Hearts Made For Baseball and the Gospel

Some families spend their summer vacations traveling to national parks. Mine visited national ballparks.

Many of my best childhood memories took place at these parks—singing the seventh inning stretch with Harry Caray at Wrigley Field, cheering for the sausages at Miller Park, watching the Red Sox score twenty-two runs at Fenway, and celebrating Cal Ripken Jr’s birthday while chewing on Double Bubble at Camden Yards.

There’s something about a major league baseball game that makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. The ballpark is a magical place where old and young, rich and poor, fathers and daughters all gather for one common purpose: to enjoy America’s favorite pastime together.

At each baseball game, you form a sort of family with the other 20,000 fans in the stands. When the lights go out and your new family members return to their respective lives, your heart aches just a little. Even grown men have been known to shed a tear or two at the end of the season. But there’s always the promise of next year (just ask our beloved Chicago Cubs).

Why do we love baseball so much?

It could be because our hearts are made for it…or at least something like it.

Something that brings together people of all colors and cultures and puts them on a level playing field…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 ESV).

Something that gives us reason to stand up and cheer…

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV).

Something that makes us want to share hot dogs and peanuts and Cracker Jack with the guy sitting next to us in the stands…

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-27 ESV).

And something that gives us great hope…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The same hearts that soar after the game-winning run are the hearts that were made to praise and glorify God forever.

And because of the good news of Jesus Christ…they can.

When All You Want to Do is Strike

Do you ever feel like you just want to strike?

Maybe you’ve fantasized about walking out the door for a day, leaving the dishes, diapers, and dinner for Daddy?

You’re not alone.

On March 8, the Women’s March movement is encouraging women to walk out on “paid and unpaid labor” as part of their A Day Without a Woman strike.

Today, I’m beyond thrilled (and incredibly humbled!) to be a guest contributor at Desiring God discussing the very first “Day Without a Woman” and six ways the Church can stand with women.

But what about you–the weary, sleep-deprived, overworked mama?

Maybe a strike sounds good to you right about now. How then should you respond when all you want to do is strike?

How NOT to Respond

Before we discuss how we should respond to the temptation to strike, let’s first take a moment to talk about how we should not respond.

Being a wife and mother is hard work.

It’s beautiful work, it’s rewarding work, but have no doubt, it is hard work.

As Christian women, it’s tempting to grin and bear it. To show the world how #blessed we are to clean the permanent marker off the dining room walls, when all we really want to do is scream.

But God doesn’t call us to false humility, friends. And he most definitely does not call us to pretend to have it all together. He’s all about #keepinitreal.

How should we not respond to the temptation to strike?

By not responding.

God doesn’t want us to act like we have it all together, and he also doesn’t want us to suffer in silence. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The God Who Sees

A strike can be tempting when you feel like your efforts are under-appreciated and largely unseen.

You’re doing important work, and you want to feel important.

But sister, I implore you not to go down that road.

As followers of Christ, our motivation shouldn’t be to earn the recognition of men–whether that’s from our husbands, our children, or anyone else.

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

God sees every diaper you change, every meal you make, every runny nose you wipe, and he is pleased.

Consider the Proverbs 31 woman. God sees her late nights, her early mornings, and her hard work. He recognizes all that she does for her family and for him, and he calls for her to be praised in the gates (Proverbs 31:10-31).

God sees what you do as well, mama. And you know what else? He sees you! Your thoughts, your pain, your desires–he sees all of it (Psalm 139:1-3). And he wants to help.

Three God-Honoring Responses

If we shouldn’t keep silent and we shouldn’t strike, then what should our response be?

Here are what I believe to be three God-honoring responses when all you want to do is strike.

1) Pray.

The Bible says that the “eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those who heart is completely His”(2 Chronicles 16:9).

God wants to support you. He wants to strengthen you. All you need to do is make your requests known to him and ask for his help (Philippians 4:6)!

2) Preach the Gospel to yourself.

When you feel like walking out and giving up, take a deep breath and preach the gospel to yourself.

What does that mean exactly?

First, think about all that Christ has done for you.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Then, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of these gospel truths and help you apply them to the situation at hand.

