Getting Presents!!!

Two weeks ago, my mom sat down in circle time to teach the children about Christmas. We already taught the children about Hanukkah and Kwanza, and it was time to teach a little bit about Christmas as we teach about every holiday/religion represented in our school.

My mom began by telling the children, “Christmas is a special day that Christians celebrate. On Christmas Eve, Christians go to church to pray. Who goes to church on Christmas eve?” Some children raised their hands, while the rest looked completely confused. Then my mom continued, “Now I know, many of you are not Christian, but you still like to celebrate Christmas by putting up a Christmas tree. Who puts up a Christmas Tree in their home?” Almost every child’s hand went up then!

Mom continued, “What’s your favourite part about Christmas?”

The first child, replied, “Making snowmen with daddy and mommy!”

The next child said, “Getting Presents!”

The next child said, “Getting Presents!”

The next child said, “Getting Presents!”

At which point, my mother was completely flabbergasted and threw up her hands in the air and said, “Christmas is not just about getting presents! What is Christmas really about?”    

I wasn’t sure what would come next.
Being a secular childcare, being mindful of children having different belief systems, how do you share what Christmas is REALLY about?

Then one five year old, put up her hand, and simply said “It’s about the love.”

I was stunned. Yes. Exactly. That’s exactly what Christmas is about.

I will expand on that… but first let me finish this story…

Mom exclaimed, “YES! It’s about the love! And when we give presents, it’s about the love! Christmas is not just about getting, it’s about giving!” Then mom decided, “we’re going to have a Food Drive, to give love,” and went on to explain the details to the children. 

“It’s about the love” …from the mouth of babes. I am often stunned how simple and true the children’s answers are even when they don’t fully understand, it makes me pause and reflect on the Truth.

Whether you celebrate Christmas in a secular fashion, or as part of your faith,
Christmas is about the love. That is what brings us together this season – it’s Love.

God is love.  – 1 John 4:8.

If you attended a Christmas Eve service, you probably heard;

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. – John 3:16

That part where it says, “that he gave” – That’s Christmas morning. That was when Jesus was born – when God gave his one and only Son.

My family, celebrates Christmas in a secular fashion. We put up the tree, we wake up Christmas morning and have omelette for breakfast as a family and then we open the presents. Thankfully, growing up, my parents managed to spoil us without spoiling us! I think it’s because love was always the key – it was never about the presents.

Today… I was left stunned again by my parents extravagant gifts. Their love, their sacrifice. Their joy in giving us “good gifts” even when we don’t deserve it.   

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” – Matthew 7:11

Through celebrating Christmas, in a secular fashion, with my family, I was reminded how much God loves me through the extravagant love of my parents. To be cherished as beloved, to have all my mistakes forgiven, to be shown such an outpouring of love, and to see my parents take joy in doing so, to take joy in loving me simply because I am their child. I am stunned by their love, their kindness, their generosity.

In worldly terms, you may even call me spoilt! I know that even as an adult, I will always be their child. I take such delight in being their child. Take such delight in being beloved to my parents.

When I remember I am a child of God – the infinitely loving God – I am stunned.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” – 1 John 3

God’s love is ever more extravagant. I take such delight in being His child! Take such delight in being beloved to Him! When my parents “spoil me” because of their great love, I am made even more aware of how our Heavenly Father has “spoiled” us because of His Great Love. When God gave us the greatest gift of all, His one and only son. The greatest sacrifice. Because of His great love! In our human weakness, we continue to make mistakes, continue to disobey, continue to turn away, but God, cherishes us as his beloved children, takes joy in bringing us near to Him, and forgives us through his extravagant love and sacrifice. That – is what Christmas morning is all about – it’s about the love.

So while I celebrate Christmas in a secular fashion, I remember once again, what great love inspires this day.

1 John 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

 

piggy banks

Today I woke 6am in the morning, to my alarm. I had to open the school today at 7:30, so I thought I best wake early and arrive early! Now usually, I don’t wake early, I’m that person who can stay in bed till 3 minutes before 8 and still make it to work by 8:30! To open the school however, I must be early!

