A Different Kind of Mother

 

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I’m pretty quiet about my birth mother in life and on FB, unless the subject comes up.

When I see someone post something mushy and in the way of tribute for motherhood, I will usually leave a message saying, “I’m so glad you had a wonderful mother.”  I’m tired of just passing them by, and it’s the honest truth.  I want every kid to have a nurturing parent who guides them in ways that give them the freedom to live out their passions.

The thing is, my mother was someone who was never diagnosed as mentally ill because she never had a problem with her Borderline Personality Disorder.  With her 8 marriages (married 2 guys twice), messy life decisions, and inability to manage most of her financial dealings, my siblings and I all ended up suffering from PTSD from dealing with her and her machinations.  It’s clear that she was narcissistic and didn’t perceive our hurts or fears as anything significant.  It was always about her and her dramas.  This meant we basically went without nurture during our neediest times in life.  It’s really hard to celebrate what you wished for but never got with any kind of consistency.

She was a charming woman with winsome traits when she wanted something from you, or even if she just wanted to be liked.  She took pretty good care of her appearance, and honestly tried to be some kind of good cheerleader in her later years, when BPD tends to be less intense for post-menopausal women.  I was a bit surprised by how lessened her behavior traits were until I read an article that said that the lowering of hormones did that.

It didn’t banish or cure her mental illness though, it just made it trickier to know when you were dealing with her or her illness.  Before, you always knew to just deal with the illness because the person behaving outside the traits didn’t last very long. With the new situation, where there was an equal time exhibition, you just tended to get hurt more often by not knowing when the shift happened.

So when my mother died in 2013, it was with a nearly audible sigh of relief that her children mourned her passing.  She died in a peaceful way in spite of her more cruel diseases.  But for the very first time, we didn’t have to brace for her erratic behaviors, her weird letters, beseeching phone calls, or her manipulative conversations to do what she wanted done in the way she wanted it done.  There would no longer be her odd comments that made you doubt something you were sure of before she spoke.

There would also be no more insightful comments on different family members who caught her attention, or jokes about things that needed to be seen in humorous ways, for she was intelligent and had a lively sense of humor.  There would also be no more thoughtful comments during her times of sanity that would bring me to a delayed epiphany.  There would be no more times for me to find another waterfall picture for her computer wallpaper, or comfortable hours where she relived her childhood for me, and introduced me to the people she saw as significant in her life.  Family folks would become more than names in a family tree carefully charted, but more like people with flesh and blood and dreams and fears  – and yes, even heartbreaks.

I lost many good things the day my mother died, and that still has some painful thorns on occasion.  But more than that, I lost a slippery slope of conflict and despair, and that’s where the relief comes in.

We honored her with a Memorial Service in her church – the very first they’d ever had. Most folks choose to use a Funeral Home.  Ma had her final arrangements made at the funeral home ahead of time, with a life insurance policy that paid for almost everything.  There was another life insurance policy to cover what the first didn’t.  So, she was thoughtful about not leaving us one more mess of hers to clean up – the good person who lived with a mental illness having reined the most at the end.  We were able to carry her urn into the church, so we didn’t have those huge fees of moving a body.  That’s how we were able to give her the kind of service I am sure she’d have been thrilled to see and be a part of.

The ladies of the church served us a lovely buffet, and we made sure they got something back for their trouble. The memory was such a time of healing for all of us who had endured our collateral damage from her mental illness. We needed that more than I can say.  We could all gather, her children, her siblings, dear close friends and others, to celebrate the things we admired about her in complete safety for once.  If we did that in her hearing while she lived, it usually would end up being used as a springboard for her next bad behaviors – so we were all very careful about what we said in her hearing.

So that’s why, when Mother’s Day comes along, I will pray for all of the mother’s I know of in my life, first.  But then I shift to pray for all of the kids – young and old – who have mother’s with mental illness who aren’t getting help for it or managing it in healthy ways.  I get it, and it’s not deserved.  Mental illness is neither the fault nor responsibility of the children.  Even if they do something plainly wrong, the reactions will frequently be from the illness and rarely from a careful response of correction.

But – we can come out of it with amazingly impressive life skills, if we get help to fix what we missed through recovery programs like Codependents Anonymous (something I resorted to as a way of managing her erratic behavior), or other therapeutic options for good self-health and healing.  Once I got a good handle on what was healthy and how to live it in my life better, it helped me to know how to celebrate the best of my mother, without being unguarded against her lesser version of life.  I knew how to deal with the worst of her behaviors, though it still wasn’t a desirable thing to endure. It was messy, and my timing could be off, but it was more manageable.

