Tuesday, December 31, 2013

putting it to bed


This past year was filled with beauty.
And each bit of that beauty was hard fought for. 
It was a year of dreams fulfilled and hearts broken and messes made and faith chosen.

Looking through my blog post for the past 12 months, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who love me well, for all the experiences I have been blessed to have, and for all the memories that I have had the chance to make. 
But it was still a hard year. There is no glossing that over.

In many ways 2013 was a year spent recovering from 2012. 
2012  was a dozy. Reading the blog post from that year is a little bit like riding a roller coaster (- take my advice, grab the Dramamine before revisiting.)
I walked into 2013 barely on two feet, still a little shell shocked from all that 2012 had unleashed.
There was much celebration and laughter this year - and many tears, and questions, and road blocks.
From the Book to all the speaking and promoting, to my Grandaddy's passing, to the addition of a part-time child - it has been a year of taking things as they come, with very little preparation. 
There were warnings and pep talks, and those who have traveled these roads before me did what they could to help, but some things just have to be experienced first-hand in order to be known.

I  feel as if I experienced most of 2013 in a  survival-esque trance.
I worked hard at being present to the moment at hand as much as possible- stolen time-outs with Sweet Man,  gatherings of friends and family, baking or creating or reading with the kids- soaking up joy and laughter and lightness of heart whenever and wherever I found it.
 I tried to do my best to take care of my family and help with my extended family- doing what needed to be done at each turn, helping to relieve what burdens I could of my Grandaddy's passing and my Nana's transition into widowhood.
I did what I could to promote my little book, launching it out into the world, praying it would find it's way into the hands and hearts of anyone who might need a little inspiration, a morsel of encouragement, a bit of hope. I said yes to each offer to promote the book, learning the hard way what works for me and what doesn't.
And through it all, I constantly fought to get myself back into some semblance of an Right-Side-Up position.

Now that Christmas has passed, and the pains of labor have done their job and brought us the gift of new life,  I am being swept up once again in that blessed promise that joy comes in the morning. I am reveling in the quiet that fills my house on the cold winter mornings in this week before school starts, storing up the silence and peace like a squirrel hoarding nuts before a blizzard. 
And I am saying my goodbyes to things done and things left undone this year, and I am leaving them where they lie. I am laying down all that 2013 was and wasn't. I am putting it to bed. 

And I am welcoming the brave new year, with my arms spread open, my hands held high, feet dancing on the kitchen floor, with faith, and hope, and love, buried deep within.

God bless the broken boat that brings us back.(Jason Isbell)
Happy New Year friends.
J






Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A different kind of Christmas Eve, and all the same



Christmas Eve was my Grandaddy's day. He did Christmas Eve up big. From his red cardigan, to the mountain of gifts under the tree, to his reciting of a favorite childhood poem, Jest 'Fore Christmas, and leading us all in a round or two of Christmas hymns, he loved it all, and his love and joy for this holy night was infectious.
But of all the traditions, the one I will miss most, is hearing him recite Luke 2 from memory, his voice carrying us all away with it's mixture of belief and awe, as he told us the most wonderful, beautiful story of all.

Merry Christmas friends.
I pray that comfort and joy find you right where you are - in whatever is different and in whatever is the same - this Christmas. May you be filled with belief and awe and wrapped in love.
J





Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's a Very Merry Homemade Year Christmas!


Jessica over at The Mac's is giving away a copy A Homemade Year! Go check out her adorable Advent Calendar, felt Nativity scene and tree and learn more about the giveaway - it's a wonderful little Christmas treat for you or someone you love.





Also guess what is $2.99? The Kindle version of A Homemade Year! Go order a few copies for those last few people on your shopping list, especially those far away. Easy peasy.



Writing about True Gifts and Christmas Morning Treats over at Arkansas Women Bloggers...
When I was less than a year old, my father left the U.S. Air Force in order to finish his college education and then to attend seminary. As far back as I can remember, my father has been a Southern Baptist pastor in some capacity, and during my middle childhood years, it was his only vocation; but at heart he is an introverted poet, scholar, and musician, and he never sought the role of senior pastor of a mega-church, never climbed the church leadership ladder. This also meant that our bank account did not climb any ladders, either. For herself, my mother chose to be a stay-at-home mother as her vocation, homeschooling all four of us for a large chunk of our education and creating an amazing environment for creativity. But even though this was what she wanted, what she chose—it was still work, and even though she wasn’t bringing in a paycheck, she still had financial responsibilities. So, the task to find ways to stretch one paycheck as far and as wide as the Atlantic Ocean fell to her...
Read more 


We have hit the road for our great Holiday Grand Tour. First to Louisiana to see the in-laws and then on to Arkadelphia (yes that is a real place) to see my family. This holiday has been the strangest thus far, and I am grateful now more than ever for the steadfast love of our families, and the traditions we have all created together. I will probably be a little scare around the interwebs for the next week as I soak up all the love and peace that surrounds me, fold into the rest that is offered, and breathe deeply the hope that is coming.

