When the Fun Is Over – Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues

Day After Fun Blues

The fourth of July this year was SO. Much. Fun!

Our neighbors rented a bounce house and we had a large neighborhood gathering with water, fun and food. Kids in swim suits were running freely between backyards.

It was a day of giggles, sun, water and all. the. FUN.

An amazing day ended with bug spray, glow bracelets and fireworks.

Our kids were exhausted at 10:30 and fell asleep quickly despite more fireworks just outside their windows.

I’m telling you – NOTHING could wake them. 

A fun-filled day is a wonderful thing, but some times it leaves its mark on the next day – in a not-so-wonderful way.

The morning went fine, but as the day continues…it becomes very evident that everyone is still very tired.

Even this mama.

The next day melt-downs, pouting faces and complaining make one thing very clear – the fun is over.

We knew it was going to be this way. We chose to have a non-stop fun day and make all the memories we could. We chose to encourage and celebrate the joy of being a kid in the summer in a neighborhood filled with kids.

You know what? It was worth it. No matter how hard today becomes.

We expected that today might hold challenges. And it has.

We established a game-plan to make the most of the Day-After-Fun Blues.

When the Fun Is Over – Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues

1. Sleep As Long As Possible

This is a no-brainer for older kids who love to sleep in. But for those of us with younger kids and babies…a late bedtime does NOT mean small children will sleep in. You can’t guarantee they will recoup any missed sleep but you can try.

Older Kids – If your child can read the clock, tell them they need to go back to sleep until a time of your choosing. Our son is always awake early but stays in bed until 7.  Last night we told him to stay in bed until 8:30. I had no idea if he would go back to sleep or not but HE DID! He slept until 8:45.

Preschoolers and Toddlers – tell them they need to try to sleep until you come get them. Our middle child stayed in bed so they both slept 2 hours later than their normal wake up time. This doesn’t always work but if they are tired enough, it just might.

Baby – No plan will make the baby sleep longer, but you can do your best to set conditions conducive for sleep. Blackout curtains, noise machine and plenty of food/water before bed. Pray they sleep as long as possible and don’t wake the big kids up.

2. Get Out Of The House

Tired siblings seem to get on each other’s nerves and seem prone to boredom. If possible, plan a low-key activity to get out of the house. This morning we got up and went to the Minnesota Zoo using our zoo pass. I know, this might not sound relaxing, but for us it is. We’re there often so are comfortable leaving as soon as the kids seem tired or uninterested. Not up for the Zoo? Head to the park, a walk, the library or even just out to lunch or dinner.

3. REST Time

Older kids may not nap, but ALL kids can take a rest. All of the kids lay down and try to sleep – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Older kids can get up and play quietly in their rooms – Legos and cars for our son, a doll house and dress up clothes for our daughter. The baby sleeps and this mama takes some time to write.

Practice Gratitude

We may will experience cranky moments. When it happens, if possible, take time to recall the fun. Reflection promotes gratitude, and gratitude promotes an attitude change. Discuss the best parts of the day – fireworks, food or fun. Laugh about the funniest and weirdest things that happened.  Try asking the kids to journal about or draw their favorite memories from the day before. Then praise their creativity and listen to them tell you about it.

Plan A Quiet Evening

No matter how the next day goes, tiredness increases as the day goes on. Plan a low-key evening – an easy meal, movie, puzzle or reading a big stack of library books together can help keep calm until that glorious moment of bedtime.

Grace

When in doubt, remind yourself of how tired you are. Extend grace. Soft words, distraction and prayer will go a long way to overcoming the day-after-fun blues.

Early Bedtime

When the going gets rough, keep looking ahead to today’s early bedtime. Each of our children will hit their pillows at 7pm tonight. Set the time and stick to it!

 

When The Fun Is Over: Strategies For Day-After-Fun Blues | thisgratefulmama.com

How does your family handle the day-after-fun blues? 

6 Ways To Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt

 

Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com

Mom guilt is very good at stealing our joy.

Some days do not go as planned. Some days are filled with joy and success but as night falls, I find myself dwelling on my failure – big or small.  

Failure to accomplish everything on my TO DO list
Failure to exercise and eat as healthy as I should
Failure to be patient with the kids or my husband
Failure to love and connect in a meaningful way with my husband
Failure to play and be the fun mom our kids needed
Failure to apologize for my failings

Oh, how the list could go on! I’m sure you get the point. Hopefully I don’t fail in ALL of these ways in one day, but some days it sure feels like it.

