Breaking Up with the Christmases of Chaos

I’m going to repost some of my favourite Christmas blog posts from the past. Many are from my series last year on Redeeming Christmas. You should probably read my Christmas manifesto to get the gist of what I was thinking when I wrote these.

For today, I’m tweaking the first post of that series:

Phrases like “bah-humbug” and “it’s too early for Christmas music” are not spoken or even thought of in my house.  I love Christmas with every fiber of my being.  Here is my Christmas philosophy:

I have a two-fold love of Christmas. I love that the name of Jesus is in every store , every mall, every public venue. I love that you can talk about Jesus, give and bless in Jesus’ name and even the most hard-nosed get caught up in the love and splendor of it all. I am simplifying this year but I LOVE the lights, I love the joy , I love the colours and the displays. It lights up the dark nights of winter and warms the homes of streets everywhere. This is what I love about Christmas. I think we can redeem Christmas if we admit that there is an element of commercialism and refrain from getting too caught up in it and if we intentionally light up our homes and offer them as a living sacrifice to our neighbourhoods and friends. If we become the light, the light will burn brighter the rest of the year. This is my prayer, my hope and my vision. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!! 

But if I’m going to be honest~December 25 has nothing to do with Jesus for 99% of us 100% of the time. Truthfully, as much as we may want to *say* that it’s all about Jesus and giving and His birth and Him and Holiness and yadda-yadda-yadda…….blah, blah, blah…..oh bother…..we’re just as caught up in wrapping and getting and Santa and reindeer as the folks across the street.  In fact, the folks across the street might not think there’s any difference between me and them.  And they’re probably right ~when it comes to Christmas.  We shop.  We spend.  We make lists. We want. We get. We want more. We spend more to get more to give more to want more. We’re on this hamster wheel and it’s going faster and faster and we’re not even sure there’s a safe way to get off even if we wanted to.

We are caught with our flannel underwear down like Santa taking a potty break under the evergreen tree.  We are busted.

So, what are WE going to do about it?

If you’re like me and you love shortbread cookies and white twinkly lights and hot cocoa in festive mugs then you’re wondering how we can possibly keep the STUFF of Christmas without the STUFF keeping us from sharing Jesus and being the LIGHT in our very dark world.  Because right now, the STUFF of Christmas is weighing us down BIG TIME.  We have spent our way into the oblivious world of consumption and it isn’t bringing us closer to Jesus at Christmas, or any other season of the year.  So let’s get off the wheel. Let’s take a break.  Let’s re-focus before the season hits and find out what we can do differently this year.

I’m going to admit right here that I’m aggressively opposed to Santa. But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me~I won’t tell the kiddos…….yet.  However, I hope that you might give me some grace to share my thoughts and maybe you could chime in from time to time and pull me back over a little too. ;)

First up: confession time for all of us.  Christmas Day, December 25 is NOT Jesus’ birthday.  So pretending it is, may perhaps be the first place to start in deconstructing the myth of Christmas and how to redeem it for God’s glory, not our own.  Perhaps you are a family that regularly has a birthday cake for Jesus; maybe even with party hats and candles.  We never have done that. I wasn’t raised that way and I guess inevitably we pass on traditions , or withhold them based on how we grew up.   I’m not so sure that having a *Happy Birthday Jesus* party is doing much to promote who Jesus IS and what HE came FOR.  But, I suppose it’s not harmful either. Or is it?

My guess is(based on all the smarty-pants historians) today would be closer to Jesus’ real date of birth than December 25 is.  In the last couple hundred years, December 25 has morphed from a pagan celebration into a Catholic tradition into what we have now: the most ridiculous mis-mash of displays, traditions, symbols and consumption.  There’s nothing inherently *CHRIST* like about what we have now.

So for today, let’s just get back to TRUTH.

The TRUTH is that Jesus was born.  Born of a virgin.  Immaculate conception.  Born in a manger to poor parents. 

The TRUTH is that December 25 is NOT Jesus’ birthday. 

The TRUTH is that we regularly fool ourselves into saying that Christmas is  *all about Jesus* so that we can justify how we act, what we do and what we spend. 

The TRUTH hurts.  And in fooling ourselves, we have , I believe hurt Jesus.  Because we aren’t proclaiming Him when we decorate trees and string up lights.  

But here’s the REDEMPTION~~ WE CAN CHANGEWe can BE TRUTH, SHARE TRUTH and LIVE TRUTH at the same time as stringing up the lights and drinking hot cocoa around our beautiful trees.

