Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why I'm Playing Christmas Music in November

Jingle Bells in July.

That was the incident that prompted my mother's rule: "No Christmas songs until after Thanksgiving or after New Years' Day."

Yes, I was (and still am) the child that sang her favorite songs year-round, even if they were about snow and sleigh rides and Santa Claus. And while I completely understand wanting to curb an annoying six-year-old's incessant jingling, this year I'm changing my tune.

In other countries, there is no Thanksgiving holiday at the very end of November. They don't have this rule of waiting to celebrate one holiday before another. According to my friend from London, the Christmas season began weeks ago. There is no need to separate one holiday about being thankful from one about expressing gratitude through gifts. It is, after all, the holiday season. Not the Thanksgiving month, the Christmas weeks. I repeat: holiday season.

As a believer in the miracle of Jesus that I celebrate at Christmas, I find myself less and less convinced that I need to contain my joy to just a few weeks. How can there be too much celebration of the coming of the Savior? How can there be a limit to my gratitude? My excitement? My hope? I say there cannot.

Speaking of gratitude, what better reason to "give thanks" than the arrival of a Savior? By opening up the season, you allow for the Christmas Spirit (think: "Holy") to move within more hearts, gently reminding and drawing people to what is coming. And though I generally avoid using cheesy Lifetime movie titles, it really is the ultimate gift, the paramount reason to be grateful.

Just imagine if we were "allowed" to mention the Hope of the world before Thanksgiving.

How much richer would that dinner conversation be?
How much bigger would your Thankful Tree be?
How much more content would you be with a satisfied belly and a satisfied soul?
How much greater would that prayer be?

Now, I understand the desire to keep in check the commercialization of what I believe to be a very special and sacred time of year. There is an incredibly fine line between displaying Christmas spirit and displaying Christmas spirit to make profit off holiday inflation. I'm not suggesting you go out on Thanksgiving to do all your shopping because of the sales.

What I am saying is that there should be nothing wrong or surprising about picking out gifts to give your loved ones in October. In fact, I believe it shows thoughtfulness for the recipient and pragmatism with the resources you have been given. It also allows the proper reverence the Christmas season deserves.

How can you await the Christ if you're waiting in lines?
How can you see the evidence of his coming (and indeed his presence) if all you're looking at are price tags?
How can you hear the whisper of the Advent if the sounds of a busy mall is flooding your ears?

By not limiting Christmas to three weeks, you open up your time to give all the attention to the reason we as Christians claim to be celebrating in the first place.

How can you limit the hope that comes with anticipation?
How can you delay the love that comes with the arrival of the King?
How can you restrict the joy that comes with knowing all will soon be right?
How can you control the peace that comes with knowing it already is because He has already come?

It's no secret that Christmas music is one of my favorite parts of the season. All the beautiful hymns beckoning baby Jesus; extolling his birth; celebrating a new dawn, a new hope; they all move my heart towards love and joy. Not just lead it, but flood it. I can hardly listen to the sweet words of a Christmas hymn without getting teary-eyed or becoming overwhelmed with the urge to dance.

"He's coming! He's here! It's all happening!!" The prophecy fulfillment, the anticipation of what's coming next, the joy of new life. It's all held in these musical poems. Bonus: music is an easy way of sharing that excitement with others! There is something beautiful that happens when you're standing with your family, friends, framily, or strangers all singing the same hope, the same joy, the same peace. It unites people deeply, connecting their souls together by knowing the baby Savior is for all of them.

Christmas is coming; there is no denying this. Why deny anyone the privilege of rejoicing?

"o come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."

"chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother
and in His name, all oppression shall cease.
sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
with all our hearts we praise His holy name."

In gratitude, praise His name.

And, for goodness sake, turn on your Christmas music.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Remind Me

Remind me that I love school.

I know, I know. I just told you all about how much I really do love it. And you choked it down in support, even though you might hate it. Most normal people do.

Sometimes though, I'm gonna need your help. Just tell me that this is what I want. And that I'm close to finishing (even if it's not true; make me believe it). And that those "A"s are going to feel so damn good.

Remind me when:

  • My butt is sore from sitting in the same chair for five hours.
  • I have to make decisions between sleeping and showering. I'm gonna tell you right now that sleeping wins 100% of the time.
  • I have to say no to movie night.
  • I have to say no to movie night and it's a Harry Potter marathon on ABC.
  • My stomach has known nothing but iced tea and pastries for three days.
  • There is nothing left but a granola bar and a prayer for a "feeding of the 5,000" repeat.
  • There's a new episode of SNL waiting in my Hulu queue.
  • Videos of Jimmy and Justin are all over the internets.
  • I just got a stack of books from the used bookstore that are begging to be opened.
  • The difference between getting the grade I'm getting and the one I'm capable of is a couple more hours of studying.
Remind me on nights like tonight.

Thank you, Jesus, for "Classical for Studying" on Pandora; I'd be even less focused without it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Go Hornets

There comes a point in everyone's life when you have to ask yourself who you are, what you want, and what you're willing to do get it.

I have reached that point.