I woke, in the middle of a dream. In my dream, I was a bit older, perhaps in my mid thirties, and I had just come home to mom with a bag full of goodies from Value Village. Specifically it contained little ceramic piggy banks. I was sitting on the floor in front of my mom, jacket still on, and together we poured over the contents of the plastic bag from Value Village delighting like children in each ceramic piggy bank. I woke up, and just smiled at God. What a dream!

Perhaps He knew I needed a reason to smile this morning when I woke and found it still was dark! And he definitely gave me something to smile about! You see, usually, the roles are reversed. Usually, it’s mom who will open at 7:30 when need be. And it’s one of mom’s favourite things to do, to go to Value Village or a Thrift store!

Finding little ceramic piggy banks, is one of my mom’s favourite treasures to find! They come in all shapes and sizes. We have them in different animals too, from piggies, to frogs, to bears and even cars and dinosaurs! Mom buys these little piggy banks for the children in our classroom. The children love the satisfying clinking sound of coins in the ceramic piggy banks. Then they take all the coins out and start all over again! Naturally they break often when handled by little three year olds so we always are buying more! Brand new, these piggy banks can cost about $15 – $30. But at Value Village, we often find them for $2-$5. It’s a “hot” activity, the children enjoy for countless hours.

Whenever mom comes home from Value Village, we pour over the contents in her bags, and moms delights like a child in all the treasures she found! Especially when she’s found a new piggy bank! Her joy in finding these little piggy banks is a memory in my heart I will always hold dear. I didn’t even realize what a precious memory it is till today. I woke up, smiling, realizing that mom and I share this incredible child like joy and satisfaction in the simplest things. Smiling, knowing that one day, I’ll be bringing home the same treasures to show her. What love to know, there is someone, who understands perfectly the joy of finding another piggy bank for the children!

I also realized, waking up at 6am is not all that bad either!

tears

I like to think of myself as a logical rational person. In fact so much so that the past couple years I haven’t really cried. I haven’t sat down and sobbed or weeped in the last couple years. I just sit and think when I’m sad, logically and rationally, I’ll sit and be still, and pray.

My right eye, is a bit leaky. I genuinely believed there was something wrong with it. It seems to leak all the time! Often during worship, and prayer, my right eye will leak tears. It’s somewhat embarrassing when I’m playing keys on stage and my right eye tears, then my vision gets blurry and I can’t see the notes! It also leaks when I’m outside watching my children play in the playground. I love watching them play.

My left eye started twitching recently. So I went to the eye doctor. It turns out that the tear ducts in my left eye are blocked. It also turns out that there’s nothing wrong with my right (leaky) eye.

It turns out that my impression that I’m logical and rational and don’t really cry is simply untrue. It’s so humbling (and quite funny I must add). I feel so deeply without even knowing it simply because my body doesn’t produce tears in one eye. And since I’m such a “logical, rational person” I thought surely if I were really sad, I would cry. Turns out I tear even in the simple pure joy of watching my children play.

“Ugly Feelings”

This past week, I had the joy of volunteering at VBC (Vacation Bible Camp) at my church. My role was to lead “Story Time” with the junior children. The children rotate through centres, gym, art, video, snack and story time.

Now, preschoolers, aren’t likely to sit for anything (except snack!) for 20 minutes in a camp setting, let alone a sit-down and listen style story time. (I had two preschool groups entering JK this september, and two kindergarten groups.) So I had a felt board, and poster sized flashcards, and a squishy light up ball, and green tape on the floor. Anything to get them to sit, listen, engage, behave, and enjoy themselves.

I taught these children in the best way I knew, coming to their level. I had to throw out all my lesson planning, cause these kids were just too young for that. To help them to understand prayer, I started with poster sized flashcards of feelings. We talked about good feelings, and ugly feelings. Ugly feelings are feelings we don’t like having. We described all those ugly feelings, and told stories of when we had those ugly feelings. I asked them “What can we do when we have ugly feelings?”

