Friday, November 18, 2011


For the next Three Weeks might we explore: The Practice of Preparing… What does it look like to prepare our hearts for God? How do we prepare our families and homes to encounter God afresh this holiday season? How do we intentionally, prayerfully prepare for holy-days? The whole community looks forward to your prayerful reflections stories, ideas….
From Ann Voskamp's post on Wednesday

That question caught me.  Arrested my attention.  Tugged at my heart.

Especially today. Today we received our packet from Compassion International about our child from Ecuador that we are newly sponsoring.  Not only has he been waiting for over 6 months for a sponsor and never had one before, we have never been sponsors before.  I have been waiting to BE a sponsor for over 6 months.

How do we prepare our family, our home to encounter God afresh this holiday season?  How do I?

Its something I struggle with, because with little kids, it becomes a "what can I get, what do I want, how much can I get..." type of season.

I don't want that.  More than ever, I don't want that.  I want them to be thankful for all they have.  Not yearning for the material things they don't.

I know someone else who is yearning for things they don't have.  Me. Dave. It seems to come so naturally for us.... why shouldn't the kids pick up on it too?  Its all over our culture, and I can lay blame at the feet of our consumerism culture.

But I am to blame too for they learn it in the home first.  They learn it from me when I buy whatever I want at the moment.  They learn it from me when they hear me talking about wanting something for the house we don't have.  They learn it from me when I tell them "no" when they ask for something, but when I want something (not need) I say "yes" to myself.

What kind of mixed message is that?

How do I prepare them to encounter Christ?  Not just this season, but always.

By taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Last week, talking to Peter during the service when he opted to stay with me rather than go to childrens church.  Answering his questions.  Helping him understand what Communion means, allowing him to take it with me, to break the bread with me then and talk about it after.  Hearing the desire to do it again hidden in his voice as we talked.

This past week and a half as we have prayed for this one boy in Ecuador who needs someone so badly to love him and sponsor him, to pray for him.  Explaining what it means for him to live where he does, how he does, to the best of my ability.  Sharing pictures taken by the team of bloggers who were in Ecuador last week.

Teaching them somehow to let go of the tight grasp they have on their "things" to give away the good stuff, not just the old, ratty toys and stuffed animals they have, but the new.  The things they might want, but not need.  If they don't want it cause it's old, or dirty, or broken why would someone else want it?

I want Peter and Marina to learn what it means to be blessed with more grace and joy by God out of giving rather than receiving.

I want them to understand how blessed we are by God to have all the things that we scatter willy-nilly through the rooms of this house.  I want them to know the POWER behind giving thanks in everything.  The good and the bad.

These kids of ours.  They aren't extraordinarily selfish or out of balance. They are like any other kid their age.  But I want them to have hearts of compassion.  They are tender-hearted and I want them to be tender out of compassion for others to the point of wanting to DO something to help them.

They can learn more about God and encounter more of Jesus in the naming of the gifts we have been given. 

I am not really sure how to help them encounter Jesus this season.  But maybe showing them my heart in giving with help.  Allowing them to see my tears as I pray for this brother of theirs in Ecuador.  I hope that this year they can see Jesus more clearly. Not just from how this time of year seems to promote a "magical" quality in everything... but by really seeing Jesus, and what this season is for.

I struggle with it every year, but for some reason this year seems particularly hard for me.  We want to do so much for them, but really there is no way to "compete" with other things we know are going to be given.  And I don't want to compete. 

I would rather they didn't get anything at all, but instead gave things away.

I never learned that as a child.
Not how to let go easily.

I don't want them stuck in the mindset of getting and having to learn as an adult how to give.

Not that I don't want to gift them with presents and things, because I do.  I love seeing their faces when they open up something they really want.  I want to see them savor the moment. 


I want to see their faces when they see someone else open up something they really wanted, that Peter and Marina have given.  I want to see Peter and Marina savor the moment of giving.... and find really, true joy in that moment.  A joy that they will keep giving to receive more of.

Oh the joy that comes in the thanking God for everything.  The good, bad and ugly.

The bigger house.  The large yard.  Family close by.  The sun streaming in the livingroom window.

The mess of toys and art supplies on the floor that I keep tripping on cause the kids didn't put them away.  The mounds of laundry to be done - because we actually have clothes that need cleaning.  The spiders that make the cobwebs that drape our corners and ceilings no matter how often I sweep them and wipe them away - because we have an abundance of wood in our basement to put in our wood furnace to heat the house through the winter.  The dirty kitchen floor and counters - because we have a family to feed and food to do it with.

Fingerprinted windows to clean --- kids to print those windows up in their pointing and waving and pressing up to see out at birds and snowflakes.
Litterbox to change --- cats to curl up on our feet and laps when we settle down together.
Light bulbs to switch out --- we have electricity and the ability to light our house at night.
Carpet to vacuum --- people who are able to run in and out of the house to play or work and track in their day with them.
Beds to make --- loved ones to fill those beds, and somewhere warm and cozy to lie at night.

As I make my lists, the load of things to "do" becomes lighter and I can do it with a smile, because it is a joy to do these things because I have someone to do them for.

More and more blessings and gifts from God.
All becomes grace.
All is grace.

Oh that my kids will learn that. That is how they will be more prepared to encounter God this season. Naming the gifts. Thanking God for everything. 

Lord, teach me how to teach them out of what you have been teaching me!!!  Fill up the holes that I will leave, have left, the gaps, and reveal yourself to them.  Help them find the balance of enjoying what they have been given, and giving away to others. Help them learn their wants from their needs, and understand that it isn't wrong to have desires, or have those desires met, but not to worship anything or desire anything more than they worship You and desire You.

Show me the balance.  Fill up my holes.  Help me worship and bow down to You first and always and only.

God, sanctifly me through and through until I reflect only You.

Jesus, let this boy from Ecuador entering our lives right now, at this season help change us all and open our eyes to see all we have been blessed with, gifted with out of Your lavish grace, and help us lavish it on him, and others that cross our paths.

Prepare our hearts to see and receive You this season... and to respond back to you with joy and thanks.


Clay Feet said...

Heather, you have such wonderful insight here. There are so many things I have learned in the past that you are reminding me of here. Just one thought - be careful to teach children to receive with joy first before attempting to get them to give. Learning to receive correctly is a vital stage in the development of maturity that needs to precede the ability to give or a short-circuit is created that produces joyless, dutiful givers. That is what happened to many of us.
When we discern what really satisfies rather than just brings pleasure, then we can begin to notice that it really is more rewarding and satisfying to give than to receive. But it is important to learn the skill of paying attention to discerning what God has designed to bring us satisfaction so we can then make wise choices and give preference to those things over the constant urges to indulge in what only brings temporary pleasures.

Unknown said...

Heather, it was so good to see your name in my comment box! So nice to catch up with you here--to see you exploring preparation with Ann. And how brave of you to memorize James so quickly! I am enjoying the practice. It really brings peace. I hope all is well in your world and your family is doing fine.

Sending you so much love, Laura

Sarah said...

Compassion tugs at all of our hearts. As a family serving on the mission field, I can 100% share that your Compassion Child's life will never be the same.

Delighted to meet you today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you. This looks like a refreshing place to dip into some goodness.