We Are That Family

Every year I think, this is the year we won’t be “that family” at the Christmas Eve Service.  This year the little old ladies will not say, “bless your heart.”  This year we will have control of our bodies and mouths and every year I’m wrong.  

Let us recap.  Three years ago Christopher was innocently playing on the floor at my feet in a sweet little country church filled with no more than 40 people in my parents hometown when I suddenly looked down and he wasn’t there.  He had crawled 2 pew rows back and was entertaining everyone behind us.  I, of course, was sitting in the middle of our pew and climbed over all the people to retrieve my little man. 

Last year, we went up for the children’s moment at the same church.  About half way through they handed out gift bags to the kids.  Benjamin grabbed his and ran, literally, like he had stolen it and was attempting to avoid arrest.  Then he stopped mid aisle and ran back put his free hand in the air, faced the cross hanging at the front and yelled, “Thank you Jesus!” And then took off running again.  

This year, I mean the boys are four years old, surely this year will be our year.  As I look around the packed auditorium I think, you poor mamas of crazies.  It’s okay.  I have been there.  I will not laugh when your toddler burps or throws a fit.   I have been that mom with that child.  I begin to smile as I remember all our crazy Christmas Eve service moments.     About five minutes into the sermon in a quiet moment while our pastor is talking about Jesus’ humanity he says, “I hate to ruin Away in a Manger, but come on, no crying he makes?  Has anyone seen a baby that doesn’t cry?”  Rhetorical questions are a lost cause with preschoolers, so my sweet Benjamin says in his loudest shouting voice, “Yyyeeeeeeeessssssss!”  I swear his yes lasted 25 seconds.  And again, we were “that family” at the Christmas Eve Service.  The difference in this Christmas Eve and the previous 2 is we were not in a small country church.  No, we were in a packed auditorium with 500 of our closest friends, who errupted in laughter.  

You are welcome all you other moms who were afraid it would be your kid.  The Gabbards saved the day again. I tell you all of this to say this.  The manger probably wasn’t perfect.  I mean, it was a barn.  There may have been crying and dirty diapers and postpartum emotional rollercoasters.  There may have been uncomfortable moments but it all worked out okay.  Jesus made it into the world.  He made it!  And because He made it, we get to make it too.  God bless you this Christmas!  And may all of you have a Benjamin at your Christmas Eve service to remind you that it isn’t about being perfect it’s about being present.  
Merry Christmas!

Sara

5 Things I won’t take for granted this Christmas

I think it’s easy to lose perspective this time of year.  In lieu of that I’m choosing this. 

1.  My kids are healthy.  I feel like I forget how amazing this is until one of my crazies is sick or we hear about a little friend who is in the hospital.  I will make a decision to be thankful for their health and prayerful for families who aren’t as fortunate.

2. We made Santa happen.  We are so blessed to be financially able to make the magic of Christmas happen for our crazies.  Granted, they aren’t asking for ipads and smartphones yet (thank God), but it is still a big relief to be able to get them those special items they talked to the big man in red about.  I will spend time this Christmas working with other families to help make Christmas happen for their families too.

3.  We get to see our family on Christmas.  We are so grateful to our military,  policemen, firemen and many others who will not be able to make it home or will be working to protect us here or overseas.

4.  To have beautiful crazies to watch experience this Christmas magic with.  As we experience the magic of Christmas with our littles my thoughts and prayers go to those who are still waiting on their babies or have lost babies.  May this season still provide moments of joy for them. 

5.  That we have a God who loves us so completely that He sent His Son to live among us, teach us, get His hands dirty working with us and ultimately creating a bridge to bring us back to Him.

This is What a Village Looks Like

At 11pm last night the vomiting began.  It seemed like everyone’s kids are sick this time of year but I thought we might be able to dodge the bullet.  Ha!  I hadn’t gone to bed yet and I hear him crying.  I hustled down the hall before he woke everyone else up reached down to help him look for his binky (which is usually the reason for the middle of the night cry) and I come up with a wet, gross handful of vomit.  Poor guy.  In moments like this my husband and I work like a well oiled machine.  He wakes up, gathers the bedding, Clorox wipes the mattress, cleans the carpet and I clean the kid.  We’ve had a lot of practice.

Not 2 hours later and several vomiting episodes later I got sweet boy number 1 back to bed and then sweetness number 2 started puking.  Rinse and repeat for the well oiled machine and 2 hours after that he was back in bed.  I was absolutely exhausted this morning when we woke up for preschool.  Boys seemed to be in much better spirits.  I kept them in their pajamas, helped my daughter get dress and threw everybody in the car to go to take my daughter to preschool.  As I pull in the parking lot, my son throws up all over himself and his car seat.  At this point I’m wondering where all this food is coming from.

