Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent Is Coming

A few years ago we bought a house. Every year after Thanksgiving, a neighbor puts a sign in their yard that says "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" For the first couple of years that we lived here, I could barely refrain from scoffing and rolling my eyes every time I drove by and telling the kids "It is not Jesus' birthday."

Several years ago on Facebook, a college friend of mine wished all of his friends a Merry Christmas and warned us not to forget the reason for the season. I thought I couldn't help myself when I responded snarkily with: "Do you mean Jesus? Because it's very unlikely that he was even born this time of year."

I, too, am surprised that God didn't smite me right then and there.

Someone I don't know responded with "Is this girl for real?"

I was for real. I had even armed myself with information about how many of our Christmas traditions and even the date of Christmas has pagan origins. In the end, I didn't enter into an argument about the reason for the season because I had finally, at twenty-something years old, begun to learn some discretion.

Sometime last year, I remember thinking about Christmas and suddenly it hit me: it (December 25) doesn't have to be His actual birthday, but maybe it is simply a celebration of His birth.

Ding ding ding! Lightbulbs are flashing, bells are ringing, people!

I can't tell you what a relief it was to have puzzled this out for myself. Imagine my surprise and delight when Christopher L. Webber, an Episcopal priest, said that very thing in Welcome to Sunday. I was so excited, I told Husband about it right away. He nodded and smiled like he was indulging someone very special.

Probably the whole thing could have been cleared up years ago if I had bothered to have a real conversation with any number of people, or they bothered to have a real conversation with me, about Christmas, instead of just skating over it like politics and talking about the superficial parts.

But here I am. About to embark on my very first season of Advent. I had, of course, heard of Advent before, but I really and truly thought it was just a countdown to Christmas the commercial holiday, that magical time when kids wake up before the sun to see what's under the tree.

Now I know that it is the beginning of the liturgical year, the church year, and it is a season of joy, preparation (for the celebration of Christ's first coming, when he was born a wee baby in a manger), and anticipation (trying to imagine what it must have been like for those anticipating that first coming and also looking towards the second coming), but also penitential.

Of course, this is all information I am regurgitating for you. I don't yet have a true understanding of what Advent is or is supposed to be, but I am very excited to learn.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday's Words: Girl Meets God

Hello, my name is Sarah, and  I... have a book problem. My problem is that I can't stop acquiring and trying to read all the books.

I recently (a few hours ago) got a(nother) new book, Girl Meets God. Girl Meets God is a memoir by Lauren F. Winner, who converted from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. I bought it kind of on a whim after I saw it mentioned a few times recently by Jenn Giles Kemper, creator of the Sacred Ordinary Days planner.

I've only read the first two chapters but I'm enjoying it so far. In the first chapter she talks a lot about how hard it is to separate her Jewish self from her new Christian self. I know very little about Judaism and gleaning a bit of information from someone's personal viewpoint is interesting and fun.

She said something early on that I really liked, though (emphasis is mine):
"My story doesn't fit very well with this conversion archetype. A literature scholar would say there are too many "ruptures" in the "narrative." But she might also say that ruptures are the most interesting part of any text, that in the ruptures we learn something new."
To rupture means to break or burst suddenly, synonymous with sever, break, breach, disrupt. It also brings to mind interrupt. We do the most learning when our lives and the plans we have made for ourselves get disrupted, sometimes completely thrown out the window.

I married a man 9+ years ago whose feelings about God were almost the complete opposite of mine. We were babies! Sometimes I wonder what we even really knew about each other. I look back and I'm utterly amazed at how far we have come, but we were just following our hearts and maybe he was following God.

I could never in a million years have even guessed that we would be where we are now. There have been countless disruptions along the way. Although I can count 5 off the top of my head. Yes, I'm talking about my kids, but before you get all Judgey McJudgerson on me, let me ask you this: does anything turn your life upside down - in the best, craziest, most unpredictable ways - more than having children?

I'm sure there will be many more. Disruptions, that is. Not sure about the kids.

I'm going to bed counting my blessings tonight and thanking God for not turning his back on me and letting one of the ruptures swallow me whole.

What else is on my nightstand:

  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  • No Bad Kids, Janet Lansbury
  • Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex, Leman & Bell
  • Welcome to Sunday, Christopher L. Webber
  • The Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo
  • Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery

See what others are reading at ladydusk

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Anchors Aweigh

This week has been one of those crazy life weeks. Husband has been working ridiculous hours; he leaves before anyone else is awake and doesn't get home until the big ones are about to go to bed. The kids are taking turns being bed-ridden sick. Donald Trump was elected President.

Sometimes it's just like that.

I finally shared this blog with the Husband last night, and then I felt compelled to re-read everything I have written to analyze what he might think of it. Yes, I'm one of those people. A few things stand out:

  1. The slow and systematic removal of sippy cups FAILED. In fact, we had to buy more.
  2. From the end of my first post: "I don't intend for this blog to be about me finding God." Hah! Joke's on you, Sarah.
  3. I never shared the verse that inspired the title of that post, which seems a very fitting verse still:
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."
Ezekiel 36:26
 In his book The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer said
"We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit."
God has been working on me for quite some time, I guess. Up until a year ago, maybe even less, I would have steadfastly denied it. There was a time when I thought that my being a good person, despite not relying on the Bible or God or the church to help make me one, was evidence against God. I had a pretty good moral compass all by my lonesome, I thought. It turns out my ideas about myself, among many other things, were pretty flawed.

