Monday, December 24, 2012

Countdown to Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  Love, The Toler Family
This time last year, we were making our grand Christmas tour of the Southeast!  We drove from Texas to enjoy time with family and friends in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.  It was a whirlwind trip, but we have such great memories from it.  Towards the end of our trip, my anxiety levels began to rise and the thought that we wouldn't be spending Christmas with our friends and family for several years was a bit overwhelming.

Fast forward a year and here we are about to celebrate our first Christmas in Mexico.  My goal this year is to start setting up some new traditions for our family so that we can all make new memories while holding on to the ones from years past.  I want our kids to appreciate the traditions of the culture in which we live while still enjoying the traditions of our culture from back in the States.  Thanks to Pinterest, I think we are off to a good start!

Tradition #1 - Our Christmas tree- Even before we left the U.S., I found a craft where you make a Christmas tree out of felt (originally designed for toddlers so that they would leave the "real" tree alone).  What a great idea for a family who needs to keep their belongings to a minimum.  I pictured us making felt ornaments, decorating the tree, and then rolling it up at the end of the season.  Thankfully, the kids loved the idea and I think it turned out great.  The lights don't always stay connected to the wall, but it works well enough!

Our Christmas tree complete with gifts thanks to the Homebuilders Sunday School Class from First Baptist Dallas! 

Tradition #2 - Our Advent Calendars - Kieran has been looking forward to December for several months now.  I knew that we needed an advent calendar to help avoid the daily, "Is it Christmas yet?" question.  I also wanted an advent calendar that would encourage us to experience Christmas in Mexico.  Again, I found a neat advent calendar on Pinterest that uses a mini muffin pan (since I don't have an oven, I figured I might as well us it for something!).  In each muffin spot, I put a slip of paper with an activity and an advent Bible verse along with two pieces of candy.  Some days the activity includes reading a Christmas book or watching a Christmas movie.  This weekend, we are going to see the Christmas lights downtown and enjoy a Christmas concert Sunday afternoon.  The kids have already enjoyed breaking open a Christmas piñata and making Rice Krispy treats.

Making Rice Krispy Treats.  We used jello powder with a little water for the "icing".
 Tradition #3- Our Christmas Pajamas - In the past, I've tried to get the kids a new pair of PJ's for Christmas morning.  I went shopping and found that the selection of Christmas pajamas was very slim and a bit pricey (the only thing I could find in Kieran's size was literally a heavy fleece Santa suit!).  Instead, I bought the kids some white long johns and we are going to attempt to make some tie-dyed snowman PJ's this weekend!  Hopefully, this new tradition will not be a bust!

Tradition #4 - Our Christmas Morning - Right now, we are really not sure what our Christmas morning will look like, but I imagine the excitement on the kids faces will be the same no matter what country we are in and the joy of spending the day together as a family will be just as sweet.  Thanks to modern technology, we will probably be able to spend the morning "together" with our family in the States via the webcam and Google chat.  It will not be the same as being together, but we are blessed to have this connection.
Kieran (King Melchor) and Elyse (Little Star) in their first Christmas Pageant
 As we wrap up our last few days in school, we look forward to having some "down" time to enjoy celebrating the birth of our Savior.  We are praying that you, too, will be blessed with this time of celebrating your own traditions with your family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Last night, we went and saw a performance at a beautiful cultural center in Puebla.  It was called, "Una Voz de Paz" - "A Voice of Peace".  There were hundreds of singers, actors, and instrumentalist playing out the life of Christ.  It was absolutely beautiful, but, at the same time, it was difficult to talk about, sing about or even think about peace after what happened in Connecticut this past Friday.  There are so many families in that community and around our country who are feeling anything but peace right now.  Everyone I know is talking about hugging their kids a little harder.  Every time I got frustrated with my 7 year old this weekend, I felt guilty and wanted to grab him up and just snuggle with him.  How do we find peace at a time like this? 

While we were watching the performance, it came to the part where Jesus was on trial before Pilot.  After the crowd yelled, "Crucify Him", they marched him off the stage.  Slowly, one lonely cross came down from the ceiling.  Kieran was sitting in my lap and I realized that he was crying.  I whispered to him asking what was the matter.  He looked up at me with red, tear filled eyes and said, "Why did Jesus have to die like that?"  Suddenly, I was the one with tears in my eyes.  Unlike some portrayals, this play did not even do a graphic demonstration of the crucifixion....just an empty cross hanging from the ceiling.  I reminded Kieran that the cross was not the end of the story.  Jesus died for us, but then he conquered death and came back to life and is still alive today.  The happy ending was coming. 

But that still leaves the question, "WHY did Jesus have to die like that?"  The answer is because of our sin.  Why did those beautiful, innocent children and teachers have to die this past week?  Because of sin.  We live in a broken world.  We live in a society where it is perfectly acceptable to show violence, blood, sex, affairs, bad language and disrespectful kids (and adults) on prime time television and even on so called "kids" channels.  However, it is taboo to show families praying together, going to church or even displaying good moral values because we might "offend" someone.  Why should parents have to do research before taking their children to see a "kids" movie?  What does it say about us as adults that Hollywood thinks it needs to put at least one or two bad words or sexual innuendos into kids movies to make them entertaining enough for the parents.  We can talk about changing gun laws or putting more safety measures in schools, but the truth is something has got to change in our society before we can find real peace again.  In order for our society to change, we have to change as individuals.  WE have to start making better choices at home.  What kind of music do we listen to?  What movies do we watch?  What TV shows are playing on our television sets?  Peace has to begin at home.  Everyone is outraged by the shooting last week, but are we outraged enough to make the tough changes that need to me made?  Are we willing to unsubscribe from cable tv?  Are we willing to throw out those "Mature" rated video game that cost $50?  Are we going to turn the channel off of a song with a bad message even if it has a good beat? 

Most importantly, are we willing to get on our knees and pray everyday for peace to return?  Are we willing to love our neighbors who don't act very lovable?  Are we willing to be friends with someone who is different than us?  In times of tragedy, most of us feel overwhelmingly helpless, but there are so many thing we can do to help heal our broken world.  I'm ready to find that peace that Jesus died to give us.  Are you?

Silent night.  Holy night.  
All is calm.  All is bright.  
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.  
Holy infant so tender and mild.  
Sleep in heavenly peace.  
Sleep in heavenly peace. 

Kieran fell asleep in my arms near the end of the performance.  Now that is peace...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"We are certainly blessed"

After several months of searching, we finally have a family vehicle...a 2007 Ford Lobo 4x4 to be exact.  We needed this type of vehicle to get around in the rural areas of Mexico where the road can be very rough.  After Kris tells me the story of his 11 hour day today, I'll do another post with more pictures in the daylight.  For now, I thought I'd send you the series of text that I received from Kris today to give you a glimpse into this process!  Thanks so much for your prayers!  As Kieran said, "We are certainly blessed!  This is sweet!" 

He left at 9:30 this morning...

1:30 pm - "It is going to be awhile.  We are at the place where they make sure it is not stolen.
1:51 pm - "It is not stolen."
1:53 pm - "Next step, go back to lot, then bank"
1:57 pm - "At the last place I asked Rubisel if it was going to take long.  He said yes.  It takes a long time to buy a car."
2:59 pm- "On way to bank. Say a prayer.
6:10 pm - "They are working on it now" (from the tire place)

Kris finally got home around 8:30 pm.  It was a very long day for all of us, but we are "certainly blessed" by what God has provided for our family.  It was even more than we prayed for.