It has been a custom in our family to try to avoid all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t wear Christmas themed clothes or sweaters until after Thanksgiving. We don’t listen to Christmas music until we put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, which is our tradition instead of joining the craziness of Black Friday shopping. The girls are not to start talking about what they want for Christmas. (This never sticks, and as the main gift shopper a little discussion about this early on is helpful.) Even I would do my part by not ordering a Peppermint Mocha or buying Peppermint Bark until after Thanksgiving! My husband and I made this effort with the best of intentions to be sure our girls were filled with gratitude before joining in with the commercialism “I wants” of the Christmas season.
This year seems different. When the girls weren’t with me, I admit, I have already had a few Peppermint Mochas while enjoying conversation with friends. A few days after Halloween I heard Christmas music coming from upstairs. I went up and the oldest quickly turned it off. With a smile on my face I told her she could leave it on, but while pointing my finger told her to keep it in her room. Guess who decided to stay in that room with a Pandora Christmas station playing and help her put away her laundry?!?! My little one excitedly played her favorite Christmas CD in her bedroom. A few days later we were listening to Christmas music in the family room and in the kitchen. It’s not constant. It’s not frequent. It does bring joy.
I don’t think it’s completely wrong to experience a little early some aspects of the wonderful, miraculous season that is Christmas. My husband isn’t even complaining about it or expressing concern that we aren’t taking time to be thankful first. The girls seem to know how to minimize their toy catalog gazing and discussions. When they do discuss, because I have asked for planning purposes, the conversation is about a gift they want for the two of them to SHARE. They have favorite traditional carols which remind them of Christ, the true gift of Christmas. They are thinking ahead about what gifts to give to others.
Why has it changed this year? Nothing has changed for the girls other than I am not stifling their Christmas spirit. What has changed for me? I think it has something to do with the events over the past few months in our national and world news. We are all in need of the extra joy and love the Christmas season brings. We need Christ every day, but it seems as a society we naturally think of Him more at Christmas. We need to keep our focus on Him in these trying times of our world.
We have not forgotten Thanksgiving. We take time to give thanks every day. Instead of the children feeling like we are getting through Thanksgiving before doing anything related to Christmas, this week we will joyfully prepare for our family Thanksgiving.
I pray with and for my kids as I’m sure many of you do. One night as a feis (Irish Dance Competition) was approaching, I was saying bedtime prayers with my daughter. She just had one more dance to get a 1st so she could move up a level and begin wearing the poofy, blingy skirt and big wig. She prayed that God would help her with her dance and reluctantly, we prayed for the win. First we hesitated. When there is war and cancer and homelessness, is it really okay to pray for a 1st place in a dance competition? We discussed this, and considered that God wants us to take all things to Him in prayer and petition and that we are ALL important to Him, so we started praying for the win.
A couple of days later she was at the feis and as usual after she checked in and got in the line, I watched and prayed silently over and over again. I was 0kay with praying for the win. As the girls stepped out to dance one girl came out and then stopped….she forgot her dance…..she fumbled a bit and then just went back to the line in tears before the dance was over. I stopped praying for my daughter and even prayed to God saying “We will be ok, don’t worry about us. Please just take care of that little girl and guide her mom to handle this with care and build her back up.” A few minutes later it was my daughter’s turn to dance. She was on fire! Well, for most of the dance she was on fire. Near the end I could tell her feet fumbled just a little, but she got right back into it. Maybe the judge didn’t see her error. As she came to me after getting off the stage she expressed disappointment. She could tell the judge was watching her and was impressed until she forgot her step, and yes the judge was still watching her. She seemed to be handling it well. I prayed in my head as we walked through the crowd thanking God that my daughter was handling things well and continued to pray for the other little girl who had been crying on stage.
Later when we went to look at results we saw that my daughter placed 3rd in the dance she so desperately needed to place 1st. She was not surprised, but she was definitely disappointed. On the drive home that day, as she was eating her traditional after feis M&M Blizzard, I reminded her that God is answering our prayers, but he is saying to her “not yet”. I noticed for the next week or so that she was somewhat quiet and routine with our bedtime prayers. She stopped praying about dancing altogether. Oh no…we should not have prayed for the win. I set her up to be angry with God. I also realized that I was underestimating God when I thought he had to forget about her to take care of another girl. Don’t I know he can do ALL things and care for ALL of us at the same time?!?! Oh no. What have I done?
Two weeks later, early on a sunny August morning, we were on our way into another feis. She didn’t want to pray about it in the hotel room. As she was pulling her Zuca up the sidewalk ahead of me I prayed silently, “God, whatever happens today, may it bring her closer to You.” That was all. That was my simple prayer. Of course, as she was in line waiting her turn to step out to dance I continued with my usual prayers for her to have confidence and to do her best, but I didn’t pray for the win. And my daughter? She did eventually earn her poofy, blingy skirt and big wig. In fact, she is now in her solo dress and wears a tiara in her big wig. More importantly, she is close to Him. She prays daily, sometimes with me and sometimes on her own. The night before every feis she prays aloud for God to be with her as she dances and she prays for all of the other dancers. My dance mom prayer every feis morning continues to be, “God, whatever happens here today, may it bring her closer to You.”
For the past week or so my daughters and I have been reading about Galatians 5:22-23 in our daily devotional. We decided among ourselves that when one of us was not living out the Fruits of the Spirit instead of nagging, yelling or tattling we would kindly ask, “Are you being fruity?” As the day went on I did find the need to ask it a few times.
“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
As the week went on I was asking myself “Am I being fruity?” several times both at home and out in the community. I needed to show more love while I was replying to an email and a child wanted a hug. I needed to show joy while doing housework. I needed to demonstrate peace while getting the girls out the door and into the van to go to an activity. I needed to show patience with kids talking out of turn and off topic in our homeschool group. I needed to show patience when my own girls were fighting. (Yes, I know I listed patience twice.) I needed to show kindness and goodness when discussing a recent change of dance schools among friends. I needed to show faithfulness instead of expressing worry. I needed gentleness and self-control while discussing stressful and sensitive topics with loved ones. I needed self-control when I yelled at one of my children for not doing what she was told when she was told. (Again, I know I used self- control twice.) Wow! I’m not too proud, but I do consider myself to be kind and strive to be a good Christian woman. I guess the key word here is strive. I guess that is what we are expected to do. We aren’t expected to be perfect. Christ died on the cross for us because he knows of our sinful nature. We, in return, try to live a virtuous life.
The Holy Spirit produces this fruit in our lives and we must make the conscious effort to practice using it until it becomes an automatic part of us. I believe a fruitful life is contagious. I am blessed to have “fruity” friends and family. I feel more at peace when I am with them and the more time I spend with them the more fruitfully I live out my life. I emphasize I am striving and this is a work in progress for me as well as my children.
How can we help each other be more fruitful? What have you been learning about yourself as you teach* your children?
*I am not just speaking to homeschooling parents. Parenting is teaching, so I’d like to hear from all parents.