Maybe you’re feeling like you just don’t have any more love to give. Preaching the gospel to yourself might look like this…

“I don’t have to love in my own strength. I am able to love because Jesus first loved me.” (1 John 4:19)

Or maybe you’re feeling weak. Here’s how you might preach the gospel to yourself…

“I don’t have to be strong. God is strong for me. His grace is sufficient for me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Or maybe you’re hurt and angry. Give this a try…

“I can forgive because Christ forgave me. I can find joy because my greatest need has been met. I am at peace with God.” (Ephesians 4:32, Romans 5:1)

It’s hard to walk out on the job when you’re thinking upon the sacrifice Christ made for you.

3) Ask for help.

If you are consistently being treated poorly by your husband or family, it’s time to talk.

God’s word says that you are to be honored and loved (Ephesians 5:25Ephesians 6:2).

You are not a doormat.

Instead of striking to make your point, though, ask your husband or family to sit down and have a conversation. Share with them how you feel, and humbly ask for help.

You might want to take this time to list every grievance, but try to focus in on one or two things your husband and/or kids can work on.

Do you need more help around the house?

Ask your family to do the laundry or to take over dinner one night a week.

Do you feel like you need some time away?

Tell your husband how you feel and figure out a way for you to get a much-needed break.

Do you feel unappreciated?

Share your feelings with your family and tell them how much a simple “thank you” means to you.

Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. If there is sin that needs to be addressed, address it (Matthew 18:15). And if you need help, ask for it. Allow your family to be a means of grace in your life.

An important note: If you are experiencing abuse, please seek help. Talk to your pastor, local law enforcement agency, and/or trusted friend. God does not want you to stay in an abusive situation.

Don’t Walk Away

Let’s face it. There are going to be days you just wanna go on strike.

Resist the urge, mama. 

Two thousand years ago, a young carpenter also wanted to walk away from the bitter cup he had been given. “Nevertheless,” he prayed, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

He laid down his rights–his life!–for you and me, so that we might experience God’s amazing love in salvation.

When you feel like walking off the job, remember that amazing love.  Your savior sees you, he loves you, and he wants to help.


How to Fool the World with Just Three Photos

We started “school” this week at the Stanley household, and I decided to document the occasion with three photos.

Honestly, I didn’t think twice about posting them. I had worked hard to put together activities for our “A is for Apple” week, and I wanted to capture snapshots of my kids learning and enjoying God’s creation.

But then a friend looked at me with weary eyes and a feeble smile and said, “I loved all your apple pictures. You are Super Mom!”

And my heart sank.

I was “that mom” this week.

You know, the “together” mom who makes the floundering mom feel like a failure.

Only in reality, I’m a far cry from together.

If only she could see behind the snapshots, I thought. Then she’d know the truth.

The Truth Behind the Photos

Photo 1

apple 1

I had to hand draw all our worksheets because we have no cyan printer ink. Why not print in black and white, you ask? Because the stupid printer won’t let you print at all if one color is low, that’s why.

My three-year old refuses to be taught how to hold his pencil, and I lose my patience, resulting in three timeouts before we even begin our lesson and me having to ask for forgiveness.

Just as the older child simmers, my two-year old goes BERSERK over do-a-dot Paints. There are six colors to choose from and he always wants whatever color his big brother happens to be using. Obviously.

That night, I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy making an Instagram collage of our activities to be “fully present” with my kids.

Photo 2

We are picking pretend apples because after packing all three kids into the car to go to Bible study, the car wouldn’t start.

While we were picking pretend apples, oatmeal was burning on the stove inside. I forgot to turn the burner off.

My child isn’t wearing any sunscreen. And yes, he still uses a pacifier at two years old. Mother of the Year Award.

I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy trying to get the perfect pretend apple picking picture to be fully present with my kids…and I almost burned the house down.

Photo 3

I spent hours stressing over this bin. Seriously, what the heck is a sensory bin and why does my kid need one in order to have a full educational experience?

It’s been five days since this picture was taken, and I still haven’t swept up the excess oatmeal.

I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy trying to get the right angle for this photo to be fully present with my kids. And because I hate Pinterest and all those stupid moms for making me feel like I’m a terrible mom. And I hate myself for making other moms feel like they’re terrible moms.

