Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, my precious friends. No matter what your day looks like or feels like, I pray you have a moment of rapturous joy as a redeemed child of God.

The great orator of a century past says it so beautifully:

We esteem every day alike, but still, as the season suggests thoughts of Jesus, let us joyfully remember our dear Redeemer’s glorious birth. Who but He was ever longed for by such a multitude of hearts? When did angels indulge in midnight songs, or did God hang a new star in the sky? To whose, cradle did rich and poor make so willing a pilgrimage, and offer such hearty and unsought oblations? Well may earth rejoice; well may all men cease their labor to celebrate “the great birthday” of Jesus. Let gladness rule the hour; let holy song and sweet heart music accompany our soul in the raptures of joy.

– Charles Spurgeon

Love, hugs and many blessings from the Grasso’s on this Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve Poem

Years ago when I was working full time and the boys were little I got them each a small stuffed animal from the Albertson’s grocery store across from City Impact Center in Las Vegas.

One was a white tiger that Justin named Stanley and the other was a brown cheetah that Kyle named Tiger. They loved them more than all their other stuffed animals and played with them until the black stripes had worn off Stanley and the Tiger got a hole that I fixed with a safety pin, and the dog ate his tail.

Kyle showed me this poem yesterday.
He copied into his journal from the Calvin and Hobbs Comic book:

“On window panes the icy frost
leaves feathered patterns, crissed and crossed.

But in our house the Christmas Tree
is decorated festively.

With tiny dots of colored light
that cozy up this winter night.

Christmas songs, familiar, slow
play softly on the radio.

Pops and hisses from the fire
whistle with the bells and choir.

My tiger is now fast asleep
on his back dreaming deep.

When the fire makes him hot,
he turns to warm whatever is not.

Propped against him on the rug,
I give my friend a gentle hug.

Tomorrow’s what I’m waiting for,
But I can wait a little more.”

Merry Christmas Eve.

Vacation

We are smack dab in the middle of our vacation. This is the “big” family vacation, the one we have been planning for years. Bobby’s brother and his family flew in from the East Coast, and his sister is here with her husband and baby Emma. Yesterday, my parents joined us at Disneyland and all together we made a party of 16. It isn’t easy to navigate 16 people through the park, but the payoff is worth it. Filling up an entire It’s A Small World boat and seeing the kids eyes light up at the lights, colors and dolls is worth it. Going on Star Tours and having my brother-in-law, Josh, chosen as the “Rebel Spy” to the cheers of half the cabin will be a memory we will relive for many Christmases to come. Going with Emma and her parents for her first ride on Pirates of the Caribbean is priceless. At 4 months old, she won’t remember it but we will never forget it.

It is great fun but it is inevitable that moments of stress seep in. The loud personalities are louder and the quiet ones are quieter. Making sure children and grandparents don’t get lost or left is half of it.

On the trip down to So Cal (that started way too early on Sunday morning 3:45am), I was in the Word looking for sanity and found a verse that has I’ve kept close on this trip:

That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything.” (Mark 11:24 MSG)

Thank God it is okay to pray for anything and everything, big or small. In fact, the more you invite God into your world the more opportunity he has to impact it.

I am continually amazed that God wants to be a part of my world, wants to join me in my day, walk with me in the midst of chaos or the solace of solitude.

I’m not going get much solace in solitude on this trip but I’m definitely asking God to give me his everything in the midst of this special brand of Grasso chaos.

I hope you are having a fantastic day and whatever you are doing that you invite God to be a part of it.

A Thanksgiving Minute

It is about 9:30am in the Grasso household and I’m having a quiet minute. The turkey is in the oven and potatoes are boiling on the stove. So far, things have gone rather smoothly other than a clogged garbage disposal at 11pm last night and a little glass bowl shattering into a million pieces this morning.

I wanted to take this minute – this one right here and say how thankful I am for you. Yes, you.

Thank you for opening up this email, clicking the link and reading my blog. Over the years we have met over coffee, in my office, in a service, a God Encounter or at the altar and I treasure each one.

Thank you for each text, reply or comment. It is how I connect with you and know you are there. I am amazed at what God has done in you and through you since we first met. You have grown and stepped out in faith. You’ve let God move in you and through you to touch others. Thank you for joining with me on this journey and giving me permission to speak into your life. My prayer is that every post encourages you in the pursuit of your purpose and helps you authentically connect with God’s Word so you can truly thrive in your relationship with Him.

I am thankful for each one of you.

Have a wonderful and very happy Thanksgiving Day.