She’s healed where she is now, and that’s a very good thing for me to focus on.  I don’t want to reflect her bad stuff to my children or anyone else.  So, it helps to remember that we laid that bad stuff to rest on that lovely May day of her Memorial.

Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.  We’re all doing well, and we miss the good moments with you.  We miss the hugs (but not the rummage sale gifts – jus sayin).  So glad you’re getting the hugs you missed from your long lost beloveds, now.

Singleness Part 2

“People who have been single for too long are the hardest to love.  They have become so used to being single, independent and self-sufficient that it takes something exhqdefaulttraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.” facebook/saranaveedwriter

What I really think the author was expressing above, was frustration with their search for a mate.  Probably someone who is over 35, and looking for someone who’s interested in being their partner.  The search is not bearing much fruit, and their pool of candidates is getting more and more small and shallow.

The reality is, that there are persons over 35 who have gotten comfortable with living alone, and have decided that sexual needs aren’t enough for making accommodations for a mate.  There are few other healthy needs that remain, once you have no need for sexual expression or parenting, when it comes to relating to other persons in any intimate relationship.  There are healthy social and familial reasons, but I’m saying there are FEW reasons for anyone to enter any relationship that necessitates intimate sharing or knowledge of another person beyond the sexual ones.

It’s not uncommon for single persons +35 to have made their choices based on some bad experiences (direct or indirect), or based on honest comfort levels.  Many of these individuals have already achieved parenthood or other goals that might have required a partner’s contributions to realize.  Or, they’ve decided they don’t need direct parenthood experiences to fulfill their enjoyment of life.  They may have connections with children they’ve been actively engaged with outside of being a parent, and that’s all they need to complete their sense of value and of a future that will continue beyond their own. That means those incentives are gone for making the kinds of life adjustments that sustained intimacy requires, at that point.

Some older singles are people who have gotten socially niched, and haven’t much contact with other persons on a personal level.  They often fail to learn that respect is a process that requires sustained effort, as is mutual interest or affection.  They somehow believe that it is always spontaneous and that these experiences with others are self sustaining if they are “real”.  This is an immature understanding of social relationships, and single people can learn better, but they have to be invested in some relationships in order to learn the lessons.  People in committed relationships are almost forced to realize these truths, or they will find that the relationship becomes less and less lively and rewarding, and a distance begins to grow.  These single persons can still be wonderful family members and friends, offering valuable viewpoints and adding to the talent pool for survival; but they’ve got some distinct limits and require some distance to keep from getting enmeshed in their drama.

In spite of all of these realities, many persons over 35 still actively hope to find satisfying relationships with other persons of their age and stage.  This will be more challenging for the reasons I stated in Singleness Part 1.  It’s not impossible, though.

What I want to mention in this part, is that the happiest relationships that I have seen where the two persons began their intimacy and commitment after that age, is when they both knew each other well during their younger years. If they knew each other well in high school, had dated before they were involved in other relationships, or were otherwise very involved in their earlier years in a platonic way, there is a strong possibility for a successfully enduring and rewarding relationship with one of these persons from the past – if they are available and not in a different relationship.

It also helps if they are adaptable and willing to make changes that may seem threatening to their psyche or their definition of self.  If you’ve always described yourself in this way, doing this thing, or never doing this thing – is it really a loss of your self-identity to change?  Would you be willing to give it up if someone you loved were to suffer a life changing event (illness or injury), and not resent it?  Then, don’t make it a bargaining chip with a new beloved.  It’s just part of finding new places to join a person’s life with yours to make an “our life” together.  They will need the courage to do the same.

I don’t want to make this seem simple or easy – because it’s certainly worth it.  But only if you have found someone who enhances who you are, and says that you do the same for them – and you can believe it.

Above all – do NOT go into this kind of thing on your own whim, without support from friends and family.  They will know what’s hurting you before you do, sometimes.  Also, rely on couples counseling.  These professionals have learned what sabotages intimate relationships, and they’ll help you and yours to overcome the pitfalls that are most common, and some that may seem uncommon.  They also help you to ask the hard questions.  So – keep the outside relationships strong enough to support the effort, and give it a go if you think you’ve met that special someone!

