Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Celebrating Christmas

There was a very real chance that I was not going to be able to make it home for Christmas this year. The storm around my parents' was big and bad, and it started on Tuesday. I didn't get off work until Wednesday afternoon, and wasn't sure that the roads were going to allow traffic. That left me with a question. What on earth could I do to celebrate Christmas if I had to go it alone? I made a grocery list of some good food that I could have on hand, and I picked up some books and movies. It was a start, but this was Christmas. What was I going to do to truly celebrate?

Finally, I realized that Mass was the answer. That was the one place that I could go to live Christmas most closely. I don't know why that never occurred to me before. I've always thought of the ways that it makes Calvary present. I had never thought of the way that it makes Bethlehem present.

Bethlehem means "House of Bread". The word "manger" comes from a root word meaning "chewed". In John 6, Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life, His flesh is true food, and tells us that we will have to eat ("gnaw on") His flesh.

I also love how it plays in with John 1:1-18. That was the Gospel for the Mass on Christmas morning. Crazy, huh? Not the story of Jesus' birth from Matthew or Luke, but John's more poetical take on the Incarnation. "The Word became flesh and dwelled among us." I love what that says about Jesus' life on earth 2000 years ago. I also love what that says about the Mass today. I've talked before about a chapel that used those words in a great way. On the ambo (or pulpit), they wrote "the Word". On the altar: "was made flesh", and over the tabernacle was written, "and dwelt among us." Awesome! And also the way that the words of John literally come to life in every Mass.

By this point I knew that even if I didn't get to see my parents, I would be sad, but at least I would get to participate in an eternal mystery, one that encompassed Bethlehem and Calvary and the whole purpose of Christ's life on earth: communion with Him. I couldn't wait!

The irony of it all is that I made it for Christmas with my family, but we got snowed in and couldn't get to Mass. I was kind of sad about that, but I'm here to tell you that getting snowed in with the fam is also a pretty great way to celebrate Christmas.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bud

My parents live on an acreage. Over the years, they've had a few sheep, dogs (only one at a time), chickens off and on, and farm cats. Here is a conversation that took place over Christmas.

My sister: "Well, watered the sheep and the calf."
Me: "Umm, you said 'cats', right?"

No, she said calf. My parents have a cow. Actually, it's a steer, so definitely not a cow, but it's all the same in my head. Apparently they've had it since June, and somehow this is the first I've heard of it. I was even home over Thanksgiving, and still did not know this. There is only one reason to have a steer around, and that is why my parents have it. It's name is Bud.

Later, when we were tired enough of the house that we were out wandering around in hip-high drifts and blowing snow, the two sheep and the calf wandered out into the pasture area. Then the sheep left and the steer went running after them. Then we had this conversation:

Me: "Does that cow think it's a sheep? It's following like one."
A different sister (in a very matter of fact tone): "No, it's not following them. It's chasing them. It likes to do that."

Seriously? Maybe I've been away from the country too long, because my family doesn't think it's weird at all to have a sheep-chasing calf named Bud that they're raising for beef.

Not going to lie. As great as it was to see my family, I'm glad to be back in my "city", small and sleepy though it may be, complete with internet access, water pressure, and food that comes from the grocery store.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'll Give You a White Christmas!

Everyone who goes around singing sentimental nonsense about how they want sparkly snow for Christmas deserves any and all rotten tomatoes launched in their direction.

Then again, I love a white Christmas!

I have to admit that I have a very schizophrenic view of all the snow. On the one hand, I love it; it's so pretty and so much fun. On the other hand, I hate it. It gets in the way, changes plans, and generally makes things more difficult.

I made it to my parents' Wednesday night. The roads were not fantastic and the ice added 40 minutes to my 2 hour drive, but I made it, and that's the important part. The ice on the trees is so pretty and so dangerous. There was one house in particular on my drive up. The Christmas lights were reflecting off the ice on the trees, and it was pretty amazing. It's also fun to watch the strange dance of icy trees when the wind blows. On the other hand, it's not so good when all the branches start breaking. An inch of ice will do that to you! Part of our entertainment for the weekend was pressing our faces to the glass to watch for the next limb to fall. Okay, maybe we weren't that bad, but they did fall frequently enough that we watched some of them fall, followed by a shower of ice shards and twigs.

