Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The packages have been ripped into and opened.  The kids are contently playing with all their new treasures upstairs.  It has been a wonderful Christmas morning in the Ellis house.  The kids were up early eagerly waiting to come downstairs to see what treasures awaited them.  I quietly went to Bekah's room this morning and overheard them talking.  Andrew was telling Bekah what to expect and how to react.  He told her "Now, don't say 'I was wondering if I would get this' because they might think we snuck down there to peek."  When he realized I was standing there, he quickly assured me that they had not come downstairs for an early preview.  

"What God Wants for Christmas" Nativity
Tim and I received the best Christmas present of all from our kids.  This was the first year that they did most of their own "shopping" (at the Awana store) and decided on their presents for us.  They had a present for Mommy & Daddy from Andrew and Rebekah.  I was quite curious.  It was a round shaped, wrapped, and it rattled.  Sounded like lego pieces to me.  We opened it up, and it was cool whip container with a lid from a butter container.  We opened it up and found money- dollar bills, change- and several gems.  It was a total of $4.41 and 4 gems.  He quickly explained that it was money from them for Papua New Guinea.  Yeah, there were tears in this Mama's eyes.  The kids are as excited about our mission and adventure with Wycliffe as we are.  
It was what I needed this morning as I began to wonder what our Christmas will be like over the next five years.  This is probably our last Christmas at our house in Snellville.  This time next year we will be preparing to leave for Papua New Guinea.  I'm not sure what our Christmas will be like from this point forward.  This has been a wonderful Christmas, though.  It is one to remember.  We are even expecting a white Christmas.  The first (and could be only) white Christmas we have ever experienced.  Definitely a memorable Christmas in the Ellis family.  
Enjoy your Christmas this year with your family.  May you remember the true reason for the season.  We don't just celebrate the birth of Jesus.  We celebrate the reason Jesus was born.  He was born to die for our sins and conquer death, so we may spend eternity with Him in heaven.  This is the greatest gift any of us can get on Christmas.  
Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What do you want for Christmas?

Last night we took the kids to visit Santa at Bass Pro Shop.  It is one of the few places where the parents do not have to shell out tons of money to buy a photo package they don't really want just to allow their child to speak to Santa for a brief moment.  Yeah, the Ellis family is cheap.  The added bonus, we get to take our own pictures in addition to the one they take and give us for free!  WooHoo! 

Before we went, I had asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas.  This is where the two distinct personalities of my kids come out.  Andrew has a list a mile long and has very expensive taste.  Bekah is sweet and simple- baby dolls.  On the way home, I asked them what they told Santa.  Andrew- a DS and a stuffed dog.  Bekah- the same thing.  Do I think this is what they want more than anything?  No.  I think it is just what came to their minds at that moment. 

I enjoy buying presents for my kids.  What parent doesn't?  I don't wait for their list of the latest "wants", though.  I buy based on what it is I find that I know they will enjoy- and enjoy more than just Christmas Day.  I've noticed as time goes on that the kids tend to want whatever it is they see.  It doesn't matter what it is or if they already have one very similar.  I love to find them things that I know they will like and enjoy and even better than that toy they saw earlier.  If Andrew had his way, their would be a Beagle puppy under our tree.  He knows (at least we have told him over and over) that there will be no puppy under the tree- at least not a real one.  Why?  Mommy & Bekah are both allergic to dogs AND we are moving overseas in a year.  He'll get so teary eyed and pitiful over the fact that he can't have a dog right now.  It is heartbreaking, but I know it is not what is best for him or for us at this time.  That is probably the one thing he really does want, but, now is not the time.

As I think about Christmas and all the gifts, I'm reminded of the verse "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11).  I think about my own motivations for giving gifts to my children.  I want to give them good gifts, but not everything they want is good.  So often, though, I think that God should give me what I want.  But I must remember that God wants to give me good gifts.  He knows what is good for me.  So, instead of getting mad, upset, or down about not getting what I think I need or want, I'm going to trust.  I'm going to trust that God will keep His promise just a couple verses earlier.  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7,8)  

One day Andrew may get that beagle puppy.  It won't be this Christmas, though.  He is a very persistent boy and will continue to ask, seek, and knock.  Am I that persistent with God with what I really want?  Do I really know what it is that God wants for me?  After all, His gifts are so much better than we could ever imagine.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Time is Here

It is that crazy, busy time of the year.  The time of the year where we tend to blow everything we've worked toward the rest of the year.  Diets- out the window.  Staying on a budget and spending within our means- maybe in January.  Taking time for our family to have time together- does going to and from countless parties, rehearsals, plays, performances, etc count?  Being disciplined and diligent in school (at least for us homeschoolers)- ok for math today we are going to calculate how much we spend on buying stuff.  Why is it that when we get to the fourth week of November, we turn into crazy people?  So many of us actually dread this "most wonderful time of the year." 

OK before you start calling me Mrs. Scrooge, let me explain where I'm going with all of this.  Maybe some of you are totally relating to that first paragraph.  I know there are many times that is me.  This year I'm really trying to focus on the why of Christmas.  Most of you reading this blog can tell me in a heartbeat that the "reason for the season" is Jesus' birth.  I'm sure you'll also confess that you tend to forget that part of it at times.  Every year I try to focus on Jesus' birth by re-reading the account of His birth and the events leading up to it.  This year I've also started reading some additional Christmas books to accompany my focus.  Thanks to the Kindle my brother gave me as an early Christmas/birthday present and the free books on amazon I can download, I've gotten more insight.  It has been very challenging and inspiring.  