If you are like me, and you’re really comfortable with life as a single person – don’t feel like you’re damaged goods.  We have the freedom of accepting invitations without consulting others, and when we’ve made a mistake, we don’t have to feel guilty about putting someone else in trouble with our mistakes.  Life as a single adult is enriching and wonderful – but we have to force ourselves to keep our social contacts fresh and strong in order to avoid being too self-absorbed.  But- that’s a blog for another day.

 

Singleness (Part 1)

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“People who have been single for too long are the hardest to love. They have become so used to being single, independent and self-sufficient that it takes something extraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.” facebook/saranaveedwriter

I found this statement in a graphic on Facebook. It was just a brown box with the white font. Several things bothered me about it, though I knew that part of what the author was saying was true.

The things that bothered me were: what is ‘too long’? Why are people who have been single for long times ‘hardest to love’? Why must they be convinced that ‘they need [emphasis mine] you in their life?

What I can agree with (if it was their intent to communicate this idea) is that persons who are over 35 who have never been in an intimate relationship, and have lived alone for 10 years or more, tend to be less flexible about incorporating other persons into their everyday lives and intimate places.

If these single persons meet someone new, it’s extremely challenging for the long time single person to accommodate the invasions and disruptions a new resident will bring into their daily life activities in every intimate way: physical, emotional, financial and even with dream shaping. The comfort zones are too well set, and often there are histories of losses to overcome that bring a sense of threat to the compromises that may be required.

Those things I can agree with.

What I can’t agree with is that the single person who has been alone “too long” is “hardest to love”. If that person has healthy relationships with family members and close friends, they are abundantly lovable and have avenues of sharing affection and love toward those other relationships. They are very well socialized and engaged with the ones they love and with those who love them. They will have been well invested in their beloveds, and will have done extraordinary things to help their beloveds succeed when those beloveds struggled. They’ve similarly had to ask for and receive extraordinary things from their beloveds in order to overcome adverse times. This is part of what every human incorporates in their lifestyles to thrive and live well: a support system. I just don’t think that these folks are “the hardest persons to love” in anyone’s life, just because they are single, self-sufficient and independent.

I also don’t think that because someone hasn’t found a reason to become intimately involved with anyone else, that they ‘need’ to have something extraordinarily convincing that they are ignoring a “need” that only another person can fill.

While I know that not every person who is single is in a healthy state, neither is every person in a relationship in a healthy state. Relationships don’t necessarily bring us to health, though they can always enhance our health and help it to flourish. We’re social creatures, after all. The thing is: we have to realize that we are responsible for nurturing ourselves – even if we’re in a relationship! Only I know what my needs are, and I have to first acknowledge them to myself, and then communicate them to others who can help me find the things that will relieve my needs. The very same is true of you, and every other person alive. We are self-aware, but we don’t have telepathy, and neither does anyone else.  We need everyone else to reveal themselves to us, and teach us who they are, and how we can bless them best.  We need to do the same for them.

If someone begins a relationship with another primarily because they need them, that relationship is already on shaky ground.

I wholly agree that we have sexual needs, and even dreams that require a partner in life to see them come true. Having a caring and devoted team member to help us enjoy sexual affection while achieving common goals – like growing a family – is a huge reward in life that changes your world view like nothing else can. Even if there will be no children, the immediacy of having someone to talk to when ideas bear fruit, or when we’re being crushed by our losses is like nothing else in the world, when the relationship is benevolent, respectful and interest is strong in each other’s individuality.

However, if you are trying to join up with someone because you are driven to obtain certain life goals more than focusing on the right blend of the partnership, then you’ve only tried to force a union to a timetable. Instead of growing into a healthy union with another person you have strong healthy feelings of respect and affection toward, you become part of an unhealthy relationship that will probably get more toxic as it continues as others wince to watch. Instead of having a partner who enhances your strengths, you may end up with someone who saps that very dynamic from the heart of you. Or worse, YOU could be the one sapping it from them because of the mismatch! This is the failure and sorrow that many long time single persons are avoiding, and that is very healthy and wise.

What I really think the author was expressing was frustration with their search for a mate. Probably someone who is over 35, and looking for someone over 35 who’s interested in being their partner. The search is not bearing much fruit, and their pool of candidates is getting more and more shallow. Can they ever accept that being single could be good for themselves, instead of getting bitter and blaming others for their being alone?

