Monday, January 20, 2014

Multitude Monday {1.20.14}

On this Monday I have so much to be thankful for. Not the least of which is the fullness of life that has left little time for blogging. I do intend to work back toward more consistent posting, but at the same time my virtual silence has come from giving myself to so many other good things. For that I am grateful.

I am also grateful for the swift shifts in Georgia weather. It can give you whiplash if you resist or you can embrace it: burrow under a blanket one week and lay the same blanket in the sunny grass the next.

For highways that brings loved ones to me and me to them, even if it is only for one late night conversation.

For Sunday strolls.

For good listeners and sound advice.
For the faithful work of men and women taking the Gospel around the world; for the reminder that the labor is never in vain.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A season for anticipation.

Meet Caroline Mallory.


A beautiful soul. A dear friend. One of the most adorable people anyone will ever meet.  And the biggest Christmas lover I know. She agreed to share some of her words on Christmas with me. I hope you thrive off of her perspective as much as I have!

From Caroline:

I have always loved Christmas. I look forward to it the whole year and anyone who knows me knows that I go crazy about it. I am one of those people that start a countdown in August. I listen to Christmas music in July. I carry around my Christmas coffee mugs all year round, and I know every line to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The Christmas season has always brought carols, twinkling lights, sugar cookies, the smell of pine throughout my house, and family descending to fill my home with laughter and chatter. Over the last couple of years though, Christmas has begun to change me. The more I saw and experienced brokenness in me and around me, the more powerful Christmas became. The familiar carols that I had been singing my whole life finally captured my attention, the words sunk in and I stopped singing them out of habit.
            As my heart began to change, the season of Advent became very important to me. Advent is a season where I feel the presence of God more strongly in my life than any other time. I can feel it all around me, and it’s almost palpable.  Advent is about waiting, patience, and anticipation. Every year on Christmas Eve my mother used to say as she tucked me in, “the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner it will be morning!” But it never worked and I would lay there for what seemed like hours, imagining what the next morning would hold. That kind of anticipation is the same anticipation and excitement that I have during this Advent season. Advent is about having hope and believing that this brokenness will one day end.  Advent is about celebrating what has come, and what is to come. It is about Jesus, the Creator of the universe coming in the weakness of an infant, and entering into the brokenness.  Advent is a reminder of the depth to which God loves and delights in me because He gave up the majesty of heaven to experience pain, betrayal, and humiliation, all to save me. Christmas is where the story of redemption and the defeat of sin and death begins.
 I know that we live in a fallen world and that not everyone has good connotations with Christmas. For some of you Christmas is filled with stressful family situations and you are relieved to come back to school. Or perhaps for some of you Christmas means a crammed calendar of endless Christmas parties full of forced merriment. Or maybe the thought of Christmas fills you with cynicism over the consumerism of America. Or maybe this year you have lost something or someone and everything will be different. My heart hurts for you, because Christmas isn’t supposed to be painful, it’s supposed to be filled with joy and peace. But the thing I love about Advent is that it offers something more than false cheer: it offers hope.  Advent says that the King has come, that he was “born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth” and he will come again to take away our pain. “Chains shall he break…and in his name all oppression shall cease.” This darkness will not last, because the Light has come. He is making all things new and Advent gives us a chance to step back and remember His promises, see His faithfulness in our lives, and anticipate the fulfillment of what is to come.
I’ve been clinging to these words:
 O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice!”
 I feel captive, and the pain of living in this broken world is sometimes too much to bear. But Advent stills my heart, letting me rejoice and see that there is so much good around me.  If you are facing a difficult Christmas, my prayer for you is that you would have hope in this season, that you would experience God’s presence in a powerful way, and that the Incarnation would break through the busyness of this season and give you joy. Be still, take time to rest, meditate on the Christmas story. Let the power of those words wash over you as you prepare to leave for home. Let the truths of this season refresh your soul. Immanuel has come, “Christ with Us” has come.
“For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
   there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
   and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
   with justice and righteousness
   from that time on and forever.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thoughts on the season.

December is a busy month. Hence my silence. I know you probably thought the lack of posts was thematic--an object lesson in waiting to honor the Advent season--but it isn't true.

I didn't celebrate Advent growing up. I picked up on the concept of Advent during college through books, church and friends. I have thrived off the reverence and focus of Advent as a framework for the time leading up to Christmas. It has given me lovely words to hold onto in the midst of the busyness: waiting, expectancy, stillness.

