Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The holidays were happy!

I hope your holidays were as happy as ours were this year. We were so thrilled to have Mowgli home--and still are! He is thriving at Guilford and it is so fun to hear the details trickle out over meals or while watching TV. And Boo got her grades today--all A's and B's, including Physics/Chemistry and geometry. To those of you who have walked with her and us all these years--she has had the biggest and best cheering section imaginable!

We spent three days in Houston with C's parents and brother and his family. I have to say, my mil is one of the most gracious people I've ever known and it's a joy to visit there. We visited, had barbecue and her world-famous au gratin potatoes (a fabulous Christmas dinner if you ask me), went bowling and, of course, made our pilgrimage to James Coney Island for hot dogs.

After a quick (I do mean quick) turnaround, we headed to Belton to be with my wonderful parents and sister and her husband and baby J. Mostly all we did was look at the baby, which was perfect entertainment. Oh, and we got a new camera--I'll be posting photos as soon as I figure out how it works! Mom and Dad dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus--I have the best parents--and we opened presents one at a time which was fun for everyone. Mom invented a game that required each recipient to guess what was in his present before it could be opened. We had lots of fun.

This year was also the year that it became evident that everyone is aging, particularly our 90-plus year old grandmothers. C's grandmother is almost completely unable to hear and misses out on a lot of the interaction. My grandmother is rapidly losing her memory--she is still a good conversationalist but it is evident that she's compensating and faking it quite a bit. Both still live alone and we hope they can for awhile longer still but it's clear that time is taking its toll.

We got to be here in Austin for Christmas Eve service and Christmas morning. Most of what Santa brought was low-key and practical--it's very different with older kids, isn't it? We had a wonderful time, though--also low-key, which is definitely what everyone needed. Now we're looking forward to a few days OFF before things get started back up next week.

(BTW, I noticed on sitemeter that my readership dropped last week from the regular 85 or so hits to 55--probably because I've been neglectful! I'll try to be more diligent about keeping up--I have lots to say!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

And his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means "God with us."

Wishing you peace and joy for the season of Christmas and the new year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All I want for Christmas

I want to be one of those Energizer bunny people, the kind that can keep going and going and going . . . I want to be just a little bit manic, you know--super-productive, full of energy, turning all my ideas into reality (okay, now that I think about it, that might not be such a good idea.)
Seriously, I want to live a life full of balance and rest and sanity and at the same time keep moving all the time getting everything done efficiently and then moving on to the next thing . . . all without sacrificing sleep or fun or play. Think Santa will deliver?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mowgli is home!

As I write this, he is downstairs trying to figure out how to mail the textbooks he sold online. In a minute, he'll bound up the stairs and ask my opinion or go in his room and close the door and play bass for awhile. Later, he'll want to have long philosophical conversations without actually telling me anything I really want to know. He may go listen to music at Stubb's or play ball with friends or hang out here. And any minute now, he'll be hungry again. It's wonderful!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Camera grief

This week our camera died. It was old--maybe not so much in calendar years, but in electronic gadget years it was ancient. Also, it wasn't technically the camera that died but the software. So you can take all the pictures you want, you just can't get them out of the camera.

Anyway, as I was still in the first stage of grief--denial--I got out the booklet that came with the camera (aren't you impressed that I could find it?!) and started looking through it for help and it hit me: there was so much more to this camera than I realized! All those buttons that I never pushed because I didn't know what they did? Well, it turns out that they were really useful!! All those night pictures I took in London that were blurry? They didn't have to be! The camera was smart enough to take fabulous photos--I just didn't pay attention enough to know how to do it and now it's too late.

Feels a lot like getting older. Here I am at mid-life (if I'm lucky) and I'm constantly being reminded to pay attention, to remember that there is so much more to life than is immediately evident, that it never hurts to push a few buttons and see what happens. I don't want to get to the end and realize that there was so much more that went untested, unlived, wasted.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Merry Christmas to Me!

OK, so C and I are in the bathroom getting ready, just chatting and visiting, thinking about all the details of the day ahead and I walk out of the bathroom and this is sitting on the bed, waiting for me:

Turns out that my sweet husband has been saving all his wedding and funeral money for more than six months to get me my very first laptop and he couldn't wait to give it to me for Christmas. Well, he says it's so that I would be able to either save up or use my Christmas money for all the things he couldn't get to go with it, but I know it was because he was too excited. Just a few days before, I had to come all the way home from work during a break just to check on an email from a client and not for the first time either. This will make my life so much less complicated. I feel so blessed by his sacrificial thoughtfulness. Thanks again, sweetie!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Considering Advent

I want to respond to pb's comment on the last post. I also grew up in a tradition "devoid of liturgy" and wasn't exposed to Advent until I was an adult.