I am a learner. I adore libraries and used bookstores, I can get lost in the pages of anything from teen fiction to classic literature, and I get my thrills by sitting second-row on the first day of class. Sure, I gripe about how sore my butt is from library chairs, and wonder when the last time I slept/ate/showered/saw the sun was, but there's no denying that I was made with a love of learning and a love of reading.

For years, I tried to ignore this part of me. It simply wasn't enough. I explained away my insatiable thirst for reading as a hobby, a nuance, some comfort blanket I'd been dragging around since I was four. But I had grander plans for my life. Many of you have heard me talk about these: live in a hut in Africa; work in international relations; do youth ministry; be an au pair overseas; become a nutrition educator. And then some.

Yeah, I know. Pipe dreams.

I waited and waited for things to start happening, for things to feel right. For years, I waited. And wondered...

Now I realize that the problem wasn't in the goals. They were all beautiful dreams that I held for a moment in time. They just weren't true to who the Creator made me to be. Even then, deep down, I knew with each of them that I was forcing something on myself. And as each one fell away, I was one step closer to determining my reality. I came to realize that all I want to do is learn.

I just want to learn.

I want to spend my time immersed in literature and textbooks, deciphering language and critically reading a text to determine meaning and intention that often goes overlooked. I can create an office stacked with books that smell like posterity. I imagine piles of papers filled with brainstorming explosions, and folders on my laptop with the beginnings of my first book. On the wall, in a very collegiate-looking frame, I see a thick piece of paper with my name and "Bachelor's of Arts in English," embossed in gold (and I wouldn't be opposed to something including the word "laude"). And next to that? One that says "Master of Arts." Eighteen to thirty-year-olds will call me "Professor," and I might wear a blazer.

And hopefully, I will be able to encourage and bless students the way professors have encouraged and blessed me on my journey. Because it's been long and hard and pretty unclear. But as I've sat in an office with an instructor who is brilliant, passionate, and rational, and been told that I'm doing well, or that I'm one of the strongest students in the class, and that I have the potential to make it all the way, it has given me assurance that I am capable, diligent, and worthy.

And that the dream can live on. Which is good, because,

I will do whatever it takes. As terrified as I may be (which, honestly, is a fair amount), I'm ready to start living like I actually want my dream. No more excuses, no more half-time student, no more waiting for things to happen. It's time to make things happen.

I struggled with the decision of how to get what I want for quite a while. The pro/con lists for colleges were long and detailed, including everything from how hot it is in summer to how good the sushi is to who would live within an hour's drive to what sort of movies come to the theaters. Gas prices to Trader Joe's. O.P.I "buy one, get one free" to froyo. Airports to "will I have to be more than a fifteen minute drive from Target?"

This is real, kids.

Then one day, I was talking to my wonderful cousin. I was expressing how difficult I was finding it make a choice; one way or the other, something and someone was going to have to give. And I just couldn't make myself choose.

Then she asked me one simple question: What do you want? And just like that, it hit me: If I was going to be certain of what I wanted (which I finally was), then nothing else mattered except getting it. Not the froyo, not the beach, not the weather. Not even the people.

The only thing that matters, is the dream. And self-awareness and a dream of gold mean nothing if you're unwilling to do the hard things necessary to get there.

So I made a decision. I chose the program and the learning environment that I thought was best suited for me and my ambitions, and I signed an "Intent to Enroll."

At California State University of Sacramento.

Just like the Anti-Federalists after the ratification of the Constitution in 1789, I am treating this decision as if it had been my first choice all along. I am excited and nervous and terrified and happy and anxious and proud and I can't wait for September 2nd.

I'll be the one in the second row with new notebooks and pencils with a grin as wide as the ocean.

Go Hornets.


Oh, in case you were wondering, BuzzFeed told this:

Which Disney Princess Are You?

  1. You got: Rapunzel

    Witty and outgoing, you have a sense of humor that always keeps people smiling. You are constantly on the look for adventure and don’t settle down easily.



What's your dream? Are you working towards it?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

why i mourn the loss of the wicked

*Disclaimer: this post contains strong language in quotations.*

I cried in class today.

It wasn't an "OMG, I got a B on my paper" sort of cry; or a "I just bombed that speech" kind of cry. It wasn't even a "I have no idea what's being told to me and I'm completely overwhelmed" cry.

It was the cry that comes from a bleeding heart.

My U.S. government class is one of my all-time favorite classes. The material is fascinating, the class is engaging, and the professor is incredible. I've learned more about political science in this class than I have in my entire life. It's usually the highlight of my week.

But today, I took a knife to my heart.

The worst part is that I was blindsided. There I was, swimming in the glories of knowledge, absorbing everything about the judicial bramble I possibly could, processing at a rate I didn't even know was possible. Then a small-group discussion was announced. Okay, not my favorite. Mostly because there's always way too much to talk about and never enough time. But I can dig it.

To preface the discussion, my professor pulls up a slide with a picture of protestors. It didn't take me long to recognize the fluorescent and obscene signs they were holding: it was Westboro Baptist Church. Reflexively, I cringed. The title of the article read something about the protest at a military funeral, and I knew,

This was not going to be fun.

