The Paradise Estate Christmas

Most of us have that one special Christmas. The one when you awaken after a sleepless night filled with such anticipation and nervousness. Fingers crossed and a shaky smile on your face as you descend the stairs, hoping and praying Santa has left you that one special gift.  The one Christmas that tops all others. The one that makes all other Christmas mornings a little less shiny because they will never be quite as magical as the “one.”

I was eight years old when I had that one special Christmas.  It was the year  Santa brought me the Paradise Estate. Back then, My Little Pony dolls were everything to me and I had dreamed about owning their pink plastic mansion for months on end. I had asked for this on my Christmas list but I just didn’t think Santa was going to come through.

The level of shock and gratitude I had when I walked into that room and saw the gift I had been dreaming about is something I am not sure my own children can appreciate.  I was a true 80’s child and I was not used to receiving many presents during the year. Gifts were limited to birthdays and Christmas.  If there was anything in between it was rare and most probably from a yard sale.

So Christmas became everything. It created a feeling of such excitement that sleep was almost impossible for me. I would stay up for most of the night. Staring outside at the Santa’s Runway my treasured neighborhood did every Christmas Eve. Lights flickering in white bags that lined the streets. My euphoria growing every single minute as the clock inched closer to morning.

The Paradise Estate Christmas left an imprint on my heart that has never gone away.  I was eight years old and had the best life a girl could ever hope for. A wonderful home with a wonderful family and all the love in the world.

It left an imprint on my heart that could never be erased. An imprint that would help ease the terrible pain and sadness I endured when my storybook childhood came to a crashing halt just four short years later.

Christmas mornings were never the same after that. My dad was around for a few more but not many. The innocence and magic of it all was now  buried under an air of worry and anxiety that seemed to surround those unpredictable years of my father’s addiction.

But I still had that one special Paradise Estate Christmas in my heart. The one that would help me get through all of the others.  It was still there when we worried about having heat in our house instead of what presents would be under the tree. When nervousness about having enough food came before the awe and wonder of the holidays. And it was there on that one sad Christmas  morning when my dad reappeared, on the wagon temporarily, to cook us a sad Christmas meal in the dirty, worn down shell of a house he was now living in. This man, my father who  had stayed up all night to put together my beautiful Paradise Estate, was now barely able to look his three children in the eyes.

Years later, I would forgive my dad and we would spend the last few Christmas mornings of his life together, celebrating as a family. I would like to believe my forgiveness was made easier because of moments like that one Paradise Estate Christmas.  Because in my father’s act of love, ensuring that I had the most magical Christmas an eight year old could ever have, he had laid the foundation. He had left an imprint on my heart and I knew I had been loved and was still loved even through all of the hurt and the pain.

That love would always be there.

I have never had another Christmas like that one Paradise Estate Christmas and I am not sure I ever will. 26 years have passed and I now have the pleasure of playing Santa myself. I try to recreate that magic with my own two boys but I am not sure I have ever topped the Christmas of 1988.

It is tucked safely away, reminding me that I was once eight years old. Reminding me of that wonderful family I had in my safe and wonderful house, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.

A girl who knew that she was loved.

 

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Paper Plates

John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The boys thought it would be a super great idea to tape paper plates to their feet tonight and race around the house. Yeah I don’t know why or how they came up with this plan. But they found some plates, found some tape, and off they went sliding around the house. It was all fun and games until they reached the finish line (bedroom door). Brady slid in first and Eli fell right on top of him.

And then World War Three broke out on Lawn Drive.

I’m sighing out loud as I write this because it’s a constant never ending drama in our house. The boys decide to play something or make something or do something and in a manner of minutes, the fun turns into fighting, and yelling, and screaming.

Punches get thrown.

Feelings get hurt.

My hair turns a little more gray.

Every. Single. Time.

Sigh.

My boys are very different. Eli is balls to the wall, high energy, wakes up ready to take on the world.

Don’t you dare wake Brady up. Yikes.  But he is the more  calm and gentler one of the two (if you don’t wake him up). Our 13 year old cat Ali certainly prefers Brady over his brother any day.

