Have a “Mary” Christmas (More sitting, less stressing!)


how to relieve stress over the holidays

“Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42, emphasis added).

Welcome to my world. I’m hosting Christmas for oodles of beloved family members, and the Martha in me wants to show my love by making everyone else’s Christmas perfect: Decorations? Check. Clean house? Check. Gourmet food? Check. (“Sort of. Wait. Let me run into the kitchen to prep a few things . . . I’ll be back in five hours.”)

But you know . . . the clean house, and gourmet food, and Pinterest-worthy Christmas decorations, aren’t what’s most important for our family holiday. A great holiday is about time spent together, about laughing so hard you snort egg nog through your nose, about the light of magic shining in our children’s eyes. So I hope you’ll join me in taking Jesus’ gentle words to Martha to heart this holiday season. Let’s “choose what is better.”

And what did Mary choose? She chose to be present. To be engaged. To be with—fully with—the people who had come into her home. To spend time sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening and learning. That’s what makes the holidays great. That’s what is “better.” So won’t you join me?

Let the dishes soak a little longer.

Let the pine needles rest on the carpet a little longer.

Let the meals be a little simpler.

Let’s just be there with the people—and the Lord—we love.

That, my friends, is better. That’s BEST. And Jesus will not take it away from us!

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from the Thompson Crazies! (Here’s hoping we don’t actually GO crazy.)

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Kids’ Technology Use Over the Holidays


5 Questions that will help kids use technology wisely over the holiday break via @lizzylit

Ready for five questions that can make or break your holiday?

Okay, here’s the first one, and it’s a big one: How is your family going to handle technology during the holidays? (Insert Jaws theme music here. Or perhaps that screeching sound from the infamous Psycho scene . . . )

The technology issue over the holidays always seems to sneak up on me. Not this year. This year I plan to think ahead, and make sure Kevin and I are on the same page before the kids start their chorus of, “I’m bored! Can I pleeeeease have some extra game time? Can I pleeeeease watch more TV?”

The minute kids get done with school, they kick into chill-out mode. They want to turn off their brains, turn on the TV, and play games. And hey, maybe they do deserve a mental break, but it’s up to us to parent them into a healthy mental break. If we don’t want our kids to disappear into an iPad/video game/texting fog for the duration of the holidays, then now is the time to think this through. Don’t wait until your kids succumb to a Game-Induced Zombie Coma. Don’t wait until your teenagers begin texting you from across the room, because they’ve forgotten how to use their lips. Don’t wait until you’ve turned into the “Put-Away-that-Stupid-iPod” Police. Here are four simple questions about your family’s technology use to discuss before the school break begins:

What are your holiday technology guidelines going to be?

How much TV is okay to watch? (And what KIND?)

How much game time is allowed, and when?

When do the cell phones get put away so the family can look each other in the eye and just BE together? (And this includes the parents’ phones, too!)


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If we agree on a strategy ahead of time, and talk it through with our spouse and kids, our holidays will go so much better. Let’s not allow our precious family time to go to waste—let’s think. Let’s be proactive. Let’s parent on purpose. And let’s enjoy making meaningful memories—the kind involving eye contact and real conversation!—with the people we love.

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By This Time Next Year… A Christmas Miracle


A Christmas miracle about faith and the power of prayer through infertility, via @lizzylit

The Christmas chaos had finally died down.

My family members were lying around my parents’ living room on Christmas night, 2004—tinkering with new gadgets, trying on new clothes, laughing at the same old jokes that somehow never got old. Everyone was full of eggnog, fudge, and joy… well, everyone was happy except me.

The living room was crowded with the people I loved most, and yet in my mind, someone was missing— someone I had never met. My baby, the child I could not conceive, was not there, and that baby’s absence spoke louder than all the words of Christmas cheer.

Christmas miracle from @lizzylit

Christmas is about children, but there were no children in our family anymore. My three siblings and I had grown up, and now that I had been married to my college sweetheart for five years, a baby was long overdue.

thompson-155

But we couldn’t get pregnant, and no one knew why. As the lonely months stretched into years—two childless Christmases came and went, and our refrigerator was covered with photos of our friends’ babies wearing Santa hats—I sank into a deep sadness. I began to question everything, even my lifelong faith in God. Did he hear our prayers at all? How could he stand by silently while Kevin and I suffered?

