The Best Piece (and a Giveaway!)

I’m trading in my ba-humbugs this year.  I’ve decided to upgrade to joy and wonder and peace.

I always feel like as a mom and a teacher that I’m supposed to be IN to Christmas.  But I’m just not.  If I had no tree in the den, no Christmas music on the radio, and no cookies baking in the oven, I’d be just fine.  Very fine, actually.  So much of Christmas feels like work to me.  So many lists to check off, traditions to carefully navigate between families, and don’t even get me started on the money.  Ugh.

But I’ve been feeling some gentle nudges this year to look at things differently.  Focus less on the have-to’s and more on the get-to’s.  I’m trying to listen.

So today I got to spend the day shopping with my mom.  I must admit we actually had fun.  We waited in a line outside a store for our first time, chatted with a few other crazy people in the cold, and cheered when they actually had the item we wanted on the shelf.  We made memories today while also making my list of have-to’s get-to’s shorter.

IMG_1565One of the things that we happened upon in Michael’s was this felt nativity set.  So while Grandma & Grandpa drove home, Daddy was relaxing, and Chica was busy making a paper countdown-to-Christmas chain, Bubba and I opened up our new treasure.  We dumped all of the pieces onto the sofa, then tried to rebuild the scene while I translated the story into two year old language.

That’s a stable.  It’s where the animals lived.

That’s a wise man.  He brought gifts to baby Jesus.  See it in his hand?

No, silly.  That’s not a horse.  It’s a donkey.  Hee-haw!

See the star?  God put the star in the sky to tell people where Jesus was.

That’s another wise man. He has a present for baby Jesus.

That’s Jesus’ mommy.  Her name is Mary.

There’s his daddy.  He’s Joseph.

That’s an angel.  He says, “Glory to God in the highest!”

Ohhh….here’s baby Jesus.  He goes in the manger.

Again and again we built it and dumped it, built it and dumped it.  Each time he would describe a few more pieces on his own.  Donkey?  Star?  Angel?  Jesus Mommy?

As I watched him and listened, I all of a sudden realized something so beautiful and obvious but profound.  Each time we dumped the pieces, he had to find the Baby Jesus first.  Where Baby Jesus go?  He would arrange Jesus just so on the straw and then on the manger before fiddling with any of the other pieces.  One time I even watched him lay Baby Jesus carefully over top of Mary like she was holding him.  Baby Jesus was his favorite piece.  The best piece.

And hasn’t it been that way with each nativity set for me too?  The old one at my Grandma’s house.  The white ceramic one on my parents’ mantle.  The plastic set I bought when Chica was an infant.  Isn’t baby Jesus always the best part?  The part you want to touch and inspect and put smack in the middle with everyone looking towards him?

So why not in my life too?  WHY NOT IN CHRISTMAS?!?!  Thank you, Bubba, for such a loud and clear message.  I hear you.  I get it.

Jesus, come be the most important piece of my Christmas.
The best piece.
The peace.

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125_bI heard about something this week that I think may help my little family keep Jesus in the center this Christmas.  It’s called Truth in the Tinsel, and it’s a Christmas devotion & craft e-book just for little guys.  I gathered all of the craft materials this week, and we are eagerly awaiting Sunday to start!

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Interested in joining us in this journey?  I’d love to give away a copy to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is leave a comment here on this post.  I’ll draw a random name at noon on December 1st  and e-mail the winner a link to download his or her own copy.

Merry Christmas, friends!

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Don’t Send Your Kindergartener to School in Ivory Tights

But she really looked cute this morning.

A hand-me-down pink ribbed shirt with tiny matching rhinestones at the collar that I’m not sure she’s ever worn.  A brown and pink flowered corduroy skirt with an extra ruffle at the bottom.  And the ivory tights.  It was a whole outfit of things that matched.  And it was really my only option since she had (literally) not a single pair of clean pants.

So we went for it, and she was cute.  Cold, but cute.

Then 3:45 rolls around and she appears out of nowhere in my classroom just like she does every afternoon.  “Hi, mom.”

Woah.

Shoes untied.  Hair staticky and everywhere from her fuzzy hood.  A stain mingled with the rhinestones.  The ivory tights are now mostly brown, and one knee cap is completely poking through.

Not so cute anymore.  Looks like she’s going more for the Mom-Doesn’t-Take-Care-of-Me look.  And it only got worse.

I had made plans to work with a friend in her classroom on one of those ridiculous paperwork things that make teachers want to poke their eyeballs out and/or just retire early.  Chica, armed with a few markers, scissors, construction paper, and her creative genius, had her mind set on creating a whole flock of turkeys.  And if you have a kid or teach kids or have just ever been a kid, then you know that pretty much the only way to draw a turkey is to trace your hand.

So perhaps 45 minutes later we discover her….left hand completely black, black marker smears on the brown tights, and black marker all over her face.  She is truly talented…at making messes I mean.  The turkeys were pretty good too.

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Tonight we had planned to have dinner at Bubba’s school, but there was no time to take this piece of work home and clean her up.  Her daddy could barely look at her he was so embarrassed.  I just tried to keep reminding myself that it was all a sign that she had had a good day.  A really good day.

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On the way home I knew that the image of Chica and her holy tights had to be my thankful picture for the day.  Sure, I’m thankful for her creative spirit that will not be squelched by dirt or lack of materials or a grouchy mom.  But I think even more, today, I’m thankful that tomorrow is a new day.  The tights will go in the trashcan, the clothes will go in the washer, and the girl has already been in the bath.  Tomorrow she’ll skip to the bus a new kid, ready for a new day.

Tomorrow will be a new day.  As I turned on the bathwater, I thought of all the things I wanted to wash down the drain from my day.  The shortness I had with a friend that just wanted help.  The hurried and grouchy words with my kids.  The even more grouchy words with my classroom full of big kids who just four years ago were turkey-making little kids.  That yucky feeling of not doing what you know you need to do.

I’m thankful for forgiveness and that I get to try again tomorrow.  It’s a new day.

Oh…and I guess I’m also thankful that I now know never to send a kindergartener to school in ivory tights.  Shouldn’t I have known that already?