Christmas, Family, Friendship

Too Good To Be True

Tis the season for Christmas stories to portray happy families and for Christmas movies to mend broken hearts in ninety minutes—if you take out the commercials for gifts that will satisfy our deepest longings. I knew the stories and movies and advertisements were fantasy but what about friends’ Christmas cards and letters of bliss?

Along the way, I learned that any person or family too good to be true was too good to be true.

Certain friends, acquaintances and leaders seemed faultless. It was heart-breaking to learn of their hidden pain and struggles, and yes, great flaws. I had no idea. It gave me perspective when I was tempted to wonder why others had it so easy. They didn’t.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Romans 3:28 (ESV)

Our brokenness is why we celebrate the birth of a Savior.  Jesus’s perfect life and subsequent death in our place is the only news this season that is both too good and too true.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 (ESV)

Christmas, Parenting

St. Nicholas Day

While a friend told me about her daughter’s stolen bike, her five-year-old interrupted. “We don’t need to pray about my bike, Mommy. I’ll ask Santa Claus for one.”

While I was telling my second-grade Sunday School class about the birth of Jesus, little Charlie raised his hand. “Can we talk about what Santa Claus brought us instead?”

Those memories plus my own childhood anxiety of being “good enough” for Santa, kept me from playing the Santa Claus game with my children. I wanted truth. We read The Night Before Christmas, but we treated it as the fiction it was. Edna Barth’s Holly, Reindeer and Colored Lights helped explain cultural Christmas compared to the celebration of Christ’s birth.

However, I didn’t want Santa to seem like forbidden fruit. A friend in college had lamented the lack of Santa in her life. St. Nicholas Day helped bridge that gap.

One year, I surprised the children with filled stockings on December 6th, which was St. Nicholas Day.  We discussed the legends of St. Nicholas. That tradition continued a few years. Later, filled stockings made their way to my sons’ colleges as their exam-time care packages.

How have you handled cultural myths?

Book Recomendations, Christmas, Winter

Jolabokaflod: Christmas Book Flood

Books are not only treasured as Christmas presents in Iceland, they are also given in abundance. For Icelanders, the holiday season begins with the delivery of Bokitidindi, the catalog of the new books published in Iceland that year.  Citizens pour over the catalog for their Christmas selections.

After the books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, everyone snuggles down with hot cocoa and reads the night away. The occasion is called Jolabokaflod which translates roughly to Christmas Book Flood.

The closest our family came to a Jolabokaflod was when my husband unwrapped a Field of Dreams DVD one Christmas Eve and all five us piled into our queen bed to watch it. A favorite memory. Books with hot cocoa would have been even better.

Of all the things I wish I had known—before my children were grown and scattered— Jolabokaflod is probably the most fun and bonding. Christmas Eve is too full with our established traditions, but I would have declared another day,  perhaps New Year’s Book Flood.

Interested in a new tradition?

Holidays, Money

Not a Penny to Waste

When my husband attended one of his first meetings as a new faculty member, what he remembered most was a statement from the head of the business school.

“We have money for everything we need but not a penny to waste.”

Dean Richard Scott

We claimed that declaration as our money mantra, and it outlasted all others. (See here and here) Over the years, we have neglected things we needed and wasted a bit, but it has been a good compass. In times of want we have said, “We have money for everything we need,” and in times of plenty we have said, “We don’t have a penny to waste.”

I especially like the reminder during the holidays when both temptations exist: not allocating enough money for celebrating and unnecessary splurges.

Do any statements guide your money thinking?

Family

A Legacy oF Unconditonal Love

My beloved grandmother was born this day 111 years ago. My pseudonym T. Cox is derived from her surnames.

Grandmommy in 1983

When we reminisce, the one thing my siblings and I agree about is that the happiest days of our childhood were spent at my grandmother’s house.

Grandmommy was fun. She played dress up with us. She recited silly rhymes. She made us sticky buns for breakfast and ice cream sundaes long after bedtime. She bought us needed clothes and unneeded toys.

I remember only one denied request. My sister and I begged Grandmommy to hide us in the attic so we wouldn’t have to go home—an unbearable 200+ miles away. Later, I learned that my younger brother asked the same.

The children who asked to hide in their grandmother’s attic.

Why did we want to stay? Grandmommy gave us unconditional love and emotional security—vital to our survival during our formative years. She lived Matthew 18:10.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.