As we faced that Christmas, I had vowed not to let my aching emptiness ruin our family festivities, and yet the loss cast a shadow over the whole day. As night fell, my father, who had been a preacher for more than forty years, gathered the family together, and we began to recount the blessings we’d been given over the past year. The talk turned to the future. What did we hope to see next year? What were our dreams?

Every family member wished for the same thing: a baby by the following Christmas. We shed tears, and as the hour grew late, Dad ended our Christmas by asking us all to pray for the coming year. Around the circle we went, each of us asking God the same thing: “Please give us a baby by this time next year.” We had prayed for a baby before—pleaded, cajoled, bargained—but never like this, never as a family, united in the same plea: “By this time next year…”

The next month, I began to see a new doctor, who had some fresh ideas for my treatment. And that spring, we received the news: I was pregnant! I embraced the months of exhaustion and nausea with ecstatic gratitude—every time I hung my head over the trashcan, I was singing inside.

The baby was due December 18. All through my pregnancy, people teased me: “A Christmas baby, how terrible!” But I, in my first-pregnancy naiveté, was convinced that the baby would come early, so that I could recover from the delivery in plenty of time for Christmas. We had waited so long to get pregnant, surely we wouldn’t have to wait past our due date to meet our child!

Christmas baby overdue

But December 18 came and went, and the baby only seemed to settle deeper into my womb. December 19, December 20, December 21… nothing. Not a single useful contraction. As Christmas day loomed, I began to despair.

I was never going to have this baby.

I had prayed for so long to get pregnant, now I’d be the only pregnant woman who stayed that way forever.


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When Kevin and I first awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve, we called to check in with our doctor. Minutes later, we were throwing suitcases into our car, rushing to the hospital to have labor induced. On the way to the hospital, we laughed and cried, terrified and giddy in equal measure, sure that our baby would arrive by that night. A Christmas Eve baby! Wouldn’t that be delightful?

But labor dragged on into the early hours of Christmas morning. Our families drifted in and out of the hospital’s waiting room all Christmas day, rushing through the morning gift-opening without us, eating Christmas dinner with cell phones by their plates, waiting for news.

Labor and Delivery 019

But the baby wouldn’t come, wouldn’t even move into the birth canal. Finally that night, it was clear that our baby was not coming without help. I would need a C-section.

That first wail—the cry I thought I’d never hear—was a foreign but familiar sound, the song my heart had been singing all those years. And what lungs she had! The baby cried angrily—after all, it hadn’t been her idea to come out—but the moment my husband spoke to her, saying, “Daddy’s here,” she quieted, calmed by the voice she had come to know from inside my womb.

And when the doctor held up a tiny head with chocolate eyes and a scrunchy nose, my brain tried to reconcile sight with faith. That squirming bundle was our baby! Cassidy Joy Thompson entered the world—seven pounds, five ounces of answered prayer—on Christmas night, 2005, at 9:46 p.m.

But we didn’t get it right away.

It was several weeks before my mother suddenly turned to me, tears filling her eyes, and breathed, “Do you remember our prayer last Christmas night?” And we realized that Cassidy Joy had been born, to the minute, one year after my family had begged God, “By this time next year, please give us a child…. ”

Now, whenever I am tempted to wonder if God remembers us, if he hears our prayers, I look at my daughter—our family’s Christmas miracle—and I know that he does.

miracle Christmas baby

Labor and Delivery 031

 

Christmas Card (2)

And here she is on her first birthday, Christmas 2006:

IMG_1537 - Version 2

And today, almost age ten:

Cassidy hugging apple tree

By God’s astounding grace, this is our family today:

Christian infertility

kids01

This story first appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas!

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The Tradition that Teaches Kids to Give at Christmastime


how to teach kids to give at Christmas via @lizzylit

My favorite holiday tradition is the day we give our kids money and set them loose in a toy store.

They tear through the aisles, eyes glittering with desire, desperate to find the perfect toy. As they search, my husband and I watch them transform into the best versions of themselves. Compassionate, selfless versions. Big-hearted, open-handed versions that sometimes hibernate for weeks in normal life, but always wake up shining on this day.

Because on this day they aren’t shopping for a toy they want—they are choosing gifts for each other. This is Sibling Gift Day.

When our kids were toddlers, my husband and I began searching for ways to build a spirit of giving and generosity into our Christmas traditions—singing in nursing homes, buying gifts for families in need, baking treats for friends—but Sibling Gift Day has become our most bonding holiday tradition. Not only does it teach our kids the joy of giving, it also builds connection and affection in our family. Here’s how we do it . . .