My urge to pursue God was very subtle at first. It started out as a kind of gentle stirring. A vague thought in the back of my mind, buried deep in the clutter, that something might be missing. But it steadily grew and grew until it became a kind of hunger inside me.

I woke up this morning feeling very childlike. I have found myself reading the Bible with interest and wonder and wanting to talk about all the things (some of them disturbing) that I didn't even know were in that book. The things I don't know are infinite, y'all.

But the most surprising thing... is how real the pursuit and the relationship with God can be. I've just barely begun to grasp it. No one ever told me about it before. It always seemed so flat. Just like something else Tozer said:

"The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be "received" without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is "saved," but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God."

A week or so ago, I got an urge to go to church. I haven't bothered with church in a LONG time. The very thought of it exhausted me. But it popped into my head last week - you might say God put it there - and it wouldn't go away.

So last Sunday... I went.

I picked the church where I thought I would find the most genuine people, where I thought I would find substance, not just a facade people put on every Sunday like I remember. I showed up and looked for God in their faces and in their words and in the liturgy. (Liturgy is one of the infinite things I didn't know Before.) I think He was there. I want to go back, at least, and that's not nothing.

So, I think I should add a number 4 to my list up there: Big things are happening.

"Then ye shall call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:12-13 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday's Words: Miss Cornelia and Captain Jim Weigh In

On voting:
"I'm not hankering after the vote, believe me," said Miss Cornelia scornfully, "I know what it is to clean up after the men. But some of these days, when the men realise they've got the world into a mess they can't get it out of, they'll be glad to give us the vote, and shoulder their troubles over on us. That's their scheme. Oh, it's well that women are patient, believe me!"
On evil:
"I believe in what I heard a minister once call 'a mighty and malignant and intelligent power of evil working in the universe,' " he said solemnly. "I do that, Cornelia. You can call it the devil, or the 'principle of evil,' or the Old Scratch, or any name you like. It's there, and all the infidels and heretics in the world can't argue it away, any more'n they can argue God away. It's there, and it's working. But, mind you, Cornelia, I believe it's going to get the worst of it in the long run."
And then Carrie Underwood sang: "Jesus, take the wheel!"


As you can see, I am still reading the Anne books. Of all the wonderful characters, I am really coming to love Miss Cornelia and Captain Jim quite a lot. I'm reading several other things too, but mostly Anne, because it's hard to put down.

I have been keeping up with my daily Bible reading, though, and have ventured out from my chronological year-long plan. I also like to look up Sarah Hagerty's daily adorations, and just finished up a short devotional plan on finding joy in every day life.

This stood out to me in my readings in Exodus yesterday, when Moses was pleading to God for the sake of Israel:
"Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people."
Exodus 33:13 
Lord, show me thy way.  Not the way or my way but thy way...

See what other folks are reading this week at ladydusk:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wednesday's Words and The Year Without Halloween

Have you ever noticed as you get older that your memories become like a tunnel? With every change of season or every birthday or holiday come around again, you can see in your mind all the way back to that first one and each one since. It's lovely, right? I think so anyway.

Halloween is not a particular favorite of mine, but I love how much fun the kids have with it: picking out costumes, wearing them for at least a week before and maybe after too, carving pumpkins. Some of my very favorite pictures of the kids are the ones of them posing with their pumpkins on the steps of our house. Their wonderfully weird little personalities always come out the best in these Halloween pictures for some reason.

This year, Halloween was on a Monday that was such a Monday. It came after a stressful weekend with guests in the house, an unfortunate incident involving my young boy and a cell phone, grouchy, grouchy children, a sick and irritable Husband, a stressed and irritable Me... Pumpkin faces were designed Sunday evening and Husband carved them dutifully, but no one seemed to care. We didn't take pictures with them and when Monday rolled around and unfurled a little worse, we didn't even go trick or treating.

This morning on our walk, I looked sadly towards our now drooping pumpkins, looked down my tunnel of Halloween Past and hoped for a better time next year.

On Sunday evening after the kids went to bed, an email arrived in my inbox featuring a week long Bible study focusing on anxiety. I am in the midst of a year long, chronological study of the Bible, which I am sure will come up later, but since I was feeling particularly anxious, I figured it couldn't hurt to add this to my daily readings, so I clicked on the plan.

I almost cried reading the verses for the first day. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah."
Psalms 62:5-8
Before I put my Bible away, my eyes fell on another verse and I clutched it and took it to bed with me as a prayer:
"Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy." 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November, November

"It was November -- the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines."
At 30 years old, I have discovered Anne Shirley. I am enchanted, to be sure. I can't remember feeling this way about a set of books or a character in a very long time. Words like lovely and delightful and wonderful spring to mind when I think about the Anne of Green Gables books. I finished Anne of the Island late last night, with a deep sigh.

Novembers in the deep south don't seem quite as romantic as Anne describes - we're lucky if it's cold enough for a jacket by Thanksgiving and most of the birds stay all year long, I think- but November is my favorite month. To start with, it's my birthday month. But aside from that, it does bring to mind orange and brown falling leaves, crisp air on my cheeks, pumpkin pie, and so much more, none of which I have any good words for. I love November.

A lot has happened in the last three months since I last bothered to write anything. I thought I might write about some of it today, but when it comes down to it... it's the kind of life happenings where there is everything to say and nothing at the same time. It's more a gut clenching feeling for me than anything I can share, so I might as well leave it for now.

Instead, I suppose I will leave you with this little gem of a line from the moment Anne realized (thankfully, finally!) that she could never marry Roy:
"To her came one of those moments when we realize, as by a blinding flash of illumination, more than all our previous years have taught us."