What do you think? Do you know of some single folks who are living well and probably never going to get involved with anyone else in an intimate way? Do you pity them or do you envy them? Why?

Advent is Important to Me

There are some holidays that just thrill us to think of them.  Sometimes it’s because of a particular memory, and sometimes it’s just because of the thrill of the things that are traditional to the holiday.

One of my favorite holidays is Advent.  I separate it from Christmas, because Advent is my worship portion of that time of year.  This is where I take time out for my Creator who kept His word to all humanity, in spite of the centuries of time that it took to make it happen.  It’s enthralling to consider why God waited until all of humanity was able to know about the promised Messiah.  This was thanks to the Roman roads and authority that kept travel safe, and also promoted the transfer of knowledge between civilizations.  There needed to be a way for most of humanity to learn of God’s promise, and then of how it unfolded with a newborn birth of a babe in a manger.

There’s a song titled, “It’s About the Cross” that was popularly recorded by Philips, Craig and Dean, and I like it – but it’s wrong.  Advent is a great deal about the Promise coming true, more than the cross.  The cross is critical to the fulfillment of the Promise, that’s true.  But Advent is about preparing for the Messiah’s coming, and acknowledging that we needed Him.  The cross comes after that, and has a place all its own.  There’s no need to blend them, or there is a danger of overlooking the singular value of each occasion on its own.  The cross gets our focus at Lent and Easter, and it deserves separate consideration.

So, Advent is where I intentionally make a quiet place in time for me to ponder the significance of God’s promise to send a Messiah from Davidian lineage to overcome the enemy that caused Humanity’s fall.  This is where I consider that God chose to send His Son because no other person in time could do what needed to be done.  This is where I consider how he arrived at the decision to send Jesus – Yeshua in Hebrew – as a babe with a birth that would be witnessed and noted significantly by people of that time.  You have to hold a newborn infant closely, not just stand back in awe.  They must be embraced and given focused attention, or they will not thrive.  I’m reminded that my love for God has to be like that, close and with focus – or I will not thrive.

Traditionally, Europeans would use Advent wreaths for devotional expression during the four weeks preceding the celebration of the infant birth.  The wreath would lay on a table, or be suspended horizontally from a ceiling, with four candles on the wreath and one in the middle.  Coming from a European background, I embrace that tradition with its quiet influence.

As I raised my young children, we honestly enjoyed the Advent wreath ceremonies very much.  Some nights we might start out feeling pushed into something inconvenient.  But every time we were at the end of the worship activities, it felt a bit sad to blow out the candles and turn on the lights for all of us.  Sometimes we just didn’t do it right away.  We’d enjoy some treats and just visit a bit and talk about whatever we wanted to talk about.

There were some weeks that we missed lighting the newest candle.  That was ok, since there were other nights when we could light up more than one.  It was rare for us to miss the final week when all four candles would be lit.

Christmas, for me, was the secular and happy occasion that followed Advent.  I could allow Godly memes and themes to influence my decoration choices, and certainly my song lists; but I admitted that it was secular, and still joyous and happy.  It was where I could shop and give gifts, and dress up for happy occasions, as well as gather with family and friends for good food and perhaps some games and teasing.

Once all of the children were grown and flown, and I was on my own, I would choose to set up an Advent wreath and forgo the decking of a tree.  My time was limited with work or perhaps my health wasn’t up to the work of a tree.  A wreath was simpler and more possible.  It was also more beneficial to me, than the hustle and bustle of the secular holiday.

Some folks are working hard on making Christmas their act of worship, and I don’t think that they are wrong at all.  I just couldn’t make it work for me.  Just as there are so many different ways to decorate a Christmas tree, there are so many ways for people to celebrate God in their lives.  All of them are valid if what is being done stays focused on God more than the ceremonies or the decorations.

I couldn’t say that was true of my ability to celebrate Christmas most of the time.  I certainly enjoyed more than one church program, service or musical performance, and basked in the warmth of the Pastor’s blessing as the congregation was reminded of our Creator’s intentions during this season.  I’ve also positively pointed out to my children how the evergreen trees point toward their Creator, and how they are evergreen because they never die – like God’s love for us.  I have definitely had a nativity scene for them to set up and discuss as well.  But, it all tended to get overwhelmed in the holiday blur of baking all of the right foods, hurrying to each of the events, and ensuring we were dressed appropriately for the pictures that would be taken, as well as having all of the gifts bought and wrapped for the folks we didn’t want to forget.  Advent never seemed to have that problem – for me.