The 2 year old crazy Labrador? Yeah Eli’s her kid.

But my boys do love each other. They really do.Yet they are different and it is hard to live together when you have such completely different personalities. Someone always gets mad at the other person. Someone always gets their feelings hurt. There is always (ALWAYS) a disagreement.

And  then they start throwing punches.

Tonight after the plate incident, Eli crawled into the bed with me and I asked him if he had apologized to Brady. He leaned his little head on my shoulder and sighed “Not yet, but he will forgive me, he always does.”

And it’s true. He will forgive him. He is his brother and it will be forgotten..for the moment at least.

I take comfort in the fact that my boys still love each other despite all of the fighting and the disagreements and the differences. They know they are family first and even though they don’t always see things the same way, they do ultimately, in the end, love each other.

See where I’m going with this?

As Christians, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. He commands us to love one another. He commands us to be devoted to others, including people might not feel so hot about us.

The Bible doesn’t say to love only the neighbors who are just like you.

The Bible doesn’t say to be devoted to the people who think just like you.

God  wants you to love those people and oh yeah-the rest of the world too.

Even the ones we don’t see eye to eye with. Even the ones who see us as their enemies.

Love them all. Wrap them up in it. Smother them with kindness and understanding and warmth. Be gracious. Be a light.

Brady will wake up in the morning and probably disagree with his brother about 20 more times before the day is over. But at the end of the night, just like every night, he will give his baby brother a hug and pray that Eli has a good night.

We are all God’s children, all part of the same family, and no matter what, we are all called to love one another. Even if our paper plate shoes cause us to crash into one another. Even if we don’t agree. Even if our feelings get hurt.

Love is God’s greatest gift. It’s our most powerful weapon.

It’s the only medicine that will truly heal us.

And it’s the only thing that will ever truly unite us.

Fire Alarms

“Wash away all my inequity and cleanse me from my sin” Psalm 51.2

Sometimes, when I’m walking past a fire alarm, I really want to pull it. Seriously, I do. It’s like it’s calling my name “Paige, Paige, come here.” Taunting me as I stroll by, tempting me with its shininess and untouchableness.

I have no real valid, legitimate reason for wanting to pull it. I really don’t. I don’t want the day to stop for people who are working. I don’t want people to be scared or worried.

I simply want to pull the fire alarm because I’m not supposed to do it

Am I crazy or what?

And maybe I am a little weird but I do think many of us suffer from the same problem. We might not be running around wanting to pull fire alarms but we all have some type of sin or temptation in our lives that we do (or think about doing) simply because we aren’t supposed to do it.

We can be like that  child who is told not to eat a huge plate of cookies and then his mother leaves him alone.  Hmmm.. those  cookies look pretty good.  I’m not really hungry but Mom told me not to eat them so they must be delicious. It won’t hurt to just eat one little cookie right?

Satan is a sneaky little character isn’t he? He likes to tempt. Likes to dangle things right in front of you that don’t seem so bad

The next thing you know your mouth is covered with crumbs and you have a massive tummy ache.

On top of being ashamed.

And in trouble.

But just like your mama still loves you after you have eaten all of those cookies, Jesus still loves you too.

He will wipe those crumbs away. Better yet, the next time you come across a plate of untouchable cookies, He will help you stay away from them altogether.

We just have to be willing to let Jesus in.  We have to open our hearts and souls to Him and stop letting the Devil tempt us with the cookies and the fire alarms and all the ways of this crazy messed up world.

We have to push that  plate away and make room for something far more satisfying and rewarding- a relationship with Jesus Christ.

After all, He is way better than gaining five pounds from eating a plate of cookies

(Or possibly losing my job for pulling the fire alarm.)

He is a million gazillion warm chocolate chip cookies.

And then some.

 

Sunday Mornings

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

I cherish the moments I spend in church with my children worshiping the Lord. It’s such a peaceful time of togetherness and joy. They listen so attentively. They sing so passionately. They behave like the little angels God created them to be.