Why IS it so easy for moms to focus on failure instead of success? 

Perhaps it is because we just love our kids so much, and we see the effects of our failings in their hurt and in their behavior.

It is good to hold ourselves to a high standard, but we often go too far.

When we focus on just failures, we lose important perspective about what really was accomplished that day – the kids felt loved, fun happened, chores were completed, and relationships were tended to.

The truth is, even the worst parenting day is filled with mostly success.

Instead of focusing on big and small victories, we focus on big and small failures.

Instead of recognizing that we are GREAT moms, we focus on that weak moment when we lost our temper.

You guys, that weak moment probably lasted about 5 minutes. In 12 awake hours (we likely have more), that is just 0.69% of the time spent with our kids.

Less than 1%, but we’re fixated on it.

As we reflect on the day, failing areas stick out like a sore thumb while successes are minimized or ignored completely. If this kind of self-critical thinking isn’t actively battled, it can become a painful, self-defeating habit.

While honest self-reflection and evaluation is helpful and necessary for growth and healthy relationships, over-critical thinking benefits no one. 

Did you hear me? Mom-guilt benefits no one and it steals your JOY.

Instead of motivating us to do better or to grow, mom-guilt leaves us discouraged and defeated.

What if we chose to move past mom-guilt and self-judgement and actively sought out a true and right perspective of our days? I believe we’d find motivation and encouragement to do our job better tomorrow. And our families would benefit from a JOYFUL mom.  

Reclaiming JOY when stuck in mom guilt takes concerted effort.

Can we try together?

6 Ways To Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt

Adjust Your Focus

Focusing on failure alone creates a mindset that is all about me – and how I can’t do anything rightThat is exactly what the enemy wants. Satan is the accuser (Rev 12:10) and right now he is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). When we carry mom-guilt, Satan is the only one who wins. 

When we allow it, failures can consume our thoughts. We go way past honest reflection and desire to learn our lesson. We replay failures, think of what we should have done, and it consumes our thoughts. When we continue to beat ourselves up, dredging up past failings to build a case to prove we are failing as moms, we are much too focused on ourselves – we become our own accuser. Our guilt changes the way we parent and we aren’t giving our kids our best. Time to adjust our gaze. Jesus has already died for our failure AND our mom-guilt. 

Turn your eyes upon His face and recognize how He sees youBeloved. Worthy. Forgiven. And exactly the mom your children need.

Battle In Prayer

Do you ever think God’s view of you is wrong? That you are simply a failure He cannot love? When we can’t accept His TRUE assessment of us, our pride says His sacrifice isn’t enough for us. Believing we’re just too far beyond His reach is the worst kind of lie we can carry in our souls. This is a spiritual battle that needs to be fought with spiritual words – not fancy, well spoken words, but honest, raw words spoken from a heart desperate for God’s love and peace. Pray when mom-guilt rises. Even when you don’t have the words – He knows your heart. Lay it all out at His feet. Tell Him your doubtAsk Him to show you His love and help you believe it. 

Accept Grace

As you recognize how God sees you, it is time to accept His grace and give it to yourself. Why is it so easy to tell other moms their failures and mistakes are no big deal? We encourage others to give themselves grace and then give ourselves NONE. Jesus didn’t die so we could live in bondage in our minds. There is NO life in mom-guilt. We need to do the work of forgiving ourselves and then move on.

Practice Gratitude

When we live in the light of forgiveness, we have so much to be thankful for! We see our children as precious gifts, and our motherhood as a calling. We begin to see our successes and are grateful God gave us the patience, skills and ability to achieve them. WHEN we fail, we see with true perspective that we can do better, but are able to apologize, take action to not repeat the failure, and move forward without dwelling in guilt.

Model Authenticity

There is no place for perfection in parenting – there are no perfect moms. Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com

Did you get that? None.

We will continue to grow and learn from our mistakes, but we will never, ever be perfect. And it is OK. Showing our kids we are not perfect gives them room to not be perfect too. Kids learn by example – if we beat ourselves up for imperfection, they will have a false and unattainable expectation that they be perfect too. Demonstrating how to handle our own failure starts with forgiving ourselves. Then, and only then, can we help them learn the same lesson when they stand in the shadow of their own failures. 