Immediately, 3 Year old K piped up, “When I have ugly feelings, I go to my room, I go to my bed, then I pray”

Before I could respond,

3 Year old M piped up, “When I spill my juice, daddy send me to my room, I go to my bed but I didn’t pray.”

My heart just brimmed with love for her, for her adorable cheek, for her honesty, for her authenticity. My heart smiled at her, and I felt God’s love for her.

As a teacher, I was thrilled by K’s response, but I also just loved M’s honesty. Love those two.

I realized tonight as I prayed, how often I am like M. How often. And then I remembered God’s love for M, and God’s love for me. I know I’m not a child, I have no excuse to choose not to pray, but I felt oddly at peace, realizing, fortunately I am God’s child. And He loves me dearly, and will keep waiting on me, and loving me till I turn to Him, and forevermore. And I thought of 3 year old K and imagined her sitting in bed, all alone, with her 3-year old struggles, choosing to pray. God help me be like K. Believing. Trusting you care to hear our prayer. Knowing you listen.Help me to have such honest simple, childlike faith.

Thank you God for loving me even though you are SO SO SO SO BIG. Thank you for loving me Jesus. Amen.

Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?

“You’re GORGEOUS!” says one of my best friends, time and again. I love that about her. I’ve gained weight this past year. Gaining weight has been something I’ve personally celebrated – I love my new curves. They’re especially nice to have to have babies – sleep on my chest, or hang off my hips. I’m working with toddlers this summer, and these curves will definitely come in handy!

But a couple weeks ago, I realized that I no longer fit in the majority of my nice dresses. The nice ones that I put on a hanger. The ones I save for special occasions. The ones that make me feel preeeeeetty. Just don’t fit.

I’ve never been in this place before. There used to be a time I couldn’t shop in most stores because I used to be too tiny – I used to be insecure about being too tiny. I used to be a 00 (yes a double zero) or an XXS. I haven’t been that small for a couple years – but I never saw this day coming – where I would feel insecure about being unable to zip up my dresses. It’s a bit of a shock to me. I’ve been opening up about my body insecurity with my dear friend – reminding myself – that really –  I do love my body. That really this past winter I’ve celebrated gaining some weight.

I’ve discovered body insecurity is real, no matter what size you are. What hair type you have. The condition of your skin. Doesn’t matter what you look like – body insecurity is real. I’m thankful I’ve grown older and for the most part, have grown to accept and love my body. My friends and I, we rarely talk about clothes or hair or make up or weight. But this particular friend has been sensitive to the body insecurity I’ve recently found I have again. So the other day she told me:

“Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?” And I LOVE THAT about her.

Lemme unpack that.

We’ve gone from being insecure little girls, to grown women, who don’t care too much, about our clothes or hair or make-up. Don’t get me wrong – we do care. We care to show ourselves some love and self-care. But, overall, we don’t really care. We’re truly happy with who we are.

“Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?” Is her way of reminding me of the women we’ve become – Arn’t you glad – We don’t care about societies view of beauty. We’re beautiful inside. Beautiful outside. Beautiful even when we don’t feel beautiful. Beautiful cause we have beautiful fun-loving personalities that make us attractive. “Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?” – She had me grinning ear to ear.

Today… was just one of those days, I felt ugly. I’m gonna blame it on mood swings. But then. I caught myself in the mirror as I walked by – Blue Jeans, a black & white stripped t-shirt, my go-to sweater, no make-up, my almost unibrow at this point and my gorgeous natural curls in a crazy mess from sleeping on the couch – only making them all the more gorgeous. And I caught myself looking at me – Beautiful me. God created me. And gosh-darn-it I’m GORGEOUS.

Saxophone Romance & Trust

Swing dancing. It requires trust. All kinds of trust.

To allow a leader to lead, and to allow your body to follow the lead, to allow yourself to be twirled, swung, spun – To allow yourself to be held close by a man – And at the same time to trust the integrity of the space in between two people.

If we don’t trust as the follower, the dance becomes rigid and difficult. It becomes awkward and clumsy and soon it is no longer – dancing.

Yesterday. I learned trust in a whole new way.
It was only my second night out Swing dancing the Lindy Hop.