OK I cant even type that without laughing.

Truth be known, my children always seem to become infected by a little case of the crazies from the moment they wake up on Sunday mornings. They are grumpy. They are tired. They are slow to move. They aren’t hungry and refuse breakfast. This then transforms their mother, who always wakes up hopeful on Sunday mornings, into suddenly a not so lovable person. I end up yelling like a lunatic when, just a few seconds earlier, I was singing Toby Mac in the shower as joyful as can be.

The ride to church isn’t much better. Someone is going to say something smart or sassy or both. And then someone else might let go of the steering wheel while she tries to grab sassy pants in the back seat. That same someone might threaten to take away Ipads, basketballs, and trips to Grandmas all in the same breath.

Before we even roll into the church parking lot.

Then starts the stomping and slamming of doors as we get out of the car. Muttering under our breaths and looks that could probably break the stained glass windows in the sanctuary.

When we finally make it to the sanctuary, feeling and probably looking as if we have been through a tornado, there is the usual battle of musical chairs (you can’t sit next to each other boys) and the frequent requests to play with phones, go the bathroom, get water, and to sneak down into the church kitchen for food (they are of course hungry now).

Then comes the frequent removal of the legs from the back of the pew. Frequent requests to sit up. Frequent requests to stand up and sing.

Oh yes, it’s a never ending test of parenting every Sunday morning.  It’s not easy. It’s not fun.

I pray my boys are somehow (maybe through osmosis) learning about Jesus as we endure these Sunday morning battles. I hope they are catching glimpses of His grace, glimpses of His goodness, even amidst the chaos and frustration.

And when I do happen to catch the glimpses of Him, from the sweet sound of Eli singing It Is Well With My Soul to how seriously Brady takes communion, I realize that no matter how hard the battle is, no matter how much my hair is turning gray, we are still right where God wants us to be.   We might be frazzled. We might be harried. But we are together.

We are worshiping our Savior.

We are fighting the good fight.

One Sunday morning at a time.

 

 

Junk Mail

John 14:27   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I can’t stand junk mail. Whether it’s in my work mailbox or my home mailbox, junk mail is one of those little annoyances in life that really get under my skin. Kind of like an empty toilet paper roll that hasn’t been changed or a Lego piece left out in just the right spot for my poor little foot to stumble upon in the dark. Junk mail is appropriately named “junk” for a reason.

The problem with my junk mail is that I don’t really ever do anything with it. I tend to put off getting rid of it. I leave it in my school mailbox for weeks at a time and leave it in my home mailbox for way too long. I’m pretty sure I’m not my mailman’s favorite stop. There is something in my brain that prohibits me from simply pulling it out of my box and throwing it away.

Do you have junk in your life that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Whether it’s toxic habits, toxic friends, or toxic feelings? What is stopping you from simply pulling it out of your box and tossing it to the curb? Why do you the trash fester? Why do you let it build up?

Right before He left His disciples, Jesus left them with one gift. A valuable gift that they could never lose and or ever have taken away. He gave them the gift of peace.

Jesus doesn’t want us to lead lives full of baggage. He doesn’t want us to be weighed down by all of the junk that life can throw at us. He told his disciples that the world could never give to them like He could and He meant it.

Just like with His disciples, Jesus wants us to live lives full of peace. He wants us to empty that mailbox, toss out that junk, and to not that old garbage sit.

Think about what you have building up. Think about what you have festering. It’s time to get rid of it. It’s time to clean out the mess you have left sitting for far too long.

Start living a life full of peace. Not a life full of junk. Toss all of that mess away.

You’re going to need a clear view to see Jesus.

Excuses

Sunday mornings at my house are not exactly what the Lord intends a Sunday morning to be. We are slow moving on Sundays. The busy week has finally caught up with us and we all  like to take some time and chill. And then, just like that, time as gotten away from us and the race to get ready for church begins.

Then it’s time for the excuses.

