A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tag: Christmas (page 1 of 2)

Prayer in a Broken Christmas

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was walking against the wind so much of the day: straining uphill, my too-thin sweater tugged around me as I grimaced, head down. As my husband and I lifted down plates for dinner, I recounted the parts that made me want to tear my hair out. (Or maybe a small tuft of my children’s. …Joking.) In the course of things, I did remember some good points. Somehow, as I relayed them, they grew a little. I tucked my head with a smile.

He put his hands on my shoulder, leveled his hazel eyes with my blue ones. “I want you to know,” he said, “that you are incredibly blessed.”

Somehow, those words triggered that out-of-body sort of viewpoint I needed, to survey my life not from the perspective of loss, but of gain. Of beauty. Incredibly blessed?

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I am.

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11+ Low-prep ideas to occupy kids on Christmas break (with FREE printable!)

Already tried the Christmas-movie-night-while-stringing-popcorn tack? Exhausted your board game tournament ideas? Sent your kids outside till they’ve sledded their little hearts out? Here are a handful of easy-peasy ideas to abet Christmas Vacation Chaos.

  1. Have an old-fashioned taffy pull. When we tried this with my kids and their cousins, I was delighted to hear my mom—who was admittedly a little skeptical of the potential mess—remark that this was a lot easier, cleaner, and faster than she thought! We used this Vinegar Taffy Recipe, but you might also enjoy adding those leftover red and green sprinkles, as suggested in this recipe. If you’ve never been to a taffy pull, this video will help! Continue reading
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Tackling My Inner Grinch

Ever feel like your heart’s two sizes too small for the Christmas season?

I may have recently given my radio the stinkeye for its heartfelt counsel for me to have a holly-jolly Christmas this year, when I really felt like sulking, washed down with a swig of wassail and one of those little chocolate-dipped pretzels with sprinkles.

The Grinch stealing Christmas stockings

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Interview-your-Child Fridays: The Christmas Interview

For ideas on how to make the most of these questions, see the first interview.

interview your child fridays

  1. In the Christmas story from the Bible, what character would it be the coolest to be?
  2. What’s one of your favorite activities to do around Christmas time?
  3. What’s one of your best Christmas memories? What did you love about that time?
  4. What is your all-time favorite Christmastime snack?
  5. What do you think the world would be like if God never sent Jesus?
  6. What do you think God would want for Christmas this year? Parents, this is a cool time to talk with kids about God wanting our hearts. My kids also repeatedly ask to use What God Wants for Christmas, a book with surprise gift boxes to open that tell the nativity story. You could use Micah 6:8 to guide you: He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: To do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Rather than just pushing “good behavior”, this is a chance to show that Jesus is the One who creates this in us!
  7. If you could have one Christmas wish, what would it be?
  8. What one gift would be the most meaningful to you this year?
  9. What’s one of the top gifts you’ve ever received for Christmas?
  10. What gifts has God given you this year?


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You might also enjoy my free ebook, Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture!


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A Note for the Day You’re Feeling Powerless

I woke up the other day feeling—well. Feeling needlessly angry. (It wasn’t the first time, lately.)

I drilled down a bit in my surly little soul. Anger, I recall, is secondary; it stems from something: disappointment, fear, hurt, sadness. For me, there were slices of sadness—but also a big hunk of fear. More specifically, I felt powerless.

As I was scrawling thoughts for this post, I felt rather sheepish for even labeling that. The reasons I feel powerless are nothing like some of you reading this, huddling (or scramming) when an abusive spouse comes home. Or perhaps you’ve got a boss who makes you feel about an inch high, or even threatened—but you’ve gotta pay the rent. Or maybe you’re a person of color, feeling terrified and estranged after the last election. Or you have a dark diagnosis and a couple of small kids.


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Deeper: 12 (Printable) Journaling Ideas for a Christmas of the Soul

One thing I picked up from my Christmases in Uganda: All the glitter and hype of Christmas does have a purpose beyond the secular.

God created seven feasts for the Old Testament Hebrews, which clues me in; these occurred in the same seasons. Maybe the Israelites knew Hadassah made the best matzoh, or Great-Aunt Hephzibah made the best lamb broth, or that the air was filled with chaff after harvest. Heck, Jesus’ big debut was making wine from water for a wedding. The Bible ends with His own wedding. God’s the pinnacle of our joy, of our feasts and revelry. And I think He uses our senses—the whiff of evergreen; the clam dip (it’s a Breitenstein thing); the twinkle lights; Jack Frost nipping at your nose—to cement our minds to what we can’t see.

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 10 Practical Ways to Teach Simplicity (…and just in time for your crazy holiday!)

One of my favorite aspects of my African lifestyle is a lean muscularity of simplicity. Forget keeping up with the Joneses. You are the Joneses, when your kids are going to play with kids whose families (who may or may not be literate or have lost a child) live in one room, which may or may not have electricity and running water.