#NOFILTER

These photos are just snapshots, friends. Snapshots taken by a flawed mama just trying to capture a moment in time where she’s not yelling at her kids or pulling her hair out or cleaning the umpteenth mess.

She’s not a super mom. In fact, she is in great need of a hero.

She needs someone who will save her from the trap of comparison, someone who will remind her of her inherent value, someone who will give her strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

She needs Jesus.

Because God isn’t impressed with sensory bins. And he’s not disappointed in her disaster of a house or lack of presence.

He made her just the way she is–a disorganized dreamer–and he deemed her wonderfully made.

What’s more, because she has put her trust in Jesus as her savior, God no longer sees her sin when he looks at her. Instead, he sees his precious daughter, bought and paid for by His Son’s death on the cross and clothed in robes of righteousness.

She can do nothing to lose his love and nothing to earn it.

And if there’s one snapshot she wants you to see, it’s the one of Him holding her firm in His hands.

No filter needed.

To My (Biggest) Bundle of Joy

Sweet Baby Michael,

As we welcome you into this world today, our hearts are filled with joy.

From the moment we laid eyes on that sweet round face of yours, we were in love. And that red hair sure is a cherry on top!

We are savoring each moment with you here in the hospital. I’m pretty sure you’ve been held more than your two big brothers combined…not out of necessity, but because we know just how fleeting these precious newborn moments are, and we want to soak them up with you.

Your life has already been such a gift to us, Michael. God has used it to bring about much healing and growth within us over the past nine months. We are now slower to fear and quicker to give thanks. We trust less in our own skills and capabilities and depend more fully on God’s grace. We dwell less on our day-to-day trials and inconveniences and more on the eternal hope we have in Christ.

You are an incredible reminder of God’s goodness and covenant love towards us, son. And we hope that your name, Michael Jeffrey, will serve as a similar reminder to you of God’s unchanging and unfailing character.

Your first name, Michael, means “Who is like God?”

The answer to that question is quite simple.

In Psalm 86, David writes, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.”

Michael, we pray that you will come to embrace this great truth…that you will look to God alone for your own hope and salvation and that you will one day stand in awe of Him and all His works.

Your middle name, Jeffrey, is a tribute to the man God used to lead your daddy to Christ, your Uncle Jeff.

Uncle Jeff is a good brother, a faithful servant, and a godly man, and we pray that these same words would be used to describe you as you grow older.

Michael Jeffrey, you are loved beyond measure. We are honored to be your parents and are so excited to see what God has in store for you.

On this day, the day of your birth, we pray that you might one day be born again to a living hope in Christ Jesus and that you would love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

All my Love,

Your Mama

 

 
 
 

A Letter to our Baby Born into Heaven

I have traditionally written a letter to each of my children on the day of their birth.  I wrote this letter the day I found out that our third child had been born into Heaven.

To our dear baby born into Heaven,

Today, our hearts ache because we learned we will never hold you in our arms…

But we know that God is holding you in the palm of his hand.

Today, we are filled with sorrow because you only lived four short days in our hearts…

But we trust that God numbered your days according to his good will.

Today, we grieve the years we will not have with you on this earth…

But we rejoice in an eternity together with Jesus.

Today, we have no name to give you…

But we believe that the same God who knew you before you were in my womb already knows your name.

Today, we mourn over you, our lost child…

But we do not lose hope.

“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” – Psalm 71:5-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

We love you, little one.

Until we meet in glory,

Mama

Mary’s Lamb

Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow,
And while she hoped that he’d stay small,
The lamb was sure to grow.

He’d grow to heal the lame and sick.
He’d make the blind man see.
He’d bring the dead to life again
And calm the stormy sea.

He’d grow to touch the leper’s spots.
He’d feed the hungry soul.
He’d talk and eat with sinners.
The broken he’d make whole.

But then one day they’d call him “King”
Which was against the rule.
The leaders in a jealous rage
Planned a plot so cruel.

A kiss from one he knew and loved
Betrayed him in the night.
The little lamb whom Mary raised
Did not put up a fight.

