Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Once Upon a Christmas Card

For those who are checking out this blog as a result of getting our Christmas card, thanks for reading, and I'm sorry. What, you say? Sorry for what? Maybe you didn't notice, but our Christmas card was actually more like a life update card with nothing on it about Christmas. Not even a Bible verse reference. Did you know you were friends with such self-absorbed heathens?

In our defense, we had the great idea to send a postcard this year, but found that with a limited word count came limited information. Okay, so we probably shouldn't have taken the Christ out of our Christmas card, but the idea was that you'd go to my blog and read this Christmas post that would make up for the lack of Christmas in our actual card. So, here are the elusive Christmas reflections you've been waiting for:

I've been thinking a lot about these two verses lately (italics mine):

"The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness..." 
(Luke 3:2)
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit" 
(Isaiah 11:1) 

In my over-familiarity with these verses, I've completely missed the significance of the locations where God shows up. The "wilderness" and the "stump" have been overshadowed by more hopeful lines like, the "word of God" and the "shoot coming forth." I prefer the hopeful, happy parts of those verses rather than the deadness of the wilderness and the stump. Do you ever do this? Skip the parts of the Bible that sound negative?

Stumps and wildernesses are desolate, lifeless places. They're so lifeless that I wouldn't even dare to hope for life there. But God dares. Oh, He dares. Out of the stump of Jesse--the dead, useless stump of Jesse's line--comes the unexpected shoot of Jesus, growing so strongly that it bears fruit. In the wilderness, a place dry and sucked of life, comes the Word of God. And while we were dead in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), offering eternal life.

It's not just a nice Bible-thought either. I've seen it played out in friends' lives recently. Seen inexplicable healing in circumstances that seem irreparably broken. Heard stories of hope in places that are saturated with despair.  Witnessed life in the midst of deep, deep darkness. And I'm learning that these two truths exist simultaneously: Life is hard, dark, often hopeless, and disappointing AND God is good, sovereign, perfect, wise, and gracious. He is in the business of giving us the "treasures of darkness" (Isaiah 45:3), the greatest of which was the treasure found in a stable on a dark, unsuspecting night when angels lit up the sky for shepherds and Jesus entered the world wrapped in flesh.

This Christmas, I'm thankful for a God who dares to bring hope and life to given-up-on places and people. And hopefully, you haven't given up on me, even though our Christmas card was, admittedly, a bit un-Christmasy this year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fashion 1.0

I am not a trendy person. Classy, definitely at work. Plain, yep, especially on weekends. But not trendy. I'm too practical for that. If something's been around for a few years (right around the time it's probably going out but I don't realize it), then I'm willing to buy it. Really, I try to only buy clothes that seem classic and timeless so that I don't have to keep on buying new clothes all the time because I'm one of those rare female breeds who doesn't enjoy shopping.

It's not that I don't know what's in. Working with teenagers all day ensures that I know the latest styles. The problem is that I don't think I can rock the looks (and, more importantly, I don't want to look like my students). Oh, and I like to be comfortable. Like jeans and fleeces comfortable.

So, recently, I've taken the plunge. I've invested in some skinny cords and a long short-sleeved sweater. Honestly, the sweater doesn't make any sense to me. Why would you want to have a short sleeved sweater? And why should it be so long? Is it a dress or a shirt?  If the sweater didn't have the $12.99 price tag (which reflects the lack of faith I have in this look sticking around for a while), I wouldn't have even tried it. It's still too trendy for me. But the skinny cords have been around long enough that they've earned "classic" status in my mind, although when they first came out, I thought we were bringing back all the worst parts of the 80's.  I'm now the owner (I'm not quite ready to say "proud" owner) of some skinny cords, which I actually love, and a long short-sleeved sweater, which I also actually love.  Next up: leggings and/or boots to wear outside my pants. Not there yet. Might not ever be there. But I'm thinking about it.

My jeans and fleeces aren't sure what to think of this fashion takeover just yet, but they're my Velveteen Rabbit; they aren't going anywhere.