The ice lasted through most of the afternoon on Thursday before it switched to snow. At noon we were still planning to try to make it to Christmas Eve Mass. By 3 we knew it wasn't going to be possible. The weather and roads were bad and getting worse. Nor did we make it Christmas morning. By then, not only were the roads treacherous, but we couldn't get out of my parents' lane anyway. I hated not going to Mass at Christmas, but I have to admit that we had a blast being snowed in together. We couldn't get out until Saturday until about 3 when a friend of my parents' came with his skid loader. God bless him! I needed to get back to get some things done that I hadn't been able to do since I had to leave early on Wednesday.

I don't know how much snow they had, but it was a lot. It was crazy, and not a Christmas that we'll forget any time soon!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Him

The baby, born in Bethlehem (which means House of Bread).
The man, the bread of life for all.

The baby, laid in a manger.
The man, nailed to the cross, giving us His flesh as food.

The baby, searched out by wise men.
The man, searching out the lost and the sinners.

The baby, offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The man, offering gifts of grace without measure.

The baby, made known to the shepherds.
The man, the true Shepherd of His people.

The baby, presented in the temple for purification according to the law of Moses, which was written on stone.
The man, presented on the cross for the purification of the human race, according to the new law, which is written on men's hearts.

The baby, feared by kings.
The man, the King of kings.

Him.

The Beloved of my heart.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Right Thing at the Right Moment

One of the things that never fails to get to me when I'm alone too long or burnt out by work is all of the mistakes that I make, whether in sinning or agonizing over what magic bullet I'm missing to cure all my patients.

The other night was one of those nights that I could not let things go before going to bed. Some little impulse had me pick up a booklet by my bed. It's the Counsels of St. Francis de Sales. I'm thinking it was a divine nudge, because this is what I read:

Patience

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself; I mean, don't be disturbed about your imperfections, and always have the courage to pick yourself up after a fall. I'm very glad to hear that you make a fresh start each day. There is no better way of growing toward perfection in the spiritual life than to be always starting again and never thinking that we have done enough.

But most important, don't lose heart, be patient, wait, do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion. I have no doubt that God is holding you by the hand; if he allows you to stumble, it is only to let you know that if he were not holding your hand, you would fall. This is how he gets you to take tighter hold of his hand.

Where'd All the Joy Go?

Once when my dad was just a little guy, he and the family went on a shopping trip somewhere. While they were out, my grandparents bought him some little plastic cowboys and indians. (Yeah, yeah, I know that's not politically correct, but this was the late 50's, and PC didn't exist yet.) When they got home, my grandparents noticed he no longer had the toys and asked him what happened. In a matter of fact way, he told them that he had thrown the toys out the car window. When asked why, he explained that he had finished playing with them!

That story cracks me up, and you should hear my dad tell it. Even now, his tone of voice implies the immanent reasonableness of his explanation.

Given that I have no smooth segues, I'm just going to jump in to the rest of the post. Despite writing (and meaning) posts about the joyfulness of the season, this is also a time of year that has become more and more of a struggle for me. Part of it is due to the craziness of trying to see all the patients that we have with fewer days and fewer therapists than what we normally have. One week with a holiday is a little crazy. Two weeks in a row is bananas. Hence, I have not enjoyed the holiday quite as much as I used to, though I still love it (especially Christmas day itself).

Then there is the fact that this is the time of the year that I have the most time alone. Normally I have a lot of different things that I'm going to throughout the week, but a lot of those get suspended for the holidays. My friends are trying to see families and in-laws, so they're all busy. I have to work, so I don't get to get out and travel far to see my own family, except on Christmas itself. Too much time in the evenings to think + lack of perspective from spending too much time alone + extra pressure from work+ a melancholic temperament= a weird state of mind. I end up obsessing over little things and working them into big huge things. Or else I wrap myself in a blanket of self pity and sip my hot drink of bitterness. I wish I was a stronger person than that, but there you have the unvarnished, sordid truth.

