Friday, December 31, 2004

Through Ice, Snow, and Life Storm.

No, Vacation hasn't killed me just yet. It's managed to kill our internet access however, so I'm typing furiously at the radio station while my dad waits patiently for me. Actually rather impatiently so I better go quick. I am doing well and managing to plow my way through all my belongings and attempt to throw out, repack, and reminisce. I better run but I'll be back soon. We've had several inches of ice and snow the last 24 hours. Not fun but we're still alive.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Unspeakable Joy

For those of you still wondering, yes I did make it through finals week alive. I even passed all my finals and classes! In fact I got a 96% on my logic final, a 98% on my counseling final, and a 95% on my Biblical Foundations of Ministry final. Those are the big ones, the other 3 I did fine on and my photography final I passed with flying colors as well.
For the overall grades, well I got 4 A's and 3 B's. There were a couple pluses and minuses in there, but overall that's what they were. I was very content with those grades.

And so I'm home, safe and sound. The trip to Alec had to be post-poned due to car issues, but nevertheless I'm home. So far I've gotten in some good sleep, some good baby holding time, as well as had some dental work done. Yeah, I don't feel like talking about that one.

I've also found the Christmas "joy" I was looking for. Thursday night while still at school, a bunch of us went out caroling around the neighborhood and gave every house we sang at a tract. It was a pretty cold night, but the last house we stopped at left a memory in my heart. A lady came to the door and was soon followed by her husband holding their adorable little boy. The little boy couldn't have been more than 2 if that even. As they stood on their porch listening to us sing they kept looking at the little boy's face. I couldn't help but think that this must have been one of the first times he had ever seen car0lers. As I watched him stare with big eyes at us as his parents kept smiling over his amazement, I realized that I had found it. I had found the wide-eyed amazement joy that I had been searching for. In this little boy's face was the joy of Christmas. It's not about feelings, but about true amazement and joy over what the season is about. Jesus Christ was born, but the only faces that held amazement were of his parent, some shephards, a few stray animals, maybe a few other random folks. Yet the angels proclaimed on of their greatest messages that night, one that we should still proclaim today:

"Glory to God in the Highest!"

May you give the glory to God for the joy of Christmas.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Where Is Your Christmas?

Tonight is a mixture of stuff. I won't explain it since I don't even know what it is. However I do know that God is good, and His mercies ARE new every morning. And every moment I think as well. He has provided me with joy beyond comprehension that last few days. And even this evening as I feel a little down, I know I have joy in the Lord if I will only trust in Him. So I'm off the Christmas concert and play here this evening. It's a huge event that happens tonight and tomorrow evening. It would seem that the whole town shows up for it. Half of the campus must be involved in either the choir, the drama, the handbells, the orchestra, etc... I'm not involved, which causes some mixed emotions. But tonight I hope to be seated next to a good friend and simply let it impact me.
I'll leave you with a great thought that I received today. Find Christmas in the right place tonight. What will you do with Jesus?

"He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

In Search Of The Christmas Spirit

Lord willing 2 weeks from today I will be done with finals and visiting friends in Alex. On this beautiful Saturday, I find myself in the library working on yearbook pages and realizing how horrible I've been at writing. In past writing has been my way to express what is going through my mind and heart and therefore work through it. In the past couple of weeks, I've felt the responsibility to keep you up to date, and therefore have not taken the time to sort through my thoughts and write them down.

So for today, perhaps something a little deeper for your reading adventure.

I find myself lacking in the Christmas Spirit this year. If you know me at all you know that I absolutely love Christmas and almost everything about it. I love everything from the twinkle lights to the giving of gifts. I love to give gifts and love the thoughtfulness behind them. My family and good friends will tell you that in the receiving of gifts I would much rather get one very thought out gift versus 5 "oh I saw this and it looked cute" gifts. But most of all, I love to give gifts. It's only 21 days (3 weeks) before Christmas and I have yet to get in the mood. I brought back tons of decorations for our room with me and yet I haven't found the energy to put them up. I could blame my lack of Christmas Spirit on the lack of snow, the fact that I'm not out where there are tons of Christmas celebrations going on, I have no approved Christmas music to listen to, I have no Christmas Party to attend, etc... However, I won't. Those are negative things, which I choose not to dwell on. Part of me does think that once even more decorations get put up, or even that I simply do something Christmassy that I would feel better.

Today as I pondered this over, I realized that Christmas is a time of feelings. We feel good when we receive a gift from someone special, we feel warm and fuzzy curled up by the fire, we feel hungry as we smell sugar cookies baking, we feel extra close to God during Christmas services and scripture readings, we feel deep when we choose to look beyond the hype and remember Jesus in a manger, and we feel all the time. Feelings are not wrong, they are a gift from God, but when we choose to let our feelings take over, we're in trouble. I think that's what I've been doing.

I've felt at such a loss for the Christmas Spirit and those normal feelings I have that I've missed the deeper things. This is truly a time given to us to remember and ponder the birth of Jesus Christ. Whenever the Christmas story is read, I tend to not focus on the important big things, but the little minute details. I wonder how scared a young teenage Mary was being so pregnant and uncomfortable and realizing that there was no place to stay. I wonder how inadequate Joseph felt as he seemingly failed to provide for young Mary. I wonder how busy and hectic it really was in Bethlehem that night, and how much of the outside noise came into that "stable" (cave) even above Mary's screams.

I have learned to look beyond our nice nativity scenes and wonder about the real events. I have not doubt that Mary experience great pain while giving birth. I imagine the hay was uncomfortable and the stable smelled horrible. I imagine the shepherds smelled bad and woke up a very exhausted young mother. I imagine Jesus screamed and cried just as babies do as they come into the world. I also imagine what Mary was thinking as she looked into the eyes of her baby. I think she felt the overwhelming feeling of love for this baby mixed with the confusion of knowing this baby was God's son. As the day-to-day tasks of raising a child and feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility started, how could Mary handle knowing she was raising God's son, not just a little boy of her body and heart? Then I look forward to the cross and imagine the extreme pain she felt as a mother watching her son die a cruel death. Yes, she knew he was God, but she was his mother and he was dieing.

The Christmas song "Mary did you know?" used to bother me. As a child, I used to think that of course Mary knew that he was God; the angel had told her so. Now I realize there was no way she would know all that would happen. Perhaps she held the normal Jewish view that the Messiah would be a military ruler who would free the Jews forever. Perhaps not. Perhaps God blessed her with knowledge somewhere in her heart that all this is what was supposed to happen. Perhaps she simply had such a great faith in God that she trusted Him no matter what. I imagine it was a little of all of these. What I do know is that God chose Mary out of an entire world of women to bear His son. She was young, a teenager most likely. Yet her faith in God stood out like a shining light to God and the world to come. She was special, she was chosen, and yet she was in some respects and ordinary girl.

So today as I "seek" the Christmas Spirit, I pray that I would be found worthy like that young mother. While circumstances are different, I pray that I would find favor with God. What an unspeakable honor to be told by an angel that you highly favored and have found favor with God. Yet Mary's response convicts me as well, she responds, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." She was in some way aware of the shame of being pregnant and not married that would follow, and of some of the trials, and yet she responds Let it be so.

Today I pray that as each day comes I would be humble as the maidservant of the Lord, and willing to go through whatever God sees fit. Oh to find favor with the Lord. I seek that Christmas Spirit today.