Even a huge snowfall that might ruin the plans for the special visit with family or the musical event at church, or – whatever we thought we had to hurry to – even those plans didn’t matter if we chose to just stay home and light up the candles on the wreath when I had a family.  As a single, senior aged, woman, it still doesn’t matter so much to me that it’s just me lighting the candles, reading scripture, and praying to God.  This is where I keep my heart in the right condition to enfold the Messiah (or even letting the Messiah make my heart right to enfold Him) who came so long ago.

If I get no gifts, I know that the biggest gift was given to me before I knew I needed it.  If I can give no other gifts, I try to offer the one I received much later than it was given.  The gospel message and the offer of a Savior instead of a Judge.  If I have no decorations, I will revel in the ones that others have worked on displaying, and let them know, when I can, how much it touched me to see and enjoy their efforts.

So, Advent is my favorite holiday at this time of year.  How about you?  What do you like most about this time of year, and what makes it consistently special even through a hard time of austerity?

 

Does Money Help the Poor?

I’ve had some questions ever since I read this article: What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?   What the author seemed to learn, was that when an unearned stipend was given to poverty level families, they benefited and changed their previously predictably negative futures for the better.  The younger the children, the better the futures, since the children had less negative history to rework or unlearn.

We’ve all heard variations of the saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”  I don’t think that this article is in defiance of that idea.  I think it just points out that poverty has to be overcome in order for someone to find success, even in a “free” country with good human ethics, laws and traditions.  If you show someone how to fish, but don’t provide a way to get the fishing lures, hooks, line, nets, or other materials needed to do the job, it seems to be that the lessons are in vain.  Let enough time go by, and the student even forgets how to use the items should they stumble on some.  For example: I have learned some software skills (Access, to be exact) three times with expert levels of accomplishment during the classes – only to forget it because I haven’t used it later on.  We flippantly and accurately note: “If you don’t use it – you lose it.”

So, I guess I see that we have to make an impact on the poverty before we can see the resident of poverty find their ways out of that state of being.  That’s what the author of the article seems to have found out.

This seems to defy what I have heard from my church life teachings, though.  Most of the time, I have heard lessons about how to be thrifty so that there is ample money for any situation.  I’ve been taught that if you are careful to cultivate skills in both learning and skilled labor of some sort (artistic pursuits would count), then there is no reason to believe that you can’t provide a means of support for yourself, your family or your church/ministry.  Many of the teachers of these ideas came from a challenging economy themselves that we now call The Great Depression.  They still said that if you were willing to work, then you should be able to find an honest way to eat.

As I read many accounts of that time, there were plenty of folks who were honest and looking for some kind of work to help their families with.  But they went homeless, hungry and died as a result.

Don’t get me wrong – I trust God’s plan is better and mightier than any plan a human mind might devise.  I’m just wondering what my role should/could be in understanding what God’s point of view is concerning these things.  I am going to be thinking this through a lot, as I join the ranks of “the poor” once again in my life.  I don’t see that I’ll ever leave this rank or role either, since I am now older and not seeing anyone interested in employing me in any gainful wage situation.

I don’t always think it’s age that’s holding me back – since no one knows I’m “older” until they meet me.  Most of my resumes only get tossed into a pool of candidates and not even chosen for an interview for no reasons I can find out about.  I suspect it’s because I’ve worked as a temp/contractor for nearly 10 years, though that should prove that I’m trainable, and that my skills have been kept fresh.  The reality is that I am stuck with a minimum wage job, with part time hours; and that’s the best I can do in spite of having an Associate degree and years of Administrative Clerical experience.  I have no idea why I can’t find anything better.

I am not lazy, I work hard at the job, and then I work hard at home cleaning and keeping my home and car well maintained (where I can do it without cost).  I send out resumes wherever I find an opening that makes sense to try for (can’t work at a job 50 miles away for a wage that won’t support the gas or car repairs as well as a low rent).  I check several job sites out at least three times a week, and keep a record of all the jobs I’ve submitted resumes or filled applications out online for.  I am listed with several staffing agencies and am regularly contacted at least once a week for them to submit me as a candidate for a client (of course!).  I will get an interview about once every three weeks.  I never get the second interview, though it always seems to be a good interview.  Even the staffing rep says the feedback from the client about me was very good to excellent.  My test score percentages for all the software skills range from the mid 80’s to 100% (proofreading/spelling tests are my forte it seems).

