Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When Expectancy Eclipses Distraction

Christmas is in two days.  Two, short, 24-hour periods.  Unbelievable.

Sometimes the days are hard and rough and I think they will drag on forever.  How long will we be in this place, Lord?

Other days are saturated with joy and gratitude and intention and they vanish like hot breath on cold mornings.  Where has the time gone?  Weren't we just expectantly waiting the arrival of twin girls?  And suddenly, they are on the edge of two years old.

Every year we wait expectantly for Christmas.  The excitement begins to churn in November.  There is a lot to look forward to.  A reminder of love and grace.  We fight for humility and thanksgiving.  There is celebration and light, music and warm hugs, and yet another opportunity to share Christ with a dying world.

The weeks before Christmas come as a hallowed stirring, a heavenly build up, a holy pressure.  All for the birth of a God-made-human who would forever change my life.  A baby changes everything.

This is right.  This is holy.

My family and I light candles on an advent wreath during the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. On the first day of advent we light a single candle, and each Sunday after that we add one to the circle of light.  When we lit the third candle last week, my four-year-old giddily bursted with, "One week closer to Christmas!"

He gets it.

The world would have us so wrapped up in red wrapping paper and red prices on a sales tag that our bank account reads red as well.  Distracted by the depression of debt.

The world would have us so stretched thin by commercialism and perfectionism that there isn't much left to give Christ.  Keeping up with the Jones' doesn't leave much time for keeping up with the Spirit.  Distracted by the entitlement of a thousand-dollar-Christmas.

Expectant waiting keeps our eyes focused on Christ.  It keeps our hearts tied to the one who created them.  Expectant waiting not only produces anticipation, but also appreciation.  It provides proper perspective.  It smooths over the disappointment, entitlement, loneliness and other distractions that Satan uses to draw our attention away from a most holy and awesome God.

Two days until Christmas.  Two days until we officially celebrate the arrival of our personal hero.  The one who sweeps us off our feet in the threat of hell.

Fight the temptation to be distracted in these last couple of precious days.  Every heart prepare Him room!

Merry Christmas my dear, sweet friends.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Stuff: About Me and Why I'm So Adventurous

If you haven't noticed, I have given the blog and Facebook page a little face lift.  God has given me fresh direction for my next steps and I am very excited about it!  A few of you who read this blog know me intimately, and when you read the following, you'll think, Yep.  Sounds about right.

But many of you don't know me from Eve, and I wanted to formally introduce myself.  So here is my "About Me" summary that you can also find on my Facebook writer's page.  And maybe a web site sometime in the future!

Just for the record, the above picture was taken by my rockstar hubby.  He's the best.

Who is this girl and what does she have to offer me?

Well, since you asked, my name is Stacey and there really isn’t much special about me.  I’m just a girl from a smallish town who God got a hold of.

I’ve always been a feeble follower of Christ and I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mother.  I had big ideas, big dreams, and soon-to-follow big disappointments.

Like taking a sip of Coke when you think it’s going to be sweet iced tea, I was rudely woken up to the messiness of life.  But in the midst of all, I was given these gifts.  You know, kind of like when you unwrap a shoebox on Christmas morning only to find there is a diamond ring tucked away inside (that’s never happened to me, just to be clear, cough*hubby*cough. Maybe this year.).

Through lightning-like motherhood, a faulty misconception of love, and a marriage marked by infidelity, I was wrapped with the luxury of wisdom, discernment, grace that will knock you off your feet, and a rock-solid definition of love as only God has intended it to be.

So, there’s that.

Also, you might enjoy knowing that I have three littles who keep me insanely busy and senselessly happy.  They are simultaneously aging me and delighting me on a daily basis.

I also have a rock star filmmaker husband who lights up my world.  He immediately turns on my heated seat for me every time he starts the mom-mobile. Oh, and he brings me chocolate and Mt. Dew on long, hairy days.

You should also know that if you’re reading this, I love you and I have prayed for you.  Crazy, right?  I’m not a weirdo, I promise.  I just have a fiery passion for women who are seeking after the Lord.  Our heavenly Father has placed a calling on my life that I just cannot ignore.  He has called me to encourage and love on His daughters.  And that is exactly what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing! 

Why Adventurous Love?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines adventure as an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.  It also defines it as an exciting or remarkable experience.

Isn’t that just like love?  Marriage?  Family?

It is a risk to love.  What if you aren’t loved in return?  What if you pour your heart and soul into someone only to have them show you the scars that the world and sin have left on them?  What if selfishness, addiction, or Godlessness drives you toward the boundary of “not what I signed up for.”

What if your children fly from your nest and leave a wake of disappointment and heartbreak in their path?  Risky business.

Love is giving the other person longer than they deserve to correct a mistake.  Love is earnestly praying for those who have smiled to your face and tarnished your name behind your back.  Love is humbling yourself enough to admit your part in the destruction of a relationship.  Love doesn't advertise someone else's sins to make your own a little dimmer.  Love is refusing to let past betrayals control your mind and heart today.