I called my friend Kerry on my way to school to see if she would walk my daughter to her classroom so I wouldn’t even have to get the boys out of the car.  She walks out just as I pull my son from the car seat and he proceeds to puke all over the cross walk in the parking lot.  She quickly scoops up my daughter (who will hence forth be referenced to as the healthy one), and takes her to her classroom.  So thankful for her.

I then look down at my pitiful kid, who is freezing, covered in vomit and crying.  Without even being asked, my friend Carli (another momma whose child goes to preschool too) jumps out of her car with wipes, a plastic bag, a helpful suggestion for an outfit change and willing hands to rescue me with.  While I cleaned up and changed my sons clothes she helped to clean out his car seat while she reassured me that she had been there too, that it would be okay and that she would be praying for it to pass quickly.

She saw a need.  Addressed the need.  Encouraged the recipient and went about her day as if she wasn’t a superhero.  Mind blown.

I had several women come along side me to encourage me, care for my sick kids, care for my healthy kid and help me get through this less than awesome day.  My little family lives far away from our extended family but we are so blessed to have this amazing community that steps in and helps me be a mom to these awesome little people, even when it’s not pretty.  There was no judgement, there was however, huge amounts of encouragement, understanding and action.  It is said that it takes a village to raise a child.  This is what a village looks like.

This time of year is so busy.  We are rushing everywhere we go.  What if we made a conscious decision to address the immediate needs of those in our path.  To help a stranger unload groceries into their car.  To text a friend who has been discouraged.  To hold the door and smile at the person behind you.  To buy coffee for the person behind you in the drive thru.  To help a mom whose kid is throwing up in the parking lot.  Invite someone into your village this Christmas.

Let us all care for one another.

Galatians 6:9-10  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

“That Mom” and “That Kid” at Walmart

It all started out beautifully.  Our family had decide to sponsor a little girl for Christmas this year whose family is going through a transitional housing program.  This little girl is one of five children being raised by a single mom.  She is four years old, curly-haired, kinda shy and absolutely adorable, just like our sweet Abigail.  Andrew and I thought this would be a great opportunity to teach our curly-headed girl about thankfulness, generosity and taking care of those who don’t have as much as we do.  We signed up to get her a special doll.

As we headed down the aisle I listened to Abigail explain to her little brothers that we were here to get a toy for “a special friend whose momma was working very hard to get them a home.”  I was thrilled that some of the conversations we had with her were sinking in.  As we picked up the toy, she asked if she could invite this friend over to play.  She never once asked for a doll for herself.  I just kept thinking, this is what Jesus means by childlike faith.

In true Walmart fashion, when we pull up to check out there are only two lines open and it’s a bit backed up.  My son is losing patience by the second.  When it is finally our time to check out I put the item he was holding onto the belt and he loses his mind.  Full blown tantrum.  Screaming, kicking, pushing his brother, who is sharing a cart with him.  It was epic.  I instantly feel all eyes in the store and perhaps in the next county turn toward me.  I leaned down to his ear and quietly reprimanded him, giving him consequences if he didn’t pull it together.  Tantrum continues.  As I look up, the woman in front of me shoots me a look.  I apologize and she leans toward the cashier and says, “My kids are older now, but I never would have let them behave that way in public.”

I am an angry crier, which in moments like this is extremely inconvenient.  I held it together for check out, pushed my cart full of children (two happy and one still demon possessed), to the car, get everyone loaded in, read my crazy tiny human the riot act and then sit down in the my car and cried.  All I needed in the moment was someone to say, “We’ve all been there.”  “They won’t always be two.”  “Is there anything I can do to help?”  I was ticked at my sons behavior, but equally ticked that I had received judgement from another mother in a moment when I just needed a little understanding.

I proceeded to let this wonderful Walmart moment affect the rest of my day.  I was impatient and stressed the rest of the day (wonder where my son gets it?).

Tonight my daughter participated in her very first Christmas program at church.  One of the age groups that sang a song that particularly touched me.  The lyrics hit so hard that I teared up a bit.

Here’s what I’d do differently

I’d love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on you

Fix My Eyes by For King and Country

When I am in the trenches of my own stuff it is so easy to throw myself a pity party over the hiccups that happen in my daily life.  If you looked at the way I lived my life today you would believe that the most important thing that happened today was my son throwing a fit in a store.  But here’s the thing, now that everyone is tucked in bed and I let the lyrics of this song seep into my heart, I realize that incident was far from the most important thing that happened today.  Today I watched my daughter give when she wasn’t receiving, love others first, stand up for a weak one and fix her eyes on Jesus.  Today, she got to see what it was like to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Today was a good day.