So, fear not. Stay tuned. The Christmas season is drawing near(41 days!). And we can; WE WILL REDEEM CHRISTMAS for the glory of God, not the glory of ourselves.

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Dear Sarah~ Jesus Made a Feminist out of Me

Yesterday was the official release date of my blogger friend’s new book , Jesus Feminist. I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey’s blog for over 2 years and from the very first word I was drawn in by her tender spirit, her poetic bent and and her love of Jesus. But I will admit, when she announced that the word “feminist” was going to be in her book title I cringed a little. But that lasted about half a minute and then I wholeheartedly embraced the term. Not because I relate to it, but because I don’t.

In true internet blogging fashion, let me continue my story in a letter to Sarah. ( I figure if I can do it for Jen Hatmaker and TroubleFace Mom, why stop now?)

Dear Sarah,

The word *feminist*  used to scare me and not because I’m scared of much of anything but because as are all things we fear- I didn’t understand it.  When I was a young girl I remember conversations overheard about  “those feminists” and “how the feminists have ruined us all”.  I didn’t really understand why or how ; all I knew was that feminism was as dirty a word as slavery or adultery.  It was bad and I should stay away. Far, far away.

But here’s the thing- I grew up in a family full and rich with love and grace. From my Grandma Thiessen who wore her heart on her sleeve, widowed while I was only a baby to my Grandpa Parke who never shied away from telling you how to get to Jesus- his words strong and mighty at the dinner table.   I come from diversity of trades and skills to diversity of life and love. And never did I feel that because I was a girl, I had less than the most important seat at the table.

I never felt worthless or less than equal to my male counterparts  but my entire life was always surrounded with a silent, almost invisible line that I dared not cross: that of being heard in church. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know who said it or how it was said. It was just there. Women were never to be in authority in a church.

Fast forward to my 18th year.  A new church was being planted across town and they needed volunteers ready to do the work and show up and be counted. I raised my hand. Single, young, a woman. Oh, did I mention this was a Mennonite church? I didn’t know if I would “count” as a family unit- they needed five. They had families and couples..and then they had me.

Biggest surprise to everyone including me was when a *meeting* of the *men* in charge decided that yes, indeed, little Juanita Dueck who was just finishing high school would actually be considered one of the five. So there it was. I beat the system. That’s really what I thought. I had done something revolutionary.

And not only that, but my mom- divorced(actually separated for 10 years) was invited and elected to be the first woman on the church board.  Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was a place for women to be heard.

I’m all grown up now. I’ve moved more times than I can count on 2 hands. I’ve had babies and been the token housewife. I’ve been shushed and silenced. I’ve been introduced into a family where women are lesser and lower and treated as such. I’ve seen things and I’ve learned a lot.

The other day I told a friend that 30 year old me would pray down rivers of mercy and Jesus’ return on 42 year old me. I’m not afraid to say the things that I was always told “women should never say in public” . I am a rule-breaker and a peace-maker. And yet, I’ve prayed for meekness.

Actually, Sarah, you have only enforced my desire for meekness. You wear it well. It’s okay, throw back your head and laugh out loud- Jesus hasn’t answered that prayer for me and I’m beginning to doubt He ever will. I don’t think I was cut from the cloth of meekness. But thanks to you, Jesus is making a feminist out of me.

I’ve often thought there has to be more to women’s ministry than cute crafts and Wednesday morning Bible studies. I haven’t always felt comfortable with the intercessors or the kitchen clean up. I’d rather be listening to stories of love, loss, tragedy, triumph and share mine too.  Maybe that’s why I love blogging- it is in the stories of women that I am finding Jesus.  I’m finding realness and wholeness in the broken bits that once were shushed into apron strings and women-only parties.

From your book- your words….these ring so true for me: ” Women are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, real community- not churchified life tips and tricks from lady magazines.”  AMEN!

Thank you Sarah for your words. Thank you for standing in the wide gap that has been uncrossable for so many of us. Thank you for your stories and your wonderings- for asking the hard questions and pointing us straight to the Source of all the answers: Jesus. Thank you for graciously opening the door and inviting us all to the table.

Your friend ,

Little Juan on the Prairie

(I count it only joy that I get to drive down the streets daily where your little family found Jesus).

Whenever I drive by Styles Cres here in Regina, I say a little prayer for you, Sarah.

