Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bond, Jack Bond

We've been blessed this year to be the recipients of quite a few hand-me-downs for our boys. My kids are still at the age where a bag of used clothes passed down from a friend is terribly exciting. So, recently, we got some size 4 clothes for our five-year-old runt, who is actually getting a little belly on him. (Did you know that when you get bumps on your tummy, that means you're getting strong? Jack swears he's developing a six-pack of his own. I can't bring myself to tell him those are just his ribs.)

Included in this bag of gently used clothes were several windsuits or jogging suits or whatever you call the matching pants and jacket sets that make you look like a slightly goofy guy who thinks he's athletic but is really just destined to be in the chess club. (That description actually fits Jack to a tee.) I laid one of these outfits out for Jack one morning for school, hoping he wouldn't choose to add a gold chain and some fake chest hair which would have him looking a whole lot like Uncle Rico from Napolean Dynamite. He was beside himself with joy at the chance to wear his cool new/old clothes to school that day. I'm sure his head was swimming with the thought of all the googly eyes he would get from his girlfriends upon entering his portable classroom. He came swaggering into the living room where I was undoubtedly nursing the baby, since that's what I seem to be doing 85% of the time, and stopped right in front of me.

"Mama?" He says, oozing coolness from his very pores. "Yes?" "Do I look fashioned?" Naturally, I'm a little surprised and tickled by his very serious question. "Yes, of course you look fashioned, Jack." Then he gives the slightest motion toward his jacket collar, which he has turned up, and says, " 'Cause you know some boys do this to be fashioned." Then he turned and walked to the kitchen in all his confident coolness, completely pleased with the fact that he would be making quite the fashion statement in kindergarten that day. He's not known as "fancy" among the five-year-old girl population for nothing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Christmas Post

I just read a very moving post on a blog I sometimes take a peek at. If you haven't read it already, go here and take a few minutes to get a new perspective on that Holy Night.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mary, Did You Know?

I know you will find this hard to believe, but occasionally, I have a ridiculous thought. One such thought I've had recently, which I'm a little embarrassed to admit, goes something like: How many times can we read/preach/teach about the Christmas story before there's just not a whole lot new to learn? Well, obviously the reason that thought is so ridiculous is that God's Word is living and active. And when something is living and active, it has things to say.

So, we're going through a new Advent book this year as a family, and a few days ago, we talked about The Magnificat. That's a big, fancy word for Mary's Song. It's found in Luke 1 and is a beautiful picture of Mary's heart at a very pivotal time in her life. There is another song to do with Mary that you'll probably hear this Christmas season, if you haven't already. You're so did you guess I'd eventually get around to talking about "Mary, Did You Know?" It's a beautiful song as well, and it always appeals to my heart as a mother.

What has struck me about Mary in all of this singing that's been going on in my head is a new way of thinking of her. I've always thought of her remarkable reaction to Gabriel's announcement of her very unique pregnancy as a statement of submission and surrender. "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." I've always thought that Mary must have been a little stressed or at least disappointed at the change of plans God had for her life. I mean, I'm just guessing, but I'm thinking Mary never laid in bed at night, thinking, "Yep, I hope this whole marriage with Joseph thing doesn't work out and instead I get to have God's Child." That's not typically a topic of thought for many sane people as far as I know. She had a wedding and a life all planned out, as we women usually do, and then Gabriel just swooped in and threw a bit of a wrench into the whole thing. So, in my selfish humanity, I've always figured Mary must have had a few doubts, questions, or slight objections that she had to put aside in order to submit to God's newly revealed plan.

But this time, in reading this whole dramatic turn of events in this young girl's life, the statement that has stuck out to me is Elizabeth's. Keep in mind that Elizabeth was herself pregnant and her husband was having a bit of a problem with his vocal chords. His reaction to the angel's announcement of an unconventional pregnancy in his household was a little different than Mary's. It went a little more like, "Yeah, right. And how do you expect me to believe that?" His consequence for his reaction was nine months of quiet time with God to develop his faith a little bit.