The reality is that too many jobs have been eliminated, and where I might have competed against 20 or so applicants for a job posting in 2004 – I am now competing with more than 100 candidates for a position.  This means that my resume may never even be seen by the hiring manager.  They just get overwhelmed by the response, and just pick out the first few good possibilities and toss the rest in the trash.  This is not personal, and I have heard this from three different hiring managers, so I try to remind myself that it’s not because I’m not valuable or that I am discarded.  It’s just that I am anonymous in the crush for employment.

Because I believe that God is bigger than a fax machine, and that He can make my resume fall in just the right spot for someone to see – I will believe that my situation is just what God wants it to be – for now.  My job is to be humble and not object.  I am to be gracious and keep my words kind and patient for those who would ask me what I am doing that isn’t working.  They just don’t know, and it’s good that they have good work that keeps them clueless, as far as I am concerned.  I would rather they had the jobs that they do!  I just wonder if we understand who needs help and what is “help” when it comes to the poor?

Ideas?  Comments?  I’m interested – so please share!

Copyright © 2014 Churchmousie ~ all rights reserved.

Advent – What a Blessing!

Advent has saved Christmas for me in sooo many ways.  It helped me be calm when I had no money to give gifts.  It helped me not feel so unloved when I was given few gifts.  It always gave me a way out of the growing intensity of commercialism that has invaded the season.

How did that happen, you ask?  Well, it all began in 1982 – before stores were doing the special sales that people will line up for (or even camp out for) like they do today.

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There’s something about candleglow in a child’s eyes that just blesses me.

When my children were very small (I only had 2, but I frequently cared for my sister’s two quite a lot at that time, so age ranges were 18 months to 6 years old), I found an article on family devotions using an Advent Wreath. I’d grown up Lutheran, so I knew what one was, but always had thought it was just something used in church. Using it at home was a novel idea to me.  With that in mind, I bought a plastic wreath, and searched all over for purple and pink candles. Couldn’t find any of those color, so I decided to use 3 green and one red with the center candle remaining white. Then I used Playdoh to form cups for the candles (seriously – that’s what I had, so that’s what I used). It was wobbly, but it would work I decided.

We had a high piano, and I decided that’s where the wreath would go during the days we weren’t using it. Safe from playing toddlers and childish super hero moments; but a quiet reminder of the season for me, and it blessed. On each Wednesday night (a night much easier to manage than a Sunday for me), we’d get the kids to put away toys and prepare for Advent devotions.

At first, it was protested and fussed at, but the smallest was tucked into a walker thing, the toddler crouched on the floor near the coffee table, looking at the wreath with all of the candles in it, wondering what would happen next. I had made some cinnamon toast, and cut it into strips for treats. We had Koolaid for the kids and hot coffee for us grown ups. Other times would be Christmas cookies and eggnog, but our very first was much simpler – cause I was tired, and my husband less willing to participate than the kids were (sigh).

While my husband worked second shift, we’d do this just after lunch and before nap time instead of the evening.  We frequently would have playmates of the kids’ join us (with parental permission, of course).  Drapes were drawn for darkness.

As I lit the first candle and laid down the rules, interest began to pick up.

Rules: NO ONE GETS TO TOUCH THE CANDLE during our family devotions. The wreath was shaky after all.
EVERYONE has to be seated and cooperate or no treats!

Q &A: Yes, we’ll have treats. (what are we doing?) We’ll be singing and hearing a story about Christmas and why we celebrate it. (Is this going to take a long time (husband)? Not more than 15 mins, since our kids are so small – but the more questions I answer and the more time it takes to get everyone settled – the longer the devotions will take, k?

Moving on – I turned off all the lights in our small apartment and the Presence seems to descend on us as I had hoped. Candlelight is such a blessing, even to a Pagan, lol.

I had a plan, and I followed it for years.  Open with a song: God’s Love is Like a Circle  (our version was sung to the Marine’s Hymn, but – you choose), have the kids clapping in a circle as they sing it.  This opens the lesson on why the wreath is round, and then teach why it’s made of evergreens (God – and His love never die).  Teach about tonight’s color and why it works (for green: it’s the color of life and God gives us new life when we ask for it: Explain.  Etc).