Regardless of my (lack of care for) style, I'm pretty sure that we'll all look back at our 2010 selves and wonder why we ever thought wearing ________ (fill in the blank) was cool. If nothing else, I'm giving my kids one more reason to make fun of me in the future. Your welcome.

Books, a smattering

Can you tell I've had another round of essays to grade? Just assume any blogging hiatus is a direct result of the amount of weeks I spend grading essays. It's Christmas break now, though (*sigh*), so here's what I'm reading these days. On my bedside table, all partly read or at least glanced at:

    Reason for God by Tim Keller. My sister-in-law gave me this book last Christmas and I'm just now taking time to read it. I used to read Christian living books all the time, but for some reason have gravitated away from them for the past several years. At the end of the day, the last thing I really want to do is deeply investigate my heart, but it's often what I need to do, so in a very tangible effort to move back into a more challenging, growing relationship with Jesus, I'm slowly making my way through this book. The good kind of slow that means it's sinking in, not the boring kind of slow. That being said, I highly recommend this book. Full of Truth and not overly complicated. Just how I like it.

    All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. My colleague recommended this book to me after learning of my love for nonfiction. He said that it would, and I quote, "Blow [my] mind," so I'm looking forward to devouring this memoir over the next few days. Haven't read more than the first paragraph, but oh, can Rick Bragg can write! After all, he did win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. I'll write again about this once I've read it, but it's safe to say that it's a worthwhile read, if not a mind-blowing read.

    Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff. I was given this book by someone who knows the reality of my relationship with Jesus and also the reality of my snarkiness, and let me tell you, I have laughed out loud on so many occasions while reading it! Basically, Acuff, a Christian, pokes fun at both himself and the general Christian public for all the "Christiany" things we do that are really pretty funny. Like mission trip loving people (boyfriend at home playing Wii vs. guy on mission trip serving the poor: boyfriend doesn't stand a chance). Or using "I need to pray about it" as a euphemism for "no." In the midst of all the hilarity, he manages to throw in some one-liner, convicting zingers that make Truth unavoidable. He's a sarcastic, witty, humorous, strong writer, and he doesn't take himself too seriously, which I appreciate (and need to learn). I'd love my writing to look more like his. If you don't want to buy the book, just head over to his website/blog and prepare to be entertained!

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Admittedly, this is a bit of a nerdy English teacher book, but if you like to write and you enjoy a sassy, snarky writing style that actually makes punctuation entertaining, then this is a book for you. This book makes me feel good about myself because it justifies my insatiable desire to fix improper punctuation. Did I mention the author's British? Enough said.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Husband Points

    If marriages were to function on a point system (I'm pretty sure that's in 1 Corinthians 13 somewhere), my husband just had a personal high score this past weekend. It was our FIVE year anniversary and he surprised me by taking me back to the bed & breakfast where we spent our wedding night! Major points.

    He also made reservations at Alleia, one of the best restaurants in Chattanooga, if not on the planet. We'd been meaning to go there the entire year we lived in Chattanooga but never got around to it. My mouth is watering just thinking about how delicious their food is! More husband points.

    Best of all, we had hours of uninterrupted, undivided time together, which, even after five years, 




    ever gets old.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    December begins

    I've always loved the first day of a month. It's like a mini New Year that gives me that fresh start, extra-air-in-my-lungs feeling that makes even a Wednesday have the freedom of a weekend. And today isn't just the first day of any month; it's the first day of my favorite month, December.

    Mostly, I like December for Christmas: 
    for the remembering that comes with Advent, 
    for family, 
    for seasonal music,
    for high spirits, 
    for lights on trees, 
    for a chill in the air, 
    for laughter and food and parties, 
    for time off work, 
    for anticipation of togetherness
    (both in this world and the one to come).

    Anticipation. That's the key, really. The key to me liking December so much, yes, but also the key to living joyfully in this life. It's not a rejection or dismissal of the gifts of this world but a holy dissatisfaction with them that sets me on tiptoe, looking for more, looking for Jesus--even in the midst of the wilderness, the valleys, and the uneven ground of this life. We were made for fresh starts, clean slates, and wrongs righted; we were made for heaven and for Him. 

    Isaiah 40: 1-5
    1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
    2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
    3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
    4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
    5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."