Hope

What if we viewed our failings as a chance to grow and for our kids to see the transforming power of Jesus in our lives? What if we thanked God for letting us fail so we could learn and help our kids learn lessons of eternal value? We can trust Him to be faithful to use our failings for His glory and to plant truth in the hearts of our kids. Start and end this day holding tight to the promise that His mercy is new every morning. And His faithfulness is greater than our failings.

Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com    6 Ways to Reclaim JOY When Stuck In Mom Guilt | thisgratefulmama.com

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies – Thank You For Keeping Our Kids Safe Even When You Don’t Understand Allergies

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child With Food Allergies - Thank You For Keeping Our Kids Safe Even When You Don't Understand Allergies

During a recent grocery store trip, I overheard a fellow mom on her cell phone. She was asking what on earth to buy in the bakery section for her child’s class room birthday treat. It needed to be peanut free.

She went on to say she didn’t understand why, if peanut wasn’t on the label, she couldn’t buy it. Then she mumbled something about the equipment.

I could tell she was in a hurry. Intending to point her in the right direction, I made my way to the display of Lofthouse Nut-Free frosted cookies. I planned to hold them up and just point to the ‘Nut-Free’ label. I didn’t want to interrupt her conversation but knew it can be hard to find a peanut-safe option in the bakery section – especially if you aren’t sure what to look for on the label. It would be easy to unknowingly buy a treat that isn’t safe.

Or maybe just give up.

As I walked up, she released a loud sigh of frustration and exclaimed into the phone, Why can’t those kids just be normal so I can buy a box of cupcakes“. 

Sigh. Normal? Ugh.

Now what?

I felt my face flush. What ran through my head was to educate her – you know, with strong, emotion-filled, angry words. 

But I could see that type of ‘education’ would not do either of us much good. She was already frustrated, and heaping my anger on top of her anger isn’t likely to produce much understanding.

I’m also not real keen on starting an argument in the bakery section of the grocery store. With my kids.

Plus, here she was, trying to read the labels, and trying to pick something all the kids could enjoy. Despite what she said, her actions were those of someone trying to do the right thing. 

She just didn’t understand why.

She didn’t need anger, she needed grace. So instead of marching up with a lengthy defense of children with food allergies, I walked up, smiled, and pointed at the Nut-Free label. She looked, paused and looked up at me.

Relief. Gratitude.

She told her friend ‘just a minute’ and put her hand over the phone. She whispered ‘Thank you. I have no idea how to make sure what I buy is right or not. Last time it wasn’t. They wouldn’t serve it in class and my daughter didn’t have a treat for her birthday‘.

Wow.

As a food allergy mom, I know all-too-well the disappointment when my child can’t have a treat. This might be the first time I realized it also happens to children without food allergies.

I see how this could cause frustration in parents whose children don’t have an allergy.

Sometimes, as an allergy mom, I just wish other parents could put themselves in my shoes – maybe they’d finally understand what its like.

This time, I put myself in her shoes. There was a time when I knew very little about food allergies and food allergy labeling – before I became an Epi-Pen carrying mom and had to take a crash course in keeping our own child safe. If I had gone to the store with good intentions, it would frustrate me if I still bought the wrong thing. Food labeling even confuses food allergy parents sometimes. If I tried to buy something safe for all the children, I’d be so hurt to hear they didn’t serve it because it still wasn’t safe.

Yeah, that would make me pretty upset. And it would make me easily frustrated the next time I’m in a store, again, trying to do the right thing. Especially if I’m still not sure what to actually buy.

So, as she looked up at me, I smiled back and nodded. I whispered that the frosted Lofthouse cookies that say Nut-Free are always a safe option.

And then I said, Thank you for doing your best to keep children like mine safe.

She smiled back, and then looked slightly embarrassed, probably realizing I overheard her comment. But I chose to give her an encouraging smile, a little wave, and move on.

This encounter wasn’t about me. Or my child. It was about simply doing something small to educate another mom who was actively seeking a way to keep other children safe while giving her child a special birthday. Now she knows a safe option for the future. And she has been thanked by one allergy mom for her efforts.

Are you one of the parents out there who try their best to keep all the kids safe?

