The Beautiful Moments…

I think I reiterate this every year, but I. Love. Christmas!!!! I’ll spare you all of the things I love about it, but I think I love it more every year.

I really, really love Christmas songs–the Name of Jesus is proclaimed on virtually EVERY radio station, every TV station, all over Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, EVERYWHERE, and music is constant! Sad Christmas songs make me like, three times more emotional than any other sad song–can we NOT?!?! I like happy Christmas songs, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I usually start the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but I started early this year because COVID is sucking my will to live. Thanksgiving bummed me out a bit, and I don’t know what our Christmas is going to look like this year (I miss my church homies, and I miss baking for them!), but in the meanwhile, there is-and-always-will-be, Christmas music.

Our church is meeting in home groups for the foreseeable future, and has for some time now. It’s taken some time to adjust to, but interestingly enough, we no longer meet on Sunday mornings (GASP! It almost feels blasphemous to say it out loud). Once a month, we meet corporately on Sunday afternoon (we livestreamed the last meeting, since we’re being uber-careful about ‘Rona), but weekly, we’re meeting on Friday nights (currently on Zoom, again, due to COVID). This means that Sundays are…wait for it…FREE. Wait, let me retype that as how I truly feel: FFFFFFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (said in my Adam Sandler/Bedtime Stories voice)

I’m usually doing laundry or stuff around the house, since it’s the only time I’m not cramming full of other household things. This week, though, outside of a 7:30pm meeting (again, Zoom), our whole day was blank like canvas. I slept in, we had soup, there were Wii games and yelling, and it was nice. “You’re rambling, Cass. Where does this tie into Christmas?!?” you ask…

I found a YouTube Channel that plays Christmas music on a livestream. To my surprise, it’s pretty good!

The scene above was on our TV in the living room. If you look at it full-screen, you’ll see the details, down to the little dog parked down by the threshold of the fireplace. This is such a cozy scene; it reminds me of my parents’ house, and their best friends’ house, and the house I imagine for myself when I can’t sleep at night (what, you don’t play Imaginary Decorator when you can’t sleep?), and interestingly enough, it matches my Christmas decor.

David & Jericho were in the kitchen building a Christmas present for “someone,” and I was listening to their conversation…I was sitting on the couch, reading a book (!). None of us were out of our pajamas, and the Christmas music was playing in the background. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of this simple moment. I had such a breath of gratitude in my spirit.

I can remember being in a friend’s house and seeing their family together…the dad and one of the daughters was singing in the kitchen, working on dinner, while the mom and the other daughters & their husbands were milling about, talking about various subjects. Grandkids were running up-&-down the stairs in their beautiful home, and I had a moment of awe that was spiked with a bit of jealousy. This was AMAZING! Like, this is the kind of scene that TV tells us is normal, but that life says is anything but! I felt like I was on a 90’s TGIF sitcom, in one of those sappy “aw-shucks-hug-the-dog” moments. What was this?!?!?

I can remember being in the kitchen in the house that I grew up in, and I don’t remember what we were doing, but my mom, my sister, & I were all singing Gatlin Brothers’ songs. That’s one of those moments where everything was happy, and harmonious (literally–my mom’s a killer harmony singer), & I remember breathing it in and sealing it in my brain (BTW, click the link to hear the GBs if you’ve never heard of them). They’re still awesome).

The moments we get to stop and build a metaphorical monument in our brains–where we take a bit to breathe in what we’re seeing and feeling, and we seal that memory–are so precious. I have a ton of amazing memories of life in general, but especially at Christmas. I’m learning that no matter what gift you have for someone, you can’t force those moments. Those moments happen by the grace & love of Jesus–those moments are in & of themselves, like spontaneous worship. Those moments hit us in our spirit–they catch our attention and remind us to stop and to thank God for the life that He’s given us. They’re completely genuine, without pretense; they probably happen far more often than we know, because we’re so busy. Having that blank Sunday to rest and stop allowed me to remember what I was surrounded with, and to be so, so thankful.