That was especially the case last year, so this year I approach the holidays with a combination of anticipation and trepidation. I think for a number of reasons that this year will be a lot better than last year, but let's just say that I've been seeing some of the empty half of the glass in the last couple of days, more out of fear that it will be like last year rather than any real things to be upset about.

Then the other day I read this post. It talked about not letting things steal our joy.

Steal my joy?

No one has been stealing it. I've been chucking it out the car window like I have no further use for it. I might dabble in joy if all the conditions are right, but once something comes up that challenges it a little I decide I'm done playing with joy and have no further use for it.

Joy doesn't mean the problems go away. Joy means choosing to celebrate the good. Even the problems can be a cause for joy. My friend found some great words about that, which she wrote about here.

I am joyful that Jesus became a man, eventually dying so that we might live.
I am joyful for a wonderful family that I will get to see for several days over the weekend.
I am joyful for friends that are so great that I miss them even if it's only been a couple of weeks since I saw them last. (Okay, "only" a couple of weeks isn't really right... a couple of weeks is a really long time!)
I am joyful that I have a job to get stressed about.
I am joyful that Jesus, who knows the full extent of my weirdness during my alone time, loves me all the more in that time.
I am joyful that I'll get to see a good friend of mine tomorrow that lives too many states away and who I don't get to see near often enough.
I am joyful for some good books to read and some good movies/tv shows to watch.
I am joyful for blogging, and the way that it keeps things from bottling up inside.
I am joyful for fun family traditions, like watching A Christmas Carol.
I'm joyful for the healing God worked in my heart last year even though it wasn't fun.
Even if (and this is a small chance, but the forecast does have some chances for bad weather) I were to get stranded at home instead of my parents', I am joyful that I have a warm home with plenty of comforts.

Let's not be silly. It's not that I will live this perfectly. I've got too much of an ingrained habit of looking at the negative. But at least I have a list of things. If I'm going to obsess in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try to obsess over that list instead of the negative. I'll let you know how it goes! :)

Note: I was just proofreading and noticed that I had used the word "hence". Seriously! Who uses that word?? I was going to take it out, but I figured if you were going to take the time to read my blog, you should know just how much of a nerd I really am!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hilarious!

I'm a nerd that has read (and even enjoyed) some Shakespeare.  I also love kids.  This is my favorite thing for the day!  Maybe the week! 


Wish Me Luck

I am not one of those fantastically organized people that has all my Christmas shopping done by the end of October.  Or by the end of November.  Or even started by the 17th of December.

It shouldn't be too bad.  I hope.  I have to get a new TV for my parents.  All of us siblings are getting together to get one.  Their current TV situation is bordering on ridiculous.  Their old TV has some seriously wonky color going on.  My sister tried to adjust it the other day, and it won't do anything.  It's also really dark when you try to watch movies.  My dad knows that it has issues, but he thinks it's still workable.  Of course, he mostly watches sports.  Brighter lit, and you're not staring at tomato colored skin tones because you're watching the action.  My mom usually only watches movies, though. Tomato-people are a little more distracting in that case.

She got to the point that she couldn't handle the color anymore, so when she found a TV at a garage sale, she jumped at the chance to buy it.  This was not the best though out decision if you ask me.  The reason is that this sucker is HUGE.  It's one of those old floor models with wood trim that doubles as a table.  It's really ridiculous.  And it's so old that you can't count on it lasting real long.  Then what do you do with it?  At this point dad is settling for the first TV, even though the remote no longer works and the on and off doesn't always work the first time.  Mom is settling for the other TV.  I don't think they're saving for a new TV right now, because they have a stopgap for the time being.  I'm really excited to get them the real thing.  I know a TV is not the most important thing in the world, but it's still nice to have.