Wishing you tidings of great comfort and joy this week my friends.
Blessings and love to you and yours,
J

Monday, December 16, 2013

in the dark street shines: a holiday weekend recap


*the Zens 20th Year Reunion*

Y'all last week was a booger. It was hard, and stressful, and there were a few times when I thought I might just lose IT at long last.  That I might just finally come completely undone once and for all.
More than once I played Sara Groves song, Peace, Peace, singing along with these lyrics, tears in my eyes. 

Peace, peace, it's hard to find
Doubt comes like a tiny voice that's so unkind
And all your fears
They conspire to unwind you


My fears, my doubt, my insecurities, they were doing a bang up job of unwinding me. All the questions that I cannot see the answers to, all the problem that I want solutions for NOW. They were an avalanche that would not stop crashing in on me.

And in your dark street shines
An everlasting light
And all your hopes and fears
Are met in Him tonight

But then the weekend came and I went away with some very old and dear friends, and that little light in the dark street begin to shine a little brighter, hope at not abandoned me after all. I basked in the laughter, and ease of 20 years of friendship, and in freedom of just being myself of 24 hours and not fulfilling any roles of duty. 
20 years since our first Christmas gathering (which you can read about in AHY), and here we all were (one via Skype from overseas) together again. 
In their presence I felt as carefree as I did all those years ago as a college freshman, I saw a bit of the girl I was, the girl who is still inside, who occasional gets buried deep beneath To-Do List and Raising Kids and Doing Laundry. It was so good to hang out with her again.


*St. Nicholas visiting our church potluck.*
Sunday was our big Alternative Gift Fair and Potluck Brunch at church.
I love our church. It is nothing like what I would have thought I wanted a decade ago, but God works in mysterious ways, and for this gift of a church I am so very grateful.

Sunday was also our St. Nicholas celebration (a week later than planned due to our winter weather last weekend,) and it was big fun for all of us to visit with St. Nick.
 I wish we had started the St. Nicholas tradition instead of Santa Claus when the kids were little. I think it is the perfect answer to the Santa/No Santa debate.
The more I have studied liturgical traditions, the sadder I am for how much heritage and wisdom has been lost to Christians in Evangelical churches. All too often the baby was thrown out with the bath water, resulting in great divisions and misunderstandings over things that could have aided families in incorporating faith in their homes so easily.
Like the whole Santa debate. Here is the perfect solution - one rooted in faith- that could be enjoyed by all Christians. Santa doesn't have to compete with Christ, but yet there is still a way to enjoy the tradition during the season.
(Sigh. I think we have hit upon my soap box.)



*feliz navidad banner in progress"

I also did a little banner making Sunday night for a friend with Love Actually playing in the background. Some people craft to music. I craft to movies.
  I don't remember the last banner I made, which is so odd because it used to be ALL I DID. BANNERS and more BANNERS.
I have to say it was fun and highly therapeutic. Special K stays in my craft room now so I don't get very much alone time to craft, and I didn't realize how much I missed it until last night. Crafting with the kids is fun, but it isn't the same. I can't get lost in thought the same way I can when it is just me and the paper and the glue. When I am able to play with all the pieces, change my mind, and try new ideas, I am able to leave all the other stresses of my life behind and just have fun. 
I think 2014 is going to involve resolving this issue. 
Momma needs to get her craft on.

*this years make-shift advent wreath*

Last night we ate amazing BLT sandwiches ala Sweet Man, and celebrated the third week in Advent. We used the readings in  A Homemade Year as our guide (okay, I know I wrote the book, but dang it comes in handy,) and everyone participated by reading, lighting or praying. We focused on John the Baptist preparing the way,and how we can spread joy, being Christ hands and feet on earth, through prayer, strength, and love. We prayed and gave thanks for all those who go into the places and love on the people that no one else will. We prayed that we would have that same tenderness and humility.