Give permission to enjoy treats (or serve them when the kids are too young and wouldn’t be able to wait), now.  Read something from the Children’s Bible (my favorite was The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes – but any good one will do) about the season we’re celebrating.  The treats help to keep the kids quiet, and helps the grown ups to feel blessed.  I have always found it to work well this way and it sets a nice tone to the event.  Always finger foods, and on pretty plates (I used good china, or those special cardboard decorative plates you see even in the dollar stores), with special cups/glasses.  I wanted to make a memory for even a visitor – no matter how squeaky tight our budget was.  I’d find a way to make even an everyday glass or plate special somehow.

At the end of the Bible story, and the Q &A after it, take a moment to pray.  Let each child take a turn (we’d have them say, “and now it’s [the next guy’s] turn” instead of Amen – with Dad or Mom closing and doing the Amen part.

Finish with a song they like that is a good closer for the lesson.  I liked This Little Light of Mine when there was only one or two candles lit.  As your kids grow and get more involved in church activities, you can figure out what songs they know that work for the evening – or sometimes even some children’s worship CD’s have some great songs for you all to learn.

Now it’s the end, and one of the older children gets to snuff the candle.  I usually have that child picked out by how well they behaved and got things done to prepare for the occasion, or who’s turn it was – or even allowing a visitor the honor.  Once I had to relight the single candle and let a second child snuff it, because they’d both been good, lol.   We talk about the season and try to help them with their questions and how they handle all the glitz and blitz of the season.  As they get more friends who do things differently, the discussions can include why we do what we do, etc.

We would invite friends – adult or children, we didn’t discriminate – to join us from time to time.  Especially when it was the night that the fourth candle was lit.  By then I had Christmas cookies to serve, too, lol.  The final candle in the middle is called the Christ Candle, and it quite often didn’t get lit until Twelfth Night.  I have 8 parents, and we would spend Christmas Day with at least two different Grandparent homes, the first one being an hour’s drive away.  Christmas Eve was spent at yet a third set of Grandparent’s home, so we were too tired to light it on Christmas Day most of the time.  Twelfth Night was best, and it helped us have something to look forward to, after all the holiday hype was gone.

I was never enslaved to the Advent Wreath devotions.  There were weeks as the kids grew older where we were running to school events, church events or even trying to get our own shopping done.  There were weeks we missed lighting a candle (gasp!).  We’d always work on getting them caught up by the fourth week of Advent, though the “ceremony” might be a bit abbreviated.  The important part was that it was always there – where we could see it.  It helped us to remember when we intentionally made a simple time to reflect and adore the idea of God’s love being an infant in our midst.  How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given…

This year, I am smooshed into one room, and all the children are grown and flown.  We lost one just weeks ago, and that hurts, too.  But I remember those evenings when the candlelight was reflected in their little eyes – and I know that it was a blessing that is hard to explain to others when they look at me so doubtfully.

Once the first Advent was gone, we had better wreaths to use.  The kids were more eager to straighten up things and fought for the honor of bringing the wreath down from the piano.  They would plead for the right to be a candle snuffer, or read the Bible story.  The older kids would explain the wreath and the occasion to smaller or visiting kids – and my heart would beat with gladness – they were listening!  The bossy first borns learned that we didn’t have to have the same colors all the time, and the contentious kids could be taught that Advent wasn’t in the Bible, but we need it for our sinful ways that make us wander.  They get it, sooner than any argument can persuade after the first minute of a darkened clean home with candlelight on the wreath.

I have memories for my Advent Wreath this year.  They’ll do just fine.

Copyright © 2013 Churchmousie ~ all rights reserved.

How GREAT is Our God

I could be avoiding getting the final things packed for the move, and feeling lazy.  I think I’ve missed having just restful time without any mental confusion – so I am fretfully seeking it like a demanding child.  I keep cleaning the same areas over and over, and avoiding the ones that really need attention.  Today, I can’t put any of that off.  Thankfully, my son is due to come over this afternoon so he can access the internet before it’s gone.  We’ll both be cruising the free WiFi spots until we can afford to get something connected at home.

Meanwhile, I needed to enjoy another anthem to keep me going.  This one works well for me since I have enjoyed many hours of Messianic worship in the past decade.  If you are a Messianic believer, or a Jewish observer: Shabbot Shalom!

Copyright © 2013 Churchmousie ~ all rights reserved.