“You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks.”(2 Thessalonians 1:3 MSG)

Answered prayers in unexpected moments…

The cold autumn wind was whipping the trees outside but we were warm inside the empty restaurant. The four of us sat at a table as the afternoon sun streaked through the long window on the yellow wall. We decided to come early because Bobby has worship practice with our Jr. high worship band tonight at the church. We decided to come at all because of the two free personal pizzas coming our way via coupons won by the kids. They were rewards from the school for each one, Justin and Kyle, reaching 100% percent of their reading goal of the first quarter. Last year, both boys struggled until the last day of every quarter to reach their goal but this year both boys got there early. Yea! Time to celebrate. We are proud parents but that is not what this post is about.

This post is about a moment when Bobby and Justin were playing Battleship on the iPhones. Each had a iPhone and was trying to guess where their opponent had placed his ships. Justin was making these hilarious faces, ones where his eyebrows go way up and he tries really hard not to smile. Bobby was cracking up and soon we all were.

It was that moment. A sweet surprise. A moment of sincere smiles, joy in the game, joy in each other.

It felt like an answered prayer breathed years ago when I thought that being a mom was not in the cards for me.

So I basked in it…and said thank you.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Focused attention…

Monday Mornings: first day of the school morning routine that has been all jacked up by the weekend routine, which changes every weekend.

Bobby was up and out by 4am to go fishing with his dad (today is his dad’s actual birthday) and my alarm didn’t go off. Of course, I didn’t really need an alarm because my hairy cocker spaniel whined from the minute Bobby left until I got up and the cat who saw that I was only half asleep thought since i was up, I should pet her in the dark of the predawn. Did I mention that Kyle had zombie nightmares at 1am? It was one of those nights. Did I sleep? The jury is still out on that one.

On mornings, especially Monday mornings, like this it is especially hard to deal with my ADHD child before his medication kicks in. He is all over the place, talking a mile a minute and can’t remember to finish the bite still on his fork so he can go get dressed. It is amazing what a difference the medication makes for him. It connects the dots of his life and he is able to finish one task before going on to another. It takes about 45 min to kick in so, I don’t get the benefit of it in the mornings but I do get it after school.

Kyle got frustrated this morning when Justin wouldn’t focus on what Kyle was saying. He would start to, then interrupt and start talking on a new subject. I touched Kyle’s arm and told him to give Justin a brake, the meds hadn’t kicked in yet. Kyle was still frustrated, still wanted to finish his story but gave Justin a little slack. Understanding helps.

I just dropped them off at school and they tore out of the car and ran full speed to their classrooms, not because they were late but just because.

Focus is something I took for granted before having Justin and it is easy to learn to live distracted. I live in an ADHD household, it is my normal. Once we really tackled how to help Justin with his ADHD, it help me understand all kinds of things about my world. Understanding helps. As Youth Pastors, I feel like we also live in an ADHD generation. The currency of today’s kids and most precious commodity in relationships across the board is focus. It is the connecting point of a relationship. It is what we are hungry for.

“The most desired gift of love is not diamonds or roses or chocolate. It is focused attention.”

– Rick Warren

Focused attention is the gift that only you can give and the one the people in your life crave the most. So, in the midst of all the distractions, I pray that you (and I) will create some treasured moments of focused attention on those we love.

I love you and am so very blessed that you are in my life. Thank you for taking the time to join me on this journey and I pray that God uses it to encourage you in yours.

Have a great day!!!

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for Justin and Kyle. Fourth and Fifth Grade respectively. Kyle has the same teacher as Justin did last year. Justin has three teachers this year and so far, I like them. Justin is excited about school which has never happened. He got contacts last week and that combined with the medication, he feels like it’s going be a good year. I’m sitting here in the 96 degree heat waiting to pick them up and nervous to see how day one went. It is that “mom” thing. I am sending them out into the world and I can’t coach them, protect them, discipline them. I have to trust them. Hope that they are polite and respectful. Pray that when another says something mean (cause it will happen) that they respond well and it doesn’t break their heart too badly.

Last night as I tucked them in I asked if they has any special prayer requests. Both did. Kyle asked for new good friends and that his best friend last year “learned his lesson about bad words”. Justin asked to be a good friend to the ones he knows and to make new friends and good grades.

Later…
Both boys ran to the car with smiles on their faces. When I asked they both chattered happily and friends and pictures and games. I am relieved.

And later…
I am so very thankful. Thankful that last year was really hard and we pushed through to a solution for Justin. And that is what it felt like, one long year of pushing against a wall until it finally tumbled gave way to understanding. Then to a help. I don’t expect this year to be easy but it is wonderful to see both my boys smiling.

