Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

Christmas is normally my favorite time of year.  I just love everything about it. The smells, the sounds, the sights. But this year, Christmas day has just been a big fat reminder to me of what's coming for me and my kids: moving day.

Noah--Christmas 2010

It started in November, when we had that first cold snap.  I got excited for a second and then quickly remembered: oh no. This means the move is coming. And then Thanksgiving rolled around and I started to feel that kid-like excitement growing in me at the thought of Black Friday, Christmas shopping, and I'm not gonna lie...Christmas food. One of the best parts, right? But, again, I stopped myself before the excitement could gather. Because, frankly, even though I KNOW this is where God is moving us, it's been hard to think about how the goodbye's will happen. What could I possibly do to say goodbye to my friends and family the right way? Is there a right way? A way that's more meaningful than just a hug and a "bye"?

So, obviously, my attitude has been less than stellar. I've been trying to remind myself that I have excuses for sadness this holiday season: leaving home, leaving country; saying goodbye to precious friends and wondering how soon I'll make new ones; saying goodbye to family and knowing full-well that this is a void no one else can fill.

So, yeah, I've been excusing myself. I've allowed myself to be slightly pitiful.

And then sometime last week I started thinking about Mary and the painful life changes she went through in less than a year. A teenager, probably 14 or 15 at best.  Pregnant. Engaged to a man who may well be the only person who believes her story about an angel appearing and telling her she's to be the mother of the Messiah.  She was most likely abandoned by an ashamed family, or, at the least, given a horrible dose of judgement.  We women know about those cutting eyes other women can make. Kinda like high school? And we all remember how much fun THAT was.  And this was probably 10x worse. Then when the time came, she was alone, without her mother or sister, giving birth, in a dirty barn. Exactly the way we little girls dream it will happen, right?  She was in a situation where God called her to do something beyond herself, give of something greater than her own life.

The Bible is vague about so many of the events recorded on its pages.  Yet, it records in detail Mary's response to the life path that is suddenly thrust before her:

"My soul magnifies the Lord! How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me." Luke 1:46-49

I love that she says her soul magnifies the Lord. It not only challenges me, but last week, it reminded me of why Christmas is Christmas.

Although I do love all the wonderful things surrounding the holiday season, I was reminded of Mary's response to the Lord.  I'm sure she thought that carrying a child without being married was the "worst" thing she'd face. Little did she know that 33 years later she'd watch that perfect baby boy be beaten and whipped. Not just for me. But for her too. For all of our sins. I wonder if after he was buried and the finality of his death settled over her, was she able to say "my soul magnifies the Lord"?  My gut tells me that she could.  That in every stage, his birth, death, and then his glorious resurrection, Mary's soul magnified the Father.

So, who am I to stop myself from celebrating the greatest birthday in history? The greatest story, really. Because it didn't just happen in a day. The full meaning of Christmas happened over the 33 years of Jesus' life.  So, I am officially in full-swing Christmas mode.  Bring it on.  The food.  The family. The fun.  But, more than anything, reflecting on my Savior's birth. And creating an environment within my spirit that enables me to say, "Lord, my soul magnifies you."

Merry Christmas!!!

Me and the hubs; Christmas 2009

Seth- Christmas 2010

Jackson and Noah- Christmas 2009

Noah-Christmas 2007

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Please Remove Your Shoes...and other Canadian Curiosities

Once upon a time I went to Canada as a young 15-year-old girl visiting my best friend.  I planned my outfits carefully and packed as many outfits, including shoes, as I could in my suitcase.  (This was back in the day when flying with a suitcase was free and there was no 50 lb. limit. Ahhh...those were the days.  Wait. Did I just age myself?).  So, imagine my surprise when I landed and found out that shoes were not allowed in Canada.  I'm kidding. Sort-of.

You see, it is a part of Canadian culture to remove your shoes when you enter someone's home.  Shoes are welcome in any public place, obviously. But, listen you Americans! Don't you dare wear your heels or boots or flip flops or whatever it is your feet are transported in, into a Canadian home. You take those bad boys off!

But what do I do with my shoes, you ask?

As I learned when I was 15, you take your shoes off and put them by the door.  That's right.  You'd better hope that you aren't wearing your "special smelling" socks when you pop by someone's house.  Because it's socks, not shoes, that are welcome in Canadian households.

So, I'm going to try my best not to offend either side of this situation.  Because, listen, I can surely see the necessity of having guests take off their shoes in a northern climate.  Vancouver gets more rain than almost anywhere in North America.  I don't want mud on my floors! And what about snow and slush in the winter?  Another good reason for taking off shoes.

But...I'm not gonna lie.  The whole concept is a foreign thing to me. Obviously, being from the south, I wasn't raised removing my shoes every time I entered a house.  In fact,  if I ever took my shoes off in a person's house we were visiting, it was considered rude.

So, at 15 years old, I had certain questions run through my head.  Questions I still struggle with.  For example:  What if you have really stinky feet?  Like the kind of stink that doctors have to treat?  That could be embarrassing.  Or what if your socks have holes all in them because those were the only clean socks you could find that particular day? (Yes, I'm speaking from experience. Don't judge me, man).  What if you are wearing hose that you don't want to snag?

But, and this is the most important question of all, what if your shoes MAKE the outfit? GIRLS!?!?! WOMEN!?!?! Do you hear me? What if you are only 5 feet tall (cough cough) and almost every pair of jeans requires  heels or wedges? When the shoes are taken off, you look deflated. What if it's winter time and you are wearing boots with leggings? And then you have to take the boots off? Outfit destroyed. What if you are going over to a friend's house for dinner and you get all cute with skinny jeans and boots and leg warmers.  And then you get just take it all off?  These are the questions I need answered!

So...I've made a decision for our Canadian-mostly-American home.  Once we have one, that is.  All guests will not be allowed to take off their shoes.  Unless, of course, it's a horribly rainy or snowy day.  But, if it is beautiful outside or if their shoes are clean, I want our guests to know that in the Friesen are welcome! Shoes of all shapes and sizes.  So those with smelly feet: you are welcome! No need to be embarrassed anymore! Those who love their new boots: c'mon over and show them off!
Those who have an aversion to picking through other people's shoes to find their own (this has happened to me and it almost scarred me), you are welcome in our house!

I've picked through much larger piles than this. Disgusting is what that is!
I think I will have a sign at our house that says "please KEEP your shoes on!" But, because I've never lived there and my opinion is entitled to change, I will keep one on hand like this that I saw on pinterest:

Or, I may pull that sign out on days that I just don't feel like vacuuming. Which may be more days than not.

For my American friends, here's a totally un-related picture series of beautiful Vancouver.  We will be living there in (gulp!) 16 days.