I have to start by saying that I observe Advent completely wrong. People who really understand Advent would be pretty much appalled at how much Christmas seeps into my Advent-keeping. It's a little bit like the Advent calendars we had as kids--they were mostly a countdown to Christmas.

For purists, Advent and Christmas are kept strictly separate. Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas and is a time of waiting. The mood is somewhat somber, the hymns are all in a minor key. Churches reflect this by keeping the sanctuary bare--no poinsettias, no trees or lights or decorations--and no Christmas carols or Christmas sermons. The signature Scriptures for Advent are from Isaiah; the patron saint is John the Baptist. The idea is that we identify with God's people through the centuries, waiting for redemption, longing for Messiah, and suffering as they waited.

In the old days in the old country, people bought their Christmas trees on Christmas Eve--ever noticed that in a lot of the old movies? Also, this is the reason for "Midnight Mass"--At midnight, Jesus is born and Christmas has come! Now is the time for carols and decorations and celebration. In some traditions, everyone goes home from church and eats a huge celebratory breakfast and then they all go to bed and wait for St. Nicklaus. These were also the days of the "12 Days of Christmas," which are actually on the church calendar and not just part of a silly song, and not the contemporary "12 hours before I have to go back to work after Christmas."

Of course, many churches and most Christians fudge on all of this. We go ahead and start the Christmas carols and sermons on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, and honestly, I like it that way--it helps put all the stress and fun of the prolonged Christmas season in context for me. When our kids were younger, we would light the candles every night but after a few false starts, we focused on different aspects of the Christmas story (not much from Isaiah.) As the kids got older, they prepared their own devotions. We would pray and sing a carol or two and look at the Christmas tree and talk quietly.

Personally, I like the prolonged celebration of Christmas at church and with the kids. But in my own devotional life, I try to settle in around the themes of Advent: hopeful waiting, the "now-and-the-not-yet," anticipating redemption, suffering in the absence of Christ. I use the devotional guide Watch for the Light but this year, I was so looking forward to Nancy Guthrie's new devotional for evangelicals, Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Unfortunately, it seems to be sold out (or never delivered) to the stores around here and by the time I get it from Amazon, Advent will be over. I've just learned about a new resource--a free Advent devotional guide at www.bgct.org/baptistwaypress. And pb, I'm giving you a booklet that my friend gave me--I hope you enjoy it.

So, all this to say that my observance of Advent is completely in error--I do it all wrong--and yet, it has blessed me as much as anything I can think of. Sounds like God at work, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Catching up

I know, I know, it's been more than a week since I've written anything. I just don't have anything to say right now. (All of you laughing your heads off . . . stop it right now!! I mean it! I'm not kidding!)

Thanksgiving was busy and bustling, pretty much like every other Thanksgiving at my parents' house, except that this year we have Baby J. (Pictures to come, I promise.) It's so sweet to hold a new baby, especially one that still curls up in a tiny ball a la in utero, especially one that isn't yours to get up with at 3 a.m.! The group that gathers at my folks' every other Thanksgiving is amiable and easy to be around but not particularly close knit. We catch up and eat (the food is the most amazing--I'm sorry, yes, it's better than the food at your Thanksgiving) and then some chat, some watch football, some go outside and play, some play games at the table.

Mowgli wasn't with us this year--too expensive to bring him home. He ended up going home with his friend, his next-door neighbor on his hall. He called us on Thanksgiving morning to say that the Atlantic Ocean was right out the front door, that they had been on the beach all morning so far. So I think he is doing fine. I wanted to remind him to make his bed, take a gift, be sure to say thank you . . . but I didn't. I keep reminding myself that he's an adult--and it doesn't make me cry anymore! He'll be home for a month on Dec. 10.

I'm working a lot--with everything put together, it's definitely 40 hours. This is a blessing but I also find myself resisting the new demands on my time and, especially, on my heart. And I continually find myself amazed by how much time and energy it takes to be a pastor's wife. I don't know why I keep forgetting this.

So I'm a little depleted . . . and therefore so grateful for Advent this year. The hopeful waiting, the quiet reflection, the stillness amidst the chaos. I have a little booklet my spiritual director gave me and then the old standby Watch For the Light. What are you doing (or not doing) for Advent this year?