My Christmas Debacle

I’m at a Christmas Eve party in an unfamiliar home, and I go upstairs to find my daughters to alert them we’re heading home.  All the children play a nice, quiet game in a room behind a closed door.

I gently open the door, but I don’t know there’s a step to go down into the room.

I proceed to tumble into the room, arms flailing, shrieking and grabbing onto anything that can keep me steady.  My black sweater rises above my body like horrible wings.  The sweet children see this monstrous figure lunging for them, and they scream so loudly that all the party guests start inquiring from downstairs.  The children keep screaming as I regain my balance and try to explain myself.  One little boy begins crying.  He runs to his father’s arm while another boy relates the tale of the Creepy Mother who attacked the good little children at the Christmas Eve Party.

“I think it was the Freaky Mother, not the Creepy Mother,” my oldest reports.  At least my own children laugh hysterically and talk about how fantastically terrible my entrance was.  “You enter a room with flair!  You were awesome!”

I spend the rest of the evening apologizing to parents as they comfort their children.  I feel horrible about myself.  My husband says, “Well, you made the best Christmas memory.  Nobody’s ever going to forget that party.”

Living with flair means you see your Christmas debacles as memory-makers.

Merry Christmas!


We Have a Problem

My youngest daughter receives magnetic earrings from Grandma to pretend as if those little ears are really pierced.  The magnet jewel sits on top of the earlobe, and a powerful magnet backing goes behind her ear to hold the earring in place. 

In theory, this works.  However, we quickly realize that strong magnets latch onto any metal she passes.  I’m on my hands and knees half the day, looking for whatever metal thing has attracted her jewel.  Her own headband, for example, sucks the earrings away from her ears. 

She needs the real earrings–piercing deep inside–to keep the jewel in place.  That night, I think of my own heart, drawn away and sucked into the vortex of shiny objects and luring ideas.  I want my heart pierced so deeply with God’s truth that nothing else can attract it.

As we count down to Christmas morning, I’m so thankful for the birth of a Savior that pierced me for real.  Whatever passes by cannot shake that rare Jewel within me. 

How do you resist the lure? 


3 Ways to Be a Christmas Blessing

As we gather to see friends and family this weekend, I wonder how we might be a true blessing.  I’ve spent too many holidays easily offended, moody, exhausted, irritable, judgmental, and negative.  I’ve spent too many holidays thinking of myself and my own needs.

Since action flows from belief, I’ve fashioned 3 tips to help me be a blessing

1.  Believe I’m on assignment from God to bless and encourage through words, gifts, and prayer.  Ask God to show me where, who, when, and how to bless. 

2.  Believe the best about everyone.  Assume pure motives.  Imagine the highest good about others instead of judging, criticizing, and complaining.  I forgive and release bitterness when I ask God to help me see the best in others. 

3.  Believe other people have extraordinary things to teach me. I ask God to make me humble, teachable, and amazed by others. 

We believe we have a Christmas mission.  We believe the best.  We believe in the capacity of every soul to teach us.

Do you have a tip for being a Christmas blessing?


Easy Does It (How to Survive the Holidays)

Tonight, we host a Christmas party for graduate students.  We’ve learned, after all these years and all sorts of gatherings in our home, that easy does it

Nobody cares if my cabinets have hand prints on them.

Nobody cares if I forget to dust the top of the refrigerator.

Nobody cares if I don’t have the kind of Christmas centerpieces you see in glossy magazines. 

We’re here to be together, so everybody can just relax, put their feet up, drink some holiday punch, and sing carols around the freshly tuned piano.

I decide to create some holiday cheer for guests with one of the easiest recipes I know:  Peppermint Bark.

We melt some white chocolate, add some peppermint extract, crush up some candy canes, sprinkle them on top with with chunks of white chocolate, smear it on a pan, let it cool in the fridge, break it up, and serve it.

Children love things that involve verbs like crush, smear, sprinkle, and break.  It’s so easy and fun, that we think of ways to embellish the recipe.

What if we make coconut bark?  Imagine!  Coconut, dark chocolate, and white chocolate:  

Bring on the season!  Living with flair means you can celebrate with easy and fun.

What’s your easiest and most fun holiday treat?


What We Most Want

Finally, at 6:00 AM, we agree to open presents.  This is only after the 2:00 AM squeal alert that presents had arrived under the tree.

