Merry Christmas – 2019

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The Walmart parking lot was empty last night, as we drove home from Tab’s parents house. A reminder that at least once a year, a large corporation has some sort of heart. It’s weird to shift from the insanity of the holidays, dealing with the:

  • Increased traffic
  • Bad driving
  • People lacking patience / forgetting their common humanity

We shift from the above craziness into one day where:

  • The streets aren’t as busy
  • People stay home
  • Peace is achieve for at least a few moments while opening gifts

We didn’t start opening gifts this morning until after we had eaten breakfast (cinnamon rolls that Tab made) at 9AM. There are perks to having an only child that sleeps in. 🙂

I hope ya’ll have experienced but a moment of peace today. Merry Christmas!

(Tab got me a keyboard for my iPad. This is the inaugural blog post written on said keyboard. I am hoping to write more in 2020. I am thinking that this is the year that I write my first kids book. Maybe the story of the Dirt Clod Wars will finally be told?)

Called Beyond Circumstantial Joy

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The closer we get to Christmas, the closer we get to people taking vacation time, the crazier my office is becoming. With stress levels rising to the point where someone is going to have a heart attack, I was happy for this reminder: God’s people are called to a joy that isn’t based on circumstances. No, instead we are called to a joy that chooses to trust that God will fulfill His promises.

Jesus is our peace

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Just a few days into December and work is exploding. The environment is tense as a major project must go out soon after the beginning of the year. In other words, a typical stressful December here in my office. Knowing that things will get harder before they relax, I find my anxiety kicking in, causing my chest to tighten up. Feels like an elephant has taken up permanent residence on top of my heart. In the midst of fight or flight, God has reminded me of a snippet from Micah I read yesterday.

Micah 5:5A

I want His peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Revenge of The Christmas Monster

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Taught my first Advent lesson for Sunday School yesterday. We talked about how Jesus is our hope, light, and peace. I shared how this holiday season can be one of darkness for myself. How Advent helps me focus on the light of the season, Jesus. Got me thinking about the things we bring into the holidays. I was telling Tab that we battled The Christmas Monster, even as a married couple, for a long, long, time. We’ve worked hard though to create our own traditions (which I love) and refocus what Christmas is all about for our family. Below is a post I wrote about the Christmas monster in 2015. Enjoy!

The holidays are a battle. A war filled with presents.

The Christmas list is a list that must be structured to maximize gifts received. I’m not sure what year I learned how much family members spent on me for Christmas, but I did. Strategic planning ensued. I would organize my list so that the most expensive items were at the top of the page. As one would read down the list, the items became cheaper. I would even take this a step further by listing the items retail price. I was a monster, used to three family Christmas events. One with my dad’s parents, one with my mom’s parents, and one with my immediate family.

Sometimes monsters look cute. I mean, handsome.

My Aunt Jody has no children. She loves giving; she loves Christmas time. On the other side of the Christmas campfire, my mom felt the need to compete with my aunt and grandparents. Growing up, she co-owned a craft business with a friend. My mom would spend hours out in the garage, cutting out craft pieces with her scroll saw. She would then paint these items, piece them together, and then go to a weekend craft show to sell. Generating money for Christmas that we did not have. I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Ayers coming out to help her paint and get items ready to sell. The holidays were stressful for my mom. I’m sure she wouldn’t tell you that. I’m sure as a kid I couldn’t have told you that my mom was stressed over having to compete. But she was.

The gift overload distorted my view of Christmas. The season became all about what I could get. I didn’t see the stress it was causing those around me.

My mom has since learned to let go and not compete. But I’m still learning, shaping, what Christmas looks like for my family. I don’t want Wyatt growing up thinking that Christmas is about maximizing what he can get. Sure, maybe kids do that to a point. But I do not want to raise a Christmas monster.

What does Christmas look like for you and your family? How do you go beyond presents?

A Christmas Note To Myself

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On the day before December begins,

I’d like to remind myself.

That no matter how stressful work gets,

Nor how much I miss family,

Swirling down into the depression pit isn’t worth it.

At all.

I need to focus on my family around me,

My friends,

The anticipation of the Advent season.

Spending the entire month of December, in a funk, sucks.

You know it, and your wife knows it. 

So stop it!

Break the cycle this year.

Tell depression to get off your mental lawn.

You’re welcome, by the way.

– A note from November Bryan to December Bryan.

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

Not sure about you, but December is traditionally a tough month for me. All through November, I’ve been watching depression circle around outside the fire light. Beckoning me to step away from the comforts of clarity and embrace the dark/warm fuzzy jacket of depression. Wanted to write a quick note to remind myself not to go down that path this year. I want to encourage you also to stay near the fire and pay attention to the words you are speaking to yourself. We can do this.