I was reading in Luke 1 about when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth after Mary found out she was to become pregnant through Holy intervention and give birth to the Christ child.  I remember reading that passage 8 years ago with a new passion and wonderment.  I was 7 months pregnant with our first child.  I thought about Elizabeth who was 6 months pregnant with her first child when Mary came to visit.  When Mary first spoke, the baby within Elizabeth leaped at the sound of Mary's voice.  Usually at that point in a pregnancy, the baby tends to be moving around more and more and causing more and more discomfort to mom.  When I was pregnant with Andrew, he got the hiccups quite often.  My stomach looked like it was leaping as it "jumped" with every hiccup.  Without fail we would sit down on Sunday morning to listen to Dr. Merritt preach.  The hiccups began.  I'm sure that is NOT what Elizabeth felt when John the Baptist leaped at the sound of the Savior's mother's voice.  I imagine more of a dramatic leap than that of a hiccup.  It was an undeniable movement that Elizabeth felt.  She was pretty used to the movement of the developing baby by this time in her pregnancy.  Well, as used to the movement as any mom who has a living child inside her moving around at his/her whim! 

That wasn't what meant the most to me as I am preparing for this Christmas season.  In Luke 1:45 Elizabeth tells Mary "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  (NIV)  The New Living Translation says "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said".  That really hit me.  Mary was blessed not because she was carrying the Christ.  No Mary was blessed because she BELIEVED that the Lord would do what He said.  She believed.  Am I like Mary?  Do I believe that the Lord will do what He says?  I have to admit this year that question has a whole new meaning.  Do I believe that God will provide for us as we follow Him?  Do I believe that He can provide the renters or buyers for our two houses that have declined in value so dramatically in this real estate market?  Do I believe that He has already lined up our financial partners and prayer partners?  Do I believe He will provide comfort and peace to my mom (and the rest of our family) as we prepare to leave?  And the biggie- Do I believe that He will get me through our 15 weeks of Pacific Orientation Course (POC) where I will be pushed to limits I've never experienced? 

As I think about believing that God will do what He says, I think about what Mary knew when the angel came to see her.  She probably had no idea what the next 34 years of her life would be like and how tragically the life of this sweet baby she was to carry would end.  During Christmas, we don't want to look at the cross.  We just like the sweet baby.  But that baby came for a purpose- a singular purpose- to be our Savior- to reconcile us with God.  He came for the cross.  He came to die and then to be resurrected.  It was through His death and resurrection that we have Christmas.  We don't celebrate the birth of anyone else like we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Why?  It is because of the "why" of Jesus' birth. "He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross"  (Philippians 2:7-8, NLT) 

As you go through the next two weeks, reflect on why we do this craziness of Christmas.  Take time to reflect on the true reason for Christmas.  Remember not just the sweet baby but also the cross and the most victorious conquering of death through His resurrection. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

God's Hand in All Things

Psalm 135:6-8

 The LORD does whatever pleases him,
   in the heavens and on the earth,
   in the seas and all their depths.
 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
   he sends lightning with the rain
   and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

 Winter is here.  Well, it may not be technically winter, but it sure feels like winter outside!  This Florida girl considers it winter when the high temperature doesn't get out of the 60's.  Lately, we haven't been anywhere near 60.  We've had some wild weather around here this past week.  Monday started out cold and yucky.  Tuesday it was really warm with storms, including a tornado only about 20 miles north of us.  Wednesday brought more cold weather.  Last night another cold front came through with the wind.  I've seen the damage the wind can do.  This amazing force that can bring a cool breeze on a hot day can also break a tree like a toothpick or move a house completely off of its foundation. 

One of the things I was looking for when we bought our house was trees.  I was tired of living in a clear cut subdivision with these tiny baby trees and no shade.  Well, we got trees.  In fact when we first bought the house, we had to take out several trees, including a large one right in front of the house that was dead and had already caused damage to the roof.  Tim has taken down several trees in the back already.  A few weeks ago we had one snap at the top. Tim took it down Thanksgiving day.  Last night we had another tree snap.  This was a huge pine that snapped near the bottom.  We heard the snap and pops last night as we laid in bed.  I had no idea at the time what it was.  This morning I looked out expecting to see at least a section of our fence on the ground.  Looked like we escaped any sort of damage as I looked out the window in the early morning darkness.  As daylight broke through, I was able to see the tree down.  I went out to take a look.  I noticed that the tree was being supported by a much smaller tree.  That small tree is what held the large pine from crashing down our fence and putting the tree in the street.  I peered between the slats on the fence and saw some small branches on the other side, but nothing in the road.  No sign of anything that landed in the road behind our house.

I immediately began thanking God for His protection.  The tree fell away from the house.  The smaller tree "caught" the large tree.   We have even more firewood, which means lots of school days in front of the fireplace!  I did a little bit of searching of "wind" in the Bible.  I wanted to see how it was used.  God used the wind to help the waters recede after the flood of Noah (Genesis 8:1).  When God brought the plagues upon Egypt.  He sent in an east wind that brought in the locusts. (Exodus 10:13) He used a west wind to blow them away. (Exodus 10:19)  Again He used an east wind to bring the dry land for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea.  (Exodus 14:21).  The Psalmist tells us that God does as He pleases and brings out the winds from His storehouses.  This is a reminder that all is within the Hand of God. Ecclesiastes 11:5 tells us "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things."  When we don't understand what is going on in our lives, we can always rest assured that God is the Maker of ALL things and He DOES know.

I look back on our lives.  I am beginning to understand how God has used some things in my life and the life of our family to bring us to this point in our lives.  We are ready to follow Him because He alone is worthy.  He has proven Himself faithful time and time again.  Even if the small tree that is holding up our large tree had not been there, we would trust in God to continue His work in our lives.  The safest place to be in right in the Center of God's Will.  We are doing as he directs, so no matter what, we are in the safest place possible.