Joy is prayer - Joy is strength - Joy is love - Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
Mother Teresa


The light is shining a bit brighter, and we are getting closer.
Christmas is coming.
Wishing you all much love this week.
J

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Making-Do Christmas




























It occurs to me now, sitting here, that the lyrics "tidings of comfort and joy" - the very lyric I have honed in on like a heat seeking missile this season- tells me two things.
First it tells me that we need comfort, which must mean that something is wrong. Something is broken, hurt, wounded, sad. Otherwise, why would we need comfort?
And secondly, that after comfort is joy.
Which seems like a funny thing to offer to someone who is suffering and in need of comfort.
But there they are, together like peas in a pod:
Comfort and Joy.
And I cannot get away from them.

If you have ever visited this little online space of mine at Christmastime before,  you may notice that few things are different around here this year. That there doesn't seem to be the usual flocking of the blog and tinseling of the post.
And yes, you would be right.
There is a lot that is different this year.

I do believe that 2013 will go down in history as the Advent, the Christmas, of Making-Do.
Things have not gone as exactly as planned the past few weeks.
Starting with our wonderful - but long and tiring- vacation cutting into the first weekend of Advent, followed by a crazy work week, followed by a four day weekend being snowed/iced in, followed by an almost week long bed ridden Sweet Man do to an injury.
An injury that has prevented him from getting all of our Christmas down from the attic and putting all the non-Christmas back up.
Now usually under these circumstances I would have called in the troops - the brothers and brother-in-law- to come and help me make merry, hauling my dozen or so bins from the attic.
But here is the other side of the coin.
We are leaving for Louisiana - where my in-laws now live -in 8 days. Which is where we will stay until Christmas, which will be followed by the boys and I going on a visit to my parents for 5 days.
And the more I thought about it, the more it all started to seem like a lot of work for very little enjoyment.
It started to feel forced.
And it was then that I had to choose.
I had to choose crazy or I had to choose Christmas.
Friends, I am doing my very best to choose Christmas.

And this year that means that I am making-do.
I am making do with too little time, and not enough rest, and broken plans, and unmet expectations.
I am making do with an injured husband, and a tighter budget, and lots of questions.
I am making do with what I have, where I have, how I have it.
I am making do in a new world. One where my Grandaddy doesn't live anymore. Where my grandparents home for 39 years -every year of my life - will be someone else's soon.
Where the same traditions that have gone on in that home for those 39 years have suddenly ceased, without any care for what has always been.

This holiday season has been weird and different from the word go. Nothing is as it usually is or how I would choose for it to be, and yet Christmas is still coming, the same as always.

So I am choosing - daily, moment by moment, (because thinking of it as a whole would send me to bed for a month) to live out what I say I believe.
To open my hands to what is.
To go slower.
To make do with what I have.

This year, instead of hauling out the buckets of my beloved decorations, I decided to use what I had on hand. I have used items leftover from Advent Events for the book, the ornaments I rescued from my grandparents house before the estate sale, a few ornaments I had already purchased, a small fledgling cedar tree growing in our driveway, and anything red or plaid or gingham that I could scrounge up from my closets, the boys rooms, and the bottom of the china hutch. As The Nester would say, I "shopped my own house."

I threw mini-pompom fringe on everything, broke out tons of candles, sprung for 3 new strands of twinkle lights (which immediately make it feel like Christmas) and a fresh wreath from the grocery store for the door, and called it good.

This year we have a chalkboard Christmas tree, a granny square mobile, and a chalkboard Advent Calendar where we are filling in the dates instead of marking them out. We have an Advent wreath made of votive candle holders on a cake pedestal, yarn pom-poms everywhere and our Nativity set, (which somehow never makes it to the attic thankfully) sitting and waiting. I keep a steady rotation of Christmas tunes and Christmas movies flowing, and we have had more than our fill of eggnog.
We are making do - and making lovely - right where we are.

But still, I cannot pretend that this has all been easy. While there has been some relief it taking this slower approach,  while there has been excitement in stretching my creative muscle in taking what we have and turning it into Christmas, and while I have found unexpected beauty in keeping things simple, I would be lying if I said that this making-do has made everything better.
Loss and grief  pay their visits to me more now than ever, reminding me of what was and what will no longer be.
I feel as if by losing my grandfather, and by proxy some family traditions, another layer of my childhood has been stripped away.
I have entered a new phase of my adultness, and I am not quite comfortable in this new skin.
But Christmas is still coming.
Advent is still moving along, day by day, traveling towards Noel, just as Mary and Joseph moved step by step to Bethlehem.
And I remember that the first Christmas wasn't really Christmas at all.
It was birth. It was mess, and pain, and inescapable and inconvenient.
And it was miraculous.

