Sunday, December 20, 2009
I can't begin to describe the giddiness of being so close to the orchestra pit; the beautiful costumes; Maurice Sendak's amazing sets; so many talented dancers! I especially loved the smallest ballerinas (what do you call a male ballet dancer, anyway? A ballerino?), the 6-9 year olds who played mice and soldiers and nutcrackers. So cute. The music was bliss...so many familiar movements in the completely new-and-dazzling setting of a live ballet performance. I realized that I really, really want a piano. I miss playing.
What made me chuckle, though, was the conductor. He was probably in his 30's-40's. Apparently he has a very stubborn cowlick on the back of his head...because there was an alfalfa sprout of hair sticking straight up for the entire evening. I think part of why this makes me grin is the sheer fact that we were close enough to see the conductor's hair!
Afterward we went to The Cheesecake Factory for appetizers, desserts, and drinks. Mandy (mom-in-law) and I had never been there, and it was amazing!!! I've been hungry for cream cheese crab wontons, vietnamese shrimp spring rolls, fried zucchini, and all the mysterious dipping sauces ever since.
It was such a fun, girly evening! Dressing up, going to a performance, admiring all the other dressed-up people, perhaps the start of a new tradition--it was delightful!
Tonight Mister and I are making oreo truffles (courtesy of Jessica) and my Grandma Violet's soda cracker candy, listening to Christmas carols, enjoying our Christmas lights, and "working" right next to each other on our respective laptops. :-) It's a decidedly satisfying and relaxing way to spend the Monday of Christmas week.
I'll try to post again before Christmas, but sometimes things happen...so Merry Christmas, everyone!
Friday, December 18, 2009
(By the time I took this photo, the rainbow was fading in the morning sunlight.)
Arriving at work, sadly realizing I forgot to bring in fudge, thinking of how neglected my sweet tooth will feel all day--and finding a Tupperware of fudge I'd brought in earlier this week and forgotten! Bliss.
Doing an echocardiogram in the critical care unit, I hear singing voices approaching. Ah, today is caroling! For three hours a group of hospital employees traverse the entire hospital singing Christmas carols. My patient starts singing along. I finish my echo to the beautiful harmonies of "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night." One of the kidney doctors joins for the last song, his heavy European accent mingling with the voices of occupational therapists, distribution techs, administrative staff. I think this was probably the best medicine my patient received all day, and of how blessed I am to be able to have carolers travel through my workplace.
Mid-day, I remember how, on Thursday night during our Advent reading, we read the passage in Philippians telling us to be anxious about nothing, and each of us shared what we are anxious about. Then we prayed. I prayed that God would just surround us with assurance of His love. Perfect love casts out fear, and anxiety is rooted in fear. God's love is the only perfect love; so if we are resting in His love, He takes our anxiety from us. We leave it at the foot of the Cross, and take up instead His yoke--letting ourselves be overwhelmed with His love instead of anxiety. And I realize all these are love notes from a God who loves us so much, He sent His only Son into the world to pay the penalty for sin on our behalf.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Those who do not know Jesus--what do they do with this staggering sensation of greatness which natural beauty can thrust upon them? When you do not know that it points toward One who is even greater and more beautiful than we can comprehend? I wonder if this soul-deep yearning to be a part of the inexpressible beauty one finds in nature is what drives people to climb mountains, sail oceans, carve out an existence in isolated places. A melody floats into my subconscious. I have been humming the tune for a while before I realize how perfectly the words describe this moment--words so familiar and comforting, like the spiritual equivalent of a favorite blanket worn threadbare and silky smooth from love:
Would you fall to pieces
Would you fall to pieces
In the high countries?
Would you fall to pieces
Would you fall to pieces
In the high countries?
The weight of glory. That is what I see in the mountains, that is what I ache for when I see sun on the water: God's incomparable glory, reflected in what He has made.
In the paradox of grace, when I fall on Christ the cornerstone and let Him break me, I too reflect His glory. I can fall to pieces in the high countries of God's endless love and grace, and in a small way, I become part of the weight of His glory in this world.
Totally unrelated side note: For those of you who are looking for fresh Christmas music this season, check out Christmas Spirit by Los Lonely Boys. Their take on a mix of Christian and secular Christmas songs is fun, refreshing, and full of that blues/rock/southern-style country we all love. (If you don't love it, you should!)
Saturday, December 5, 2009
This is our first Christmas as Mr. & Mrs., and I really wanted us to do Advent. My family has used a variety of calendars, devotionals, etc. to celebrate Advent, and I think it's a wonderful way to keep the focus of your holiday activities on Jesus. In spite of this, I didn't have a whole lot of knowledge about the specifics of Advent traditions....which is how we ended up with four white candles and one red, instead of three purple, one rose, and one white. I don't mind though--I like the red + white look better anyway!
