Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Writing is a joy like no other. And after nearly a decade of dedication (I’m twenty-three now; I was fourteen when I finished Issym–my first book), it is still full of surprises. I sit down at the keyboard with no concept of what I want to say and yet words, beautiful, important words, come flowing out. And they ease the ache in my soul.

I’ve come face-to-face (yet again) with the reality that seasons end. Good, wonderful, God-blessed seasons do not last forever. That’s why they are called ‘seasons’ after all. So I’m closing some chapters in my life, most notably with my resignation from my beloved coastal church. Working six days a week and commuting over wintry coastal roads for early morning worship practice is no longer a viable lifestyle. And while I am disappointed beyond measure, I’m also supremely confident that God orchestrated this decision and so it is good.

He has been showing me the value of finishing well. Not focusing (for once in my over-achieving life) on what is to come, but instead focusing on doing the last few weeks of this season to the very best of my ability. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a major Eiffel Tower nerd. I’ve always been struck by how it was built to be temporary. Knowing that his creation was doomed for destruction, Gustave Eiffel still poured blood, sweat, tears, and inspiration into the now iconic tower! He wasn’t daunted by the certainty his creation was temporary. He finished well. And so will I.

12278732_10207210957488957_8617144566751611846_nAs for the holidays, we’ve had a few less Christmas movies or mass-baking evenings than the usual season, but we’ve still had lots of fun. Who knew it could be cold on Christmas Tree Day even without snow? And who knew how FREAKING TALENTED my brother-in-law and I are at picking out Christmas trees. (Isn’t it a beaut?)12219417_10207199026510690_5196170164171381163_n

We’ve celebrated a few less birthdays than usual too, thanks to cases of pneumonia and a deer that made contact with our family van. But the 12274458_10207199026950701_7812799157813826790_ncelebrations we have pulled off have been awesome, from flame-filled nights at the local hibachi to an entourage of people taking dear niece Evelyn to Build-A-Bear for Year 1 of a running tradition. (The writer in me couldn’t help but stick a note inside.) Yes, my niece–who surprised us all with a month early arrival–has reached the age of one going on thirty. Intelligent, persuasive, and highly verbal, she is already turning my world upside-down in all the right ways. I can’t wait to spend Christmas with that sweet little soul.

Overall I’m settling into a new skin–one that’s a bit less afraid of the telephone and far more confident in glasses and even more determined to keep on writing. One that is learning to let go and still savor every second of every season I’m in.  A few months back I wrote a song for my church and I think I’ll close with it here:

Verse 1: There is time for celebration. There is time for tears. You’re the God Who holds me through it all. You’re the God Who holds us through it all

Chorus: Hallelujah to the King of majesty. To the One Who calls me friend. Hallelujah to the One Who conquered the grave. And is coming back again.

Verse 2: The past, the present, and the future, Can overwhelm the soul. But You say “Do not fear for I am near”.

Verse 3: You are trustworthy; You are faithful. You number the hairs on my head. How can it be that You would love me through it all? How can it be that You would love us through it all?

Bridge: You are good, You are good, You are good. You are faithful and sure. For everything there is a season. In every season You are Lord.




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1528476_10202258398838086_581389364_nSpending Christmas Eve Eve with my nephews was thoroughly worth the cold they could not help but share. That said, it made for a strange Christmas. A holiday of slowness. Of television marathons with a grand total of hours that would have been simply shameful under other circumstances. Of sharing tissue boxes and drinking tea and resting in piles on the couch. And then… Christmas was over.

Church came around and post-chaos/sickness cleaning began. We continued to find time to rest on the couch, but soon we did so alone–without my New York Sister or Sister Kate or her husband. There was still fun to be had. In cleaning out closets, we could not help but try on old ball gowns, reliving memories of each occasion. We snatched moments alone to dream and reset. We even eked enough life from ourselves to drag ourselves to the movie theater, catching the Walter Mitty remake. And now as the real world officially begins again, I am grateful for a little more oxygen in my lungs, for good, good memories, and for the new church family that has made me feel so at home.

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Regrettably for my parents, not one of their children has managed to keep their birthdays straight. It’s not our faults, really. The dates are back-to-back. The 14th and the 15th. Easily inverted. Especially when you add family birthdays on the 13th, the 17th, and the 20th. Throw in Christmas, New Years, and my brother’s anniversary, all following on the figurative heels of Thanksgiving, and December becomes one giant month of cake. Not to say that is a bad thing.