And so I will continue to choose to settle into this season,  smack dab at the crossroads of both the beauty and mess - even when it often seems as is the mess is winning hands down- and live in the midst of the heartache, and disappointments, and the bittersweet, and the making-do and accept with open hands, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.

Because Christmas is coming.
And I don't want to miss it.

peace, peace-
J


Monday, December 09, 2013

Snow Day Cookies



For the past four days we have all been home together weathering a snow/ice storm.  Blessedly it was not a bad storm and no one we know lost power (which is a huge problem in our area during any sort of severe weather. We live in the land of Many Trees.) Even though we had barely returned to school from Thanksgiving break, this unexpected break saved my sanity on so many levels. Primarily it gave me the chance to get the house back into a manageable condition post-vacation, and it gave us the chance to enter into Advent with some baking and decorating.



This year we are not getting down our usual decorations for several reasons (more on that to come) and we are instead we are learning how to make-do and make lovely using what we have on hand. One of the very first areas I decorated was our Baking Center. I have done this for several years and it really makes all the holiday making and baking so much easier in our little cottage kitchen. 


To do this, I turned our breakfast table longways and pushed it up against the window. Then I got out all sorts of baking goodies- peppermints, chocolate chips, cookie cutters etc, and put them in cute jars with cute lids, and arranged them just so on the table. 

(I might be a tad obsessed with vintage Tupperware measuring cups.)


I also added our Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, some flannel gingham fabric for "curtains," and a few other baking items to the table. AND there is also still there is enough room, if needed to pull up a couple of stools and eat a bowl of cereal here. 




Family Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
The first batch of cookies I made are based on Smitten Kitchens Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies.  This is my version of the recipe.
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) salted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose King Arthur brand flour
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) mini-semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (130 grams) walnuts or pecans, finally chopped until they are almost powder
Preheat to 300F (150C). Line baking 2 large sheets with parchment paper.
Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.
Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Scoop the cookie dough in tablespoon sizes onto your lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
For a crunchier cookie leave in the oven but turn heat off. Wait about 20 minutes before pulling cookies out.

These are slightly salty, very crunchy, with a lovely nutty flavor. 


                        
Chewy Everything Bars
This is a recipe I found on Saturday based on searching "cake mix bar cookies." Of course I amended the recipe so this is my version -the original can be found here. The cookies are more like very rich brownies with a rich topping. They would be great for a crowd or a party.

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients:
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge)
8 TBSP softened butter
1 egg
1 ½ cups mini- chocolate chips
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
20 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces (I used the paddle attachment on my Kitchen Aid to break and crumble the cookies and it worked brilliantly!)
1 cup mini-marshmallow's
10 Soft Peppermints crushed (I put the peppermints into a sandwich bag and hand K beat the bag with a rolling pin.)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line  a 13x9” pan with foil and spray generously with bakers spray.
Using a mixer,  mix together the cake mix, softened butter, and egg.  The resulting batter will be a very thick dough.
Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan- I used a small pastry roller to roll out the dough evenly.
Sprinkle the broken cookies, peppermints and marshmallows over the batter, pour the can of sweetened condensed milk over the whole pan, and top with chocolate chips.  Bake the bars for 23-25 minutes.
You will want the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving - you will know they are ready by the chocolate on top hardening- I covered my pan and placed it in the refrigerator while we watch A Muppet's Christmas Carol in order to speed up the process.
Once the bars are cooled, left the whole thing out of the pan using the foil, place on a cutting board and cut into 24-30 bars. 
Serve with cold milk or hot coffee.


So that is some of what I did on my Snow Days. What about you? Did you have a snow day? Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? Leave me a link!

*******
wishing you all tidings of Comfort and Joy my friends,
J

                       

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Advent Week 2 - Love



10-11 “Yes, God’s Message: ‘You’re going to look at this place, these empty and desolate towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem, and say, “A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here.” But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration, marriage festivities, people exclaiming, “Thank God-of-the-Angel-Armies. He’s so good! His love never quits,” as they bring thank offerings into God’s Temple. I’ll restore everything that was lost in this land. I’ll make everything as good as new.’ I, God, say so.

