.  That is the aspect of parenting that is difficult because it is never-ending.  Yet, shouldn't it be easy?  Shouldn't it just be second nature to us?  Why then, is this the most difficult task?  My opinion of an answer is this:  We are afraid of failure.  We are afraid that if our children don't "turn out right" that we have failed them, failed ourselves, failed God.  We need to trust in God and pray to Him to guide us in the ways that He wants us to raise our children and not just "hope" that we're doing what's right, but know we're doing what's right.  Some days it's alot easier said than done, trust me, I know! But I am cherishing each and every moment with them as I can see and feel how quickly time is passing.  Jed and I will be "empty-nesters" before we know it!

I wish to conclude this "pouring out of my soul" blog entry by thanking God for giving me my life back.  And not just giving it back to me, but giving it back to me in abundance.  And worth far more than I could have ever possibly even asked for.  That is the best Christmas gift I could have received.  And I want to thank each of you who had a hand in walking me through this past year.  There were days when I couldn't stand on my own and you were there holding me up and walking me forward, step by small step:  Mom, Dad, Jesi, Laura, Jamie, Boomer, Jed, Ashley, Emily, Kali, Mandy, Tracey, Karin, everyone in small group, all of my Habel clan and everyone else who offered words of encouragement and gave me hope.  I wouldn't be who I am today without your influence and encouragement.  I have learned the lesson of what it means to have and to be a real and true friend.  I LOVE YOU ALL and I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to say it. With humble, humble gratitude, I thank you.

"For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!" Ephesians 5:8