Now I just have to find the thing while fighting the other shoppers that are also waiting until the last few minutes to shop!

On a related note, does anyone do stocking stuffers?  We used to do that when I was little and I loved it.  I don't think we've done it any time when my younger siblings remember it.  I want to get some stuff and do it for them (and the rest of us), but I don't want to break the bank.  I have to buy stuff for six if I do it.  For part of it, I'm going to give away some used stuff that I have already that they might like.  I'm also going to get some candy and nuts.  Any other ideas?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gaudete Sunday!

Anyone else love Gaudete Sunday?  Yes, I realize that it's Tuesday, and almost the end of Tuesday at that.  Still, we can celebrate the pink all week long.  The third Sunday in Advent has some of the best readings of the year.  "Gaudete" means "rejoice", and it's hard not to if you listen to the readings.

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your hearts, O daughter Jerusalem!"

Zephaniah's talking to us, people! God sees us as the cherished daughter that He is coming to save.

"The Lord has removed the judgment against you,
He has turned away your enemies."

Think of it!  He has saved us from ourselves and from any others that may try to harm us.

"The King of Israel, the Lord, is in you midst.
You have no further misfortune to fear."

I always forget this.  I always forget that no matter what I'm going through at the moment that God is right there in the midst of it.  He is the King and will rule over it all in the end.  It can't conquer me, because it can't conquer Him.

"On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!"

And how our papa, JPII, reminded us of that!  That, I think, more than anything else is what strikes me as a huge difference between those I call "the JPII generation", and those who are not.  While we all have our moments of fear and discouragement, we have been brought up to realize that we need not fear.  We can rejoice, because:

"The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you with his love.
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals."

I love it! And so I say to you:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!"

Happy Gaudete Sunday (and rest of the pink week).


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Weather and I Are in a Fight

Mmmkay.  One snow day is good, fun even.  But that'll do it for a while, thanks.  Today was a planned day off.  The year is running out, I still have a ton of PTO, and I had to work a wrestling tournament Saturday.  That made today a great day to take off.

Let's side track to wrestling for a moment.  Wrestling is not a sport that I grew up knowing anything about.  I don't understand it, and therefore have no appreciation for it.  I remember when I was a new grad and had to cover my first wrestling meet.  No clinical instructor to fall back on if I got in a bind.  Just me.  I never covered a wrestling meet in college.  I worked with the wrestlers for a couple of weeks, but they had no home meets, so I had never actually watched a meet before.

I was lost.  No clue as to what was going on.  No idea what the scoring looked like, no idea how the meet was run.  I didn't know what a pin was, and didn't know when it would be over.  Nothing.  One of the first few matches, I watched in dismay as one kid strained until his face turned purple.  A parent, shouting to the other kid, said "You got him!  Keep going, he's getting tired!"  And I thought, "Tired?  This kid's about to pass out!  Are these people crazy?" The highlight of that meet was another match as one kid put another kid's neck in some kind of weird hold.  I thought to myself "I'm no expert, but that can't be good for his neck.... OH CRAP!! I am supposed to be the expert here! Stop that you kids! Stop wrestling right now before one of you pops an arm or a head off!!"

Of course, no one paid any attention to me because I managed to keep my mouth shut and pretend. Fake it until you make it.  My motto to live by those first 6 months.

I've been working four years now, and I noticed Saturday that some things have changed since that first meet:

1) While my grasp of wrestling is still very fuzzy, I at least have some idea of what's going on through the course of the event, and the scoring is not a complete mystery anymore (only half mysterious).
2) I may not qualify as an expert still, but I do feel comfortable and confident to take care of injuries that may come up.  I no longer silently beg people not to get hurt for fear I'll have to figure out what to do with them.  Though I still don't want anyone to get hurt.
3) My hands have gotten bigger in the last four years.  Medium gloves used to fit great, but now they're tight.  Of all the places to have muscles, hands are not the sexiest of places for them.
4) Because my comfort level has improved and I now have a vague understanding of the sport, I don't dislike it as intensely as I once did.