Whenever I drive by Styles Cres here in Regina, I say a little prayer for you, Sarah.

If you haven’t already done so , please , PLEASE order Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist. It’s not what you think it is- really. And it’s not scary or judgmental. It is a love story of a prairie girl who found Jesus and Feminism.

My Lover~My Friend

Time for a Marriage Monday post- I haven’t done this in a while!

Weekends are great for assessing the temperature of one’s marriage. And by great, I mean terrible.

On the weekends, schedules are off, lists are made, intentions are shared but often not fulfilled.

He has his agenda, I have mine.  Sometimes they’re similar but mostly they’re not.

Marriage is a constant dance of two people moving to their own beats. He’s got tango on his mind and I’m more at a waltz pace.  He likes completion and I am about the process.

The weekends are also the time we have the most fights. It used to be on Sunday mornings while getting ready for church but lately it can be Saturday evenings or throughout the day on Sunday.  It doesn’t happen every weekend but when it does, it’s a big blow up and things get said.  We’ve learned to embrace the fights. We don’t fight like we used to but they’re certainly not enjoyable affairs either.  However, they are necessary.  We keep things unsaid. We bottle up and filter to protect each other until we can’t hold it in any longer. And then it blows.

But I will tell you this- the best part of the fights is the making up. And no, I’m not talking about THAT. (although make-up sex definitely has its perks) The making up of  “I’m sorry” and “I didn’t mean to say that” or  “I didn’t realize…” .

We’re growing. Always growing.

We’re learning. Always learning.

We’re stretching. Always Stretching.

 

And one thing we’ve learned after 23 years together is that we’re friends first.

We were friends before we dated, before we loved, before we kissed, before we got engaged. We were friends through it all and when I walked down that aisle, I married my friend.

Friends first is what gets us through the bad weekends, the fighting, the hum-drum days, the long silences.

Friendship is the basis of our relationship. And friendship makes us fight harder to stay together.

There were a few years when we had moved away, started out on our own, had babies alone, struggled without food and clothes and necessities …those were hard days. No sleep, sick kids, too many bills, no fun, not much to look forward to and pure exhaustion with life.  We didn’t talk a lot. We fought some. Sometimes we didn’t love each other for a long period of time. It was hard. Really hard.

But even in those dark days that lasted for years(yes, really- years) we always held on to our friendship. Maybe we didn’t treat each other as good friends should. And maybe we took our friendship for granted. But we had the memories and the hope of what was and what would be.

And I’m happy to say we came out of those long, dark, trying years with our friendship stronger and our focus sharper: to be good lovers, you have to be good friends.

After we were married 10 years we started to laugh more.

After 13 years we held hands more.

After 15 years we loved being together more.

After 17 years: the fire was lit.  We fell in love all over again. Not just puppy love. Not just superficial, sexually-fired up desire(although that was part of it), but true, enduring, abiding love.

I don’t know how to be married and not be friends. I don’t even know if it can be done.

If you are struggling in your relationship and finding you’re wanting to give up, try being friends. Friends WITHOUT benefits.  Love her, love him just for being your friend. Laugh, hold hands, buy a gift or a treat. Show up unexpectedly. Send them a note, a text , an email. Be funny. Be silly. Be FRIENDLY. Bake some cookies. Order their favourite book or movie from Amazon. BE THE FRIEND YOU’D LOVE TO HAVE.

And you just might be surprised that they’re the friend you need.

 

This weekend one of the best posts on marriage that I have ever read was spreading like wild-fire. I have a feeling it has gone viral already. If you haven’t read it, take a few minutes to read it now: it’s amazing.

Marriage Isn’t For You by Seth Adam Smith 

An Open Letter To TroubleFace Mom

It seems all of the internet has gone mad.

First of all there’s all these open letters to bloggers and authors and people you love and people you love to hate and good grief…..what the what??

So, I decided to write my own.

Dear TroubleFace Mom,

You know who you are. You are the one with the 266,000 + hits on your blog in the past 12 days. You are the one who apparently knows all the things about Halloween.

And for goodness’ sake, what’s up with all the trolls commenting? OH, wait, they’re not trolls? They’re REAL people? People actually think that way?

Heaven help us.