My professor then proceeds to warn us about the intensity of the audio clip he was about to play. It's an auditory article from NPR about the case Snyder v. Phelps. Snyder claimed that the Westboro picketers led by Phelps imparted "intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion, and civil conspiracy."

"I'm struggling with the fact that this guy died a couple days ago, and I want to feel really happy about it." I hadn't heard about Fred Phelps' death until that moment; the moment when my professor revealed the conflict that is inevitable in this situation.

As I sat there, staring at the transcript on my desk, my notebook balancing on it and my crossed legs, I attempted to listen. The back and forth between the justices and the banal opinions of the journalist suddenly became meaningless.

All I could see was tragedy.

The thought of that family, mourning the loss of their son, of whom they were proud for his service, having to see people who expressed that their son was hated by God. People who claimed that they were thankful for dead soldiers. It tore my heart.

And then I thought about those people holding the signs. The same people who have used countless military funerals to protest homosexuality, Islam, the Catholic Church, Jews, Obama, McCain, and other things most of us at least respect. These people who scream with their signs things like:
"God hates fags"
"Fags die, God laughs"
"Pray for more dead soldiers"
"God killed your sons"
"God hates your feelings/tears"
"Thank God for 9/11"
"God hates you"
And then the tears started.

Right there in the second row, my eyes fixed on the chair in front of me, my vision blurring just as it is while I write this.

My heartbreak was two-fold. First, I ached for the victims of this lashing. And then I ached for the ones lost enough to perpetrate it. And for reasons unbeknownst to my delicate heart,

I find that the depth of my grief is greater for those sign holders.

It seems contrary to what your instinct might pull you towards, and it is. Often, when we think of "the least of these," we are considering the ones who are marginalized, outcasted, ignored. We scoop up the trampled on and make our loving attempts at healing each other. We get angry and claim righteousness and point at the bullies, saying, "we would never do that!" And we rage about them to each other in the name of justice: "Can you believe what they did?! That is not the Jesus I worship."

Maybe we're right about the Westboro protestors. (Okay, it's likely we're right). But is that an image of grace?

Whether or not we want to think about it, the blood of Jesus covers their sins too. These rageful, hateful, spiteful people who ooze disdain and condemnation are loved just as much by the Creator of the universe as you and me. And that breaks my heart. Not because it's true, but because they don't know it is. These people have lost sight of, or have been lead away from, the raw truth of the Good News: there is life for everybody. Their idea of what God loves and what he hates is so twisted, that they are missing out on the big, beautiful, communal mess that is the Church.

They are missing out on the glory of the grace of Jesus.

I'd like to think that I can handle the opposition, because I know that Love wins in the end. I have the confidence of victory in Jesus to get me through. These picketers, these people whose fear and discomfort has driven them to rage and hate... they don't have that. They might think they do, but peace doesn't throw punches. Hope doesn't hurt. And love doesn't give lashings.

That's a lostness that I pray I never know.

So yes. Part of me wants to be grateful that someone who perpetuates such horrors to the children of the Most High King is no longer on earth to do that. But I just can't. Because I believe that Fred Phelps left this world without understanding who Jesus is, how the Spirit works, and who, in fact, God loves. *Hint: it's everyone.*

Including Fred.

May you find grace and peace and blessed assurance that the love of Jesus reaches to the ends of the earth, and his blood covers even the ugliest of sins.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Things Keep Getting Caught

In the internets.

What? Two internet catching posts in the same week?!

You're welcome.

For my fellow "baby"'s of the family.

For those of you who wish F.R.I.E.N.D.S. could have lasted just one more episode to see Monica and Chandler as parents.

For all you 20-somethings.

For when you want to spend twenty minutes laughing at actors being real people.

I've spent way too much time watching interviews tonight so I can feel like the moment I've been waiting a year and a half for didn't just fly by in an all-too-quick instant.


So... have you seen Catching Fire yet?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Catching Fire Premiere

You guys. I can't even... I don't... It...

INCREDIBLE.

And that's all I'm gonna say on that. At least for tonight.

Thankful for:

  • quiz scores
  • water bottles
  • cough drops
  • my sissie and new brother joining me at the movies
  • 8 o'clock premieres (i'm such a grandma)
  • excellent cinematographers
  • brilliant screenwriters
  • genius special effects... people...
  • being feverless
  • Finnick
WHAT?! I couldn't resist. I JUST.... I... AAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

But more on that later. ;)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All the Single Ladies! (and gentlemen)

Just finished watching a message by Andy Stanley for singles. Things to do in your singlehood that will only get harder once you're married. It was definitely a challenge!

But you should all watch it. There's even an option to listen, for those of you who exercise and listen to podcasts.

Today I'm thankful for:

  • brand new glasses!
  • the completion of homework
  • salt and vinegar chips
  • blue pens
  • cinnamon oil
  • windshield wipers
  • paper towels
  • printers
  • quiet library corners
  • knock knock jokes
So, what'd you think?