The contrast between the two reactions led me to Elizabeth's statement about Mary. "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Mary's submission and surrender was not born out of a begrudging, disappointed spirit. Mary surrendered to God's plan so easily because of her belief. Her unwavering faith. She believed that God's plans would be way better than anything she had lined up. She didn't say, "God, are you sure? I mean, Joseph will never marry me now. I'll be disgraced. Who will support me? I can't exactly go out and get a job, you know. What good will it be to let me have your child only for both of us to starve? Do you really want your Son growing up with a single mom and shunned by society? And, oh yeah, how will He even get here once I'm stoned to death for my supposed infidelity? God, did you really think this through?"

How many times do we think our plans are better...or at least more fun? How many times do we wish God would just listen to us? Or how many times do we doubt that things are going to turn out for the best...or turn out at all? Sure, we say Jeremiah 29:11 like it's going out of style, but do our lives reflect a real belief in the goodness of God's plans and His faithfulness to fulfill them? When I have bill upon bill come my way, don't I immediately question, "Why?" and "How?" When my kid throws up in the car, throwing our traveling and Christmas plans into question, there I go again: "Seriously, God?" When God asks me to speak in front of a bunch of people, yet isn't very forthcoming with His message, do I start to panic? When I pray for Him to change people's hearts, do I believe it can or will happen? And, last time I checked, those were tiny issues compared with what Mary was facing. But what did she do? She sang.

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." It wasn't hard for her to trust Him, because she knew Him. He was her source of joy and hope way before Gabriel ever made his grand entrance. Her life was about glorifying God, no matter how that looked, and she believed He knew the best way for her to do that. She believed. It is so simple, yet so difficult. We look at our circumstances and it's all about us. We can't see what He's doing all laid out before us, so we question. God Almighty's plans don't make sense to our pea brains, so we immediately figure He must have made a little mistake or miscalculation. Yes, God, you created the Universe, but I'm pretty sure You can't handle this whole house payment thing I've got going on.

Mary wasn't only believing God's plans for her. She was believing His plans for the nation of Israel. She was believing that He was going to fulfill His promises to Abraham, despite the fact that hundreds of years had gone by, and no Savior had yet appeared. She took God at His word and rejoiced that she got to play any little part in His plan for the redemption of Israel and all mankind. She got the fact that I must be reminded of every day. "Hey, sister. This show called life ain't about you!" She lived to magnify the Lord, and if that meant trusting Him through an unplanned pregnancy which no one in their right mind would believe her story about, then so be it.

Did Mary know? As she gazed at the baby in her arms, did she know all the things Jesus would do? Did she know what His life - and His death - would look like? Did she know the details of what God would do and how He would do it? No. God didn't treat her any differently than He does us. He tells us what we need to know, when we need to know it, and nothing else. He required her to walk by faith, just as He does us. She didn't know that she would one day stand on a hill watching her innocent Son be tortured and killed. But, I guarantee you, even in that moment as she watched Him die, she believed.

How? How could she believe? The secret is in her song. Her words speak of what God had already done. She knew His character and His deeds which proved His character, and she reminded herself of them. She remembered what He had done in the nation of Israel and she looked at what He'd done in her own life. If He had chosen a young, humble, poor girl from the backside of nowhere to give birth to His Son and if He could have that birth take place in a stable with only shepherds as witnesses, then He could certainly bring about the salvation of mankind through a crucifixion. Mary knew that it didn't matter one iota if God's plans made sense to her or not. He is God, and that is enough.

Mary, did you know? Yes. She knew. She knew that God is good and He will do what He says He will do. And she lived like it. Her life was not one of reluctant surrender but one of glorifying the Lord and rejoicing in Him.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

You've Got Mail

As I referenced in my last post, I did a crazy thing this year. I did something I said I would never do again. I did something that is really rather senseless sense it involves me spending money which I do not have in excess (by some standards - meaning my own, but not necessarily the standards in Uganda) to give someone something that will soon end up in a landfill contributing to global warming. (Okay, so I don't really buy into all the 'we're killing the earth by causing global warming' stuff, but you know what I mean.) Yep. You know what it is. Christmas cards.