So here’s why it’s worth it: because it is also a remarkable experience.

It's exactly what God has been doing for us since the day he created us in his infinite imagination.  He loves us in spite of who we are, and he calls us to do the same.  Marriage and family are designed to be a picture to the world of how God loves us. 

Heavy stuff right there, but it gets me excited.  It is a pure honor to love my husband, a privilege to love my children.  I am so imperfect at it.  Some might say bad at it, but the idea that God gives me the opportunity to emulate Him to others who so desperately need Him (just like me), just leaves me punch drunk.  How awesome.

So, I’m glad you’re here!  If you choose to hang out and spend some time with me, just know that God is here as well.  Isn’t that great?  I hope you find both love and adventure here.

It is in Him that we live and move and have our very being,

Stacey Layden

Monday, December 8, 2014

Grace In The Form of Animal Cookies

Something bizarre happened this morning.  I woke up sick, which doesn't happen often.  I'm not visiting the local Urgent Care or totally knocked out in my bed.  It's just one of those no-energy-fairly-nauseous-sore-throat-cloudy-headed kind of feelings.

No matter the severity, raise your hand if you know that mamas and daddies don't get a sick day.  Also, two thirds of my littles don't feel well either, so they are in desperate need of extra TLC and won't nap.  The remaining third of my brood threw up this morning with no warning, but insists he feels fine.

I started the day totally spent.

So today, I would like to let you know that I put a giant tub of animal crackers on the floor for everyone to dig out of for breakfast.

Like a feeding trough.  A feeding trough of cookies.

And then my husband realized that something was not right with the universe and made us all eggs.

And that is why I have no substantial, biblically sound, insightful message for you today.

I just want you to enjoy the fact that I gave my kids a superstore-sized tub of crackers (are they crackers or cookies?) for the most important meal of the day.

Thank God for grace.

In any case, I hope you all are having a fabulous Monday!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Acts of Kindness for Littles That Don't Require Extra Doses of Sanity or Sanitizer

Welcome Advent!  The four weeks before Christmas is upon us and we are all abuzz with excitement in our house.  Each year we implement new and old ideas for keeping our focus set on Christ throughout the season of advent.  This year we are re-focusing our Elf on the Shelf as well.

Anna at The Imagination Tree has had a genius idea for Kindness Elves.  Each day, the elves are re-set in a creative place and fashion, but instead of creepily watching your children throughout the day to see if they've been naughty or nice, they bring an act of kindness to try that day.

I'm so glad!

But after searching google and pinterest for fresh act of kindness ideas, I couldn't find very many that worked for our family.  Donating toys to the children's hospital is a fabulous suggestion, but it's not "my best yes" to juggle two two-year-olds, a four-year-old, and a box of toys through a hospital.  I just don't have enough sanity or sanitizer for that.

Making a Christmas meal for someone in need is also very kind, but my twin toddlers aren't great at stuffing a turkey and I just feel like the sentiment and lesson would be lost somewhere in me yelling at my kids to get out of the kitchen because I'm cooking.

So I came up with 25 acts of kindness that will work for my family this year and I thought I would share them with you!  Advent is here!  Let's make room for Him in our hearts!

1.  Share your favorite toy with one of your brothers or sisters.

2.  Bake cookies for the post office worker and leave them in the mailbox.

3.  Make and send a card to grandparents (Ginga and Papa) who don't live nearby.

4.  We will do #3 twice to show kindness to different sets of grandparents that we don't see often (Papa Taylor).

5.  Give this candy to your brother or sister. (Our elf, Jack and The Beanstalk, will bring three small pieces of candy, one for each of our kids to choose to give away. And yes, my son named our Elf Jack and The Beanstalk. We call him Jack for short.)

6.  Bring food to church for the food pantry.

7.  Pull garden weeds for mom.

8.  Tell your brother or sister something that you love about them.

9.  Tell your cousins that you love them.

10.  Help carry in the groceries from the van.

11.  Give a big hug and kiss to everyone in your family and tell them that you love them.

12.  Leave quarters for someone else at a toy or candy machine in the grocery store.

13.  Bring donuts to everyone at Daddy's work.

14.  Throw away diapers for mommy.

15.  Let your brother or sister go first.

16.  Throw this ball for Captain in the back yard. (Jack will bring a tennis ball for our dog.)

17.  Take a sweet picture for Daddy on his ipod and leave it as a surprise.

18.  Bring this treat to Nani and tell her you love her. (Jack will bring dark chocolate which my mother-in-law loves.)

19.  Bring a small gift to your pastor's family on Sunday morning.

20.  Donate a small stack of books to your Pediatrician's office.

21.  Write down all the things you love about Daddy and leave them all over the house.

22.  Say a special prayer for someone today.

23.  Give a wallet picture and a special kiss to Grandaddy.

24.  Help clean up the toys in the back yard.

25.  After opening gifts on Christmas morning, tell each member of your family that Jesus loves them so much!