Maybe that’s a blessing in all of this COVID garbage–maybe it’s giving us time to stop and think, to stop and appreciate who we have and what moments we’re surrounded by.

I’m so thankful for the Beautiful Moments…I know this little blog doesn’t go very far, but one thing it does do is serve as a marker for the memories I want to keep. I want to remember seeing the Christmas lights, the sappy scene on the TV, the silly pajamas and the paint on the kitchen table. I want to remember a lazy Sunday full of cozy blankets and soup, & a good book.

I want to remember that feeling of gratitude, and to go back to it on the days where I’ve lost my focus and have let the Hamster Wheel of Life detour my emotions. I want to hold onto the Beautiful Moments, and to pay attention so that when they come along, I’m ready to take that deep breath and to seal it in, to give thanks to God for making it all possible.

May this Christmas be a time of Beautiful Moments for you and all of your family…if I don’t see you until the New Year, may your 2021 be (and this is where I don’t say, “less of a dumpster fire than 2020”) a year that brings you closer to God, and closer to each other. Peace and Love to you and yours!

This is a small collection of the COVID photo shoots….the picture in the bottom center is the only one taken by a professional. We literally shot the rest ourselves with cell phones because we couldn’t be bothered with real equipment…which we have…but 2020. Also, based on these pictures, which were taken 3 completely different times, I am dubbing 2020 the “Year of Denim,” because I evidently couldn’t get away from some incarnation of a denim shirt in Every. Single. Picture. 🙂 Photos taken at Strawberry Nature Reserve and at Bee Tree Park, by David Cooley and Emmybee Photography

Chaos and Christmas Cookies

Christmas seems to be such a time of heightened emotions and drama, right? Either we’re emotional because we’re happy-reminiscing, or we’re emotional because we’re sad reminiscing, or we’re freaking out because there’s too much to do, or we’re filled with abundant joy because of what we’re surrounded with (hyped-up kids). Or, we’re stuffing our fists in our mouths so that we don’t say the wrong thing at our family gatherings…or we’re on a sugar high because COOKIES, or we’re disappointed because no matter how hard we try, we will NEVER BE MARTHA FRICKIN’ STEWART, or we’re hiding in our bedrooms for 2 seconds of peace because of school vacations, or…

Peace.

When the angels came to the shepherds (who were no doubt freaking the heck out, because angels are NOT soft, cuddly lil’ things with wings and halos, NOT TO MENTION the fact that they just SUDDENLY appeared out of NOWHERE. In some translations, Luke 2 says they were “terrified,” and who wouldn’t be?!?!?), they made it a point to say, “Peace.”

Of all of the things that the angels could have said, particularly in regards to the mission they were on, don’t you find it so indicative of the loving nature of God, that they used the word, “Peace?” They wanted their announcement of our Savior to be met not with fear, but with rejoicing…not with dread, but with peace. He wanted us to greet His Son with Peace…that amazes me!

Yet, this season is often met with anything but…

And I am no exception.

I work in a University, which means that I am beyond blessed to have some time off in December and January. This also means that I have a ton of projects that are wrapping up at work, along with my own Christmas preparations. I have schedules to finish, papers to process, contracts to review, doctors to credential, and compliance training to complete. I’m swamped, and I can be very short on patience.

At home, there is cleaning, cooking, baking, groceries to shop for, presents to wrap, recipes to hunt down…laundry that still somehow manages to pile up (even though I swear, I’ve worn the same t-shirt through 3 days of baking…okay, that’s TMI). A few weeks ago, I had to make a run to the grocery store with my kiddo in tow. He’s usually pretty good in the store, so I thought, “Okay, this time, I’m not going to lift him into the cart. My back is hurting pretty badly, and I just don’t want to lift him. He’ll be fine.” And he was…for the first half of the store.

And then he lost his dang mind.

I have no idea what set him off, but he got plain ornery, as we say in my neck of the woods, and I just about spanked his rear in the baking aisle. I was NOT having it, so I hiked him into the cart, and told him I’d had enough. I needed to get some basic greeting cards for work. I saw this blue card that said, “Peace on Earth,” and “Goodwill to all mankind,” and I thought, “Hey, it doesn’t say ‘Merry Christmas!’ I can use these for work!!”