There was something special about heading into the theater to see the Hobbit Saturday night. We said “Happy birthday, Dad” on the way in (9:30)and “Happy birthday, Mom” on the way out (12:30). We ate stir-fry for him Saturday and on Sunday braved the storm and ate lunch out to celebrate her. And in between all these festivities my mom and I (with Sister Kate on Sunday) baked for two days straight. I am not sure it is humanly possible for a family our size to eat the number of cookies we have in production for the holidays. We shall try nobly anyway.

And so it is that Christmas and snow are upon us. I am thankful for a coat that literally zips up above my eyebrows and for a family to play with and love with and celebrate with.

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I failed at initiating dialogue between my characters yesterday. But–strangely for me–I succeeded at beginning a developmental outline. I’m thinking I will put my focus there for one more day. NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow anyway. I will begin my effort to write three pages a day as I make my way to New York. My mom and Sister Kate will join me on a road trip to see Sister Julie (perhaps) one last time in the big city.

I can’t say my spirits are high for the trip. The reality that my sister is leaving the country brings tears to my eyes at all the most random times. Even though we will see her a few more times as she journeys home for my book release, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I’m afraid this will feel like goodbye.

Despite the bittersweet the first of the month will bring, I like November. Tall boots are completely in fashion. Warm coats are finally acceptable. Big movies start encouraging friends to hang out again. November also brings us dangerously close to Christmas. It allows us to celebrate Thanksgiving, search for holiday decorations on discount, and–gasp–listen to Christmas music. It is a wonderful month. It is good to be brought together as a family, to remember the goodness of God as we stare into the innocent eyes of nephews and remember the beauty of Christmases past and praise the King of kings for coming as an infant to save our souls.

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And so I am home.

It is good for me to have a change of scenery, if only to remind me how good home is. This is the first Christmas when I feel like home is a bit scattered. My loves ones are sprinkled throughout the world. My immediate family will gather, but there are others I wish could be with me. I am grateful for the relationships–even the distant ones–that are so important. And leaving home reminds me of just how important these relationships are.

Well, after so much travel, I still have a daunting amount of homework to do before Monday night. Nevertheless, the highlight of my thoughts is not the battles of Western Civ or the organizational structure for Knowledge Management. Instead, it is my younger nephew’s costume birthday party tomorrow. I think I’ll go as an Egyptian princess…

I only hinted yesterday as to this week’s Lyme-related appointments, but there really are few enough details with which to update you. Honestly, my brain is a bit swamped with all the information that got passed on. I cannot believe what a battleground Lyme is in the scientific community and how difficult a solution may be. Regardless of the results of our efforts to battle Lyme, I am confident that I serve a great God and Lyme or no Lyme this remains the same.

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After the draining Lyme appointments of yesterday I decided to cut my trip a bit short and head back to Maine this afternoon. I was already fatigued enough to feel the tears, but when I heard about the events in Newtown they just started coming out. The adults; the children… I think of those kids so full of dreams and potential. The ballet performances they might have been preparing for; the political speeches they might one day have given; the books they might have written; the mission fields they would have impacted; the presents waiting for them under the tree. I did not, I do not, know how to pray for their families adequately. I cannot fathom their sorrow. Children have a unique place in my heart. I wanted to throw up. Despite the fact that I was traveling a road I had gone down many times (and using a GPS), I got lost twice on my drive from New York. Eventually, I was so shaken I had to pull over.

In between segments of inescapable news, songs like Frosty the Snowman played and that seemed even more wrong. I prayed; I wept; I asked God to teach me how to process the news.  It was especially bitter that this event at Sandy Hook Elementary happened around Christmastime.

Then God reminded me that it is because of events like this that Christmas matters. It was to redeem us from the sin and death and sorrow in the world that Christ came. We think of those children as innocent; look what an innocent Savior died on the cross. We think there is no hope; Christmas is all about hope: the fulfilment of a promise and new promise that Jesus would return. Since Eden, death and loss and sin have been a part of our world, but that has never been something God has wanted or simply allowed to happen without a fight. He has fought, He is fighting, and He will fight for us. Through Christ, He has been working out a plan. Sending His own innocent Son to face persecution, hardship, and death, God offered us redemption. He knows the pain of these families in Newtown; He cares. If anything, Christmas and Christ should remind us of this. I do not yet know how to pray for the families who lost loved ones, but I will still pray and God–Who understands–will hear.

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It is dark outside. The house is decorated for Christmas. The roads sound wet as the cars go rushing past. I cannot hear the television that usually wafts from downstairs. I know it is on because the footsteps of my family are quiet. As the hours of homework extend and I change into clothes I would never go outside in, it is easy to forget that it is only six o’clock. It feels like midnight. This is winter. It has come.