Combat the Familiarity and Embrace the Wonder

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Four days into December, and I’m whipped. The combination of:

  • Allergies–come on Texas, get cold!
  • My company Christmas party
  • And a baby dedication for my niece–which was both sweet and fun!

All the above have left me drained. Add on the craziness that is the month of December at work, and I’m ready to crawl back into bed. I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to just hunker down and push through the holidays. At some point the:

  • Company Christmas cards will be finalized/stuffed/mailed.
  • Hustle and bustle of the season will end. Local drivers will return to their normal driving habits.

Do not misread me, I love Christmas. I enjoy spending time with family, the joy of giving gifts, and beginning new traditions with my own family. One of the traditions we have started, as a family, is going through season of Advent. Advent allows us to prepare our hearts and focus on the coming birth of Jesus.

In a culture that uses this season to get children to dream about how their lives would be made better by possessing a certain material thing, where Christmas has been reduced to a shopper’s nightmare and a retailer’s dream, it is vital to draw the wonder of our children away from the next great toy and toward the wonder of the coming of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus. – Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional

This year, we are moving through the Advent season with two guides:

  1. In the evening as a family, we are walking through Focus on the Family’s Holy Night Advent Calendar. Each day, you read scripture and an overall thought. Then, you cut out an item (could be a palm tree, dove, etc.) and slowly build a paper craft manger scene.
  2. Tabitha and I are reading through Paul David Tripp’s Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. This book has been excellent so far and I’m using it as a teaching resource for Sunday School.

Photo by Kacper Szczechla on Unsplash

The craziness of the holidays and being away from family in another state, for me, can distract from what I have in front of me and what the Christmas season is all about. By moving through Advent, I’m hoping to combat the familiarity and embrace the wonder of God sending His son, Jesus.

Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder. And here’s what’s important about this: what has captured the wonder of our hearts will control the way we live. – Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional

Q: What family Christmas traditions help you keep your focus on Christ during the Christmas season?

The Christmas Monster

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The holidays are a battle. A war filled with presents.

The Christmas list is a list that must be structured to maximize gifts received. I’m not sure what year I learned how much family members spent on me for Christmas, but I did. Strategic planning ensued. I would organize my list so that the most expensive items were at the top of the page. As one would read down the list, the items became cheaper. I would even take this a step further by listing the items retail price. I was a monster, used to three family Christmas events. One with my dad’s parents, one with my mom’s parents, and one with my immediate family.

will-ferrell-elf

Sometimes monsters look cute. I mean, handsome.

My Aunt Jody has no children. She loves giving; she loves Christmas time. On the other side of the Christmas campfire, my mom felt the need to compete with my aunt and grandparents. Growing up, she co-owned a craft business with a friend. My mom would spend hours out in the garage, cutting out craft pieces with her scroll saw. She would then paint these items, piece them together, and then go to a weekend craft show to sell. Generating money for Christmas that we did not have. I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Ayers coming out to help her paint and get items ready to sell. The holidays were stressful for my mom. I’m sure she wouldn’t tell you that. I’m sure as a kid I couldn’t have told you that my mom was stressed over having to compete. But she was.

The gift overload distorted my view of Christmas. The season became all about what I could get. I didn’t see the stress it was causing those around me.

My mom has since learned to let go and not compete. But I’m still learning, shaping, what Christmas looks like for my family. I don’t want Wyatt growing up thinking that Christmas is about maximizing what he can get. Sure, maybe kids do that to a point. But I do not want to raise a Christmas monster.

What does Christmas look like for you and your family? How do you go beyond presents?

Christmas Thoughts: Round 4

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Sometime in the 4th grade, I thought it would be cool to bring my Tyco Hot Keyz to school for show and tell. Synthesizer strapped to my back, I proudly rode my bike to school that day with my best friend Andrea. I was the man.

I wonder what happened to it...

The Christmas I received my Tyco Hot Keyz was one of the best ever. I remember my brother receiving a “guitar” that played noises when you pressed different buttons. Though I was a tad jealous of my brother’s gift (he always made things seem cooler than they were), I had been given a keytar!

We rocked out that Christmas on my grandparents hearth (which was like a stage). I’m sure my parents must have hated those things.

All hail the loud and annoying Christmas presents, they make children happy.

Christmas Thoughts: Round 3

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Every Christmas, without fail, my brother and I would ask for remote control cars; every Christmas, without fail, we’d receive said cars and break them within a week. As the years progressed, my relatives began to catch on to the fact that $100+ RC cars were being totaled. I remember one year where we were told that we weren’t getting radio controlled anything due to them breaking each year (threats aside, we got them anyways).

One year my Aunt presented me with two cars and asked me to decide upon one.

The first was a Tyko Fast Traxx:

Mine was a sweet yellow.

 The second car was a Tyco Hijacker:

I have no clue why I thought this car was cool. Must have had one heck of a commercial.