The crowd yelled, “Crucify him!”
Though, before, they’d sung his praise.
“Kill him! Crucify!” they screamed
In a riotous-like craze.

They sheared him down to nothing,
Whipped him til he bled.
With a cross upon his back he walked,
A lamb to slaughter led.

Mary watched her little lamb
Mocked in public shame.
He hung there naked on a tree,
Bearing all their blame.

Mary’s little lamb had come
To do the Father’s will.
“Oh, Why have you forsaken me?”
He asked on Calvary’s hill.

Then all at once the sky grew dark.
“It’s finished” was his cry.
This little lamb that Mary had,
Was born that he would die,

And she might live!

For by his blood, he saved her soul;
His death had paid the price.
Yes, all her sins on him were laid,
The perfect sacrifice.”Mary had a little lamb,”
The children sing with glee.
They ask, “Why did she love him so?”
“Because he first loved me.”With angel chorus, she now sings,
“Worthy the Lamb once slain!
Glory and honor to my King!
Forever, he will reign!”

Allow me to introduce my (true) self…

Welcome!

Today, I’m thrilled to be making my guest blogger debut over at Incredible Infant. I still can’t believe God is allowing me to share my story in such a unique way. It’s truly humbling, and I’m excited to see how he uses it.

If you’re visiting from Incredible Infant, welcome!

To celebrate new beginnings, I’ve decided to do my first giveaway here at Daughter Redeemed. My friend Christi recently launched her Etsy shop, Doorpost Truth, where she is selling beautiful scripture-inspired digital prints. I’ll be giving away one of her prints to a dear reader this week.

One of my favorites!

If you’d like one of these lovely pieces of art for your home, leave a comment answering one of the questions at the end of this post before midnight on Sunday, March 22nd. The winner will be announced on Monday, March 23rd.

I love me a good giveaway. Don’t you?

Identity Crisis

Here’s where I’d normally introduce myself, touting my background and sharing cute family photos and anecdotes, but to be honest, I’ve found myself in a bit of an identity crisis as of late.

I used to feel pretty. Perfectly styled hair and makeup, high heels and pearls. Don’t laugh….I even won a few beauty pageants back in the day.

Sixty pounds of pregnancy weight and a gazillion stretch marks later, I have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror, let alone in photos, and I’ve been stripped of my tiara.

I used to have influence. I had the ear of wealthy businessmen and politicians. People listened when I spoke.

Now, I speak baby talk, and I get giddy talking to the grocery store cashier because it’s the only adult interaction I’ve had all day.

I used to be good at most everything I did. Everything I touched seemed to turn to gold.

Now, I feel like I’m constantly failing. Failing to breastfeed. Failing to calm my screaming toddler in the middle of a restaurant. Failing to load the dishwasher for three days straight.

The Truth

The truth is, I’m…

A singer who sometimes sings off-pitch.

An introvert with hermit tendencies.

A homemaker with a sink full of dirty dishes.

A wife and mama with a lot to learn.

A writer who doesn’t always have the right words.

But not one of those things define me. Not one.

You see, I’m (slowly) realizing that my identity isn’t based on my influence, success, or looks. It’s not based on my talents, personality, or quirks.

My identity is completely 100% based on who I am in Christ.

In Christ

And who am I in Christ, you ask?

In Christ…

I am called. (Romans 8:30)

I belong. (Romans 1:6)

I am loved by God. (Romans 5:8)

I have been justified by faith. (Romans 3:28)

I have been redeemed by his blood. (Galatians 3:13)

I am at peace with God. (Ephesians 1:2)

I have been saved from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)

I am reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18)

I am dead to sin. (Romans 6:11)

I am alive to God. (Romans 6:11)

I am under grace. (Romans 6:14)

I am free. (Galatians 5:1)

I am a child of God. (1 John 5:1)

I am an heir with Christ. (Galatians 4:7)

I am without shame or condemnation. (Romans 8:1)

I am a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1)

I am welcome. (2 Peter 1:11)

I am being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)

I am righteous. (1 John 2:29)

I am being sustained to the end. (Isaiah 46:4)

I am a member of the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

I am victorious over death. (Revelation 2:11)