So this is what happened in my little blogging world last week:  I was limping along through my 31 Days of Facebook 101(incidentally the dumbest topic EVER for 31 days) . I was behind on posts and I wasn’t reading any other blogs like a good little blogger should. When all of the sudden I get messages from YOU of all people asking me what the heck is going on with your blog. I assumed trolls. I assumed spammers. Well, I assumed wrong.

It seems your little post from a year ago struck a nerve with someone. And they told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on and……

And so you and I proceeded to weed through comments and figure out what to do with this and how it would play out. You were sure on Thursday that it was waning and that everyone would forget.  I was thinking it was only the beginning.  On Saturday when your Facebook page reached 300(after only 100 the weekend before) I was impressed with the level of civility among your new followers and friends. Good group there.  And then yesterday, you crossed over the 600 FB likes and I sat here dumbfounded.

How does this happen?

How does one go from internet obscurity to being the poster-girl for viral blogging in one week?

I know the answer- one has to be sassy without being cocky, brave without being rude, truthful while being diplomatic and gracious without being a doormat. You’ve answered the call and done it brilliantly.

And now you know what? I have new followers? Poor them. What will happen when they realize I’m not nearly as clever or witty as you. What will they say when they learn I post about lame things like school lunches and final exams for teenagers? 

And that OTHER little blog we started in the spring? The Mothering Well– all of us mothers have neglected our posts because I’m sure we’re all mothering WELL….right? Are we?  The fact that your name is on our blog has now sent us new followers there too.  So what are we to do TroubleFace mom?  You know that look your kids give you when they’re in trouble? Well, that’s the look I’m giving you now.  So now you are TroubleFace Friend.

I’m just glad you can’t ditch me for my lack of blogging prowess or less than diplomatic gracious comments on your blog.  You can’t because you’re stuck with me for life. Lifers we are.

But can you do me one favour?  Share the wealth? I mean clearly you have WAY too many followers to keep up with…so send a few over to me: Once Upon a Prairie . This is me shamelessly using you to further my agenda. That’s what friends are for, right?

TrobleFace Mom, our friend Donna on her wedding day in August 2011 and ME!

TrobleFace Mom, our friend Donna on her wedding day in August 2011 and ME!

Oh, and if I haven’t said it already, let me say it here: thanks for being friends with the old ladies- you keep us young and thinking! 😉

Sincerely,

Prairie Juan of Once Upon a Prairie

Day 22~ Facebook for the Generations

When Facebook started, it was intended for college aged kids. That lasted for about a year and then the teens found it. When I started my profile in 2007 it was very much an under 25 social tool.  However, gradually parents wanted to see what their kids were talking about. Aunts, uncles, cousins got in on the action and entire families became connected via Facebook.

Facebook is NOT for young people. It is NOT for college students.  It is NOT for parents spying on their kids.  Facebook is for everyone.

I am always sad when I hear about parents who know absolutely nothing about Facebook but know their kids are on it. They have no rules or boundaries because they have no idea how it works.

I also find it incredibly naive that parents would let their 13 year olds have an account but never monitor it or teach their kids how to post respectfully and appropriately.

Facebook is for the generations.  Currently I have aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and extended family from the ages of 13 to 85 on Facebook. Yes, 85.

Some grandparents and older generation folks have heard the talk and banter coming from their grandkids and family members. They felt like they were missing out so they joined in. I think it’s fantastic!

I have noticed that those over 60 don’t post nearly as much as those of us in our 40s. But that’s okay. They are THE BEST encouragers and cheerleaders. They don’t feel the need or want to post statuses and links and photos often but they are great at responding to statuses and photos. They are always encouraging and uplifting. They are engaged and present and THIS alone keeps young kids(and some of us middle-agers) accountable and filtered.

When I was a child, we knew that “children were to be seen and not heard”, which sounds so archaic and unfair. But understand this:  it wasn’t that we were shuffled into a bedroom or shushed into a corner, it is just that we were taught when adults are in company children should not be disruptive and interrupting. But we were always welcome and encouraged to be present and engage with multi-generations. Whether playing games, having a meal, sitting in church, attending weddings or hosting parties, we were learning from our parents and other adults.

I think it is ridiculous to say that Facebook is for teenagers and young people only.  If there isn’t a multi-generation presence, they will never grow and mature. We learn from each other and we are mentored by those who have walked the path before us.

Let me encourage you- if you are not on your children’s friend lists, you should be.  If you’re not engaging with them socially on line , are you engaging with them in person socially?

I will keep beating this drum: Facebook is your living room.  If you’re going to have conversations, laughter, share stories and photos there, then include everyone…not just those in your age demographic.

