Saturday, December 27, 2014

7 quick takes: Christmas week photo diary

Friends, I'm still blogging my heart out with daybook posts for Advent and Christmas.  See the Christmas daybook posts here.

--- 1 --- 
Too sick to go in to work.  Really, who wants to sit next to someone coughing and sneezing all day?  The median age of my fellow employee is 16 years younger than me and I've noticed they come to work when they're coughing and sneezing and they seem fine with that.  Which, I suspect, is how I ended up sick at Christmas time.  So they all got to enjoy the company party and I stayed home.  Waaah.  Feels like when I was in first grade and had to miss the Christmas program (or was it spring program?) because I had tonsilitis.  

Still, they sent cards and pictures so that was sweet.  If you're the sort of person who has time to watch YouTube year-end reviews of other people's work places, this one is kind of fun: Lin 2014 Reflection

--- 2 --- 
This morning I got all crunchy and tried a homemade sinus remedy.  Then I needed a nausea and vomiting remedy to counteract the sinus remedy.  I'm flunking homeopathy.  Later in the evening I felt well enough to go to the pet store to find the tiny turtle my daughter is obsessively requesting for Christmas.  She's had a rough autumn so my heart was soft to her desire.  No turtles anywhere in the pet store.  Then I asked the employee cleaning out a fish tank where I might find a tiny turtle.  Turns out that's an actual name people use and means a turtle 4 inches or smaller.  As my motherly luck would have it, the great state of Texas has made it illegal to sell tiny turtles.  True confession:  thank God for Texas law.  Turtles are stinky -- everyone has told us that for the last 23 years whenever one of our children has requested one. And small turtles which are legal in Texas grow up to be stinky, dirty, big turtles.  Sorry, Natalie.  

--- 3 --- 
Home sick, still.  Gathered enough energy to walk with Brian to the neighborhood park for the 5:30 memorial for an elderly couple from our neighborhood, murdered in their homes last Monday night.  There is no news on a suspect or motive or anything but the neighbors felt the need to get together and remember the couple.  Of course, Brian and I never met them, but from the stories shared we feel like we do.  They were 83 and 85 years old -- right about the same age as my grandparents.  Lifelong members of the neighborhood Baptist church.  Salt of the earth types.  Who knows what drives these sorts of tragedies?  Their pastor did a great job welcoming the community and praying comfort over us.  I was grateful that he included a prayer for justice to be done.  Then the neighbors lit the luminarias that they've been lighting for 20 years and we walked back the candle-lit path to our house.  Someone handed us a rose on our way out of the park and we left it on our front gate.

Lo, how a rose...

--- 4 --- 

A lovely day off to finish up the things I'd like to complete by Christmas Eve -- a few cards, a few more handmade gifts, a few more gifts to purchase (!).  Also, for the first time ever I started my Christmas baking before Christmas Eve.  In the morning, Natalie brought a friend over for a couple of hours.  Let me tell you, I am a complete sap for any child who enjoys playing with the toys, games and books my own children used to play with.  It's also so fun that Natalie and Gracie only live a block away from each other.  I'm thinking Gracie's parents are happy about that, too.

Also, see that perfectly lovely and cosy crocheted blanket?
 Kendra is making that and I am trying to convince her to give it to me.

--- 5 --- 

Well enough to go back to the office today, thankfully. Me and like 2 1/2 other people.  I'm low man on the seniority roster and so grateful for this job, I don't mind.  My co-worker and I shared a tin of the homemade Chex mix I brought with me and a few jokes here and there.  Mostly, though, we got our work done and got the heck outta there.

Brian spent pretty much the entire day driving all over Austin finishing up all the last minute tasks for Christmas Eve at Christ Church and at the Murphy house.  He and Alex also squeezed in a quick run west to pick up a beautiful and CHEAP dining room table I found on craigslist.  I've been wanting a table that seats 8 and found it in our price range two days before Christmas.  Merry Christmas to me!

Natalie had more sweet friends over today to decorate cookies.  They broke in my new table before I even got to see it.  Thankfully it's a table that's already been marked up by good use so when I saw this photo from the office I wasn't even concerned. (Well, maybe the tiniest bit concerned, but who can deny the beauty of those cookie decorators?!?)