So people expect my light fixtures to, say, look like I swiped them from my church in the eighties. They anticipate that when I serve lemonade, it will cascade from an ugly plastic pitcher.

Perspective is everything.

Randy Alcorn explains in his (highly-recommended) The Treasure Principle, “The more things we own—the greater their total mass, the more they grip us, setting us in orbit around them.”

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Reflections on a Christmas robbery

Christmas robberyMy husband and I, kids in tow, were maneuvering at a snail’s pace through a traffic jam in our trusty high-clearance minivan. Our speakers happily trumpeted the Christmas CD my mom had sent, and we chatted, our energy high for our Christmas shopping in the city and the Christmas party of our non-profit (which, with the barbecue and kids running around in shorts, tends to look a little more like the Fourth of July). It was sometime after “Let it Snow” that our heads all swiveled to the driver’s side, where a man was banging—hard—on the outside of our van. Never a good sign in Kampala.

And that’s when his partner whipped open my car door and swiftly grabbed my bag slouched at my feet. My casserole dish skidded across the pavement as I unbuckled without thinking, standing between the unmoving lanes and yelling something very helpful, like, “HEY!” as he and his cronies ran away with my reading device, my phone, the drivers’ licenses from both countries, and our house keys.

I make it sound lighthearted, typing to you over a week later. But really, I just started sobbing, my hands shaking–which probably frightened my children just as much as the stranger flinging open the car door.

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A festival of Light

people walking in darkness #isaiah9:2 #haveseenagreatlight #Christmas #agenerousgrace

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Wonders of His love

christmas 1

It’s December. My head knows this.

And yet, as I type, I can feel sweat beading behind my ears, dampening the tendrils on my neck. Tropical birds are sharing some kind of stories with each other out my window. The strings of lights and clusters of Christmas knickknacks are nowhere except the tree when I walk from one set of flung-open doors to the other. Christmas in the developing world is markedly…simpler.

I like this. I do. And yet, part of me wistfully pines, in this land that probably hasn’t seen snow since the Ice Age, for the sparkling events and frost and Christmas TV specials and calories that my senses associate with Christmas.

I suppose it’s this contrast—of my sensory expectations against the eternal springtime of the equator, garnished with the few strands of tinsel strung up at some local stores—that matches up with other sad realities at the holidays, away from home. My family won’t be throwing our arms around the necks of extended family as we stamp off our boots. Most of our Christmas gifts are brought over in advance (we stuffed ours in suitcases back in May). As thrilled as I am to be in Africa year-round, I always find myself muscling through a bit of melancholy in December, brushing away a rogue tear or two while I blast Christmas music and roll out sugar cookie dough.

But Christmas brims with odd contrasts, right? It’s the beckoning, warm technicolor of light displays in frigid darkness; the cheery fires while we peer out at naked, frozen trees; the heartache of the empty spot at the table in the midst of bubbling conversation; God arriving on earth in a barn. Historically, too, there’s the replacement of a pagan festival of death, lust, and frightening destiny with a holiday celebrating life, sacrificial love, and freedom from slavery.

Here in Uganda, to say that the holidays lack a richness would be somewhat of a misnomer. I find it in gathering unattached friends to our celebrations like a ball of playdough. I find it in the very simplicity: that my housekeeper’s grandmother is delighted, for example, with the gifts of a chicken and a kilo of sugar. That rather than multicolored, cinnamon-scented, artfully-wrapped cues, I remember that Christmas is about Jesus. The contrast elevates my sense of true Christmas.

It’s strange, you know, this melee of contrasts. Sometimes I find myself not wanting to focus too much on God’s love at Christmas (I know, I know)—because I’m afraid I’ll lose the awe, the reverence of this God of whom the Hebrews would not even speak or write His name. I mean, what if I allow myself to get caught up in this engulfing, crazy form of love, and somehow that swallows up the sheer holiness of the God of the universe?

But Christmas, when I get down to it, is not a contrast of these at all. The immense, blinding brilliance—the above-ness of God–and the love are one and the same. This baby was God with us. The high and holy with the dirty and lowly. The King of the Universe in diapers, carried around by a young girl, and visited by hired hands. I am so holy, He seems to say, that I can’t help but love like this.

I glimpse a slice of this, I think, as a mother. My hugs and yummy food and cuddle time with my children are not of a separate part of me than my discipline, my careful guiding of them. They are both from the love that seeps out from my pores for them. My love punctuates the truths I tell them—and the truth punctuates the love.

My answer to myself is not to focus less on God’s love this Christmas; it is to understand the sweeping, tour-de-force nature of that love, which is never satisfied with leaving me stinking and bleeding. It required a baby whose sweet, tender skin would decades later ooze scarlet for me, a lamb who’d double as my Shepherd.

So yes—Christmas seems replete with contrasts, its dark and light shades tightly braided, its bitter cold and tantalizing warmth kneaded into the season and the story. And though the weather outside is, well, delightful here (and I wish it were a little more frightful), I have a lot to celebrate anyway.

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