Jeremiah 33:10-11 (The Message)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

tidings of comfort



Last week was one of those weeks that I will probably always remember.
In part because we are on a grand family vacation. I saw the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and Julia Child's kitchen all in one day.
I will also remember it in part because it is Thanksgiving week and that means the beginning of another Advent, another Christmastide and I always remember those.
Last week will also be known as "that time I got hives from traveling with three kids in a stuffed car for 3 days," that "vacation where Ikea was our cheapest meal," and "when I fell in love with Thomas Jefferson for good." 

But it will also be a week to remember because of what I learned about the true meaning of comfort.

During our trip we were blessed enough to stay with friends on the way to and from Virginia, and then at a timeshare, generously donated to us by a good friend, who offered it to us so that our boys (big history nerds that they are) could experience Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg first hand.  We knew going in that we would most likely be contacted by the Timeshare operators to endure a sales pitch, and sure enough, as soon as we checked in the calls began.

Finally, on very cold and wet Wednesday morning,  Sweet Man and I ate a free breakfast of powdered eggs, dry biscuits and questionable sausage, and then listened the most amazing sales pitch to buy into the  Timeshare. From the moment we walked into the building - admittedly lured by the promise of deeply discounted tickets to our main destinations - we were forthright and honest. We had no interest in buying into the program, but we were happy to listen to the pitch in exchange for the deeply discounted tickets.

Over the course of our breakfast, we were visited by three pre-sales persons, who each asked repeatedly what sort of vacationing we did.
The first time they asked, we just stared at them blankly. The second time, we managed something like "um, camping?" By the time they sent the third per soul to us, I was ready.
"We camp!" I said confidently.  "We like State Parks!"

It was following this last statement that the game changed.

After cleaning up our sad paper plate breakfast, and sending the kids to a holding cell playroom, we were escorted around the corner  to see a salesman that I will heretofore refer to only as The Closer.

The Closer was brilliant. He was charming, but not slimy. He was genuine, and smart, and I guarantee you he was their best. I could tell this by the way his cubicle was separate from all the others, and by the "doors" fashioned out diving screens.  No other cubicle came close to this level of exclusivity.

From the beginning it was obvious that The Closer enjoys a tough sells like us and  my "State Park" statement was like waving a red flag in front of a prize bull. He was ready. And he pulled out all the stops. He sold us vacations like a preacher sells heaven, talking and nudging and prying until he found a way in. Till he found that little bit of hesitation in our answers.  And by the end of our hour an half in his presence, he had us believing in the benefits of his product. We could see the why this was a good, solid plan. We were confident in all the advantages it would afford us, and all the opportunities it would provide for our family.

But still, we checked the "decline" boxes on both of his very nice offers.

You see, each and every time he talked about having a plan for our lives, about providing opportunities to our kids, to opening their eyes to all the world has to offer, about raising them to be successful, I had to fight the urge to get right up on his desk, look him nose to nose and shout
"You don't understand. I don't want to go to the Bahamas. I don't want to go to Vegas. Sure I would like to go to Paris, but that's not what I daydream about spending my money on. I like State Parks. They suit us. What I daydream about is buying a big farmhouse that I can fill to overflowing with kids who need a home. I want to build a table twice as long as the one I have and fill it with anyone I meet who is hungry. I want land wide enough for my children to wander and get lost, learning the rhythm of creation until it becomes as much a part of them as their heartbeat.  And until the time comes that I can afford all of that, I want to be grateful and content where I am, filling my table up as it is, not waiting for how it will be.  And as far as our kids go, well the truth is I don't want kids who are spoiled by the best, I want kids who consider themselves the least. Our idea of success for our kids is that they live to give, that they work hard, that they love well, and that they are grateful for this wild and beautiful and boring and average and exceptional life they get to lead. Not going to Disney every year." 

But I didn't say any of that, as tempted as I was. Instead I sat and listened and  threw The Closer a bone by telling him I wanted to go Scotland (true story) but I didn't bother to mention that if I did go I would prefer to sleep on my friend Alison's floor so that we could stay up late into the night talking about books and ideas and kids and faith. 

Going on nice vacations isn't inherently bad, or wrong. It can actually be a whole lot of fun.  Spending money thoughtfully and wisely on a timeshare if ones budge allows also isn't wrong in and of itself. And there isn't anything immoral about enjoying nice things. Trust me, no one loves it when housekeeping turns down the sheets more than me, and don't even get me started on fancy restaurants. Food that has a funny hat just makes me happy.

But these things are not monetary priorities to us.  Instead they are little bonus treats that come every so often. They are the sorts of little treats that we work hard to save for and then take great joy in splurging on, reveling in the specialness of the experience, never sure when and if they may come again. 