Thank you, to each of you, who don’t understand food allergies, but try to buy safe options anyway.

Thank you for trying to learn about food labeling, and for asking questions about what to buy. If you ever have questions about what to buy (or why it matters), I’m happy to help.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to make your best effort with good intentions.

I’m sorry when those good intentions have not been rewarded. Please know they are appreciated nonetheless. 

Thank you for doing your best to keep all of our kids safe. We will happily do the same for you in whatever challenge your child or family may face now and in the future.

As I’ve shared before, it truly does take a village to raise a child with food allergies.

Thank you for doing your best – from this grateful mama to you.

To The Weary Mama of Sick Kids

Hello mama of sick kids.

I woke up this morning weary after getting very little sleep. Our 8 month old has an ear infection and pneumonia. After trying to rock, cradle, nurse and soothe her to sleep for hours, I gave up around midnight. In all honesty, I was getting frustrated with the situation, and with her.

I mean, just GO TO SLEEP already.

But being frustrated was not good for either of us. What she needed was her mama to help her feel better and just be there. I needed to stop trying to force sleep and just accept we were doing the best we could. So, we just got up. At midnight.

We came downstairs where she was happy to just crawl around on the floor. With her content, I did prayed and my bible study homework (although my answers sure needed some help in the morning – a little jumbled and scribbled with bleary eyes). She finally went to sleep after 3 am and slept for a couple of hours. Then she was up for 2 more and back down just when the big kids were getting up.

Some days, there just isn’t enough rest to go around. Are you in this place too?

You are not alone. I am walking through this season right along with you. Every time one child gets sick, it sets off a chain reaction and the others get sick too. One by one. Sometimes it is hard to tell when the first sickness ended and the next one began.

These winter months can feel incredibly long.

And isolating.

I am sorry you’ve had to cancel play dates, volunteering, your own doctor appointments and so much more. I know you were counting on these activities to break up your week. I know you needed a change of pace from just being at home with the kids all day, every day. Missing these activities leaves a void for your children and for you. It is hard when you have little adult interaction for days (or weeks).

I also know how cancelling over and over can make you – a responsible and good friend – feel flaky. Parenting little ones sometimes makes you feel like you have no control over your schedule – because the sickness and these little people control the schedule instead.

Although you may feel that way, as I’ve experienced in my own life, your friends and family DO understand. Many experienced the same with their kids and are happy to extend grace and encouragement to you. They also appreciate you not sharing your illness when you do show up. Be honest and just reach out when you can. Then, extend grace when this happens the other way around.

Because we’re all in this thing together.

This morning I was greeted by a now-healthy child who brought the plague home in the first place. He was ready for breakfast and all I could do was muster a smile and grunt as I rolled out of bed.

So. Very. Tired.

I sent him downstairs so I could take a few minutes to myself before jumping into the day. My main thought was sleep. In moments like this, I must confess I may be worshiping sleep – as if I will never, ever get any more again. I speak from experience when I say being mad about sleep is not helpful. With three kids, a nap for me will not happen. So I decided to just pray for help to survive the day.

But as I prayed, I gained some perspective and realized sleep will come, as it did with all other sicknesses, and with the other two babies. Then the following came to mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

Today it will not be my power but God’s as He equips me to serve Him and my family well. For His power is perfect in my weakness. And it is certainly enough for my tiredness.

It is no coincidence that my daily devotion later this morning just ‘happened’ to be based on this same scripture. Apparently God really wanted me to hang onto this truth today. I’m so glad He did. It’s a lifeline I desperately need today (and every day).

Now I am passing it along to you.

What do you need an extra measure of today? (Besides the obvious need for sleep and healthy kids – lets just trust He will cover those in His perfect timing). Maybe you need more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control? I sure do. I believe He delights in being generous to us when we ask Him for more fruit of the Spirit.

Ask Him to shine through your tired eyes and work with those worn out arms and hands. And He will. Just surrender – you’re too tired to stifle His power, and that is to your benefit.

He is strong. He is capable. He is full of energy and joy when we feel depleted. And He has compassion on us and our children when we are struggling.

Tap into His strength and power today. He will carry all of you to easier, healthy days.

Hang in there mama, you’re not alone. These kids are worth it and you are exactly the mama they need today.

sick-baby

She may be sick, but she has amazing hair 🙂

Goodbye sickness, we’re over you. Go away.