I'm not sure I'll ever fully like it, though.  There are some things that don't change:

1) Guys in singlets grabbing at each other.
2) Skin diseases.
3) Cauliflower ear. (Don't click if you can't handle it!)
4) Bloody noses, bloody lips, bloody faces... you get the idea.
5) I still don't like the way they pull shoulders and necks.  It's not okay!

Anyway, I sat in that gym for 7 hours waiting for it to be over.  Thankfully, there was nothing more for me to deal with than an occasional bloody nose.  It was an odd day, one that lasted forever, and one that was over before I knew it.  There was something wrong with the space time continuum as I sat there on those bleachers in the gym.  Time was passing slowly, it wasn't passing at all, and yet somehow it felt like I just got there when I'd been there for 5 hours.  It was weird.  I just kept telling myself that if I got through it, I could have Monday off.  Go to Mass, get my Christmas shopping done, and hang out with friends that I see far too little of these days!

And that's where Weather and I started fighting.  I got up this morning, got ready, and headed out the door to Mass.  I got down the steps and on to the pavement, only to go sliding down the slight incline there. (On my feet.  Sorry, no fun falling stories!) So I turned back around and walked back inside.  It's the kind of weather that you can get out in if you have to, but it's kind of stupid to go out in it if you can wait until later.

*Sigh*  Such is life.  The day off is still pretty great.  Just not quite as fantastically awesome as I'd hoped.  I miss my friends!

Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


1) I normally don't do this, because it takes too much planning and organization.  A certain type of post, on a certain day... Yeah, there's not much planning involved at this blog.  It's all about whatever's on my mind for the day.  On the other hand, I like reading other people's Quick Takes (go to Conversion Diary to see more), so I like to try to participate sometimes.

2) I forgot how COLD single digits and below zero wind chills are.  I mean, I know, but we've had it pretty warm so far this winter, so this is just plain nastiness.  I'm really excited for weekend, because it's supposed to warm up to the upper 20's, and that's just plain balmy after this weather.

3)  There are several reasons that this last snow storm was not normal.  For one thing, all of the businesses that were closed.  Malls, banks, McDonald's...  I didn't know any of this until yesterday, because I was at home, too busy reveling in my snow day (in which I did not one productive thing).  It's amazing how cut off you can be simply by staying home for a day.

4) Another abnormal part of this all was that there were times the conditions were so bad that they pulled the snow plows off the roads.  We get a lot of tow bans in weather like this, but you know it's bad when they pull the plows off.  One of my friends had to drive to work after the plows were pulled (she's a NICU nurse on the overnight shift; vital for her to be there).  She said there were drifts up to her fenders on the interstate.  Even now, the interstates are in horrible condition.  It's so weird, because normally after a snow storm, the interstates are in pretty decent shape a few hours after the storm. Not so much this time.  Still had to do some seriously slow driving more than 24 hours after the storm let up.

5) This storm has also made me very grateful for my garage!  I saw so many cars buried up to their fenders in the snow.  There are some that were in bad spots for drifting.  There's one car in my parking lot that's covered up to the hood.  So glad I don't have to dig mine out of a drift like that!

6) Now that the storm's over, I may actually get a normal day of work.  If you consider 14 hours normal.  I guess it's not really normal for me, either, but it should be a fun variety.  Home patients, clinic patients, personal training, and basketball games at the end.  Tomorrow's the big wrestling tournament.  That'll go all day, but probably won't be 14 hours...  Anyway, I'm ready for these long days this week.  I had short days because of the weather plus the snow day.  I'm set!  This was a good week for a blizzard!

7)  And this is why I often don't do this.  Only 7 things to think of, but I'm out of ideas! :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TOB + Singleness=

I dunno, quite, but I think it's a good thing.

I've been thinking about this off and on since I last posted about this topic. I also started a new book by Matthew Pinto, Freedom: 12 Lives Transformed by Theology of the Body.  The first couple of stories were single people (either through divorce, or had never been married) and how it changed them.  One could have been my story!