I ended up deciding upon the Tyco Fast Traxx. My brother and I promptly took it outside and began putting it through its paces. Little known to me at the time, when the Fast Traxx’s treads grew warm, they would fall off. Eventually these rubber treads grew so worn (within a week or two) that they wouldn’t stay on the tire they attached to.

Now we had a bike jump out on our back patio that my brother had built. So, we launched the car off of it. Ended up cracking the car where the back wheels attached to the body. You could literally see the gears inside the car moving. Not good.  I guess what I am trying to say is that we killed the car, quickly. Another Christmas car destroyed. Mission accomplished, I guess…if that was the goal…which it wasn’t. We were just kids playing with toys.

Christmas Thoughts: Round 2

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LEGO was always a huge part of my childhood. I will never forget the year I found this unwrapped in my parents closet:

Oh the adventures we had.

I believe this is the same year that my parents started taking Christmas presents over to my grandparents house for storage. Man, they were smart!

That same year, I also received this from my Aunt:

One of my most favorite sets ever.

I poured hours into these two sets. Not just building them but playing with them.

What were your favorite LEGO sets as a kid?

Christmas Thoughts: Round 1

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Yeah, I know, it’s only November 30th. I shouldn’t even be allowed to talk about Christmas until at least tomorrow. Perhaps the soft colored glow coming from the Christmas tree is already getting to me…

The stores around East Texas have been screaming, for over a month now, that Christmas is here. Little things like Christmas trees in Hobby Lobby, joyful Walmart workers working away, and neighbors stringing up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving only serve to confirm that Santa Claus is coming to town. Standing as an icon of obesity, Jolly Saint Nick ushers in the holiday dedicated to mass consumerism, Christmas. A holiday where more is not enough and presents have an entry point of at least $250 for an 10 year old child.

What Nightmare Is This?

As a father of a toddler, I have found myself constantly thinking about what example I want to set for my son. Do I want him to think that Christmas is all about:

  • Gifts.
  • Gifts.
  • And heck, let’s call it what it really is, LOOT!

My mother-in-law was recently telling my wife and I that as a kid, she would only get one gift for Christmas. Contrast this with the three (3) Christmases I experienced as a child –Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m thankful, I am!– and you find yourself at sort of a junction point. I remember getting so many gifts when I was younger that I would discover some of the gifts once again a month or two later.  Now, there is nothing wrong with how many presents I received as a kid. Especially when you factor in relatives whose love language is giving. I just think that there has to be a happy medium that doesn’t include going broke in order to please others.

As my wife and I wade through figuring out who and what we want our family to be, I want to encourage you to do the same. You don’t have to get caught up in this Christmas game… even if it is debt-inducing fun.

More thoughts to come, stay tuned!

Surf Report – 12/21/09

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Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report. Proudly sponsored by no one!

.: God :

Christmas, oh how I remember the consumer-driven holiday of my youth. Every year I would come up with the perfect Christmas list. This list would be scientifically engineered upon the foundation of known–I don’t know how–Christmas spending limits of my family. For example, I knew that my Aunt spent roughly a $100 on me each year. In order to maximize my gift receiving, I would specifically structure my list so that I would get everything on it. And received I did. Everything.

I didn’t realize the impact of my greedy childhood until I became an adult. Christmas was no longer just about presents–although presents are great!–. Christmas, as a Christian, is about the celebration of Christ’s birth. This tiny detail is shadowed by presents, the Christmas tree, and all the lights that illuminate the cold December nights. For me, as a Christ follower, I realize that I need to look beyond all the distractions of the holidays and focus on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

1-5About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

6-7While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. (The Message, Luke 2:1-7)

.: Life :

A spark of imagination + a $300 investment = “Panic Attack!”

.: Gaming :

Super Mario Bros. Wii has occupied much of my gaming time as of late. Although I have to admit, I am not very good at Mario games…you? 🙂

Surf Report – 12/14/09

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Welcome to a Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

Check out my blog post entitled Intake.

.: Life :

Christmas Checklist:

Is your…

Tree set up?

Mistletoe hung?

Christmas shopping done?

Or: Are you…

Tired of the music/ tired of the noise?

Tired of all the shoppers/ of bratty girls and boys?

Hang in there!

.: Gaming :

The sweet story that is Maple Story is no more. I happened to make it through one play session and then never touch the game again. Ever.

Positives:

  • Amazing graphics/ fun art design.
  • Low system requirements.
  • Free-to-play.

Negatives:

  • No compelling storyline to draw the player in.
  • Poor/ non-intuitive control scheme.

The thought of having to play this game compelled me to renew my World of Warcraft account. I started a new character, Orup (Tauren Hunter), on the Stormscale server. Now at level 7, I am trucking along through Horde territory. Hit me up if you want to play!

That is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!