i say the same thing every christmas…

This year Christmas is going to be different. Special. More focused on Christ. Calmer. Less rushed. Prioritized. Peaceful.

Can’t say I’m doing so hot so far. I literally just dug through a deep, deep pile on my desk to find my weekly planner so I could remember what exactly I’ve been doing the first few days of December that haven’t been… different. Different in a good way.

Well, the month started off with a puking kiddo who prayed hard that she’d be well on her 10th birthday the next day. She wasn’t, but thankfully she recovered in time for a little birthday sleepover the day after her birthday (her last sleepover until her wedding night, as far as I’m concerned).

We announced our next Read-Along (join us!) and I had to cancel two things I was really looking forward to. But I got to go on a fun date with Gabe to a concert where these guys (loved them, especially the rockin’ husband-wife violin duo) opened up for these girls. I also baked a thousand dozen cookies and volunteered in Ava’s class.

Okay, so I’m tired and don’t even remotely know where this post is headed. So I’m going to go with a little bad news/good news one-two punch. The bad news? It’s only December 8, and I’m already wiped out. I have zero (ZERO) Christmas presents bought, and I can’t seem to stay on top of any one single chore/project/responsibility. Our tree isn’t drinking the water we gave it and is already dying. My 2 oldest have missed a total of 5 days of school this month already because of sickness (or really good faking).

There is something written on every single day of my planner the next 2 weeks, and I don’t know when I’m going to breathe.

The good news? I’ve been praying that God would provide our family with some opportunities to love and serve those in need this holiday season, and he has TOTALLY answered those prayers.

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m 35 years old, and I think I’ve reached out and served more this December (7 days in) than I have in all my other Decembers combined. I’m appalled–grieving really–by how I’ve made Christmas (and the whole rest of the year for that matter) pretty much all about me for so stinking long. And if I’ve reached out to people, it’s been my family, my friends, or people who are going to give to me in return.

I’m ready to start spending myself on behalf of those who can never, ever pay me back.

I missed meeting with my Reading Buddy, DaShawn, last week when Livi was sick, but I’m so excited to see her this week. And then next week is our Reading Buddy Christmas Party! Where we get to love on these precious kiddos and stuff them full of cupcakes and give them presents. And in a couple weeks we’re showing a movie (Polar Express) at our church and having popcorn and we get to invite our Reading Buddies and their families! Please pray that DaShawn (and some of her 14 siblings) will be able to come.

Saturday we got to help Gabe out at this super-cool outreach called Help Portrait. Photographers all over the world team up on this one day and take free pictures of people in need–in shelters, the homeless, women who are in trouble. The girls and I went with him to a YWCA downtown and passed out candy canes to the sweet families getting their photos taken.

Guys, I can’t tell you how it made me feel to be able to compliment these precious women and their darling children (including a 14-day-old doll baby that I got to hold). So many single mamas trying to survive on their own in a harsh world. So much pain and heartache. But for a few bright and shining moments, they were stars. We told them they were beautiful, that they should’ve been models, that their baby was the cutest we’d ever seen.

I’m telling you, this is what I was made for. Letting people know (particularly the “least of these”) that they have worth and value, that they matter, that they’re beautiful. I have never, ever felt more joy than when I’m doing that very thing.

Sunday was our Neighborhood Cookie Party, and that one needs its own post. We had 6 families come–3 we knew, 3 we didn’t. I asked God over and over to bring exactly who he wanted to bring. And I know he did. And with so many leftover cookies, we’ve gotten to bless a few more neighbors. And teachers.  And…

We had another cool opportunity tonight. My friend Kelly is a kindergarten teacher at a school less than a mile from our house (she had Livi and Ava and they love her like nuts–so do I!). Long story short, she invited 20+ families (of struggling kindergartners) to a free lasagna (w/Olive Garden breadsticks and salad) dinner tonight, then took them to her classroom to give them some tips and ideas for helping their kiddos w/letters and sounds and such.

The girls and I, along with our AMAZING friends Britt and Pam, got to “assemble” the dinner and serve it to the families and clean up at the end. And guess what–Kelly needed some COOKIES of all things to go with the coffee they had back in her classroom. Well, guess who just happened to have 60+ cookies sitting around her house?

I love how God works.

Thursday I get to take a meal to a family with a new baby. Friday I’m meeting my Jehovah’s Witness friend for the third time. Saturday we’re passing out bags of groceries to people in need. Monday I’m going to the dentist. (oops, didn’t mean to include that last one).

Bottom line? I am nothing special. I just asked God to show me where I could serve. I honestly thought he was going to make me do things that would SCARE ME TO DEATH. How’s that for believing my God really loves me?

