Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!!

    Thanks to all of you dear people who read this blog this year and so diligently boosted my self esteem about it. You have been encouraging and kind, and made me feel a bit less like I was sending thoughts out into the void. Thank you!

   The idea of a glistening, shiny new year perched on the horizon has inspired some goals for the blog this year, some of which I'll be sharing with you as they become more than just ideas and one of them I'll share with you right now! 

* bum ba da dummmm* 

    Some of our friends and mentors homeschool their kids, and central to all their teaching is the notion of raising their kids to be well spoken and well read (she blogs here and is very smart... Add her to your reading list!) I thought that was an incredibly wise thing to say, so I kind of stole it. This is the first in a feature I'm going to call "Food for Thought," until I find something more original to call it. These posts will just have a few links to some articles, videos, and books that will help you build your own wealth of information, form and share your own opinions, and sound smart/funny/interesting... (Or possibly like you have too much time on your hands.) 

    Sooooo, another year, another reading list! These are books I've read, am reading, or want to read. If you've read any of them and have feedback, leave it in the comments section! I also love getting book recommendations so please share what's on your list!

On my list:

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet - Sara Hagerty
Delancey- Molly Wizenberg
Steal like an Artist- Austin Kleon 
Flight Behavior- Barbara Kingsolver 
Better Made at Home- Esterelle Payany
Winter Hours- Mary Oliver 
Scary Close- Donald Miller
How we Learn (the surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens) - Benedict Carey
Garlic and Sapphires- Ruth Reichl
Daring Greatly - Brenè Brown
The Writing Life- Annie Dillard 

Some tips for making your own reading list for this year: 

- a classic 
- a book you loved in childhood 
- a biography (or autobiography) 
- a mystery novel 
- have a favorite author? Do some research and find out who their inspiration was, then read  about them!
- a book with a blue cover 
- a book with a number in the title 
- a book that has been translated into English 
- a book on your passion (the creative process, sports, photography, neuroscience, etc.) 
- a book on something you don't know much about (see above...) 
- a favorite book of someone in your family 
- a book on spirituality 
- a book you had to read in high school English. Try it! You'll probably appreciate it much more now. (I'm looking at you, Scarlet Letter.) 
- a book that teaches a new skill 
- a book with a ton of pictures 
- a book with no pictures 
- a book of folklore, mythologies, or fairy tales 
- a book by a local author (do a little research and see what writers live near you, you might even be able to find a reading!) 

Happiest of New Years from us to you, may all your worthwhile resolutions stick ;) 

Friday, December 19, 2014

God Honors our Imperfection

(Part 2 of Relevant Christmas Quotes series.... Part 1 is right here if you'd like to check it out also.)
        We live in a quaint little house in a beautiful neighborhood with lots of history and big trees. Our house is ‘charming,’ and is probably small enough to be considered a bungalow. So when I say that we live in a charming bungalow, what I mean is that our washer and dryer are where the dining room table would have been before the invention of that technology and there’s really no hiding it. There is also no dishwasher which means that I don’t think our band guys have ever seen my sink without something in it.

       It is inevitable that when my home is in its very worst state- when I am thankful that we don’t have children because if CPS were to come they would take them away, when all I want is to go sit somewhere that does not need me to clean it- someone will have to come over for a very important reason. Like. I want to kill myself, can I come to your house?

       And while I obviously don’t hesitate to say yes, I hesitate because where can I hide the dirty dishes. I usually have two options in that moment. The first is to say yes, frantically try to restore the house to some semblance of order, flagellate myself for being a horrible wife, and then present my frazzled, crazed self to this person. The second is to say yes, tidy up a little, put some coffee on, light some candles, and hide everything else so I can be in my right mind when they come over.
       In my better moments, I opt for the second one. In my worse moments, I consider going next door and asking the neighbors if I can bring my dishes over to put in their dishwasher.
     So they come over, and we talk and offer snacks and drinks and they probably don’t notice that our dirty laundry is winking at them from behind the piano. And usually, something really beautiful happens in those times where we are vulnerable enough to say “Well, we are messy, but we want you in our life,” because usually they are vulnerable and share their messy life too. It’s a fair trade.
      What I’m noticing is that when I’m in that Perfection Mode, when I’m like butter over too much bread, I feel self-sufficient, alone, and a little neurotic. But when I embrace the imperfect, rather than fighting it, I feel whimsical and a little gutsy. I don’t feel like a disappointment. 
      It seems to me that the Spirit is most comfortable when we are squirmy, untethered, and huddled in the furthest corner from perfect. He waits for our veneers of perfection and order to fall off, and then he comes. He overshadows. We see this in the Incarnation, when Jesus first came to earth. Virgin, unwedded mother. Stable. Feeding trough cradle. Stinky, drooly animals. And then in the midst of all that imperfection- an angel choir, a star, a baby.
      He waits for me to quit doing my head-patting, tummy-rubbing tap dance on stilts before He comes, before the symphony.