My living room sparkles with shreds of wrapping paper, bows, and tissue paper.  By now, the little girls play happily with their new dolls, and I drink coffee–lots and lots of coffee.  

Amid the laughter, I hear my husband calling out, “Can you think of any other person’s birthday party where you get the presents?”

He turns to me and says, “Isn’t that the real meaning of gospel?  We celebrate Jesus, but we end up getting the gifts.” 

Bring on the gifts, the shimmering joy, the peace, and the love.   May we unwrap His gifts upon gifts, in obvious and hidden forms, today and all year.  May we have the hope and the faith to see them, despite every circumstance.

May we lift our eyes and be led to what we’ve been waiting for all our lives.  Can it be that what we most want, we find in that manger?

Merry Christmas from Live with Flair!


Light in the Darkness

In the hustle and bustle of this Christmas Eve day, I pause to think about my electric candles set in every window of our home.  Within the core of these candles, the builder placed a photo sensor that automatically responds when the light grows dim outside.  As soon as it’s dark enough, the candles light up.  We never have to turn them on–the darkness does it for us.

The darkness makes the light shine.  As I think about this day, I know that many suffer in unimaginable ways.  Friends and family members have passed on, and this Christmas, we often think about who is missing from our gathering.  Instead of experiencing a joyful holiday, some of us feel the darkness of sorrow.

I love that Psalm 18 says “God turns my darkness to light,” and the promise of Christmas, recorded in Isaiah 9, is that “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.”

The deep darkness (no matter what kind) doesn’t win this Christmas. Sometimes the Builder makes it so that we pass through a bit of darkness in order to discover that light.  My strange little candles remind me that living with flair means that when I sense the darkness coming, I know the light will shine.  I don’t have to manufacture it or flip some magic switch.  God dwells within, and in the core of my being, the light shines even in–and especially because of–darkness.  By faith, I embrace the truth of it.  I rest here, let the darkness fall, and let God shine


Christmas Disorder (This Place is a Disaster!)

Gingerbread Disaster

I’m decorating gingerbread cookies with my 5 year old and her little friend.  A blanket of frosting and sprinkles covers the counter tops, and as I observe the smear upon the floors, the walls, and probably the ceiling, I exclaim: “This place is a disaster!” 

The small child before me, the one shaking bright red sprinkles upon everything but her gingerbread man, responds: “When it’s this messy, it just means we are working really hard.”

I consider the truth of her words.  The Christmas disaster all over my kitchen and living room–tissue paper in shreds, manger scenes all discombobulated, and crafts partially completed–I realize the beautiful work of Christmas and the mess we leave in our wake.  Our schedules are in chaos; our diets reconfigure to include ridiculous amounts of gooey treats; our family issues bubble up to the surface; our cats have scattered ornaments all over the house.  Messy, messy, messy. 


But something is happening in the mess.  Something beautiful and right.  When it’s this messy, something is working really hard. 

A lot of things about Christmas are messy–even Jesus arrives in the filth of a manger in the chaotic way that disorders a whole world back to order.

I’ll clean up in 2011.  Right now, I’m disordering the place into the kind of Christmas order we need.  When it’s this messy, something’s right.


Christmas and the Ancient Path

I stay home from church today and cough my way through the morning.  But I want to create my own Sabbath worship–to start the week fresh in peace–especially with so much to do to prepare for Christmas. 

I light candles and gather my Bible and a curious old journal that my students presented me on the last day of class. 

It’s an ancient journal, fresh out of Camelot or Narnia or Hogwarts.  The grainy pages connect with wisps of leather; the secrets within stay secure with a clasp.

I will record wise things here.  I will document revelations and promises–the whispers of God into my heart.  I will take His Hand and follow ancient paths that lead me to truth. 

As I unclasp my journal, I’m reminded of the words of that moody and artsy prophet Jeremiah.  He tells me:

This is what the LORD says:
   “Stand at the crossroads and look;
   ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
   and you will find rest for your souls.” 

I open my journal and ask for the ancient paths.  And then I know.  I recall his name:  The Ancient of Days, God, the one who comes from the ancient into the modern, the one who descends down into a manger. 

That’s Christmas–the ancient path that leads from Bethlehem into my heart.