I am forgiven. (1 John 2:12)

I am being transformed into Christ’s image. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

I am afflicted in every way, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

I am persecuted, but not forsaken. (2 Corinthians 4:9)

I am struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:9)

I am being prepared for an eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

I am being renewed daily. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I am strong when I am weak. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16)

I am blameless. (1 Thessalonians 3:13)

I am blessed with every spiritual blessing. (Ephesians 1:3)

I am united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:10)

I have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13)

I have been seated with him in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:6)

I have access to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)

I have been delivered from the domain of darkness into marvelous light. (Colossians 1:13)

I have been  sprinkled clean. (Hebrews 10:22)

I am equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17)

I have been born again to a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)

My true identity?

I am a daughter redeemed. (Ruth 4:14)

And if you are in Christ, so are you!

But enough about me…

I’d love to hear about you!

If you’re new here, would you take a moment to tell me about yourself?

And if you’re an old friend…have you ever struggled with an identity crisis? Which “In Christ” truth encourages you most today?

 

Little Life Now Lived Largely

Little toes never tickled,
Little hands never held,
Little cheeks never stroked,
Little voice that was quelled.

Little nose never wiped,
Little lips never kissed,
Little eyes never opened,
Little life sorely missed.

But now you live largely,
Little child of the King,
Of his grace and his mercy,
Your little voice sings.

Your little eyes filled
With his glorious light.
In you, little one,
Your Father delights.

Little feet pitter patter
On streets of pure gold.
Little life now secure
In the father’s strong hold.

Caring for Friends in the Valley

For the past six months, we have been walking through the valley. It seems as though just as we start to catch our breath from one trial, another one knocks the wind out of us. It’s been a season of surgeries, sickness and survival for our family. Thankfully, we have a great God who has surrounded us with selfless, caring people.

Before this season, I had a limited view of what caring for others looked like. I honestly had never thought beyond meal ministry and notes of encouragement before, and while both are fantastic ways to care for others, I’ve learned that there are so many other ways to bless those who are walking through the valley.

So here’s a list of ways in which others have blessed and encouraged us through this season. It’s not exhaustive, but hopefully it will spur you on to help a sister who is walking through her own valley.

1.  Bring her a cup of coffee (or a large Diet Coke in my case).

2.  Take out the trash.

3.  Mow the lawn.

4.  Deliver a meal. A homemade meal, take-out, or leftovers all count!

5.  Take one of her kids to the park.

6.  Give her the gospel. Remind her how Jesus endured pain and suffering, even death on a cross, so that she might live.

7.  Make her feel safe. Encourage her not to worry about her lack of make-up, her messy house, or the fact that Mickey Mouse is currently serving as a surrogate parent. Be trustworthy and don’t tell others about her current state of affairs (especially under the guise of a “prayer request”).

8.  Be a sous chef.  When I was pregnant the second time around, I couldn’t cook poultry for the life of me. One of the best gifts I received from a sweet friend was two pounds of chicken, cooked and shredded for meals.

9.  Send a handwritten note. Who doesn’t love getting mail?

10.  Go grocery shopping.

11.  Clean. This was a humbling experience for me, but I am thankful for family and friends who forced me to sit and rest as they vacuumed, swept, and washed dishes.

12. Extend much grace. The valley is a foggy place where birthdays may be forgotten and family gatherings may be missed. Don’t take it personally.

13.  Accommodate. For years, our group of friends has gathered for a “Christmas Eve Eve” adults-only dinner party. This year, they encouraged us to bring our three-month old who has been struggling to eat and can’t be left with a babysitter for too long. He enjoyed the extra attention, and we enjoyed a night out with friends.

14. Give her the gospel again. Remind her that nothing can separate her from the love of Christ.

15.  Pray then and there. It’s great to hear that someone is praying to you. It’s especially encouraging when someone takes your hand and prays right then and there for you.

16.  Go beyond dinner. Bagels, muffins, cut fresh fruit and veggies were great to have around when recovering from our surgeries.

17.  Offer your pre-teen/teen daughter as a mama’s helper. How blessed I was to have young girls play with my toddler, vacuum my living room, and rock my baby! And their moms loved using it as an opportunity to teach their children how to selflessly serve others.