Click here to finish reading how we use Sibling Gift Day to teach our kids a spirit of giving, on BonBon Break!


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Have Yourself a Merry Married Christmas


how to have a merry married Christmas

This month in Lizzy Life, we’re talking about having happy, holy holidays! We’ve already talked about 10 questions to ask yourself NOW to help you have your best Christmas ever. So today let’s talk about setting our marriages up to win.

If you’ve been married for even a single Christmas season, then you’ve already learned this: Spouses can envision very different things for holidays, without even realizing it. One of you wants to relax and keep it simple and never ever get out of their pajamas; the other wants to be Clark Griswold, and invite Cousin Eddie and every other relative to spend weeks partying at your house!

On our first few Christmases together, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome and I ran into unexpected conflict over stupid things: should we invite 50 friends over for Ugly Sweater parties every other night, or go hibernate alone in a mountain cabin with no Internet or phone service or Ugly Sweaters (or clothing of any kind); should we drive thousands of miles cross-country to visit every possible relative, or stay home snuggling by the fire; should we invite friends over for Christmas dinner, or have a quiet meal with just our family…and the list went on. Plus, we both had our own list of like 36 Things We Absolutely Had to Do in December Or Else Our Whole Holiday Season Would Be Ruined. 

We quickly learned that we had to talk through ALL THE DETAILS of our expectations and calendar if we wanted to have a merry married Christmas. At first I, being rather a free spirit when it comes to holidays, ran away screaming when Kevin came at me waving a calendar and throwing out terrifying words like “schedule” and “plan ahead,” but I quickly realized how wise he was. And now that we have four kids and all of our family lives out of town, there’s no choice. We have to plan.

Kevin and I have learned that several weeks before Christmas (if you haven’t noticed, that’s NOW!), we need to have a little meeting together. We put the kids to bed and sit down in front of the tree (the calming presence of the tree helps me not hyperventilate). We grab our family calendar, pour glasses of wine (again with the hyperventilation prevention), and map out everything we both want to do over the holidays. First we talk about expectations and talk through our answers to the 10 holiday questions I posted last week—how we want our holiday to feel, what we are both hoping for.


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how to have a merry married Christmas

Then out comes the Evil Calendar. This is where we figure out how our expectations translate into life in the real world, with the limits of 24-hour days and the need to eat and sleep and bathe children. This is where expectations meet reality. This is where we figure out how to make our expectations actually happen. We are VERY specific—we pencil in everything we want to do over the holidays:

  • all the gajillion fun family outings we want to pack in
  • date nights
  • who we are going to invite over, and when
  • Christmas decorating and wrapping
  • shopping excursions
  • community service
  • church events
  • all 537 Christmas and birthday and New Year’s parties we need to attend
  • we even reserve certain nights for relaxing at home, watching favorite movies and wrapping presents 

These plans are not set in stone or signed with a blood pact or anything—we can always change them later. But they give us a roadmap to start from—and they make sure we’re working from the SAME map, trying to get to the same destination.

And you know what’s the best part about doing this? It doesn’t just unite us and prevent conflict and confusion, it also helps me to feel less overwhelmed. For example, your spouse might help you realize: Hey, I’m being unrealistic in my Big Holiday Pinterest Plans. If I’m going to decorate my yard with snowmen made from snow flown in directly from the North Pole, and carve an ice sculpture for a Christmas dinner centerpiece, then I’m either going to need my spouse to kick in and help me, or consider scaling back my decorating plans a little. This is especially helpful for me as a woman who wants to do ALL OF THE THINGS, but forgets that she does not have a body double, personal shopper, or house elf to help her. Kevin, wonderful husband that he is, usually offers to take a few Christmasy jobs off my plate when he sees how much I *think* I can accomplish in December—some years he has offered to do the wrapping for me; other years he’s suggested we get babysitters so we can go finish Christmas shopping together; other years he tells me to schedule in exercise and naps. (Really.)

But seriously. When you map out HOW and WHEN you’re going to accomplish all the different fun things the holiday entails, and when you come up with a plan for working together with your spouse to make them all possible, I promise: you’ll feel happy and free. Holly-jolly, even. All your Scroogey “Bah-Humbug-I’m-too-overwhelmed-to-enjoy-Christmas” feelings will vanish. This puts you and your spouse on the same holiday team, working toward a merry married Christmas!

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