More importantly, this way of thinking about the season has helped focus my attention on the coming of Christ. It helps to restore the sense of wonder at the story of God becoming a human and at the implications of that story for the world in general and me in particular.

Over the week that remains between now and Christmas, I intend to post on the season. No promises on frequency (remember Thanksgiving?), but I can promise some beautiful words from the biggest Christmas lover I know. I believe they call it a guest post. Suspenseful, I know. So check back!

If you're looking for an Advent study for this year (no's that busy December thing), John Piper has a great free one out this year. You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A week of thanks {Tuesday}.

The rain came down steadily all day, and I spent it as I would love to spend every rainy day. My sister-in-law and I sat on the couch under layers of blankets with mugs of hot coffee in our hand. We watched Little Women. I snuggled the world's cutest baby. Could there be a sweeter way to rest?

I am grateful for breaks built into the rhythm of life. Whether it is the planned space of a holiday or compliance to the prompting of the weather, I give thanks for rest.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A week of thanks {Monday}.

 Pealing, ringing, belting, gasping. Chuckling, snickering, giggling, gut-busting.

Today, I am thankful for laughter. For the peculiar sense of freedom. For the abandonment of dignity. For the wholesome, contagious reaction.

When I really laugh, my eyes start streaming tears, my face crinkles uncontrollably and I lean forward until I am literally almost doubled over. Those are the moments where the ridiculous is impervious to self-consciousness. What a true, delightful, genuine way to connect with other human beings!

Let loose and laugh loud, friends.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On failure.

I want desperately to be a gardener. I want to love the feel of dirt on my hands and the sight of budding life enough to work at cultivating and nurturing nature. But I am not a gardener. I love the idea of gardening enough to cultivate the dream, but not enough to pursue the action necessary. So my impossible to kill oregano and mint plants wither away beyond saving and my succulents barely survive despite and not because of my efforts.

I've been thinking often of failure, lately. I am a first year teacher, after all, and the hosts tell me that the first year is one of trial and error, heavy on the error. In my American Lit class, we are just getting into The Scarlet Letter. The story is one of failure and shame. The heroine's failure is flaunted before society as a warning against sin. The persistence of the public shaming may also be connected to the fear of being identified with the sinner. The society sees blatantly in Hester Prynne what they feel subtly in their own hearts. Punishing her openly for an extended period of time suppresses that sin for at least a little while and distracts anyone who may otherwise catch a glimpse.

So what's the connection between Hester and my dead herbs?

Both attest to the inevitable presence of failure. People mess up--either in big sin ways or in small forgetful ways. In my job I often feel I am trying balance armfuls of overflowing dishes while trying to scoot the one I just broke into the corner before anyone notices. I feel guilty when I mess up and reassess every move I made to try and figure out what went wrong. Then I throw together a list of goals with a to do list tacked on to get me to my next finish line flawlessly, glowing with success, staggering under the weight of admiration.

The issue here is that I believe I can eradicate failure from my life. More that that, I believe I should eradicate failure from my life. But when I put the pressure of perfection on myself I am denying reality.

Reality demands a finer line: accepting without settling for failure.

Acceptance of my failure past, present and even future is a good thing. Acceptance says, "Yes, you are here." Settling, on the other hand, says, "Yes, you are here and we deserve each other. Might as well get used to it."

Only one thing empowers this acceptance while preventing the seemingly natural progression into settling. In Christ, my failure is redeemed and my future is a promise. The fear of failure no longer needs to drive me to fear-filled shaming of myself or other people. In the amazing freedom of an identity entirely separate from my failure, I can actually start to learn and grow.

And just maybe I can push through all that failure and grow something in God's green earth while I'm at it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Multitude Monday {11.4.13}

When the din of my complaining makes my brain hurt, I need the quiet of gratitude. So here is a sampling of the plenty I so often forget to remember:

A view of morning sunlight through my windshield.

The way buildings look against a bright blue sky. And pairing the view with good conversation and a cup of coffee. 

Emma Thompson's voice and John Donne's words. If you haven't seen the movie Wit, clear a day when you will have no need of emotional stability, grab a box of tissues, some cozy blankets, and a book of John Donne's poetry. You might want to be alone, unless the company of another will have no effect on your emotional vulnerability. Watch. Weep. Read. Weep.

Soup that actually has flavor. I made this white chicken chili with the addition of black beans and red salsa instead of green.

And finally, a whole month building to a crescendo of Thanksgiving.