Last weeks trip was the hardest vacation we have ever gone on so far. Not that we didn't have fun. Because we did.
But I don't know if it is the distance, the long car rides, the fact that there was 5 of us instead of 4, or if it is just how the stars aligned,  but for the first three days of our trip I desperately wanted to turn the ship around and head back home.
The lack of gratefulness, patience, kindness, and generosity of spirit was  rampant. I felt as if I  spent the majority of my time reminding all the short people in the car to say thank you, to not kick anyone else, to share their pretzels, to take turns sitting in the very back, to not make that face when I told them "no." Again.
And frankly it wore me out.
By Wednesday I was by far the most wore out.
It was at this junction that the The Closer tried to sell me on my children's happiness.
And it was here that he made his greatest mistake.  
He presumed that their happiness is my greatest goal.
But the truth is this -  I am not so much concerned with their happiness as I am with their character.
And based on the way things had been going on the trip up until that day, more expensive vacations was NOT the answer.
Over the course of the trip there were many times when it seemed to me that their wants were bottomless, and their gratefulness shallow, but because they are children I did not - do not - fault them for this bad thinking. 
But because they are children, specially our children, I feel it is our job to teach them otherwise. And to do that, we ourselves must live what we believe, what we teach.

We want to slow down and spread out as Sweet Man said. We want to dig in to our community, we want our kids to grow hearts in gratefulness, not entitlement. We want them to embrace their lives, filled with both beauty and mess, and be rooted in the amazing gift of grace right in the midst of it all. We want them to jump in with both feet to places where people are hurting and lonely and dying and to work to use whatever is their great joy to meet the worlds deep need. 
We want these to be the things they learn from us.
We want these to be things they remember and take into adulthood.
And so we must live this ourselves.

The Closer tried to sell us comfort that day. He did his very best to convince us that investing in comfort was the right choice for our family.
That our children and our marriage would be better because of it. And, he was right. 
Only, it's not our comfort that we will be investing in.
Perhaps I have become a bit of a bleeding heart for Jesus, but I am no longer okay with defining comfort by what I take. 
Instead I want to define comfort by what I give. 

And what better time to give then at Christmas?  
And what better gift to give than that of comfort and joy?
Christ birth came in the messiest, strangest place - a stable. And it was announced to the only people up in the middle of the night -those average working fellas, the shepherds. The greatest gift of comfort and joy came, in the middle of the night, birthed of blood and water, causing  pain and fear and a whole lot of inconvenience. And I cannot help but wonder - If I am called to live a life fashioned after Christ, then why should my gifts cost me anything less than his?

This Christmas I want to give
Comfort to the lonely, sick, the homeless, motherless.
Comfort to my friends when they are hurting, to my family when they are in need.
Comfort to my boss by doing my job without complaint or need for constant correction
Comfort to my readers by being an honest, transparent writer.
Comfort to my children by raising them the best I can - by being honest, gentle and firm, consistent and loving.
Comfort to my husband by being a good partner, a good peer, friend, lover, co-parent, advocate.
Comfort to my church family by doing my part to help keep things running, by being part of community.
Comfort to my neighbors by being a good steward of my property. By opening my doors, by sharing my bounty.

Few of these things are easy to give, fewer are convenient. Some of them are annoying, and hard, and strange and  many of them will mean that I will have to keep on stretching and growing and bending in ways that are uncomfortable. And most of these gifts are a lot more time consuming than I would like, and are generally most needed when I have the least amount of time.
Unlike so many Christmas gifts, I cannot order Comfort online,  have it wrapped and shipped with a few easy clicks. I cannot make monthly payments and accumulate enough points to ensure that it is in full supply when needed.
Instead, giving comfort to others more often than not, means sacrificing my own. Which I suspect, makes this the very best, and most meaningful kind of gift to give. The kind of gift that can change the world, or at the very least our hearts.

And this is what I want my children to learn. This is the experience I want to give them. This is the kind of life I want them to have.
The kind of life where tidings pf Comfort and Joy are the first gifts they give.
No matter the cost.


peace, peace
J


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

home again, home again


We are home again and I am trying to pace myself on the re-entry pocesses. 
If you think of it, say a little prayer for me.
There is a lot to do, but I am trying to not be consumed by them.
To instead find little pockets of peace and light in the midst.
I miss you all much. 
Be back soon (with some great little surprises in store!)
J



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