18.  Be “on-call.” If you have a flexible schedule, offer to be the backup when other help falls through. When I had to rely on others to lift our toddler in and out of his crib for two weeks because my husband and I had lifting restrictions after surgeries, there was one stay-at-home mom who came to our rescue several times when we were in a pinch.

19.  Send an encouraging text or Facebook message.

20.  Share scripture. There have been many days when I’ve survived in the verses sent to me by friends.

21.  Sit at the hospital with her as she waits for results or procedures.

22.  Offer to set up a meal or task sign-up. One of my friends who is gifted in organization and administration did this for me, and it was a huge help.

23.  Sit with the kids so she can shower or take a nap.

24.  Complete a special task. I’ve had friends and family offer to shine my stainless steel appliances, wrap Christmas presents, vacuum our car, and organize the nursery closets, among others.

25.  Keep giving her the gospel! It’s easy to forget about eternity when you’re dealing with the daily yuck. Remind her of the great hope we have in Christ Jesus!

Any other ideas?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

‘Twas the Night…Re-Write!

I had the privilege of writing this short work for our church’s annual Christmas women’s brunch dramatic presentation.  I hope it ministers to you in some small way.

‘Twas the night before Christmas…
You remember the rhyme
The classic old poem
That’s told ‘round this time.
A quaint little story,
All merry and bright,
Of reindeer and sugar plums
A magical night.
It sounds nice in theory,
But gals, let’s be real.
For many, the holidays
are less than ideal.
A reminder of love
lost, broken, not found,
A season of stress,
When to-do lists abound.
So let’s look at a few

Christmas Eves in real life,
At four different women
Each with her own strife.

The widow, the mothers,
Busy and tired,
And the wife who went looking
For the love she desired.

A new spin on the classic old poem
‘Twas the night,
With a little more grit,
A real life re-write.

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through her house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.
Her husband had passed,

Her children were grown.
‘Twas her first Christmas Eve
All on her own.

No one beside her
This cold winter’s night
No one beside her
Whose hand to hold tight.

No singing or laughter,
No kisses or hugs,
No cookies for Santa,
No cocoa in mugs.

She was feeling alone,
And her future seemed bleak.
There, in the quiet,
Tears rolled down her cheek.

Her whole life had changed
In the blink of an eye.
Things that once brought her joy,
Now made her cry.

As she flipped through an album
Of memories so dear,
She wondered if she could
Skip Christmas this year.

The next woman’s house
Wasn’t nearly as quiet.
Compared to the widow’s,
Her home was a riot!
The stockings were hung
By her chimney with care,
Eight gifts for each one—
she had to be fair!
The napkins were folded

To resemble reindeer
But they looked more like dogs.
She’d use Pinterest next year.

The toilets were scrubbed,
The mirrors were streak free,
Plenty of hand towels
And extra TP!

Cherry pie in the oven
With pumpkin on deck,
Gluten-free for Molly,
Check, check and check!

What once was an evening
Of family and fun,
Was now a to-do list
Of things to get done.

In the pressure to be
The best Mrs. Clause,
She had missed the true meaning
She’d forgotten to pause.

Running around like a chick
with no head,
Christmas Eve had become
a checklist instead.

The third woman’s house
Was chock full of strife
The tension? Well, it could
Be cut with a knife.

Her children were tucked
away in their beds,
With visions of happier times
in their heads.

Upstairs their parents
Were in the midst of a fight.
It had lasted for weeks,
no forgiveness in sight.

He had grown distant,
And just wanted to be
Left alone with his beer,
his remote and TV.

She felt unloved,
Nothing more than his cook
And confided all this
To a friend on Facebook.

What started as chat
Took a turn for the worst,
And now she was wishing
She had thought this through first.

She stopped it before
It became too much more,
But when her husband found out,
He was rocked to his core.

Oh, how she wished she could
Relive her past;
Instead, this Christmas Eve
Could well be their last.