And at our lesson I met a young blind man – Hussein.

Did I comment on the fact that he was blind? No. Did he? No.
Did I ask him his name? Yes. Did he ask me mine? Yes.
And we learned the steps together as I did with every other man.

Soon, the dance lesson was over, and the Social part of the night began. Swing dancing to a live band. Hussein could not see me from across the room. But somehow he knew he wanted to dance with me and was able to communicate that to his friend. His friend led him over to me. And before he could, I asked joyfully “Hussein would you like to dance with me?”

And then we danced. We laughed. We talked about music as the saxophone played.
And I learned trust in a whole new way, as I let a blind man lead me in dance.

Sure, as the dance floor filled up, and the dancers around us more lively and skilled took up more space, did I have the desire to lead because I could see. Sure I did. Did we bump into a couple people as I let Hussein lead. Sure we did. But soon, I learned to be his helper and yet allow him to lead. I’d gently add pressure with my hand on his shoulder blade if we were too close to another couple. I learned to follow in a whole new way. The beautiful thing was, that he could dance the Lindy hop perfectly, and lead me perfectly, if I did not get in the way trying to lead. Each step of his, so precise, intentional and light. He knew exactly what he was doing, and I found myself safe and at ease in his arms as I let him lead.

As my left arm and his right arm made contact and he placed his hand on my back ensuring to hold me safely as we’d spin; My heart filled with compassion as he’d check in with me to make sure I was okay. Although he could not see, he made sure to make eye contact / face me, at the appropriate times of the dance, and bring his face forward while maintaining the integrity of the space between us to let me speak close to his ear.

As I found myself learning trust in a whole new way, the saxophone definitely had me feeling a little romantically inclined. Perhaps it was because the ambiance was warm, and the string lights beautiful, the band attractive and the music remarkable. Perhaps it was because Hussein held me close and firm and yet danced so lightly, perfectly and incredibly for any man, but especially blind. (I close my eyes and try to imagine what it’d be like to dance blind.) But perhaps, perhaps it was I was learning trust. And when you can trust another person, they instantly become attractive.

As I danced with Hussein, I knew wholeheartedly that his intentions were good, he held me safely, he cared for my well-being, he lead me perfectly – as long as we didn’t bump into others! Soon our time was over and it was time to find a new partner. I found I danced better, as I learned to trust the leader more fully.

It has got me thinking, that perhaps when God created the world perfectly, he designed trust. And when humankind fell in sin, trust was broken. After all, aren’t we all seeking a relationship in which we can trust the other person wholeheartedly and completely with ourselves. Our entire being – emotionally, physically, spiritually.

the grass is greener…

You know how we always feel that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?

In my daily life, it is the reality. Quite literally, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence as it is not trampled by the dozens of children who play on the grass inside the fence.

We have a 4 yr old girl in our class, happy-go-lucky thing. Who recently lost the bounce in her step as her mom has been in the hospital in the ICU. For a couple days last week, we didn’t know if she’d live the next day.

If you can imagine a mini me. It’s this girl. Just about anything makes her happy.

To hear her tell me, “I cannot see my mommy anymore because she has infection” broke my heart. I’ve made sure to give her extra hugs, and tickles and giggles. Holding her as often as she needed these past two weeks.

This past Wednesday, she got to see her mommy again. Her mommy’s life is no longer in constant danger, but she is still very sick, or we could say, she is healing.

In the playground yesterday… this little one, standing beside me not quite in the mood to play, looking at her feet … looked down at the grass and told me excitedly in the rush of joy she experienced in that moment…

“MS. NAOMI!!! THE GRASS IS GETTING GREENER!!!”

I looked, and sure enough it was, and my heart was just as easily filled with that simple joy and excitement that our grass is getting greener.

Prayer

Father I thank you for the reflection it has caused my heart to join in that childlike joy and wonder that “the grass is getting greener”. I thank you that even after hard seasons, and in hard circumstances, our grass will once again, get greener.  Truly this little girl, has shown me a perspective in life that no adult could. I thank you that you are healing her mommy. I thank you that once again she has the bounce in her step.