      I have never been told, “Wow! Your house is so clean!” Never. But I have been told many times, “Your house is so homey.” And that’s all I want our house to be. Because in houses where perfection is prized over people, I usually feel like I can’t sit down anywhere so I’m stressed the whole time. But in homes where it’s clear that the house is just a container for some people who really love you and want you there, I could stay for hours.

     This extends to worship, as Rob says, when we worship we get to host the presence of God. What kind of hosts are we going to be?

     What are those areas where you need to honor the imperfection? Is it in your family? In your holiday preparations? In yourself?
     Merriest of Christmases to you all!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas, Christmas Tiiime is Heeeere...

There are two themes that keep coming up for Robin and I these days. They don’t casually come up either. They come up kind of like in cartoons when the bad guy steps on the end of the rake and the other end comes up and smacks him right between the eyes.

            I’m only going to talk about one of them today, because sufficient for the day is its’ own tangent. Robin thought of this one, and I have once again stolen one of his catchy sound bites and tried to sort of take credit for it. It is “The Joy of Christmas is found not in what we can do, but in what Christ has done.”-

I feel like I should have that printed onto something. Beyond it just sounding catchy though, this is really relevant for Robin and I because we are BIG Christmas people.

For example, *hazy 80’s flashback vignette* When I found out that we would not be opening our presents or having my traditional cranberry French toast on Christmas morning because we would be leaving so early to go to my in-laws, I may have burst into tears and said that our kids would never believe in Santa Claus because he would only come on Christmas day every other year.

Because I’m adult like that.

Tradition is my thing. It makes me feel grounded and connected. It also makes me inflexible and emotional when that’s thrown off course. Tradition is usually centered around What We Do, and not so much about what He has done unless we’re reading the Christmas story before opening presents. And I think we kind of know where the focus is then anyway.

This year we’re paying attention to the idea of Advent a lot more. Not the Advent where each day I open a little door and get a piece of chocolate, but the kind of Advent that requires some stuff. Stuff like showing solidarity with the suffering and creating room in myself for Jesus to come.

We’ve been reading through Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas, Daily Meditations for Advent. While reading it this morning, it talked about how we get stuck in thinking Christmas is only about the coming of Jesus as a baby, when it’s also about Him coming into our lives right now. Not sweet, peach fuzzed, lotion-scented baby Jesus who doesn’t ask anything of us, but the Jesus who asks for surrender and awareness. Jesus who asks for a lot of stuff I really don’t even want to think about because it’s Christmas and Mariah Carey is singing and I just want to drink my cocoa and be happy.

That doesn’t mean that Christmas isn’t supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, for us it just needed to be tempered with the spirit of Advent. That spirit of waiting and expectation and the desperate hope that something really good is coming if you can just hold on a bit longer.

We’re still keeping plenty of our traditions because LET’S NOT GET OUT OF HAND HERE- but I’m being more flexible with them. I’m trying to hold them with open hands where if it happens, super, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So here are some of the traditions we’ve already observed this season, and some that we hope are still to come.

-          Decorating oranges with cloves- it smells so lovely and is one of the most peaceful things in the whole world. Peace, in my mind, smells like oranges and cloves
-          Christmas Party-ing with our band, some of the most selfless and amazing musicians probably on earth. 
-          Watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and drinking iced eggnog with freshly grated nutmeg at my parents’ house
-          Baking Espresso Dark Chocolate shortbread cookies. I make these once a year (except for verrrry special occasions) because I would be morbidly obese if they were readily available at any other time.
-          Cutting down our tree at the Christmas tree farm
-          Candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church, followed by a Tex Mex feast befitting El Presidente
-          Opening one present on Christmas Eve
- Christmas baking with my mom 
-Watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and drinking hot cocoa with Rob    while decorating the tree.
-Having a dinner/cookie/coffee/recipe exchange with some of my very dearest   friends who have moved far, far away and are coming home for Christmas.
-Advent meditation