Um…

Do you see what I see, in the picture that heads up this blog?

I was so distracted by my shopping lists and my crazy kiddo, that I didn’t see the Manger in the middle of the card.

I finished my shopping and had my son stand in the corner while I bagged groceries. I’m sure I was the picture of Christmas peace, let me tell you. 🙂

mADEA PEACE BE STILL

We made it home; I got the stuff put away, and my kiddo straightened up his behavior before the TV remote got hidden for the remainder of the night.

A few days later, I was sitting in my office, writing out my cards, when suddenly, I looked at the picture again. There it was, looking right back at me–The Manger.

And I’d missed it.

At first, I laughed with a Jewish friend of mine–“Look what I missed!” She said, “Well, so much for inclusivity, right?” “Yeah!  LOL–Can I still use them?” She said she thought they were fine, so I went ahead with it. I even posted it on Instagram, laughing about my typical dippy-ness. Pretty quickly behind that, though, came a feeling of sadness: How, in the middle of all of this madness, could I have missed the very thing that Christmas is all about?

I felt the Lord say to me, “My story will be told, even when you don’t see how. Even when you overlook Me, I’m still here”  Ooof….yep, that got me.

I had to repent–even though it is such a small thing, it’s true that I had my eyes off of Jesus in the midst of the chaos of my life. The card may have said, “Peace on Earth,” but my stress levels said everything but. How did I get so caught up in this mess?!?

After Thanksgiving, our holiday decorations went up. This year, I gave Jericho the job of setting up the Nativity that I’d bought for his first Christmas. It’s unbreakable, so I felt like I could breathe a bit.  🙂  I set up the stepladder, and let him do what he wanted.

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I’m kind of your typical Type A person, and I have “my” way of doing things. It’s hard for me to turn loose of things and to let other people give things a shot (I think “Type A” is just a classier way of saying, “anal-retentive,” and I will totally cop to my being a control freak in certain situations). He set up the Nativity scene, and I inwardly cringed–everyone was facing the “wrong” way!!!!  But, I took some deep breaths, and I left it alone…he deserves to have decorations, too, so I got over myself….and then, the Type-A Grinch’s heart grew THREE SIZES that day!!!

grinch

Every time I take a look at the Nativity, I smile a little more, & I feel the Father send me a wink. Every character in this scene is solely focused on the Baby in the Manger.
They’ve turned their backs to the distraction, and they’re focused on the Promise that’s in front of them.

They weren’t so busy that they missed the Manger that was standing right in front of them, right under The Star.

They weren’t so caught up by what people would think…by deadlines and groceries and recipes and outfits and schedules…that they missed the fulfillment of the Promise of God.

My son set up this Nativity where every single character is captivated by the scene before them….captivated by the sight of a Savior that would eventually bring Peace on Earth.

I’m humbled.

I’m correcting my oversight, because a six-year old boy unintentionally pointed out the biggest spiritual lessons of Christmas, right under my nose. I may have missed the Manger, but he sure didn’t.

This past week, I’ve had questions about my faith brought up to the surface…broken places that I thought were healed, came up in a way that I had to lay them before God. We had some intense conversations this week, and I truly felt Him whisper into my heart a renewal of faith…an awakening of sorts…and a restored peace that I didn’t realize I was missing. Feelings of inadequacy came in like an earthquake, and I could see the cracks in my foundation; rather than tell me “you should know better!” or, “hasn’t it been long enough? Aren’t you past this?!?” I felt Jesus say, “It’s okay. I’m the same God now as I was 13 years ago; I was the same then that I was 1300 years ago. Things you see on this earth do not define Who I Am, and when I tell you that I Am enough, you can believe that it is, it was, and it will always be true. I felt Him echo those words about me…”Cassidy, you are ENOUGH. Trust in Who you know I Am.”