 

Aren’t we all just moms?

Aren't we all just moms? | thisgratefulmama.com

Why does it seem like moms are offended by each other on a regular basis?

Some stay at home moms are offended by other stay at home moms.

Some stay at home moms are offended by working moms.

Some working moms are offended by other working moms.

Some working moms are offended by stay at home moms.

Those stay at home mom and working mom labels make everything such a mouthful.

Good grief. Why is everyone so offended? Aren’t we all just moms?

Before I offend anyone – I don’t mean we’re ‘just’ moms. All of us are more – friends, daughters, aunts, professionals, volunteers, teachers, wives, athletes and more. But fundamentally, if those characteristics do not fully define us, why are we so quick to define ourselves by our activity of staying home or working outside the home?

Why are we so concerned about what we and others do all day? Whether we work at home, or away from home, part-time, full-time, or not at all, we are ALL full-time moms. Each of us became moms when we first loved our children. For some, it happened while babies were still in our womb. For others, it happened when they first began to seek out adoption, possibly while their child was in the womb of someone else.

It is our heart that defines us as a mom. Not what we do.

When our son was born, I worked outside the home. When our daugter was born, I stopped working outside the home. My days look different now, but I’m still the same amount of mom.

Once a mom, ALWAYS a mom – regardless of the other ways you spend your time.

Why are we so concerned with who feels blessed to be home and who complains about it? Why do we presume working or stay at home moms want to be home, or that they do not? Or that it was an easy choice? Why do we presume a working mom wants to work when some have to work to provide? Why presume anything?

Are we all so insecure in our own mom-role that we need to tear others down in theirs?

Quit judging! We were not put here on this planet to judge other moms. 

Now, I know some women can be judging, unkind, catty, careless with words or unaware of their impact, but we all need to grow some thicker skin. The word ‘offended’ is defined as resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult. Much of what we are offended by may have been unintentional and petty because we’re all just a little bit too sensitive.

Who cares if so-and-so is happy or unhappy in their situation-that-you-want? Their situation is NOT yours and theirs is much more complicated than you perceive it to be. And, although they may sound ungrateful, they might just be having a really bad day. Don’t we all have bad days?

Let’s focus on trying to be content in our own situation instead of the one we don’t have. The grass isn’t always greener, and sometimes it’s brown, crispy and a fire-hazard.

Who are we to call other moms ungrateful? If we’re offended by their lack of gratitude, we’re probably ungrateful in our OWN situation.

We are all women. Mothers. There should be comradery in these noble things.

It is time to start encouraging each other and to spend our time lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. Encourage the career-minded mom and cheer her on in her endeavors. Encourage the mom who stays home because she feels called to do so.

And please, we need to go out of our way to encourage the moms working or at home whose circumstance determined their days – they have set aside their preference and are doing what needs to be done for their family. We should cheer them on wholeheartedly.

It is time to extend grace when someone else’s words strike a nerve in our own life. It is time to leave our gossiping, angry blog-posting and social media slandering ways and to instead have empathy for each woman and her struggles. It is time to point each other towards hope and joy and to check our jealousy at the door.

We are ALL moms – that should be enough to be a community who supports each other in such an important endeavor.

Will you join me?

One Simple Rule For Whining

One Simple Rule For Whining | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Although whining still occurs at our house when children are tired, hungry or bored, one simple rule has been the most effective in turning things around.

Whining does not get us what we want.

Whining for food? Not getting any. At least not yet.

Whining to go outside? Staying inside, for now.

Bored and whining? I don’t think I can help you right now.

Whatever they are whining for, they will hear the same response from me – whining does not get us what we want. They can continue to whine, but it will not produce the desired result. And they may end up having to continue whining in their room.

The message is clear – they’ll have to find another way.

But what does a child do with this? Most likely they will get frustrated because they don’t know another way. So along with the rule comes a lot of grace and a willingness to teach some problem solving skills.

They need to learn to solve their problems without whining. If it was natural to do so, they’d already be doing it.

First acknowledge how they are feeling. Obviously if they are whining, they have a problem of some kind. Sometimes they don’t even know what the problem is. Help them name it. Many times, naming it is enough to make them recognize what they need so they can ask for it.