It's really rather insane. Here's a card with a picture of my kids (because who wants a picture of me?), who are rather cute, but whom most of you see on a regular basis in real life anyway. I'm going to pay to purchase this piece of paper, pay to print photos of my kids, then pay to have the mail person bring it to your door, all so you can display it with a thousand other similar photos and cards for a few days and then toss it in the ole trash can.

But, I had purchased some cards on clearance a few years ago...the ones you actually put a photo in and sign with your own hand rather than the pre-printed Sam's special. Then I commenced to go with the pre-printed photo/card combo from Sam's for a few years, THEN I deemed the Christmas card unworthy of my precious time and money last year. But my non-wasteful side heard those unused cards calling to me from Maddie's closet, begging to be used and not put to waste. So, this year I have deemed the grand finale of the Bond Christmas card. That is, until next year when I decide that the world cannot continue to spin without a widely circulated photo of the four cutest kids in the world, or at least in our house.

And, if one doesn't arrive in your mailbox (yes, I even bought stamps and mailed them!), then please know that I was too thrifty to purchase more than 50 stamps and photos and had to cut my list off when I ran out them both. Otherwise, I'm SURE you would have received one. Please consider the photo and greeting below to be your official Christmas card from the Bond clan.

Merry Christmas!!

Love, Chris, Amy, Maddie, Jack, Luke, and Sam

(and, yes, I nearly got a hand cramp from signing so many stinking names on all the cards!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Week at the Spa

I'm telling you, I'm forever writing blog posts in my mind. Sam is just not a fan of getting much done, so what little I do get done tends to be those pesky things like laundry and sweeping the mountains of crumbs off of the kitchen floor. Everytime I sweep, I can't help but ask myself, "Is there any way I was this messy when I was a kid?" It's a wonder they grow since it seems like most of the food ends on the table, in the chair, on the floor, or in their hair.

I have been spending a lot of time with my feet up watching tv, just relaxing the day away. I'd love to tell you I've been hanging out at the spa, but I prefer to spend lots more money than that for a chance to relax. Yes, my place of choice for chillin' out is in the dentist's chair. I mean, it's basically like a spa...ladies in stretchy, comfy clothes lead you to a room where it's just you and them, turn on some background noise, adjust the lights, and go to work repairing your body. They just charge a LOT more for it and, unfortunately, there's a lot more pain, discomfort, and large needles and drills involved. If only I frequented the spa as often as I do the dentist these days. I'm pretty sure his children mention me every evening as they bless their supper. "God our Father, God our Father, we thank you, we thank you, for Amy Bond's teeth, for Amy Bond's teeth. Amen. Amen."

Jack's been getting some medical attention lately, too. I guess since his ambulance ride, he's figured it's pretty fun to be sick, so he has turned into a five-year-old hypochondriac. (I hope I spelled that right, because I just don't have the kind of time it takes to look it up.) It seems he complained a lot to his teacher earlier this week about his many ailments. I guess he figured he'd try it out on her since he wasn't getting too far with old mom and dad. She didn't give him a whole lot of sympathy for it either, apparently, so he decided to take things into his own hands. The little stinker left the room under the guise of a potty break, but headed straight for his old, dear friend, Nurse Donna. I'm pretty sure he has his own chair waiting for him in her office and a pre-packed ice pack in her freezer. I'm keeping the dentist in business and he is providing job security for Nurse Donna. He struck out for the third time as Nurse Donna sent him back to the classrooom without so much as a cough drop and then he had the face the music of trying to pull one over on his teacher. My only consolation as a parent was that he was not the kids who'd complained of his hair hurting earlier in the week. Well, he probably was that kid and the teacher just couldn't find it in her heart to tell me. You'll be relieved to know that all the drama was really easily solved...when he got to the van that afternoon and tearfully announced his "bad news" to me. "I have to poop NOW." Apparently, he'd come face to face with the age old dilemma of needing to go #2 at school and being unable to bring yourself to do so.