Chaos in the past…confusion in the present…fear of the future–these are all things that cause us to curl into a ball of static rejection and anxiety. They steal our peace, and they separate us from God and the joy that He gives. These are things that build armor around our hearts and minds, and cause us to feel alone in the dark…but that’s not where He calls us to be.

The shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem were out on night watch. It was dark, boring, and dangerous work; in a darkness like that, who could possibly predict what criminal or starving animal would approach, next? It was smelly, terrifying, and pitch-black…but then God came, and everything changed in an instant:

[a]Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 [b]For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 [c]“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14, NABRE)

 

God loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die on a Cross for our sins, and to be resurrected again three days later. He did all of this, so that He wouldn’t have to go through the suffering of losing a child ever again…He doesn’t want to lose a single one of us.

In this season, my hope is that we will all stop and see the Manger in a new way…My hope is that we can all take some time and solely focus on the gift that God gave us, in bridging the gap between sin and salvation with His Son, Jesus.

We are so grateful to the Lord for our son, for our families, and for our friends (that means YOU!). We’re thankful for our church and our pastors, and for the fact that they never stop their relentless pursuit of Jesus.

Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and of course, a wonderful Boxing Day, eh?!?  Celebrate the season with joy and wonder, and may the peace of God be on your household.

See you in 2020 (and yes, in my field, I’m “looking” forward to a year’s worth of terrible jokes)!!! Shalom, y’all!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and the Blessings of “Boring”

Christmas cards, postage, etc., COST. So, in the interests of saving our budget, we greatly reduced the number of Christmas cards that we physically sent out this year. Besides, everything–EVERYTHING–is online. Also, the only stamps I have left are either Harry Potter or Disney Villains, and NOTHING says “Christmas” like a Cruella De Ville stamp. 🙂 That being said, here’s our OFFICIAL Christmas Card/Letter for the year:

Christmas Card 2017

Christmas, 2017

One of the doctors in the clinic stopped by my office the other day, and commented on how sometimes, people need to learn to be happy with “normal.” I’m a big fan of “normal.” As a society, we’re told we need to “thrive on chaos,” and to “work well under pressure.” That’s all fine, but I think we’ve lost the luster of celebrating every-day life.

Wake up at 4am. Get ready for work. Drive—a lot—and maintain your Christianity in the process. Do your job—and maintain your Christianity in the process. J Drive some more. Pick up your child from school, head home, make something edible for dinner, and crash in front of the television, read a book, play a game, etc., until it’s time to do the whole day over again. There’s a schedule, and the days tend to flow into one another in some kind of monotonous blur…Or do they?

I’m definitely locked into my routine; I know I can hit that snooze button 3 times before I’m at Critical Rush. My closet is organized so I can spend 5 more minutes in bed, and I usually pack my lunch the night before. I’m as streamlined into my routine as I can possibly be, all in the name of a few extra minutes under the blankets. Do I look forward to every single day? Heck, no. There are more days than not where I fight a major battle just to put one foot on the floor. It’s for medical reasons, it’s for mental reasons—My “expectation” for the day is honestly just to get it over with. I know that sounds like absolute drudgery, but I also know it’s more common than some people realize. I think that’s part of why when something exciting happens, it’s so much more dramatic, because HOLY COW, WE HAVE BROKEN OUR ROUTINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you know one thing that breaks any concept of a “routine?”

Love.

Although the first part of my day is routine, as soon as I pick Jericho up from school, it’s really “anything goes.” I know I’m going to get him, maybe talk to his teacher, and we’re going to drive home, have dinner, and talk about his day. I know he’s going to go to bed somewhere around 7:45, and that I’m going to bed at the same time. What I don’t know, is what he’s going to say…what he’s going to do, or what new skill he’s picked up. It seems like he grows every day, and before we know it, he’s going to be starting Kindergarten. Impossible. I know that when he says something sweet, that on the outside, I’m going to remain calm; on the inside, my heart is going to turn into confetti, and my brain is going to replay the memory a thousand times over the course of the next “routine” day. When he stops everything and hugs me, I know my heart is going to go full-on Grinch, and grow 3x in 30 seconds (it does that a lot). It’s a brand of love unlike anything I have ever known or can describe, and it’s mind-blowing. I don’t understand the love I have for my son. I don’t get it—where does it come from? How does it just keep getting bigger? How is every day with him so amazing? I mean, yes—he’s 4.