Anyway, here are my thoughts.  The whole point of any theology is to bring us to deeper knowledge of God.  Theology of the Body, for me, has been far more than knowing more about God.  It is about knowing God on a much more intimate level.  It is about falling in love with Love, and realizing that He loves us in all the ways that we most crave to be loved.

When I first started to study Theology of the Body, I thought it was a great preparation for marriage.  In fact, I thought wasn't it great that God had me wait a couple of years longer than what I really wanted to wait, just so I would have time to study this and be an even better wife. If I had met someone and gotten married two years ago, that's about what the experience would have been.

The last two years have been a lot of things.  On the one hand, the desire to be married deepened.  When I didn't think I could take any more, it would get deeper still.  It broke me.  In the midst of this I heard Christopher West speak twice, and both times when single people would question him, he reminded us that marriage is only a sign of what we're all called to.  Our ultimate fulfillment is Christ, not a spouse.  He reminded us that all women are called to spiritual motherhood, even if for some reason (biological or life situation) they were not meant to be mothers physically.  In the back of my mind, there was a bitter little voice that wanted to tell Mr. West to keep his scraps for himself; I still wanted the feast of marriage.  Or at least I wanted God to choose me for religious life.  Give me some kind of purpose.

As we know, God doesn't always do things the way that we like.  I wanted the green grass in the other pasture, but God led me to the desert instead.  That brokenness left me not knowing where to turn, with an intense thirst for love and family and no place to quench that thirst.  He even started to pull away the supports that I had.  You know, those things that you depend on.  I may not have a husband or children, but at least I have x, y and z.  Guess what.  When x, y, and z are gone, it is not a fun place to be.

[I will] strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and make her a parched land, 
and kill her with thirst.

... I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so she cannot find her paths. (From Hosea 2)

But it was only in that place that I could finally realize that Mr. West was not throwing me some scraps.  The healing that I was looking for, the worth that I was looking for, the love that I was looking for was not in anyone but God.  It sounds so obvious, but the head knowledge of that, and coming to experience the reality of that are two different things.  There is no place in the heart for the experience of God until it has been ripped open to receive Him.  That is why the desert is such a glorious place.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.

And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me 'My Husband'.... and I will betroth you to me forever.  I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord."




Note: I wish this meant that I will never complain again.  Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the way that I roll.  I still have a deep desire to be married someday, and it still hurts and I still react badly sometimes.  But it is a gift that I am grateful for, even while I struggle to continue to be open to it!

Snow Day!

So, the snow that came down Sunday was all pretty and sparkly.  Yesterday and today, I have discovered one of the great truths in life: vertical snow is much prettier than horizontal snow.

Horizontal snow does not say softness, light and Christmas.  It doesn't say anything at all.  It doesn't have to.  Its meanness is clearly understood by anyone taking a quick glance out the window.  

On the other hand, I have a snow day!  Do you know how excited I am?  Usually when the weather's bad, I still have to try to find a way to work.  And it's ridiculous because all the patients normally cancel anyway.  I haven't had a genuine snow day in years!  I brought some work home last night, just in case (there's always paper work, even if there are no patients) and I have some con ed classes to work on, so I can still do some stuff.  I'm just loving that I can listen to the wind howling outside (and it is howling) and I don't have to try to get out in it; I won't be getting stuck in a drift somewhere; I don't have to try to make my little Corolla try to stay on the road.  (My Corolla's a real lightweight; great for the gas, horrible for traction!)

I guess we had 15+ inches of snow before drifting made it impossible to keep track of measurements.  It was still coming down last I checked, but now it may just be blowing rather than coming down.  I never stay home all day.  Even on days I don't work, I'm always driving somewhere.  This is the best day ever! :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sparkly!

For those of you that read a post that was briefly up... this is basically that, only less grinch-y.  So if you read that, you don't have to read this.  Instead, you can go back to studying for finals!  (You know who you are! Besides, I just said all this to you on the phone, so it would be a really boring read for you.)

