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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If You Never Got Sick

I got an early Christmas present today, courtesy of my children.  Lillian came down with the fever last night, dampening some of our plans for the day.  Other than the fever and feeling rather lethargic, she seems to be fine.  Later this evening, Emmett came down with the same thing.  We had a rare moment for a couple of hours with the two of them on me, without the usual squirming and getting up and down while we watched Polar Express.  The two of them laid on my chest, head to head, every now and then Lillian would stroke Emmett's hair and tell him he'd be okay.  Of course, I'd do anything to make them feel well again, especially being three days before Christmas, but this was an awesome reminder of how precious my children are and that nights like these don't happen too often.  We always seem to be working towards something, or looking forward to something, especially this time of year.  But for one night, I was content in enjoying the moment.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

If You Never Got Sick-The Wallflowers

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In-Sufjan Stevens

Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming-Ella Fitzgerald

I'll Be Home For Christmas-Bing Crosby

Who Took the Mary Out of Christmas?-The Staples Singers

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Christmas Blues

Christmas is my favorite time of year, especially now that I have small children.  Lillian shares my excitement of getting a Christmas tree and decorating it, as well as putting up the lights outside.  When she was a baby, I toyed with the idea of giving her the real scoop on Santa Clause.  It never worked, my influence is too small, I guess.  That aside, we really get into Christmas in the Schroeder household.  We pull out the Christmas records and cd's (we even got Lilly a Taylor Swift Christmas cd for her birthday) and listen to them whenever possible.  Christmas music is a lot like Christmas memories, every year I remember the good old ones, add new ones, try to forget the bad ones (even though you can't, insert the most annoying Christmas song you can think of) and let the unmemorable ones fade into oblivion.

My favorite Christmas music tends to lean towards the melancholy.  I remember all those minor chord Advent songs sitting in church on Wednesday nights.  They always sounded so sad and with every new candlelit on the Advent wreath seemed like another invitation to joy, but not so soon.  There would be a few more weeks of reminders of how dark the world is before that big white candle is lit.  I used to love looking through the hymnal, counting down the songs until the Christmas ones began.  Than we would get to Joy to the World or Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

Many of the the great secular Christmas songs have a hint of this melancholy.  Everybody always looks at "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as this nice sweet little song about having a nice Christmas, but at the heart of it is an intense sadness.  "Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we'll have to muddle through somehow...next YEAR all our troubles will be miles away."  

Thirty six years on, I think I finally understand this sadness that comes with Christmas.  We're all in search of a perfection that we never achieve.  We buy new cars that lose their value as soon as we drive it off the lot.  We strive to keep the house clean and it's getting dirty the second we're done.  We work to buy our children toys they are bored with the same day they get it.  As the old John Prine song goes, "all the snow has turned to water, Christmas days have come & gone, broken toys and faded colors are all that's left to linger on".

We know all the right answers when it comes to Christmas, and we teach them to our children, only to forget them ourselves minutes after we teach them.  We search for perfection with Christmas;  we try to make memories to last a lifetime, only to be left with that same empty feeling that our idea of perfection can't be reached.

Which brings us to why we need Christmas in the first place.  Jesus came to save us from our frailties, our guilt, our greed, our anger, our shame, our selfishness, you can feel free to pick yours.  Christmas came as a light in a dark place, our perfection in an imperfect world.  It brings with it a tension between our sadness our sin has created and the joy of knowing the one who came to save us from our sin.  My hope for you this Christmas is that you remember all that needs to be remembered, forget all that needs to be forgotten, and most of all, that joy wins.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Lo!  How a Rose E'er Blooming-Sufjan Stevens

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-Bob Dylan

Of the Father's Love Begotten-Concordia College Fort Wayne

Good Christian, Men Rejoice-Kings Choir Cambridge

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates-Sufjan Stevens

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A couple of months ago on a Friday evening, I took Lillian on a "hike" to one of our favorite spots, "Rosy Mound".  It goes through the woods up and over hills until you finally get to the shore of Lake Michigan.  The payoff for Lillian is, at the end, she gets to swim.  The payoff for me is walking hand in hand with my four year old daughter through one of the most beautiful places in our little town.  After nine years of living in Grand Haven, I still haven't lost the childlike excitement of seeing the water.  It even outweighs my adult like hatred of sand in my shoes.  When we got to the water, we had the beach completely to ourselves, it was an evening I'll never forget, and it'll remind me of many nights like it we've had since then in 10 years or so.

The next night, after work, the whole family went for a walk in our neighborhood.  It was another wonderful evening.  We were almost home and Christie was making Lillian laugh really loud.  We heard someone yelling from their driveway.  I thought maybe the gentleman was working on his car and was upset that we were being too loud.  It turns out, he had fallen and was asking for help.  We helped him into his house and as we were helping him, he kept looking back at the stroller that Emmett was in and Lillian standing right next to it.  We assured him that they were okay.  His wife came out and talked about calling an ambulance and then called her son.  She informed us that their granddaughter had died recently and he said maybe that is why he fell.  We got him in the house and told him we'd pray for him.  Christie wondered if maybe their granddaughter was the four year old who tragically died recently.  It turns out it was.  My heart sank.  She was younger than Lillian. 

I visited the gentleman the next day, he was feeling better, but started talking about his granddaughter.  I told him I don't want to imagine what that might feel like.

When my son was a few months old during church, the thought popped into my head that someday I'd have to give him up.  I'm not sure if that meant one day he'd leave our home to live a life of his own or something worse, but it was a good reminder that these children of mine are a gift from God entrusted to us for a short time.  Those two suck the life out of me sometimes, especially the boy at the moment, he is overly fussy (unless he's going for a walk or sitting in the grass), he doesn't want to eat anything that isn't a cracker or a piece of fruit, and he is in to anything and everything that he's not supposed to.  This post is three months in the making & as I speak, he's up earlier from his nap than expected.  They suck the life out of me but without them life would seem like it weren't worth living.  There a lot like the leaves on the trees in the yard at this time of the year, so beautiful, yet so much work.  The boys awake & the leaves need raking.  Happy Autumn, friends...

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Autumn Leaves-Nat King Cole

Everytime we Say Goodbye-John Coltrane

Autumn Serenade-Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane

Autumn-Joanna Newsom

Daddy's Little Pumpkin-John Prine

Take a drive in the country and listen to these songs and see if they don't put a smile on your face. 

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...