Next, try asking questions to help them figure out a solution. Does the way they are talking sound kind? Is there another way they could be talking? Is there something they need or want? Do they need help with something? Have they tried asking for it?

I often find myself saying to our kids, “Lets start with asking for it”.  And parents, I think we need to be generous here – when you can say yes, SAY YES.

While it isn’t fool-proof, most whining can be rephrased as a polite question.

Turn that whine into a polite question explaining what you need or want to do? I’d like to help you. Lets talk about it.

Suddenly whining for food becomes – I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?

Whining to go outside becomes – I really want to go outside. Can we?

Bored and whining becomes – I can’t find anything to do. Can you play with me?

Before going any further, I think we need to step back as parents and determine if we contributed to their whining. Yes, you read that right. Parenting is a big job. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m so busy or distracted that I neglect to make our children feel heard. No wonder they turn to whining! At least it provokes a response, albeit a negative one. Have they already asked you for want they want? Were you really listening to them or have you been distracted with something else? Did you ask them to wait longer than is appropriate for their age? Is there a physical need – sleep, food, water – that needs to be met? If we’ve contributed to the problem, we may need to remedy our response before we ask them to remedy theirs.

Although sometimes it would be easier to give in to the whine…remember, consistency is king. Every time we give into a whiny request, we demonstrate that whining does get them what they want. At least, it does sometimes.

Which means it’s still worth trying.

So…Do. Not. Give. In.

Start showing them that whining does not get them the result they want –  and then help them find another way.

The Wonder Of It All – All God’s Grace in One Tiny Face

john114Do you ever find yourself wrapped up in the bustling holiday schedule, and even though you keep Christ as the center of the events, you find yourself missing the feeling of WONDER? You know, the magic, the feeling of joy and mystery, and gratitude that seems to come so easily to children.

And lets be clear: I am not talking about the wonder of Santa, although I do not think Santa is a bad thing. But lets set the Santa discussion aside for another day.

I spent last Christmas, focused on Jesus, and while I certainly felt grateful that He came to save the world (to save me), I am sad to say, I didn’t feel AWE.

Why?

Because we are busy. Because I’m often guilty of being so analytical in my thinking that I lose my imagination; I read the facts and commit them to memory, but I have trouble thinking on a deeper level.

And, the story is familiar. Of course, I want scripture to be familiar…but it is never a good thing to think it doesn’t hold truths we don’t already know, just because we have read it before. It is meant to be treasured, each time, and then to be questioned, wondered at, and pondered.

So I’ve been reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, over and over, and have been trying to spend time really thinking about what is said, and what IS NOT SAID.

In the process, I have generated more questions than answers, and the questions have left me with a sense of wonder…that this story has truths that are not revealed, that I cannot understand within the limits of my human mind, and that cannot be explained by science, reasoning, or deduction. Like much in the Bible, there are details and truths in this story that God intentionally left out; mysteries left behind for us to marvel at.

So while I don’t know all the answers, I do know is that the Christmas story – the miracles, the gift of God’s son, and the great work of God that began with Jesus’ birth deserves not only to be read, but to be studied, reflected on, and to be AWED at…with wide eyes.

In order to experience the WONDER of Christmas, I have to take time to realize what there is to wonder about.

As I posted last week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about Mary, and what her experience would have been like if it happened to, gulp, ME.

But today, my thoughts are all about Jesus. Fully God. Fully man…

My thoughts were on Jesus when I saw this sign in Hobby Lobby while trying to find a craft for my son to make for his preschool teachers:

All Gods Grace in one Tiny Face sign from Hobby Lobby

I’d seen the sign before and had thought about how cute it would be in a new baby’s room. But never before had I made a connection to Jesus and how these words are more than fitting to describe His birth.

It is easy to think of Jesus as a cuddly baby and to celebrate His birthday. I’m sure He was cuddly. I’m sure he was as sweet as newborn babies are. Complete with ten tiny toes, ten tiny fingers, and baby soft skin and hair. I’m sure Mary and Joseph thought there was never a baby as cute as Him. There was certainly never a baby as miraculous as Him, but we know Jesus was ordinary. By looks, I’m sure he blended in with the crowd – it was His actions and character that set Him apart.

The meaning of Christmas is more than just the miracle of His conception by the Holy Spirit and birth to a virgin.