There is something wonderful about home and winter, even when it is dark and dreary outside, even when I am stuck in my room doing homework, even when my eyes ache from staring at a computer screen, even as we each do some chore we rarely have time for. This is home and home is good. I am thankful for big blessings like home and safety and warmth and family and the mental stamina to do my homework.

November has past. Thankfulness has not. I am grateful for the life I live.

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During every Christmas break brave young teens leave the comforts of home, new tech, and movies to come to Bible Quizzing Boot Camp. Enduring little sleep and cold rooms, they study the Scripture, many of them memorizing what
they had not dared attempt before. Many a year I was one of these teens, though I confess I participated in that particular boot camp mostly because of my father’s influence. Willing adults put aside work to assist these kids because they truly believe in the importance of this ministry. This year I returned as an adult to help out. As always I led worship. By request I learned and played that song I’ve been obsessed with–How Many Kings–followed by In Christ Alone. They are beautiful songs that sing of the wonder and majesty and sacrifice of God. They tell a story with inescapable presence.

When you read any good adventure story–be it spy, mystery, fantasy, science-fiction, or just plain fiction–authors notoriously unweave a plot that started over a decade ago. This is sure fire hit with readers and it intrigues us writers too. Perhaps unwittingly we are drawn to this type if tale because the greatest story ever told possesses the same elements. A prophecy given at almost the beginning of the world, fulfilled in Christ’s birth, leading towards the great return if our Lord!

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I was reading about Joseph. Strangely enough it has been over a year since I read Genesis (after reading the Old Testament in a semester for school, I took a break and switched to the New Testament. Then I covered Psalms, Proverbs, and some of the Prophets. Now I am finally back to Genesis) so the stories are more fresh than they have been in a long time.

At some point while he was in slavery, Joseph was forced to choose: whether he would trust God had a plan despite the fact that his world was literally falling apart, or whether he would grow bitter for the things that had happened. Maybe we could justify Joseph being resentful and untrusting; but he wasn’t. His choice to throw his life into the hands of the Almighty shaped Joseph into the man that would save the world–literally.

And then I got thinking about Mary. The shame and rejection she must have borne; the questions and fear that must have plagued her. She carried the greatest Gift, yet her road would never be easy again. She had to make that same choice: to trust God or to run? (Note: when Jonah ran, it didn’t work out so well. Part of what I preach about when I go to youth groups is that yes, the road can be difficult when you are following God; but God’s plans are the best for us. He wants us to have the best life possible so following His plan is always better.)

As New Years rolls along, Americans everywhere think about what resolutions they will make. This requires a fair amount of reflection, and it’s easy to get lost in that reflection. We can begin to doubt whether God’s plan is really best for us–sometimes subconsciously, sometimes overtly. I definitely think that Joseph and Mary had to keep making that choice to trust again and again, but I do believe that there was a moment when they surrendered themselves–for better or worse–into the hand of God. We must do the same.

I talk about this a lot in the Xsardis Chronicles, and I sum it up with the word, ‘kiash’: a prayer for victory and an acceptance of the cost and the results, whatever they may be. Joseph and Mary’s roads were not easy or bump-free, but God was trustworthy for them. He was trustworthy for Jonah too, even though the prophet didn’t like it. Joseph and Mary’s decision to stand affected so many others. Just look at Christmas. Just look at the cross.

So, are you ready to stand?

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No, I don’t believe in Santa Clause. Yes, I strongly believe we should put the ‘Christ’ back in ‘Christmas’. But as a fantasy lover and author, I have to say from a purely fictional standpoint, the magic of Santa spreading cheer and goodwill throughout the world is just about amazing. I get into Christmas. You can probably tell.

So today when I pulled into the gas station and I met Citgo Santa I was beaming for an hour. Citgo should sell gas, right? Well this year its selling Christmas trees too. A jolly round man with a fluffy beard pumps gas. As he said, “Hello, deary’ his eyes twinkled and his smile radiated. When he handed me my receipt, I got a candy cane too. I think he knew he made my day, so he smiled all the more.

Citgo Santa may not have dressed up like Santa, but he certainly was Santa-like in his looks and his cheerful viewpoint. Clearly he spreads that goodwill in winter and summer and fall and spring. He has a terrible job. He pumps gas in the heat and the cold; the snow and the rain. Yet, his smile is real–and to the benefit of all around him. If only we all could be a little more like Citgo Santa!

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