I'd love to thrill you with more exciting tales from the exciting life I lead, but Sam has decided this blogging business has gone on long enough. I'd also love to be able to proofread this, but if I wait to publish it until I have time to do that, you'll never see this oh-so-touching and meaningful post. And I just can't do that to you good people.

Off to address Christmas cards one-handed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All We Need is Love

Whirlwind. That's the best word to describe my day today, and pretty much my whole life right now. Does everyone who has four kids feel like they're running a race everyday? It's exhausting, but if I think about it for 1.5 seconds, I know I wouldn't want it any other way. I mean, what fun is a day without laundry, shopping, Christmas gift making, meal planning, chicken cooking, baby nursing, doctor visiting, bottom wiping, phone call making, check book balancing, and a little taxi service? I actually love days when I look back on the craziness and can't believe all that got done between the hours of 7am and 11pm. Of course, there's a list about a mile long of things yet to be done. Oh, well. That's what tomorrow's for, right?

The huge drawback to the craziness of life right now is that lack of intimate, quiet time I get with the Lord. I have been better about stealing away moments to read His Word each day. I have a faithful and relentless prayer partner who calls everyday to start our morning focused on Him. And my life requires a constant stream of desperate prayers lifted up to Him. But I'm lacking in those times when I can be still and hear that still, small voice. If I did get still for two seconds, I'm pretty sure He'd have to talk to me in my dreams anyway. (Sam, if you'd like to sleep for more than two hours at a time tonight, that'd be perfectly fine with me.)

God has shown me something very simple this week, though. I am an over-analyzing, criticizing perfectionist, in case you didn't already know. I tend to make life a little more complicated than it really has to be. Every once in a while, God just has to give me a little wake-up call and remind me what's really important...and it's never clean bathtubs. Go figure.

Through the sermon of a man who it seems must have an incredibly intimate and familiar relationship with his Father and through the book of 1 John (another guy who was pretty tight with God), the Lord has reminded me of the simplicity of what He wants from me. To love others. Profound, I know. But we are so hard on each other. We talk endlessly of what others have done to annoy us, hurt us, or anger us. We dwell on the mistakes of others, unwilling to let go and move past it. We point out the faults of others and share with anyone who will listen how we could have done things better than old so-and-so. We think we know best and everyone else should just consult us before every breath they take. If only everyone would act the way we know they should.

But if we just took the time to step back and look at others through an objective lens instead of through the clouded lens of our own feelings, expectations, and agendas, we'd find a person who is struggling to get through another day. A person who is faulted, but not nearly as faulted as we are. A person who could use a hug. A person who just needs to see a smiling face and know that someone cares, no matter what stupid things they've done or said that day. A person who just wants to be loved. Isn't that all of us? We know we're not perfect, and we should accept the fact that none of us will be perfect this side of eternity. If people - or God - only loved me when I was perfect, heaven knows I'd be a pretty lonely, unloved, and desperate soul.

In Genesis, Joseph's brothers were consumed with jealousy and hatred because they had a dad who really messed things up. Daddy Jacob played favorites and his sons just couldn't deal with it. They wanted to hurt their brother, but I think they wanted to hurt their dad a little, too. So, Joseph is taken out of the picture for years, Jacob is beside himself with grief, and the brothers are plagued with guilt and regret. Then we see those same guys many years later, and guess what they're dad is doing. He's still playing favorites. Now it's just Benjamin instead of Joseph, but Daddy is still consumed with only one of his 12 sons. He hasn't changed, but the other ten brothers sure have. We see them looking out for the good of Benjamin and their dad, despite the fact that Jacob is still that same messed up parent he was so many years before. The sons had changed and just decided to love their dad despite the fact that he was obviously making the same mistakes for years on end. There is such freedom in just deciding to love someone as they are instead of expecting them to change.

I say all this not having mastered it at all in my life, but I thought I'd just share what God is reminding me of in case maybe you could use a little reminder as well. So, just go love on some people and quit expecting them to be perfect. I've got a house full of imperfect, wild people to practice this on...and they have their work cut out for them in trying to love little old me. :)

1 John 4: 7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other... 20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.