I am feeling the glow of the Christmas lights today, folks!  Nothing like relaxation on the couch with the Christmas lights and music on and sparkly snow outside.  Except maybe I need a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows that I could stir with a candy cane.  Maybe not; I think I just put myself in a sugar coma writing that sentence. I just finished watching "A Christmas Story".  I thought it was the first time that I had seen it, but I know I've seen that kid with the soap in his mouth before, so maybe I'm not as behind on it as I was on Goonies... But that's a different story.

I am loving the postcards that I found.  Just as I was putting away all my decorations, I pulled out some postcards from the early 1900's, addressed to my great grandparents.  Two were to my dad's grandparents and two were to my grandma's mom (I think).  One of the ones to my great grandpa was from my great great grandma.  How fun is that?  I put them in some frames and found a home for them beneath my leaning little Charlie Brown tree.  (It really is the Tower of Pisa wannabe; I should take some pictures.)

I also love having some Nativity scenes out.  I admit to really liking the Fontanini sets, though I'm always jarred by the blondness.  C'mon, really? 

All of this Christmas stuff is really making me miss my grandparents, though.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was visiting Grandma, and every time she would pull out all of her old pictures and tell us stories about all of the people in them.  Most of the time it slid in one ear and out the other (this is the best friend of your second cousin's aunt's mother-in-law), but I still loved to look at them, to hear her stories.  If I don't remember a single story she told, I will remember sitting and listening to them.  I treasure some of the pictures that she gave me.  I enjoy those that I remember seeing.  For instance, my sister has a picture of my great grandma Nora when she was about a year old.  Once my grandma pulled out a newspaper clipping about Nora talking about how she was always cheerful even living bedridden after having a stroke.  Apparently she never complained. (No, really, we have the same genes!  Why are you doubting me?)  I love having a postcard that was addressed to this woman in 1916.

My mom wants to know what I want for Christmas.  Silly mom!  She gave me life in this family; what else could I possibly need?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

That Dumb Verse

Today we read what may be my least favorite verse in the whole Bible:

Isaiah 40:4

Okay, technically we read Luke 3, but it quoted that verse. Do you know which one I'm talking about?  

"Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, 
and the rough places a plain."

Yeah.  Not a fan.  Let's take this one step at a time.



"Every valley shall be lifted up..."




"...and every mountain and hill made low..."




"... the uneven ground shall become level..."



"... and the rough places as a plain."





I hate that verse.



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another Set of Roots

A long, long time ago, in a month far away (September, perhaps?) I briefly mentioned a series of talks that my cousin shared with me.  Or maybe it was more of an all day seminar.  I don't really know, but what I do know is that it's been amazing to listen to.

This guy, Ray Vanderlaan, is a Protestant historian and teacher that has done extensive studies of Judaism.  He has studied in Jewish schools and spent a lot of time in the Holy Land.  The things that he has to share add a whole new dimension to some of the things that I have read over and over in the Bible.  I don't 100% agree with all of the conclusions that he draws, but I absolutely love to listen to his insights.  There is richness to our faith that we have been missing for years.  That richness is our Jewish roots.

There were things taught that I had never heard before, yet they were immediately familiar.  For instance, Jews stand when the Scripture is read as a gesture of respect.  Catholics, and I'm assuming some of the other more liturgical churches, always stand when the Gospel is read. 

Jews believe that Scripture is meant to be read aloud, preferably with more than one person present.  In my liturgical church background, this is also very familiar, both in Mass and in Liturgy of the Hours.  That is not to say that I don't think that we should have other Bible study time as well, but that this worship together as one body is very important.  Mr. Vanderlaan mentioned that it would be rather foreign for Jews to have separate personal devotions.  Rather they would pray together as a group, but then as they meditated on what they read throughout the day, they might have some more individual thoughts on the reading.

Jesus tells us in John 4 that salvation is from the Jews.  I am more and more convinced that if we want to take our faith to another level, we have a whole lot to learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters.