Christmas Nativity Memories

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We bustled around in the basement of the church, little children fluttering in our Christmas nativity costumes. As one of the younger children, I was cast as one of the multitude of angels who appeared before the shepherds.  All we had to do was look cherubic and sing Hark the Herald–if we remembered the words.  I wore a white shapeless gown, silver wings, and a halo that wouldn’t stay put.

I remember only bits and pieces of that night.  Many of the smaller angels dreamed of playing Mary or Joseph someday.  Not me.  I wanted to be the herald, the angel who stepped forward and announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds as they watched over their flocks.  I can still see the girl who acted this part.  To me, she was so much older, but I was maybe three, possibly four, so I’m guessing she might have been thirteen or fourteen.  I watched her with an awe, impressed by her huge responsibility. I wanted to be her. I longed to be chosen as the angel who announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds and our congregation:

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,
and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:10-14

I never got to play the herald. Our church quit enacting the Christmas nativity play a few years later. I still feel the awe I experienced over this part in our play, and I still wish I could have been her.

Maybe that’s why I want to share the good tidings of Christ’s birth with you.  Maybe it’s why I feel the need to shine His light on the lives of others and help them open their hearts and ears to His remarkable love.

Did you play a part in the nativity as a child?  I would love to hear about your memories.

Merry Christmas.

A version of this post originally ran in Dec. 2014.


Christmas Without the Parents

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We’re in the thick of it, now:  the Christmas season.

Kids are counting down the days to Christmas, the radio plays carols non-stop, stores hold sales, homes and businesses decorate with red and green and lights, and people throw parties. Don’t forget the parties.

Every year I think, I want to go to this special event or do this specific thing, and most years I manage to do very little from my “I want” list. Why? Life doesn’t stop. The every day things still must get done. I’m working. Bruce is working. The kids have homework and school activities. Family visits need to be figured out. The time flies away before you know it.

Is it any surprise with all of this hoopla that the stress of the holidays hits children who don’t live with their parents harder than most?

Victoria and Amari are not talking about it. Yet, I know they’re struggling. Amari has become whiny. He throws temper tantrums. Victoria has become harsh and speaks with an angry tone almost every time she opens her mouth. They are … what? Feeling abandoned? Angry? Upset? Sad? Disappointed? Jealous? Helpless?

Probably all of those feelings and then some. Their current behavior states loudly what they don’t know how to verbalize:  It’s Christmas, and I wish my parents lived with us. I wish my parents knew how to be parents. I wish my parents would stop doing drugs. I wish my parents were not in jail. I wish…

It’s a lot for a child to process. It’s a lot for ME to process. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Their mother confessed to me the other day that she’s depressed. This time around, I’ve not allowed her access to the children. She knows why. She misses her children.

It’s hard. It’s tough. She’s depressed because of it. So, she resorts to begging. She claims her children can’t be better off without her. That they need her as much as she needs them. I do believe they need a mother, but I don’t believe she’s the person they need. They need a real mother, not one who can’t do the things parents should do. She doesn’t understand this.

To counter this, she asked me if they ask to talk to her, and I told her the truth. No. Should I have told her that? Part of me thinks she needs to understand the consequences of her actions. Part of me worries that she’ll take this and fall deeper into depression. I don’t know whether I did the right thing or not, but I told her the truth.

The grands do, occasionally, bring up a memory about Mommy, but it’s happening less and less. They don’t ask to write, visit, or call her. They know where she is. They know, in the past, they have talked to her on the phone and visited her in jail, yet they don’t ask.

As I read back over this, I realize this sounds depressing. Yes, things are tough emotionally for the grands. Yes, we would prefer a different set of circumstances. Yes, I’m saddened that my daughter has chosen this road.


This season, of all seasons, reminds us that there is something better to live for. Christ did come to save us. He offers a love that is light years beyond any love my husband and I can offer our grandchildren. It’s boundless. It’s new every morning. It’s in the promise of a child born in a manger.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:9-10

So, we talk about what Christmas is. We line up a few activities, but not a lot of them. We decorate. We have an Elf on the Shelf (whom Amari carried on a long, catching-up conversation with when he arrived). We spend time focused on Christ’s birth. We focus on family. We laugh. We find joy in the season.

As you go through this month, it is my hope that you will slow down and avoid the trap of over scheduling yourself and your family. Not everything has to get done. What you do need are the special times spent with your family. Many people struggle during this time of year, not just children who don’t live with their parents. Reach out to them. Use your time to bless them and show them the love of Christ. Take the time to enjoy each other and the blessings of a child born in a manger over two thousand years ago.

Find a way to make joy in your world.



A Thanksgiving Prayer

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As our children grow older and develop other family relationships, it’s getting harder and harder to get everyone together. This year will be vastly different from last year. Everyone is headed to spend the holiday with the other parts of their families. For us, that means a quiet Thanksgiving. It will feel odd, but I hope we can find some new traditions to create with the grandchildren this year.

Last year, I shared a friend’s blog post about a Thanksgiving prayer. I think it works well for this year, too. So, as you gather with family and friends, whether it’s a time of joy or stress, maybe this little prayer will set the tone.

The Amazingly Simple Prayer that Will Leave You Thankful and Peaceful This Season

Happy Thanksgiving!