Four has tested us in ways we never thought we could be tested in. Everything everyone said about the “Terrible 2’s” or “Terrifying 3’s” is a load of garbage, because FOUR?!?!?. Four is insane. Four means we occasionally have a Tiny Tyrant who is dead-set on voicing his own opinions, on doing is own thing, and is NOT dead-set on simply accepting “DO WHAT I TOLD YOU TO DO!!!!” as a viable reason to do what he’s told. Jericho is feisty, opinionated, determined, and incredibly creative. He is also very loving and very sweet, most of the time. There is never a doubt as to what he is thinking, and I can’t help but to think that he comes by that honestly. J

He’s decided he wants to be a foot doctor, a chef, and a police officer. He’s working on his handwriting; he’s able to read lots of words, and his spelling is pretty impressive. He’s in Pre-Kindergarten!?!?! School has been very good for him, and it’s definitely been a year of transition. He’s just a typical 4-year old boy. I celebrate that.

David’s “routine” day is a little different than mine; he gets Jericho ready for school every day and takes him in. Jericho wakes up ready to punch the day in the face! His day starts with YELLING, “I’M READY TO GET UPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!” over and over and over again, until David finally goes into his room and turns the light on. The child is persistent. I’m not sure how David deals with the volume level of the morning, but on the weekend, it makes me a little buzzy. J I’m used to absolute silence in the morning when I leave, because everyone is still asleep. It’s a culture shock on Saturday morning!

David’s still working with MetLife, and if there’s any “routine” to his day, it’s that he’s going to be busy. Between hurricanes, floods, storms, fires, and crazy drivers, he never knows what kinds of claims he’s going to be dealing with (or what kinds of excuses he’s going to hear). We each have to maintain certain amounts of confidentiality with what we do, but when he does tell me a carefully-redacted story, it’s always jaw-dropping. People are hilarious.

I continue to work with the Center for Eye Care at UMSL. My favorite part of my job is working with our Mobile Eye Van to provide vision services in underserved schools. A proper diagnosis of a vision issue can change a child’s life; that’s exciting, to be a part of making that change. I also continue to work with contract negotiations, compliance, and credentialing. The laws change constantly, and my biggest challenges are being made aware of, and of understanding, these changes. I appreciate the “simplicity” of just being “Mom” at the end of the day, and of not having to worry about government regulation enforcements! J I also continue to do freelance editing when I have time, and “officially” launched www.CassidysCommentary.com over the summer.

We’re a completely “normal” family. We’re a Dad, a Mom, and a child, who start each day, work and learn each day, and go to bed each night. But when you look at that sentence, there’s a lifetime of hope and of love in each comma. There is no happier moment of my day then when Jericho crawls up into my lap, and sits with me. I’ve never known a fulfillment like I feel when we sit there, doing nothing. I’m so thankful for that little boy, and so grateful for the love I see in him. He’s such an answer to prayer, and such a daily testimony to David & I…

I remember that feeling of waking up on Christmas morning when I was a kid—the anticipation, and the expectation. I kind of feel like that every day when I pick Jericho up from school. J Even though it’s “routine,” it’s the best time of the day, full of the excitement of seeing his face and of hearing about his day. It’s a beautiful “normal,” and I am so in love with having it in my life. We are both so grateful to God for these “typical” moments…

For this Christmas season, I hope that you & your family find the gratitude and joy in whatever your “routine” may be. My prayer for all of us is that the drama we are so affected by on a regular basis, go back to being out-of-the-ordinary. My prayer is that the “routine” would be calm and joyful, and that as a society, we would learn to appreciate the beauty of the mundane. Celebrate “normal” this holiday season, and enjoy the peace of the Holy Spirit in your families as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Merry Christmas!!!!!

Love,

David, Cassidy, & Jericho Cooley,

And Holly the Boxer, who is very, very old….