Mobile Homes & Memories

Well, I woke up with plans to stay home and continue to clean and do laundry. I also woke up with a fireworks booth hangover- dull headache, feeling dehydrated and experiencing no desire to get out of bed. I told Bobby, “I think I’m too old for this”. He laughed and teased “Nah, you won’t be too old for this for three more days.” “Haha,” I replied, “☀ I think I’ve been too old for this for the last five years.”

Anyway, I woke up with noble domestic plans for the day but those lofty plans changed.

Uncle Larry (who lives in Sacramento) called and needs Bobby’s help: he bought a new surround sound system and needs help getting it set up. My
husband is the man to call about all things technical. Uncle Larry said the boys could swim in the pool while Bobby works on the surround sound in his house. So, instead of trying to make a dent in the massive pile of laundry overtaking my house, I’m sitting poolside. Bummer, I know.

Uncle Larry lives in a mobile home park. It is quiet, sparse and an older man with a walker just inched by.

My grandma lived in a mobile home when I was about the same age as my boys. I remember many hot summer days spent swimming at the
pool there and visiting the beautiful mobile home of her retirement.

Grandma Hanson had a white couch in the front room that was only used during parties. She had glass shelves in the dining room with lights above them to display her crystal glasses, a tall silver tea set and the elegant figurines she collected. Her kitchen was stocked with Norwegian goodies and fancy plates hung in rows on the wall.

I remember sneaking into the “white” living room, gently kneeling but not touching the couch with my hands, to peer at the various sized paintings on the wall. One painting I loved was a small rough stroked brightly colored scene of a European cafe. I would gaze into it and picture myself sitting at the street side table with a tall thin waiter ready to take my order.

As we turned into Uncle Larry’s Mobile Home Park, I thought about one particular day when Grandma had just returned from a trip. She was a strong independent woman who loved to travel all over the world well into her 80’s. I don’t remember where she has returned from but I do remember that I had to help her unpack. I was mad about it. I had come over to go swimming with my brother and cousin. They got to go swimming cause they were boys but I had to help her unpack because I was a girl. So unfair. At least that is how I felt about it at the time.

Of course, now I look back and think of it as a precious memory. It was a day that I got to spend with my grandma, just me and her in her bedroom. I got over my attitude and helped her unpack her clothes, her wigs, her toiletries and especially her gifts. Gently folded into towels and shirts where beautiful dolls.

Grandma Hanson would bring back dolls for all her grand daughters from whatever country she visited. That day, I got first pick. I have a colorful collection of dolls, about 15 of them at least. I have a Spanish Seniorita in a red and back dress. I have a tall Russian Doll, a small Chinese doll, anAmerican Indian doll, and a little pink baby doll. I think I might even have a doll from Holland. I will have to pull down the box in my closet and look at them. It is funny that the things we take for granted as children become windows of insight into our very own history. And it is funny the things that spark a memory back to life.

I wonder if my hunger to travel and see the world comes from my grandmother. The paintings on her walls that created curiosity of those faraway places. The dolls, each dressed in the traditional garb of the country they came from, gave me a very tangible understanding the world was wide and wonderful.

Hm. Hadn’t thought much about it until today as I turned into the Mobile Home Park and the childhood memories it evoked.

Oh, by the way, My sister in law hasn’t had baby Emma. We are all still waiting.

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Fireworks Booth

Three days until Independence Day

Three days or less until my niece, Emma Victoria Harmon, enters the world we live in. Nine days until my 40th Birthday.

Out of sheer determination I am writing today. It is amazing how difficult it is to write during the summer. I have gotten into the bad habit of beginning blogs but never finishing them or hitting publish. So today I publish.

We are in the middle of Fireworks Booth and sales are slow. Today is actually the first day I feel somewhat set up. For Bobby, Fireworks Booth means sorting through product, inventory, set up, tear down and waiting for customers. For me, Fireworks Booth means endless hours running errands, getting the trailer set up to live in for the week, using the church bathrooms, feeding people. The weather has been nice here in Nor Cal with a cool breeze wafting through the booth. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we are all wiped out.

Kyle has been sick all week. He has had a fever and sore throat. I took him to the doctor on Tuesday to rule out strep, which he did but Kyle has been miserable and cranky. Finally today the fever has lifted. The doctor said it was just a virus that has to be worked through. Justin has been enjoying “Summer Splash”, which is our VBS. The children’s team here is amazing and doing a great job.