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you’re my hero. I sure as heck don’t have this all figured out. I especially don’t know how to love on others and keep my house clean and laundry done and family fed health-fully all at the same time. God and I will work on this over the next few years I reckon.

Thanks, friends, for all your love and encouragement as I sort out what God wants from me and my life. I know so many of you are on this same journey, and isn’t it a blessing not to have to go it alone?

Thank you, Jesus!

(Don’t forget to check out Bethany’s Birthday Banners! Buy one and Bethy buys a goat!)

20 thoughts on “i say the same thing every christmas…

  1. Brooke

    I’ve got that same feeling right now…was even (briefly) considering dropping out of my marathon. Obviously I wasn’t thinking when I decided to add 6 hours of weekly training to my December calendar. Not to mention remodeling my house.

    *sigh*

      1. Brooke

        Thankfully I’ve already paid the race entry fee and for the hotel – no turning back now!

        And I’m sure you’ll be a fabulous 5K er as soon as you put your mind too it.

        Goody – I love mail! I’m such a kid about that kinda thing.

  2. Teresa Henry

    Marla, In your post you said :”I’m telling you, this is what I was made for. Letting people know (particularly the “least of these”) that they have worth and value, that they matter, that they’re beautiful. I have never, ever felt more joy than when I’m doing that very thing.”

    I am so in agreement with you! God has been pouring this same thing in to my heart this entire year. Yesterday as I was driving my heart felt so burdened for those who feel they have no value or worth or that their identity has been lost or stolen. As I was driving I even said out loud “I am convinced that it is all about worth and value…showing others their worth and value.” Thank you for sharing your heart with us here on your blog today (and every day). God calls us to the mission field every day….and you have helped teach me that the mission field is every day right in front of us. God placed on my heart last year to start a not for profit to encourage and teach adolescents and women their true worth and value. I named it What Is Beautiful. I have been ready to die, literally, because I didn’t know about my value or worth in Christ. I never want any one to feel the way I did. Right now our family is collecting gloves, hats, and scarves to distribute. God is pouring ideas in to us right now to give and serve. You inspire me! I pray that your days are filled with order and peace and that you find time to feel His loving arms wrapped around you. I pray that your family stays healthy and that you know how much your love of Christ shows through in your actions and your words!

  3. Rachelle

    I love this crazy mixed up post! Life is messy-huh?! And beautiful, when redeemed by God.
    A quote from a wonderful 80 yo pastor, “no mess, no ministry”, keeps playing in my head.
    I just didn’t realize that the mess would be in my very own house! I really don’t think it hurts to let kids wear socks twice-eh?!!

    Carry on!

  4. Bethany Peters

    First of all, THANK YOU so much for the blog post yesterday and all your Facebook advertising to try and sell my banners and apron. I really appreciate it! If God wants that family to have a goat, then He will sell those banners. (Or show me what else to do)

    I love this post! And it sounds to me that this Christmas definitely is going to be different for you. And I love having the connection to my sisters in Christ via the internet because God is definitely using it to draw me more to Himself and mold me into the woman He wants me to become.

    I have 2 families I am focusing on this year and I keep praying that God would show me how to minister to them and share His love and that I would be willing and obedient when He does. Thanks for constantly challenging me to be more like Christ. I love you sister!!!

  5. Rhonda

    I’ve been struggling with this myself – I don’t want to get so caught up in my own busyness that I miss out on the purpose God created me for. I’m still mulling it over while you’re out there doing. I need to just start doing and stop sitting here pondering what I’m supposed to do (ugh). Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. You always brighten my day!

    1. Marla Taviano

      My problem was that I was so overwhelmed by everything, I was too paralyzed to move. So I took one tiny little step (decided to become a reading buddy) and God just took it from there.

      And Rhonda, you’re already doing amazing things. Adopting 2 little boys, being a foster mom, going on your first missions trip. Talk about inspiring!!

    2. Nancy

      I’ve already quit the busyness and can totally relate to this post on MOB (Mothers of Boys) http://www.themobsociety.com/2010/12/the-gift-of-simplicity-december/ BUT, like Rhonda says, I need to “quit pondering what I’m supposed to do” and just do something!!

      Marla, you continue to be an encouragement to so many of us in all you do! Thank you for that.

      BTW, my 24-yr-old daughter asked last night if I was expecting a baby. I decided to read the Diaper book before giving them away. Loving it so far!

  6. niki hughes

    Marla, these are 2 of my favorite things you said in this post: “I’m telling you, this is what I was made for. ” and I know so many of you are on this same journey, and isn’t it a blessing not to have to go it alone?”

    You are right & you are so right!!! I am loving seeing what God is doing in you & how He is revealing Himself.

    May His peace just wash over you today, and be that calming presence that only He can be. Niki

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