The last woman we find
in a zombie-like state,
A mother of babies,
Some of you may relate.
From her monitor app,
There arose such a clatter,
So she shuffled down the hall
To see what was the matter.
She went to the nursery
And turned on the light.
This was the fourth time she’d
Been up that night.
Her newborn was hungry,

Needing to be fed,
And her toddler was cutting
Those molars moms dread.

She was exhausted.
She’d had no sleep for days,
Determined, she fought
Through the fog-like “mom haze.”

It’d been days since she showered
Or combed her snarled hair,
But once more she sat
In that old rocking chair,

Rocking her babies
with bags under her eyes,
Doing her best
To tend to their cries.

Oh, how would she ever
Survive Christmas Day?
Desperate, she bowed
And started to pray.

When what to her tired,
weary heart should appear?
But God saying,
“Dear One, Immanuel is here!”

“For just as you sit here,
Rocking your child,
Mary, too, held her baby,
Completely beguiled

By her savior,
The one who was sent to deliver
Her people from death,
The eternal life giver.

And one day he’d die
So that you would be blessed
With more than just sleep,
For in him, you find rest

And the strength to respond
To that late midnight cry
Because you’re never alone, child,
Your savior is nigh.

No, your hair isn’t washed,
And there’s gook on your shirt,
But he’s cleansed you from sin,
On your heart, there’s no dirt.

You’ve been clothed in fine robes
Of righteousness, pure.
And you’re safe in the arms
Of your savior, secure.”

The wife who had sinned
Could not fall asleep.
By her guilt overcome,
She started to weep,
So she turned on her lamp
And started to read.
On Luke chapter two,
Her soul started to feed.
“While there, the time came
for her to give birth,
And of all of the places
O’er all of the earth,
He was laid in a manger

No room in the inn.”
What a way for his life
In this world to begin!

Humbly, he came
to this earth so that she
from the bondage of sin
and death could be free.

Repentant, she sought his
Merciful face.
In Him was redemption
Forgiveness, and grace.

Yes, He tore the curtain
He tore it in half!
Now he stands at the throne
On her behalf!
She still didn’t know
If her marriage would last
But she had hope in the Lord,
So she’d keep holding fast.
Waiting for cherry
And pumpkin to bake,
The busy mom sat
And took a quick break.
She pulled out her iPad
And scrolled through her feed,
When a post caught her eye
And she started to read.
It spoke about Jesus,
The great Prince of Peace,
How his peace would not end,
Nor his reign ever cease.
Amidst all the chaos,
She’d sadly forgotten
That the reason for Christmas
Was God’s son begotten,
Who was sent to bring peace
Through what he would do
On the cross,
And this peace was eternal and true.
No longer at war
With God, holy and just,
She belonged to the Prince,
In Him did she trust,
Not just for a break
From the tasks of the day,
But for real peace with God,
His wrath now at bay.

 

And finally back
To the widow alone,
Who noticed a voicemail
Pop up on her phone.
“Hi mom,” it began,
“I wish I was there
To share in this night,
But instead here’s my prayer,
‘You once sang a song
Of a mother and child,
A sweet holy infant
So tender and mild.
You sang of Christ Jesus
Our Savior and King,
‘Immanuel’s here!’
Together we’d sing.
You and dad raised us

To love our dear Lord.
In our home, He was cherished,
Praised and adored.

He lost loved ones and friends,
By his own, he was scorned,
And, he too, knew the pain
That comes with death mourned.

But He died so that you, mom,
Would n’er be alone,
Not a day will go by
When you’ll be on your own.

So tonight, mom, I pray
You’ll remember his face,
Familiar and faithful
And beaming with grace.’”

What about you?
Are you dreading this night?
Oh, friends, there IS hope,
Both merry and bright!

Christ gives rest for the weary,
And for those stretched too thin,
There’s peace, and there’s grace
For those heavy with sin.

The downcast He comforts,
In Him, there’s new life
For the widow, the mother,
The daughter, the wife!

His eyes—how they twinkle
with goodness and glory,
And the scars on his hands and his feet
Tell a story

Of his infinite love
for you and for me,
Far better than presents
Under the tree.

In the classic, St. Nick
Wishes all a good night,
But today, let’s praise Christ,
Our hope, born on that night!

© 2014 Chelsea K. Stanley