Brian swept me away from work at 5 and we left the kids to fend for their own dinner while we partook of some pre-Christmas cheer at the friendly Black Star Co-Op Pub. A perfect kickoff for the feasting to come.

Ran with the radical new idea to bake before Christmas Eve because I actually had some interest in helping this year. Mostly, it was the kind Rebekah who recruited my children to help her help me.  What a difference in the time it took me to make this multi-generational family treat:  Peanut Butter Balls (aka, Buckeyes, which is a far more respectable name but a departure from the family lexicon, thus we remain with the prosaic description of the small spheres of peanut butter dipped in a candy chocolate coating).

--- 6 --- 

Wednesday (Christmas Eve) 
Pondering all these things in my heart:

baking while listening to the Christmas Eve Spotify playlist I share with Momma across 1,700 miles, Brian setting up for the Christmas Eve children's pageant and services, Lessons and Carols live streaming from King's Cambridge with Alex, listening to my four kids laugh together while wrapping presents in the living room, mandolin and strings and poinsettias and candles and sparkling wine and new pajamas and midnight quiet. 

--- 7 --- 
Thursday (Christmas Day):
In the spirit of storing up and pondering in my own heart I took very few photos.  We all agreed that -- for a variety of reasons -- this has been our best Christmas season for several years.  We loved going back to New York on Christmas Day last year.  Being able to actually say "I'll be home for Christmas" adds it's own sort of magic to the season.  Magic, but not much rest.  We also trade off gifts for travel and, honestly, we all really like both the giving and receiving of gifts.  The generosity of our dear church made it possible for us to bless the children a little bit more than we've been able to do for several years.  There is a fine discipline to the balance of enjoying the substance of gifting while avoiding the blitz of consumerism. Our dear, grown-up children worked together to pick out a shower of beautiful, perfectly-chosen gifts for Brian and me.  And, yes, just knowing they worked together on this and sacrificed their hard-earned money was enough to make me cry reading each witty gift tag.  But, getting presents doesn't suck either.  I thoroughly enjoyed each moment.

After presents and naps and a hearty feast, we took a walk up the luminaria trail in our neighborhood.  The men puffed cigars and pipes, a few of us (to remain nameless) carried mugs of Christmas spirits, we watched the stars and the moon and laughed at the dog.  This is another sort of contentment I'm growing in -- the ability to embrace the warm winter weather in Austin at the holidays.  After the walk, we sat in our front yard and chatted under the twinkle lights of our tree.  We made up some lost ground in tracking with our children's lives.  We played fetch with the dog.  We threw bags of cookies at the neighbors who walked by.

I feel like this Christmas -- during an Advent of so much pain for those we love and so much exhaustion for us-- we followed the invitation to "come in and know me better, man".  

May God bless us, everyone.

--- Other good words online this week ---

"We can embrace the simple pleasures of Christmas by recalling Aquinas’s distinction between two kinds of joy. There is the joy of rejoicing in the Lord which perfects us, and there is also a kind of participated joy when we rejoice in lesser goods. Think of the first smile of an infant dawning before us, or even that cup of coffee that awakens us. Thomas thinks these participated joys are real too—because we are rejoicing in something which God has made good. "

Christmas Daybook at This Sacramental Life- Like I said, I'm blogging my heart out and it means so much to hear that others are enjoying the series, too. Also, were you aware that the Scripture links take you to a page that lets you listen to the passages read?  Well, I wasn't.  Until this past week.  See for yourself!  Here's Scripture passages from one of the days in Advent:  Psalm 89:1-4 & 2 Samuel 6:12-19  Click the little speaker icon to the right of the reference and you can listen!

But the greatest of these is love (part 2) a Caringbridge post by our friend Les Aylesworth: 
"Rage, God loves you! Cry, God loves you! Grieve, God loves you!"
In Februrary 2014 Renee Aylesworth, a 38-year-old mother of 5 and friend of ours from our former church in New York, suffered a major stroke that left her unable to speak or move her right side. Les has done an amazing job sharing his journey with us through his regular Caringbridge posts.  This post written the week before Christmas speaks plainly the paradox of pain Christmas brings. 

"Serenading the Cattle": an outtake from today's Christmas daybook post about shepherds out in the field.  I love this so, so much.  Be patient as you watch -- it's totally worth it. (thanks to my son Alex for sharing it with me!)

Hoping for a mysteriously joyful week for us all, friends.


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