Besides, your kids will behave better if they know you’re watching. 😉

For the other posts in this series click: Facebook 101

Day 21~ The Diary Mentality

So, you’re on Facebook and you have a few friends. You go to your newsfeed to catch up on news, photos and other fun stuff. And then THIS happens:

“Today I have lots to do. I have to wash some dishes and then go get the mail. And then I’ll have to get at that pile of junk in the garage. And then I guess I should think about supper. Hoping it’s a good day.”

Hmm….okay then.

And then later you see this:

” I just finished the dishes and made supper. Before that I cleaned out the litter box and cleaned the garbage out of all the bathrooms. Now I’m going to sit down and watch some TV.”

I’m probably going to get some negative feedback but guys, seriously? Facebook is NOT your diary.  It’s not a journal log of everything you did in the past hour, 24 hours or week. No one cares if you’re doing dishes again today like you did yesterday(and yes, I have friends who actually post that daily).

We want to hear not WHAT you’re doing but HOW you’re doing. We want to know HOW you feel and what is motivating you or speaking to you or exciting you.  We want to hear if you’re upset(but not a cryptic status please) and we want to share those ups and downs of life with you.

Listen, we all eat, we all clean up, we all poop and we all go to bed. We get it.  This is not news. This is not social interaction. Again, back to the living room analogy. Would you invite your friends over and say: ” Ya, so I just took a dump before you got here and before that I made the bed.  Oh and I emptied the dishwasher. ”

Not likely.  Ewww.  But for some reason this is how some people use Facebook.

I hide them. Or delete them. Not because I’m mean….well, okay, maybe I am.  But because that’s ALL they ever post. Like for real. I’ve gone through their timelines and it’s the same thing every day.

This is where that whole idea of self-editing comes into play.  Go back to your timeline and see what you post. One thing I do notice is that those who regularly post what they’re doing(like a list of things) get very few comments, sometimes none for days or weeks. If that’s you- consider content.  Just a friendly little heads up. Remember, this is SOCIAL networking. If you’re not being social, you’re doing it wrong.

Day 21 From last year’s Redeeming Christmas series is Just One Thing

And for all the posts in this Facebook 101 series, click here.

Day 20~ Married People on Facebook

I’m married, so is my husband. 😉

The reason I say that is sometimes we women forget that there are TWO of us in this. You know that whole thing about the two shall become one? Well, that’s a real thing. And it really matters how you conduct yourself online as a married person.

So without belabouring this, let me just give you a few brief guidelines for how my husband and I approach our Facebook lives as a married unit.  We are two individuals with two individual friend lists but we operate under the assumption that we speak for each other and respect each other:

1. NEVER, EVER EVER EVER throw your spouse under the bus in a status, comment or other post on Facebook. If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to them.

2. Never be cryptic in your posts all the while stewing about something your spouse said or did or didn’t do. Chances are, even if no one else clues in, your spouse will and that’s betrayal of trust right there.

3. If your spouse is NOT on Facebook they should have 100% unlimited access to your account- inbox, privacy settings etc. This is about open trust.

4. Don’t inbox “friends” of the opposite sex other than what would be a normal conversation if your spouse were there. And this is a tricky one because there are grey areas- surprise birthdays, gifts, etc.  HOWEVER,  when you carry on a conversation in an inbox, you are building intimacy. Which is very natural. But when you build intimacy over a long period of time with someone you are not married to, who is not family, you are asking for trouble. I will leave it at that.

5. Keep your arguments off the internet. I cannot tell you how many women(particularly) have aired their dirty laundry on Facebook and done real and lasting damage to their marriages.  Your marriage is private. Your routine, normal, everyday struggles as a husband and wife are no one else’s business. If you have an issue, deal with it offline and in person. If you berate or disrespect your spouse on Facebook, I will defriend you. No question.

6. The opposite of above is essential: brag about, honor, bless and respect your spouse in “public” on Facebook. You don’t have to be gross or sappy, but be real and encouraging. This goes a LONG LONG way to building trust, respect and good communication in a marriage.

Anyone have anything to add?  I’m a big proponent that married folks have either a joint account or are both on Facebook. It never bodes well if only one is on and the other feels left out or ignored.

For all of my posts in this series on Facebook 101, click HERE. 

From last year’s 31 Days series on Redeeming Christmas:  Christmas in a Box