The first day we were in the trailer was Wednesday. We are borrowing the trailer from a family of the church and it sits in the church parking lot. Wednesday was a particularly hairy day of running around trying to get the Fireworks Booth set up, get ready for Youth Service and set up the trailer. Why we did this all on the same day, I will never know. Meanwhile, Justin is enjoying Summer Splash and Kyle is laying down in the trailer. I left to run errands.

When I got back from the store, Bobby was walking with Kyle toward the booth and Kyle was crying. When I asked what happened, Kyle said that he was locked in the trailer by himself and couldn’t get out. My poor baby had a panic attack. He said, “didn’t you hear me yelling your name?, I was screaming.” I gathered him in my arms and said, ‘no, honey, I didn’t”. Then I looked at Bobby and asked how was Kyle locked in? The answer was that he wasn’t locked in, he only thought he was. You have to pull really hard to open the trailer door. Kyle thought it was locked and if he pulled harder it would break. He said to me, “I don’t ever want to be alone in that trailer again.” I told him I didn’t blame him, but that really wasn’t the solution. Then we went back to the trailer and showed him how to open the door and what to do if it really was locked. Once he was able to confidently open and unlock that door, his fear subsided. Now he doesn’t live in fear of that happening. He knows that he can handle it and that it is nothing to be afraid of.

I felt horrible that my baby felt trapped and alone. That he cried out for help and help didn’t come right away. But I didn’t want that fear to cripple him or hinder him from living his life. I wanted to give him the skills he needed to get out of it by himself. Now, he is the expert at open the trailer door and helps others when they get stuck.

Yesterday I grabbed Joyce Meyer’s Book, “Never Give Up” with the hope that I would have a chance to read it. I bought it months ago and read the first few chapters but never finished it. That is kind of funny, considering the title,lol.

I opened the book to the chapter on fear. Joyce says this on page 33,

“If God removed all fear, we would never grow and overcome obstacles.”

God will not take away our humanity. He will not “take away” the fear, but he will show you how to deal with it. He will give you the skills to overcome it. He will do more than just solve the problem – he will show you how to. We will always feel fear. Feel it. Press through it. Learn from it. Living in freedom doesn’t mean living with the absence of fear, it means facing it head on and learning what you need from it so it won’t hinder you in the future.

I am going to hit publish now…

Now Arriving

“Your dream is not some arrival place…if your doing what God wants you to do then you are already there.” – Matthew Barnett via twitter.

I think it is a special gift of grace when your eyes are open to the dream you are living in right now. As you know, we went to Disneyland last weekend to celebrate Kyle’s 9th birthday. In case you were wondering, we invested in Annual Passes, thus the reason we will as much as possible this year. Disneyland was wonderful. It was a wonderful break from the rainy weather and apparently we brought the blue skies home with us. I am wearing flip/flops today. The drive is longer and our car is smaller but all in all, it was worth the trip. It is a place where I don’t have to tell the boys to be quiet all the time. I do have to tell them not to sit on the chains (in lines) but while we wait, we talk. Justin quiets down and Kyle smiles up. My parents also came down for the day. At lunchtime we sat at little table tucked in a corner on Main Street and sang “Happy Birthday” to Kyle while we ate chocolate frosted cupcakes that my mom made. My dad goes on all the fast rides with the boys and I sit with my mom and we wait, we talk.

In the hustle and bustle of trying to figure out how to afford it, where we are going to sleep and eat as cheaply as possible and those “do I have everything we need” moments, it is so easy to miss the miracle. Reading about Caleb focused my attention on my children, but it was a friend’s comment on Facebook that made me pull back and see the whole thing:

“Hmmm…. What a great life you are having my dear friend. How I love hearing the contentment and happiness. It makes a heart sing.” And ” oh Cin – look at your family. How awesome is He.”

– Deb Killian via facebook comments

I love “What a great life you are having”. I haven’t looked at it like that before. Then I remembered long conversations years ago that were not filled with contentment nor happiness. I looked at my family: at one point in my life I was terrified of getting married. At another point, motherhood just seemed like a wistful empty wish. I am not sure what kind of relationship I would have with my parents if God had not intervened, but it certainly wouldn’t be a good one.

He is awesome. He has made a difference in my life. He has healed a torn heart and redeemed a lost little girl.

I may have some dreams that haven’t yet arrived but my eyes are wide open to fully appreciate the ones that have.

My your eyes be opened today. May grace flood your heart with peace and may you live fully invested to “the great life you are having”. Not a perfect life, or a life without stress and conflict, but a life lived in relationship to a redeeming God that has promised to “never leave you or forsake you”. You might feel like your life is not great, not happy and falling apart. If that is the case then you are in line for a miracle, and in the right place for restoration and healing. Your day is coming – and might already arrived. What has God done in your life?

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