I love sitting in front of the fireplace mantle with my husband and reading Scripture together with the flicker of candlelight before us.
I also love this Advent muffin tin! I found this idea on Jessica's blog two years ago and tucked it away as a delightful idea for when I'm married. It's so simple: A 24-count mini muffin tin, adhesive magnets to attach your beautiful handmade tags to the tin, and in each cup a sweet little suggestion to help make the season merry + bright. The suggestions aren't very involved, since the last thing I wanted to do was make it another task we felt obligated to complete--just fun, easy ways to focus on enjoying the Christmas season. I had so much fun browsing through my favorite scrapbook store for sweet Christmas-y papers and embellishments! I won't tell you each day's suggestion, since Husband reads this, but here's what we've done so far:
December 1 ~ Put up Christmas lights! (we didn't actually do that till Saturday)
December 2 ~ Enjoy peppermint bark in your lunch today
December 3 ~ Find mistletoe....XOXO
December 4 ~ Go to Wight's Nursery to admire the lights + buy an ornament for our first Christmas as Mr. + Mrs.
December 5 ~ Find a recipe for spiked eggnog, then make it
December 6 ~ Let the Christmas shopping begin!
I hope your Christmas season is proving full of wonder and joy!
Friday, December 4, 2009
I am always amazed when God meets me exactly where I am. When He talks the broken pieces of today and uses them to make something beautiful. When He sometimes breaks what I think is whole (or ought to be whole) and creates a new pattern. When He stops me in my tracks and gently turns me back to Him. It doesn't always seem gentle, but given the alternative of continuing hard-heartedly away from Him, even the severest of His mercies is still that: Mercy.
To say I'm a perfectionist is an understatement. To say that I physically don't handle stress well is also an understatement. I am slowly wrapping my head around the fact that "perfect" is an idol I choose to worship, instead of Jesus. "Slowly" because I am stubborn and set in my ways. The fact that I am cognizant of this thwarted worship in my life at all is purely God's grace--God's grace in the form of a body that can't take it any more. His severe mercy that brings me to my knees, which is exactly where I ought to be: worshiping Jesus and not "perfect."
A couple of days ago I was doing an echocardiogram on a patient, as is my wont Monday through Friday. I was on call, still working when I wanted to be home making dinner. Because, in my "perfect" world, that is what I should have been doing, along with running several errands between work and dinner.
God interrupted my echo, bursting the focused-and-frustrated bubble I construct when my plans go awry. Somewhere in the parasternal short axis views, a scene came into my mind out of nowhere. I saw myself as a child, three years old maybe, clutching something like a snowglobe in both hands. Within the globe were images of my life now: Me at work, with Mike, our home and families. I don't know how to describe the next part. I didn't see God, but I knew that He was there and His goal was to pry my fingers off the globe. He wanted me to give my life, contained in that globe, to Him. He wanted to loosen my iron grip on my life, but I was deathly intent on keeping it in my hands, where I could maintain its safety and well-being.
Tears were suddenly smarting in my eyes. I'm sorry, Lord! my soul whispered. An abrupt rush of wonder and comprehension. I've turned this Christmas season into a rigid plan marching toward one goal: Perfection. Not Jesus. I've put so much value on getting everything "right" (which we all know means nothing less than utter flawlessness when I'm talking) that my actual reality is complete misery. Migraines. Acid reflux that leaves me flat on my back for hours because of the accompanying nausea. Self-induced busyness and anxiety. All sorts of delightful plans that are simply impossible--at least on the level I envision--because I work 40+ hours a week and it takes a lot of oomph to try to be Martha Stewart, Version II.
I'm letting go of the control I so dearly love. I'm loosening my grip because, in God's providence, I don't have much of a choice. I can't go on in my little hamster wheel. I'm not going to try to bake cookies for all 11 of our nearest condo neighbors and have them nicely decorated and ready to hand out by next weekend. I'm not going to throw a Christmas/housewarming party. I'm not going to try to read every single Advent devotional I've found on the internet. I'm not going to expect myself to be able to go full-throttle every single day between now and December 25. I'm going to let go of the perfect Christmas season I constructed in my head and enjoy the season God has chosen to give me, even though it's not shaping up to look like the one I'd planned.
The beauty is that in embracing the reality of Today, I don't miss the things that don't happen (or don't happen like I planned). As Jesus directs my path, I find unexpected gifts. Peace. Enjoying the moment. Laughter with my husband. A day of Christmas decorating that went in a direction I never dreamed of, but was oh-so-good in the end. The shattered pieces of my plans have been swept out in the trash...but the wholeness, beauty, and joy He gives in exchange are sweeter than anything I can imagine.