Me: “Brady get up”   Brady: “I’m just too tired”

Me: ” Eli find your shoes” Eli: “Why do I need shoes for church?”

And finally my favorite from this morning…

Me: “Brady brush your teeth”  Brady: “Can’t. Have gum in my mouth already.”

There’s always an excuse with  my little ones. Whether it’s Sunday mornings or weekday mornings or Sunday nights or weekday nights. They always have a reason for why they simply can’t do something.

And I can be the exact same way.

I hate exercising. I don’t want to do it. Ever. And trust me, I will come up with all sorts of excuses to not do it. I have too many other things on my plate. I need my rest. I don’t feel well. Any old excuse will do.

But you know what the funny thing is? When I do manage to exercise (and I have been pretty on the ball with it lately) I feel so much better. I have more energy and I don’t drag through my day. It’s worth every minute.

Lately, I’ve been coming up with all sorts of excuses for my time with God too. I need to sleep in longer, have too much going on, have to get the boy’s things together. I always seem to turn my mornings into Martha moments, scurrying around, worrying about the things of this world.  I can come up with a million different reasons for not sitting down with Him.

And just like with exercising, when I do manage to start my mornings with my Lord, when I become a Mary and not a Martha, I always feel so much better.

We all come up with excuses to spend time away from God. We are running a million miles an hour on a treadmill that won’t stop. Whether it’s with our children, our jobs, housework, or all of the above (and then some) we all have loaded plates.

But regardless of how busy we feel, we should always make time for Him.  He should be on the forefront of our minds when we rise each morning.

Think about the excuses you make for your time away from Him. Are other things really more important than God? Then the one who created us and blessed us with these lives that we have?

Nope. He outdoes everything else on my To Do List.

It’s time for Him to have the number one spot.

Roller Skating

Psalm 145:14  The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Eli and I went roller skating yesterday. It was my niece Angelina’s 10th birthday and that’s how she wanted to celebrate her day. So after a lunch at Friendly’s (woohoo patty melt), we all headed over to Chester’s favorite skating spot.

Now I am not a master of many things, (unless you count being an excellent Netflix watcher, a relatively fast typer, and a fairly good reader) but I can skate. I’m not winning any races, but I can go pretty fast on a pair of skates without looking like a complete hot mess. And I was doing my thing yesterday at good old Chester Skateland. In fact it was all good until the Hokey Pokey. I got just a little too cocky and spun around way too fast. I didn’t fall, but I came pretty close to biting the dust for sure.

Most of the time we sail through life on our skates. We go through our days, our routines, our lives, dodging and weaving problems and pitfalls without falling. We may narrowly miss tripping over a leg from a sprawled out kid in front of us, or stumble going around a turn too fast, but we still remain up; still remain standing.

But then there are those times when we do fall. We trip and fall flat on our faces, completely taken aback.  Or someone holding onto us drags us down onto the rock hard floor alongside them.

Or we cause our own crashes, not paying attention to the warning signs up ahead. We get arrogant and try and take a turn way too fast, not realizing that we aren’t ready for that move quite yet.

My five year old nephew Andrew can’t skate at all. As soon as he stands up on a pair of skates he falls flat on his face. It’s a constant struggle for him to get around the rink. He needs lots of help and constant support.

Sometimes we are like Andrew too. When we can’t get up at all. When life just keeps knocking us down over and over again. Or we get completely and utterly blindsided and think there is no way we will ever be able to stand up on our own again.

It’s in those moments after I have taken a pretty bad hit or stumble, those moments when I feel most alone, that I remember I am not on own. I don’t have to do it by myself because God is always right there beside me. He is there when I am sailing fast around those corners confidently, without a fear in sight.

And He was there when I had the wind completely knocked out of me, unable to even move because the pain hurt so much.

We don’t have to rely on just ourselves to stand back up. We always have someone to help pick us up off of that cold, hard floor. To carry us even when we can’t move at all.

He’s there. When we are up and when we are down. When we are sailing and when we are crumbling.

Reminding us always that we are never alone.