God did not have to send Jesus. And Jesus did not have to abide by the Father’s will. God does not have to love us. And furthermore, God could have kept his plan limited to His chosen people, Israel. He didn’t have to blow the doors off their hinges and open the way for the rest of us to come to know Him and be saved.

The truth is, He doesn’t have to do anything. Which means…He chooses to love, to redeem, to save. Perfectly.

I have no reason to offer God that can make Him want to include me, to save me, to love me. In reality, I should be unlovable by God – sinful, ungrateful, selfish…I could go on…In God’s holy presence, I deserve judgement and wrath. He is far too holy to tolerate even ONE of my many, many sins. I deserve Hell; we all do.

And yet, on that day, God became flesh – Emmanuel. God With Us. Why God would desire to be WITH us…I cannot answer. But when He came to earth as a baby, He not only dwelled here, but He paved the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell WITHIN us.

In us. A gift we don’t deserve. No words can express how priceless this gift is.

Jesus was fully God. Can you fathom what this means? Was He actively restraining His power at all times while on earth? Did He, as a tiny baby, have to allow Mary to take care of Him? He certainly had the power to meet His own needs. And yet, allowing others to raise Him, care for Him…Was that a part of how He humbled Himself to experience our life? Did He do it to show how only He could remain sinless as He experienced our physical and daily challenges and temptations?

I don’t think we’ll know these things on earth, but I can’t wait to ask Him in heaven.

When all will be revealed.

Our God is certainly powerful, but He also has the utmost self-control – The RESTRAINT required to live 30 years without showing His power…Oh my. It’s unfathomable.

He makes no mistakes. He committed no sins.

Not. A. One.

He MEANT to come, to carry out this amazing plan, to fulfill every single prophecy, to serve us and love us in this way. He was all-powerful, all-knowing, and able to do anything. But He lived a quiet life before His ministry began. His life’s sole focus was on fulfilling an eternal purpose. To save us. Us.

He chose no worldly glory – He didn’t come to reign as King and to rule over all, even though He is the ultimate King, of ALL Kings. Ruling here could have been His rightful place. But His plan was eternal. More perfect than we can understand; and a plan we could NEVER come up with. He aimed to save as many as possible. A plan to end ALL plans.

Certainly we cannot know the truth of all of these mysteries…but I believe HE KNEW all of this the whole time He was on earth. It doesn’t explicitly say in the Bible if as an infant Jesus was pondering these things, but since He was fully God, I believe He did.

I believe that when Jesus came as a baby, He knew how and when His life would end.

Can you imagine the self control, love, and faithfulness of living each day for 33 years, knowing the exact time and circumstances of your death? He knew He would be ridiculed, punished, beaten, spit on, and hated by those He loved and came to save. The sins of those who brutally crucified Him, He bore on the cross. He looked in their eyes, knew their names, and heard and felt their scorn.

Do you wonder how love could be so big? So deep? So motivating to God that He would do all this? Do you wonder how an all-powerful God could be so humble as to enter His own creation? To feel pain, physical exhaustion, and all of our frailty? And to be unrecognized, and to be rejected, all while not striking down those who certainly deserved it?

Only a God who IS love…

Jesus entered a world of sin. Full of sin. As THE Holy God. Every person who had ever lived before, and has lived since deserves His WRATH. Yet He held it back, even when surrounded by sinful men, women, and children.

Surely, the sin in the fallen world He entered repulsed Him. But despite His ultimate authority, He showed mercy. He demonstrated attributes that we struggle and fail to emulate…Unconditional love. Peace. Compassion. Comfort. Service. Sacrifice. Gentleness. Goodness. Kindness. Patience. Grace…

And oh, do we need His grace…But we don’t deserve it, and can’t earn it.

When I think of these things…when I WONDER about these things…

It gives a new perspective on Christmas. It brings depth, peace, joy and gratitude at a new level. Here I stand today, washed white as snow by the blood of Jesus, all because Jesus came as a baby…grew up…and died for me.

I find myself finishing this post, words blurred by tears of joy (If you know me, you know that tears do not flow freely for me very often – it holds significance here). They are welcome tears to someone who often sees the facts but often misses the heart of scripture.

I find my thoughts wrapped up in the mystery…in awe…in gratitude…at the wonder of it all.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (ESV, emphasis added)

Merry Christmas.